Friday, March 11, 2011

The Gift of Time

I recently had great lesson passed along to me. I was late for a lunch date with my friend and instead of looking annoyed or impatient she seemed so serene. She's a Buddhist and I've long suspected them of being a little too happy, but I listened to her anyway. She said that time is a gift to be enjoyed and instead of being impatient, the way to look at it is to be thankful. If she was being ironic, she masked it pretty deftly as she said, "Thank you for the gift of time."

Lately, I think of time as a playful, flexible entity that changes its shape, texture and form as we change, and our relationship to time evolves. When you're a kid, time is either annoying and endless (lectures, Christmas Eve, and the last hour of school before summer break) or non-existent (amount of playtime between dinner and bed). There are moments in our lives when we don't even think about the passage of time. We are so absorbed in what we are doing, it vanishes and ceases to matter. Sometimes time can be irascible and petulant, playing tricks on you and taunting (when you have to stay up late for an exam). The busier we get, the more minuscule each moment seems. There are fewer and fewer of those 'annoying' and endless moments as we begin to work harder on the things that matter to us. But what if we look at those moments differently -- the bank line, traffic, the doctor's office, airport security -- the remaining ones that seem frustrating and long?

This was an epiphany to me because Blicky Kitty has a real problem with this. His wrath augments with every minute he is forced to wait. This poses a problem when we are out shopping, like we were just last week:

Blicky was getting a few supplies -- litter, salted cod, paper towels, caviar, batteries, plutonium -- and he got behind a family at the checkout. Immediately, I recognized the telltale eye-tick. I knew he was struggling to maintain his composure, and inwardly he was scrutinizing their every action and thinking. "How can you be so slow? How can anyone be that slow... and stupid. How long does it take to get your stupid credit card out. Why are you talking to the stupid checkout lady? Who cares how she's doing? You stupid, stupid nice lady...." Yes, outwardly Blick looks like your typical, sweet and cuddly bipedal cat, but he's not always nice about stuff.

The alarm bells ringing in his central nervous system were almost audible at that point. For Blick, it gets really extreme, so if you are a particularly gentle, gentle-reader, kindly avert your eyes and send the children away:

I'm sorry, I know.

I wish Blicky could just change his mindset. If you see me waiting in a line these days, I'm the one with the placid expression on my face (and quite possibly a homicidal feline in line behind me). How often do we just get to stand around and do nothing? For those blissful 5 minutes (usually less) there are no plates to clean up, kittens to cook for, work deadlines, and no obligations. All I have to do is just stand there and be. It is that precious moment of stasis between rushing to grab what I need, racking my brains to menu plan, and hauling 50+ pounds of groceries to and from the car. That, for me, is a gift.

Here is your mandatory fun:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Explaining the Birds

I know what you're thinking. We haven't seen Blicky Kitty for a long, long time. The reasons for that are subtle and varied:
a) My new career in door-to-door interpretive dance has suddenly and inexplicably taken off, leaving little time for Blicky reportage,
b) Blicky took off in his Hummer, went deep undercover for many, many months, and I had no idea of his whereabouts,
c) and the fact that his disappearance coincided with me getting a track pad instead of a mouse was pure coincidence.

The real reason for his disappearance is that Blicky is starting to rethink his former ways and is starting consider to the many problems facing the environment on a global scale. He used to cough up furballs every time I mentioned my concern about dwindling frog and honey bee populations. I tried explaining to him that bees are vital to food production and that some 52 of the world's 112 leading crops -- from apples and soybeans to cocoa and almonds -- rely on pollination. There are still many questions, but researchers have identified some probable causes of colony collapse disorder (CCD), including blood-feeding parasites, bee viruses, fungi, pesticide exposure and decreased plant diversity causing poor nutrition for honeybees. He seemed to get it, but I think his primary concern was how embarrassing it would be for future generations of parents if they had to sit down and only be able to "explain the birds" to their clowder of kittens. He felt it would lead to some strange mating behavior if young people everywhere thought they were literally supposed to act like birds rather than grasp it as a metaphor for the fecundity of nature.

Your mandatory fun here:

Well I guess I just can't discuss this with Blicky. Yes these problems that face us are depressing and scary. They seem insurmountable at times, but for me doing things like buying organic food (or growing it), keeping woods instead of a lawn, writing to my congressional delegation and finding out the little ways I can help makes me feel better.

Sylvia Plath 1932-1963

This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.
I have whirled the midwife's extractor,
I have my honey,
Six jars of it,
Six cat's eyes in the wine cellar,

Wintering in a dark without window
At the heart of the house
Next to the last tenants rancid jam
and the bottles of empty glitters ....
Sir So-and-So's gin.

This is the room I have never been in
This is the room I could never breathe in.
The black bunched in there like a bat,
No light
But the torch and its faint

Chinese yellow on appalling objects ....
Black asininity. Decay.
It is they who own me.
Neither cruel nor indifferent,

Only ignorant.
This is the time of hanging on for the bees...the bees
so slow I hardly know them,
Filing like soldiers
To the syrup tin

To make up the honey I've taken.
Tate and Lyle keeps them going,
The refined snow.
It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.
They take it. The cold sets in.

Now they ball in a mass,
Mind against all that white.
The smile of the snow is white.
It spreads itself out, a mile long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,
They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumpsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women ....
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanish walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year ?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses ?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.