Tag Archives: metaphor

Something’s got to give

I don’t remember when I bought those old PJ bottoms– sometime before Victoria’s Secret stopped making things in simple, pretty, feminine, flannel– so, at least a decade, because they’re also sized extra-large.

Suffice it to say, as I was hauling the vacuum around the house at 8 or so this morning, cleaning up the pine needles from the tree I finally had time to take down, something about some way I bent was too much– not the girth, because I’d kept hiking them up– but the mere fact of the motion, and they gave way at the seam.

Really gave way, too, flapping in the breeze and all that metaphorical jive.

I finished what I was doing, first, because I had a robe on, over, and my dad was studiously ignoring the fact that I was doing all the hard work downstairs by pretending to be engrossed in the paper online, upstairs, but then, eventually, I made it upstairs and took a look at the rent.

They weren’t really reparable, and the only thing to do was ball them up and throw them away.  The house is already eaves-deep in dust rags.  (Every time I throw out more unearthed piles, I find even more, even more vintage ones.)

The whole time I was untrimming the tree and dragging it out to the back for hacking apart to lay on the beds, I was fuming– maybe the steam contributed to the seams’ loosening.  Because how can you not hear someone taking a tree through two rooms and the front door?

I don’t handle my anger well, and humiliatingly, I’m an angry crier.  I hate it.  I have been so stressed out with the nonstop at work and a few petty things that aren’t anything to get worked up about except that I’m feeling amplified by all my personal stuff– and my personal stuff looms large right now, because my father is being a fucking toddler about the fact that he has to follow rules about food and take care of himself.  Every time my back’s turned, he’s trying to eat himself into his grave with something sugar or salt– or being a bully about my taking the T and then yelling at ME about the damned traffic when I try to pacify him by letting him drive.

I can’t get in a word edgewise about work, can’t vent about something or share something about my day, either, without getting a lecture: the fact that I work for a hippie-dippie Fortune 100 company with an entirely different business culture where, by and large, I can say what I think and share what I feel does not compute.  Therefore, I must be wrong, and I must be lectured.

It’s made me be more and more silent at “home”, because the temptation to say “You know, I’m starting to think the only time I’ll get a word in edgewise is after you’re dead” is awfully strong.  Add to that the fact that he doesn’t listen, can’t fucking hear, and isn’t paying attention more than half the damned time, and I want to move out even though he needs me more than he has.  And is being as gracious about my presence here as a velociraptor.

I’d planned on taking a vacation this week– a little mid week trip to the Berkshires for some slow-poke art museum and craft shop poking around, some writing, lots of sleeping in, and lots of cheap eats– and then things slammed back into high gear at the same time that my backup decided she’d had enough of the job, and where I’d had a hiring freeze now I had 18 people to hire and NO ONE WAS DOING THEIR JOB INTERVIEWING THE PEOPLE I’D SCREENED.

Enter, pants ripping.  Cue me deciding, all teary eyed and ready to crawl back into bed (yes, I am on my meds) that maybe I’d better not go on my vacation at all, a feeling of creeping dread I’d been having all day yesterday, too, during the extra work I put in to get more screenings done because left to their own devices, bless them, my team leaders are horrible judges of candidates and everyone they hired during my last stint out of the store have ALL, to a one, been fired for sucking.

I actually went so far as to call in to talk to one of my nominal bosses about not going because there was too much to do– I’ve been feeling like (warranted or not) I’m behind the eight ball and that I just don’t jive with anyone there, and he didn’t precisely sing kumbaya but he did at least give lipservice to my vacation being deserved and to sitting down tomorrow to put together a specific task list of what had to get done while I was away so that things didn’t slip.  The fact that I’m feeling isolated and stressed of course has NOTHING to do with the fact that I’m overworked.  The fact that I work with adults who don’t do my particular job as well as I do doesn’t change the fact that– they are adults, and if they screw it up by hiring someone I said was iffy, or not waiting until I come back (because goddamn, they’ve been sitting on their thumbs all this time, anyway), well, it’s not like I haven’t been working my ass off and it’s not like I haven’t been trying.

I think that when I come back I need to sit down and ask for feedback and see if there are places I need to refocus– with 300 team members, I’m always spinning my wheels and sometimes I just need to say no and put things off some, delegate more, and remember– I hit the ground running in August and haven’t stopped since.  I need to stop taking care of everyone else, even if it’s only for three fucking days.  Because I’m ready to rip, too, and I am not in a place to accept feedback and refocus, because I’m strained at the seams on my own.

Now I just need to find a way to tell my dad I’m leaving town for three days without him losing his shit.  Or not crying when he does, anyway.

He taught me to cook; if he wants to eat crap while I’m gone and then not understand why he feels like shit, I need to let him.  Because he does not want to learn, and I’m exhausted of beating my head bloody on the wall of his stupid self-disconnect.

I don’t want to work myself into that disconnect, myself, ever again.  I need to go, before I can’t ever come back.  I need to go, so I want to come back.

My giant goes with me.

A rolling stone gathers no moss, they say.  I guess the opposite’s also true– the too-static stone becomes pitted, uneven, grown over.  Moribund, even.

Emerson wrote in Self-Reliance that travelling was, in its way, a distraction and a mere intoxication, a way of preventing ourselves from learning who we really were and getting down to the brass tacks of intellectual self-advisement.  Like a lot of Emerson, it’s both true on one level, and so much bushwah on another.  My giant goes with me wherever I go, he says, and was ever there a personal essay more analyzed to death than Self-Reliance?  You can take it to mean whatever you want.  I take it to mean that you can run, but in the end, you can’t hide– at which point, if you know yourself, then why not also travel?  There are things to be learned from travelling, by yourself or with others, and what’s wrong with taking in a little mere beauty, even an ancient round rock in a botanical garden in Lucca?  What’s so wrong with distraction?

I spent the last two weeks carrying my giants with me– I know what they are, and though I had planned for their rearing & roaring, at times I had to beat a hasty retreat when they made themselves known.  My ugly giants all emerged at one point or another: hatred of criticism and dithering and not letting me lead, especially when my companion traveller was irretrievably wrong about facts, directions, maps, planning, etc., hatred of indecision and needless delay (why yes, by all means, let’s spend an hour yakking with the hotelier when there’s sightseeing to do) when there was limited time to see all the things to be seen), hatred of the emergence of the ugly American traveler and its companion, Easy Italian (aka, Loud English), aka, complaining about how things don’t work like this at home, and hatred of a lack of any preparation at all whatsoever, couples with its impatient cousin, ugh, where is your goddamned common sense, North is that way and we’ve walked this street three times this week?!

Since I can get claustrophobic in large crowds of small Japanese tourists, was also a bit hypomanic/mixed state coming off some stress at work & the jet lag, and a travelling companion’s (much less my father’s) pushing all those triggers, hard, all at once, makes me panic, it did get to a point where I had a frank talk with my dad about how he needed to knock it off, now, and either tolerate spending time seeing sights apart (rather than refuse to do things without me and then bitch the whole time and demand to see the map every five minutes and then get it WRONG) or else I would simply go home, I was having that bad of a time.  He did mostly knock it off after some grumbling and bitching about my being pushy and me telling him to go to hell because either he wanted me to plan the trip or he didn’t, but he couldn’t eat his focaccia and have it too, but once or twice he tried to take over and again got us lost/ spoke Easy Italian and got Wrong Directions/ clutched his old-maiden pearls a little too loudly and pissed off one of our native hosts and I just… bid him good afternoon, and went off and did my own thing.  I probably shouldn’t have been as pleased as I did that he got irretrievably lost despite giving him the good books and the maps, but I didn’t say anything and he did seem to learn to say permesso and grazie by the end of the trip.

I took my giants with me when I absented myself from his Old Coot Imma Do It My Way Tantrums and threw my own mini I At Least Know Where I am Going And Am Paying Attention Tantrums in reverse, of course, but I like to think that in all that travelling and being a bit more self-assertive, my giants’ stone is rubbed a little more smooth, weighs just a little bit less, and the moss is a little more green from the sunlight it saw as I carried it wherever I went.  And I learned that it wasn’t the end of the world to say no.  I was going my own way.  And I did.  Self-Reliance, indeed.


Heck on wheels, hell of a ride

My first driver’s license picture was awesome.  I’m still sad I had to turn it in for the renewal, because really?  I was having not just fantastic hair but fantastic everything the day I passed my first driver’s test.

My current picture isn’t so bad.  I look a bit gaunt in the way that ladies’ faces thin out as one crests 35 and heads toward 40;  I’m also a little squint-eyed, since for whatever reason they make you take off your glasses– crazy, if you ask me, since my license is, in fact, vision-restricted.  Compared with my passport, though, where I look like a hungover Yertle the Turtle?  I’m not going to complain.

Driving has always been a mixed thing to me; when I didn’t have a car, I used the T and while I cursed the inconvenience at times, I was never unaware of the luxury of living in Boston and/or a state where it was, in fact, possible to get from one place to another without a car, even if it was a little harder in some parts than others.  I know that isn’t the case everywhere, and that cars really are freedom (and the lack of cars are a trap).  I enjoyed cruising with friends in high school, music loud and rolling slow with the windows down at the beach, wasting gas all summer long and checking out cuties no one had the metaphorical balls to get out of the car to talk to.  I’m not a huge gearhead– I appreciate a good-looking car, but I’d never waste the money on one.  (I saw the new Subaru sportscar recently and admired its looks, but mostly I thought– I bet that gets awesome traction.)  At the end of the day, I always come back to the station wagon, because if you’re going to pack up and go, you’ve got to have room for a bookcase.

I think that’s as good a criteria for choosing a car as some other.

Cars can be a trap, though– if you’re stuck with someone who’s a terrible driver, or critiques every damned thing you do, it’s a nightmare, and bad traffic, year after year on a commute, can wear down even the most patient of souls.  Certainly, I was glad to no longer be doing three state circuits when I gave up practicing law; conducting business by phone and dictating reports while driving in order to keep up with the billable hours took away the pleasure of– watching the scenery, listening to a book, even doing a continuing ed course because if you were going to drive five hours, you might as well learn, amiright?  And then, again, recently, I was glad to no longer be hauling across the worst of downtown Boston’s traffic, though of course probably part of the dread of that drive came from hating my job toward the end.

Still, though– it’s great to be able to get up and go, to drive by yourself, to find a windy, curved road at night and play Foo Fighters (as a for instance) too loudly (I make no secret about the fact that my inner driver is an 18 year old boy who’s kind of a jerk) while the cool late summer air comes in through the lowered windows and you feel the pedals and the wheel like they’re part of your limbs, each dip and curve and surge of the road like you and the engine are running, together.  It’s an escape, a solitude, a private space when you lack others– lord knows I spent almost a year sobbing to and from work while my marriage dissolved and I tried to decided what the fuck I should do.  I probably had more realizations during late-night drive home and pre-dawn pulls out of the driveway, just because it was an hour, alone to myself, where I could think whatever I wanted.  Pre-dawn, as the sky changes color, is a thought-provoking time in the car, I have found.  I listened to a lot of albums that I needed to hear to tell me how to feel, because I was numb and not ready to accept all the decisions I was going to have to make, and that (outdated) in-dash CD system and great set of speakers surrounded me with lyrics that told me what I’d need to get ready to do.

When I started driving, I was more shy; I definitely have evolved into the person who does pull over this car, but who honks her horn less and doesn’t scream with road rage.  I don’t deal in threats anymore, I just do– pull right over.  You don’t like how I drive?  You can either drive, get out and find your own goddamned way, or shut the hell up.  I’m not going to take critiques of my competence (yes, projection much?) when you’re (universal) refusing to take up responsibility for doing it “better.”

The fact is, I think I’m a pretty good driver.  I know how to park, so much so that I have gotten applause from truck drivers and cops.  I know the back streets of Boston.  I have only once lost my car at the mall, and I blame blood sugar and walking pneumonia.  My car is equipped with a shawl, a fleece, an emergency kit (SO many people don’t have jumper cables), extra shoes & socks, mittens & a hat (also flashlights, toolkits, matches, swiss army knives, and more fast food napkins than you can shake a mood swing at).  I have a bag full of maps and print out directions well in advance of any one trip because yes, I’ve had GPS, but at the end of the day– I’ve evolved into the person who knows it’s probably best if I figure out my own way there, rather than wait for some omniscient shiny voice to tell me.  Reception is patchy, you know.

I don’t drive as much since this most recent job transfer as before– I use it on weekends, for errands, for pleasure jaunts to meet up with friends or when I’m driving with my Dad, since I do know how to drive a stick but his inherent paranoia and distrust make it impossible to suggest that we maybe drive his.  (Really, my car’s more comfortable, anyway, and I’m a better, faster driver.)

I’ve had one serious accident, where I fell asleep at the wheel and snapped the suspension; I was ok, the car, not so much.  I was 18.  Since then, I’ve had one rear-ender maybe ten years ago where the guy in front of me stopped short on an entry ramp to the highway, and one side-swipe three/four years ago where the other driver pulled an illegal turn and ripped my front bumper off.

A month ago, a distracted, lost driver changed his mind about where to go in a big intersection in town and decided that turning left into the side of my car was really what he should do.  It wasn’t a big deal, in that everybody was fine, his car was bigger than mine (SUVs, man) and my car could be driven, but one of my doors was dinged all to heck and was going to have to get fixed or it’d rust and get worse.  Considering that my faithful gold steed had 144,000 miles, rust is a potential concern.  They assessed fault, made an offer, and I dithered about it.  This past Friday, I got into an accident where the car two cars ahead of us stopped short.  It was the usual chain reaction; I didn’t hit my brakes soon enough and hit the back of the car in front of me– too fast to brake hard enough, and my foot slipped off the brake.  My radiator, hood, and front bumper all crunched– good, safe car design, my airbag didn’t even deploy, and the car actually drove the half mile home, radiator alarm blaring the whole way, so, 10/10, would buy the car again– but that– that was it.  Everyone was fine (well, who knows about the first car, that shithead took off) but not my poor car.

I got super-lucky.  The insurance company still honored the offer I hadn’t accepted, and the salvage company came and picked it up today.  I’m going to have to save a little more cash to buy a decent used car, but– they didn’t screw around with the value, and for the age of the car and the relative cosmetic damage before this most recent accident, it was a more than fair deal.

I take the T to work.  I can take the T to run most of my errands.  I can move pharmacies to the one next to work.  I can get a serious discount on a Zipcar membership through work if I need to just get away.  I should ride my bike more, get panniers, too, use that and just shop more frequently for food & the like.  If it fits on the bike, then I’m good.

I’ll be buying another car, nevertheless.

This morning, I was putting the keys in the empty car, stripped of plates and personal effects, and I didn’t want to close the door on– all of it.  My first new car, that I paid for with adult job wages, that I bought and used to adult, marriage & family trips, that I used to get myself out of bad situations and which was a haven on wheels even more than it was a stifling tin can.  But all things must come to an end– and sometimes they end with a bang, not a sideswipe.  I have learned to be zen about the fact that things change, that we can’t control everything, and that crap just happens sometimes, even when it’s not wholly your fault.  That doesn’t mean I’m not going to miss my stupid 2003 Mojave Beige VW Jetta Wagon with traction control, heated seats, alloy wheels and sunroof.

At least it happened head-on.  Somehow it makes the transition not quite so bad.  I knew I wouldn’t have that car forever, and it’s not like I named it, or expected it to last 300,000 miles.  Still, though– it wasn’t a heck of a lot of warning, but in those last three seconds, at least I saw it coming.

We’ll see where the road leads next, I suppose.


The rain, two days’ worth, beat down my sixth-year hibiscus, the one with blooms as big as platters, the red like arterial blood.  The stems bowed, flowers too heavy, the weather too much, but some fake plastic bamboo, staked behind, green-dyed hemp twine to pull it upright– it’s not the same, and who knows if it will stay sunny enough the rest of the growing season to take the stakes out, but I’ll brace my blossoms.  Not when the “choice” is cutting them off at the ground because something outside their control beat them down.

Double rainbow

Two double rainbows, four days.
Rain and sun, cloud and clear.
It’s all an illusion, but really, it’s not.
As if one rainbow wasn’t enough,
that its echo should bow,
clear, over the top.
Illusion?  It’s there.  It’s beheld.
It isn’t unreal.
Elusive, yes, because water dries
as the sun warms the air,
and the fading of a rainbow
is nothing if it’s not proof–
it’s hard for such different things
to occupy the same space.
Different, yes.  Impossible, no.
Four rainbows (well, one stacked
on top of the other, two days apart,
because I’m the one counting,)
is certainly proof.
Elusive can mean ephemeral, rare.
Sometimes, though, in the case
of two double rainbows in only four days,
it means something else.
Frequent.  Lovely.  Rubberneck-worthy.
Occupying the same space as
everyone else who goggles and says–
ooh.  Double rainbow.
That feeling may fade–
but it will come back, right as rain,
sure as the sun rises and sets.


Harvesting salad at night

First it’s the arugula, bolted,
primeval and knee-high like ferns,
snails running rampant like dinos.
Don’t discard the flowers– put them in a vase,
waste not, the flowers have no smell,
but their delicacy is at wonderful odds
with the bitterness of their leaves.

Then it’s the looseleaf lettuce, exposed
by the rocket clearcut,
the red and green oak,
the baby romaines,
the speckleds all tender, so yielding,
your fingers alone could pinch them,
not wield the scissors at all–
except a pinch so easily becomes a yank.
Don’t uproot something just making a start.

The lacinato kale (dino, tuscan, call it a rose, it’s
dusky and green and it grows more slowly) is
budding in its stolid way.
The crabgrass knows a good thing.
Follow those those blades down
with muddy, snail-slimed fingers
to yank unwanted disrespecters
of set-aside space in the kale’s personal bed,
boundaries all clearly marked.
Snick off some of the tallest,
crinkliest leaves, still no more
than twice your thumb’s width.
They’re much too good to wait
for all their forearm-length fullness.

Ignore the neighbor’s dog barking.
Ignore the floodlight next door.
Acknowledge that yes, this is the hour
of the mosquito, the eve of the bat,
and things whine, flap and slither their way
through grass you just cut and now
can’t peer through.
Dig seeking fingers into the dirt.
Plant all the crap you collected
during the day.

And then, when that’s done,
inhale the petrichor of a few drops of
summer night’s addled air,
the indecision of thunder or rainbows.
Yank a mint stalk out of the ground,
since two more will grow back in a week.
Clip a stem of lavender, two, maybe three.

And then, while you’re washing your hands,
rinsing your salad,
settling the leaves into plastic-bag
homes before you resettle your
nocturnal bounty among those who,
like you, have set aside time to tend to their gardens,
let those herbs steep with some tea,
which poured over ice doesn’t match,
in any way, shape, or means,
the radish pickle you put up
one month ago.

Turn off the lights behind you,
and sit on the back step.
Drink your tea while you let the next-door
floodlight make your spider plants look
romantic, not stalky, alien, weird.
Eat your pickles, one slice at a time,
with a fork, straight from the jar.
Listen to the snails eat what you left them.
Decide if you’re going to let the rosemary
take over the easternmost bed.
(Probably, yes.  And transplant the lavender there.
Who needs store-bought potpurri?)
Ignore that damned neighbor’s dog.

Maybe tomorrow, you’ll bring its owner some salad.
After all, your roses look lovely by floodlight.


I used to hate gardening, all that time spent sweating and weeding and all of that hard work for what?  Some flowers that withered and died when their season was done or the weather turned freakish?  I could be inside, reading, the cool of the couch and the whirl of a world laid out in a book as an option– not prickled skin from thorns and muddy gloves and stopping every so often because summer is hot and you have to make time to hydrate.

I didn’t see the point when I was younger, though I did my duty because it was asked.

Maybe it’s maturity that means that the work itself is a pleasure for the sake of the work, the scent of the earth, the smell of all of the flowers– the micro view of whatever I’m weeding/deadheading/uprooting/replanting/putting into order, and the macro view of how many bags of weeds I take out, pints I put up, what it all looks like from the top of the steps, the bathroom window, the fact that some of it ends up on the plate and in the vase.  It’s the pleasure of being simple productive.

Maybe it’s immaturity, and a lack of ability to lose myself in a book any more because my anxieties don’t so easily subsume when I read (or more maturity, because the therapy’s getting me in touch with my inner emotional life?); now, words about feelings too easily call to my mind all the things I’ve yet to resolve, whereas taking electric hedgeclippers to six yards of privet– that’s an easy way to channel aggression.

Or maybe, instead, it’s just finally seeing the point, a kind of zen thing that has less to do with a Panglossian idea of tending one’s own garden, and more with the idea of just– being wherever you are, and doing not just one kind of thing.  Sweat is sweat.  Time in the sunshine or outside is a good contrast to time spent inside.  There are different kinds of productive.  Fresh rocket’s delicious.  Shower fresh herbs on everything, while you can.  Flowers are pretty, for however long they may last, and even if they get hailed on next week, they are worth it while they are here.

I suppose, if I could figure out a way to also channel in a bit about how pruning shears are sometimes better emotional expressors than blog posts, I could sum it thusly, because philosophies of lives aren’t always aptly distilled, and redefining 38 years of avoidance and heartbreak and getting over yourself are kind of like something named for a part of a bird they look nothing like when they first appear– and don’t much look like the family they’re related to, either.  Cranesbill, named for the shape of the seedpods after they’ve died back for the season and are getting ready to scatter themselves for the winter, then come back next spring, because even something blue that looks nothing like other geraniums can manage a perennial life.

When I was young, and hated gardening, I don’t think I could have dreamt of this philosophy:  Gather ye pictures of rosebuds (and everything else) while ye may, and hone ye photography skills whilst ye are at it, because each blossom is precious, and while there will be more and one shouldn’t be too maudlin over lost chances, there’s nothing wrong, too, with saying– the early summer of 2013 was a summer for flowers, even as you don’t know at all what next year will be like, not at all.  But– there have been good summers before.  They will happen, sometime, again.