Monday, February 12, 2018

a twist on mindfulness

If you've read my last post, you know I'm not big on some of the pop psychology mind numbing exercises that are supposed to keep us Prozac-happy without drugs in the face of the ugliness of the world.

There is no way on this green-blue dot that I'll stand in line at the Social Security office or the Office for Human Services and be "mindful" in counting my breaths, feeling the air go in and out of my lungs, and be grateful for the wonder of being.  That's not me.

If I were to be brutally honest (and I am at times, especially days like today, where I'm on my 4th straight day of less than 4 hours sleep because of my health issues) those times I'm under that much stress it seems that breathing in and out isn't worth the effort, and that failing to breathe in and out is probably the most viable long term option to the struggle for food, shelter and healthcare which is my life.

Perhaps at this point I need to introduce some recent backstory, and if you're a regular reader, you might skip it if it's too long:

Right now I'm up against the possibility of homelessness again. My landlord is increasing the rent in May by a few hundred dollars.  Housing won't even look at the rent increase until my annual contract in July, and there's no guarantee they'll approve it. I am still waiting on Petaluma.  My eldest-youngest (the older twin) wants me to return to Santa Fe.  I have no idea where I'll live May 1st, and have to have some sort of plan in place to retain my housing voucher or face long term homelessness. 
I'm also having health issues which cause me a great deal of pain (and some blood loss).  My doctor told me to go to the hospital. When I go to the ER for this, I get medicated and sent home.  And it happens again the next night, and the next, so I just don't go. If they were to actually hospitalize me, I don't know what I'd do with my dog.  On top of all this, because the last time I went to the ER I was on my old insurance, I don't have a copy of my old insurance card to send to the city for my ambulance bill, although I'm not sure why they really need it because it wasn't the first time I had to call 911 over this, and they HAVE copies of my insurance card. 
I'm also waiting for testing, the idea being if I reverse a previous surgery all the problems with my blood sugar and my reflux and hernias and other digestive issues will be reduced if not go away.  The new surgery would be an open surgery, so a lot more dangerous and a higher recovery time, which is likely to intersect the move (or homelessness).   
Oh, and I'm trying to find the money for the move, which currently involves a fun (but somewhat risky for my health) part time temporary job, as well as cutting my already meager food budget, because that's the only part of my budget that isn't fixed by someone else.
Now it's pretty obvious with all that going on that there is a lot more struggle than joy right now, but merely breathing is not enough.   And that is exactly why I do things like volunteer, whale watch, and create art.

It's also why I have my own brand of "mindfulness" which is not internalized, but externalized.

And finally we get to the point of this post.

This morning I was walking Cinnamon (my dog) in the park (no, picking up poop, while vital to our ecology, is not the joy this morning).  As I walked down the path to her favorite poop spot wondering if I should try to get laundry done before it rains, and if I should call Housing this week or wait until next week, and whether I really felt well enough to go to the aquarium this evening for the "Birds and Bees Under the Seas" program, I heard this odd kind of knocking/ grinding sound.

(this is where I interject that my own special brand of "mindfulness" is a blend of awareness and scientific curiosity)

So Cinnamon had to pick a new spot today, while I scanned the treetops for the source of the sound.  It was a raven, and it was making a series of rapid high pitched knocks followed by one or two low pitched knocks, fairly quiet noises for a raven.   I wasn't sure exactly what the sound was, so I stood and watched it for a while, then decided to record it with my phone, but when I lifted my phone up, the bird started cawing instead.  A car alarm had gone off a couple blocks away, and the caw sounded a lot like that.  After a while, the raven stopped responding to the car and started clicking again.

Then there was a moment of silence.  The raven turned, and cawed.  There was an answering caw.  They cawed back and forth a few times, then there was silence from the second raven, and the first went back to clicking.  The difference this time was that he flew back and forth between a few trees between clicks.  I gave up trying to capture it on video, and turned to leave, when the second raven flew into the trees near the first.

It was interesting to watch them approach and avoid.  They were making different sounds now, raven #1 making snapping sounds by clicking it's beak, raven #2 tapping it's beak on the suspension insulators on the overhead wires.

For about 15 minutes, there was no housing crisis, no food crisis, no health crisis.  There was only two ravens and the questions they generated.  Was this social behavior? Mating ritual? Some more complex communication? Are these usual sounds for ravens to make (I'd never heard some of the knocking/ grinding vocalizations before)?

When I got home, I was still marveling at the wonder of nature.

And it's moments like THIS, moments when the attention is turned outward toward the grand variety and complexity of our world, that fill me with awe and joy and the will to continue to breathe in and out, even when waiting in line at the Social Security office.


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