Wednesday, May 23, 2007

brave things

When I was with a certain someone, I learned to be arachnophobic. I think we learn things from our significant behaviors. Such as, I've learned to be more patient and kind since I have been with K (some of that, I know, is maturing, but much of that is his influence). I remember hopping about, the fear of spiders leeching its way into my subconscious and something that never caused panic before was now sending me atop chairs and bedspreads.

For a while, I would smash about, throwing books and shoes, speaking in low tones, "Listen, if you just scurry away and never come out again, I won't kill you, but if you stick around, I won't have much of a choice..."

Last summer I caught a mouse in our house. We'd spread hunks of aloe soap throughout our century plus old house, hoping this would humanely get rid of those that left mouse droppings. And I remember seeing the little guy dart across my peripheral vision, but because it was so quick and darted in the grate at the base of the steps, I thought little of it. Just, oh no, I'll have to tell K so he can deal with it. At least, I thought the little guy scurried beneath the stairs. An hour or so later, I heard a squeak and a plop; the mouse had been chased by one of our dutiful cats and fell from the second floor to the first, right into their water dish. As it scrambled to get out, I grabbed a piece of tupperware, scooped him up, and trudged up the stairs, a magazine keeping the scrambler in. I had to bang on the door of our bedroom with my foot, my hip, as K snored beneath the sounds of summer fans and peace. He groggily puttered out and was surprised to see our new friend in sharp focus, its big head coming to a point, such a small little whip-like creature. (This is why the breast mouse seems such a fitting term for my fibroadenoma.) I needed K to open the back door for me, so I could fling the little creature into the night.

When I found this spider in our drain last night, my fist instinct was to crush it--and quickly. Instead, I slipped our taster glass, given to us by our dear friend BJ at a microbrewery in Milwaukee, and K brought a piece of cardboard and we studied it. Just looking up at this leggy creature gives me shivers, but letting it free by our fence, watching it spindle away, made me smile. A thrill: freedom.

It is spring in Minnesota, and this generally means big, beautiful storms. Growing up in Tennessee, we all knew what a rip roaring decent show of a thunderstorm could be: the ripple of thunder, the tin roof rain, the blink of lightning. Minnesota doesn't know this for a full season--rather, it is May and June. Smatterings throughout the summer, but this is prime season for us to be huddled around our television sets, our internet connection, periodically checking where the tornado watch or warning has arrived. I was stupidly getting my oil changed when the sirens went off, great, sharp, wailing sounds.

I'm not afraid, not entirely, of these storms. Instead, there is a certain thrill of huddling, of battening down hatches, of finding safety in nearness. At the oil changing place, a storm chaser pulled up, his rugged vehicle needing the same cleansing. A complicated radio was clipped to his lapel and he stood out in the wind as the storm's clouds swirled and flattened. I read later that a tornado was spotted in our county, though this hasn't been confirmed; it may have just been swirling dust. I think of how I've always wanted and not wanted to be witness to a tornado. To see it from afar, in a field where nothing is really growing, just to see it but not its aftermath.

I remember the worst summer storm I drove in: this was K and my three year anniversary and he had just moved in a few months before, around Valentine's Day. I was taking a summer workshop in Duluth with Split Rock and it was hot, without an air conditioning, and we had been irritable. Quick to snap, this week of me in the north was best for us, though I couldn't stand not being with him on our anniversary. I drove down after class, took a nap, and woke up just before he came home from his shift at the bank. I surprised him with dinner on the stove, in bowls on a fold up table in the living room, fans blowing against our hair stuck to our slick backs in clumps. Then, the only furry companion was Libby, and he was mournfully pressed against the screen window. That was the summer we were fascinated with Survivor, the summer I allowed a television in our bedroom (I felt like a kid watching tv from the futon; this was the only time a television was in our bedroom and so brief, though like candy that will rot your teeth). I was glad I came back, a warm memory to carry back with me two and a half hours away. That night, it stormed furiously, all our irritation let out. I nearly pulled over beneath an underpass, but I pressed on, frightened for the first time of the beating, beating rain. When I reached Duluth, the rain pulled back and unfurled a thick smudge of fog, equally difficult to see, and the drone of a fog horn greeted me the next morning.

I love the sky. I love all manners of what the sky can do--a clear blue day, an angry storm, dull grey that seems endless. I do not wish to be a pilot or an astronaut. Instead, I love what the sky does and it is rare, daily, that the weather brings down my mood. Each day is something new, and though days of drizzle can wear, I love that it is all changing. Swear not by the moon...

I come home to two puppies who become rapidly and adorably damp after a romp in the rain. I putter out to the front porch in my socks and collect the mail, glancing at the squares of seeds and earth, which I watered two days ago and haven't peeked since. This is what I found:

Glorious. So quick and surprising.

Today, accomplishments:
- Tickets to North Carolina with a TerraPass for both of Chris and myself.
- Getting through a department meeting without a tug of sorrow. Telling them the story of my interview and squirming a little, hoping the phone call would be on our answering machine at home (it wasn't).
- The oil change that was desperately needed. I worry so much when I go on these long car drives, the commute to work and before, the drive to K. Worry does not help anxiety.
- A promise to myself to watch my Netflix'ed Volver and read my library book that is due tomorrow: Eat, Pray, Love.

So my question for you, my dear readers, for today, is this: What are some brave things in your life?

(I love the comments! It's actually another one of those mythic small pleasures--so wonderful to know there are other people out there, friendly voices.)


K.R. said...

Wow. I am impressed. I would be matter how much I liked reading about Mrs. Frisby and the secret of NIMH as a kid, I don't think I'd want to meet a real mouse. ; )


Helen said...

Oh! Those sweet sring seedlings... I'm so jealous. Two years ago I gave up my community garden plot and just began gardening on my condo patio. At this very moment I have five little herb containers to plant into my other pots. I keep wondering why it is so hard to get started. Years ago I would just spend every evening, almost, digging in the soil, shoveling, watering, tending. I miss it. I look forward to having my own yard again. Also - Volver is A+ amazing. I really loved it.

Liz said...

My brave things include catch and releasing spiders as well, which squicks me out to the max. The other one that is probably too much information, but which I think is one of my bravest things, is dealing with my children's vomit on the occasions it's required. AAGH. I can't believe I've managed to do it. I can't believe I'm telling you! :D

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed with your arthopod-crushing restraint. They eat mosquitoes, you know. I let them run free in my house and transplant them onto my plants hoping this is making the plants healthier. Silly? Maybe.

I just saw Volver. Goosebumps, giggles, and shock when the surprises are realized. Naughty, naughty.