The Circle of Life?

A friend of mine posted a video of a rat killing a pigeon in NYC, and it started automatically playing on my Facebook page and I couldn’t stop watching even though I wanted to. And the images are haunting me. On the one hand, it’s survival of the fittest between two animals that are generally considered pests, and on the other hand, it’s a ruthless killing of one living being by another. And the action of the human that recorded the rat killing the pigeon without stepping in at all… I wonder what that person is like in life. And I wonder what it says of humanity overall that we have that tendency of not being able to look away from something brutal. It’s like people slowing to a crawl on the highway to check out an accident scene, isn’t it? And maybe it’s silly of me that the death of a pigeon is hanging around, especially when I’m still a meat-eater (albeit I try to be an ethical one as much as possible). But brutality is brutality, in any form, and it’s that I tend to try to avoid in my life.

I am concerned about the audacity and aggressiveness of the rat to kill a pigeon in broad daylight on a city sidewalk. I was a history major, and there are documented cases of people on ships or in the slums of busy cities having to have someone keep guard during the night or otherwise getting bits of their noses, eyelids, and ears nibbled off by aggressive rats. They are smarter than most humans give them credit for, and if the NYC rats are this brazen now, we could have some problems.

I also couldn’t help thinking “Oh no, Penumbra is coming true! The rats and the pigeons are at war!” And the inspiration for that part of my story actually came from my experience in Long Beach, CA. When I first started grad school for my MFA, there was a rat problem that had been an issue for years in the building. These rats were smart. The school had laid down adhesive traps, and one of the other students in my program had placed a piece of food in the center of one of the traps. A rat flipped the trap over into the dust, then walked across the dust-covered adhesive (thus no longer sticky) and taken the food. We saw the paw prints the next morning. But my second year in the program, there was an increase in cockroach activity in the city of Long Beach and the rat problem diminished, so I hypothesized that the cockroaches and the rats had done great battle, and the roaches had won. Maybe the pigeons and rats in NYC are doing the same now.

NYC Interlude

Wow, I’ve been really bad about posting here of late, haven’t I? I guess that’s what happens when I’m swamped in work. And last week, I got to travel for my contract job to NYC.  I worked intensely for a day and 1/2, and what did I do the rest of the time?

Well, not NOTHING, as it is NYC. You’d have to try really hard to have nothing to do. But it felt like nothing to me, after the pace at which I’ve been going these past several months. I saw a show, socialized, did yoga on a dock in Gantry Park, played with my son in some spare moments, and just sat for a long while under a tree enjoying the feel of the breeze and the peace. I didn’t touch anything extra that I had brought to work on. It was restorative, and also a little surprising to me that I would find a way to relax on a work trip, especially in a city as crowded as NYC.

Of course, I had to make up the time on my other freelance obligations when I got back, but it was well worth it.

Scattered Tribes

I am back from my NYC trip, and I had a wonderful time.  My husband and I agreed it was the least stressful trip we’ve had in recent times, even though I worked one day (and that didn’t even really feel like work because I enjoyed it so much).  We were able to squeeze in quite a few visits with friends that we don’t get to see very often (we’re talking years between visits), some college friends of ours got to meet our son for the first time, and I felt a shift in my internal gears.

I have been feeling very stuck lately, trapped in our current schedule and life, feeling like we’re making great efforts without any progress, but really, who is defining that “progress”?  Society?  My perceptions of society?  Regardless, I was beginning to slip into a bad mental state.  My husband and I have so little time together due to our work schedules that we haven’t been able to reconnect deeply post-baby.  My current job keeps dangling the carrot of eventual promotion in front of me at some future date.  Money is tight, and food costs have recently gone up even as our paychecks have dipped with the reinstatement of the SSI tax.  And we had to deal with our typical familial stress over the holidays (seriously, from both sides… there is never a stress free holiday except when we’re not spending it with family).  The icing on the cake is, of course, I haven’t been able to create as much as I want, and I always get a little squirrely when that happens as that is my major stress release.

So… I’ve had several deep discussions in recent weeks with my husband, and we are making efforts to reconnect, setting aside time to just BE with each other every week.  Sacred time that no job, no deadlines, and no family stress or obligations will come between (except of course for a sick child).  We also talked through some ways we can better be handling our creative business and working towards more financial security.  And that helped.

Seeing my friends this weekend helped, too.  It amazes me that we have friends spread across the United States now, people who we can go years without seeing and yet who we love dearly and can easily slip back into our roles together when we do get the chance to see one another.  We truly have a tribe of people, friends who we have chosen to be our family.  And that is wonderful.  Sad that we don’t get to see them frequently, but still, wonderful, and a notion that I cherish.

Part of the reason I have been stuck is because I’ve been set on living in one area of the country.  We have recently opened ourselves up to living elsewhere, even if it means another cross country move, if it means a better schedule, financial stability, and the ability to push forward with creating the life we want to live.  We want to decide SOON where we’re going to have a home base for the next ten or twenty years.  The idea of living outside of the northeast was scary for me, but realizing that we do have a scattered tribe of people who want us to live near them, that are offering all kinds of ideas to get us close to them, makes me feel a little better.  Yes, we may end up moving to a place where we don’t know anyone, and it may be harder to make friends as adults, but there are more people in the world that can be added to our tribe if we let them.

It’s interesting to think about our society today.  I truly feel that we aren’t meant to be leading the rat-race lives that we’ve tied ourselves to, that many of our health issues are tied to our lifestyles.  However, I’m not quite ready to go live off-grid or start a commune.  It’s an interesting mental exercise to consider, but the logistics of following through are more than I could commit to, given my other creative goals.  I do think that it’s vitally important for everyone to build their own tribes, though.  No matter how widespread you are, or even whether or not you ever get to meet outside of the computer, it is necessary to be true to yourself and to build those soul connections with others.

As you can see, I’ve been digesting a lot since coming back from “the city”.  It’s been a tumultuous couple of months emotionally, and I finally feel unstuck.  Change is on the wind.  It may not come where I expect it from, and it may not even make me particularly happy when it does come.  But I know that change is coming, and at the very least, it will be interesting.

Off to NYC!

Tomorrow, my husband, son, and I will be driving to NYC for a four-night trip.  A dear friend of mine from grad school is covering our travel expenses so I can come act as her assistant for a few days, and we’re squeezing in seeing many more of our friends.  While I’ve flown through JFK many times in the past several years, I have not been in NYC itself since February 2005, so we are excited.

This is our first time driving in.  We’re in Astoria for the first two nights and then in Manhattan (parking at the hotel) for the second set of nights.  I’m a tad nervous, but after successfully navigating Los Angeles for many years, we SHOULD be okay.  Traffic can’t be that much worst, right?  Only difference is, people in southern CA actually will let you in if you need to get to another lane/exit ramp.  New Yorkers, not so much.

When we first moved to California, I was amazed at the friendliness of everyone.  I know southern California gets mocked A LOT by other regions of the country, but seriously, even the homeless are friendly and (for the most part) non-threatening.  I was so accustomed to not making eye contact, of minding my own business, of not inviting attention to myself.  Just let me get from point A to point B without anyone harassing me, and I won’t harass anybody in turn.  It was truly an eye-opening experience to live in such a different culture, and it has changed me forever.

Anyway, I’m excited to see NYC with fresh eyes, to eat yummy pizza and bagels, to hopefully soak in a little art and culture, and to fill my much-depleted creative well.  I’m not sure if I’ll have time to post at all while I’m there, but if not, I’ll let you know how it went next Thursday.