Archive for May, 2017

new neighbors

May 30, 2017


When I walked the bosque this winter, I noticed how dogs and their owners shared physical resemblances.  The only pet I’ve felt I ever resembled was arguably my cat Clarabelle who was slightly large, noticeably indolent and bossy.

But I’m thinking the burros who browse the field next door and I might have something in common.  Specifically, we’re descendants of a long line of hard workers who at this juncture of time and place have little real work to do.  I like to think also that the three of us share an appreciation of the nature of time.

It’s probably an overstated truism that observing plants, animals, and other expressions of the natural world can be surprisingly healing.  But my experience has been that one must perform this observation, as much as possible, on their terms.  What good would it do to get pissed off at a donkey because it doesn’t act according to our dictates or at a peach tree whose blossoms were blighted by frost and whose branches hang empty in the midst of summer or at a river whose new channel is now half a mile away from our property?

What plants and animals and river and rocks share is that their behavior is indivisible from their nature.  They know how to be what they’ve been born to be.

Human beings … not so much.

How we may have gotten cut off from our essential natures is open to much debate, very little of which concerns me.  However, I have, of late, been scorched by the out-of-control flames of those folks who can’t quite get themselves sorted out.  It has felt like a slap in the face to have worked hard not only in my professional but also in my personal spheres last year and to be rewarded by a former supervisor who lies about my performance to potential employers.  Here’s someone who actively wishes me ill well beyond the confines of Yellowstone National Park and whose efforts to bring my park service career to an end have almost completely succeeded.

For my livelihood and my home I have arrived at a few solutions, neither of them what I had set my sights on; those goals were sabotaged by my supervisor’s falsehoods.  But once I’d preserved my bodily self, I have found my soul locked in sadness and confusion, unable to decipher the message the Universe has sent.

Last night I dreamed of a river.  It had turned back upon itself, as rivers do, twisting into oxbows, creating sandy levees, carving out new beds and then leaving parched, rock-braided beds behind.  There was a kind of judgment on the river’s actions that my mind refuted when I awoke.  “A river can never be against its own nature,” I thought.

I considered whether we might not be able to make the same statements about people.  If someone deceives, instead of judging that this contravenes her integrity, instead shouldn’t we say that this person’s nature includes deception?  If their behavior can never come from outside their own nature, then their actions express how they’ve come to understand the world.  For instance, a woman who works hard to create financial security does so because she’s assessed how the world works and has decided that this is how she will meet its demands.  A man who lies to his lover about having other lovers does so because he believes this is the only way he can satisfy his need for love.  A supervisor who agrees to act as a reference for a former employee and then offers lies about her performance is a person who has decided that the only way a person can achieve professional security is to behave in this manner.

I’m not offering this as some kind of earth-shattering revelation.  At the least, it’s only earth-shattering to me who may have possessed the pieces to this puzzle but had never put them together in a way that made sense.  Now when I consider someone like my former supervisor, the image is one of pain and self-dividedness.  In these, her actions have perfectly expressed her nature.  And for that pain, I truly can summon compassion.

Since in the end our cogitations about the world lead us back to ourselves, as I drew out logical conclusions about how my acquaintances had organized their lives, I was forced to consider mine.  What did my behaviors say about how I’d assessed the world?  Well, there’s the “hide” and “dissemble” bit (along the lines of “don’t let the bastards know what you’re up to”) which speaks to the terror I experienced as a child.  There’s also the “work hard and carry your own shit” since I never felt I could trust others.

But there is something else; a mode I’ve been trying to place appropriately.  And that is “wait.”  This isn’t a dictate we often hear in our culture; it’s certainly not something even my close friends  understand about me.  But this “wait” isn’t simply about laziness or indecision (at least I hope not completely).  This “wait” comes with a demand that’s also an explanation: in waiting, I must be figuring out what I want to do because there are consequences to every action.  And I need to limit my own contribution to the world’s pain and suffering.

Now when I consider what to do next, the question I will ask is what I would like my actions to say about me.  I hope my behavior reflects a person who feels the rhythms of time deep in her bones and who understands that we are all busted and are simply trying to piece something road-worthy back together.  Because we are all working to our fullest capacities, looking for love, worthy work, and a place to call home in a world where what it means to “be human” is anyone’s guess.