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Thursday, November 21, 2013


Easter Grey Squirrel from www.wikipedia.com

     Every once in a while, I coin a word that seems worthy of inclusion by the Oxford-English Dictionary.  The most recent is dreamification
Dreamification (n) -  the act of seamlessly converting sounds and events of daily living into dreams for the express purpose of preserving sleep.

     I was dreaming that first one squirrel, then two, then an entire dray of squirrels had assembled to make a meal of me. I was paralyzed with fear as these small rodents with treacherously sharp teeth gnawed at my bones.  They went for my joints, pausing to stand on their back paws to chew the meat they had torn from my knees, my hips, my elbows. As much as I tried, my screams died in my throat. With superhuman will, I broke through the paralysis and sat up. The squirrels, thoroughly gorged on my flesh, ran away.
     I opened my eyes. My heart was pounding, I was drenched with perspiration and found myself in my own bed.  It wasn’t until I turned on a light to reassure myself that there were not any teeth marks, broken skin or blood that I was convinced that my dream was not real.  
     It was hard to go back to sleep after that. I started considering other dreams I have had that successfully incorporated an outside event into the landscape of my dream. For instance, my alarm may be ringing, but in my dream, it is the bell between high school   My phone might ding to indicate a text, but I rework it into a ship’s bell.  The lawn mower becomes an ultralight that I am flying to an unrevealed destination.  This particular ability to convert everyday noises into part of a dream so that I do not have to wake up is not unique to me.  Friends and family members all report their own experience of, well, let’s turn it into a noun.......dreamification. The verb?  Dreamify.
In my case, I was dreamifying the pain in my joints by ascribing it to a gathering of hungry squirrels.  Initially, it was better than waking up. However, as it turned out, I dreamified too vividly and it caused me to wake up.

     The downside of being able to dreamify is that it leaves traces of dreams that impinge upon the dreamer upon waking. There is an inexplicable carry over of dream into day. In effect, the line between sleep and waking has been blurred, leaving the dreamer with part of his or her consciousness back in dreamland even after getting up for the day. The other issue that gets little recognition is that whatever was threatening to cause sleep disruption may still persist upon waking.  For instance, my “squirrels” were my brain’s attempt to make sense of the terrible, incessant pain in my joints. Once I woke up, the squirrels were gone, and I was left with just the pain. I did the only reasonable thing I could do under the circumstances; I gave up on sleep. Instead, I ran a hot bath laced with Epsom Salts and took three Ibuprofen.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Paper Bathing Suit Caper

I am carving out a life with the same dedication that Degas exhibited when he molded his statue of Dancer Aged 14.  When Degas died in 1917, there were 150 wax or clay sculptures of her found in his studio. They were all various representations of his vision of his famous fourteen-year old dancer.  My point being, through a series of approximations, we move toward our chef d’oeuvre, whatever that might be. I have a sense I might be doing so currently. I believe I am doing so with humor as one of my most important tools. 
I am a walking comedy routine so far as I can tell. I actually laugh out loud when I do something silly.  How about the time I accidentally made a peanut butter and ketsup sandwich?  The new squeeze bottle of jelly was easily confused with familiar squeeze bottle of ketsup.  What about the Thanksgiving I went to Richardson’s Candy Kitchen in Deerfield, MA? I bought twelve small chocolate turkeys to set at each of the twelve diners’ places on Turkey Day later that week.  I carefully tucked them away so the children wouldn’t find them.  I never did find them!  These little gems of misadventure make me laugh. What can I say? 

This week, I added one to the list.  I have been flirting with the idea of joining the pool in Vineyard Haven.  They have a introductory special at this time of year. I packed up and headed over after completing my volunteer duties at the community greenhouse. I was ready to bag the whole effort, but something whispered in my head,” Forward, move forward.”  After all, how many renditions did Degas make of his dancer? That takes commitment, intention. I WILL go exercise in the pool.  After all, going to the pool is a little like going to church -- you begrudge the effort it takes to get there, but you feel so damn good afterwards! I signed in, descended to the locker room and exchanged pleasantries with a health club member before I realized my bathing suit was not in my bag with my towel. I knew for a fact that I did NOT have the stamina to drive home, retrieve my suit and return for an exercise session. What to do, what to do?  I went back upstairs to the front desk and explained my conundrum.
At which point, I was introduced to a pseudo-oxy-moron, a paper bathing suit.  For the pleasure of stripping down and donning a one-piece suit made out of a Tyvek-like matierial, I plunked down $16.  The girl at the front desk offered her pitch and ended with, “You’ll be our first customer, be sure to let us know what you think!”
When I tugged it on, the only give in the suit came from the elastic around the legs and the arm holes. There was barely enough extra fabric to allow movement. My subtle curvature was a bonus. Because the suit billowed with air around the abdomen and rear, I rustled as I walked. I pulled open the door that led out to the pool. To my relief, I had the impression that I was the only person in the pool area. I deposited my belongings on a chair, and took stock.
I was relieved to find I was apparently the only person at the pool. I entered the pool slowly. The water was cold, much colder than it was the last time I was there -- about eight years ago.Bit by bit, I acclimated to the water; in the same way, it came to my attention that there was actually a young man sitting at the corner of the pool near the Jacuzzi and steam room. I pointedly disregarded him as I went through a series of pool exercises that I used to do three times per week. If I became self-conscious, I would never get through the routine that a physical therapist orchestrated for me. After all, did Degas brook interruptions as he worked? Twenty-five minutes later, I was cold. So cold.  
I stood up to get out of the water and discovered that my paper bathing suit clung to me like wet paper towel.  Ever feature of my body was covered, but somehow accentuated by the Tyvek. What was worse? Upon getting out, water formed a pillow around my middle. It appeared as if I were wearing a wet diaper, a very heavy, wet diaper.  The elastic around the legs of the suit was so tight that the water stayed put, not draining until I slipped a finger under each side of the suit and let it whoosh, gushing to the floor. The sensation was reminescent
of the first moments of going into labor.  
When I glanced down at myself, I laughed aloud. I looked absolutely and utterly ridiculous in my high fashion paper bathing suit plastered to my skin. I would have covered up with my towel, but it was my only towel and I wanted to reserve it for when I got out of the Jacuzzi. I was intent upon warming up.  I trundled over to the Jacuzzi where the same young man still sat perfectly still, with no distractions such as a phone, a book or an iPod. How many young men today sit in one place for half an hour? Just sit? It seemed odd and slightly off to me.  
I kept my backside out of view as I lowered into the 103 degree water. I submerged myself in the rolling cauldron of hot water quite blissfully. I must have dozed off. I woke when the Jacuzzi stopped.  The young man offered to turn it back on so I wouldn't have to get up to do so.  I declined at first, then thought better of my decision.  “Yes, please.” 
I was actually hoping that he might l e a v e in the next twelve minute cycle so I could make my very exposed exit just a little more privately.  Never mind the video cameras I noticed that were sending a live feed to the front desk of the gym (which is shared by a hotel.) Sigh.
As I contemplated how I ever got myself in this predicament, the young man said his most polite goodbyes.  It was at that moment that I focused on the electronic box strapped securely to his left ankle. That could not bode well. So, was I alone in a pool area wearing a wet napkin of a bathing suit with a seemingly polite young man or a hardened criminal under house arrest? Were there cameras still watching us?
After he took his leave, I skittled backward (bottom away from video camera) with my towel wrapped around me until I reached the door to the Women’s Locker Room. I pushed my way into the off-camera privacy. Just as I was peeling off my bathing suit, I caught a glimpse of a long-legged thin woman whom I did not recognize. Then it came to me -- it was my own reflection in the mirror! 
I LAUGHED OUT LOUD, the sound of my laughter bouncing off the tiled walls. I dressed quickly, still chuckling. As I pulled open the locker room door to head back up to the front desk and street level, I pondered what other humorous gaffes were in store for me. I turned to glance one last time at the screen behind the lobby desk that showed nine views of the pool area. The pool was glass smooth.

Heading to my car, my own laughter trailed behind me like a shadow.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Sights of Sound

Low tide at Inkwell Beach, Oak Bluffs, MA

          Three sounds have served as regular companions in the ten days since I moved into a new condo. There is the persistent, but invasive, metronome of a battery-operated clock.  There are the footfalls of a young child with busy, sneaker-clad feet, and there is the crash and eddy of the waves as they strike the shore right outside my window. Each sound is associated with a clear visual image, sight is amplified by sound.
          I am a prisoner of the ticking clock.  It has the quality of Poe’s tell-tale heart kind of clock. When I become aware of it, it grows louder. No matter how far I go into the hinder  lands of my condo, the sound of the clock ticking follows me.  I had to move it out of the room adjoining my bedroom because it kept me awake. I put it in a corner on the other side of the great room.  Still, it persisted in its aggressive ticking. The only solution was to wrap it in bubble-wrap, cradle it in a blanket, and then bury it under pillows.  With this jury-rigged arrangement, the muted sound of the ticking clock barely reached me.  At long last, sleep crept toward me as the long arms of light started to stretch across the morning horizon.  Until the clock’s battery stops, or I cry “uncle,” and pull it out, the clock will continue its march toward the future, never tarrying in the present tense for more than a second.  In an odd way, it is a comforting reminder to me that I must make each moment count. Time waits for no man.  I may want to rail that I have less control over my world than I thought, but it will do me absolutely no good. Time keeps on its steady march.
       Another sound that often punctuates my day, particularly around 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., is the patter of loud, little feet. At times, they seem to be directly outside my front door. On other occasions, I hear them directly below me. I have finally identified them as belonging to a three-year old boy who is engaged is running rapidly from room to room in an apparent frenzy in his family’s condo below mine.  I have met the little boy who is catapulting himself busily from one thing to the next. For such a small child, he can be particularly loud during brief, intense bursts of activity.  Accompanying the feet, I sometimes hear him crying or laughing. I hear the reasonable tone of his parents (I have heard it rumored that they might both be attorneys), trying to discuss what other behaviors might be appropriate at any given moment. He is having none of it. I have grown to feel a certain affection toward the boy.  After all, my son would have been precisely the same had he been housed in a condominium complex rather than on a 12- acre spread in the country. Some children are naturally inquisitive, genetically-programmed with curiosity.  One thing leads to another and their feet serve to propel them on their inquiries.  It was a mere sixteen years ago that my son’s preschool director suggested he spend only half days in preschool.  The reason?  After lunch, the school schedule demanded nap-time.  My son rebelled.  His form of rebellion was to try to walk home.  It took one-on-one staff to child management to ensure he did not fly the coup.  He succeeded in escaping more than once, which made the administrators of the day care center reluctant to have his busy little feet under their supervision for more than five mornings per week.  I heard the faint tick of the clock then, It is even louder now.  The second hand sweeps  forward, forward, forward.

          The last intrusive sound where I am living is the vast and audial ocean.  The endless chorus is lulling. It is the background to everything I do. In a way, I feel carried by the ocean’s rhythm. It seems to echo my very heartbeat.  Living beside the ocean has made me realize that the sound of the ocean, whether gentle and calm or stormy and ferocious, is the translation of activity that takes place on distant and far away shores. The sound is my companion during the day and my source of solace at night. Its steady, rhythm seduces me. When I focus on the sound of the sea as it strikes the shore, all other thoughts recede from my awareness.  Even the ticking of the clock measuring the passage of time -- bows to the waves.   The child’s rambunctious and enthusiastic embrace of life recedes from awareness. 
         It is not necessary to measure; the ocean, with its own character and its own story, dominates my auditory system. Once upon a time, I fell sleep with the background sawing of my husband’s snoring and my dog’s slow, deep breathing.  These days, I fall asleep with the shush of the waves roiling, tumbling, and then....wait for it... wait...
the waves retreat. In the lassitude that comes just before sleep, the sound of breathing and the sound of the sea are as one.
          Like a familiar hymn, the ocean plays a song that I know by heart.  I am blessed by the soporific lullaby of the sea.  Just as I am about to fall asleep, it occurs that the clock, the child’s running sneakers and the vast and mighty sea are playing a song just for me.  Perhaps, if I listen just a little bit more closely, I will understand exactly what they mean to say.