A Redirected Maternal Instinct

I never wanted children. Ever. And so I never had any, despite the thousands of people who have told me over the years that I’d change my mind. Well, I’m 56 now, am still childfree and have zero regrets.

Rest assured, I have never tried to talk people out of their desire to have children. I say go for it, if the spirit moves you. Even though I don’t feel the same way they do, I don’t view them as broken in any way. I wish they didn’t act as if I were broken in return. “I find it strange that you have no maternal instinct,” I’ve been told multiple times.

But I don’t see myself as missing any vital thing. In fact, I do believe I have a maternal instinct. It’s just not directed toward having children. There are many other ways to be loving and nurturing and maternal.

For example, I love dogs. I’ve always gotten my dogs from animal rescue, because there are so many pets out there in desperate need of a home. I view it as a win/win. A mutual rescue. And I tend to go for the full-grown dogs. Puppies are cute, but they’re a trial.

I also love my little free library. When I look out the window and see someone, young or old, excitedly choosing a book, it makes my heart swell. I enjoy promoting literacy in my community, because I think it makes for better, more well-rounded people.

And when I see someone hurting, I naturally want to comfort that person. I don’t care what the reason is. I just know that I want comfort when I hurt, so I want to give comfort when the tables are turned. Compassion is an organic reaction for many of us.

Recently, I rented mason bees (and blogged about it here). I love to quietly visit the bees and see them poking their fuzzy little heads out of their little holes. They’re so cute! I just want to hug them. But of course I don’t want to hurt them. I also love watching them fly over to my blossoming cherry tree to belly flop their way into the pollen. And I know that they wouldn’t be at that very place, enhancing that particular bit of nature, if it weren’t for my putting them there. Yay for nature! Double yay for those who nurture nature!

And speaking of nature, I love seeing the flowers and vegetables in my garden thrive. I love watering them on dry days, and I even talk to them just as I do with the bees and the dogs. I enjoy making delicious food from the harvest, and also adding beauty to the world.

In addition, I am very protective of the friends and family whom I love. Don’t mess with my peeps! I will turn into a lion!

So I don’t see myself as lacking a maternal instinct. I just see it as my putting that instinct to a different use. I hope it makes a difference. I know it makes me happy.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear reader. This day should also celebrate those nurturing souls out there who don’t have children. And I’m blowing a kiss skyward to my own mother, may she rest in peace.

My mason bees, peeking out to say hello!

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The Circle of Life Brings Comfort

Grief is a horrible thing to experience, and it washes over all of us sooner or later. Things fall apart. The center does not hold.

Personally, I take great solace from the evidence all around us of rebirth and renewal. I will pass away one day, but someone or something will step in to take my place. It will grow through me or out of me or in spite of me or because of me. Nature will out. That’s why Spring is such a glorious, vitalizing time, after the death of Winter.

Recently, this photograph showed up on my cell phone wallpaper, and it really caught my imagination. I mean, here’s a ship, half sunken, abandoned, rusting and rotting away, and enough sand and soil has gathered within it’s broken hull to provide a place for trees to sprout. A ship becomes an island. That intrigues me.

I learned that this hulk started its life in 1863 as the SS City of Adelaide, a steam ship. It was built in Scotland, and had a regular route between Melbourne, Sydney, Honolulu and San Francisco. In 1890 its boilers and engines were removed and 4 masts were added.

By 1902, this vessel was only fit to be a hulk for coal storage, It caught fire in 1912, and it took days to put the fire out. In 1915, the hull was stripped, and what was left was sent off to Magnetic Island to become a breakwater on the coast, but it never quite made it. It ran aground in Cockle Bay, and has been there ever since, slowly turning into an island. During WWII, the hulk was used for bombing practice, but one of the planes accidentally hit a mast, and 4 military men were killed.

I like this story. Created by man and a slave to man’s whims, then attacked by its creators and then tragic retaliation. This thing has now become part of nature. Talk about the circle of life.

While researching this post, I came across many other vessels that are now sporting trees, including this abandoned ship outside of Anacortes, Washington, and also the SS Ayrfield in Sydney.

Mother Nature reclaims everything, if only we leave her alone to do her thing. When I die, I’d like to become compost and nurture a tree in an abandoned ship. I think that would be very satisfying.

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What to Cook When You Hate to Cook. Recipe 6: Barb and Cris’ Super Salad

Yes, I still hate to cook, as a general rule. It’s not one of my first choices for a pastime. But it’s necessary for survival. And I must admit that I’m finding it a lot more fun now that I have someone in my life to cook with. We’ve formed a sort of we’re-in-this-together mentality about food prep that turns it into less of a chore and more of an opportunity to spend time together.

One of the things we prepare on a regular basis is the most amazing salad. It has such a variety of flavors and textures that it’s always an eating adventure. And while I usually avoid preparing meals with more than five ingredients, once these salads become a habit, they can be thrown together rather quickly.

This salad is even more satisfying when the produce comes from your garden or from a local farmer’s market. Fresh. Delicious. Worth the effort.

As per usual with my recipes, the amount of each ingredient is entirely up to you.

Barb and Cris’ Super Salad

  • Greens (Anything but iceberg. Walk on the wild side!)

  • Baby Carrots

  • Broccoli

  • Cauliflower

  • Sunflower Seeds

  • Craisins

  • Scallions

  • Heirloom Tomatoes (anything less, and you’re cheating yourself.)

  • Garlic Snapes (Much more subtle than garlic, but only available if you grow them yourself.)

  • Radishes (I skip those.)

  • Dill pickles

  • Celery

  • Mushrooms

  • Chunks of Cheese

  • Nutritional Yeast (Cris skips this.)

  • Dressing (I prefer Ranch, myself.)

  • Croutons

  • Parmesan Cheese (because you can never have too much cheese.)

  • If you’re making this a major meal, you can add chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, etc.

Add or delete ingredients according to your taste. Mix all together,and enjoy, preferably outside. Nature adds flavor!

Salad

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Weird Drawbridge Stuff

Every time I think I’ve seen it all as a bridgetender, something new and surprising happens. The other day, a boat passed under my bridge, and on the bow there was a woman in a hot pink, shiny catsuit, wearing a powder blue motorcycle helmet, complete with visor. I wish I had had time to whip out my camera, but I was too busy standing there, slack-jawed.

I’ve also seen my fair share of nudity and inappropriate acts, and believe me, most of them I wish I could wash out of my brain with bleach. It seems as though the level of one’s exhibitionism is directly proportionate to one’s lack of classic beauty. I would really rather not see your thick carpet of back hair, ma’am, thankyouverymuch.

And then there are the strange things that have floated by my tower: Houses. Lengths of bridge. Airplanes. Submarine periscopes. UFOs (unidentified floating objects). I once opened for a yacht being used by Sir Paul McCartney when he did the halftime show at the super bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. (I didn’t catch a glimpse of him, though.)

Pedestrians can be quite entertaining, too. They often like to sing. And while they tackle it with enthusiasm, as a general rule they shouldn’t try out for American Idol.

Or they dance. We get a lot of dancers. One guy walked down the sidewalk dribbling an imaginary basketball. Another preached a full sermon to the geese on the canal.

People have gotten into fist fights while crossing my bridge. I’ve seen more than one marriage proposal. A sad number walk across, shouting and gesticulating when no one else is there.

I’ve also seen eagles and falcons and ospreys and alligators and nutria and harbor seals and dolphins, to name but a few of the fascinating creatures who share the planet with us. I’ve also seen more lightning strikes and rainbows and sunrises and sunsets than I can count.

I’ve seen enough bizarre traffic accidents to make me wonder if anyone puts any thought into vehicular safety anymore. I’ve also heard every obscenity known to man, and have had a wide variety of objects thrown at me. I’ve also had government snipers on my bridge when presidential nominees were making speeches nearby.

I really do have the most interesting job in the world. I’d like to say I’ve seen it all, but somehow I suspect that I haven’t. So watch this space!

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A coworker to a picture of this waterspout as it passed by the bridge. Glad I wasn’t on duty!

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The More the Merrier

Now that I’m a homeowner, I can do whatever I darned well please with my house and yard. Yay! One of the first things I did was purchase and install the insect house and bat house pictured below. Yes, I want bugs and bats. I want my yard to be a place where nature thrives.

The insect house is made to attract butterflies, solitary non-aggressive bees, ladybugs, and all manner of creatures that are beneficial to plants. It came with pine cone, bark, and bamboo. I haven’t detected any residents yet, but they say that usually picks up in the fall. There are all kinds of cute designs out there. Check ‘em out. Be a force for good.

And the bat house is something I’ve wanted for years. Contrary to popular belief, less than one percent of bats are rabid, and on average only one person a year dies from a rabid bat bite in this country. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

On the other hand, one bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes every hour, and they are also essential pollinators. And their guano makes fabulous fertilizer. Here’s a fun fact: Bats are more closely related to humans than they are to rodents. (For some reason, that kind of creeps me out.)

You can’t have a healthy ecosystem without bats. So I put up the bat house, 15 feet in the air, oriented to the Southeast for warmth and to make it easy to find in the early morning when they’re coming home after partying all night. As with the insect house, it’s not yet occupied, but I live in hope.

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I currently have bats in my attic. This is not good. As much as I love bats, I don’t want to share a house with them. So my current bat relationship is rather fraught, as you can imagine. But I’m hoping that very soon we’ll be neighbors rather than roommates.

I firmly believe we need more diversity in this world! We can do it, one yard at a time. And I’ll continue to do my part to find creative ways to make that happen.

 

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Feeling Helpless

I’ve always admired people who have a strong sense of faith. Whether that translates into religious belief or just an unshakable sense that everything’s going to be all right, it’s just not something that I possess as a general rule. Most of the time that’s fine. The only time it’s bad is when things are bad. Then I feel helpless. And that’s my least favorite feeling in the world.

I’d love to think that my little problems are significant enough to get the attention of some higher power, but I just can’t seem to take that leap. I guess it’s called a leap of faith for a reason. I’m just not a leaper.

Life experience has made me more of a believer in the laws of nature, and nature can be cruel as hell. I’d love it if the cute little baby zebra would somehow be snatched from the jaws of the lioness, but if that were the case, we’d be up to our butts in zebras in no time. In the long run that would be problematic.

I guess that’s the whole point. There is a bigger picture. We’re just not always privy to it. If there’s actually an organized plan (and I have my doubts), I am only one very tiny piece of the puzzle, and my desire to be saved from my misery is not as important to that plan as I’d like it to be. Oh well.

The only thing I am fairly certain of is that there’s usually a lesson to be learned from all of life’s drama. That, at least, is worth the price of admission.

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For the Last Time

I read something the other day that really freaked me out. “How many things are you seeing for the last time?” This strikes quite a chord in me at this particular point in life, because I’m about to leave a place where I’ve lived for 30 years to drive 3100 miles across the country to start over in a place where I’ve never been.

All month long I’ve been visiting my favorite places one last time, and having dinner with various friends one last time, and as I walk away from these experiences, I never fail to get emotional. And to say that what I’m feeling is sadness is too simplistic. It’s hard to describe the complexity of it. It’s also overwhelming gratitude that these phenomenal people and places have been part of my life. It’s regret that I didn’t always appreciate them as much as I should have. It’s fear that I may lose something indefinable once I’ve suffered their absence. It’s hope that the trail I am blazing will be every bit as amazing as the well-worn path I’m leaving behind me.

I sort of feel like a snake that is shedding its skin. But that skin has served me well, so I’ll miss it. I feel like a fiddler crab that’s moving into a new shell. The old shell is still viable, but it no longer fits me. Change is part of the natural order of things.

Transitions are also scary. And exciting. As I leave so much behind I’m also heading toward many, many things that I’ll be seeing for the very first time. Another thing I read recently: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” That greatly applies to my situation as well. I’ll be going places where I’ve never been before. What an adventure!

Although I’m not a Christian, all of this reminds me of my favorite passage in the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

ecclesiates

May your journey through life be full of bittersweet endings and bittersweet beginnings. They’re what give life their flavor.

Swamplandia

I’ll be the first to admit that I have entirely too much time on my hands. My imagination can sometimes take me to very strange places. Anyone who knows me well tends to shake his or her head and smile weakly at me when forced aboard one of my flights of fancy. This is one of those flights, so fasten your seatbelts.

Have you ever thought about how lucky we are to have the sun for reasons other than unrelenting heat? Because of the sun, the natural order of things it that everything tends to become dryer, not wetter. Imagine living in a world where we somehow still had warmth, but where soggy was the natural state. No one outside of Seattle can probably fully comprehend this concept.

In that type of environment, everywhere would be swampy. It would be hard to construct anything because the ground would be unstable. Everything would be slippery and slimy, and the air would be thick with the smell of mold and rot. We’d be more apt to move about by boat than by car.

People couldn’t wear clothing because it would become increasingly damp and heavy and you’d have a permanent case of raisin-finger, only all over your body. We’d probably have to evolve to have feathers and a thick layer of blubber just to stay warm and dry. Our mindset would have to be completely different to avoid going insane. The drip, drip, drip alone would probably do my head in.

Land on higher ground would be at a premium, and rich people would avoid the waterfront properties rather than flock to them as they do today. We would still wage war over oil, unfortunately, because that would probably be the only thing that would burn well, and people’s ability to have fire would be the key to their survival. Fire tenders would be esteemed members of society.

Isn’t it amazing how much we take natural law for granted? Aren’t you glad you’re dry? We really do have a lot to be grateful for.

Swamp

Swamp, by JJcanvas on deviantART

Natural Encounters

There is something special about making a connection with another species. For a brief moment, you feel a deeper link to the wider world, and all the magic therein. Whether it’s a butterfly that lingers on your knee, a squirrel that sits on your windowsill and stares at you, or a lizard that gazes out at you from your favorite potted plant, it’s always a wondrous experience. I think it’s one of the reasons pets are so popular.

I’ve had too many animal encounters to list here, but perhaps the most profound one was the time I swam with the manatee on the west coast of Florida. There I was, floating in my wet suit, checking out the tarpon that would be there one second and then, blink! gone the next, when something the size of your average living room couch floats up to me and just hovers, as if to say, “You may interact with me now.” I reached out and scratched the algae off her elephant-like skin, and she rolled over in ecstasy. “A little to the right, please.” It was profound. It was delightful. I didn’t want the moment to end.

There I was, floating all alone, and all of a sudden I wasn’t alone anymore. And the best thing about it was that it was the manatee’s choice. She didn’t have to approach me. She most definitely did not have to let me touch her. She gave me that gift. She acknowledged me. She trusted me. And I’ll never be quite the same.

Nature is awesome.

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Killer Instinct

I have a confession to make. I’m a killer. And I don’t feel the least bit of shame. I’ll do it again, I guarantee you. If a cockroach or a brown recluse spider stupidly breeches my line of chemical defense and enters my house, there to potentially bite me and rot my flesh or ruin my food or spread disease, that sucker is going down.

Upon first sighting, my mind goes all primal. The only thought I have is, “Kill it, kill it, kill it!” I used to then scream for my boyfriend, but the last two I’ve had have been absolutely worthless in this bloodthirsty realm, so now I just try to get above my panic and then go into heartless hunter mode until the deed is done.

And woe be unto the flea who makes the mistake of trying to feed off one of my dogs. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a flea’s little body snap between my finger nails. Take that, you blood sucker!

I don’t get people like my boyfriend who find it morally wrong to kill cockroaches. I think nature trumps morality every single time. If you encountered a hungry mountain lion in the wild, do you think he’d feel the least bit guilty about feasting upon your entrails? Most assuredly not. And then the vultures would come and nibble on the less desirable bits, and the worms would devour what’s left.

Rats will even eat their own, leaving hantavirus in their wake, so I have no problem with deadly rat traps. I also don’t mind those who humanely trap and relocate higher mammals, even though many of them spread disease, too. This is partly because I know deep down that this territory I inhabit used to be theirs, and partly because I know if I were locked in mortal combat with a raccoon, I’d most likely lose.

I’m not all bad, though. I have been known to pull my car over on the side of the road to let a lizard hop off my windshield, and I’ve helped more than one turtle cross a highway. I’ll put out birdseed in the winter, and I get heartily annoyed with people who let their cats outside, thus depleting the songbird population. I also let ladybugs fly away home.

And I think people who abuse animals should be locked away forever, in conditions identical to the ones they imposed upon their innocent victims.

So where is the line that I draw? If you will intentionally kill me or make me sick, then you are fair game. I’ll kill you every day of the week and twice on Sunday. If, on the other hand, you are simply trying to live your furry or scaly or slithery little life, and we’ve crossed paths merely by chance, I’ll do my best to help you on your way.

So yes, I’ll kill, and feel no remorse. I think those who refuse to do so would be much better served feeling guilty about doing the things that animals do not do themselves, such as polluting or embezzling or pedophilia.

Perspective.

killer