Do not go gentle into that good night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas is my favourite poet. I have many favourite poets, but he is really my favourite. I was introduced to this Welshman by the best friend I had when I was at the worst of my teen years, Mary. I have talked about her before, and I will probably talk about her again. Mary adores Dylan Thomas. And I adore Mary; when I met her she expanded my knowledge base immensely, and when she read this poem to me and explained the story behind it, I was moved in an almost fecund way. Even as a teenager I had faced death many times already. I grew up in a household where death was staring me in the face almost daily: I had watched attempted murder happen, I had heard death threats too many times to count (and the commonality of them and having them followed up with severe violence so often death actually could happen), I had been on the receiving end of those murder attempts and threats myself. Dylan Thomas urged me to rage against all that, not against the perpetrators themselves only. Dylan Thomas urged me to rage against the system that created the violence and the oppression and the repression and everything that hurt me as well as that which hurt those who hurt me. Dylan Thomas taught me how to direct and control all of my anger and resentment and fear.
It took me an awful long time to really grok it, because I went through hideous growing pains for many years, but essentially raging against the dying of the light is how humans evolve. Humans get angry; we cannot stop one of our primal emotions from bursting forth from us when we find ourselves distressed over one thing or another. As sentient mammals, we want to do some pretty basic things: we want to eat yummy things, we want to live in comfy places, and we want to create more of ourselves once we are sated with our yummy things and satisfied we have enough to feed more of ourselves and our comfy place is comfy enough for more of us to live comfy as well. The sticky bits come along when those basic motivations get unbalanced, and every single human being since human beings has gotten them out of whack. Yes, every single human being is guilty of being unbalanced. Each and every one of us has, at one time or another, eaten more of something than we should have. One time, when I was I don’t know how old, I figured it would be a smashingly good idea to make my Saturday morning Cocoa Pebbles with a super-chocolatey Nestlé Quik milk sauce for my Saturday morning cartoon binge. I love chocolate, and I only got sweetened cereal maybe once a year. It was considered a great splurge. Only especially GOOD GIRLS got sweetened cereal, both because it was expensive and because it was terribly fattening. That monstrous concoction I created was revolting. I think I ate perhaps half the bowl over Thundar the Barbarian before I had to stop or else I would barf. I felt overwhelmingly guilty and ashamed that I was wasting food, because that was verboten in my house; I was never permitted to leave the table unless I consumed every last scrap, even if it was stone cold (remember those scenes from Mommy Dearest? It wasn’t that bad. All the time.). But I still threw it out. The point is, humans mess up their priorities and we get unbalanced. And it isn’t always the fault of one particular person at one particular time. All too often this is a combination of a whole lot of things that accumulate over time. Economists call these things externalities, but it is a concept that extends way beyond economics to every single aspect of our society and culture. Externalities affect humans every single day, and when economists and sociologists and criminologists and all other -ists examine data to see how to change and adapt our society through legislative efforts and regulatory efforts, they examine externalities.
I have spent an awful lot of time online the past several months because I am pretty sick, and getting sicker. I really don’t like spending an inordinate amount of time on the internet, because I prefer to spread out my activities. I am and always have been an active person, and I love the outdoors. Colorado has a lot of outdoors activities because it has a lot of outdoors: it is a big state. And about two-thirds of that state is mountainous: the gigantic, solid, geologically young Rocky Mountains. I have been enchanted with these mountains since I was a girl and an avid subscribed reader of Ranger Rick (that subscription was a guilt/consolation gift from my mother for the divorce, although she never actually told me that; one time she offhandedly mentioned it was a “present” of some sort but never what the “present” was for), and Ranger Rick often spoke of the Rockies. When we were researching places to live, as I mentioned before we looked at Fairfax County and Colorado; both good outdoorsy places. But while Virginia had the ocean (dear gods how I love the ocean), the Virginia mountains are old. Speaking from a geology perspective, old mountains and new mountains are as different as black and white. When we lived in Connecticut, and traveled to Vermont and Rhode Island and Massachusetts and New York (roaming around New England is a lot easier than roaming around the West, because New England is tiny, whereas the West is big), we puttered up and down and around those mountains in a four cylinder Ford Escort stationwagon. And didn’t use much gas. Didn’t spend much time on the road, either, which is why it was a piece of cake to tote along a baby/toddler to camping spots up to a couple of hours away. But we were out for Adventure. Capital-A Adventure. We wanted to roam and we wanted to get Out There. We wanted to expose our kids to as much America as we could, and that was another reason Fairfax County failed for us: we could only roam in three directions versus four. So the young mountains of the Rockies won the coin toss again. Young mountains are very tall. Compared to the altitude of the worn-down mountains along the coast of the Atlantic, the Rockies thrust up into the sky like the giants they are. Out here, when you land at Denver International Airport, you are instantly at 5,430 feet. Sea level is zero feet, and one mile is 5,280 feet. The steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building have a brass benchmark plaque with the altitude on it, and I loved taking pictures with my kids there, as well as taking the tour the linked page will discuss and direct you to. Please note that the capitol building requires regular maintenance and upkeep, and it is a very busy place, so if you wish to go on a tour you need to check that very site for tour availability and information. Also, the part of the tour that goes into the actual dome is not handicapped accessible for logistics reasons, and until technology figures out a way to combine accessibility with the integrity of the historic building, it will not be. As a disabled person with accessibility needs myself, this is just the brakes, folks. I am so grateful I got to walk the dome while I could. It is truly a memorable experience. Awesome in the true meaning of the word. I will remember that as long as I possibly can, and I have a pretty good memory, in spite of the foibles of fibromyalgia and the compromises I must make with modern medicine.
Our Shiny Capitol
When you arrive in Denver, at our airport, there are a lot of signs that give you a lot of information. Among them are signs informing you of this altitude. Most visitors to the Mile High City leave the airport fairly quickly. They shunt off into a number of hotels or other lodging facilities, and almost all of these places also have a number of signs informing visitors of the altitude. Colorado is very proud of it’s altitude. Not only are the Rocky Mountains very high up in the air, the rest of the state is very high up as well. The third of Colorado that is prairie, or plains, slopes gradually down toward our eastern neighbor, Kansas. Kansas of the notoriously flat prairie where Dorothy got whisked away to Oz because the tornado came along and just kept going, and going, and going…that Kansas. There are running jokes in parts of Denver that such-and-such town out on the plains might as well be in Kansas it’s so far out there. It’s a leftover aristocratic nose-in-the-air pomposity the silver barons and water barons and cattle barons and all the other barons of the new money west had when Denver started really booming as railroads connected it up. There is a whole load of irony there most people who move to Colorado don’t realise; they just adopt the snob attitude and have no clue why they are being snobs. It’s one reason my family loves living in Weld County; it’s another reason Colorado natives just love to hate out-of-staters who move here. I think it’s really funny because all these people have developed a bias and don’t know why they have a bias. It’s Old West animosity that has seeped into this old cow and silver town and just never gone away. The local real native folks just look at everyone and laugh too. The local Hispanic and southern native population just laugh as well. Especially nowadays when a whole bunch of actual Americans are suddenly having apoplexy over a southern border on this continent that has had people moving back and forth over for centuries and centuries since humans from the other major inhabited continent on this planet started coming over to this continent. That’s a whole other load of irony as well. I was really expounding on how magnificent the young mountains of Colorado were preferable as outdoor play and child-rearing versus the old ones of Virginia. Even though my husband had spent a great deal of his own childhood in the mountainous area of Virginia, and really loved it, he wanted to get out here and ramble all over the incredible options of the Front Range and surrounding areas.
That is a National Park Service shot taken in Rocky Mountain National Park. I have linked to History Colorado’s page on the park because I am a history pusher and I have no shame about that whatsoever. History Colorado’s page has links to the NPS site. I want the reader to know that if they or anyone they know is a disabled veteran, they qualify for a free or discounted pass for our National Parks. Some disabled veterans get a completely free lifetime pass, and most lifetime passes for disabled persons come with special perks such as assistance with parking, transportation, camping services, tours, and such. The NPS is also VERY glad to help any disabled person with questions if you call them or any of their parks, and often they have great information about the area you wish to go. The flip side of this is please listen to what they say. For example, if a ranger tells you DO NOT APPROACH THE ELK, stay the hell away from the elk. One time in RMNP with my family and our friend Mik, we were going to hike a very popular and easy trail since Mik was getting worse in regards to his chorea (pronounced like the country Korea, these are the jerky and uncoordinated movements that accompany many degenerative neurological disorders such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s). But the meadow was full of elk cows with their calves, as it was late spring/early summer. Not an uncommon thing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Savvy and attentive visitors note the ample signage and read the paper the rangers hand out upon paying the entry fee and leave them be until they move, or just hike by without alarming the animals. Some hikers did this, because they knew if they kept their distance and made no sudden moves the elk would be fine. But one man decided it was just the perfect photo opportunity to go up to the munching calves while the cows were lying down resting nearby, because obviously they didn’t care with the people were minding their business. Several people, us included, warned him that was a bad idea. One hiker even told him why, drily and not putting too fine a point on it. The chap decided he was special. He got too close and suddenly all the cows started making whistling “come along, children” calls, got up en masse, and moved smartly toward their no-longer-munching children. Which happened to be on the other side of the hiking path. We removed ourselves from the immediate area, grabbing our friend, and so did everyone else. Because protective mama elk on a mission are not to be fooled with. Ever. They may be vegetarians, and not care a whit about humans in general, but a mother protecting her child is universal. Elk are big. Very big. There is a reason hunters like to hunt them; they provide a substantial quantity of foodstuff. Ask any of the regional native tribes how lovely an elk is for the tribal wealth; we have counting coup hides to show us just how lovely. The chap who caused the ruckus actually yelped a bit and leapt back, slipped on the meadow grass a little, and skedaddled. His compatriots were a little mocking of him, but only a little, as I think they were as shocked as he was.
In Sterling, Colorado, one of our farthest-east cities, the elevation is almost four thousand feet. It’s opposite, Campo, on the southeastern quarter, is just above four thousand feet; their elevation difference is roughly five hundred feet. An average mountain in Virginia is base level for these towns. The elevation of my town is almost five thousand feet. Karval, Colorado, is 5,115 feet and is just about equilaterally distant from all three of the points I have listed. The plains of Colorado are part of the geological area of the United States we refer to as the High Plains.
My library district is called the High Plains Library District, and they are awesome. They don’t have a home service, because of funding. They all agree we should have one, because a lot of their patrons are elderly, but they don’t have the money. The oil and gas industry in our county loves to shout about how much good they do for our community, out of charity, but the reality is those corporations just do not pay any taxes, and that is why our county does not have some really vital services. I adore my librarians. Libraries are the heart of communities, and librarians make them work.
The high plains of Colorado has provided us with lots of adventures. When I started this blog I described my outlook on adventuring, and the plains provides plenty of adventuring opportunity. This flyover country looks boring, but it isn’t…I have said it before and I will say it again. I grew up in a desert, so I am practiced in the still, quiet art of being able to find the beauty and life in the most unlikely places. As a Ranger Rick reader, I learned about a wide variety of ecosystems (Ranger Rick is where I first learned of Dr. Robert Ballard when they published his discovery of undersea volcanic tube worms: COOL BEANS!), which just taught me better how to be a quiet and still observer as well as a good environmental steward and not let Smokey the Bear or Woodsy the Owl down. Maybe I could make Oscar the Grouch happier along the way, by not putting so much junk in his home. The plains is a lot more lively than the desert.
But we have had the most fun adventures in those huge rocks to the west. The chunk of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains is vast. Carl Sagan said, in his book Pale Blue Dot, that if you shrank the Earth down to the size of a billiard ball, it would be just as smooth. You would not feel any of her mountains or trenches at all. No Himalayas or Marianas Trench. That is pretty amazing, if you think of it, because a human’s fingertips are very sensitive, and Earth has some crazy-ass high mountains. The Rockies are not as high as the Himalayas or the Andes, but in Colorado we have 53 fourteeners. That means we have fifty-three mountains who have peaks with at least 300 feet above 14,000 feet. That is over two and a half miles; it’s over two and two thirds miles above sea level. The road to Mt. Evans is the highest paved road in North America. People come from all over the world to climb them, and they die on them. All the time. One of those is Long’s Peak, which is right next to Rocky Mountain National Park, with a very difficult climb. I can see it from my house. I say hi to it all the time. It is very technical and has a famous feature called the Keyhole, and people get stuck up there constantly. They die up there every year, just about. You have to be a situationally aware, critically thinking person in order to participate in outdoorsy stuff in Colorado (and anywhere, actually). Altitude is just one aspect. Elk are just one of our wildlife creatures. We have mountain lions, who were here before people, and sometimes people are forced to kill them with their bare hands. I feel the man in that story is not proud of what he had to do, because in spite of his fame he has refused his popularity. People were going nuts over this guy. He just said his piece after recovering a bit (probably to get people off his back), and then went back to his life. Society should respect people like that; he sent clear boundary signals to the Public, and it seems we listened. Fort Collins is not too far from me; it’s a nice area sitting sort of balanced between the plains and the mountains. One of our university cities, it’s experiencing a massive population boom that the city infrastructure can’t keep up with very well, and just about everyone is complaining about that without helping out a lot when it comes to figuring out how to actually get to the meat of those nasty problems. We have watched this happen all over the Front Range as it’s population soared over the past twenty years. It isn’t hard to love Colorado, but just like I said in my earlier article about our county: people drag with them what they actually want to leave behind.
I am getting ready to leave behind a ton of those externalities I brought up earlier in a couple of days. Today is Sunday, and I have spent it resting up; I was taught in my family’s faith that Sunday is a day of rest, and I always liked that. It will take me a bit to finish writing this, so it won’t be Sunday by the time I finish, but Sunday is a good day to start getting ready to leave things behind and get ready for a Big Thing. It is a good philosophy, and throughout my life I always accepted the goodness and rejected the badness; all philosophies of faith have a day of rest, or sacred periods of rest. The Jewish have the Sabbat on Saturday. The Muslims have sacred times of prayer each day, and strict times to attend mosque (and they must present themselves clean and dressed appropriately: the ritual cleansing before services is something my own faith practices, and the holiness of the act is very profound). If you explore much Hindu or Buddhist practice, you will see a whole new depth to the concept. Buddhism, although not a faith per se, is extraordinarily complex: it subdivides into many parts, and the warrioress in me sometimes gets a little heady on the subject of Bushido. But sometimes even faith becomes an externality.
When I was a young woman, I became a priestess. I meandered through several forms of paganism: traditional witchcraft, traditional Hebrew mysteries, Native American shamanism, anything I could read or absorb through the mediums I had…and it all had to be done stealthily and on the downlow. I even picked up hints about voodoun. But the first formal training I acquired was through a Druidic Grove in Glen Helen, California. They were OBOD-affiliated (that would be the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, to the neophyte and layperson) and I studied with them for about two to three years. It was wonderful, but I screwed myself by some very poor decisions; looking back with the good old 20/20 hindsight I can see very clearly the trauma events and psychological abuse that contributed to them, and the clergy system breakdowns that allowed that to happen. Even my faith has flaws in it’s support system sometimes. I am not so hypercritical of them, though. Modern Druidry is trying to rebuild itself after two millennia of repression. It’s going to take some tweaking. And since the goal of all faith is to comfort people who are afraid of threats to those three basic urges/needs (yummy food, comfy dwelling, and creation of safe young), patience is the key to success. When I was a girl sperm donor loved watching the old Kung Fu show and I truly hated it, but since I was not allowed to ever choose any viewing selections, ever, I learned to be patient. One day he was jolly drunk (I could tolerate jolly drunk because it was infinitely preferable to angry violent drunk) and while watching an episode one time in his tiny trailer in Barstow he was so tickled by Caterpillar Keith, quipped back at me one of those ubiquitous Alice-In-Wonderland lines it was known for, that were so racist and stupid you just wanted to reach through the television and strangle Keith Carradine before he made the pain in your temples turn into an above-water embolism. He said, very loudly and full of ethanol fumes, “The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient. REMEMBER THAT, YOU LITTLE BITCH, THE OXEN ARE SLOW BUT THE EARTH IS PATIENT, SO WHEN YOU TRY YOUR LITTLE TRICKS ON ME, I WILL ALWAYS BE WATCHING YOU AND KNOW WHAT YOU ARE UP TO!!!” And then he degenerated into jolly drunk cackles and roars and passed out. I was eleven, that terrible year. I thought he was insane, actually insane, because at that time I already knew exactly what patience was, because any child that grows up in an abusive home has to have the patience of prey. One false move, and blammo! he might start choking you to death or come at you with a steak knife like he did your mom. Zero out of ten stars, do not recommend.
But still…racist bullshit and ridiculous pithy quotes aside…
The oxen are slow, but the earth is patient.
Patience is the key to faith. I was patient with myself all throughout my life, and in spite of all my hardships I always said to everyone around me (and myself) that I would not change anything because I honestly felt that everything helped make me who I was. I still feel that way, utterly. I’m not saying I don’t have regrets; everyone has regrets. I just don’t let those natural regrets become so soiled they have the bitterness of resentment. I learned that nifty trick through the path to sobriety; I am etching my way through my eighth year of that curve on that spiral minute by grateful minute. You cannot release resentments all at once and you cannot do it just once…It must be done on a regular basis. There is another book (why yes, I am also a shameless hussy of a book pusher, freely and unabashedly admitted; I will never abide a society like that in Fahrenheit 451) called The Artist’s Way, by Julie Cameron, that I started and used all the way through including the optional workbook over the course of a year with a fellow homeschool mom (and some others) who has turned into a dear friend. Linda and I both still journal avidly. The workshop Ms. Cameron guides the reader through is quasi-faith-based, but completely adaptable to any faith or none at all. It is glorious. It is so liberating. And so unique. All my life, everyone I have ever met has always been either “that girl, you either love her or hate her, you can’t be warm or on the fence about her.” I get a variety of reasons why: too dramatic, too sassy, hates authority, rocks the boat, doesn’t toe the line, isn’t a team player, and degenerates into things like “delusional”. Then the other people say I am empathetic, nurturing, caring, “get it”, and am good at listening. There is no in between. I am fairly good at accepting my faults, even if I do have to fall on my face or pull my foot out of my mouth from time to time. It is the way humans learn, and because I am a non-neurotypical human, my learning curve has been pretty topsy-turvy. Like most humans, my faith has helped tremendously; unlike a lot of humans, my faith gives me the luxury of being argumentative and questioning without guilt and shame. I get to be combative and hostile with my deities and not feel as if there will be impending retribution unless I make some sort of sacrificial obeisance of outrageous proportion. Because my faith is a newer one built out of older, more respectful ideals combined with a newer, more adaptive form of humanity. It is a combination of the best of the old with the best of the new. And it gets mocked and ridiculed incessantly while it grows like The Andromeda Strain. The Old Guard calls us delusional no matter how rational, respectful, reasoned, or scientific we are. We call them hypocrites and fools, and they say we are insulting them while they perform action after action that is in direct proof of what they say…and profess to believe according to their very own faiths. The signs are right there in front of them, with rapidly declining members of established faiths around the world, upheavals in major faiths from Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. Even Buddhism, the non-faith, is getting shaken up because of the tumult in China and Japan. Yet people who are starting to say they really don’t want to be bothered by faith at all or aren’t making it a priority because they want to think about it philosophically, or people who are exploring nature-based faiths such as Druidry and Wicca, are being hideously maligned and mocked.
There is something wrong with that logic.
I place a lot of blame on Ayn Rand, but not really. More of the blame goes to the people who spread her philosophy and touted her as such a revolutionary and feminist and then forgot what the hell was going on. I mean, really. Talk about the possibility of blind eyes blazing like meteors and being gay…but she did not rage against the dying of the light; Ayn Rand just raged at the light itself. There are an awful lot of people out there spouting off that Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged drek these days, and I just want to ask them, “whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
And I have thought so for a very long time, which has contributed greatly to the PTSD that has wracked me for so long. When I left the Navy in 1996 I had already had dog tags stamped with my faith on them. I burned those dog tags on a beach after we found out a certain President sent our troops over to the middle east to die for a lie. I burned them with my uniform and my medals and a flag. My husband did not join me because he disagreed with what I was doing and thought I would regret it later. I told him that I had already in my lifetime burned a flag in protest, and he told me he disagreed with me doing it then. He still does. That’s fine. It isn’t the only thing my husband and I disagree on and it won’t be the last. He has free will to believe in whatever he wants; it doesn’t mean I don’t love him any less. In fact, it means I love him even more that he expressed his deeply held feelings on such a thing to me, and still allowed me the respect my free will deserves in equal measure that I gave him. (Interesting insight into an average evening in our household: while proofing this, there was a random tangent in the kitchen discussion while my guys were fixing their dinner (which I can’t eat due to Impending Scary Tests), and the topic of Free Will in Calvinism came up). I do regret burning the dog tags and the medals. I do not regret burning the uniforms or the flag, not even my spiffy muffin top hat. I think it’s hilarious they were named muffin tops even before “muffin top” became a semi-cute way of saying “belly pooch over your pants”, and I have a serious hat fetish that might be considered an obsession, but still. If you happen to look in my dusty old military records you will see my religion is marked “Wicca”. During my time in service I had a marvelous chaplain that I spoke with often; he actually asked at one point if I knew who my (future) husband was because he thought we would get along great. I think of Chaplain Gilchrist often; he was a decent and respectable man who performed his vocation well. When I understood, as a Navy wife, that I had a vocation, I said a prayer of thanks to him.
My crappy cell phone picture of the newspaper clippings I saved from an article the New London Day ran on the coven I headed with my husband in the Groton/New London area during the years we lived there, 1996-1999. It was on the front page one Sunday, but I don’t remember when. We got to Connecticut in December of 96, and left in September of 99. The sub base at Groton is a pretty cool place, and the area is home to the USS Nautilus, our very first nuclear submarine. You can climb inside it. You cannot climb on the base unless you are military or DOD. I started my coven, the Circle of the Blessed Cauldron, through late BBS chats and early social media: the horrible email chat group. It was a combination of military personnel and local folks. I am still in contact with a couple of them, and sad to have lost touch with a couple more. I have deliberately broken off all contact with a couple others, because sometimes as clergy you have to be extremely firm with your boundaries: a lot more firm than laypeople. Being a person with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness (and to later discover part of my “problem” is also a physical illness and a latent, ignored congenital physical deformity…more on that in a bit), made my clergy work challenging. But I loved it, and having our local newspaper call me and ask if they could do this article on our coven made me proud. I have always been an activist, and having the opportunity to break down some of the stigma around my faith was pretty cool. The Day was used to having me in their pages; I was a regular contributor to the “Letters to the Editor” section about everything from the famous Wyland mural to servicemember’s opinions on base/civilian cooperation, and everything in between. And they always printed what I wrote, although once they asked to edit. I’m pedantic. In case no-one noticed. Editing is a necessary evil. Interfaith ministry has always been part of my clergy work, and it has always paid off. Chaplain Gilchrist taught me that. I think he was a Methodist. Don’t quote me on that, because the details of his faith are fuzzy. It doesn’t matter to me, though, because he had good ethics and whatever morals he had took second fiddle to basic ethics, which are you don’t upset anyone’s balance in pursuit of their three basic goals…in fact, you help them with them, and you don’t hurt them.
It seems an awful lot of people are confused about that. Seems quite simple to me. And that fuss and bother and falderal is just a swamp of externalities waiting to drag everyone down. Bog us down in sticky, mucky, dirty details. Have you ever been to a swamp or bog? I have been to swamps, and they are treacherous and stinky and sticky and not very fun. Not unless you pay attention to your surroundings and are with someone who knows a lot more than you do and you are very prepared. Most swamps are in the south or tropical areas, so they are very warm. And have lots of bugs. That like to nibble and snack on naked mammals. And swamps also contain many predators that are quite capable of consuming a human, or doing a human damage. Personally, I have little to no experience in swamps even though I have been there, and I can’t stand them because of that lack of experience. And since I have spent so little time in them, I am not acclimated to them, and so those bugs like to eat of me with great fervor. I also have a certain chemical makeup (blood type and other things) that mosquitoes adore, and those bitches are prolific in swamps. Shout out to science for figuring out what makes certain people attractive to blood-sucking bitch insects so I can protect myself better from their fangy proboscis. Because I actually LOVE bugs, and would really enjoy spending time in swamps to look at bugs. I also like reptiles and amphibians a lot. I just don’t want them to eat me. Lack of acclimation and certain genetic factors also make me sweat like Robert Hays in Airplane! Science. Both of my parents are naturally sweaty people, and so I inherited that particular genetic factor from both sides. It is so feminine and delightful. If I had been born in a different time, I would have been swathed in layers of fabrics all day, every day, and bound tightly with a corset, so the sweatiness and tendency to overheat would both help and hinder: women in times past would have their perspiration absorbed by their layers of natural fabrics, but the tight constriction and multiple layers in high heats was responsible for so many cases of “swooning”, “hysteria”, “feminine delicacy”, and on and on.
Oh hey, it’s Xena. Lucy Lawless is one super lady to look to when you want to feel empowered.
It was while I was in Connecticut that I officially became an ordained minister. At the time, there was not a lot of official-ness for practitioners of Wicca to declare themselves recognisable clergy for the general public, so the Universal Life Church stepped in to help. They offered a simple online form for anyone to get a document declaring them a minister of their church: hokey but effective. I became legally able to perform all the services any other clergymember could, like marriages, funeral services, baptisms, what have you. I have never done a marriage ceremony, but I have done baptisms plenty, and I have done more than my share of death ceremonies. Over the years it has become apparent that the particular calling of my vocation is to help others with the fine points of death. That is a heavy topic and it is not appropriate for this article. Other clergymembers will understand; people with mental illness will understand; the elderly and others who have been through the horrible clock tick of the deathwatch will understand. The rest of you will just have to be patient, and be glad. On the slightly lighter side, I discovered today that my ancestral Irish predecessor on my mother’s side, Finn MacCool, has some very particular associations with beansidhe (banshees). I have no idea why I have this certain slant to my vocation; it is what it is and so it is. There are huge swaths of Buddhism to help understand my take on that; British humour helps me cope.
I have had to come to terms with the glaring fact that my direct ancestors, my parents, really dislike the faith and path I have chosen. Dislike it so much that they have completely turned their back on me, refuse to acknowledge these core values of mine, and are so offended by them that I have had to actually divorce myself from them. And the irony of my faith being intimately tied to respect and honour of one’s ancestors for the wisdom and knowledge they have to give us is just too cutting to bear sometimes. Even my in-laws, who insisted when I got married that the horrible life I had previously was emphatically over and from that point on I had a new family that would take care of me and mine forever, the end, has always refused to acknolwedge my faith or consider it as either “real” or valid in any way; it is a non-thing to be ignored, just like I now am. I am an embarassment and a classless peasant; they are actually shocked when I have the temerity to speak to them. The attitude my in-laws have towards me is literally the attitude of master toward slave. My care team, which is composed at this point of one therapist (part time), one psychiatrist, a general practitioner (and her delightful nurse, who has MS but wicked cool fashion sense and always has a smile and gentleness for me and a wicked good nurse who does my blood draws: very important when you have crappy veins), a gynecologist (not obstetrician, because I have been done with that part for almost 19 years now), a gastroenterologist and his team (and he is AMAZING: good GI docs are hard to find, and I got supremely lucky to find one experienced in addiction medicine and trauma patients, with a stellar bedside manner and fabulous empathy), a certified massage therapist (and what a find he was: he uses touch massage based on acupressure points combined with fascia massage, and he even works on dogs), a radiologist (his name is Dr. Oppenheimer, and I think that is funny), and an audiologist (who is getting records from my former audiologist). My general practitioner is aiming at bringing in an orthopedist in the next month or two, and a physical therapist along with them. She is also going to refer me to a dermatologist pending the results of my dermatology exam. She has already given me an incredible amount of feedback and work on what ails me in the three months we have been collaborating. And since each of these team members has a release to speak to each other, they can indeed collaborate. Oh, and I also have a really great pharmacist with some good techs, and they all work with my care team to make sure everyone is on the same page too: a pharmacist knows a lot more about the specific drugs a doctor prescribes than the doctors themselves, a lot of the time. For example, one of the medications I take is getting prescribed more and more for veterans with PTSD because it is nonaddictive and non-habit forming (you can stop taking it without having to wean off). So the manufacturer sometimes falls behind on supply demand; they recently started making a dosage pill they did not have in their repertoire and it eased the supply demand backlog greatly, and my pharmacist knew before my doctor did. My pharmacist also knew why I was having supply issues when my doctor didn’t, and referred me to a competing pharmacy when she knew I would go nutty not sleeping for a week when my legs and arms flopped all over because of PTSD-induced sleep movements (it’s a fact; not even a lot of combat soldiers realise that’s what’s keeping them awake). This sort of interdisciplinary collaboration, which includes the patient as a willing participant, is a joyous thing. The fact that I can balance my faith with the wonders of science brings me a great deal of peace.
It is not unique to followers of more nature-based faiths or non-faiths like Buddhism or atheism or anti-theism or agnosticism. I have met a great deal of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindi who feel the same way. Vast numbers of them. The common denominator among people who cannot balance science and faith has nothing to do with faith or non-faith. It has to do with a suppleness of mind and willingness to adapt; to keep those three basic goals in balance and let ethics balance them and not morals. Notice the externalities of the swamp, but don’t fret overmuch about it. And so what if you really dislike that swamp: the swamp will be there whether you dislike it or not. Adapt, or let it bother you so much it drives you insane. The swamp actually holds treasure, just like my flyover plains do. The swamp’s bugs are so pretty, and so are the reptiles. In the muck and dirty water of the swamp grows the lotus flower.
This is what Dylan Thomas means by “rage against the dying of the light”, dear people…
A collection of my own photos around Colorado. Those are mine. Most of them are taken with my cell camera over the years and various incarnations of the cell camera’s abilities in android phones, but a few of them are from my George. George is my Nikon. George is named after Looney Tunes.
After the fire I switched to digital full-time; until then I had been old-school, using a manual SLR film camera. I had my own darkroom setup in my basement for black and white photography, a skill taught to me by sperm donor. It is one of the few hobbies he had that he actually taught me with love, but he still had that anger and hostility aspect I just never understood. And I always had trouble with the math, but he never wrote it down in a way I could understand, and would not let me take my own notes so I could try to grasp it my own way. Every time I tried he would snatch my materials and beat me with them. I still loved photography and that magic about it, though, and did it my own way. And I was rewarded for my patience and efforts. I did not use his subjects (always pornographic), or in his manner (just…ick), but in my own style I got accolades and asked to do work for people. I often told sperm donor that in his group, people would pay him, and he could publish a book, but he always mocked my suggestions. Artists were weirdos and could never make any money. Too much effort. Whatever, dude. I always had my own version of George out of his teachings, anyway. After the fire, with our insurance money, we were very careful to decide how we wanted to replace things. We decided that we wouldn’t get too many items, and those we did get we would make sure were worth what we paid for them. And weren’t from companies that were too unscrupulous when we could not avoid compromising too much. Compromise is inevitable, so balancing the scales of justice in that constant weighing of right and wrong with the internal Jiminy Cricket is something all of us are always doing whether we know it or not. The whole underlying story of Pinocchio is to listen to that cricket chirping in your ear while you are wishing, because you always must be conscious on some level of being careful for what you wish for. Not because of any external influence, some morality clause a deity may or may not have over us. But because we just know.
When I was first diagnosed with PTSD I found a most excellent book to help called The Zen Path Through Depression that I highly recommend for everyone that is both suffering from any sort of mental illness and watching someone go through it. It is written by Philip Martin, and is drawn on his own experiences. Yes, I have read it. No, my family has not, even though I wish they had. They have their own fears and battles to face, and I have to be patient with them as they have been with me. We live in a pressure cooker, here. I always said I would be honest when I told my story, and I was not whistlin’ Dixie. Tomorrow morning I have to get ready to head out for the scariest diagnostic test in my life, and everyone is just as scared as I am. I have had my uterus examined for cancer in one pretty thorough test already; the only positive way to see if the fibroid tumors in there are cancerous is to biopsy them. My hips have been xrayed and no cancer was found, but the radiologist (by name of Dr. Oppenheimer, which I think is pretty funny) did find that my hips are congenitally deformed. A whole bunch of anatomically correct words in the report state that while I was forming in utero both of my hips did not form correctly and so all the aches and pains I have felt throughout my life are explained by this. My general practitioner also explained this to me in more graphic detail with visual aids, using her hands, at my last visit a week ago. It is possible some of the tissue inside my joints that has formed there because of this deformity has torn; it is most assuredly inflamed and all sorts of icky from being mangled all this time, and because my joints are just sort of…wiggling around in there…that explains why I have always been so limber and ungainly. My hip joints just don’t fit right. This also explains why it hurt so much growing, and so very very much else. And it could have been discovered by a simple xray. When one is a fibromyalgia patient, all this data is helpful not only for me personally, but for all fibromyalgia patients and for science in general because it helps understand this very weird illness. Already science knows that in the vast majority of cases, as in almost exclusively, fibromyalgia results from trauma, and the majority of fibromyalgia patients get that trauma from abuse. When science and physicians study this illness, they ask patients their ACE score. I urge everyone to take this quiz at that site, because it is a government site that collects and correlates the data to help individuals and our society get better. For everyone. And if you think you have trauma in your past and want to know how to fix the wounds, this is the place to go and knowing your ACE score is an extremely valuable tool. I am ready to face all the scary instruments tomorrow. I am ready for the clinical violations. I am ready for all the externalites that are going pop up in rapid succession to worry and fret me and pull at me like swamp goo, because I have in a way been practicing for this all my life. PTSD is an anxiety disorder, and it is a very big monster; it lays eggs in your mind of baby anxiety disorders. My awesome psychiatrist helps me understand the clinical nature of my mental illnesses so well that I can actually pit them against each other in my mind so I can reach equilibrium these days. It sure is not easy, but I can face events like these at least knowing why I am so scared. I am very frightened but ready to go. I am raging against the dying of the light. Because I have so much more to see of this amazing place. So many more stories to hear and pass on. And pictures to share. Besides, I need to figure out a way to get my family a new truck. Actually, a new refurbished engine for our old truck, whom my daughter named Truckie when she was two, when we bought it in 2002 when we first moved to this county. We knew we needed a truck. She has climbed all over this country and these mountains; these mountains laugh at puny Ford Escorts and their four cylinders. Our truck climbed Engineer Pass. It is gorgeous up there. The marmots talk to you up there. She had just shy of 330k miles on her when her engine gave out. We played taps, but when we bought her we promised two things: each kid would learn to drive on her, and when the engine gave out we would move hell and high water to replace it. I did the first two (husband helped), and it was an Adventure; I have been working on the second. Our local Midas shop and some handy-dandy folks around about have been helping a lot, but it’s still a big job.
Colorado is a funny and strange place. We have Alferd Packerd, an old-time trapper/cannibal. Or was he?