I’m haunted by Ghost Ship. Weird, isn’t it, that it had that name? It really became it’s namesake.
At night, between sleep and dreams, I think I was in the fire. Then I realize I am not dead, I wasn’t in the fire, I wasn’t even ever in the building.
This tragedy has very much affected me on a personal level. All those artists — I didn’t know them. I could have known them. I could have been them. They were beautiful, they were creative, and they were trying to find a way to be in a world that doesn’t value who they are and what they brought to all of us. They didn’t think about safety codes because, but who would? They lived in a beautiful space, and artists have been living in warehouses for decades.
I look at their pictures and miss them, even though I didn’t know them. Their names and faces are becoming familiar to me.
In the past, I drove by the Ghost Ship and thought how I would like to go in and find out what it was about, but never stopped.
Everything I do seems insufficient. Yesterday I went there. I couldn’t get closer than a block away, it’s all cordoned off. K. went with me and I brought a sign and flowers that I left at the memorial. I had a surreal moment when I saw people photographing what I wrote.
I read other peoples notes. The ones that really got me said, “I kept calling you and you didn’t answer.” I feel so sad, so endlessly sad for all the victims and their loved ones, and helpless in face of the tragedy and sorrow.
This is the note I left:
“Every artist creates
a world that has never
been seen before.
Here we lost many worlds –
an entire galaxy –
and are left with
a million broken hearts.
Rest in peace,
my lovely friends,
whom I’ll never meet.”
When October rolled around, I started cutting back the stand of fennel in my backyard bit by bit. The bees loved the flowers so I didn’t want to discourage them, but I also didn’t want a dispersion of hundreds of seeds as happened the year before. Everyday I would cut back the umbels that were transitioning from flowers to seeds, always checking to make sure there weren’t any anise swallowtail caterpillars that I was throwing in the compost heap.
After doing this task day after day for weeks, you can’t blame me for not checking too closely for caterpillars when I cut down the last bit of fennel.
The next day, there on the ground, was a caterpillar foraging through the fallen fennel (alliteration not intended). Argh! I thought. What do I do now? For several days I would go out in the neighborhood on a hunt for fennel and bring it back to the caterpillar. On the fourth day, I decided to put it in a jar. I thought as long as I was feeding it, I may as well enjoy the benefits of seeing it turn into a butterfly.
After a few more days, the caterpillar seemed pretty unhappy. It wasn’t moving much. Then it stopped eating. I felt very sad. I had tried to save this little creature, but it seemed it wasn’t meant to be. When I told this to friends, they reassured me that at least I had tried.
After not moving at all for a day, I was sure when I checked on it the following morning that it would just be lying curled up on the bottom of the jar. It was kind of curling up, and looking kind of brown, but it didn’t seem dead.
I happen to be sitting next to the jar when suddenly the caterpillar started moving like crazy. I saw that its skin had crack near its head and a bright green chrysalis was emerging. What the hell! I didn’t realize that the chrysalis emerged from inside the caterpillar. It wiggled and wiggled for about five minutes, and I managed to get it on the blurry video. When it stopped, I though it was just resting because it seemed like it hadn’t completely emerged. But it didn’t moved again.
I had always heard about how caterpillars become butterflies, and I found out several years ago that in that process the caterpillar completely liquifies inside the chrysalis before reforming into a butterfly. I’ve referred to it here. That is all very crazy. Now it’s gotten crazier. This same creature starts out as a caterpillar. Then, inside, it starts becoming the encasement for its future transformation. This literally bust out of its skin. Then it liquifies, reforms as a butterfly, and bust out of the chrysalis.
How does such a thing evolve? I didn’t realize that something that we all know about from an early age was so complicated and bizarre. Can you imagine if at some point, you wiggled out of your skin to be a mummy? It’s so weird. I have to admit, watching the caterpilalr/chrysalis actually made me feel a little queasy.
Once upon a time, when I was young, I would see things in the external world as signs. The world spoke to me, I just had watch it and pay attention. Even after I stopped believing this, E. would still say how she saw things as signs. Then she stopped talking about it. If you read the entries for Crows and Hawks Playing, you’ll see that many adults believe that natural events are signs for them personally. I’ve responded, as gently as I could, that its kind of absurd to think that other animals exist solely to convey coded messages to us personally. I mean, that’s really the height of egocentrism. If you scroll down that page to March 12, you’ll see that I said this:
I think that it’s very easy to see other creatures on the planet as being symbols for our interpretation. I know I have had these feelings and interpreted experiences I have had in this very way — that a certain animal was conveying a symbolic message for me.
But as time has gone by, I have come to think that this type of perception is erroneous. Wild animals exist in a world of their own experience, on their own terms. They don’t act symbols for us, any more than they do for them. It’s somewhat humbling to realize that, to most of the elements of natural world, we as individuals are unimportant, if not completely below their perception.
If we peel away the layers of symbology, interpretation, and magical beliefs that we impose on nature, there’s a world that is amazing, stunning, and unbelievable just the same.
But, ha ha! I saw that caterpillar as a sign. Ironies of ironies!
I know, I KNOW, that the caterpillar didn’t pop into existence solely to give me a message. Yet when I experienced these bizarre transformation from a creature who seemed to be dying I did actually think, well, there’s hope for me.
I have been slowly and painfully relinquishing my hold on a life that I dearly loved for a while now. I have to keep telling myself that I can never have that life again, but it’s hard to move on because I can’t imagine that I could be that happy again. K has said that this is a narrative I am telling myself. I think it’s more that I lost my narrative. That narrative was: yes, I suffered a lot in my life, but finally I got the happy life I deserved.
Well, so, that isn’t my story. So I don’t know what is.
Being a anise swallowtail caterpillar must be a happy, easy life. You crawl around in the sunshine eating tasty fennel all days long, getting fatter and bigger and feeling good. Then one day you don’t feel so well and you keep eating but it gets hard to move. Your skin starts to bother you. Then there’s something wrong with your mouth and you can’t eat anymore. Then your legs won’t work and you’re just stuck, feeling more and more uncomfortable until – bam! You have the uncontrollable urge to bust out of your skin. And that’s the last thought you have before you lose consciousness.
My story isn’t really parallel to this — especially the lost of consciousness, thankfully — but there’s certainly been many stages of discomfort that seem to be ending only to be a seque to another form of discomfort. And it seem to go on and on and on. I think: never mind happy, will I ever even feel comfortable again? It’s been such a long time.
It’s almost winter. That butterfly could emerge in the dead of winter, when it is so cold and there are so few flowers that it may not survive. Or it may never emerge because the conditions just aren’t right. Or it may wait until spring and be just fine.
So, yes, I am succumbing to a very old cliché and thinking that maybe, just maybe, something really great will come out of me from all this discomfort. I won’t go on with the metaphor about emerging butterflies because it’s just too corny and hackneyed to say. You know what I’m feeling. I think it’s called hope.
For the eight year or so, I’ve constructed the World’s Tiniest Sukkah. No, not like a dollhouse sukkah, but one that is human sized but really small. It only seats two people.
I love the holiday of Sukkot. I love having this sort-of house that is kind of like a make-believe house. Like a being in a tent, you’re outside and inside simultaneously. It’s a liminal space. It’s also a week-long meditation on impermanence. Life itself is a long meditation on impermanence, which becomes more and more obvious with each passing year, so really at this point in my life it’s just a pointed reminder.
It’s a dwelling space that is only has to last a week, which means it can be very fragile. This year I thought a lot about the word “fragile”. (Thanks to J. for mentioning this word, as I previously had been using “flimsy”.)
I often hear the word “fragile” used interchangeably with “weak”. As in, he’s not doing so well, he’s really fragile. I hear it a lot in reference to old people. I’m sure I’ve used it this way to.
I can’t think of a way to use the word “weak” that isn’t negative. Weakness is a negative concept. I don’t thing fragility is necessarily negative.
I think about flower petals. When I describe them as fragile, I don’t mean they are weak. I mean they are transitory. They aren’t going to last. They’re not meant too. We may try to protect it or sustain it, but we are fighting it’s nature.
In this way, fragile can mean special or even precious. We need to appreciate what is fragile because we may not have it for very long.
Since the all the brouhaha erupted over a certain presidential candidate and his boasting about sexual assault, I have been following the feminist response very closely. Between @feministfightclub, #pussygrabsback, and Kelly Oxford’s #notokay, there’s a lot happening where women are coming forward to say, yes, I was sexually assaulted. And frighteningly, they were often young girls when it happened.
If you are one of my three regular readers, you know that I had a couple of close calls this year of being precariously close to be assaulted or worse but manage to escape unscathed and untouched. Since then, I have become flinchy about certain things — mostly, walking around at night alone and wearing short skirts at night. It’s shitty that I have to think about this stuff. It’s shitty that I’ve lost a feeling of safety I had, and moreso bravado — something along the lines of “I dare anyone to fuck with me.” I’ve thought that if this is how I feel, as a middle-aged women, from just a few close calls, I can’t imagine how it feels to actually be sexually assaulted. I keep thinking, thank god it never happened to me.
Then I started thinking, if a million women wrote Kelly Oxford to say that they are sexually assaulted, how did I magically escape this happening to me? How was so lucky?
Then I remembered. I wasn’t so lucky. There was no magic. I’d been assaulted.
At first I remembered one time. Then I remembered another. Then I called my best friend E. And while telling her about this, I remember yet another.
All three times I was in public. Once I was walking up Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco when a man stuck his hand up my crotch and ran away. Another time a man masturbated against me on a crowded train. The third time, I was asleep on a bus and the man seated next to me threw his coat over my lap. He was creeping his hand up my thigh when I awoke.
All three times, I told no one. Until now.
I believe now that are no women who have not been sexually assaulted — just women who don’t remember.
Recently I went to look at M15 again. It’s been a while, but I have seen it probably a couple of dozen times at the Chabot Space & Science Center. I realized I’ve look at it so many times that I actually forgot many things about it.
For example, it’s 12 billion years old. The entire universe is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old, so M15 is *hella* old. I mean, come on, it’s impossible to even visualize so much time. It’s got about 500,000 stars in it. It’s 34,000 light years away. That means that when I look at it, I am actually looking back in time 34,000 years.
It’s the last fact that struck me. The telescope had become a time machine. Then I thought: how is it I can look back in time 34 THOUSAND YEARS, but I can’t look forward in time for even 1 second? I mean, that just seems crazy.
I brought this up with J. and apparently he’s been pondering this for decades. He also had quite a lot of information about the topic, such as the idea the on the sub-atomic level, there is no time. That is, on our level of scale, if you film something and play the film backwards, you can see that it is backwards. However, on the sub-atomic scale, if you film the motion of particles and reverse it, it looks the same. He said that based on what he understands, the main reason we sense time is because of entropy. A tree doesn’t become an acorn. Ashes don’t become burning wood. He also said that we perceive time as motion, but it’s really a dimension like space.
I pondered the last idea for a while. I guess it’s not possible for me to really grasp that time doesn’t have any motion to it. I thought of how if I try to see it like space, I get caught up in the idea that how could you possibly see all the points? For instance, now I am sitting and typing this, but in a moment I’m going to walk to the kitchen and get some water. How could a being perceive all the almost infinite individual points of time involved in my standing up and walking to the kitchen?
Then I realized that we don’t perceive space that way. When I look at the floor, there are billions of atoms. I don’t see them. I don’t see the molecules. I don’t even see the individual planks of wood unless I focus on it. I just see “wood floor”. I see where the floor meets the wall, where it is under the rug.
From this I can imagine that if I were a being who could perceive time as I perceive space, that is, not a thing of motion, I wouldn’t have to see every millisecond or even second. I would just see certain forms or shapes of time, certain delimiters of time. It’s still not possible for me to picture it, but it gives me an idea of how it could be. However, the kind of being would live in a place where time was another static dimension would be so different from how we are. They would evolve differently, exist differently, perceive differently. It’s hard for me to conceive of this place, but it’d be just as hard for them to perceive of time having a trajectory and motion.
You can read more about spacetime here, with more science and less nerging.
I dreaded this trip more than anything in a long time. I’d have to think very hard to remember when was they last time I dreaded something so much, if ever.
The dread was worse than the reality, at least so far. Things have been okay. And yet, the creepiness is present, and it reminds me of all the meanness I associate with this place.
This morning I was walking back from the laundry room to my Dads place, a distance of about thirty feet, when I heard a man say “oh wow”. I looked to my left and so someone sitting in a very large pickup truck in the parking lot across the street. He was far away so I bet he didn’t realize I could hear him until I looked over. But the he looked at me in a way men look at me in this horrid state, that is, in a very predatory way. I only glanced over at him for a second and then looked ahead and went back to my Dads.
Let me remind you, I’m in a quiet, boring retirement community.
I went out ten minutes later to check the laundry again–it had been almost dry–and now the pickup was in front of my Dads building and the guy openly staring at me in the creepiest possible way.
I again had no idea how to react. I’m washing my Dads underwear and this guy is acting like a rapist.
So I just didn’t look at him.
I saw the truck parked over there later and I thought, that guy fucking lives there? So this is how he acts towards his neighbors? And also, it’s very likely I’ll see him again.
In which case I’m still not sure what to do except ask him if he’s available to wipe my dads ass.
I realized that Florida is the opposite of sex. All the things that I associate with sex — happiness, pleasure, intimacy, joy, nice sensations, love, affection — and, well, sexiness — they aren’t here. And because of that, I lose myself, my sense of self and my connection to my body. When these creepy guys look at me, I suppose they are thinking of their version of sex, but it’s not. It’s anti-sex.
Later I was at the library and this young white guy with dreads was looking at me. Maybe he thought I was a hippie because of my hair– people sometimes do. He asked me did I make my shirt and I said no but it was handmade. He said I like the birds. Three little birds. And I realized he wasn’t being creepy. I said, yeah three little birds.
He walked away. I left the library singing,
About a thing
‘Cause every little thing
Is going to be all right
I meant to go to the ocean directly from my the rehab center, but it was already 3:00 and I could tell my blood sugar was bottoming out. I had lost my appetite completely and wasn’t eating much but I felt I had to have lunch before I went to the beach. I went back to my Dad’s apartment, ate quickly, and then saw that a storm was coming. Unlike in the beginning of the trip, I decided to go to the ocean anyway.
I felt I was racing the storm, which was moving about 30 mph to my 40 with stoplights. When I got to the beach I threw my clothes and towel under the lifeguard stand (which, per usual, had no actual lifeguard) to keep them dry. I ran into the water but after 5 minutes the heat lightning was getting more intense and I figured it was just a matter of time before the lightning lightning started, so I got out.
As I headed out of the water a man showed up on a bicycle, and mode of transportation I hadn’t seen in days. He said, do you think it’s too late to go in? I said, Well, I’m getting out because of the lightning. He said, so it’s probably stupid, right? I said, I wouldn’t go in now. We ended up hanging out and talking by the lifeguard stand. He sat under it and I stood next to it because I didn’t care if I got wet, I just didn’t want my stuff to get wet.
We realized the stand was probably a bad place to be, as it was partially metal and tall, but we stayed because we were both were optimists about getting in the water. At one point it seemed to be clearing up so we made a run for it, joking that if we get hit at least we won’t die alone. I dove under and a minute later we saw real lightning decided it was too risky to stay.
The sky was so dark at the horizon at this point and the water was different pastel hues of aqua and lavender. Against the charcoal clouds great bolts of lightning came down and hit the ocean, over and over. It wasn’t the beach experience I had wanted, but it sure was something.
My mood lifted but when I went back to the rehab and saw my Dad’s angry, miserable face that ocean, that I had just left 30 minutes ago, seemed like something from a storybook.
I finally was able to go to the ocean. I had an idea that the ocean would be life a giant mikvah, washing away all my sins, worries, fears and sadness. The chart at the entrance of the beach said the air temperature was 91 degrees and the water was 85. I had remembered to wear my suit under my clothes because there was not changing rooms or bathrooms. I laid down my towel and walked in. Normally I have to go in very slowly but it was so warm, I was walked right in and swam without a pause.
The water was beautiful, from turquoise near the shore to a deep blue near the horizon. But I didn’t smile when I looked at it. I didn’t have any feelings inside me but sadness. I swam and played in the waves for a long time. I kept trying to feel a sparkle, a bit of joy, something. I couldn’t feel it. I didn’t feel sad though, so that was an improvement.
After about an hour I got out, and walked on the shoreline for few minutes to dry off a bit. It was good that I had gone for swim and I did forget about the problems for a while. But I didn’t feel good. I would have to leave Florida for that.