Thursday, June 29, 2006


Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?

For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
T. S. Eliot

Poet T.S. Eliot speaks frequently about taking risks and about the beginning being the end and the end the beginning. Poets tend to go on and on about their favorite themes. And, if we resonate with their thinking, we tend to quote these pieces.

(I can’t remember who said what long enough to quote anything. I can’t even tell you more the locations of more than three Bible verses, and I learned many in Vacation Bible School and should have learned more in seminary and several years of preaching. I can tell you the stories, but I can’t tell you where to find them or who said them.)

However, the topic of this blog is taking risks. Risk is defined as “the possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger” or “a factor, thing, element, or course involving uncertain danger; a hazard”.

But, I think that the definition of risk should include the possibility of gaining something good. For example, last year we went parasailing. With us on the boat were a woman and her 80plus year old mother. The older woman was in pretty good health, but she might have decided that the risk of breaking a bone in landing or having an accident outweighed the possibility of having a thrill and a great time of bonding with her daughter. So, up they went, side by side; the risk of having a good time outweighed any negatives.

Sometimes we decline to do things because we are unsure about what we might gain. Everything in life has good points and bad points, and we probably should consider both the good and the bad. When we decide to “go for it”, we are risking the good. It might happen. Of course, a spectrum of possibilities exists; we might be risking the bad. Take the chance!

I suppose in my younger years, I nearly always chose to risk the possibility of something gained rather than something lost. And, I don’t regret many of those choices. I had a very good time throughout most of my life. Bad times came and went; the good times were so good that I often forgot about the bad ones. I laughed, I cried, I loved, I had lots of thrills because I dared to go the next step. I didn’t need a roller coaster; I lived one. And, I loved it; just listen to my stories. The wilder, the better. No drugs except alcohol, thank you – and eventually that went by the wayside. I didn’t need to get high; I was high on life.

I didn’t succeed financially; I didn’t make a dent in the career fields that I tried; I didn’t settle down and raise a family; but I do have more friends than I can count, and I’ve lived in lots of great places; I’ve eaten all kinds of foods; and I’m not through.

I want to do a few more weird and wild things before I’m done. I want to hang glide; I want to ride a motorcycle; I want to shave my head; I want to dye my hair red; I want a pedicure; I want to live in New York for a few months; I want to travel to some exotic places; I want to drive a hybrid car; I want to hold some more babies; I want to sit beside friends who are dying; I want to feel the grace of winter and the warmth of sunshine. I want to live a while longer and bit further.

New things renew my soul...even the things we call bad things. I want to continue to feel and experience and sense and delight and moan and whine. As I get older, some things are beyond my ability to do, but I want to do what I can do while I can still do it. And, I want to take my friends along for the joy ride.

Catch my coat tails; I think I’m high again and risking having a good time.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Brain versus Balance

Pain, food, medication, exercise. What a round robin that is. I have pain, I eat or I take medicine. I exercise, I have pain. I eat, sometimes I have pain. I take medicine, I have side effects. Once again, balance is the key, and I'm not so good at balance. I never have been.

One of my friends says that I am "all or nothing". When you have good days and bad days, it's easy to be that way. On the good days, you try to do everything that's been postponed from the bad days and some of the fun things in life. On the bad days, you do nothing unless you are goaded into action. Occasionally, you will go all out on a bad day just to show who's boss.

Sometimes bad days are precipitated by one of the four things above - pain, food, medication, or exercise. Sometimes exercise makes me feel better; sometimes medicine makes me feel better; food almost always makes me feel better. Bad days can become good days because of my use of the three.

On the other hand, good days can become bad days for the same reasons. I eat too much or the wrong things. I take medicine when what I need is exercise. Ah, it's balance. Darn it.

But, I think I have a short circuit somewhere in my brain about balance. I try to eat several small meals a day, and I buy things that I can eat easily and that I like. Some mid-mornings, though, I look at that stuff and just go "yech". Then I go next door and get a sausage biscuit and drink a real Coke. That can make bad into good or good into bad or do nothing.

I promise myself that I'm going to walk on the treadmill at least 10 minutes each day. Well, I haven't been on the treadmill but three times in June. My brain argues that I'm not breathing well; so I don't need to overdo it. I know that regular exercise will improve the breathing, but I don't think I've conveyed that to the reasoning part of my brain.

I take my prescription medicine just like I'm supposed to do, but I take aspirin and tylenol and sometimes antihistamines in addition. Tylenol may stop the pain, but sometimes exercise would be better. And, sometimes I need to eat one of my small meals. So, my brain signals the wrong solution to the problem.

I'm trying to retrain my brain, but it's crafty and knows ways to circumvent my best thinking. So I think I'm off to get a sausage biscuit, and I can't get on the treadmill because the electricians are using the space for the attic steps, and I've taken all my medicine for the day. Brain 1, Balance 0.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Behind the times

I'm beginning to understand why people join chat rooms. Chat rooms are for people with like interests who have the time to be there and to discuss those interests and others in written format. In dialogue, the written word is often inferior to the spoken word. I can get friends to discuss issues with me on the telephone and face to face, but I can't get them to write about the issues. I pose ideas and questions, and almost no one responds. A good joke generates more interest and commentary and goes on to a lot more people.

I like the written word. I can think about what someone has written and thoroughly understand (when that is possible) what I think he/she means before I respond. In spoken conversation, I have to respond immediately. Sometimes that means that I'm thinking of my response before the other person has finished speaking. And, if anyone talks very long, I've forgotten my response to the first part before the last is over. So, I sit there with a dumb look on my face as I try to remember what I intended to say. Perhaps the last part was the best, and I missed part of it as I realized my own thoughts were slipping away as we moved along.

Perhaps this is part of growing older. My grandmother and aunt both had Alzheimer's, and I suspect I shall have it also. "Shall" may be the wrong verb; perhaps I have it already and my efforts at conversation are dulled by my inability to hold onto thoughts. For whatever reasons, I like the written word so that I have time to focus on what's important to the other person and to me and to respond to both.

I'm not sure how well I'd do in a chat room, though. I've watched my partner "talking", and several conversations are going on at once with a time lag as various people respond. Some of them are in line with several conversations; so you have to figure out which response goes with which conversation. Of course, they don't usually talk about anything that requires a lot of concentration or my partner wouldn't be playing a game as she participates in the chat room.

I don't multi-task very well anymore either. Large gatherings find me silent unless spoken to directly. Partly that is because I can't differentiate sounds as well as I once could. If several people are speaking at once, I don't understand any of them; it's all a buzz to me. At restaurants, I usually sit with my back to the wall so there's no noise behind me. I've learned to read lips a bit, and that helps with conversations in noisy places.

Television has been difficult for me all of my adult life, and we didn't have a television when I was growing up. I strain to understand what the people are saying. News reporters usually do a better job of speaking than others; nature shows are often the worst because background noise makes the speaker unintelligible to me. Using stereo speakers for television improves my ability to hear somewhat.

I like newspapers and magazines and emails and real letters instead of videos and television and podcasts. I'd rather read a good book than see the movie. I'm afraid my aging ears, eyes and mind have left me behind the times.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Time Out

Most sports have incorporated "time out" into their games, both chosen and forced time outs. Most child care facilities use "time out" for youngsters to regain their sensibility about what is proper behavior. Mediators and counselors use a form of time out to talk about process instead of content.

Adults under stress also need "time out" in both time and space. When I am confronted by something that really makes me angry, I need a "time out" to regain my sanity, to step back from the emotion. Then I can think more clearly about what is happening and make more rational decisions about what I want to do or not do, what I want to say or not say.

When I am in the midst of grief or depression, I often need time alone in a different space than home in order to process my feelings and thoughts. I'm one of those people who can make better decisions if I know why I am thinking or feeling a certain way. I have to accept my thoughts and feelings, but I want to know what has caused them so that I can replicate the good things and eliminate the bad.

Of course, life doesn't often work that way. Neither do we have time to think, time to let the emotions subside before we must decide whether or not to speak or act. Equally as often, we don't discover the whys or causes of our emotions or actions. Sometimes it's a rainy day, even in Australia. Or, we may have to think about events and similar events and deja vu events and even those that repeat themselves for the fourth or fifth or hundredth time before we can see a pattern or a reason or a trigger.

Sometimes I wish life were more predictable, but then I'd be bored. As it is, I always have something to think about. Since I enjoy quiet, thinking is one of my favorite activities. My need for silence is great...not total silence but the absence of human voice or music. In those times, I am filled with the greatness of the world and its creator. I know that I am no more and no less than a grain of sand in the universe; I have my place, and the world would be less without me, but it's a small place.

In the hubris of life's daily ups and downs, I get caught up in how much wisdom I hold and think that others need to have that wisdom; I think that I can make the world a better place by sharing what I have learned. Once in a great while that is true; more often I should keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. On those occasions, I need a "time out" to get the proper perspective on who I am, why I'm here, and how I fit into the total picture.

I like being a big frog in a small pond, always important, growing fat and lazy with admiration and honor. But, the truth is that I'm just the one that the frog gigger is looking to stick and fry my legs. The fatter the frog, the better the fried frog legs. I need to remember that keeping a low profile is good most of the time.

Coaches do their jobs from the sidelines; they aren't out on the playing field. Until recently, you seldom heard about good coaches; you heard about their teams, their players, the records of the team. Every team needs a leader in the middle of the field playing the game. The coach should remain on the sideline and help the leader and players do the best they can do. Coaches that get too much in the limelight often get roasted.

So I keep praying that I can take enough time outs to stay on the sidelines and help others do and be the best they can do or be. God grant me humility.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Episcopal Anglican confusion

The Episcopal Church, long known for its ability to take the Via Media (the middle road), is now in a position of contradicting itself through actions at the just-ended General Convention, the national gathering. Here in the US, the Episcopal Church is probably one of the more liberal churches, but in the Anglican Communion, the international communion of churches united by belief in Jesus Christ and use of a Book of Common Prayer, the Episcopal Church is very radical.

In the past few years, we have offended many of the more conservative Anglican churches, especially those in the Far East and in Africa by our ordination of women to the priesthood and their subsequent consecration to the episcopate. In 2003, we confirmed the election of and consecrated a gay priest who was in a committed relationship with another man. This action brought responses from around the world, and one of those responses was the Windsor Report, a report on the unity of the Anglican Communion, including a request that the Episcopal Church in the US not ordain nor consecrate any more homosexuals. This report also set forth a need for an Anglican Covenant, a way that we all could agree on what put us in communion with one another. Mind you, we've functioned for hundreds of years without such a covenant, and we've held diverse opinions about slavery and segregation, divorce and remarriage, out-of-wedlock children, baptism, holy eucharist, and the participation of women in the church. The report recommended that the Archbishop of Canterbury become, in essence, the Anglican Pope. At the same time, it proposed a listening process that would help the disagreeing churches remain in communion with one another.

Some churches withdrew from communion with the US anyway and have invaded the US with opposing Anglican bishops forming new churches. We need more churches; so making new churches is a good thing. Taking people from one church and forming another raises issues of "what happens to those left behind", property ownership and usage, and communion.

This 2006 General Convention studied the Windsor Report and proposed three major resolutions to be voted upon by the bishops, priests and lay people who represent the various dioceses of the Episcopal Church. Two of these resolutions passed without much debate or controversy: to participate in the forming of an Anglican Covenant and reaffirming "the abiding commitment of the Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion and to seek to live into the highest degree of communication possible."

The controversy came with the resolution banning the ordination or consecration of homosexuals. The House of Deputies (priests and laypeople) rejected this resolution. The Presiding Bishop called a meeting of the joint houses of Bishops and Deputies. At that meeting he proposed a substitute resolution, which was subsequently passed by both houses. This resolution calls on bishops and Standing Committees to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

Okay, so we haven't fulfilled all the requests of the Windsor Report, but we have passed three major resolutions, the last of which is still creating controversy. What I don't understand is how this General Convention could elect a woman as Presiding Bishop and approve a man, who is twice divorced and three times married, for consecration as a bishop. These actions are contrary to the resolve not to present a challenge to the wider church or lead to further strains on communion. The African churches heartily disapprove of divorce and remarriage and most of them don't ordain women.

A group of liberal bishops have dissented from the last resolution, which is not binding anyway. I suspect the most conservative bishops want to do the same thing because they wanted more compliance with the Windsor Report's requests. Liberal church and religious organizations have cried "foul" because this action puts unity ahead of justice. It's almost like the "separate but equal" proposals for desegration in the South some years ago.

Perhaps justice in such matters as sexual preference are easier to discern when you're not struggling so desperately with hunger, AIDS, famine, war, and national unrest. The Episcopal Church in the USA is, overall, very wealthy and contributes much to the alleviation of these cries for help all over the world. But, we don't struggle much with such things in our own congregations; we have the safety to worry about treating all people equally. Jesus helped the marginalized people and he commanded us to feed the hungry, tend the sick and care for the dying. He also commanded us to seek peace and unity.

I don't know how to resolve my own conflict over the unity of the Anglican Communion and the justice of allowing all God's people to participate equally. I don't want to see our church cast out of the Anglican Communion, but I definitely believe that, in the United States, we are ready to move forward with justice and full participation for all people. Hosea said, "Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with Your God." No one said to preserve unity at the cost of justice or mercy. So, if I have to choose between unity and justice, I'll choose justice.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Critters now and then

At a pet store recently I saw some wonderful small lizards (maximum growth length was 9 inches) that responded to human voices. I guess Pavlov's theory is true; I think the lizards were hungry and they knew that humans provided the food. They leapt up from their normal reclining positions and began clawing at the glass front of the cage. My natural instinct was to call someone to feed them.

I also saw some gorgeous Gouldian Finches - red heads with bright blue, yellow and green bodies. Even the more muted colors of the females was beautiful. They were expensive and I don't particularly like taking care of birds; so we didn't really consider buying them. When I came home, I checked the internet to find out more about the birds; they are an endangered species in Australia. I hope the birds we saw were not illegally imported but were raised in the USA. The internet also said that the birds required a lot of care and special living conditions such as constant temperature and humidity. I'm thankful we didn't consider buying them, but they were truly beautiful creatures.

I think I just love critters...possibly as much as I love people. Soft cuddly critters are my favorites, but the elegance of horses and the marvelous fur of certain cattle delight my senses. I certainly wouldn't consider cuddling such larger critters. The lizards around our place fascinate me, and they love our fountain. We have several sleek red-winged black birds that come to our feeders and some woodpeckers that are so cocky and agile.

Yesterday we went for a boat ride and cruised some of the osprey nests along the river; we were rewarded with glimpses of baby birds in a couple of the nests. What fun to watch the parents feeding the babies and flapping wings to keep them down as we approached. The babies are large enough now to rebel against Mama's wing-flapping; so they poked their heads up to see what was going on. They'll be flying before long, and I will be delighted to watch the ones across the creek as they mature and finally leave this nest.

All these thoughts bring back good memories of living on the farm in Mississippi, where I was allowed to go to the woods alone. The sounds of the cottonwood leaves rustling in the wind were my lullaby. I brought home chunks of fungi that grew on dead trees and arranged them with colorful leaves or bright green weeds. I picked dewberries that grew along the garden fence and ate them before I got back to the house. I watched bobcat kits playing in front of the den by the river. And, I learned about the various snakes that lived in our woods - which ones I could simply step over and which ones to avoid. I picked up the shed skins of bugs and snakes and anything that was different and interesting. In the clearing behind the house, I gathered pecans - the little ones that are so sweet but so hard to crack.

I've even written poetry about the cotton blooms in the field next to the house. And, I sang "Secret Love" from the top of the walnut tree in our front yard, pretending I was a popular country music star. I planted magnolia seed at the edge of the house and watched as they grew into seedlings; now they are huge magnolias in the yards where our families lived. I divided my red amaryllis so many times that it lined the entire front yard. I avoided the day lilies growing in the ditch by the road. Water often stood in that ditch, and I was afraid of the snakes that might be there.

I was alone much of the time as a youngster on the farm. Now, as I am retired, I cherish my solitude as much as I enjoy my friends and partner.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Commitment. Faithfulness. Inertia. Flexibility. The continuum of - or maybe I should say - spectrum of relationship applies not only to relationships with people or with God, but also to relationships with organizations, programs, causes. We have different words to describe our various kinds of relationships, but describing these relationships is much like a consumer survey where 10 is absolutely true and 1 is absolutely not true; you pick a number on a scale.

All my relationships have a place on that scale. My commitment to my partner is a 10 (in lots of ways). My commitment to God is also a 10, but my commitment to the organized church is probably a 5 right now. The key words here are "right now"; commitment changes; it waxes and wanes. I was totally committed to my marriage, but circumstances produced a change, and that marriage no longer exists. I was totally committed to the Episcopal Church, more specifically, to St. Anne's Episcopal Church. Circumstances produced a change, and my commitment to St. Anne's is probably a 2 right now, especially since I don't live in that town or attend that church any longer. I still care about what happens there and about its ministries, but I'm no longer a part of that.

As my life changes (and that's the only constant I know), I find that my commitment to various causes changes also. For several years, I worked with a telephone hotline, CONTACT, designed to give people who had problems a safe and anonymous place to talk about situations. Then, I returned to school and had to spend my volunteer time studying. My commitment waned.

Over the years I have participated in various recovery programs (and I use the term "recovery" in a broad sense). My needs have been multiple, and each turn of life has required more emphasis in one spot and less in others. A single recovery program has not been able to provide the direction and support that I needed through life. So my commitment to various "recovery" programs has changed as I changed.

I spent a number of happy years involved in little theatre and a few years with a historical society. They filled needs in my life in different ways. I spent a good many years involved with theology and crammed my mind, heart and soul with lots of stories and concepts and commitments. I still theologize about things a lot; it's become a habit, possibly a good habit (and many of my habits are bad).

A few constants exist in my life - my partner, God, making the world a better place. My commitment to these always rank a 10. But, I guess I'm attention deficit when it comes to almost everything else. My commitment moves along that scale of 10 to 1 (and sometimes down to zero) as my life's journey continues. I enjoy that movement, and I enjoy the diversity of life - of causes, people, programs, and organizations. But, diversity is a topic for later.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


A similarity exists between being tired from overdoing some activity and being satiated after eating. When I am tired, whether it's from one activity or many, I find that I can usually summon the energy to do something I really enjoy. When I am sated after a meal, I find that I have room and appetite for a cream puff. Some dietitians say that we can satisfy our hunger and appetite for certain foods, but when different foods are offered, we can eat more. People eat more at a buffet than they do when they order a meal in a restaurant because a variety of foods appeal to our variety of appetites. Perhaps they will discover that we have an appetite gland that is similar to our adrenal gland to help us eat just that little bit more even when we are full. The adrenal gland helps us to do just that little bit more even when we are exhausted.

Some of us just don't recognize when we are tired; and some of us just don't recognize when we are full. It's the lure of enjoyment. Now I know that adrenal gland kicks in when we are in danger or need, but some people rely on that extra charge just to get through their daily activities or when they are really caught up in a particular project. Eventually our bodies tell us when to stop; the adrenaline runs out.

I'm not sure that this postulated food gland works that way. My appetite seldoms runs out even when I've been full for the last ten bites of food. And, if you offer me something different that I like, well, it's as if I never had eaten at all. Granted that I do fill up faster each succeeding time that I eat something else, but sometimes I think I could go on eating forever if I just did it slowly. And, that waistline that I never had anyway just keeps getting it's hanging over my hip hugger pants and not just my regular ones.

Perhaps I need someone to tell me that I'm full. Occasionally I have to tell my partner that she is tired. She sometimes doesn't know when to stop. So, the answer to my appetite could be just to have someone tell me when I've eaten enough. Diet plans won't work; I ignore them. Hearing the words could make a difference...maybe.

Right now, however, I need something salty to eat; so I'll see ya later.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Many of the things in my home are made in other countries; China is most represented with the Central American countries coming in second. I buy imported items because the quality is good enough and the price is great. However, a few days ago, I bought a set of towels simply because the tag said "Made in USA". The quality was okay and so was the price. I was pleased. I like to support our national economy and our local economy.

I buy fresh local vegetables when I can. Increasingly, however, I can't find products made in the USA - especially clothing. The Central American countries and Mexico are tops in producing our knitwear. Many of my slacks come from Southeast Asia, even the ones from the company in Canada.

I make beaded jewelry, and today I priced some jewelry in an expensive store. I almost bought a multi-strand piece because I cannot buy the beads on the internet as cheaply as they were selling the necklace. The tag said "Made in China".

And, most of the beads that I buy in retail stores, on the internet, and at bead shows are made in China and India. Some come from Africa and other exotic countries. Most turquoise is mined and processed in China; a small amount comes from Mexico; and only a tiny bit comes from the Southwestern USA. The USA turquoise is so expensive that I can't afford it. Some beads, marketed as USA turquoise, is actually reconstituted turquoise dust collected from the making of the most expensive beads. Sure, it really is turquoise, but it's like us poor humans - a bit of dust held together with water and glue.

Pearls - remember when pearls were real or cultured. Now there are freshwater pearls, cultured pearls, strangely shaped pearls, dyed pearls, crystal pearls, glass pearls, plastic pearls, and, of course, the most expensive are the naturally created sea pearls. The crystal pearls mostly are exported from Austria and the Czech Republic. The glass pearls are shipped from China and are very cheap.

Silver beads, chains and parts come from Bali, Africa (Hill Tribes and others), and Mexico. Seed beads (like those used to sew onto purses and make designs on clothing) are best if you get them from Japan; certain companies specialize in certain sizes, and the number of colors is amazingly large. New stones are always being introduced - new jade, calsilica - mostly created beads from natural materials - molded by heat, held together with various stickums and dyed almost any color one could wish.

Natural crystal is bleached to remove the color or dyed in a variety of colors to appear as something else. Almost everything is heat treated, dyed, enhanced, stabilized or something.

And, they are all beautiful. I am glad that we have learned how to make so many lovely things, recreating God's gifts to us of color and clarity and weight and glow. I am sad that the demand for the truly natural stones has pushed the prices out of the reach of ordinary people. As with most things in my life, I continue to shift from one side of the fence to the other. I sometimes restrict my purchases to beads made in the USA; then I succumb to price and beauty and buy scads of beads from other locales. I look for towels made in the USA, but Egyptian cotton is so soft and absorbent. I know that some of the items I purchase are undoubtedly made in sweat shops, and I grieve that I want something so much that I participate in the abuse of other people...never mind the critters involved in shoes and such.

So I wear myself out moving from one side of the fence on issues to the other side. Someone said recently that "balance" is one of the most difficult words in our language - difficult because it is so hard to achieve. If being wishy-washy, like a see-saw is any balance, then I have it. Otherwise, I'm just like the rest of our nation - a user, an exploiter, an abuser of our resources.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hungry as a horse

Today I watched the Mama osprey across the creek flapping her wings while standing on the edge of the nest. I thought she might be frightening off some predator. But, I stared closely for a bit; then I saw a small head peeking over the edge of the nest. Mama osprey started flapping her wings again. And, every time I saw a little head, Mama would flap.

Down, down, I say. Don't you chicks ever listen to me? Do you know how far you'd fall if you got on the edge of this nest? And, then where would you be? Dead, I tell you, dead. I'd be fit to kill myself for losing you.

Now, Oliver, just stay put and Daddy will be back soon with something to eat. I know you're hungry now, but you'll just have to wait until supper. Olivia, how many times do I have to tell you not to peck at your brother. He's too little to stand up to you right now. But, you wait, he's going to grow and then I hate to think what he's going to do to you. He'll tell tales of you to all your prospective mates. George. George. GEORGE! Get your head down and behave yourself. If I have to tell you one more time....

It's easy to ascribe human characteristics to non-human critters, especially when you've been watching them for some time. Unfortunately, it's also easy to ascribe non-human characteristics to humans after you've been around them for a bit.

I have a friend with a pointy nose, and, when she is scared, she becomes very still and quiet like an opossum. A long time ago I had a friend who was bulky and slow thinking and very good humored, and I often called her my favorite pachyderm. Some people are bull-headed or assinine. My daddy sometimes called me his little monkey because I liked to climb trees.

We judge and stereotype people so often that we don't think about it much...until someone does it to us and we find out. A nosy old pig. A cow. A horse's rear end. Prickly as a porcupine. Some of our animal descriptions aren't very complimentary. Yet, we make them.

My spouse can be as stubborn as a mule. She claims she has to walk on egg shells sometimes with me.

Now, I'm trying to think up some more positive attributes that I can ascribe to people, and maybe I won't use the negative ones so often.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Spiders and lizards and fire ants

Sometimes I wish I had the persistence of fire ants or cock roaches. If you live in the South, no matter what you do or don't do, they will blight your life many times. Our house, at the moment, is free of roaches, but our yard is besieged by fire ants. I poison one hill of ants, and several days later they seem to be inactive. I think, "Oh, goody, I've gotten them this time."

No. They have just moved. The geographical solution seems to work for them. It never worked for me. When I moved, I just took my problems with me. They move away from the poison and build a new nest. Often they choose to build in a direct line between my front steps and the mailbox or the newly planted dogwoods - both directions in which I travel. I've learned to look where I'm walking, and I don't much walk in the front yard at night because I can't see them.

They are survivors, and I know that biologists praise the diversity of life on the earth, but there are a few species that I wish were less attracted to humans and human habitations. I've learned to get along with most spiders unless they surprise me or are in my bedroom. In fact, I'd rather keep them outside. I do okay with mice, and even some rats, as long as they are outside. I was distraught for days when I had to kill a mouse in our study once. And, I made the mistake of looking at it as I picked it up with a plastic bag; it had the prettiest big pink ears - looked just like the mice you see pictured in children's books.

We have not seen any snakes here, and I am glad. But, we do have several varieties of lizard; one is brown with a a gorgeous red head - and I do like red. This lizard grows quite large, 8-10 inches long and as big around as my thumb. I get along with our lizards okay. Two days ago, I pulled the hose around to the deck to water the plants around the fountain. As I started to lift it over the rail, I turned to face the deck and was nose to nose with a chameleon - so close I couldn't even focus on it. I stepped back, said hello, and then moved to put the hose over the rail. It didn't budge; so I just tossed the hose up and went on about the watering. As I watered the plants, it moved along with me, inches away from the plants. Finally, I teased it a bit with the water, and it seemed unconcerned.
We had a rat in the pile of limbs to go to the recycling place. We found five of her babies in a cardboard box that had gotten under the limbs, but we didn't see her at all. So, the babies, possibly old enough to live on their own, went to the dump, where they may have happy and bulging lives. However, when we finished cleaning up the mess there a few days later, the mother and one last baby had burrowed into the soft earth underneath everything. When we moved a 2 x 4, the mother went scooting off towards the back of the garage. The baby suffered head injury, and I had to kill it. Our friend and contractor couldn't kill it; he knelt down and was pushing gently on its chest to get it to live. He turned his back when I picked it up in a baggie to dispose of it.

Our place is critter friendly - except maybe for the fire ants. I keep battling with them, but I think they are winning.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Conflicting desires

This past week I've been at the beach watching the ocean as thunderstorms were followed by almost-blinding sunshine. The wind whistled around our doors and through the vents. Finely ground rain-driven sand coated the windows and the outdoor furniture.

Although we had much great beach weather, I walked on the hard-packed sand only once. I was content to stare out at the ocean, at the beach, at the walkers and children and dogs. I didn't really need to touch the sand and the sea for them to be real. I could smell them; I could close my eyes and let the surf sounds wash over me. I love the beach best when I can sit in the air conditioning and enjoy it in comfort. I am not fond of hot sand or very cold water. And, I always come back from my walks with far too many sea shells for any use.

My partner sprained her ankle and was a very antsy companion this week. I am an emotional sponge at times, absorbing others moods and feelings, and her discontent was very contagious. By today, five days of relative idleness, she was primed for action; and I was nervous and wanting to please. She wanted to be up and doing things, and I just wanted to get the necessities done. What a conflict of spirit!

It was much like the ocean with its thunderstorms and roiling surf compared with the calm sunshiny days of beachwalking and kayaking. So I rode a roller coaster of emotion - trying to help her stay still so the sprain would heal but letting her do the things she could (and I'm much too good a nurse to let her do much), craving the aloneness time with the ocean and finding it difficult to carve out a space for my mind and body to relax. I read an article recently about people like me who seem to absorb others feelings and what they could do about it. However, the article did not cover living with a temporarily disabled spouse.

And, I still feel like a sponge. I guess that's why I'm not asleep; I'm still processing all the ups and downs of the week. In Education for Ministry, the study group does a theological reflection each week, and one of the methods is the issue method. Basically, you relate a time when you have felt conflicting needs or desires, develop a metaphor and try to find times in the Biblical story or religious tradition, when similar things have occured. Once inside your metaphor, you can move very quickly to the obvious similes: Jesus wanted to do what he thought God was asking him to do but he also wanted not to do it; and so he prayed that the cup be removed if it was God's will. Samson wanted to do good for his people, but he also wanted Delilah, who cut his hair and removed his power; so, in one last surge of power, he ripped the columns down. Later in the New Testament, a man and his wife pledge everything they have to support the fledgling ministry but they want to keep enough to make them feel safe; they die for having lied about it.

My conclusion is that the result of these conflicts is often violent and unhealthy; so it's best to avoid them in the first place. I want to be helpful, but I need to coat my spongy emotional system with some polyurethane so it won't absorb so much of others' emotions. Rest will help me do this better. And, I'm looking forward to some good sleep tonight and a good day tomorrow.