The Flicker’s Tail
What to make of the spider, spinning her web in midair, when a sparrow from nowhere swallows her whole in the blink of an eye.
Am I the spider or the sparrow?
So here’s the thing.
A few weeks ago I ran up Sheridan to Chestnut and crossed over so that I could walk home along the beach at Gilson. I run and I walk and I linger. Along this beach at Gilson. To the east is the expanse of the great lake of Michigan. It might as well be the Atlantic. And to the west are some of the most elegant mansions in the world. Why not? Man or nature? They both are wonders.
And as ever I watch the sky, and the mansions, and the beach and the water. So I’m walking. Taking it all in. I don’t even recall my mood.
What stands out in my memory of this run/walk are the feathers that I left behind. Half buried in the sand, a few yards from the surf are a plume of striking black and yellow feathers. I don’t pick them up. They seem to be too much of a bird. Left tragically behind.
Two weeks, or ten days pass.
I’m running on the beach at Light House. Two miles south of the beach at Gilson. I take off my shoes. The water is cold. But still. I like to run along the packed sand and the cold water. In the surf I see some feathers. Yellow and black.
And I stop in my tracks. No way. How could that be? I stop. I wade into three feet of water. Freezing cold water. Because those are the feathers I saw two weeks ago buried in the sand at Gilson.
I wade into the water. There are a handful of people on the beach on this auspicious autumn day. I scoop up the feathers. The very feathers I didn’t scoop up two weeks ago. Two miles up shore. And I sit down on the beach. With my feathers.
This is my parents’ cat, Oona. She’s 18 years old. Only fur and bones anymore. She doesn’t walk so well. So mostly, she sits on the desk, next to the computer, and warms herself under the lamp.
She’s a Siamese cat. And is extremely loud. When you pet her she lets out the most awesome “Yoooowwwwwllll!” Remember those noise makers that you turned upside down and they made animal sounds like cow or a lamb? If you were to plug one of them into an amplifier and turn it all the way up, that would be Oona’s meow. She yowls when she’s ready for some petting and again when she get’s it.
We all love Oona and will be very sad when she is gone. Which we’re thinking is sooner than later.
Anyway. This is all to say that we had such a nice visit with Grandma and Grandpa for Thanksgiving. We drove out 635 miles on Wednesday. And home 635 mile on Saturday. It was just the right amount of time. We all got along.
I’ll tell you a secret. Sometimes I found my parents to be exasperating. Sometimes I found visiting with them over the holidays to be. In a word. Difficult.
But that became very tiring. And dissatisfying. Even sad. And I didn’t want that anymore. Not for me or Tim or Max or Henry. And especially not for Grandma and Grandpa.
Because, really we don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to visit. Isn’t that always the truth?
And so. Really and honestly. I stopped engaging. I stopped taking myself so seriously. I stopped fretting over how my mother sees me. Or how I see her. And my dad. Well. If you know Dan. You know to know him is to love him. Because the more you love him, the more he loves you back.
After all these years, I finally understand that more than anything. I just want the warmth of being together.
The warmth of being under the lamp.
Oona the cat abides.
Today I was hooked. I couldn’t shake my thoughts and emotions. About someone’s questionable behavior. It got to the point. Where all I could think is. This person disgusts me.
This person disgusts me. Is disgusting. To me.
And then. I felt bad. I felt bad about feeling disgusted. By this (to me!) disgusting person.
I’ve been taught that it isn’t nice to feel disgusted about other people.
But what if they really are disgusting I wondered.
All day long I thought about this.
It brought up aggression in me. Against them. Against me!
I had to sit. With feeling disgusted. It’s a normal human emotion I concluded after awhile.
Maybe I’m disgusted with this person because they are harmful. Maybe I’m disgusted because they are disrespectful. Maybe I’m disgusted for no good reason that anyone can understand but me. Still and anyway. There is no getting around it. They have disgusted me.
The more I accepted that. The better I felt. I am a normal human being who gets disgusted by certain people and their disgusting (to me!) behavior.
I stopped beating myself up over feeling disgusted.
And too. I came to understand that because the person disgusts me, doesn’t mean that they are disgusting.
And too also. This feeling. Can finally pass.