The Beach, A Bird and Thanksgiving Dinner

It has been well documented that I spend a lot of time walking the beach.  I do it nearly every day, all year round.  While the warm summer days are great, I actually prefer it when it’s in the 50s or 60s and I can wear boots, a down vest, a hat and gloves.  The sunny days are awesome, but so, too, are the cloudy, dark ones.  My ideal time is early morning when the tide has gone out and sea glass discovery is at its prime.  No matter my mood when I start, it is always, without exception (more on that in a bit) better when I am done.  Even when the surf is rough or the winds are whipping or the sky is covered in clouds, the rhythm of the ocean delivers a serenity that I can always (yeah, more on that to come) count on, no matter the time of year.  I love my ocean walks.

As a result of all this time logged at the beach, my already vast collection of sea glass continues to grow.  Getting lost in the beauty of the sea, my 10,000 steps are easily reached and often exceeded.  The various items that have been washed ashore or left behind or dropped from the sky are invariably (more on that to come) awesome.  Beyond the sea glass, I’ve happened upon bottles of booze – some full, most empty.  Lego pieces, toddler sandals, small toys, the occasional t-shirt, and of course rocks, shells and seaweed.  Here’s a little scene I happened upon late last week.  Sad little (plastic) birdie.

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I am hardly alone one my beach walks.  Both the sand and paved walkway overlooking the beach are always teeming with people, many of whom I have come to recognize just from their gait.  The exchange of “hellos”, “good mornings” and “what a great day” are not only perpetual but a truly lovely way to start the day.   And, perhaps most wonderful, the beach always (more on that to come) feels physically, emotionally and spiritually safe.

This morning, however, was a little bit different.

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I nearly tripped over it.  It freaked me out.  Still does, actually.  And the symbolism, the metaphor, the gruesome imagery…yeah, colossal yuck.  At first, I thought perhaps he  was digging for something in the sand and actually marveled a little bit at the beauty of this animal in its natural habitat at which I was a mere interloper.  But then, when the feathers started blowing wildly from the ocean breeze and the body wasn’t attempting to resist the gusts, I realized I was looking at a dead bird.  A very dead bird, in fact.  As in: couldn’t be deader.

With its head buried in the sand.  The week of Thanksgiving.  Still intact, free, for now, of the scavenging animals which are sure to enjoy tearing him apart for breakfast.

I walked away; feeling agitated, slightly nauseated and entirely grossed out.  Yet, I kept finding myself going back to check on him. I considered jostling him with a gentle kick with my booted foot, but, on the off-chance that he hadn’t actually gone to meet his maker, I thought better of it.   How’d he croak?  Did he get his beak stuck in the sand while innocently reaching for a snack?  Would just a little tug free him from, um, death?  How long had he been there?  And what would he look like tomorrow or the next day?

And, if we are being honest…seriously?  Is nothing sacred?  Can I not have the damn beach stay serene and calm and relaxing?  Does there really have to be a dead fucking bird at my feet?  And, if he had to be dead, did he have to do it right in my path?  I mean, really.  So much for physical, emotional and spiritual safety.  Geez.

Discombobulated, I took a shorter than usual walk, but not before going back to visit him, maybe more than once, checking, I suppose, to see if he was still and truly lifeless.  Oh, and to take his picture.  For posterity?  For confirmation? Yeah, pretty much no good reason to memorialize his passing other than to be able to include in my blog.  (That being said: the visual is a “good” one, right?)

Feeling on edge, nearly (and inexplicably) lachrymose, I returned to my car and called the local police.  I admit that I felt a little silly reporting a dead bird on the beach, but the officer who took my call, which included a very specific explanation of his precise location, told me he would call the state and have them collect him.  I did not inquire as to what they would do once they found him.  I imagine it will not include a proper burial or reflection on his life, but, more likely, a shovel and a hole which seemed somehow unfitting for his splendor.  Even in death, his strength and stature were almost grand.

I obsessed over considered, but decided against, going back to check on him this afternoon, primarily to ensure that he’d been brought to his final resting place and not torn apart by his fellow bird-folk.  Tomorrow morning, as I descend upon the sand for my ritual walk, I hope to hell he is gone.  And, with his absence, perhaps my peace can be restored, my calm reinstated and my joy in the discovery of each piece of sea glass revived.

It is indeed curious to me why I was so unraveled by a dead bird on the beach.  Methinks there is a gigantic metaphor (his head being buried in the sand was not lost on me) which, in turn, holds some sort of message.  I am not really sure what that message is, exactly…so I am choosing , instead,  to focus on the beautiful piece of blue (for the unindoctrinated: blue is the hardest, and thus the most satisfying and, dare I say, exciting to find) and the several heart-shaped pieces of sea glass I managed to find whilst encircling, avoiding and obsessing over a big dead bird.

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His is an image I will not soon forget which is fairly ridiculous given the fact I will be feasting on one of his brethren on Thanksgiving in a few short days.  Something tells me I am going to pass on the drumstick this year…

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It Only Takes One Prick To Burst A Bubble

This is a bubble. It’s pretty and ethereal and inviting.  It is also fragile.

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With even a cursory glance you will spot me, my family, maybe even yourself right smack dad in the middle of that bubble.  That’s us in our beautiful house in a beautiful town surrounded by beautiful family, friends and neighbors.  We are not rich, but want for nothing.  We turn on the faucet and out comes water.  We flip a switch and, voila, there is light.  If we’re cold or warm we need only adjust the heat or air conditioner.  There is never a shortage of food.  In fact, our two fridges and two freezers could keep us fed for months on end.  We have two reliable cars, a solid roof and all the computers, televisions, tablets and cell phones one would ever need to stay informed and in touch with the world, for better or worse.

Our children, each with their own individual idiosyncrasies, walk out the door each day without fear of danger or criminality against them at all, let alone because of who they are, their life process or choice of self-expression.  There exists an undeniable safety in this bubble to the extent that it never even enters any of their minds that they might not be able to live an honest and free life.  To only slightly varying degrees, they are all unabashedly willing to leave the house as they see fit with, in our house, anyway, highly limited but carefully injected parental suggestions.  We are fortunate; it’s always been this way and we’ve never known or even contemplated anything different.

Until, that is, this whole utopian Nirvana started to evaporate.

Our children, cis- and transgender alike, face an entirely different world… even within our once seemingly invulnerable bubble.  An inescapable national discussion about the ugly underbelly of societal thinking has not only surfaced and taken up residency, but has, ironically, bubbled over.  The result: abject fear among our children who are not supposed to, whether comfortably in a bubble or not, even ever consider.

It would be utterly fictitious to say that when Jess transitioned five years ago we were not concerned about the reaction of our community, our school and our friends.  (Aside: we never worried about our families.  That’s being blessed right there.)  True, the inhabitants of our bubble were liberal-leaning, highly educated and largely open-minded folks.   However, despite the favorable demographics, we knew it was going to be complicated at best, alienating at worst.  Indeed, it was complicated then and, if we are being honest, remains complicated, yet wholly manageable, even today.  But neither then, nor now, despite having moved to a new bubble, has it ever been alienating.  My great consternation:  that is about to change.

As of today, beyond the heightened awareness, chatter and vitriol regarding LGBTQ rights (among other things) being spewed by the incoming Presidential regime administration, nothing in our lives has changed.  Our bubble hasn’t burst, nor has anyone taken a shot at puncturing a potentially ruinous hole…but we are certainly aware that the acceptance (oh, the irony) of hate (which is actually, duh, fear) is now being supported, sanctioned and encouraged…even in our own once paradaisic bubble.

The morning after the election, myself unnerved, I did as I do every morning and gently opened Jess’s bedroom door to confirm that she was awake and at least contemplating getting ready for school.  Instead of finding the usual slumbering blob of adolescence , she sat on the edge of her bed, wide awake, phone in hand, news having been received, crying.  For the first time in her life, she was aware, perhaps without even knowing she was aware, of the fragility of our bubble.  My kid, who, almost to a fault, doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, suddenly knew that she might now have to.

I’ve never been one to infantilize, shield or be particularly protective of my kids.  Based upon how they have conducted their lives thus far, I have confidence in their maturity, decision-making and lack of impulsivity to trust that they will successfully navigate and positively present themselves to the world, even in tough situations.  That being said, the new dominion in which we all find ourselves has left me feeling untethered and, at an epic level, profoundly concerned for not only my child’s future, but for the necessity of her (and all my kids’) rethinking their basic view of the world.

Inherent in living in a bubble is the constant underlying and often unconscious fear that it will burst. I now find myself unsure, sometimes from moment to moment, if our bubble has a slow leak or if all the air has already escaped.  Either way: it is frightening for all of us, body and soul.

The Little Things…at Market Basket

It’s the little things.  They can knock the crap out of you or sweep you up into the heavens.  Some will stop you dead in your tracks while others actually encourage you want to run, like a bat outta hell, to anywhere else on the planet.

Finding a $10 bill with no one anywhere nearby who might have dropped it: good.  Stumbling upon a 75% off plus a $5 discount with a $20 off coupon to use next week at your favorite store…or any store: really good.  Mistakenly grabbing the one-size-down jeans and actually being able to button them without lying across the bed, breaking a sweat while breaking your body to get them on: totally awesome.

Catching sight of the same car that your late father used to drive turning into what had been his favorite place to grab coffee and a donut: ugh.  Heading out the front door to get the mail, tripping over your own feet and landing on your knees: ugh.  Pulling your car out of the garage after not having driven it for a few days only to discover that the entire front quarter panel is smashed in: yeah, that one sucked.

Nothing major.  No big deals.  Just enough to tip you ever so slightly (or, if you are me, not so slightly) off your axis.  Yeah, it’s the little things.  Today, it was little things that made me laugh, sometimes to the point of crying.  Not, thankfully,  going over the edge to full on sobbing which, I must admit, has been known to happen. And all it took was a trip to the local supermarket.

It was early afternoon, but it might just as easily been hours later given the fact that Barry and I had been up, out of the house and running around since 7 a.m.  The car was full of stuff we had accumulated throughout the day and the decision to stop at the market to pick up a few things was one which neither one of us was really in the mood for.  However, the lack of milk, eggs and bananas – the true sign of no food in the house – urged us from laziness to adultness.  We were tired, hungry and wet from the run in from the parking lot as we searched for the least soaked of the carts.  By the time we hit the cheese aisle (also known as Aisle 1), we were already over it, yet persevered and loaded up on all the basics.

Our cart full, we took our place in line and, for once, did not choose the one hosting  the last American on earth writing a check.  As Barry began to unload our selections, shaking his head upon discovery of the few things I might have tossed in without him noticing (I really cannot live in a home without an emergency Pop Tart supply.  I’ve tried, but life is too short.  Remember: it’s the little things) I pulled out my phone and opened the camera. Because Barry knows me all too well, he knew that it was him against me and he wasn’t going down without a fight.

Let me share.

Here’s Barry, knowing full well what is going on behind him (that being me with my iPhone).  He is aggressively ignoring me in the hopes that I will give up.  I won’t.

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Here he is attempting to be Mr. Serious.  About loading groceries onto a conveyor belt.

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 Okay, this is when things start to get fun.  See the lady standing at the cart behind Barry?  Well, her name is Rosemary.  You will note that she is laughing. Barry asked her, more than once, if I was still standing behind him trying to take a picture.  She lied.  Then she told me that she has four grown sons and, “they are all pains in the ass, too!” Ah, the sisterhood.

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 Next up, we have my husband, in a show of incredible maturity, attempting to shield his face with a package of pita.  Yes, pita. Seriously, dude: try a salami, or a loaf of Italian bread or even the pomegranates…but pita?

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That’s Pauline at the register.  She tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t.  I am quite certain our shenanigans were the highlight of her shift.  So, too, Edgar, the gentleman with the white hair…but he was trying to respect the Bro-Code and kept his hysteria under wraps.

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By now, customers and employees on either side of our register are watching, waiting with bated breath to see how things wind up…who will prevail: woman or man? (Duh)

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Eventually, we had to end all the fun and games…we had perishables in the cart, after all.  We headed out to the car, bags in tow.  I am fairly confident that we got a round of applause for having entertained everyone on this rainy, dreary day.  As we loaded up the car, I turned to see Rosemary coming out with her groceries.  She all but high-fived me and laughed her way back to her Chrysler.

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Barry has been down this road with me before.  He pretends to be embarrassed.  He isn’t.  He feigns being merely tolerant.  Trust me: he loves it.  And I love him for his willingness to allow me to indulge in the little things…

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 This is what he looks like when I am not torturing him.  Cute, right?

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Elections, Hamsas & Friends

I’m confident that no one will argue against the case that this elongated, protracted, unceasing, wearisome (not to mention execrable) presidential race has left us all, no matter which candidate you like (or hate less, as the case may be) feeling unsafe, unprotected, unhappy, tense, angry, overwhelmed and a little bit afraid.  I have a Hamsa around my neck and one holding my keys…but despite the protective properties they carry, no Hamsa in the world can cover this.

hamsa

Friendships have broken down.  Feelings have been hurt. Beliefs have been challenged.  Kindness has been abandoned in favor of nastiness by otherwise decent people.  I am not proud to admit that I got into it, bordering on, okay, landing on (slight) bullying with a woman I had gone to high school with. She threw the first verbal punch, but I took the bait and allowed the exchange to continue.  At the beginning, I was in it for shits and giggles. She is virulently supportive of one candidate, but even more interested in besmirching the other candidate loudly, cruelly and with great regularity.  My own inverse opinions got the better of me, and I reveled in the rallying support of my clan.  It wasn’t my proudest moment.

 Add the stress of this election to all the other things we are all trying to manage in our daily lives and it’s no wonder everyone is a hot mess.

crazy-curly

 Remember the coffee ladies I told you about? We do not all support the same candidate. There is disagreement between us regarding the behaviors, pasts, positions and capabilities of the two folks, one of which will be elected president; provided, that is, that the other one actually concedes.  As strongly as some of the gals feel about one, others feel about the other.  But, and this is a big but, it does NOT interfere with our friendships.  It does not lead us to name calling or bullying or eye rolling.  That’s because we are respectful of one another and value our friendships…I highly recommend it.

Before tomorrow erupts, do yourself a favor: find people like I have.  Agree to disagree.  Remember that we are all in this together.  That is takes a village.  That just because you believe something doesn’t make it right or factual or better.

I, for one, have scheduled a therapy appointment AND a massage for tomorrow night.  There is wine in the fridge (oh, who am I kidding…there is always wine in the fridge) and the knowledge that it’s going to be a bumpy ride.  Moving forward: surround yourself with good and kind people who support you, even if they don’t necessarily agree with you.  Who do not personalize things that are not personal.   Who, even if their person doesn’t come out victorious, accepts where we are, where we’ve been and where we are going.

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Be kind.  Be respectful. Be accepting.  Be supportive.  We are all in this together.