Saturday, June 30, 2007

urban chick seeks mental health

my wife has lost her mind.

and by that i mean, she's crazy. in a white-coat and padded room kind of way.

girl is nuts.

get this: she wants to acquire some chickens. urban chickens, as she calls them. avian flu incubators, as i call them. chickens. in seattle.

she's got it all planned out. they'll inhabit the space behind our garage, next to the neighbor's koi pond. they'll lay little blue or green eggs, and we'll have fresh omelets every day. or something.

when i object, when i suggest the possibility she hasn't completely thought through the ramifications of the urban chicken plan, she tells me i've lost my sense of spontaneity. and, by not endorsing her lunacy, i'm infringing on her fun.

mind you, i didn't say "no." i just said, "what the hell?" or words to that effect.

the story doesn't end there. in addition to the urban chickens, she wants a new dog. cruelly, she has recruited our children in this pursuit. "daddy, we'll take care of the puppy. we promise."

yeah, here's the thing about animals at our house: i end up the sole caretaker. each time and every time. starting with two cats, a big dog, then two big dogs. all my responsibility. including the inevitable mortality of each, for which my wife was out of town every time.

somehow i'm supposed to forget all that because my wife is taking the summer off and thinks she'll have the time and the desire to raise a bunch of animals.

again, i object.

but, as with the damn chickens, i didn't say no. i don't make unilateral decisions in this relationship. that prerogative belongs to my wife, apparently.

did i mention the semi-serious remodeling projects going on at our house? they involve, in no particular order, a backhoe/front-end loader, the removal of concrete walls, and the creation of a walk-out basement from the space currently occupied by our bedroom.

it's a significant amount of change and turmoil without factoring in urban birds and puppies.

and still i didn't say no. i did, however, mention i would have nothing to do with such a cockamamie scheme. i made it crystal clear i wouldn't be getting up in the middle of the night to take a dog out to pee, nor would i field complaints from the neighbors about rogue chickens eating their fish. or whatever.

i spelled out all these things. but you know how it'll go. eventually, inevitably, there'll be a collision between my objections and her expectations, and something will have to give.

any predictions how that's gonna turn out?

my wife is deeply, deeply disturbed. and in failing to dissuade her, i am at least complicit.

if not equally loony toons.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

at your fingertips

some folks you find speak a mighty good line
they charm you all away
they take you along on a sweet sweet song
then they steal your heart away
but blessed be the one who can understand why
people have to act that way
'cause if I knew I wouldn't even want to sing

but have a little peace
just a little peace of mind
give me some peace
peace of mind
-- jim messina

yesterday i had my first facial.

to be precise (because it feels necessary at this juncture to be precise about this experience), i had a "deep cleanse, tone, exfoliation, steam, extractions, application of custom mask, moisturizer, and a massage of the hand and arm."

okay? are we clear about what transpired? can i get my story in now? thank you.

anyway, in advance of my birthday and father's day, my wife hooked me up with a spa treatment.

it was deeply deeply gratifying as a paid-for hour of intimate and uninterrupted attention can be. as far as i know.

while i was laying there, savoring the gentle-yet-firm manipulation of my overly impressionable sensibilities, it occurred to me that the feeling one derives from such exchanges never lasts very long.

i mean, the before and during is great. the esthetician (we'll call her "annalie" because that's her name), hovers over you, speaking softly, soothingly, in a way that you rarely hear outside a room lighted mainly by candles. you can feel her breath on your face (i believe she had a vanilla latte for breakfast), which has the effect of heightening your senses to the point that you can actually discern the swirly contours of her fingerprints.

i may not know biometrics, but i know what i like.

i'm straying off point here, which is that the after-glow of these too-brief interludes is pitifully short. as the last, lingering touch slips off your skin, your inner infant cries out for more, not wanting to leave the birth canal.

even so, it is possible that with some mental distraction techniques and compartmentalization you can take a few halting steps during which you might still feel one with the universe. and because it's so good, so right, you fight to carry the effect with you forever, and you do -- if by "forever" you mean "until you leave the parking lot and a police car pulls in behind you, and you hope the officer doesn't ask you if you've been drinking because it kinda feels like you have, even though you haven't, because it's ten o'clock in the morning."

poof. just like that your bought-and-paid-for peace of mind is flayed. and that, really, is the gist of this entire digression. for it is peace we seek, because it is peace we lack, if i may inaccurately paraphrase james earl jones in field of dreams, (and i very well may).

we could spend the rest of our blogging lives enumerating the ways we lack peace, and about 9 minutes counting the ways we find it. maybe less. with the exception of a few prescription medications, a few more non-prescription varieties, and some really good cabernet sauvignon, there are damn few means to find your bliss and hang onto it in a meaningful way.

the religious among us say jesus is the way, or buddha, or muhammad, or alicia witt. but let's face it, some of the least peaceable examples in history are provided by rogue advocates of some religion or another.

no. there are too many ways to sail off the edge of the earth, from a peace of mind perspective, too many examples of the timeless warning, "here there be monsters," alicia witt notwithstanding.

if, in fact, it is peace we seek because peace we lack, it occurs to me that after millennia of searching, humans were not meant to achieve a mental steady-state of serenity. if we were, we would have done so long ago.

so we pay for fleeting moments of it, we search longingly for glimpses of it, we google the digitized aggregation of it. and, occasionally, we experience a moment so perfect, so transcendental, that we breathlessly chase after it no matter how foolish it makes us appear.

i had a facial on saturday.

and in a secular, hedonistic kind of was divine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

sea change

my wife is quitting her job.

actually, technically she's taking a two-month leave of absence. but she has no intention of going back.

it's an old story. new boss, no appreciation for ten years of successful service. boss is disrepectful, employees leave. or leave of absence, as the case may be.

the record will show that my wife is not the stay-at-home type. at first she'll enjoy being out from under the thrall of an imbecilic supervisor. then, for awhile, she'll revel in the quality time with our children. she'll breathe in the summer and breathe out the bitterness. we'll spend a languid july week in maui, and a seattle week in august with her family. that's a seductive combination by any standard.

but come september, the children will go back to school, and the diy home projects she can tackle will be thoroughly subdued.

that's when she'll look out the window and wish she were heading off to work.

it'll be about the camaraderie, the challenges, the success. and let's be honest, it'll also be about the money. we have children and a house and more improvement projects than we can afford. we are a two-income family, and since we're being honest wife is the smart one in the family. she makes the big money at our house.

so, come september, when the children are in school and she's surfing the internet for items we absolutely must have if we are to remain civilized, the never-denied, merely deferred reality will become irresistible.

there will be a new job, new routines, and a different set of problem-solution opportunities.

waves of change are lining up behind the spaceneedls. we better hope we can learn to surf.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

the quantum mechanics of time and memory

the night before we left for arizona, i dreamed about joan.

we chatted about nothing i can remember, but when i woke up it felt like i had just seen her, heard her voice, given her a long-deferred bear hug.

when we got to her house, several hours later, she wasn't there.

i mean, of course she wasn't there, she's been gone nearly two years. but last time we visited, she was everywhere. you couldn't open a kitchen cabinet or walk around the back yard without her next to you.

this time, though, it seemed she had moved on.

she wasn't at the door to greet us. the rosemary that once lined the east side of the patio was in full retreat. her kitchen, a model of manic efficiency, was simply clean and quiescent.

my father-in-law, so fragile during our last trip, has found his equilibrium. he doesn't live in nearly as much of the house as she did, but he uses as much of it as suits him. the rosemary may be in disarray, but the pool is crystal clear and inviting. he's not sure what's in the spice cabinet, but he knows his way around four grocery stores.

early one morning we hiked through dreamy draw recreation area, one of joan's favorite desert spots. the air was cool and calm, the saguaros were blooming, the songbirds were doing what they do. my daughter, wearing one of joan's baseball caps, was an intrepid hiker. she kept up the pace, kept her eyes open for wildlife, and kept her composure when we startled a rattlesnake right in front of us. fearless, the girl backed away, hopped down a little rock wall, and made her way around the beast.

just like granny joan would've done.

i didn't think much about it at the time, because the girl is an audacious little character. even so, in retrospect her poise was remarkable.

in my dream, joan was as real and immediate a presence as ever. i could hear her voice, smell her shampoo, feel her wiry strength. for that i'm grateful, because that same presence, which i fully expected to encounter in arizona, was missing.

except, perhaps, for a moment on a desert trail, when her granddaughter would've made her proud.