Sunday, May 29, 2011

Best-laid Plans

I originally had this idea that I would be starting school in a state of calm preparedness; caught up on math, ready for algebra, physically fit, disciplined, everything organized to make my 5am-11pm or later days flow smoothly. Yeah. Not so much. Chaos reigns.
Because I decided that I needed to repaint my room now, all of my stuff is crammed into the closet or shoved into the small guestroom. My freshly painted old dresser is out on the patio; everything it held is stuffed into a couple of drawers somewhere else. We got our new kitten yesterday. I am revamping my first novel into a Young Adult book for a submission to an e-publisher. I've reverted to stress-eating, a series of minor injuries keeps thwarting my workouts.
And it's okay. Somehow it will all turn out well. How? I don't know. It's a mystery.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The People on the Bus

She wears "professional for me" clothes. I heard her say this yesterday, when telling someone on the phone that a 23 year old had hit on her. Black skirt, leopard print jacket, ankle boots, and a few rhinestones glued to her cheek. Today she wore all black, with a red rose/black feather ornament the size of a tiny cocktail hat in her short, platinum blond hair. Bright red lipstick. She looks fabulous. From listening, I know that she's forty, that she has two kids, that she has a ten block walk home from the bus stop. I know that she processes loan applications for a living, and that her boss thinks she's weird. Maybe she is. But she's also kind, and friendly, helping newbies get to the right stop, comforting a stressed out young mother, giving encouragement to a teenager trying to get her life back on track. She's so vibrant, so fearlessly herself. At least she seems so. I look forward to seeing her, even though we haven't spoken.

Her fashion sense stands out on the Colfax bus. The norm is uber casual: jeans, tee shirts, baggy sweats, hoodies, cheap hookerwear, pajamas, pants hanging down so far that the wearer looks like a toddler with a loaded diaper. Mixed in with this are Muslim women in headscarves and long dresses, punks in black leather, creative hairdos, tattoos and piercings, Indian women in colorful saris, old men in suits and hats, ladies in their Sunday best. And there's the big genial crazy man who rocks the pimpwear: broadbrimmed leather hat covered in bling, a massive fur coat and a walking stick.

It was one of the pierced and tattooed crowd who took a woman loudly to task for refusing to make room for a man in a wheelchair. It's some of the roughest looking folks who help a stranger carry a stroller or a shopping cart onto the the bus. Scary looking teenagers give up their seats to elderly passengers.

People trade or give transfers, help someone out with busfare. They give advice on where to get help with food and shelter. They give directions. They share their life stories with complete strangers.

Yes, there are drunks, and loonies and obnoxious people on the bus too. But the longer I ride the bus, the more I see that they aren't the norm. They might stand out more. Yet most people are decent, no matter what their appearance.

Today I met James, who summed it up very well.

"Courtesy is making a comeback, and I'm glad. It's as if we as a society are realizing that we lost something precious over the last few decades. And I'm happy to see that young people seem to be driving it. Oh, by the way, I'm James." I introduced myself and we shook hands. He continued. "I make it a point to introduce myself. Because even though we may never meet again, we're here in this moment, as human beings, and we need to acknowledge that."

We got to our stop. James exited first, then turned back to extend his hand to help me down. I didn't need his help, but I accepted it. We said goodbye, and wished each other a pleasant day, then went our separate ways.

Riding the bus is getting me out of my little bubble. And I'm glad.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dreams, Elephants & the Abominable Snowman

Last night/early this morning I had one of those dreams that stays with you throughout the day. I was at a combination bazaar/world's most awesome petting zoo. Awesome in that it was really clean, all the animals were happily wandering around freely and their attendants were these really hot gypsyish guys who looked a lot like Oded Fehr in The Mummy. (He was the Magi with the cool facial tattoos.)

I was walking through the petting zoo when I was gently squashed between an elephant and a water buffalo. They nuzzled in and refused to budge. I'm not sure how long I stood there, comfortably close to the two massive animals. Then the water buffalo was gone, and I was walking away, with the elephant right beside me. The attendants didn't seem to mind when I walked out of the petting zoo with the elephant, his head pressed up against my side. He seemed to belong there. I could feel the warm, soft leathery pressure of his head against my shoulder. Eventually I sat down on a large mattress covered in bright blankets and pillows, and the elephant lay down next to me, much the way Puppy did. And we sat there, me and the elephant, watching the swirling colors of the bazaar as people walked by and looked at us as if we were nothing out of the ordinary, as if a woman and an elephant on a mattress in the middle of a crowded bazaar was the most natural thing in the world. I felt so connected with that elephant that when I first woke up, I thought "Where's my elephant?"

While looking for meanings and interpretations on various dream and animal totem websites I discovered that while there is a great deal of information on elephants, it's easier to find references to dragons, unicorns and the Abominable Snowman than it is to find references to water buffalo. It seems unfair; while they aren't especially glamorous, water buffalo are very important in some parts of the world.

Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews, addressed the myth of an elephant never forgetting. The author wrote that it's not that an elephant never forgets anything, it's that an elephant never forgets an injury, and that they have been known to seek revenge when an opportunity presented itself. Sounds all too familiar...although I generally stay in the grudge-holding phase without moving on to revenge.

But what I really take away from this dream is a deep and natural connection with something larger than myself, a place of stillness in a swirling kaleidoscope of color and activity. Something to keep in mind as I embark on this new journey of work and school and study: when the world is going by so fast, remember that there is a tranquil place of rest, of connection, of enduring strength and love.

From The Natural History of Elephants by Milton Acorn