Saturday, June 6, 2009

Use it While You've Got It

I could rant about video games and how very much I despise their existence at any given time. I can quote all kinds of statistics and research, and I can point to the evils of how it affects children so detrimentally. I don't really have anything new to add to that, but today I saw something that made part of my thoughts on this topic explode with frustration all over again.

We were at a backyard concert on a beautiful, sunny, 65-70 degree June day. There was a plethora of kids available, and a climber, swing set, and foam thingies with which many boys were busily whacking each other, which is What Boys Do. Better yet, in my opinion, there was an inviting green hill, away from the boring grown ups, but still in safe sight. The hill had tempting trees all around and nearby it, and the mystery of what was on the other side of the hill as well. There was an enormous and beautiful evergreen tree, which just begged to be inspected, and the entire front yard which was also a grown up free zone. I heard tell there was a lake nearby as well.

As I stood up to stretch my sore, cramped, out of shape legs, and shake out my joints which cannot be in one position for too long, I turned around and my How Things Should Be temper flared. Sitting, or rather, growing, in two camp chairs, were two young boys. Their bodies were folded forward and their eyes were glued to the cute, portable, plastic video games in their hands. The only moving parts were their fingertips and possibly they blinked. I was outraged. I wanted to hunt down their parents and lecture them. I wanted to march up there and take those damn games and chuck them in the lake.

I wanted to shout, "WAKE UP BECAUSE YOU ARE MISSING YOUR CHILDHOOD!!!! Your body can still move and jump and run and heal with ease and beauty! Get your ass out of those chairs and go PLAY! Make trouble, climb a tree, have a sword fight with dangerous sticks and get your ankles scratched and mosquito bitten! Go breathe deeply from running hard, and just WONDER what is over that hill! Notice that the sky is clouding up and that the air is changing. Know the difference between the different birds and bugs that fly by you. You have who-knows-how-much of your life left and you are spending this precious time in a virtual world that means nothing and will not benefit you emotionally, socially, or academically. You will be old someday and all you WILL be able to move are your fingertips and your eyeballs! Use your legs and arms and muscles while you can! Go tame Nature or let it tame you. Or at the very least, TALK to each other! Giggle and laugh and find out what other people are doing or thinking. BE a child."

But I settled for staring and making one or two disgusted comments, which probably earned me some more "negative hateful" reputational perspectives.

Now, I have to get my ass out of this chair and my eyes and fingertips away from this computer, and go talk to my husband and watch my bird feeder.



People like to talk about things like their "legacy" or what they will leave behind when they are gone. They mention how they will be remembered and how they will "live on" in their children and grandchildren. I admire this. I got to thinking about it this morning as I was lying in bed staring up at the beautiful, black and white photos of milkweed that my dad took and developed when I was a baby. (There IS a connection here, I promise.)
Recently I was reading a book with a series of essays by women and all of the issues that women have in today's American culture and society. One thing I noticed is that they all, every one of them, had or expected to have children. This is not only acceptable, it is the Norm. What Is Done. I squirmed a little, knowing that the explanations I have given for why I not only don't have any of these offspring, but why I truly don't want any, are not getting any easier.
I get Looks from people. I get the puzzled, sympathetic, the disgusted. I get the attempted explanations that are meant to excuse me for my abnormal behavior and choices. Even a dearest friend has tried explaining this anomaly in a way that puts me in a nicer, though slightly screwed up, light.
I find myself thinking about legacies because in this book, several women mentioned how they will live on in their children. That their DNA will continue in their grandchildren and how important this feels to them.
This morning, gazing up at the pure, silk-white seeds of the milkweed in my dad's photographs, I thought, "Now THAT is beautiful." Nature makes me so very happy and content. Truly; not because it's a label someone stuck on my forehead, and not because it's one of the popular and accepted niches to which I could belong, but because it feels like everything important to me. It resonates, pounds, whispers, and drifts through every fiber of me. It will go on. It strikes me as the only Perfection I have ever witnessed. What I plant and what I grow will continue, even after I am gone. If my body itself can be composted and give back to the earth, then I will live on.
But I don't even feel the need for "living on" in anything other than a memory. I would rather my life be the brief and amazing thing that it is, and know that the Earth will continue and will live, whether I am here to see it or pass it on or not.
This feels true. It isn't the Earth you see in satellite photos or Disney movies, or the Earth on coffee mugs and t-shirts. It's the dirt in my driveway, the trees where I grew up rambling around in the maple woods, the rocks along Lake Superior, the purple irises in my garden, the tomatoes from my parents' garden, the dune grass and Lake Michigan. The rolling hills of the farm on Pettis drive, and the young horses on the corner of old 131 and Hersey road. It's the earth that sings like a cicada or a spring peeper. The earth that collects 4 feet of snow in shimmering layers, and the earth that grows the whispering grasses of our field. The earth that produces amazing looking stones and which balances all ecosystems except the human one, perfectly.
So, somehow, this is part of the explanation to those sympathetic looks I get. I'm really happy; content, not incomplete, or rather, incomplete, but not in that way. I feel like I have it all, even on my worst days.
I do not feel the need to live on in anyone. Maybe some day I will. Right now, I hope that Nature can live on in me.

Monday, June 1, 2009


YOU-others, handed me labels and handles, definitions of Who I Am. Somehow, I have spent a lifetime constantly redefining myself using your words.
I'm oversensitive? Oh... okay. I guess I am then.
I'm opinionated? um, if you say so.
strong-willed? ... really? are you sure?
unafraid? ... have you been watching?
granola?'s a cereal. Yes, I like it.
nature girl? ... I do love nature. I also love shopping.
negative? ... about negative things...yes.
hateful? ... I don't hide it well, eh?
The list goes on, depending on who is offering up their opinion that day of that facet of me.

But, wait... AM I who they see? Who they say I am? Do I believe in those labels?
We decide about people, but what about asking them first, "How do you see yourself? Is the
mirror-self the same as the others-self?
Do I have to fit myself, my entire self, into one of those or all of those descriptions simply because someone or someones have indicated that is what they see in me? What if those labels are not at all what I see of myself? What if those labels are only a little bit of me, and there are other parts that are quite opposite of the labels? If I admit to being a Nature Girl/Granola type, does that mean I can't buy something that comes in a plastic container or throw away something that should have been recycled once in a while? Does it mean my clothes have to be earthy, organic, and shapeless? Can't I still wear high heels, lacy undies, and sequins sometimes? And if I admit to being negative, can I also be positive and optimistic, believing in fairies and teaching kids to be thankful and look on the bright side?
I don't like being defined. Instead of, "You're so -----------", how about, "I like you the way you are." or "How do you see yourself right now?" Or the old favorite, if you don't have anything NICE to say...
Or maybe it's me. Insecure enough to LET, to allow, the labels to stick, rather than shaking them off. I don't have to prove which ones apply. I don't have to wear them all at once, or at all, if I don't want to....



Yes, I may be opinionated, but at least I care; at least I'm thoughtful enough to have formed my OWN opinion... and okay, I can be hateful, but not easily or without cause, and in balance to that, I am ferociously loyal to my friends and those I love. I will admit I expect a commitment from the people who love me, but I also give my commitment fully and strongly. I can definitely hold a grudge, but with very little effort, a person can gain my forgiveness and affection again, grudge-free.
And I DO feel things strongly- passionate about what matters to me. I DO have my causes, and I'm learning when and where is the place for them. But the majority has their causes too, and they don't seem to have to hide them...
But I won't be pigeonholed; I won't accept all of this criticism, because I would much rather be me, with all of my faults, than anyone else, because, mingled with my grudges, opinions, hatreds and expectations, woven intricately and inseparably is my passion, loyalty, ability to think for myself, willingness to forgive when asked, and my commitment to those who love me for all of who I am.