Inexorable Spring, Internet Outage Edition

April 8, 2022

There was still ice this week on Clements Pond, which surprised me. Otherwise, the trail was clear – one of the few that aren’t muddy. About a mile-and-a-half through hardwood forest to the pond. I saw a Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk). I think this might be one of the first arrivals of the migrating spring hawks. They like open fields and wetlands. The Rough Legged Hawks are long gone, migrating back north. Yesterday on my drive to Lake Champlain I saw a pair of Osprey, sitting on an electric pole. No doubt planning a nest.

We’ve had a bout of electricity outages the past few weeks. Most of them have been short-lived, but they’ve caused longer interruptions in internet service. It’s good for me to be reminded how much I depend on the internet, since I’m still looking for a place to live and much of the area does not have internet service.

I notice that the pictures I’ve taken the past month look bleak. By next month there will be more color in the landscape. When I first moved to the North Country I hated the spring, because the weather is so topsy turvy and it’s muddy on the trails. Now I enjoy spring. Part of it is breaking free of the long hard cold winters, but it’s also the movement that I enjoy – something that doesn’t show up well in a photograph. The water begins moving, there are little animals scurrying around. Birds are returning. There’s a sense of things about to happen.

At Roaring Brook

April 1, 2022

Cold and snow made a reappearance this week. I realized that I have, subconsciously, been taking credit for the spring. I was feeling like “we” were making progress on all this snow melting. All I did for the spring was live to see it, though I admit that’s not an insignificant achievement, especially these past few years.

I’ve been enjoying getting out and about just the same.

Punked Again

March 25, 2022

When I was working in residential substance abuse treatment, I sometimes got outwitted by my patients, though I tried to stay one step ahead of them. Despite my best efforts, occasionally a resident would obtain something – a communication, an object, a privilege – that was contrary to his recovery or to the rights and needs of others. I didn’t get stressed about this, though I marveled at the dudgeon some of my co-workers would get into in these situations. I would chuckle to myself and say: Well, an addict got the better of me; not the first time and probably not the last.

But I’m not so philosophical about an incident that happened to me in a non-therapeutic setting. I realized yesterday that I had been badly punked by a narcissistic-sociopathic person a few months ago, and it has taken all this time for me to tumble to it. And then it was so obvious I was dumbstruck. The problem is that, not being a narcissistic-sociopath myself, I sometimes don’t recognize the behavior. It doesn’t occur to me that another woman is capable of such extreme harmful lying aiming to destroy another who has never harmed her, when there is no tangible benefit to her for doing so. I recognized the pathology in this woman long ago, but I still am challenged in recognizing her moves. I think one of the reasons I underestimated her is that she is so incompetent in so many areas. Yet narcissistic-sociopaths can be highly efficient in manipulation – or perhaps good people are challenged in recognizing the moves. I should have known.

One trap I’m not falling into is wondering why she did it. You learn quickly, as a cognitive-behavioral therapist, that “why” is not a useful question. “What” is always more important than “why.” I haven’t done anything to harm this woman, who is bent on destroying my life, and the screwy head-scratching reasons she gives for her behavior might even be the truth.

A film by John Waters, called Serial Mom, I find comforting in these situations. It’s a spoof on true-crime exposes, about a middle-aged female serial killer, that has a deceptively simple lesson: it doesn’t matter why. There is a reason she does what she does, but it’s not going to make sense to any sane person. The sociopathic justification might even be as ridiculous as punishing someone for wearing white shoes after labor day. It doesn’t matter why.

So recognize what evil people are capable of, but don’t bother asking yourself “why they do it”: when dealing with a narcissistic-sociopath, logic only gets in your way.

Hanging In and Hanging On

March 18, 2022

Still looking for another home, in between late winter hiking. The Ravens, Black-Capped Chickadees, and Red Squirrels are actively scolding me on the trail as they begin courting and nesting. This is taken from John’s Brook today. Sugaring is in full swing, as the winter melt begins.

The Wisdom of Worn-Out Tapes

March 4, 2022

For everything that is evil and harmful to you has its existence only in the mind.

I’ve been listening to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius in preparation for my move, as I dump the cassette tapes I’ve accumulated over the years, acknowledging that they have reached the end of their shelf life.

Marcus Aurelius. Musee Saint-Raymond. Artist unknown.

Think about how many years you have been putting things off, and how often the gods have given you extra periods of grace.

I was kind of “meh” about this tape when I first heard it, because I was going through a phase of rejecting a lot of New Age rules for living I’d acquired over the years, and I recognized a kernal of New Age philosophy in Marcus Aurelius. That was a revelation.

Marcus Aurelius was a guy who spent his life perpetually trying to talk himself out of a bad mood. He kept a diary of thoughts not for posterity but for his own reflection. He lived in the second century and subscribed to the Stoic brand of philosophy, which emphasized moral character. Also, he was an emperor of Rome.

Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.

The New Age emerged in the nineteenth century in the experimental mysticism of the western New York state region known as the Burned Over District. It was “burned over” because there was so much religious fever. Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon sect) got his vision here, the Masons were huge, African Americans were reclaiming their folkloric roots, and the Christian Science that inspired twentieth century New Age guru Louise Hay was born.

While the New Age is rightly criticized as a tool for privileged people to justify the material inequalities of the world, it started out as the polar opposite of this. Religious leaders believed the working class pessimism and resignation endemic in Europe was beginning to infect America. They wanted ordinary people to take more control over their lives.

The mind can transform any obstacle into something new, creative, and purposeful to help us on our way.

Certainly blaming all your problems on fate or other people is not going to get you anywhere. Given a choice between denial of oppression and the competitive victimhood of the Identity Age, I’ll take the New Age. Fortunately, with maturity comes discernment, and if even the Freudians can admit that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” the rest of us can admit that, no matter how “spiritual” we tell ourselves we are, sometimes life is just darn hard.

For I seek the truth, and no man was ever injured by the truth.

Which brings me back to Marcus Aurelius. I’m enjoying what he has to say this time around. I think his philosophy rings true or false, depending on where or how it is applied. Also, it goes down better in small doses. If the dude had just let go and allowed himself to feel sad or afraid or angry for a day, maybe he wouldn’t have had to write all that stuff down.

Mother of the Watery Abyss

February 25, 2022

Nammu is the Mesopotamian great goddess of water, who created heaven and earth. She is considered the mother of everything and everyone, including the gods.

She was worshiped at the temple of Eridu, attested in Mesopotamian literature as the very first temple and probably predating the arrival of the Sumerians. This temple site was later repurposed to center a god of the subterranean waters, called Enki by the Sumerians, who was considered her son. Though Nammu makes brief appearances in Sumerian mythology, she had no known cult in historical times.

I wonder if Nammu might be the Sumerian title of a mother goddess worshiped by people in southern Mesopotamia before the Sumerians gained ascendency in the region. This might explain her role as remote ancestor, her association with Eridu and its swampy surroundings, and her lack of known cult following the rise of Sumerian cities.

Nammu’s “son,” who eclipsed her worship, may or may not have originally been Sumerian, although Enki is a Sumerian deity. There is a sweet story about the transfer of religious (and possibly political and economic) primacy from Eridu to the city of Uruk called “Inanna and the God of Wisdom.” I’ll write about it in a future post.

Temples and priesthoods for millenia claimed lineage (actual or ideological) to Eridu. A pool or small replica of a pool could be found even in northern Mesopotamian temples, representing the watery area surrounding Eridu. This water was believed to be part of the fluid of creation, the Abzu, emanating from Nammu herself.

The Saga Continues

February 18, 2022

Okay, I’m only getting a new apartment and moving, but it’s challenging this time. Not just because there’s an acute housing shortage in the area at the moment: I haven’t moved in over 13 years.

For most of my adult life, I lived in a place for three years tops, and usually I moved every year. I don’t know why I’ve stayed here this long; I kept meaning to move on but never did. While living here I wrote five books, an idea for the next one taking hold on the heels of the last. I’m a process oriented person: I’m not interested in what I’ve written once it’s completed, so I’m a willing channel for the muse.

Creativity thrives in stability, routines, and predictability. Paradoxically, this is where originality blooms. Since finding out that I have to move, it’s been difficult to focus even on this blog. Thirteen years and change. I’m going through accumulated stuff that should have been dealt with years ago, thinking “Why haven’t I thrown away these cassette tapes?’ and “What was I thinking when I bought this dress?”

I still have to figure out what to do with all my unpublished and unpublishable writing. I’m tempted to ditch all of it, but that is a decision that doesn’t have to be made yet. There are arguments to be made either way.

Weeding through books may not be an option. Local used bookstores are not buying; thrift stores and libraries don’t want anything that isn’t new fiction. In the past, my old books were snapped up eagerly, but I don’t live in a particularly intellectual locale. Maybe I’m meant to hang on to them.

I won’t have a clear idea of everything I need to keep until I find another home. In the meantime, I can throw away crusty old spice jars and nearly empty tubes of ointments that have cluttered the bathroom for years. There’s a lot I have no problem letting go of.

Full of Surprises

February 11, 2022

So last week I got notice that I have to move out of the place where I’ve lived for the past 14 years. Did not see that coming. Housing in the area is tight now, so I’m putting serious effort into finding another home for me and the Temple of the Doves.