Archive for the 'existential stuff' Category

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time…ok, it was about a decade ago, during a nasty, nasty bout of major depression; I would open my eyes and greet the day with the sssssssszzzzzzt of a soda bottle cap untwisting open, followed by the crinkle of the cellophane unwrapping my stash of Oreo doublestuffs in the desk drawer beside my bed. Gulp, gulp, crunch, crunch,  I would stare straight up at the ceiling, corpse-like, and  announce solemnly to my poor buddy Felix: “I’m dying”. Every day. For an entire semester.

I was convinced then of some terrible, invisible, undiscovered illness plaguing me, rotting the insides of my shrinking 116 lb body. Nothing in my life felt right, and it was the only conclusion from the grab bag of possibilities that made sense, especially since sometimes I’d thought I might not mind…dying.

But um, obviously, I didn’t die. I’m reminded somewhat of that time in my life though because there are faint echoes of that feeling that I could just do that; die (but not by my own hand folks, not to worry). No, it’s just waking up and wondering “what more?”, “what next” “how will I….?”….on those days, I feel already buried. But I dig myself out of whatever hole and move on.

Truth is, in other ways, I’ve never felt more alive….as though I’m being carefully peeled away from something holding me back. That’s the only analogy I can think of. I went shopping for some clothing tonight. Instead of making a beeline for my usual blacks, greys, browns, and other drab colors, I chose……pink. Sweet, fresh, vulnerable and young….pink. It felt right. It felt….good.

So much has changed and so little time to document it. The kiddo remains charming, funny, and quirky. She’s an expert feather spotter and friend to all birds. She gathers pine needles on walks and fashions “nests” out of them; later depositing them on the lawns of strangers along the way….”for the birds, mama!”. Her eating habits continue to be wierd; for example, she’ll take a tomato, holding it in hand like an apple and skin its membrane with her teeth, then suck the juice out of it like a vampire. Once she requested a straw. I can’t just die, not for any reason…I have to stick around for moments like these, y’know?

I will probably be a bit incommunicado for a couple of weeks while I go about making life happen for the two of us. Hang in there, everyone. We’ll be doing the same.


you know you’re from Connecticut when…

during a dream with gardens resembling Paradise, you pause, mid-dream, and register concern regarding the possible presence of ticks.
Yes, I am back. But feeling a bit rusty after my hiatus. I should be posting on a more or less regular basis. But right now, this is all I got.


dukka and inevitability

so I’ve been closely following the corporate rumblings and shakeups over at my local newspapers, the Hartford Courant, and the Hartford Advocate, which are both owned by The Tribune. You may have read my prior rants and grumblings about the cutbacks and changes in the newspaper that have come about while the company tries to restructure itself and lure a potential buyer. My interest in this has been mostly as a reader, and is probably most thoroughly rooted in sentimentality. Newspapers are a habit; a tradition,  and one of the last remnants of  cherished memories  of my late father.

But beyond the newsprint are people’s livelihoods, of course, and Alistair Highet’s piece on the changes at his paper and his application of the Buddhist concept of dukka (everything is impermanent, unsustainable), is an interesting read.


this is a passage I like to come back to from time to time, just to remind me of how very connected we are to each other, and to nature in being and in action:

“The body repeats the landscape. They are the source of each other and create each other. We were marked by the seasonal body of earth, by the terrible migrations of people, by the swift turn of a century, verging on change never before experienced on this greening planet”

Meridel LeSueur’s “The Ancient People and the Newly Come”

I ‘ve become curious about exploring this theme in photography. I painted landscapes extensively in high school. I just painted how they made me feel…often in bright, throbbing colors having little to do with the actual likeness of the subject. Then I stopped. Became bored with landscapes as a subject while studying photography…Ansel Adams wasn’t my thing.

When I drive “home” to upstate N.Y., I always note on the long four hour drive the changes and shifts in the landscapes, both man made and natural. And sometimes I’ve even noticed subtle changes in the character of where I lived so many years. I’ve resented and then grown to love my birthplace and the landscapes of rivers and woods, open fields and valleys…are a big part of it. It’s who I am, wherever I am.

bits and pieces…

I’m feeling somewhat bad…well, not exactly bad…let’s say guilty, a little, about my previous rant regarding the newspaper. I’ve basically outgrown tantrums, for the most part. But I still dislike the Tribune. I think they’re cheap. I sympathise with the changes going on in the industry, particularly with newspapers, but just hacking away bluntly at a product without reader input is not the way to do business. The good news is that most of my favorite columnists will still be available. They’ll just be in other parts of the main paper, like the Life section. Hey, maybe the “food critic” I love to hate, Michael Gannon, will flounce in a huff. I can dream, anyway.

I’m still not satisfied though. Part of the appeal of the Northeast was finding perspectives and slices of life in one place, alongside each other, melding and complimenting each other. Now they’re scattered around like adopted stepchildren. It won’t be the same. Should I even care? Why does this bother me so much, I ask myself? Probably because with the exception of the library and a few local programs like the Nature Center and the local organic farm/art center, I haven’t felt as much community in Connecticut as I’ve felt other places I’ve lived. Everywhere I go,  even on vacation, I have to check out the local paper. And for seven years, this section of the paper has been my connection to the community I live in.


I’d mentioned in a meme that I have frequent strange dreams. This one reoccuring dream has me miffed. Every time it visits me, I wonder at the existential possibilities, if there are any.

In this dream, which I’ve had five or six times in the last year, I am foraging around in my favorite store…a thrift shop. I’ve never really been to this particular thrift shop, in fact, it doesn’t really exist except in my dreams, but I recognize it instantly. It’s on a street in Northampton, where I used to live. It’s huge. I find lots of vintage clothes and various treasures. Never any books though. Odd. There is one section that I try to get to every single time, but I wake up before I get there.

What does this mean? Is this fictional thrift shop some idea of heaven, only I haven’t gotten there yet? Or is it life, and this room represents something important that I haven’t gotten to yet? Or….does it mean merely that I spend too much time slumming around in thrift shops and need an intervention?


My daily newspaper, The Hartford Courant, ran a weeklong feature this week on a subject close to where I live: trash. It featured articles on a trash-to-energy center, recycling, thrift shops (I wish they hadn’t done that…they let too many secrets out), and freeganism. I was dismayed to notice that out of all this, scant attention was paid to a beneficial, natural recycling practice: composting! Guess no one there reads Mother Earth News. If I’d only known they were gonna do this, I’dve kindly lent them a few of my own back issues to crib from.

 One particular article that could have benefited from a friendly introduction to this simple practice was an article by featured regular columnist Susan Campbell, who often writes touching articles advocating the humanity of the homeless. For this article, she described her relationship with her trash, in particular, that of a smelly, rotting orange in her kitchen. From trash to dump. Now, granted, she did make the admission that this was compost material. If, however, she were educated on the simplicity and relative lack of commitment it takes to start and maintain a compost pile, perhaps that orange would have actually landed into a nice compost pile somewhere and meld with its biological brethren and become what is known to gardeners as humus, or “black gold”.

It’s a simple process that requires two important ingredients: carbons (hay, wood chips, uncoated, shredded paper, shredded cardboard, leaves are ideal), and nitrogens (that’s where the orange comes in. Any fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, etc., work. Avoid dairy and meat.). These components are ideally layered, like lasagna, into a bin with ventilation. I use eco friendly wooden pallettes lashed together, but a structure constructed out of hardware cloth works as well, or a plastic trash can with holes drilled throughout. Of course, there are turning composters available at garden centers, but I’ve read mixed reviews on them and frankly consider them a waste of cash.

And, once arranged into alternating layers of carbon and nitrogen material, that can be the extent of the commitment. This is called a “cold pile”, which usually takes longer to break down. Now, if you want to really have some fun, you can heat this baby up and speed things along in the process (bring a kiddie along and it’s an educational experience for them). All you need is a hose and a pitchfork. Thoroughly soak your compost pile with the hose, especially toward the center. I always make a little indentation in the center before I start. Kind of like a basin, or a well. Don’t be stingy with the water. Once it’s suitably soaked, toss the sodden mass like salad with your pitchfork, turning and stirring well. Soon, you will notice mists of steam emanating from within. If you’re brave and touch its center, you will notice heat radiating. This means that the microorganisms, the bacteria, and the fungi are working hard. And soon, within perhaps a month or two, depending on the size of your pile, you will be gifted with rich, organic…dirt. Which can be spread in the garden, or lacking one, could be sprinkled onto the lawn, or fed to a tree around its base. Or given away. Whatever.

And that’s it. If you train, er, educate, the rest of the household on this, it becomes a matter of routine. C. was dubious at first. He’d call the compost pile “your new little toy” as I’d trudge over to my pile with fresh material and fire up the garden hose. He never really ventured out to the garden to take in the dramatic improvements in veggie yields or notice the beautiful dark, crumbly soil. And he pouted when I gave away that awful bag of chemical fertilizer he brought home early on. But in about a month or two into it, even he was sold on the environmental righteousness of it all. Or maybe it was the sweeter smelling kitchen.

As much as it amuses me to heat up my bin (yes, I am that easily amused), and for as much as it eases my environmental conscience, the real reason I compost is a surprising one: spiritual. No, I do not chant or kneel in prayer around my bin. But, after observing this process again and again (it still isn’t old to me), I’m comforted by the transformation of materials used up and beyond their prime into something rich, fortifying, and life sustaining. I’d like to think that after I’m done with this earth that the stuff that makes up my soul (my physical form will not be returning to the dark earth…uh-uh.), will go on somewhere beneficial too.

And so I’m off to fire  an email to the Courant’s reader rep. to both commend them for the wealth of recycling information, and to gently admonish them on the glaring compost omission.

Because the trash heap has not truly spoken until the compost steams.


I’ve long abandoned the Christian references in this story, but i go for this sort of woo-woo stuff in which enlightened gentle beings appear to tell us that It’s All Going To Be O.K….

All the same, I hope his mom pulls through.

March 2019
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