The Gerbil

We got this black Gerbil for the kids with a few lighter markings here and there kindof mimicking the traditional Gerbil markings but taken down to the dimmer end of the monochrome spectrum. He was a transitional pet as we would later learn, who taught us many things in his short life, like the fish that followed and the dog.

When you begin a family, all you have are your own internal models, formed out of your own experience. There are a few who are able to build and embellish on these models, something greater than their own experience. There are many who are left somehow bound by the models they harbor, with sometimes a hidden desire to tear down those models and start from scratch, or adhere so tightly to specifications as to be somewhat inattentive to experience in the present or to try and warp experience in the present to fit the plan. Deviations that seem to catch one unawares, one who still sees the tree standing, long after it has been uprooted. The fountain after the drought. Wishful, magical thinking. Wanting it to be so, as it is not so, and can not be made so, at least according to the overlay of two separate sets of specifications. Creativity and flexibility with a minimum of negative emotion is what is called for. An ability to see a big picture and “roll with it”, and have faith or a back of the mind wishful belief that somehow things will turn out alright no matter what. If they don’t, well, it ain’t the end of the world and we’ll just keep on trying and not take it like a grand piano on the back, just walk away with what we still got. But keep the important things, like caring for each other, and seeing each other as fully as possible, being able to accept what may clash with our predeterminations. A bond is necessary.

One day my son and I watched this Gerbil take his last breath, dying of old age. My son noticed that Mr. Gerbil was acting strangely, moving very slowly with jerky motions.  And as I came up to the cage with my son, the Gerbil appeared out of a nest of cedar shavings and stretched out his arms and legs as if he were reaching for the four directions, touching the ends of the earth.  And then there was a profound relaxation/contraction into motionlessness as his limbs ratcheted back.

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Scaffold

the room is empty
except for me
but I am empty too
for a moment today
I imagine myself
while walking down
the crowded street
to be composed of nothing
more solid than air
though I came out of it
dodging people
construction  scaffolding
which seems to hold up
every building sometimes
but how do we tell them apart
where does the scaffold end
and the building begin
so with I me mine
intertwined
with everything else

driver’s ed

To convince myself that there is something different, I am going to compare two situations. Though I am thinking now that there is nothing similar about these two situations. Who knows, maybe I am just stacking the deck in favor of a fore-drawn conclusion.

Before the accident, when I would drive along in my car, isolated from the street, I would find myself making judgements about people I had never met. Constantly. It was not something I could control. I would see a person and immediately either like them or not. More often I would notice some particular characteristic that annoyed me. A man’s toupee. He was wearing a rug and there was something about it that made him look like Howdy Doody. Even though ‘ol Howdy didn’t have a rug himself, I don’t think. Just carved wooden hair. One piece construction. The bare amount of detail.

This would only occupy my mind for a few seconds, but the feeling of being annoyed, that something wasn’t right with the world, would remain. And these feelings would sometimes build throughout the day, or sometimes get canceled out by seeing a small child with eyes the size of the world riding in a stroller or the glimpse of some unknown animal through the corner of my eye as I drove past the woods.

So some neurons talk to other neurons in their morse code by firing bullets at each other. Bim bam boom. Very important and immediate and as soon as enough of them start firing to some familiar tune, it is recognized as something at a higher level in the hierarchy, yet still just assembled or re-assembled in the moment. Some are less insistent, shooting BB’s at one another. The tune is fainter. It takes the wings of 100 butterflies beating at the same time to sound like a bird. So which is it? And there are times like this morning, after the pain medicine, when they shoot soggy spitballs at each other. A slower messier thwacking. More diffuse. And for this reason, I hated SUV’s and people driving SUV’s. I was driving an SUV as well.