Monday, March 22, 2021

It Takes Practice

I will always be thankful that Geoff and I took a chance to live in Minnesota. When we moved there, practically newlyweds, and six months into our first pregnancy, I thought, I believed, it would be for always and forever. I committed to our children growing up in the Midwest, to learning how to plow snow, and can fruit, to living with a walk-out basement, and the real, and unsettling, possibility of hockey practice. I hoped some of my family might follow us out there, that the romance of big, old houses, open yards, and deer in the backyard would become my normal. When it didn't turn out as expected, when we moved back to California, after a little more than one year, I admit I felt like I failed, a bit. Now, with perspective, I know it was the right, or necessary choice to come back West, and rather than dwell on what didn't work, I love to reflect on what we gained.

At the moment I am thinking of Seasons. Obviously, seasons are something that are very very distinct in the Midwest, in Minnesota. We were in Minneapolis for the Storm of the Century, the 1991 Halloween Blizzard! Seriously, this gives us remarkable street cred. That snow crushed snowfall records. And Fall! Fall is a breathtaking sight, when entire forests turn from Emerald to Scarlett, and not only red, but orange, yellow, magenta, even purple. Spring was miraculous. By the time it was March, even April, I had lost the concept of fresh green, of shoots, sprouts, leafed out trees, and picnics on lawns. Winter freezes so deeply, so starkly, everything, I could not fathom anything coming back to life, and when it happens, it is a breathtaking sight to behold. And while I was taking this all in, and relishing in the belief that I would have these transitions and moments to enjoy for the rest of my life, I would sigh and regret that all my years, living in Southern California, I had never noticed the seasons. Seasons were marked only by holidays and the new decorations the teacher put on a bulletin board. Cut out apples, meant it was September, and hearts meant it was February. But, walking into an apple Orchard in September is a much better notice of the change from summer to fall than turning a calendar. I loved living a year of changing seasons, the signs, the indications, the newness of the views, and what we could do, what we would enjoy, and I kind of felt sorry for what I'd been missing in my former life, what I had failed to notice, because I thought they weren't there... the signs, the changes.
I was wrong, though... we don't get snow drifts, or frozen lakes, but even in sunny California, on the coast, I have learned to notice the seasons, and it's thanks to the lessons, and time appreciating change, and cycles, that I learned to enjoy in the Midwest, that I can see it is spring here. Our seasons are subtle, and frankly, can be frustrating due to hot, dry days that show up in January, or summer heat that blasts well into early winter. Right now, though, some of the hens are acting a tiny bit broody, like they'd consider raising some spring chicks. Our peas are crisp and plentiful, and spinach is growing. I spotted a Western Bluebird, and his feathers were stunningly brightened for courtship. Our fruit trees are full of blossoms, and even the start of peaches, apples, figs. The light streams in from a new angle, still soft, yet warmer, promising. In spring, I lose track of the hours, and look up from my project, thinking what should I do for dinner, only to realize it's already after 8, and closer to bedtime than dinnertime. Geoff and I drove east a few miles, the other day, and the hills were blue with ceanothus. You don't have to tell me, with a calendar, what time of year it is when the mountain lilac is blooming. I vibrate to those colors, to the sight of the foothills, and roadsides, flourishing in lavendar hues against deep shades of green. Soon it will be jacarandas in bloom, then the matilija poppies will come on. The last weeks of spring bring coastal fog, a deep marine layer that slips into the canyons, and evaporates in the afternoon sun. It is spring in Southern California! We are imagining picnics on lawns, and more... maybe the hope of making plans for summer.
I ran out of gold floss number 729 for the apron, so I've set that aside while I wait for a delivery. I thought I would be a little bit miserable having to wait, but something else came up, and I find myself learning how to draw cats. I am super immersed in this exercise, and even enjoying it. Rats, for whatever reason, I was eager and willing to figure out, and I spent the better part of a year drawing, sketching, and painting rats. And all that time, I wondered that I wasn't trying chickens, and cats, but I think those are hard. I am not the most ambitious person, and so I basically, mostly, avoided learning how to depict cats, and chickens. Well, I wasn't wrong: Cats are hard to draw. All that fur! And their eyes, getting those right is critical. And I struggle with the tip of the nose and the curve of those furry lips. And. Yet... I have been trying to draw them, and I have been studying, and some times I think, Oh, yeah, I am getting somewhere! And then, like last night, after hours and hours practicing, I put everything away, and thought, Nah. I cannot draw cats. And nevermind chickens. Then I wondered, How long does it take for an order of floss to come in?
My mind had this whole post half composed, and I was feeling in a happy writing groove, when my phone rang. The attorney, my attorney, but maybe you can tell I don't identify with anyone being particularly mine, or on my side? It was a call to let me know that, as ever, this civil case is not going fairly, justly, that any improvement, or worsening, depends on my ambition or tolerance for pain, possibly arbitration, maybe just more haggling. I don't know. I told her I'll call you back. Last week, grappling with this same issue, I wrote, "I need to believe that sometimes surrendering is the only way to win." The only experience I have, after all this time, is that I am fighting a losing battle, with only the hope that fate or justice, or luck, will intervene and set things right, but the evidence that this could be true grows dimmer and dimmer. It will always strike me as cruel, that my worst pain is from trying to defend myself, from doing what was asked of me, from answering to lawyers, and insurance, and the system. I feel alone, I feel small, and ripe for them to proceed, as I imagine they always intended, looking out only for themselves. I wish I could go back into my JettPuff, and hold my own hand. I would whisper, "You are right. This is a horrible thing that's happened, and it will get worse, as you already know, because insurance companies are corrupt, and laws are muddled, so courage! Courage for healing, for nightmares and trauma. Courage for being followed home, stalked, subpoenad, accused. Courage to go through therapies, courage for memory loss, and cognitive damage, for loss of movement, for loss of confidence. You are right to dread everything that is ahead of you, after you get out of your crushed van, because it will be horrible. Above all... courage to live in spite of all of this, because there will be laughter, and cake, and plans, there will be mountain lilac in spring, and meteor showers, there will be resolve, and your own resilience, and countless moments and blessings that you will never surrender. You can be whole, again, if differently, or less certain, without their ideas of justice, without complicated arrangements, protracted settlements. You can walk away from their agendas and game, and take your blessings with you, and that will be enough."

It might be time to throw the ring into the fire. That is an absolute nerd metaphor... I have been holding on to the civil and criminal case outcomes, like a ring of power, believing that I will come out fortunate, vindicated, released of trauma and heartache, healed. But being caught up in bureaucracy, in this Kafkian cycle, in legal tests of will and endurance, is like holding a corrupt ring and the dominion of bumbledom over my life, over my mental health is diminishing my health, my own power. It's so hard to know what is the really right thing to do. I am scared of being wrong, of failing. I am scared of letting go, and I think of poor Frodo, but I always dismayed that he struggled to do the right thing. Where is my Sam?

I wish she'd called after I wrote my happy post, but that's how it is... bad things can happen, when you least expect it. And. And something about dealing with it, and saving room to get back to all of the many good things. Yes, something like that. It all takes practice, I see.


Teresa Kasner said...

I think you're doing very well with the cat drawing. The only way to get where you want to with them is to keep trying. I think a chicken would be harder but I bet you can do it! I had to sue an oral surgeon for pulling the wrong molar so I can really relate to what you're going through. I finally settled as my attorney told me if I didn't I could lose the case and end up with nothing. I hope it works out for you.
((hugs)), Teresa :-)

Anonymous said...

Loved the "seasons" part of this post. And the kitty drawing--all he needs is fur! Sorry you have to go through the other stuff. It's certainly been a long haul.


Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Hello, Ruth! I was loving the seasons part, too, especially because I was feeling full of appreciation for memories, and the good signs right in front of me, like the fresh produce our neighbors shared with us. An idea occurs to me... I do have caller ID, and from now on, if I am happily occupied, and an attorney calls, I am letting it go straight to voice mail. They've never had nice news to share, so I shouldn't let them derail a good train of thought any more!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

Thank you, Teresa... I will keep trying!
The wrong molar? Seriously? And to think they had to be taken to court over such an obvious blunder! I am sorry. Friends have been sharing all kinds of horror stories, and it astonishes me that we are not only living in this ridiculous system, but we have to pay for it, too! The profits must be unholy, or things would be much improved by now.
I think I will go back to my room and sketch whiskers and paws!