The Sound of The Rain

Night is quiet in quarantine. I didn’t realise how loud it used to be. Now just the gentle sound of autumn rain and the drip drop of overflowing roofs and gutters full of brown, decaying leaves.

It’s a mild night, almost warm – actually, come to think of it, isn’t it too warm for this time of year? I time travel to ten years ago when I first moved to this country and try to remember autumn then. Wasn’t it colder? And in the winter I remember frost in the morning. Do we still get frost in the morning? Are we getting enough rain for this time of year? Will we get enough next year? Ten years from now? Twenty?

Yesterday, I was on my knees in the garden when I became awestruck by the diversity of life in our backyard.  Looking down at the lawn, it was like an aerial view of a jungle, tangled plants that we might call weeds if we chose to and snails, butterflies, praying mantis, spiders and flies. I hate that being renters means that we have to regularly mow this eco system to the ground and my stomach sickens when I think about monoculture lawns where people eradicate dandelions and everything except one sort of grass, the sort that looks like plastic and sometimes is. I hate that astro turf is more socially acceptable than an overgrown lawn where bees might forage. Why aren’t we letting our lawns go wild? Our tidying and taming of nature is genocide and suicide. Why?

I wonder how long the trees in the yard will last before future water shortages cause them to dehydrate and die? Introduced species, they are, oak trees and the likes, the stuff brought over by homesick colonisers who took their desire for the comfortable and familiar and named it “civilization”. What will this place look like in ten years? Will this precious little pocket of life have been sold, bulldozed and replaced by another Mc Mansion made of plaster and painted beige? Where will I be? Where will my loved ones be? Was that article I read right? Will the ocean’s eco-systems have collapsed? Will the water continue to heat and rise and slow to sludge? Will any child anywhere know the planet as I did? Abundant and green?

I time travel back to almost 30 years ago and I’m on our little hobby farm in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I’m 5 or 6 years old and the world is immense, endless wilderness. Our backyard here is tangled vines, flowers, bugs, berries, old tyres full of water and mosquito larvae. I ramble about carrying pet chickens, followed by a dog or cat and with snails on my face because I like the feeling of their trails of slime and I like my parent’s reaction to my living accessories. By myself I explore 5 acres of land with dreams and swamp full of koura, pukeko and once, a rainbow trout that had swum upstream all the way from Lake Rotorua. Every spring I catch tadpoles which I keep in an old outdoor bathtub or indoor aquarium so that I might watch them grow legs, their tails vanish, their transformation over time from fat tadpole to tiny frog. I remember the feeling of a small, silky skinned amphibian in my hand, like a strange green jewel.

One day, I’m about 7 years old, with two little black dogs and my toddler brother, we are at the stream normally abundant with tadpoles and frogs but this year we only catch one. One. I’m upset and frustrated… where are they? And then my little brother stumbles and knocks over the glass jar so the water and solitary tadpole tumbles out and is lost somewhere down the grassy bank. I search in vain for the tiny creature but after some time I have to accept that it is probably doomed to a fate of slowly dying out of the water. I scream at my brother and hit him so that he starts to cry and the guilt is still with me now, my responsibility for the tadpole’s death and my brother’s tears.

My father suggests that the old lady next door, the one who has two giant St Bernard dogs, has been feeding the pukeko too much and so their population has increased and they’ve eaten all the frogs. In any case, I never see another frog on our farm and years later, I will read about how sensitive frogs are to pollution and I wonder about agricultural runoff in the stream.

The St Bernards died, my little black dogs died, the old lady must be gone by now and my parents sold the property 10 years ago now and only recently did I really allow myself to feel the heartache of that. Late one night while I was suicidal in New York, I experienced my first real feelings of homesickness and the understanding of just how much was now completely in the past. And now, while we are all in lockdown waiting for the plague to pass, that homesickness is acute again. I’m homesick but actually also timesick. I’m longing for a time when tadpoles were everywhere, nature seemed to be thriving and life was endless. Timesick for back when a sunny day was only a wonderful thing, not poisoned with premonitions of drought, famine, plagues and pestilence.

I’m here. Now. Lying in bed in this rental property in a rich Melbourne suburb where I feel completely out of place. I try to tune out from my spiralling thoughts and fears for a moment and into the simplicity of the sound of rain. Can I listen to the rain, just for a moment, without thinking about death?

I imagine the water as it falls from the sky and soaks into the earth and suddenly I want to feel my feet on the cold, wet dirt. I get out of bed and walk out the front door in only my underwear and as I step outside, the security light comes on and abruptly I am exposed to the neighbourhood.  But it is late and dark and only one car passes swiftly by. I stand still and watch water sparkle in the streetlight, wet leaves and mud are cold on my feet and the rain is cleansing. After a time, the security light goes off and, slowly so as not to activate the light again, I raise my arms to my sides and this is how I stay until my hair is soaked and my body is chilled all the way through.

The Last Thing of Me

My heart cannot cope with the concept of impermanence and so when the blossoms of spring melt off their branches, it hurts. Endings are natural but so is pain.

We’re still in springtime, you and I. Or at least I hope we are, I hope that winter’s so far away that it will remain abstract and conceptual for a long while yet. We’re building memories that I am hoarding, photos, words, trinkets, songs stockpiled and containing the dream that someday we will be old together, faded people sitting with our chosen family on faded furniture, poring through digital scrapbooks containing imagery of so many years that we cannot possibly recall it all.

My heart grapples with the concept of uncertainty and so when I wonder if the climate crisis will leave us with a future, or if perhaps something less apocalyptic but more personal such as accident, sickness or suicide might take you from me… I want to follow you around with vitamins, a high-vis vest and my constant, protective vigilance to keep you out of peril.

My heart struggles with concepts of abandonment and so I am often preoccupied with the feeling that your self-hate is my most dangerous competition and that if I don’t keep you happy enough, feeling loved enough, you might forget your importance to me and leave me alone with a love that has nowhere to place itself.

When I lie in your arms, I breathe you in like a thirsty woman drinks and sink my teeth into your flesh like maybe if I consume pieces of you, you’ll never be away from me. I want your nails digging into me, I want the marks of your violence like graffiti on my skin, I want your cock inside me constantly and your cum stored in my holes so that I can carry as much of you as possible for as long as possible.

My mind travels to you constantly, wherever you are. I wait at night for you to come home. You make me wish there was such thing as forever but I am forced to settle on being joyous and present in every microscopic moment that I have with you. I want to share everything that we can while we can.

I’ve fallen for you so deeply now that I feel with immense certainty that I will love you until my heart stops and my blood goes still and perhaps as I float out of existence, the last thing of me will be my love for you.

CPTSD

I’ve only recently begun to truly accept and comprehend the traumas of my childhood and through this comes a new understanding of the mood swings that I’ve always experienced through my life which perhaps could be better explained as implicit or emotional flashbacks. I am in the midst of one currently and I feel… a bit shite.

Too personal to write about here (yes, even too personal for me) my childhood experiences, which I thought I had left well in the past, are with me today in many forms that have caused me a great deal of undue pain and toxic shame. They are deeply related to my problems with suicidal ideation and mental anguish.

To work past them, I have to feel my way through them. It’s hard work. I’m doing ok. My partners, Wes and Dani, have been deeply supportive and kind through this process. I’m loved and I’m ok.

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So far this book is incredibly helpful and insightful. I’ve been having a lot of “Aha!” moments, though I have to read little bits at a time or I become overwhelmed.

 

The Passionately Apathetic

I’ve been thinking recently that there’s a certain sort of person in the world who could be described as “passionately apathetic”. You know the sort, they remain steadfastly disinterested, apolitical and “unemotional”… until they encounter someone who cares about something and is speaking up about it, in other words, someone who is simply passionate. The passionately apathetic person finds the passionate person intolerable to the point where they can become incredibly angry, vitriolic and judgemental towards them.

My theory is that this is because apathy is often a defence mechanism that comes from a place of fear and anxiety. The passionately apathetic person is terrified of the chaos that comes from emotions and passions of others and afraid of their own internal emotional landscape. They feel the passion of others as a challenge and confrontation to their own constructed apathy.

Genuinely apathetic people simply don’t care. I suspect that passionately apathetic people, on the other hand, are afraid of what caring might mean for them. To care is to open up our heart and being open is being vulnerable. Apathy creates a false sense of security and so when the passionately apathetic person is confronted with genuine passion, they feel the fragility of their own defence mechanisms.

Or… yanno… something.

Childless Women

We are just childless women but you like to call us selfish women.

While you preach your gospel of family values and hide away in your homogenous houses.

Hey, now that the Arctic is melting and now that our planet is dying… where are you?

There. We see you.

Expelling your energy policing our wombs. Hoarding and wasting resources while you attempt to resuscitate industries that gurgle death rattles. Desperately clinging to a futile and failing feeling of power and control.

There. We see you.

Standing by while the world burns.  Ignoring the cries of your children who are facing a nightmarish future. Do you tell your babies you love them? Do you protect the planet they live on?

You like to call us selfish women. But lately…

Lately I wonder if we care more about your children than you do.

The Creeper

Those of us who experience the world as women and girls (inclusive of transgender, non-binary folks, etc) know all about predators, in fact it has been my observation that as we age we develop an acute sense for them, that feeling in your gut, that discomfort that’s difficult to express in words but which tells you to avoid being alone with that man, you can’t quite explain why but you have learned to trust your instincts. Though instincts are imperfect, we also hone our skills by talking with one another about our experiences, about what we have learnt and about how we have survived. Recently, I had a conversation with my housemate where we realised there was a type of predator that we hadn’t heard a lot of discussions about, which we had both fallen prey to in the past, we named this particular species of predator “the creeper”.

See, there are as many sorts of predators as there are colours in the rainbow! For example, there are the brutish predators, they who will use direct force and obvious violence to get what they want. There are the camouflaged predators, those who use strategies of mimicry to imitate safe people, teachers, priests, family members, those who you should be able to trust. And then there is the creeper, a predatory species who has a specific sort of strategy involving slow, strategic, sneaking subterfuge.

The creeper is that guy at the party who will never directly reveal that he is attracted to you, he will not flirt and he will not ask you on a date, there will be no sense of sexual energy. Instead, he seems to want friendship, appears genuinely interested in just knowing you as a person, taking real interest in what you have to say. He will add you on social media, you will spend time gravitating around the same people, at the same social occasions. The energy will remain free of flirting, he’ll hover on the periphery of your awareness, just a nice, harmless person in your social sphere. Sometimes maybe he will just like a little too many of your posts of Facebook, maybe he will compliment you just a little too much, but it will never seem as if he is actually taking an interest and so you will shrug it off. He’ll never ask you on a date but perhaps he will invite you along to something you have mutual friends at, in a manner that very much suggests it is not a date. You’ll vaguely wonder if it is, but there’s never been a strong indication of his interest so again, you shrug it off.

Yet some day, somehow, you’re sitting alone on a couch and his hand is on your thigh. His mouth is on yours. You’re not attracted to him and you don’t know quite how this has happened but maybe you’re young and uncomfortable asserting your boundaries, maybe because you’re female, our culture has taught you that you are responsible for the feelings of others and though you don’t want to be kissing this man, he is a friend and you don’t want to hurt his feelings. Maybe his hand moves up inside your skirt and though this feels wrong, maybe you feel it’s already too late to stop. Maybe after you’ve had sex with this guy, you feel uncomfortable, gross in ways you don’t quite understand. You start avoiding him at parties and you feel guilty about that. He seems like a nice guy but you really didn’t want to have sex with him. So why did you? How the hell did this happen?

Here is our theory; Maybe he’s a creeper. The creeper moves slowly. So slowly that his movements are almost imperceptible and his intentions are veiled, so slowly that his prey doesn’t get a chance to become startled and take flight. You know that friend you slept with when you were younger even though you didn’t like him? You know that man who took an interest in your art and then when you visited to see his studio, his hands were on you and you’re not sure when it happened? How did this happen? How did you find yourself engaging in sexual intimacy with someone you had no attraction to?

Well… perhaps they snuck up slowly, ever so slowly, so you never had a chance to say “yes” and you never had a chance to say “no”. Perhaps they are a creeper.

Rebecca Solnit: When the Hero is the Problem

Positive social change results mostly from connecting more deeply to the people around you than rising above them, from coordinated rather than solo action. Among the virtues that matter are those traditionally considered feminine rather than masculine, more nerd than jock: listening, respect, patience, negotiation, strategic planning, storytelling. But we like our lone and exceptional heroes, and the drama of violence and virtue of muscle, or at least that’s what we get, over and over, and in the course of getting them we don’t get much of a picture of how change happens and what our role in it might be, or how ordinary people matter. “Unhappy the land that needs heroes” is a line of Bertold Brecht’s I’ve gone to dozens of times, but now I’m more inclined to think, pity the land that thinks it needs a hero, or doesn’t know it has lots and what they look like.

~ Rebecca Solnit: When the Hero is the Problem

Rebecca Solnit is a powerful writer on the environment, feminist, art and politics among other things. Go read this piece she has written, it is so beautiful and important that it brought me to tears.