Friday, October 27, 2006

“Is it a firm decision,” Weedy asks, “to retire a year this May?” Lately, I’ve been enjoying my job, even staying late to finish at my desk, having fun helping the students, pleased with my recently hired new staff of student assistants.

“I’m not going to put myself in a position to starve, but so far that’s the plan” I say, “When you called, I was picking out photographs for a magazine submission. And I’m working every day towards developing the business.”

I don’t know where all this is going. I’m following instinct, coupled with a reasonable amount of business experience and using my research skills. I’m practicing the principle of doing what I love and setting my will.

There are days, though, when the endless busy-work makes me feel like my brain is a radio tuned in-between stations, running static. I can barely think through the blur of chores and errands, running on the perpetually revolving wheel of what-I-have-to-do-next. It feels like a slog.

“When I get overloaded,” I tell Weedy, “I remember that I could die tomorrow, or be diagnosed with a disease or hit by car, or the world could suddenly change so drastically that none of what I’m doing will matter at all. The thought cheers me – at least in the sense that I remind myself I’m not in control...that all this won’t matter when I’m dead. You need to keep that in mind but you have to proceed anyway or you freeze in your tracks.”

Twice in most people’s lives (three times if they live to be 86 or so) Saturn orbits back to its original position at their birth and it's a life-altering transit. Marko, who at 29 is going through his first Saturn Return, has inquired as to whether, considering we can reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet, it doesn’t make sense to rename Saturn, “Flaming Shitbrick.” Jess and my boss at work, who, along with me, are also going through second Flaming Shitbrick Returns, concur. It’s not an easy transit – and it goes on longer than any of us would choose if it were up to us.

Liz Greene once referred to “the cold dead hand of Saturn” and the phrase stuck with me. Symbolically, a strong Saturn aspect translates as a period of time marked by chilled & mixed emotions, hard work, discipline and duty, the crumbling of any structure (real or metaphoric) that we have built carelessly. Foundations wobble and collapse. Marriages fail – or passing Saturn’s hurdles, grow stronger. Careers take other directions. We leave our physical or metaphoric homes, change directions or buckle down and recommit. Some our dearest illusions pop like soap bubbles. At 28-30, we pass into real adulthood and often mourn the loss of a certain kind of innocence. Our deepest fears emerge in the midst of all this questioning and change.

But there is a gift, and I am grudgingly starting to recognize it. You learn persistence.

Saturn’s sign is Capricorn, and it's symbol, half fish, half Mountain Goat, is spirit translating into matter, into physical manifestation. Capricorn builds. Saturn persists.

I let go of my ambition to have no ambition. This is not the time for that.

I release outcomes and keep my mind on what needs to be done now.

I accept that I am not who I was a year ago and am not who I will be year from now.

I let go when I need to, even if I mourn the loss.

I keep climbing.

But I reserve the right to call it Flaming Shitbrick when the climb gets slippery.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just f---ing write something.

A boot and turnip stew kind of week. You don't notice your socks don't match until you get there. The sun shines and there are intermittent hurricanes and you get a letter postmarked July 6th on October 19th. The 15 choice Canada Post phone menu awaits you and you don't, truly, want to crap on the postal carrier's day but hell - that's over three months - so you call and are thanked endlessly for snitching on the poor guy because the woman answering is working for a call centre and this might be taped for quality control.

The stuffing comes out of a relationship that matters. It's a one-armed rag doll that you keep carrying around anyway because you still love the doll and it's only one arm after all and you knew the stitches were loose. And you're angry and sad and empathetic - a whole mixture of emotions that generally equal no firm stand of any kind so you make most of a beautiful necklace then pack it in, go to bed and don't sleep again.

In the morning you apply eyeliner to fatique-mushroomed eyelids even though you can't quite focus your eyes. Dab bright orange lipstick in the vicinity of your mouth and Make A Brave Front. Spend the first of the morning teaching an incomprehensible software application to your next minimum wage victim I mean student staff member and find yourself peppy with exhaustion. "It's important," you tell her, after investigating an option that does nothing whatsoever, "that you understand this program is incomprehensible and doesn't actually work." You say it with genuine cheer. You send her off for a break.

During which you guzzle caffeinated beverages and blink stupidly at the sky, count the number of vans parked on the walking street in front of what will someday be Boston Pizza but is now a site swarming with Men and Their Noisy Machines. The pigeons dodder around your feet in fits of pigeon optomism. People = food.

You think, riding the bus, which is crammed beyond the safety point and smells like soured hope and unwashed babies, that your life is really, be honest, the pits and your life is, really, be honest, pretty great. And the fact that those conditions exist simultaneously and that you have not slept a full night in three days is somewhat confusing.

You take pictures of yourself in the present state of near collapse and muck around in Paint Shop Pro with them. You think about posting to your blog. And then, in a sleep-deprived fit of poor judgement, you do it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Something more inspiring than my insect problems

I'm recommending a new blog BFAilures, a cooperative artists' blog that looks very promising. The entry at the bottom gives you a little background on the group - and I'm looking forward to seeing more drawings and work there. Thought you might like it too. Link in the usual spot.

And while I'm on the subject of inspiration...the last few poems on the coyote's site are not to be missed. Trust me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

LJ: Friend to all living creatures

Meet one of my new friends. That is, meet one of my late new friends, the Black Spiderhunter wasp.

Does my apartment have a sign in the window - Find spiders here? And are there directions to a hole, invisible to the human eye, where these miniature monsters are getting in? Because I have screens, people, and screens are supposed to prevent my apartment from becoming infested with inch long big black wasps. "Up to 20 cm," my rear end. These are a good healthy inch long, and they tend to sally through the air, bumping noisily against the ceiling and scaring the daylights out of me.

Do not tell me that they just want to go outside. They should have thought of that before they came in. And do not tell me they aren't really a danger. Have you ever pissed a wasp off? Have you sat on one by accident? I have. It's an experience I don't plan to repeat anytime soon.

And so out comes the poison. Big can of Black Flag House & Garden that hasn't seen the light of day in about five years. And now, of course, I'm breathing the stuff in myself - which, I suppose is a kind of justice.

I'm curious, though. What goes through the wasp mind when it is wiggling its way into a tiny little opening somewhere around my windows? Is it just curious? Is there some kind of biological imperative that dictates it must crawl into all tiny available spaces? Or am I just mildly cursed?

I ask because the last couple of weeks have been a bizarre mixture of good and bad. I'm humming along, taking care of roughly three thousand teaching and business details (when I'm not working full time) and some of this is going splendidly, especially on the days when I get over four hours of unbroken sleep.

On the other hand, I broke my glasses a week ago, screwed my computer up, and while paying for Pizza on Friday night, I managed to drop $50 in the lobby of my building as I juggled purse and pizza box. Today, I was up at 6:00 - spent hours writing handouts for my beading classes, filing deskfill and paying bills. At 3:00 p.m. I emerge from the studio, looking forward to having a few hours downtime, only to find a living room full of wasps.

It's just stuff, right? It's not cancer and I'm not in Buffalo freezing after a freak snowstorm...but sometimes, don't you just get fed up when the stuff keeps coming?

Thank you for listening to me whine. The pity-party should end about the time I get the smell of Black Flag out of my nose.

Here's a little quiz for you! How big is that hornet? In inches? Grinning. Thanks to The Hermit Queen for notes.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bank is a four letter word.

Write something.

People worry. Some are-you-okay emails from blogger friends during my short absence, an imperative from our future “god emperor of earth,” with Jess D’Zerts on backup in the comments. God, (If you’ll excuse me, Marko), it just shows you how I rattle on if I’m counted AWOL that quickly.

It’s the house in Southern India, you see. Snake-infested and alive with slithering creatures. The help has fled, believing that I must have offended a goddess somewhere along the line and they are anxious to disassociate as quickly as possible. I’ve had to make my own bed, if you can imagine.

There was the spa accident. You can’t get good help, I swear, and I’d meant to write as soon as I pried the mineral-packed youth-restoring mud out of my nostrils and my hair grew back. Stupid girl. I didn't tip her, either.

It’s not easy.

Then there was Kevin of Big Fat Bank Inc. When the receptionist chirps, “I’ve put you in with Kevin at 10:00 tomorrow,” I have a premonition that involves someone wearing a suit, young enough to be my grandchild, priggish enough to be my grandfather’s Baptist minister, and unkindly disposed and grudging in attitude towards those of us who, a few years back, fell from the stellar heights of a life-long A+ credit rating into bankruptcy. Long story – and merely a footnote to the point here.

In my premonition, Kevin is automatically white. In that I am mistaken. Apparently Kevin-ness is not confined to one culture or race. In fact whiteness, as I think of it in its most negative aspects, is not even confined to Caucasians. Either that or all young bankers assume the name Kevin, along with the priggish air of someone perpetually stepping over a homeless person on the pavement. He’s opening my business account and he’s polite. He’s humorless as a block of Formica.

We proceed through the list of no’s to fill in the blanks on his computer screen: no RRSP, no Mutual Funds, no car, no property. He misses, I think to myself, no debts, no apologies, no pickle in my nether regions.

I make it clear I intend to give Big Fat Bank Inc. as little of my money as humanly possible. This further endears me to Kevin, who is looking downright pained by this point. As if I’m causing his suit to wrinkle, or his underwear to ride up between the cheeks of his very tight ass. I offer him a couple of Fisherman’s Friend cold tablets for his stuffed up nose, dumping them out of their grimy paper packet onto his pristine desk. He thanks me. They lay there like forensic evidence at a crime scene.

I can almost hear Kevin’s thoughts. I know that Kevin is at the age where he still believes that sound, practical planning can stave off the shocks and vicissitudes of life, that life can actually be controlled, managed, kept in order and predicted. Poor Kevin.

Departing with the few free cheques and deposit slips Kevin will grant (far less than if he liked me), I politely refuse to order a set for $119.00 (“but that’s with tax and shipping, the call center woman tells me when I’m pricing them). I depart vowing to become famous and rich and send my press clippings to Kevin when his wife leaves him and his children become sex offenders, when the market crashes and money has less value and use than toilet paper.

But far be from me to be petty. I smile and thank him for his time.

Then I go home, do a download of a new version of Acrobat, install an extra feature I don’t want, uninstall it - partially - just enough to leave random, file-fragmenting bits remaining, and accidentally fuck my video card up royally. On my new computer. (Mac users, I’m warning you. Just don’t.)

Minor Diety, who I’m nominating for major sainthood very shortly, is coming over tomorrow. I have duly confessed, in all humility, that I should only be allowed technology up to and including the Etch-A-Sketch. And he’s taken pity.

I can’t write tomorrow because last Saturday, I snapped my prescription glasses in half and I have to pick the new ones up.

Right now, my coat, boots, and the clothing I wore (right down to my skin) are drying in artful arrangements on the doorknobs as God (the original one) decided he didn’t like the Maritimes today and LO, he sent the gale winds and driving rain.

You see?

Thanks for checking on me, everyone. As you can see, I’m doing splendidly.

Or still laughing, anyway. Really.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Page 123

Zheon challenges. Turn to page 123 of the book nearest cheating...and write the sentence and a few following...

"Carpet-bag n. travelling-bag, orig. made of carpet-like material.
Carpet-bagger n. colloq. 1. esp. US political candidate etc. without local connections. 2. Unscrupulous opportunist.
-The Oxford Dictionary of Current English

It is nearly always the book nearest me when I write. My spelling is atrocious and here at "classic blogger" spell check was designed by a defective droid.

The cover is black, with white font and red and green diagonal slashes. "The biggest paperback dictionary of its kind."

On the edge of the pages, in ballpoint pen, in my handwriting, is the name of an inmate on Death Row in Illinois and his prison number. He'd asked for one with "lots of words." I sent it and months later, beat up, with torn wrapping, it came back to me with a letter stating it was contraband. Television is not "contraband" in prison. Neither is most pornography. You can let an inmate watch game-shows or stare at naked women in lurid positions but you don't want him knowing how to spell a word or improving his mind.

Thinking about the Kafkaesque "rules" of most prisons leads me to thinking about the prison population in the US. Last time I checked, over the population of some states. Our current prime minister is now trying to get a "three strikes" law passed. Even though the Attorney General of the US has responded by saying Canada is ten years behind the time. The US tried it, he says, and it didn't work. Didn't deter crime. Swelled the prison population beyond imagination.

Carpet-baggers make laws. Unscrupulous (or possibly simply stupid, uniformed) politicians campaign on "three strikes" and "truth in sentencing" or "tough on crime" platforms. They play on fear, and use statistics to fuel it.

The most often used is the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), tabulated by the FBI. According to The Real War on Crime : The Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, most criminologists deem this report to be inaccurate. Why? In 1973, while citizens reported 861,000 aggravated assaults, the police recorded only 421,000. By 1988, record keeping improved and 910,000 were recorded out of the 940,000 reported. The crime rate had risen very little in actuality, but the statistics made it look like a catastophic rise.

Secondly, if a crime is committed and two people are arrested, many police departments record it as two crimes. Police department budgets are allocated on this type of information.

Third - there is a distinct difference between crimes of violence and crimes against property and no distinction is made. At the time The Real War on Crime was published, only one in ten crimes in America was violent. Only three in a hundred resulted in injury.

Page 123 of The Real War on Crime, now the closest book to me, sentence five:

"All other things being equal, minority youths faced criminal charges more often than white youths for the same offenses. Also, African-American youths are charged more often than whites with a felony when the offense could be considered a misdemeanor."

And I'm thinking about how many of our fears are based on ignorance and how eager we are to let officials think for us. And about how our uninformed fears, be they of crime or other cultures or religions, motivate us to approve laws and policies that actually create or increase the very things we fear.

Page 123. Pretty interesting reading. I wonder how we're all going to feel when we see watch towers in the hundreds built along the US/Mexico and US/Canada border. Safe? Will we feel safe then?

Me? I've visited prisons and seen watch towers and electric fencing razor-wired at the top - and I can tell you that personally, I can't think of anything more terrifying than physical representations of that kind of fear.