Blue Jay Comes To

Blue Jay comes to the big feeder and bosses everybody around.

But he is afraid of Woodpecker.Blue Jay


How do I know?

He’s more jittery around the black and white striped fellow. And it takes more bluster to get Woodpecker off the big feeder, whereas, the little guys frighten easily at the least flutter or squawk. In an attempt to get Woodpecker to shove off, Blue Jay flaps and caws. The feeder swings crazily like boat on a stormy sea.

From my desk, I call at him, “Stop that. Go away!” Three times I admonish.

Blue Jay flies to a nearby branch to spy on his enemy. And to try to shut me down, he tilts his head and directs his left eye at me, the source of rebuke. I speak more kindly to him now, from my seat inside by the window. I remind him of the other, smaller feeder. Tell him he doesn’t have to share. Tell him he can have his very own feeder.

He flies deeper into hiding in the tree’s leafy middle where I am unable to see him.

I imagine he is feeling chastised, and so, irritated with me. I figure he thinks I just didn’t understand his importance and why he, not Woodpecker, should have the feeder Woodpecker was hogging. By rights, shouldn’t Blue Jay have the bigger feeder?

Tufted Titmouse suddenly lands on the roof of the second, smaller feeder, now unafraid of Blue Jay hanging back in the tree. And then Squirrel takes small squirrel-sized leaps in slow, careful, motion. He looks around nervously after each jump, as he heads to the base of the feeder where a carpet of sunflower seeds awaits. Evidence of many feeder squabbles. Seed spillage is the day’s main course for many visitors.

And then comes Blue Jay. Which I like to imagine is because I told him so.

He flies to the smaller feeder and I feel gratified.

Woodpecker continues tapping at a spot on the big feeder, heedless of nearby activity.

And suddenly a whoosh, another whoosh, and three of Blue Jay’s relatives join him at the smaller feeder. All goes well. And before too long, those in attendance disband.

Minutes later, Blue Jay alights on the east side of the larger feeder. It rocks gently and Woodpecker, already there, stops pecking. Focused and unmoving, he eyes Blue Jay briefly. Woodpecker then turns back to his work to extract seeds from the feeder.

The two are on either side of the large feeder but Blue Jay doesn’t make his usual, noisy squawk. Rather, he sits there silently glaring at his black and white striped nemesis. Woodpecker stops now and returns the glare with indifferent curiosity.

They are still for thirteen, then fifteen, seconds.
And then sudden movement when they both begin tapping their beaks into the feeder with vigor. There seems to be some kind of resolution. An unspoken agreement to disagree. Maybe.

Until Recently I Thought

Until recently, I thought I was the only person who ever did a, “Mom’s Got A New HairDoo Freakout.”

Thing is, I didn’t recognize her.

Beehive - 1

Not that I wouldn’t have recognized my own mom.

I mean, it wasn’t her, it’s not just that I didn’t recognize her.

It’s that with the change in her hair, all pushed up onto the top of her head, she had slipped into a part of her self that was simply unfamiliar to me; a part I’d never met. I remember she was wearing a light-colored, patterned, sleeveless sundress hemmed just below the knee. It must have been early summer as she looked light and breezy. It didn’t matter how summery and sweet she may have looked, though. This wasn’t my mom and she wasn’t fooling anyone with her costume and fashionable hair.

Had I been introduced to her independently of her being my mother, I might have thought her stunning in her new hairstyle; it was in the vicinity of 1965 and beehives were “in.” But as she was my mother, and she was in a non-mother get-up, I deemed her “stranger,” and, thus, ugly.

Change has always been tough for me.

If, as Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s has said, our root fears are pain, abandonment, and death, where does the fear of change fit in? Or does it fit into all three? The anticipated, possible pain of the unfamiliar or new, the abandonment of what was counted on, and the death of what was known. All three root fears are found in the fear of change.

It’s that the new hair treatment endued her with another of her potential personalities, one of her other Selves.

We all have them, potential personalities, other Selves.

Some of our Selves we may never get, or take, the chance to try on and walk around in.

Some, we may live most of our life inside of.

Some, we may have the good fortune to let go of after experimenting with them.

And some, we may live through miserably, unable or unwilling to peel off and discard.

When I saw her in her beehive hair-doo Self, I burst into tears. Afraid and stunned, frozen; I didn’t understand. I was five, or two, or seven, and I didn’t understand.

I had gone to school that morning only to come home to this very different person. My mother had gone; had left me. My familiar mother had escaped into, or been inhabited by this “other,” mother, a person I no longer knew.

I sobbed. And the shell of my mother, with her bare, brown arms and teased and piled hair, bent down to comfort me, and it was fake. My skin burned with her touch, my ears rejected the comforting cooing noises she made.

And now it was she who did not understand, did not realize, just as she had slid into one of her other Selves, so I had vanished as well.

I Have Considered

I have considered suicide many times. Only once was it so close that I knew something had to be done.

I Have Considered - 2

I’ve often asked my friends what they think: Is suicide cowardly or brave?

I have gotten varying responses. Once, seemingly without a thought, an old high school friend snapped, “selfish.”

I have thought a lot about that.

I used to think it was the bravest thing to do — to take yourself out. I thought that only those with real GUTS could be so bold as to risk missing out on something really great that might happen if they stuck around through the terrible parts.

In my opinion it was the brave who saw the shit and took care of it courageously by getting out of the way. In this way too, I thought, suicide was almost a considerate gesture. If you don’t want to be here, get out of the way and let those who want to be here, take the reigns. Suicide makes room for the cowards to live if they want to do such a miserable thing, was how I sussed it.

In this mode of thought, I used to silently curse my mother for being so incredibly selfish as to have brought me into a world in which I would encounter pain and suffering; hell, in which I continue to encounter pain. What was the point of having children except self-serving satisfaction or sadism? These, I thought, were not valid reasons for conceiving, carrying, and bearing a child. In silent ways, by hardening to her emotionally, by pushing her away with cruel words, I took out my resentful wrath on my mother… not sperm-carrying Dad. I suppose my unanalysed thought was that she was in my life so much more than he, it just had to be all her doing.

My attitude about suicide changed, though.

It was instantaneous.

In my now memory, I recall sitting in twilight on my bed in New York City having taken the second or third dose of a prescribed, mild anti-depressant. And I felt bad. I felt terrible. I had been in a depression for at least a year. My ability to do was highly impaired. I was morbid and morose and unable to consistently rouse inside myself desire, satisfaction, contentment, or peace.

A day or two previously, in a severe build up of frustration, rage, disappointment, disillusionment, and sadness, I had gone to a jilting boyfriend’s house and beaten the living shit out of him while he willingly reciprocated. But that’s another story; a story that keeps me on the edge of my breath when I tell it. But it is a long story and only relevant here as background.

Beating up my boyfriend was my most blatant acting out which is what motivated the shrink to prescribe for me the antidepressant I had recently swallowed before sitting on the bed contemplating suicide. At dusk, facing south, sometime in the winter in my mother’s apartment on the eleventh floor, I stared at the window.

I contemplated, wondered, and seriously considered. I felt myself preparing. I looked out and down. Down at where I might land.

And when the squirmy and barely see-able, mirage-like self-observation, which had slithered without my knowing into my thoughts, whispered to me suddenly, I awoke. I, or part of the I that is me, was planning to jump out the window while my mother and her friends were in the other room, laughing and talking softly about some distant fluffy nothing.

I suffered in a manner in a way that seems impossible to describe now, or ever. If one has not felt the crippling self-pity, self-hate, worthlessness, inner bruising, and desperation of depression, one has not felt it. At that time, in the middle of my twenties, I had no idea what it felt like to bear a child, have my legs sawed off, or pilot a plane. And until I felt those things, like depression, I could not not know them.

Yes, certainly. Depression, and other things, can be detailed, but it never seems sufficient. Never really captures it. Or maybe it does.

I don’t know….

Somehow, sitting plainly on that bed, looking south, I gave myself over to the thoughts completely; let them have me. I let my panicked thoughts’ grip on me finish their gripping… allowed them to settle in and make themselves at home… and then, surprisingly, they let go.

That moment burned into my memory as the turning point of my recovery. And that moment, when I felt myself prepare to do what I had previously deemed “courageous,” is when I mark the start of my obliteration of suicide as a viable option for me in times of trouble. And when it became clear that living is the bravest act. My question was answered. Life, and living, are for the courageous.

My depression lifted; slowly, gradually. It seemed interminable. After the window incident, it was a year before I felt consistency in my ability to tolerate living. And a year or two or three after that even, until I felt myself cope better and more reliably. The shrink diagnosed a lifelong, chronic depression that would require vigilance and hard work to stay ahead of. He had taken note of it; said it resurfaced especially before and during menstruation.

I am terrified of paralyzing myself with depression again. I watch it like a hawk; don’t invite it in, and take preventative measures. I call friends, visit family, write about it, cry, read a book of inspiration, fly into a rage, or zone out on the computer or with the television.

I don’t know if, like the shrink said, this depression is a long-term situation or if it is what makes me Me. If it is long-term and chronic, then each time I experience and get out of the way of the oncoming minivan of depression, it is practice for the next, potential dive down into the muck. Sliding into depression, working it through, and scrambling out is what I must do to be readier for the next round. And if it is simply an acute, short-term pitch into the black, and isn’t my nature or my personality, or my fate, then maybe all the practice I’ve had with depression can be chalked up to the joyous adventure of my life as a human. A brave and courageous being.