By my calculations, I drive roughly 823 miles every six days. That’s about like driving from Ft. Myers, FL, to my hometown of Rocky Mount, NC, every week. I spend about 70 hours a week working, most of it in the van, which means that my right leg pumps the accelerator and the brakes constantly for more than half of the day. Then, as I’ve told you, there’s the added challenge of navigating the death-defying maneuvers of the octogenarians careening about on the highways of South Florida. BRAKE! PASS! BRAKE! PASS! VEER! PASS! BRAKE!
You get the picture.
The point is that my poor right leg, my driving leg, also happens to be my dominant leg. It’s the one whose hamstring I ripped apart one night during a tech rehearsal for a dance performance when I was 25. My idea of physical therapy then was Jack Daniels, and that’s how I healed that wound. My right leg is also the leg that Gavin Langley, my boyBFF in Rocky Mount, fell on when we were ice skating in Raleigh in 1990. They had to carry me out of the skating rink, and my knee blew up like a water balloon. It’s also the leg that was carrying me towards the soccer ball in practice two years later when I trapped the ball with my foot and snapped my ankle in a sprain so severe I couldn’t play soccer until the last three weeks of the season. For almost two months, it looked like I had a Portuguese Man O’War for a foot.
All of this is to tell you that I am home today, with the heating pad on my butt, coaxing the muscles of my right leg to quit screaming. It feels like I am leaking battery acid from my hip joint, and the acid is seeping through my leg. Fortunately, I was able to sleep last night thanks to some muscle relaxers left over from the car wreck (see blog post 1) and a frozen pack of peas-and-carrots on my tensor fasciae latte. No, that’s not a coffee, it’s a muscle on the top of the leg near the pelvis, and the cool people, like massage therapists and PTs and yoga instructors call it the TFL. Did I mention Michael is a massage therapist? The bag thawed during the night, and I can tell you it’s rather unpleasant to wake up with a room temp sack of vegetables on your TFL. Your panties will absorb all of the moisture. You will have funny dreams before you realize what has happened.
On the upside, I get to write a blog.
I do have some exciting updates in the saga of Knotty and Her Suitors: we saw another male, a 10-footer, crossing the parking lot to get to her, but she has apparently chosen Scars and she turned up her nose at this new fellow and swam away. But there is nothing quite as magnificent as seeing an ancient 10-foot reptile crawl out of murky water, climb up a bank, and cross a road. Alligators walking is one of my favorite sights because it is so primeval, so primordial, so dinosaur-like, and it humbles me.
These animals have been around this dirtball called Earth for so long, and the longer I study them, the more and more ludicrous and selfish and superficial modern man seems to me. I was so excited that my tour group got to see such a rare sight–hardly ever do visitors get to see alligators in action, but mating season requires action, and they were privvy to a marvelous wonder yesterday, and I kicked myself for not having my camera, otherwise, I would share it with you.
I suspected that Scars may engage the newcomer in fighting or vocalizations (the growl, or bellow, to let the new guy know to back off), but I guess Knotty’s rejection of the new male was enough for him. Scars stayed in Knotty’s pond, a few yards from her, the whole time we were there. This week we’ve watched Knotty and Scars in their beautiful alligator courtship dance, where he bellows near her, she pretends not to hear him, then she gives some kind of inaudible signal and he quietly swims over and lays his big head on hers or on her neck. Then they disappear underwater for a few minutes, and I am not sure if they are mating yet or if they are still engaged in the courtship rituals. Male and female alligators engage in much touching during the mating season, which is why I’m uncertain as to whether or not their discreet slips out of our view are consummating the relationship or if they are still warming up to each other. Either way, it is thrilling to watch, and so very, very special.
It’s impossible for me to witness mating season with the alligators and not think about how complicated sex and relationships have become between human beings. In the wild, sex is mating, and although some scientists have recorded primates mating for pleasure, like the bonobo monkeys (who are worth looking into: scientists have discovered they can master spoken English), sex for humans seems, to me, to be a mess. This concept called “relationship” doesn’t seem to fare much better.
If you have time, look at this video of a presentation by Susan Savage Rumbaugh (a legend in primatology). Famous Scientist Susan Savage Rumbaugh on Bonobos
Part of my perception stems, of course, from my environment and partly by my nature. I do not know what a stable or healthy relationship means. My parents had a bizarre arrangement and although I think they loved each other, they did not work well together at all. My brothers have managed to have successful marriage partnerships (at least it appears so, although we do not talk much anymore and I have no idea about what their interior lives are like, or their lives behind closed doors), but I believe they decided that they wanted a family and children when they were young men. Most of my close friends are not married, or they were once but found it to be a mistake, which is also what happened with me.
As for me, I’ve never wanted children, and I never wanted to get married. Those two dreams did not exist in my heart, and let me tell you how terribly difficult it is to feel like a “normal” woman when you do not care about finding a husband or bearing children. I have even had people tell me that you can’t experience being a real woman until you bear a child. Really? Tell me, then, what am I experiencing?
I don’t know why I am this way, I just am. I like animals better. I do not find kids cute as a rule although I’ve been around a lot of really cool kids during my life. I see my friends who turn into mothers and then they become like slaves to their children’s demands and needs (most of which, it seems, they invent), and they sink into some perpetual fear of being a bad mother and refuse to spend time or money on themselves. I’m talking in general terms here, broad descriptors. I do know some women who do not fit these terms, but they are the exceptions.
I recognize that these mothers experience love on a level I have never known, or will probably ever know; nevertheless, I do not envy them for it.
To each her own journey, God bless and have mercy on us all.
The mating season, and the fact that I’m immobilized on the bed, have led me to ruminate on these aspects of my thinking that have always troubled me. I come from a long line of self-sacrificial women, God-fearing Christian women who built their whole lives around their husbands and children. Women who disappeared in the fabric of their families while weaving it, whose passive-aggressive demands for loyalty and love tied the guilty knots that bound us all together. Much of my adult life has been spent trying to needle out of these knots, to clip myself free of them, and I can’t tell you how alien I have felt because my life force energy is designed for creating things other than people. There are many people who have no desire to go to India. I, similarly, have no desire to have a kid. It’s really not that complicated.
Do I wonder about this absent desire? Of course I do. Especially now because I am surrounded by creatures who are compelled by instinct to reproduce. I wonder if I am a failure of natural selection. If I am being weeded out of our human gene pool.
I’m okay with that. My job here is different, anyway. I don’t know how; I just know that it is.
I read this essay last night by Annie Dillard called “Living Like Weasels.” In it, she recounts a surprise encounter in the woods between herself and a weasel–both of them so absorbed in their own activities they were caught off guard when they stumbled into one another. For a brief moment, Dillard writes, she and the weasel were in the same mind. They shared, for one exquisite, timeless experience, the free-fall of mind-melding that happens sometimes when we encounter that thoughtless, expectation-less, communion between creations.
I call this God. Not a God-moment, not a God-cookie, not a gift-from-God, not a hand-of-God. In my experiences, this magnificent absence of anything but the moment–the blank moment of encounter that exists of the Mind but outside of the rules of the brain/ego–is The God. The real God. The shared mind that exists within all things.
We all have it, and by “all” I mean stones and weasels and our pet dogs and alligators and leaves and a grain of sand. This mind, this shared mind. On a daily basis now, I enter the shared mind, this moment Annie Dillard captured when she wrote of her transcendent moment with the measly weasel. A lot of women I know intuitively understand that humans can communicate with animals with our minds. Hardly anyone articulates it so plainly because it sounds loony and Disney-ish, but it’s true.
We share parts of the mind in this level of consciousness (evolutionarily, our minds are descended from reptiles and birds; one day science will prove our inheritance from these creatures; until then, I will continue to endure the ridicule for such Dr. Doolittle type anthropomorphism). I tell you this because it is happening to me. Right now, mainly with birds. Hence, I think, the abundance of feather and angel imagery that appears in my reality.
There is a bird named Dodo at the Skunk Ape Center, an umbrella cockatoo, and a few weeks ago he decided to bond with me. Until that moment, he regarded me without special favor, walking from visitor to visitor as he usually does, finally settling on one woman who could fold him into her neck and they could cuddle. Dodo likes being stroked like a cat, and he is perfectly content to snuggle into someone’s neck indefinitely as long as she is petting him.
However, about three weeks ago, he stood on the end of one of my tourist’s finger and looked at me. This look was different. You, that’s all he said. And I took him.
Animals speak. Native people knew this. Women know this. Steve Irwin knew this. There is a place in the mind where animals grant and receive permission, exchange basic intentions, and humans have access to it; hell, it’s a part of us. We belong to this space of the mind; it is our natural inheritance, and, now that I contemplate it, it may be the “dominion” referenced in that very troubling verse of Genesis regarding humanity and our place among God’s other designs.
Granted, these are working theories for me. There is another bird, a hybrid macaw named Crackers (c’mon, this is South Florida–what else would you name a bird?), who lives at the swamp buggy place, and I am undergoing a similar relationship with him. I was told he was ornery and cantankerous, but he has the same desire to emit communication that Dodo has, and two days ago he allowed me to pet him, and I can tell he wants me to hold him, but I am hesitant and afraid because he was introduced to me by a guy the bird clearly has no respect for. So, I fed Crackers two grapes on Tuesday, and I am certain I am getting permission to get closer to him, but I have no experience with birds–I am learning as I go–and I don’t want to get bitten. But I think I will have to be bitten a little bit because that’s how he establishes boundaries.
That is one thing I do love about animals–you’re always clear about their boundaries.
Well, beloveds, I think that’s it for now. I hope you read this far, and if you did, thank you.
Go be beautiful in the mind!