Saturday, December 11, 2010
When I was a little girl, we lived in Clark AFB, in the Philippines. December was always rainy and warm. I was age 4-6 and just becoming aware that I was a separate entity in the Universe. This led me to relate to my surroundings and make intellectual connections based on those surroundings. In other words I thought the entire world was a lush tropical paradise populated with beautiful dark skinned people. I also thought that winter and Christmas meant lots of rain and typhoons.
And somehow my little mind made this equation:
Green and red decorations + December + Snow = Santa Claus comes.
Green and red decorations + December + NO SNOW = NO SANTA
Now, I can't tell you how horribly anxiety-inducing that thought is to a 5 year old. We were all kids at one time, so I'm sure you can imagine. Thankfully, I was a US Air Force dependent. The DOD is very much aware of the importance depressed dependent children have on Air Force work flow. SO, having moderate air resources available, the AF teamed up with the Big Guy in Red and brought Christmas to my little elementary school.
Imagine a group of little kids lined up and marched to the playground. We gathered at the edge of the field where we saw folks in uniform (many of them our moms and dads) acting busy and serious. Stand here! Don't go there! Accountabilty! What the hell was going on? And then....we heard it. That tell-tale whomp-whomp sound of Huey rotors. The chopper came over the trees and hovered over our little playground. Dirt, straw, grass and pebbles blew all around us as the rotor wash created this turbulent micro universe where every eye was focused on the line that dropped from the Huey. Every man, woman and child watched as Santa himself rappelled like an Air Assault master out of the chopper and landed on the field to roaring applause.
What little kid would ever forget that?
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Some folks think I love Halloween because they also think I'm a witch. I have red hair, 2 black cats, play with tarot card, and "talk" to ravens.
That's not the reason why. (And I'm not a witch or Wiccan - not that there's anything wrong with that.)
I love Halloween because it begins the holiday season, and it rolls fast right after Halloween. It's also the prettiest part of Autumn. The fervor and excitement I feel during this season is much stronger on the East coast, however, since the seasons are more clearly marked. Here in California, Autumn sneaks in and eases her way through the end of the calendar so that you say "Yay! Halloween!" Then what feels like a few minutes later you're saying, "What the...4 days until Christmas? How the...OH! There's the In-and-Out. Turn HERE! TURN HERE!" And all the cool things out here distract you from the fact that you still haven't mailed a damn card yet.
Back East I am not able to control these instinctive behaviors well*. The rustle of orange and red leaves makes me rush about like the squirrels on the ground. I feel the urge to get in my car and drive very, very far like a migrating goose with a driver's license. I can capitalize on this seasonal effect because I become quite productive. Make hay while the sun shines because when the leaves are gone and the land is windy, icy and quiet, I am hibernating.
Hibernation. My poor little solar-powered mind is powerless against the instinct to drop everything in my hand and ooze into my bed when the ratio of sun to dark becomes "less than". It took me a few decades to simply admit this, and then another few years to work around it (ie: move to California.) Basically, the situation works like this: Sun comes up, Sarah is up. Sun goes down, Sarah goes down. This was a horrible obstacle to my 8-5 job. The sun came up at 8 and went down at 4. I'd look around at other people on the highway driving to work, as I did - in the dark, and think, "How the hell is everyone ok with this?" I felt cheated, and annoyed, and mad-as-hell-notgonnatakeitanymore. And just when all of the injustice was too much to bear, especially around Cruel February and Psyche-Out March, I'd get struck by the smell of Spring.
Really!) I figured out later that I was smelling minute traces of a Clostridium species of bacteria that is released into the air after the snow melts. Again, my junk DNA kicked into high gear through an environmental stimulus. A hint of yellow on the forsythia buds and cherry blossoms threw the final switch and SARAH was back online.
Well, at some point a few years back I got tired of this wild, emotional ride through the seasons. I moved to California, (where I was born) and where my body was able to come to some kind of homeostasis. It's 2 days until November and I have the doors wide open, the trees are green and the sun is shining. My roses are blooming and birds, bugs, and critters are everywhere. The sun may stay out a shorter amount of time, but my body is adequately tricked into thinking it's always Spring. It's like environmental Prozac. The flora and fauna are always telling me "Eeeeeeverything's just groovy, man. No worries, Braddah." Then this narcotic grin comes across my face and I deliriously forget about the stupid Christmas cards I was supposed to send 2 weeks ago.
"Noooooo worries, Braddah."
*Oddly enough, this environmental phenomena has no effect, whatsoever, in the Northwest. My years in Tacoma, Washington were ideal! Wet, but ideal.)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Barbie wore high heels and tight dresses with unbelievable large seams for her scale. She may have worn home-made bellbottoms and a Bob Makie-style tank top. My Barbies had long blond hair, for a while anyway, until I'd take mom's sewing scissors and give her the worst haircut ever. I even had a Barbie with long red hair! She lasted a little longer until my son got a hold of her. I think his GI Joe had something to do with that. Was never proven, though.
ANYHOO I gave up on Barbies for a while until 10 years ago. I was shopping in a toy store and saw a bin filled with College Cheerleader Barbies. Imagine my surprise when I found a Virginia Tech cheerleader. I had to buy it for oddity's sake.
Last weekend I went shopping with my mother at Target. We wandered through the aisles leaning on shopping carts and letting the subliminal advertising run its course through our minds. We must have walked into the toy section just as the secret suggestive voices said, "Isn't it about time Barbie had a new wardrobe? (Asile 10.)" Well, heck yeah! Mindlessly, I maneuvered my cart into the pink aisle and perused the dolls. The new Barbies were pretty neato, actually. Internationally themed ones and dolls that looked like classic movie characters. Pretty cool! Based on the variation I was seeing I thought, "Oh maybe a nice ball gown or a sari. Maybe something in a batik pattern." Let me tell you, I was so disappointed. All I saw were thin little rags that made Barbie look like a 14th Street hooker. I wondered if the "dresses" came with mini prophylactics or penicillin.
So I made a decision that wasn't too unusual for me - a girl, the first girl to volunteer to be a Wise Man (#2) at the Christmas play at St. Alphonsus. I decided Barbie would be wearing a pair of khakis and a dang sweater. Who were these market researchers to tell my Barbie-with-the-cold-legs that she couldn't wear normal clothes? They were obviously people who didn't have teenage daughters to worry about, or there would have been USAF Flight suits, or jeans and a blazer, or yoga pants! I proudly took the Ken outfit off the rack, threw it in my cart on top of the Franken Berry box and proudly strolled up to the register, proud of sticking it to the MAN.
This evening I took Barbie and finally, FINALLY changed her clothes. I think this pleased me as much as I'm sure it pleased her.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I used to live in Green Bay. My ex and I were stationed there for an "evolutionary" piece of my emotional career that lasted about 3 years or so. I spent most of my life in the DC Metro area, Northern Virginia to be more precise, so I have typically been a Redskins fan. Since I am not religious about football I have the privilege of casually supporting 2 teams: The Redskins* and the Packers. And no, it's not like cheating on a spouse.
SO. We moved to Green Bay. That was around.....mmm...2002? 2003? I can't remember. It's not too important. What I DO remember is how masculine the town felt. Yes towns and states and regions all have a "feel" to them. I have lived in many many places, being a military brat and eventually a military service member. All military brats learn to assimilate - quickly. My adjustment period in Green Bay was no different. Get apartment, learn the lingo and slang, decipher the accent, and carry on. I did this dutifully, and when I felt confidant enough, I got in my car and went to the grocery store.
Pleasant people. Folks were very friendly. And driven by something. That was odd. I didn't expect that. There was a sense of urgency in every aisle. Slow down lady. Where's the fire? What was up with these folks? It didn't dawn on me until the cashier handed me my change and said, "Go Packers!" OOOooooh! I see. It was Sunday. Factoid was duly noted and logged into my mental database, cross reference "super fans".
Green Bay has a current to it that is kicked into a fierce gear during - you guessed it- football season. I won't go into Packer history. You can find that here. But when the fans own the team, you will have fierce fans. The street signs in Green Bay are green and gold. My ex-husband worked on Holmgren Way. Football icons are elevated to historical status. We're talking f. a. n.'s. Well to an outsider, as I was when I got there, it seemed oddly extreme, albeit refreshing.
I felt like I was in college again. The pride I felt for my Alma Mater when I was in college (VaTech) was strong. So was this feeling in Green Bay, except it was much, MUCH bigger. In college, the fervor for the team (Hokies btw) was contained to a demographic that was roughly 18-36 year olds. But Green Bay... well, it was infants to grannies. I'd see little old ladies knitting green and gold scarves (or purple things in crocheted nooses.) I saw oblivious babies in green face paint. Packer fans crossed genders and generations, but they added a sense of family as well.
To illustrate how Green Bay life changed when the Packers played I will describe a trip to the grocery store, Festival Foods. I liked going there because they had a day care at the front of the store. You could deposit your offspring, get a claim ticket, not unlike a hat check, and commence your shopping experience. Loved it. Well Festival knew how concerned you as a parent could be when you were separated from little Wally. So they installed monitoring stations all over the store (ie TVs). In the meat aisle, look up and there's Wally! Eating a crayon, how cute. This made my shopping experience great! My son was, well, a little difficult. I relied on the monitoring stations. They kept me paced. Eating crayons- ok, that means he's still good. Running around the room - eh, maybe 10 minutes. Mouth-open scream and a slight delay in the sound getting to me in produce - OK. It's time to go NOW.
So lets recap. Monitors = Brilliant. HOWEVER, Monitors + Football Season + Packer Game = Monitors SHOWING Packer game. Yes. This particular day it was a Packer game. I strolled along the meat section, looked up and... What the hell! Where's Wally? I saw Brett (whose name was still spoken aloud back then) running here, there, whatever. "Where are the KIDS?" My concerns were drowned out by happy fans who cheered throughout the store when Green Bay took that pigskin and scored. I gave up. I submitted to the waves of exhilaration when the ref's hands went up. The kick was good. And for a good half hour everyone in the store- rich, poor, hispanic, white, Canadian were all united in a joy that lasted all football season, every Sunday, especially during home games. Thanks for the great memories, Packers.
*(By the way, I have just as happy memories of my 'Skins and will write about them this winter when I go back to DC for holiday.)
Sunday, October 24, 2010
The first thing I noticed on this hike was the great commotion above me. Ravens. There were up to 50 or so ravens ganged together partly to attack nearby hawks or vie for potential mates. Their calls varied from the typical "Hey-Everybody!-Check-This-Out" coarse caws to very sweet and rounded "Hey-Baby" hoots. Some carried pebbles in their beaks, the raven equivalent of a fat wallet. The aerial acrobatics lasted the entire hike.
The ravens weren't the only aerial stunt-masters I saw that day. Zipping in and out of the clouds were 3 fixed-wing aircraft that were performing spectacular maneuvers as part of a mock dog fight. The area right off the coast here in Southern California sees a lot of historic aircraft, zeppelins and blimps.
As I continued down the trail the sun started to gather strength and heat, drying out the water-logged flora. I started to hear a consistent clicking or popping. I leaned closer to the bushes from where I heard the sounds and found these little guys.
Acacia melanoxylon. The plant is non-native and considered invasive. Originally from Eastern Australia, it finds American soil just ducky. It grows fast after fires and is easily propagated. If left unchecked it can grow into a substantially tall tree. Like most invasive (and successful) species it tolerates almost any kind of environmental condition. Kind of like a special ops soldier.
I ended up walking to a nice little shady spot near the start of the Klondike trail. From here I was able to see Palos Verdes Drive South and Catalina Island peeking out of the clouds. I sat down and watched pelicans dive into the ocean, ate my banana, and let whatever doubts and confusion about life's constant dramas dissipate from my mind. It was a good hike.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Goodness, this isn't a new question, but as I am sitting here watching Blade Runner for the umpteenth time (director's cut, btw) I can't help but see a very large ethical debate approaching in MY lifetime. It may be time to ask ourselves now: How would you perceive an android? As tool or friend?The question should be tossed around more often than it is, I think.
Friend or tool? I tend to anthropomorphize so my answer would tend toward the "friend" perception. But then I think about all of the lame little cell phones I have gone through. I have a little box of them. A collection that looks like a technical chronology. What worries me is how fast the upgrades came and how easily I grew tired of the older models. How fast will I get disappointed in my Droid?
AI is progressing so quickly. And although I don't foresee a protocol droid in my apartment anytime soon, or even a better vacuum, I know that someday I will be a little old lady in my cottage trying to wrestle a broom from Rosie the Robot. Will I fire her or turn her off? Looking at this box of cell phones now I begin to wonder.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The twisted, fire-ravaged trees made wonderful Tim Burtonesque shapes in the grey fog. I expected the headless horseman to come flying out of the fennel fields holding a flaming head. Instead I had to (several times) hastily make way for a heavily-geared mountain biker who looked like something out of Battlestar Galactica.
I also noticed the network of fissures along the Ishibashi sub-trail. After it rains the area hills become waterlogged and the upper layer of land slides down along the more steadfast, lower layer. Landslides aren’t uncommon in these parts, but it’s still impressive to see the cracks and fissures that precede the break away.
You may not be able to sense it from the paragraphs above, but walking in the woods is crucial to my mental health. Ever since I can remember, and I mean, really remember anything, nature has been like another soul to me. It isn't "me" and "it". It is "soul mate". I don't just appreciate nature, I have a personal relationship with it. I have mentioned to some folks that it is my First Love. It calls me back every once in a while like some jealous lover. It fills the mental and spiritual voids.
When I was a little girl I used to come home from school and, after watching Dr Who or Star Trek, I would go outside and just look at nature. Stick my feet in a stream and watch minnows nip at my toes. Climb a tree and look at the pattern of the bark or the seed pods on a magnolia. I'd follow my cat, Fred- my kitty Sherpa guide, all over our territory. I would observe the anole lizards and study their hunting skills. Sometimes I would just watch how the wind would move over the bayou reeds, in waves and in a frequency I eventually absorbed. I'd watch the thunderstorms move over the Gulf before the wind got too strong and I had to go back inside.
When I was older the connection was stronger. I could "feel" my way through the woods without a compass by just sensing something from the trees and ground. I knew it would rain days before it happened. I could smell the differences in tree species.My skills were a little more Jedi. I could feel the hum of the earth beneath my feet. As I sit here and type, I am amazed that so much of that neural net is rusty. I have been working inside for waaaaaaay too long.
It- Nature was, and still is a breathing entity to whom I belong. I am like some distal phalange or a scout insect from a colony. I am part of some larger brain/force and destined to carry out it whatever impulse it sends my way. It's no wonder I initially went for a career in natural and environmental science. This career was far too brief. The military is very good at diverting your attention, apparently.
Now it seems my First Love has come back at my window (or patio) and has demanded that I start making some preparation to come back out to the woods. Each time I go back to a trail, some buried memory surfaces and taunts me. What's a little wood-witch like me to do?
So. 3 more years and I will be able to pull up the anchor and go find my little woods. I'll be ready. Meantime, I hike a trail.