Thursday, September 12, 2013

Remembering Heather Hughes: A Personal Snapshot

A year ago today, my friend Heather Hughes died. Chances are you all have gotten a glimpse of Heather once or twice, whether you knew it or not. If you ever saw the movie Singles, she's the redhead working with Tim Burton in the scene in the video store. Her work in that little scene made such an impression on Cameron Crowe, he asked her to be in the video for the movie's song (the Singles single, if you will: she's the bartender). 

Those two tiny snippets don't really tell you much about her of course, other than perhaps to show that she was, as our friend Kim said, equally at home being sexy or dorky (though the video clerk is probably more snarky than dorky). She's the first friend I've lost who could be memorialized in part by videos on Youtube, so maybe that's why I share them. The internet is a weird new facet in remembering friends these days. I'm not going to get into that right now. Take a look at the videos, and refresh your memories of the early nineties, if you like. 

Use Your Neuroses

I think it's Edith Piaf who is credited with the advice "use your faults." I've always loved that idea, but have rarely known how to implement it. This morning though, I woke up mulling over my own version of this thought. I've spent most of my life battling, or at least trying to hide my neuroses. I wonder what would happen if I found a way to use them instead? 

This idea hasn't triggered a specific game plan any more than Ms. Piaf's advice has. But I'm feeling hopeful. Have you ever found yourself using some previously hated part of yourself, and finding it effective? What got you there? And did success on one occasion make it easy to keep hold of the lesson, or is this one of those lessons one has to relearn regularly? God I hate those, but they seem to be what life, at least middle-aged life, is all about. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pipe Dream

I dreamed I went to a book signing given by Neil Gaiman. We got off to a bit of a rocky start when it was my turn to meet him; his hands were huge, but his handshake was distressingly limp. Once we got past that though, he was warm, gracious and seemed genuinely interested in connecting with me. I was going to be giving a five minute reading of my book at a panel later in the same conference, and though I knew it was a long shot, I invited him to attend. In the way of dreams it was instantly the next morning, I was doing my reading and there he was, sitting and smiling in the back row. Afterwards he came up and said some very sweet, complimentary things. 

Almost makes me want to write a book. 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Meditation on Simple Pleasures

The Jersey house seems to be at the epicenter of a flock of goldfinches at the moment. Both feeders (visible from indoors) are hosting several of them, the autumn amnesty allowing them to eat together in big chirpy bunches. Earlier in the year mated pairs could share feeders, but would chase away any others of their tribe (house finches were also chased away). Now they crowd onto the feeders with relatively little objection. They occasionally form little dinner groups divided by gender. Yesterday I noticed there were five or six males gathered on the thistle sock in back, while the women folk shared the fruit and nut feeder in front. 

When I went out this morning with my coffee to inspect the grounds, I found several goldies feasting on something (I assume seed pods) in the cosmos/nasturtium/zinnia patch. I wouldn't have guessed the cosmos would support them, let alone provide sustenance, though I now may have an explanation for why some of the dried ones have snapped off at about the two foot mark. When I returned to the front door, I startled a flock of birds on the gone-to-seed sunflowers. Three walls out of four now have something to feed birds. I just wish this place had more windows, so I could watch without disturbing them. 

Looking out the kitchen window this morning, I was treated to the sight of a male goldfinch eating next to a male cardinal. I found myself wondering if there would come a time when those bright colors, separately and in combination, would cease to thrill me. This first year of regular visits to the house hasn't dimmed the pleasure yet, but surely after a while I'll get bored by it right? That thought made me a little sad; it seems ungrateful somehow, but the human ability to take common pleasures for granted eventually is well documented. Fortunately I had the good sense for once not to dwell on it. I love the sight now, why not enjoy it until I don't anymore, right? Why go to the trouble to imagine a day when the glass will be half empty, on a day when it is decidedly half full? 

Almost as if I were being rewarded for this 'be in the moment' thought, a chickadee showed up. And I got excited. I love chickadees, and unlike goldfinches, I've been watching and delighting in them since I was a kid. (My first memory of seeing a goldfinch was when I was in my thirties, so they still have a certain degree of novelty.) Chickadees are pretty common year 'round birds, so they lack the seasonal surprise that might explain why I have yet to lose my joy in fireflies, violets, autumn leaves, snowfall and thunderstorms (to name a few). Chickadees look like they were painted with Sumi ink, so it's not like there are bright, startling colors to delight my eye. But I love their plumage, and the jaunty air they seem to have. Even their chirping ("chicka dee dee dee") amuses me. 

I'm experienced enough with depression to know that one can lose appreciation for anything. But today, right now, it's comforting to be reminded that joy, even in simple things, doesn't always fade.