Site Meter Peculiar Susceptibility: June 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I DO care about the polar ice caps, part 1

I love roadtrips.

I think the strangest complement, but one by which I was completely flattered, was (about six years ago, now) when Aaron told me that I look beatific. At the time, I was certainly feeling very very happy, but it was not what I would have categorized as beatific.

No, I didn't feel beatific then, but I have.

The first time I remember feeling beatitude was when I was twelve. My family took a trip to the Cape. We arrived, almost having certainly driving what would become my first car (a great little '88 VW golf, standard, with one of those crank open skylights). My father used to press down the wind guard on the roof when it was open; the sound drove my mother nuts.

(A digression: we had a complicated arrangement of seat assignments, all relating to what ones access to music choice would be. For instance, the middle back seat was the "veto seat," seems fair enough, right? The two other back seats would swap suggestion duties. The front passenger didn't have much of a choice—unless dad was sitting there and a Yankees game was on the radio. The driver got to present a catalogue of choices—unless it was very late, in which case she or he had totalitarian power over the music selection.)

So. We arrived on the Cape. We unpacked the car. It was early evening. I was standing on the beach. A storm rolled in. It was raining, hard—that kind of hard that stings your skin when it hits. I stood in the rain. I did cartwheels in the rain. I laid myself down on the wet sand and let the rain hit me, whincing occasionally. That was the first time I felt it.

I felt it on the drive, through an ice storm, to Montréal on December 26, 2005.

I felt it over and over in Donegal last year (almost exactly a year ago).
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I felt it on the trip to Farm Sanctuary this weekend.
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[Much more on this soon...]

And I felt it, driving on my own from Farm Sanctuary on a spontaneous trip to Niagra Falls.
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[Leg up, windows down, singing, and allowing my hair to become a bird's nest of knots.]
[Much more on this soon, too...]

getting my feet wet

I've been trying consciously for about a year now to figure out how to live alone with myself. I spent a fair amount of time in my own head as a child, so in that sense I'm accustomed to my own company. I read books (which seem to me to offer these congresses of minds that can in their own delicate and intricate ways be precious). I went for walks. I sat and thought silently.

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In other ways, I have never, until this year, really tried to live alone. It is an absolutely novel activity for me to endeavor to take care of myself primarily rather than other people—mom, dad, Pat, Nora, Aaron, John, Rebecca, et al et al et al—even if I didn't always do a good job of it. So. Here I am. I find for the first time that, really, there's no escaping me.

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I make myself my tea at night—mint with a dash of rose water and a dash of orange blossom water. I take walks and runs. I take baths with all manner of fancy, smelly, emollsifying ingredients. I cook meals—yes, they're big enough for two, but they're all exactly what I want to eat. I write. I read. I spend aimless hours listening to music and thinking of not much at all. It's taken a lot, though, to figure out how to be this kind to myself. I still can't trick myself into believing that I deserve it. But the good thing is that I manage to do any of it.

The other thing I've realized is essential to being alone is travel. My friend Barbara reminded me this year that forgiving people is a kind of gift to yourself (rather than to the forgivee). I've started, this year, training myself to forgive people. I built in a system of rewards. For every event, every person I can forgive, I allow myself spontaneous travel.

Most recently, I took myself to Niagara Falls. It was totally unplanned. It was through the generosity of my brother (thanks Pat!) that I went at all. (I think the exchange went something like this: Me - "Pat. I want to go to Niagara Falls." Pat - "Oh yeah? That's neat. When?" Me - "Today." Pat - "Huh?" Me - "Today. Right now. I want to leave within the hour. Can I please please please borrow your car?" Pat - "Om, okay. Remember that it needs gas.") It was amazing; I let the water mist and rush over me. I felt correct in my skin.

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And I got myself some kitsch at The Maid of the Mist Gift Shop. It's a heart-shaped porcelain necklace. It's got a little painting on it of the falls. In magenta, it says "Maggie"—the closest name I could find to my own. It's not dissimilar from the kind of necklace my father would have given to me as a child.