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Our Knifedge

Ranger and I are in heavy counseling lately. A return to Florida, where commercialism reigns, is suddenly hard. Tasmania seems a world apart.

Our conversation goes like this:

Ranger: “So you don’t agree with what the president on anything, and you cringe at the stuff he says. Why not just let it go and vote him out on the next election? The beauty of a democracy is that a mistake like this can be made, and then we all go on and recover from it.”

Me: “Maybe we won’t recover. What I am beginning to understand is that we live on the knife-edge. I had long assumed that the arc of history was on my side: that slowly increasing world-wide prosperity, food supplies, and education were the keys to making the world a better place. I believed that this same arc of history vindicated those of us who believed in education, especially improving education for girls, was the answer to the horrifying number of people being born…. enough so that we would gain control of the raw numbers of people and see a decline in birthrate commensurate with women’s economic and education levels.”

Ranger:”So you blame Trump for the fact that you no longer believe that?”

Me: “Trump is just the canary in the coal mine, if I can use that image. It’s what he represents that I find so difficult. He stands for crass commercialism, appears to have zero empathy, has no control over his emotions or his tongue. He stands for the glitzy veneer, the patent medicine show man who cons people into buying his snake oil and then laughs when it is proven ineffective. So I am discouraged that he came along just when I believed

Tonight we will witness the blood moon. I will replace this total eclipse with that, provided the clouds allow me. The knife-edge is here, in nature, in our ability to see it, in our vulnerability.
Tonight we will witness the blood moon. I will replace this total eclipse with that, provided the clouds allow me. The knife-edge is here, in nature, in our ability to see it, in our vulnerability.
the arc of history was pushing everyone towards the same values I hold. I thought we were getting kinder and gentler, more compassionate, with everyone’s boat rising.”

Ranger: “And that’s not the case? Isn’t overall poverty in the world being reduced? Isn’t that arc of history doing exactly what you outline as desirable?”

Me: “But that’s exactly the point! Maybe this knife-edge we are on will cleave toward those higher values, but maybe not…. maybe we are witnessing the demise of the human race while ‘Rome burns.’ The fossil fuel industry peaked in the mid-1970’s, and since then we exploit nature to continue to have a life style based on its consumption, no matter at what cost to the environment. It would appear that humans are willing to seize short term pleasure and damn the future.”

Ranger: “Excuse me, but that isn’t anything new. So why are you fussing about it when it’s always been the case that power corrupts and people strive to gather more for themselves. Unless you can give me something to keep me awake here, I’m going off to take a nap.”

The Devil’s Lair

Darryl and Stig (AKA “The Wild Orchid Man”) were in Tasmania looking for wild orchids, with the goal of making a documentary film. But of course, beyond the orchids were the strange and wonderful animals that evolved in that geographic environment. What about the Tasmanian devil? Could we find on, and if so, in the wild?

The devils of Tasmania were near the top of the food chain, with fiercely strong teeth and a killer instinct. They might have done a nice job of controlling the exploding population of rabbits, stoats, and feral cats, but were not very lucky. In addition to being hunted, they developed a rare form of contagious mouth cancer in recent decades, which became lethal. The Tasmanian government, along with private wildlife parks, began scrambling to protect the remaining populations. Here is one we met at such a park:

A healthy Tasmanian Devil.
A healthy Tasmanian Devil.

Nothing quite illustrates the juncture of humans and evolution as a trip through Tasmania. From the beginning of White immigration there was wholesale slaughter of indigenous populations of humans and animals. No thought was taken for preservation or protection.

What is my responsibility for this? I do not know. I do know that I have some. It is incumbent upon me to continue searching for that in the New Year 2018.

Arriving Without A Past

I left Ranger with his other buddies in town while I joined Darryl in Australia and New Zealand. It’s a long way to go to Hobart, and by the time I found a taxi and then the motel I had been traveling for more than a day, disoriented by time changes and crossing the International Date Line. I had carried my laptop and camera equipment in my backpack, and felt every one of my advanced years as I trudged through airport terminals and taxi lines.

Ranger would have counseled, but he wasn’t there. Darryl was attentive, but the purpose of the trip was suddenly consuming for both of us. I arrived there without the emotional or physical baggage of my life. I felt lost and alone, without a past, a stateless person washed up on a strange shore. I had no past, and nobody we met asked either about my family or my career.

Then I met a duck-billed platypus.

A rare platypus in Tasmania.
A rare platypus in Tasmania.

I’m pretty sure most Tasmanians have never seen a platypus. Their habitat has been invaded, and they have been driven nearly to extinction. Darryl has a magic about him, able to arrive at a location to find the animals emerging, as if they preparing for a photo shoot. This animal, a combination of beaver, duck, and penguin perhaps, was busy building a life in this section of river. She was scouting the river bottom and banks, looking for shellfish. We learned from the landowner that she has taken up residence on that river bend, has raised her young there.

So the platypus arrived here, possibly like I did, without context and without a past. But it claimed this small bend in the river as hers. Here she has raised her young and found a ready food source. I am reminded that my mother, no matter where she landed, was able to make a home. I hope I have done the same. Wherever that is, adaptation is the key to happiness. Would I love to live in the mountains or on the shore of Lake Superior? Yes, indeed. But it is here, on the shores of this Florida retention pond, that I now live. Ranger would tell me to make this my home in truth, rather than in just name. He has done the same. I am here, washed up on a shore without a past. It is my opportunity to love today and tomorrow…..

Of Knees and iPhones

Darryl is in Australia on a filming expedition. He and Stig Dalstrom, aka “The Wild Orchid Man,” are scouting out the wild orchid species in the bush of Western Australia around Perth. A week from today I will drop Ranger off at his “other house,” and fly to join Darryl in Hobart, Tasmania. We will celebrate our third wedding anniversary in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Today is the only day we (Ranger and I) have no commitments! While I’ve been rounding up prescriptions, cleaning closets, returning calls and emails, we don’t have to be anywhere. We intend to keep it that way. A day of no interruptions from radio or TV. We will think deeply about some things, maybe come to new levels of understanding.

Ranger: “What do you mean, to ‘Think Deeply’?”

Me: “Heck if I know where this will lead me today. I do know that most days I feel like I’m skimming across the surface of life, interacting with things, with people, with topics that rush past me. I need a day of complete and total disengagement from those things so I can contemplate the meaning of life.”

Ranger: “You’d better get rid of your iPhone, then. You carry it everywhere, and check it constantly.”

Me: “Okay. I will give you that point. But, this morning I left it in the kitchen while we sat on the lanai drinking coffee, and I missed a text from Darryl. That was exactly what I didn’t want to do… but your point is still good. Let me leave it home today while I attend a meeting, go shopping, and walk you. Fair enough?”

Ranger is grudging in his reply: “Okay. Let’s see if this makes you more attentive and present. Which is exactly the point, right? You want to be present with the people you are with. You want to be present with YOURSELF and with me. You want to be present with Earth. So getting this distraction away from you will promote that, don’t you think?”

Me: “Say more about being present with myself… that’s a big thought right there.”

Ranger: “Let’s say you have that phone in your pocket while you’re walking, driving, even sitting with your coffee on a quiet morning. That phone is hard-wired to your brain just because it is there. You say that you have it in perspective, that you can turn it off or ignore it. but I disagree. Heck, in the middle of the night you get tiny beeps when an email comes in, and your body acknowledges that delivery. Remember when you went to Europe so long ago as an eighteen year old? You were off the grid, literally. There was a phone in the ‘digs’ you rented in Edinburgh, but you never made or received a call on it. Postal mail was the only connection your family had with you. Wasn’t that more freedom for you as a young girl than the crazy twenty-four hour hovering you now endure?”

Me: “Okay, and if I leave my phone turned off and spend the day without it, what happens to the family calls/texts? Everyone expects a response. How do I handle that?”

Ranger: “Make an announcement that your life is going to be modified. But now let’s get really serious. We can no longer get disconnected. Our challenge, frankly? Having the hardwiring that this technology brings become no more than that artificial knee you now sport…. it’s there, and it is part of life, but it is not your life.”

Me: “Okay, so my knee is there, and it’s permanent. I’m sorry you reminded me about it, because now it’s beginning to throb. What you are suggesting is that instead of being an obvious part of your life, it is there to enhance, never detract.”

Ranger: “There are people who come to your house, and I watch them as they settle in…. but not totally. They have their hand on their pocket, or arrange their purse under their chair. Their attention is mostly on that rather than on the people in the room, or the view out the window. How will you be different?”

Me: “I determine to be present with myself. I have this technology which has become part of my body.. my artificial knee, my iPhone. Now, There were times with the knee that were painful and embarrassing, when it stuck out there like a sore thumb. Now it is nearly completely integrated with my body, serving to enhance my existence. I am going to treat the phone in the same way. How will that look? Not by clutching at my pocket or making a lunge for my purse. But by integration like my knee. I know it’s there, but I’m not constantly aware of it.”

Ranger: “Well, if this is the extent of your ability to think deeply today, I think I’ll go take a nap, as will most of your readers. Maybe next week you can do it a bit better.”

Ranger on Aging

With my siblings and our spouses. We are, whether we want to or not, aging.
With my siblings and our spouses. We are, whether we want to or not, aging.

It’s post-Irma, and Ranger and I converse daily about this strange bubble we’re in. We got power back within a day, but there are businesses and homeowners still without, even in this city where the storm veered off and lost interest, hitting at Cat 3 and rattling our junk food supplies and hurricane shutters while we exchanged memories and listened to each other by candlelight.

On one occasion last week I was perceived as a sweet and older grandma in need of help. Three young neighbors came to put up our hurricane shutters, unasked. They just came. Did they know I’d struck out with recruiting handymen? I doubt it. But there they were, and they as much as patted me on the head as they completed the job. They had fun putting the shutters up, as young men on a mission do, for someone like their grandmothers, and I was grateful, but this also reminded me that my age and my sex did not allow us to see each other very clearly, let alone between the rungs of my 16 foot ladder. They wanted to help me out, and they did, but I remain a frail thing that needed help.

Ranger was not alarmed during the storm, remaining quietly attentive to his flock and watching the shutters go up:

“You did get a bit rattled as a result of being helped like that. Why?” He looks at me from his corner of the couch, from under increasingly white eyelashes. Maybe I’m not the only one getting old. But his question gives me pause, and now I must take stock.

Me: “I’ve been puzzling about the whole “aging” thing. I didn’t feel any of it applied to me. I skipped through my ’60s pretty much unscathed. I rolled around on the floor, walked miles every day, worked without flagging. It just never occurred to me that my body was mortal. Then my knee gave out, followed by a new metal replacement. Somehow I expected that I would bounce right out of that and back into how I felt in my ’60’s. Oops. I was blindsided by age, unable to focus, running out of energy by 10:00 am, finding myself hanging onto the kitchen counters when cooking what little I could find the energy to cook. Ranger, it wasn’t pretty. It still isn’t.”

Me: (Continuing) “It’s still not pretty. I am walking better, am finding myself more energetic… like this morning I had enough to pull the orchids out of the ground cover I’d thrown them into several months ago so they wouldn’t just die. They were engulfed in the ground cover, and were themselves gasping for air, like me.”

Ranger: “Yep. I heard you out there, gasping. Now, you mentioned my white eyelashes. Let’s talk about age a bit. At one level you’re put off by the guys who came to put up your shutters, because they cared about their elderly neighbor. You bemoaned the fact that they saw you as living in that box labeled ‘aged’ and you bristle. My question for you: how are you going to go forward with a body that no longer works so well? Are you going to look for fixes so that you can turn back the clock, or are you going to follow my lead and be graceful and thankful about it?”

Me: “It’s complicated, isn’t it? I absolutely needed the knee. I need now to walk ever so carefully so that I don’t fall down. I cannot roll around on the floor with my grandchildren. I cannot get on my hands and knees to scrub the floor. But…. I will look for ways to make up for that. I will hire the housecleaners, expect the grandchildren to clean up after themselves, entertain less and more carefully. I will not be looking to look younger, just more graceful and grey. When my neighbors come and rescue me with my shutters next time I will suggest that when it’s over we will cater a block party in my garage and invite the neighborhood.”

Ranger: “Yes. Maybe you and I have ten years left… you’re going to have more than me, given I’m a dog. But count yourself and your blessings and go on from here into that place of peace and love.”


August 21, 2017. Solar eclipse from Cookeville, Tennessee
August 21, 2017. Solar eclipse from Cookeville, Tennessee

We went to Minnesota without Ranger. It’s okay for us to leave for a few days, because his “other family” loves him, and spoil him rotten while he’s there. But I guess a few cheese snacks are okay once in a while.

We were in Cookeville, Tennessee, for the eclipse. I went through the motions getting ready for it. It was hot, in the 90’s, and we set ourselves up on an asphalt parking lot, having received permission from our motel’s front desk that we could not only check out late but also use the lot for viewing purposes. Fortunately we could sit in our car, in the slight breeze invading the front seat in between runs to the cameras set up on the embankment to check on the progress. Up until total eclipse, I was underwhelmed. That all changed during those precious two plus minutes. The magic of several degrees of temperature drop, when the birds start singing a different song, when there is a hush in the world, is remarkable. I happily snapped away with my camera, and felt a breathless connection with Earth. This natural phenomena allows us humans to feel our real place in the universe. We are dust, both now and when we exit the bodies we have been given. The trick is to revel in the speck of dust we inhabit and the spot that dust has landed.

Here is a sensation from that day: I was hot and sweaty throughout the morning as we set up cameras and tripods and waited for totality. Then it happened, and in that short couple of minutes I cooled off, but the sweat on my body turned sticky and dry. When we were done, we hastily got on the road to meet our travel deadline, but the dry and sticky sweat remained on my skin, an alien coating. It clung, a personal carapace, and I a turtle stranded upside down, bewildered, momentarily unable to right myself.

I had awakened in the motel room thinking about coffee, and hoping the stuff in the lobby was not only ready, an hour before the “breakfast,” but also good. I know people who are coffee snobs, and while I know good coffee when I have it (after all, I’ve traveled to Paris) I also am content with passable brews as long as they are not bitter. I was pleased, after padding out in my robe (got by with it, too, nobody in sight!) and finding the container fresh brewed and with real cream. Viola! My morning is saved.

We puddled away the morning, Darryl and I. We caught up on unread emails, our computer monitors glowing, blinking, reassuring us that family and friends were still out there. We drank more coffee. We polished the lens of each camera. We flexed the tripods, and selected the two he would use and the one for me. We got a late check-out time so we could dash back and unload some of our coffee and refill water bottles.

Partial eclipse started, and I remained unmoved, sweaty and uncomfortable. My new artificial knee throbbed. The sun started to burn my arms and legs, so I draped an old shirt over the camera and huddled there wondering why we were doing this. Even ten minutes before totality I shuffled my feet and tried to find a better position on my small brown camp stool.

And then, bam! It was the lens camera of the universe slamming itself over the sun. Somehow I thought about the house in which our youngest child learned to use the big potty in the bathroom. Jane was two, and completely aware of her small world. The two of us were alone for several days while the rest of the family went to a family event in Iowa. Her training stool was in the middle of the living room floor, which was temporarily stripped bare and awaiting new carpet… no harm, no foul, right? We had a clothes shute in the hallway, and suddenly Jane was removing not just the diaper she was wearing but the clean ones on the changing table. I watched as she opened the shute over and over, pitching a diaper at a time and yelling, “Down the shute.” She never wore another diaper. The slamming of the lens over the sun echoed that same final note…. yes, this is it! No more partial anything. Let me show you what a real darkness of the sun means!

The sweat on my body was suddenly huggable. I wanted to keep it forever. It was the reminder that we are part of totality. No more could I deny my mortality, be self-absorbed with the routine of getting the day done and accounted for. This was a sign I needed to remove myself from the constant hobbling about on my new artificial knee… it didn’t matter, it was there and I would not only survive it but start forgetting it was there! I was the turtle, upside down and flailing in the real world that had been turned on its head. “Down the shute,” with the angst of worry and concerns about most of my life.

We set off for Indianapolis, a far stretch for our old bodies, but necessary to meet our timetable. But it was suddenly no big deal. If we didn’t make it other plans could be made, phone calls made, other beds in which to thankfully cuddle.

I looked over at the husband I hadn’t expected or hoped for, the man who slammed the lens cap onto the camera of my usual view of the world. We smiled at each other, lost in our own totality.

Ranger on Pain… and….

Ranger: “I am starting to worry about you. You haven’t been in the kitchen for weeks, you’re not walking on your beloved Celery Fields… or any other location, frankly, and you’re certainly not rolling out of bed each morning to walk me. What the heck happened?”

Me: “You should know, since you hear me moan and groan every day! That right knee that’s been bothering me the last two years? It got worse, and because I was compensating so much for my right knee my whole body went out of whack. Solution: knee replacement.”

Ranger: “So was it so bad that you stopped doing all those things?”

Me: “Worse. I’ve lost a whole friggin month to pain so bad I couldn’t even get into or out of bed… just stayed on the couch. Lost my appetite (scary, I know). Came home declaring I needed no pain medications, but within two days was taking them every four hours. Couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk you for sure.”

Ranger: “Was it worth it?”

Me: “Probably, but I still don’t know. What I hate most of all is what’s happened inside my head during the last month. I would read Facebook posts and get daily bad news about what this president is doing or not doing (I can’t even use his name) and about the melting glaciers, all the while watching our local temperatures exceed records on a daily basis. Darryl and you did your best to cheer me up, and Tia was doing the same when she was here, but it was impossible to grab my attention away from the quite literal writhing pain…..

…. but the worst? Feeling guilty for feeling that way. Who was I to focus only on me? Compared with Syrian refugees? Compared to people with a fatal illness? It killed me to realize how completely immersed I was in my own pain and misery. I’ve always had more energy than most people. I’ve always been eager to get out of bed and be productive through the day. This thing just leveled me, both physically and mentally.”

Ranger: “So, what did you learn?”

Me: “Here goes:
1. Slowing down is part of a graceful acceptance of your age and body. This was the first time in my life I couldn’t rise to the occasion and care for those around me, including you. Just getting off the couch to the bathroom felt like a major commitment.

2. It’s okay not to show up. I had one major commitment about two weeks into this, a climate change workshop I had organized in Newtown… and I did it with Darryl’s help. I gobbled up a couple of pain pills and he floated me over there and back, mostly in a fog. But everything else? I cancelled it or didn’t do it. I called people rather than shopping for birthday cards. I didn’t worry about what was going to happen for dinner, and you know what? Something always made it to the table. I admitted to Darryl that I couldn’t trust myself walking you, fearing you’d meet another dog and trip me up with your lunging…. and now it’s been five weeks out from surgery and I haven’t had you on the leash. I stopped worrying about trying to organize events for our friends… and even stopped worrying about it. That’s progress, don’t you think?”

3. You need to tell your “team” (that’s you, Darryl and Tia here at this house) that you need them, not the other way around. Can you believe that is hard for me? Ever the providing mother… that was my MO. I had to give it up.”

4. This has taught me how transitory and comically insignificant I am. I am dust, and will return to Earth, hopefully in graceful fashion. My grandchildren will remember me, but that’s about the extent of my influence. So to travel light, take no mental or physical baggage and remember always that what you do is important only if it adds to the support of Earth…. that’s about it, Ranger.”

Ranger: “I gotta stop you right there. Frankly, you’re just full of shit, my friend. Sorry to say it so bluntly, but those points you make are nothing but platitudes. What those Hallmark points allow you to do is pat yourself on the back when you recover your strength and give thanks for being back where you started. I propose that instead of heading down that nice recovery road (which your points nicely illustrate) you use this immersion in pain as a transformative one. It could actually make you a better person with a better body.”

Ranger, continuing: “I suggest you live into the pain, use that as a link to feel the pain of others (including Earth), the refugees, terminal patients…. you’d have a fair chance of learning to live in a better body and better head. You’ve run your body hard, expecting it to perform beyond itself in the service of others. Time now to embrace your own body for yourself, frankly. I would bet you’d discover a different, more vital energy. You’ve embraced your mortality, so that’s done. Now you can embrace the mortality you have left in a different way…. I’m on a limb here, but what do I have to lose? You’ve run your head hard as well. Use this pain experience to build a better head.”

Me: “You’re not much comfort. I thought I had this session nailed, but you’ve just shot me down.”

Ranger: “Yes, and you needed me to do that. Get over yourself and your marvelous mother image. You’d have a better life without it. Start living for yourself and if something drips off you to improve the lot of those around you that’s a good thing indeed. NOW, I’m exhausted. Leave me alone so I can recover.”

He's done with my Hallmark shit.
He’s done with my Hallmark shit.

Mom’s Model Updated

Totems work in the middle of the night for us. But what about the day? What about a day that is gloomy and we learn that this Florida winter is 5 degrees hotter than any on record? Does that matter to the young families on my street, all intent on getting to work and then picking up the kids and getting them to bed? I suspect not. We talk, Ranger and I, about the role of crisis in our lives, and what makes us respond.

Me: “Ranger, I have an image of my mother, in the spring of 1942. It was a REALLY cold winter everywhere. The siege of St. Petersburg, Russia, by the German army was already driving people to hoard food… the first of the famine years that were not to end until 1944. I was born February of 1941 in Prince Albert, Saskatchwan. By that time mom had six other children and a husband devoted to being the voice of God in that remote Presbyterian pulpit, in the household he ran without mercy, and in the community of believers, such as they were. I nearly died in that early Spring, 1941, of whooping cough. They had hired a nurse, a small bone to my mother’s extreme exhaustion. But I survived, and they went on in that miserable winter.”

My mom, brother Bob and myself. We must not squander her legacy.
My mom, brother Bob and myself. We must not squander her legacy.

Me: “My vision is of my mother, her thin paleness and once-luxurious hair spayed around her head, sitting on the back step of the old manse. She is in a cheap house dress and thick sweater, holding her head in her hands. It is the utter hopelessness of her demeanor that remains with me, and it’s probably my first memory. She was just learning that her husband had decided to join the war effort, and was being shipped off to India, leaving her to cope with her huge brood and no place to live. She would not only survive, but thrive in the tricky decision making that led her to buy a home near her family in Iowa, but raise her children with elegance and grace, see the world emerge from the war and food rations into the crazy times of prosperity and excess. What did we learn? That the bad times would pass, and the world would continue. Do I feel that same hopelessness now as the data about melting polar caps and rising seas pours in? Is my hopelessness fleeting, because better times are ahead? What makes my hopelessness different than hers? Help me with that, my friend.”

Ranger: “Glad you finally let me get my two cents in… thought you might further belabor that story. Your mother obviously had all the traits admired by your family: grace, dignity, empathy, integrity and kindness. The despair you feel is not just about the current political and global political climate, but about the bigger picture of climate in general. Your mother, and now you, bemoaned the wars and refugees and food supplies…. but the cloud of despair over your head is relatively new to human history, right? Never before has the despair included the stark worry about the survival of the planet as we know it. Your mother never worried about whether Earth would survive, even thought she worried constantly about the outcome of the war and the welfare of her children. Am I getting close? You see an existential crisis and very possibly human extinction.”

Me: “Bingo! I have been in civil protests since Viet Nam, I’ve protested the Iraq war, I tried to teach the lessons of conservation to my children so they would learn discipline. But now the worry is for the very survival of the human race as we know it. My worry about the current U.S. political situation is very real. I believe we have elected an emperor who doesn’t realize he is naked and therefore is not capable of shame. But that worry is completely subsumed by the global crisis of overpopulation, overconsumption and overuse of resources. Earth will survive, but maybe not people.”

Ranger: “Now, you call me your therapist, so here goes….. you have an obligation to remain hopeful and manage yourself, even though you want to tear your hair and sit in sackcloth and ashes. While you see an even bigger picture than your mother did, she serves as your model still. She got up off that step and set about her job being a mother. It is an inheritance that you cannot squander in grief and sadness.”

On Totems in the Time of Trouble

Ranger knows what Eyore is for. He brings it to whoever needs comfort.
Ranger knows what Eyore is for. He brings it to whoever needs comfort.

Ranger and I each have our comfort totems.

Last week, one night, I couldn’t sleep. About 2:00am I slipped out of bed and padded downstairs, hoping Darryl and Ranger would not notice. No such luck. I found my blue stoneware mug in the back of the cupboard and warmed some milk. The mug is my totem object, purchased in Edinburgh at age 18, It has followed me ever since. It’s the kitchen item never packed for moving, carried with me in the car to a new location. It is smooth, plain, without word. Only I know it has meaning. Will one of my children know and love it? I doubt it, and wouldn’t expect it. So I hold it close and thank fate that I bought it on my year in Scotland. The mug and I have been together for more than half century!

Not so fast. I soon heard Ranger’s toenails on the upstairs hallway. He picked a way down the stairs and I knew without turning on the light what he carried. His blue Eyore, the stuffed donkey. Long ago I had laid the stuffed animal out for donation, since neither grandchild even noticed it. I remember that rainy, dark morning, as Ranger scrutinized my every move. He gently picked Eyore up and from that moment it was his totem. It is not a toy, and he has kept it in perfect condition. He brings it to bed with him, brings it downstairs in the morning, and only touches it during the day if he sees me crying or Darryl in pain, at which point it is given gently to us.

On that night last week, Ranger found me in the dark on the sofa, with my blue mug of milk, and he jumped up and placed Eyore on my lap. It’s what he does each time he knows my spirits need the touch of a comforting object. Then we sat, finding our centers again, he and I. Eyore, Ranger’s head and my blue mug were on my lap and all was well. We will go on. We both understand the need for an object that ties us to our own history. When the world is not in balance, when we are unsure of the future, a simple object gives us a moment of comfort. It’s all we need to allow us to go back upstairs and crawl into sleep position.

Avatar Part II

Somehow the “Avatar” motif fits for Ranger and me. We toss the idea around these days, and get many chuckles out of it.

Ranger: “What if I have an “Avatar?”

Me: “You’d be fine with me, because I see you as much more than that, my friend. I see through all the bluff and bluster to the real you. When you are in “Avatar” mode you skim into another space/time and I can follow along with you. Rather than just being the best dog in the Universe, you also become super-dog, one that can bring your powers to the place we live in reality. You can fix everything, and you can be without any blemish or need to poop.”

Ranger: “Oh….. well, that gives me some paws. Heh heh, get it? The pause comes from having to adjust to an alternate reality. Poop always brings me back to a totally real place. Which reminds me, alternate reality is what we seem to be experiencing since the election last year. If I’m an avatar, what does that make you, provided you also have an avatar?”

Me: “Ha. It makes me powerful beyond my apparent traits. Powerful enough to act like I have no responsibility to tell the truth, to make careful decisions, to allow for human foibles. I am so grateful to have lived long enough to get away from my Supermom avatar persona, or my Super-supervisor persona. That made me a shell of who I really wanted to be. I buried my emotional needs, always made things work, made sure all the homework was done and dinner on the table, always tracked on kids, always deferred to what the family ‘needed’. And at work I was always patient and kind, worked my butt off and kept all the forms signed.”

Ranger: “You told me that Darryl punched a hole in that Avatar balloon. How?”

Me: “He really saw me. He didn’t just see me as a supermom or as a super intellect, or a super anything. He didn’t see me as part of the mechanism that would make his life complete. He really SAW me, my hurt, my needs, my full-on denial of who I was. He loved the me that is me, somehow connected with that real part, and not the persona. He didn’t see me as a supermom or great thinker or poet or photographer for that matter. He didn’t see me as a financial means to a nice retirement end. He didn’t see me as a route to social acceptability. So we connect only at the human level, one person to one person. I had never experienced that before.”

Ranger: “I guess he did that for me too. He saw me as the dog I was really was, the gentle and loving dog I was, and not the avatar superagressive beast I was acting like. I did become that real dog. Look at me now: being that. You agree, right? I’m not anything like that aggressive but scared and untrusting beast he first took in.”

Me: “We all need a Darryl in our lives. I hope I am that for him, as he has been for us. Together we can also see the world more clearly as well. It’s from this place of reality that we can correctly identify the misguided notions that control our society: the consumerism, the obsession with self and accumulated wealth. I know I could not do it alone.”