I’m slouched in my big red comfy armchair, enjoying the luxury of central air conditioning and trying to decide if I should (a) edit the paper on cytomegalovirus that came in last night, (b) take a nap (I’m halfway there, if you really want to know), or (c) eat lunch. Pookie is lying next to the chair in front of the heating—or in this case, cooling—vent. He hasn’t been feeling well, so I’m not sure why he wants to be blasted with cold air, but if any creature knows what it wants, it’s the Poo man.
Pookie has had a rough time of it lately. I took him to a new vet to see what condition his condition was in. He’s been in renal failure for about a year, and lately he’s been having “seizures.” (I think they’re actually more like “episodes of loss of motor control,” but I’ll call them seizures anyway.) I’ll hear a thump! and look to see that he’s fallen over, limbs spazzing, body contorted. I scoop him up and hold him close for a minute or two until the spasms pass and he can get down and wobble off on his own. There’s a definite advantage to being a cat in this situation, because he just goes on with his life, leaving me to worry for the both of us.
The other cats in my family tree go to a clinic in Marinette, but Barb had told me that the best vet there, Dr. V, had recently retired, moved to Green Bay or something. Besides, I wanted to find one in Menominee to cut down on drive time…. specifically, drive time with unhappy mraw-ings from the back seat.
I didn’t have much hope, because Barb and K had both said that the vets over here mostly work on farm animals. Cows? In Menominee? I saw cows and horses every day while driving down the freeway in Marin County, and haven’t seen so much as a chicken here. When I told K this, she exclaimed, “Well, we don’t keep them in town!”—like I’m some hick who lets the pigs sleep in the dining room.
I checked the phone book, and lo and behold, the Bayshore Veterinary Clinic is barely a mile away. I called and made an appointment and brought Pookie in later that day. I hate going to the vet, partly because I’m embarrassed that Pookie’s fur is so matted. I pull clumps off him all the time, but I feel like the little bird that comes once every thousand years to the mountain and takes away one grain of sand, and when the whole mountain is gone, that’s when eternity will begin. When Pookie’s clumps are all gone, eternity will just be finishing up. I once took him to a professional, who got him de-matted all right, but he wouldn’t speak to me for 3 days and I hated to think of what she did to him to keep him from scratching her eyes out.
While we wait for the vet in the examining room, his assistant, a middle-aged woman, is checking Pookie out. I can tell she’s judging me for not having good cat hygiene, because she takes a comb out of a drawer and holds it up like it’s a rare artifact known only to the Rosicrucians, Veterinary Division. “You can get them at Kmart,” she says, helpfully. I say I have one, and she’s all disbelieving, “You DO?” Just then the vet comes in, and guess what? It’s Barb’s Dr. V! He hadn’t gone to Green Bay, he’d only migrated over the bridge. I mention Barb’s name, and he remembers both her and her cat and goes on to regale the assistant with the story of LaMew getting shot in the elbow.
Dr. V goes to work on Pookie, sticking a thermometer up his butt while checking his internal organs (?) by squeezing up under his belly. Pookie’s butt is in the air, his back legs are helplessly straddling Dr’s V’s arm, and his face has a look of complete horror as he realizes he has become Dr. V.’s bitch. While this is happening, the vet assistant is taking the comb and gently wisping it over Pookie’s back, removing approximately one cubic millimeter of fuzz at a time and dropping it carefully into the wastebasket. She has the decency not to say, “See how easy it is?” but this also robs me of the opportunity to counter with: “Yeah, well at home there’s no one to distract him by CRAMMING THINGS UP HIS ASS.”
Dr. V doesn’t know if the “seizures” are related to the renal failure; they could be a sign of “kitty dementia”—uh-oh, me and Ruth Fisher, sisters in bondage to the mentally ill—so he gives me a mixture of amoxicillin and prednisone to squirt into Pookie’s mouth twice a day. Oh joy. Oh frabjous joy.
After a few days on this regimen, Pookie starts vomiting and leaving little piles and dribs and drabs of diarrhea on my nice oatmeal-colored carpet. He’s also listless and unsocial, and I find him curled up in odd corners of the house, like next to the vacuum cleaner (his mortal enemy) in the downstairs bedroom. If I’m around when he has a seizure, I pick him up and press my face against his furry head and try to remember the feeling for when I don’t have him anymore. It occurs to me that I’ve been living in a state of grace for the last few years, since his near-death from a bladder infection, when I hardly cared whether he lived or died. If he had gone to his Maker then, I doubt that I would have felt more than relief. No love = no pain. No wonder so many people go that route. But I was given the gift of his return, along with the blessing and the curse of love, and now it hurts like hell to think we may be coming to the end.
But where there is illness and the knowledge of certain death, there is also birth—three little robins on top of a light fixture on my back porch, in this case. Mère and Père Robin take turns bringing the little ones worms, which they drop into the gaping mouths that seem too big for their wobbly, fuzzy little heads. I’ve never seen a bird family this close up. You haven’t seen beady eyes till you’ve seen a mother bird guarding her babies. And the feeding ritual seems a bit strange. Mère or Père flies up to the nest—the babies have had their heads sticking straight up and their mouths wide open for a good 30 minutes already—and drops a big wad of wriggling worms into one of the mouths (“Here, hold this”) and then takes them back a bit at a time, makes worm mash out of them, and feeds the other big mouths.
But gosh, the kids grow up so fast. One day the strongest of the three babies—its chest starting to fill in with orange tufts—was standing at its full height, flapping its wings like crazy. I hoped against hope that I was about to witness baby’s first flight, but apparently it was just a dress rehearsal. Can you imagine spending the first weeks of your life in a tiny spit-glued grass bowl with two siblings who are getting bigger by the day like you, and Mom comes home every night and squeezes in, too…. and then all of a sudden, you realize… “I’m born to FLY! I’m going to spread my wings and leave this two-bit nest behind!” Can you imagine the relief? A few days later, the babies were all gone, and I was surprised at how let down I felt. Empty nest syndrome, indeed.
I’m flattered that the robins chose my porch to start their family on. It makes sense, though—I provide quite the little birthing center out there: fresh water, an ample supply of dry food (seeds) and wet food (the aforementioned worms), and, of course, shelter—everything but flying lessons and foot massage. And then there’s the “garden.”
The people I bought the house from had an aboveground swimming pool. So when they moved and took the pool with them, I was left with an unsightly patch of dirt in the lawn. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so K suggested I plant something there. We went to Erik’s Garden Center early one rainy Monday morning because she needed to buy her spring plants anyway. I was a little hesitant, because “Mary Mary quite contrary I may be, but don’t ask me how my garden grows, because it don’t grow shit.” But I was soon excited by all the different colors and types of plants. I ended up buying two hanging baskets of petunias—pink and white for the back porch and purple for the front porch—and, after much deliberation, two broccoli plants and a creeping phlox. (Because I follow my intuition, that’s why.)
K told me what fertilizer to get, we dug up the weeds in the dirt, and she planted the three little plants. Unlike the hard, dry piece of ground next to the patio at my condo in Marin, this dirt is really good, and we dug up many worms. More bisected worms than whole ones, but don’t they regenerate themselves? (Oh, the things I don’t know.) K saw some little maple treelings growing against the foundation of the house and said I should take them out. So I pulled them up by their roots and planted them in the dirt patch also. I never really expected them to live, so I planted them only about 4 feet apart. Could be interesting. Future generations can tell the story of how the hapless old lady who used to live here came to have Siamese-twin maple trees in her yard.
The robins aren’t the only satisfied customers out there. The bird bath is as busy as a public pool, and little birds flutter through the white-barked birch tree mocking the jays and blackbirds that are too big to dine at the small feeder hanging there. There’s a whole flock of little birds that enjoy taking sponge baths in the 80% of the “garden” that has nothing but dirt in it. They squiggle themselves down and around until they’ve made a cozy indentation and then wriggle all over getting dirt under their wings and all over their bellies. Then they frolic in the broccoli forest or sit on top of the leaves and bite holes in them. I wonder if they’re completely delusional (look! it’s a lake!) or if they’re evolutionarily inclined to want to be covered in dirt.
One of the happiest outcomes of my moving here, so far, has to do with nephew Josh, K and MP’s younger son. K was having a rummage sale to which a lot of us had contributed our junk, and we were sitting around on lawn chairs in the driveway waiting for customers. Josh was feeling down because his dream of buying a house seemed to be on permanent hold. He and wife Jana lived in a trailer, and there was barely enough room for them to turn around. Even though Josh makes relatively good money as a ship welder, Jana works at Wal-Mart, which, ‘nuff said. They’d been looking at houses, all just out of reach financially, and were starting to think it would never happen.
I had bought MP’s original Ford Model-T running board, which is solid polished wood with a metal inlay. Josh offers to take it out to my Jeep, because it’s hella heavy and he’s a big strong guy. While he does that, I double-check with myself to be clear about what I’m about to do.
As he’s coming back from the Jeep, I go to meet him and say, “Let’s walk.” We walk around the corner, and I ask him exactly how much he needs for a down payment. It’s unclear, because he doesn’t know what they’ll have to pay for a house, what they can get for their trailer, etc. I explain that I don’t want to lend money to family: I don’t want to risk disrupting relationships if for some reason they can’t pay me back. Then I pause significantly and add, “But I’d be willing to give you $5,000.” He’s apparently having a delayed reaction to this news—or doesn’t trust his ears—because he says, “But then I’d have to pay that off, plus my other debts, and….” I stop and put a hand on his arm. “Josh. I’ll give it to you.” He starts to say “Noooo,” but mid-vowel I can tell he’s not going to waste time protesting. He wraps me in a big bear hug. “Thank you, thank you!” “I love you, Josh.” “I love you, Aunt Mary.” Then the music swells, and… wait, there’s no music. But I still feel like I’m in a movie.
This happened on the last day of April. I was surprised at how quickly they found a house they liked and made an offer on it. I guess you’d call it a “fixer-upper,” though they don’t use that term here—fixer-uppers are pretty much what you get. It’s in a pleasant neighborhood in Marinette, centrally located and not too far from K and MP. And it’s on Mary Street! When Josh tells people that I “made it all possible,” I quip that his moving to Mary St. was one of my conditions. I think they know I’m joking. And here’s another twist. When I moved back here last fall, Josh bought me a button that said “Mary is my homegirl.” Are we impressed with these tidbits of synchronicity, or what?
I’m thrilled that I was able to help them out. It feels a lot better than when I donated $1,000 to the Menominee High School scholarship program and found out the scholarship was awarded to the daughter of the financial advisor to the school district.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle having money when so many in the family are living from paycheck to paycheck. I haven’t really figured it out, so I just take it case by case. It’s still awkward to give a sizable gift to someone who can’t afford to reciprocate. I wonder if the saying “It’s better to give than to receive” isn’t the moral lesson we think it is, but rather a simple fact. Giving is a joy—though I realize it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time—but it can feel complicatedly ambivalent to receive: There can be shame that you can’t reciprocate; confusion about whether you’re supposed to try to reciprocate or merely accept the difference in circumstances; and fear that the other person’s generosity is masking an expectation or a form of one-upmanship… like now you owe them, regardless of what they say.
I think the economic disparity between me and other members of the family is still an issue, but I’ve realized that I can’t control anyone else’s feelings, I can only try to be clear about my own. I truly believe that it’s not important how much a gift costs—what’s important is the intention behind it. But we all grew up poor, and that can warp your sense of worth.
welcome to the dollhouse
Speaking of giving, one of the many things I appreciate about my sisters is that when they go rummaging, they’re always on the lookout for things I might like. Mostly, they’ll bring me crystals, crosses… anything different, colorful, or shiny to hang in my big windows. One day Barb called me from my driveway—that’s how she circumvents my request to “call before coming over”—and said they had a surprise for me. I had once mentioned that I’d like to have a dollhouse to make “dioramas” in the little rooms. Well, they had found a metal dollhouse that was exactly like the one I had as a little girl! I couldn’t believe it. I briefly wondered how they knew it was like the one I’d had, but of course!—they had played with it too—one of many hand-me-downs from me, first-born. I was touched that they had ceded it to me instead of one of them claiming it for herself or for a grandchild.
Late one night I felt inspired to do a sand tray (sans sand) with it. At first I was a little intimidated by the emotional baggage represented by this dollhouse. The fact that I was “playing” with it 50-some years later, a few blocks from my then-home, was a little mind-boggling, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a “Twilight Zone” episode with this plot device…. doo-doo-doo-doo…. Woman plays with childhood dollhouse… After she puts all the dolls in it, they come alive and she becomes the doll! OK, Mare, get a grip.
So I started putting things in the rooms. It was physically more difficult than I’d expected, because, man, those rooms are tiny, and I’m so much bigger now. Duh. And I was really self-conscious at first—I was afraid I was going to keep such rational control of the imagery that I wouldn’t be able to forget myself and just let it flow. But sand trays always take you somewhere you didn’t know you were going to go, so I just… went.
In one of the upstairs bedrooms, I put three little pink rocking chairs in a row with a “bomb” in each one. (Me and my sisters?) A baby lay on the floor in front of them, and a red rubber skeleton hand edged into the room. Men (action figures, a.k.a. dolls) were climbing the sides of the house, trying to get in the windows, which have little open squares cut in the metal, so their arms reached through. In the bathroom I put a skeleton on top of a pile of knives. The living room filled up with tangled red wire, with a soft plastic skull stuck in the middle. A rescue squad vehicle sat halfway into the room. Little green soldiers on the outside took aim at the house.
I put a little pink baby on a makeshift bed in the other bedroom, surrounded by empty blue rocking chairs and a couple of skeletons standing like sentries at the front opening. The baby felt like my little brother Mike who died of leukemia. At that point I knew I was emotionally engaged. I put another baby in one of the rocking chairs, with no idea of who it could be. I didn’t worry that I was orchestrating the scene anymore, because my crafty conscious mind had let go. My “story” had been successfully interrupted, and I could do anything.
I put men climbing on the roof and trying to come down the chimney. One man was caught in a kind of metal mesh cage. There were chains hanging off the roof, black and red wire coming out of the chimney, a large skeleton hand, snakes, and an old light bulb filament. I wrapped the house in long strings of white beads. Long black rods poked through windows and bifurcated some of the rooms.
By now, the only room that had nothing in it was the kitchen. My parents weren’t even represented (details, details)… but all my energy was going to my brother. So into the kitchen went a little yellow crib with a baby in it, red and white flowers, a red plastic heart, and gold Christmas ornaments. The feeling of doom from the upstairs rooms (and the roof and the windows and the whole house, actually) was changing, and I felt a deep, unexpected pulsing of joy in my chest. I grabbed a small jointed skeleton with blue rhinestone eyes and laid it on the floor in front of the crib, and the “sand tray” felt somehow complete. It was then that I noticed that the skeleton had lost one of its eyes. My heart skipped a beat… then another. My brother had blue eyes and had to have one removed when he was a year old. I had often painted him with one closed eye and one bright blue one, and the image has always stayed with me.
This is what happens in the creative process. The mind holds on as long as it can, and then it lets go like a tired swimmer slipping under the waves. From the mind’s point of view, all is lost. But the giving in allows the power of the Mystery to take over. And then the mind has the grace to acknowledge and even feel gratitude for that all-embracing force and the surprising gifts it brings.
Actually, the feeling of getting in touch with the creative force, the Mystery, is not limited to “art.” At times I feel strongly—almost supernaturally—touched when I’m out in the neighborhood or even driving and fully take in the green of the big leafy trees, the lush carpets of lawn, the yellow-green light during a half-sunny/half-darkblue-stormcloud daytime thunderstorm. At those moments I feel swathed, or swaddled—held or holding, I hardly know which—by everything that is. I’m all alone and yet so big—amorphous—that there’s nothing and no one outside “me.” Just as when I’m in the creative flow, I’m only another form through which the prism of sensory experience is being filtered.
On the weekend before the Fourth of July, I asked Barb if she and Brian and Deb and the kids were going to have a cookout down in the park. She consulted Brian, who thought it was “a great idea.” So Barb went and bought most of the food, and Brian got a pork roast to grill for shredded pork sandwiches. I thought it was just going to be the six of us, but when I arrived, Deb’s brother and his girlfriend and their baby, two friends of Brian’s with their kid, Brian’s live-in and visiting kids, Barb’s daughter L and her husband with their two boys, and K and MP were all there. Deb’s nephew Devon, who’s barely 4 years old and small for his age, was making big circles around the park on a tiny motorcycle. MP was helping Brian dig up some dead rose bushes. Women bearing food were streaming into and out of the house like a line of ants.
K thought she should be helping set things up, but I told her we should take advantage of our elder status and sit out on the deck and have a drink. I’m a terrible influence on her.
Before the food was ready, it started raining, so they set everything up in the garage. The smokers stood at the open garage doors smoking and looking out at the rain. The radio was tuned to the oldies’ station, where every song seemed chosen for the weather: … listen to the rhythm of the falling rain… pitter patter pitter patter… oo-oo-ooh…. We sat on folding chairs awkwardly eating hot dogs and deviled eggs and chips and cupcakes on paper plates on our laps and trying to keep track of whose drink was whose. The kids—I think there were nine of them altogether—raced around the garage, weaving in and out among the adults, who were themselves constantly up and down getting food or going into the house or to their cars for something. Food and drink were spilled, napkins distributed, and second helpings helped. When the rain let up, Sarina and Devon went out and threw rocks at the puddles across the road. I went out to watch and realized that when I’m around kids, I constantly think something awful is going to happen—they’ll hit the neighbor’s cat with a rock… they’ll get too close to the road and get run over—and I’ll be left standing there, powerless. (Why this should be is a whole ‘nother story.)
While we were eating in the garage, I felt like a ghost—or close enough to a ghost, socially speaking, not to quibble about whether I was actually alive or dead. I felt like Scrooge watching the world go by without him (The Ghost of Great Auntie Present). None of the middle generation, the late-20- and early-30-somethings, so much as glanced in my direction. And how could I blame them? They have their kids and their houses and their jobs and their future to worry about. Deb’s family is unusually close-knot (ha! Freudian slip—close-knit), and all the brothers and sisters and the parents are in constant touch and routinely babysit each other’s kids and help build each other’s garages, redo bathrooms, whatever needs to be done. They’re like a giant, well-oiled family machine. It struck me that “family” is inclusive by being exclusive. Barb is one of the grandmas and Brian’s mother, but K and I are fairly expendable twigs on that limb of the family tree. I figure my only hope for feeling comfortable in that situation is to get in solid with the kids. Kids’ attention is fickle at best, but if I have enough one-on-one time with them, I’ll at least have a real connection there and not just be Grandma Barb’s peripheral “sister from California,” whose story is rapidly becoming yesterday’s news.
Here I am talking about connection, but I want contradictory things. Time goes on and one adapts, even to a miracle. But I want to retain the “disconnect,” the “synaptic gap,” the cognitive dissonance of wow, can you believe it, between life as I knew it a year or so ago and life as it appears to me now. I want to be immersed in the experience, but I also want to stand a little apart to maintain an awareness of what’s really going on here… what’s the deeper meaning there…. how does the past inform the present or the present redeem the past… I’m interested in difference—the strange blessings and contradictions of life—and in trying to express what I see.
At one point, Barb says to me, “This is all because of you,” and I think, You mean no one else thought to have a Fourth of July BBQ? Odd, since I hate the Fourth of July! I’d just wanted to eat hot dogs and deviled eggs.
As much as I enjoy the grandkids, I’ve resisted babysitting them. As a teenager I hated being responsible for other people’s precious darlings and was beset by paranoid fantasies (if a man comes to the door claiming to be a relative of the parents, do I let him in or run and hide under the bed?). So I told Barb that I would invite the kids over for a sleepover in my attic room sometime, but she’d have to come with. Over the summer, when they’re not in school and their regular babysitter isn’t available, Barb has been watching them one day a week. I’ve taken to dropping by, taking them out to lunch, and playing a game or two until I desperately need to return to my solitary (big red comfy-chaired) existence. On one of the days that Barb was supposed to have the kids, she had an appointment, so I agreed to watch them for the 1 or 2 hours she would be gone. As the time got nearer, I began to regret my decision. I was afraid I’d just sit there in previous-babysitting-trauma-induced paralysis, one eye on the clock, too stiff to talk, let alone be an engaging companion–slash–loving great auntie.
The first 5 or 10 minutes alone with them were pretty much as I’d expected, until I realized that kids inhabit worlds of their own, and there wasn’t anything special I had to do. Sarina suggested playing dominos, so we did. We played the game where you start with double nines and progress through the double eights, double sevens, etc., until you run out of numbers. We had only got through the first couple of sets before both kids were lying face down on their chairs and playing the game from the floor. To give me a domino to play on the table, they had to go through numerous contortions to get the right one on the table and slide it over to me without being able to see. This gave them the giggles, and they kept up a chatterfest under the table about I know not what. At one point, Summer calls up from the floor, “Aunt Mary, look in the drawer.” I was sitting at the end of the table where there’s a small drawer, so I opened it and found the domino Summer had placed there. Gee, talk about resourceful… I guess when you challenge yourself to play dominos on two levels, you have to think on your feet, er, stomach.
When they got bored with that game, Sarina wanted to play Bingo, so she and I did that while Summer made bead bracelets. Bingo lasted about 5 minutes. Sarina won, so I think it was a case of quitting while she was ahead. Then she brought out Chutes and Ladders, which I knew was a famous kid’s game that I must have played before, but for some reason I couldn’t get the hang of it. The kids thought that was hilarious, especially when I tried to move my piece up the chute or down the ladder.
Next, it happened to be less hot than usual that day, so we went outside so they could play on their jungle gym. They showed off all their acrobatic tricks on the swings and with the hanging rings and did cartwheels on the lawn. I know it’s a cliché, but wow, the flexibility in their thin limbs! Their unflagging energy! Part of the jungle gym structure has ladders and a simulated “rock climbing surface” to climb up to a kind of treehouse, so I made a feeble attempt to follow them up while they squealed, backing up to the opposite side of the platform as I grabbed at them while teetering 12 inches off the ground. This led to their christening me the Lava Monster. (Don’t ask me why Lava.) They went running through the yard, and every move I made in their direction evoked genuine—or fake/genuine, if you see the distinction—terror and screams. I did indeed feel monster-like, roaring and occasionally grabbing hold of a passing arm and wondering what a Lava Monster was supposed to do if she caught one of them. Their shrill screams made me drop them pretty quickly anyway, so as to prevent permanent hearing loss (mine).
Finally, the grandma cavalry arrived. Though I hadn’t been having a bad time, by any means, I was grateful for the rescue. Barb was just in time to take us all to lunch at the Downtown Sub Shop in Menominee. On the way, we saw K and MP riding around in their truck, and they joined us for ice cream.
The kids have another “Aunt Mary,” their mother’s sister, so when we were driving back from lunch, Summer said, “There’s our ‘normal’ Aunt Mary’s house,” and Barb cracked up while I howled. “Normal?!” Poor kid just meant “as opposed to ‘Great Aunt Mary’.” Summer had endeared herself to me earlier by saying, “I hate not knowing things.” I really like smart kids. Four-year-old Sarina is smart too, but she’s still illiterate. I’m looking forward to being in their lives for a long time to come.
the flagpole of now
Pookie started feeling better when I stopped giving him the medicine. He still sits on my lap at the computer and watches the screen avidly as the colorful symbols of Alchemy pop up and move around. He still scratches my knees bloody trying to make himself comfortable. We’re taking it one day at a time, or I am. He’s just living.
He’s living, and I’m thinking. In fact, I’ve been thinking about thought. Many years ago, I heard an amazing talk by Krishnamurti in which he said that time, thought, and fear are all one thing. I noticed with Pookie that if I stay completely in the present with what’s actually happening, I don’t have all the anxiety associated with my projections into the future. He’s on my lap now, he’s purring now, he’s scratching my knees bloody now. Anything that I imagine might happen—or worse, believe will happen—is completely unreal, hypothetical. Several years ago, I spent months playing out in my mind the imminent death of my little black cat Radar, who had feline leukemia. As it happened, he died peacefully in his sleep, with his head butted up against a wall, and I had a friend visiting who helped me bury him, quite illegally, in front of my apartment building. I didn’t shed a tear. It was all just what it was.
So here’s how I picture time = thought = fear. We are sitting on a flagpole (whether it’s all the same flagpole or we each have our own is beyond the scope of this discussion). No, I’ll simplify and say I am sitting on a flagpole, which is the present moment, what is. If you think about it, there’s no flagpole “back there” (past) or “up ahead” (future), because it’s always now. I may think about “tomorrow,” but when “tomorrow” comes, it’s today. No way to get off that flagpole unless we’re sent into space and come back 200 years later while aging only 2 weeks on Earth. I don’t even want to get into that.
OK, so I’m sitting on the flagpole of now, and because of evolutionary developments in the brain, I can imagine things that aren’t real, i.e., aren’t happening now, on my flagpole. When we imagine those unreal things, we are extending our reach beyond the flagpole, forward and back, but those extensions are completely imaginary, a product of our brain capacity. Brain development, per se, is a fine thing, because it can be useful to have a memory (of the best season to plant crops, say) and to make reasonable predictions (if I plant corn now, I’ll have some in late summer). And yet, all that is pure speculation; everything that actually happens is happening now. Late summer may never come, capiche?
When we project these speculations into the “past” or the “future,” that is the nature of thought. We can think about what’s happening, but the thought is never the thing itself. Obviously, that’s also the nature of time, because projection in thought, by definition, is in time and not in the present moment.
Here’s the crucial bit, which is what I realized with Pookie. It’s impossible to have fear in the present. We think we do, but really, fear always comes before or after the fact. In the moment, whether it’s confronting a snake on the path or holding the poor cat while the vet “puts him to sleep,” there’s nothing but this flagpole, then this flagpole, then this flagpole (which are all one flagpole, you understand).
(I sure hope my flagpole analogy is holding up, because if not, you’re probably feeling really irritated right about now.)
So…. everything that our brains project (or “remember”) into the air in front of or behind our “flagpole” is the same thing: thought = time = fear.
QED, n’est-ce pas?
Pookie’s having up to three “seizures” a day now. Be in the moment for him, in whatever way feels right to you, would you?