Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I must have been right next to some kind of

inlet of relief when I wrote my "vie en bleu" post because the days following have been so different than the six months leading up, it feels strange to write this post so near to the last one. It's not that all is perfectly well, but rather I feel I reclaimed some space inside of me that had been all shrunken and withered before.

On Friday, Chuck and Deb (commenters on this very blog!) had Jon and I and two other couples to their home for dinner. We ate paella (very good!) and talked about politics, God and music. As we did, it occurred to me that it had been far too long since I'd been in someone else's home, eating food they cooked, only bringing myself along (even letting Jon drive).

The next night, Tywana (Brian's wife) and I attended a "Free Slam" that Deb and Chuck help host. These are events that I could picture Scrivener, Jo(e), Dalissa or Ampersand attending. Various artistic souls in need of an audience fling their songs, poems, stand-up routines and artwork at the rest of us and we clap, laugh and encourage them. Even when the art didn't resonate with me, I was uplifted by the idea of the group - by the thought that we could help each other through creating safe spaces to risk and share. So that was great!

Then on Sunday morning, Liam and I got up dark and early. We clunked around the kitchen making tea with milk and pouring it into a thermos. We assembled turkey sandwiches, trail mix bars and clementine oranges into our mini picnic tote. Then with two pair of binoculars and extra layers of clothing, we headed into the still black morning and drove 25 miles to the Cincinnati Nature Center.

We met other binocular clad counters who were joining together for the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count. Liam and I were happily assigned to a group of all novices led by one expert (and I mean expert). This guy not only could replicate the calls of numerous birds, he could recognize them from below, by ear, by flock and wing beats. One time we thought we heard a red-tailed hawk when he changed his mind and stated, "Nope. That's a blue-jay imitating a red-tailed hawk. They get close, but their pitch is off." Oh. My. Goodness. Yeah, I'm more the kind of birder that says, "Hey! There's a cardinal. I can see it right there sitting perfectly still and it's all red."

Anyway, we tromped through endless mud and dead leaves already composting into mulch, up hill and over dale. (I've always wanted to write that.)

What struck me about the experience was how quiet it was. Bob, trustee expert birder, told us that bird watching is really more "bird listening." And it was true. We hardly talked at all. Most of the time we stood very still waiting... hoping for some movement, some flutter of leaves or swish of brush.

And I loved it. The quiet reminded me of the library, yet it was outdoors where my lungs filled with yogic breaths of air. Therapeutic. Even after three hours of rubber legs, frozen finger tips and growling stomach, I didn't want to quit. It felt really good to focus all my energy and attention on one little tiny thing: counting birds in the bush. I wonder if this is how golf feels for executives.

We returned to the center to eat lunch and many cheerful birders welcomed us. It might be difficult to appreciate just how odd it feels for me (who lives in her head of ideas and virtuality) to be in a room of people who enjoy conversations about numbers, biological components, ecology, and international tourism that takes travelers to car camping in Kenya as opposed to pensions in Florence.

Again, it felt restful, right, distracting in the best way. Liam and I returned in the evening for the final count which included all the birds of our region. We laughed every time the room gasped when a count was exceptionally high: 3,743 robins or disastrously low: 0 kildeer (the room exhaled a mournful sigh realizing that the kildeer had not survived suburbanization of the farmlands since not one has been sighted for the last six years).

By Monday morning, I felt like a new person.

I also woke up writing this morning. That hasn't happened in awhile. To make sure I didn't lose that well-conceived sentence, I immediately scribbled it onto the back of my library book receipt list (the only strip of paper I could find first thing in the morning). It even reads well now, 12 hours later.

Today, we met the rest of the band parents at Champs restaurant and had the fun of seeing Jacob in the Rose Parade. I got interviewed about our family reaction by the local TV station (and even made it onto the 6:00 news - the video is there if you want to see it). Jake's having a ball in California.

Tomorrow I'll be taking Johannah back to college. I'm not looking forward to her leaving, but I'm not dreading it any more either. Thanks for all our helpful comments and suggestions. I took many of them to heart, as you can see.


Scrivener said...

This all sounds wonderful. Happy new year to you.

Sentient Marrow said...

Yea! I am so happy for you and do wish that I lived right in your area so that we could attend the slam together! Hearing your change is good for me because I have now hit my own slump which is typical for me after Christmas. So, it's good to be reminded that the tide is always on the edge of turning to better times.

my15minutes said...

Jules, so glad you found some happiness these last few days. You needed some new connections, and I'm so glad you found them. Happy new year, dear.

my15minutes said...

PS. You looked smashing on TV. :-)

Kansas Bob said...

Rejoicing with you Julie!

SusansPlace said...

YAY...I enjoyed reading your account of turning the corner!


R. Michael said...


So glad you are finding a new path of thoughts and emotions today and I am glad you are compelled to write about these things.

Dancingirl said...

Glad to hear this!

Dancingirl said...

And I loved hearing about the birding!

WordyKaren said...

Yeah! I too, find refuge and rest in nature. I live in Pajaro (bird) Valley so now I know why I feel so good here!! Couldn't get the video to play. I dragged the icon to the Playlist and then clicked on play but nothing happened. Any suggestions?

Love, Mom

mariam said...

Great to hear Julie. After I read your earlier post I had also gone out to the nearby bird sanctuary to try out my new camera. It was wonderful. Peaceful but so alive at the same time.

I remember when I studying depression before one of the things that struck me is that we can often actually alter our own brain chemistry by the thoughts and actions we choose and by just doing stuff like exercise, meditation, positive biofeedback etc. . Just as traumatic events or losses can change the neural pathways, so we can also change them back through concerted attempts at positive self-soothing and thinking. There are times when that is too much of an uphill battle, but just like with other medical issues, it is better if we can do it in natural ways. Its like strengthening our immune systems instead of relying on antibiotics.

Steve said...

Julie on TV, what else can you ask for in life in Ohio?