today i did a thing

today i did a thing.

that thing was to climb into the bucket of a tree truck, and be lifted very, very high off the ground to rescue my cat from a tree.

that thing was scary. i shook the entire time. i took deep breaths. i said “i can’t do this” a lot, and the guy on the ground kept telling me i was fine.

i wanted to get down. i wanted someone else to do it.

but up and up i went, until i was right below the branch where my cat was perched. she meowed and meowed and i stuck out an arm, petting her and coaxing her to come closer to me.

“you gotta use both hands,” yelled the guy from below.

i didn’t want to use both hands. i wanted one hand firmly gripping the bucket because i was trembling and it didn’t seem possible that i would not just fall right out.

“you can’t fall,” he said.

finally i reached both hands out and grabbed the cat and pulled her into the bucket with me. i held her down on the floor of the bucket saying, “you dumb cat. don’t ever do that again.” i was still trembling. shaking. scared scared scared.

i got to the ground. i tossed the cat out. i climbed out myself and i thanked the tree guys.

it didn’t occur to me that i had faced one of my fears. i am a total scaredy cat when it comes to heights. i never climb up high and jump off rocks into water. i don’t dive into pools from a diving board. i don’t stand near the edges of places.

it didn’t feel like i was facing a fear. i didn’t feel exhilarated. i felt trembly and weak and like i really didn’t want to do it.

but maybe that’s how it is.

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something something something

Last night was the second week of my fall 2017 Comics Studio workshop. It’s the third time I’ve taught this class, and it’s different every time.

One of the exercises from last night was:

“Draw a comic that answers the following questions,
1. What is fear?
2. Where is it located?
3. How do you conquer it?”

I often participate in these exercises along with the students. Here is what I made for this one:

fear.jpeg

Even though I plan the exercises, I am often surprised at what comes out of them. My students are thoughtful and creative and brave. They come up with things I never would have expected. They inspire me, and I try to be as in the moment as they are, only drawing what comes to me in that moment.

Try this exercise, if you like.

What is fear?
Where is is located?
How do you conquer it?

 

 

waking up suddenly

Last night during the thunderstorm I woke up several times to the loud crack of lightening and it was one of those nights where my head just kept spinning. It was also a beautiful storm and sometimes I like that kind of fear from the earth being so big and powerful. Earlier in the day I walked home as big heavy raindrops crashed down on me and it felt glorious.

This is a comic I first sketched out in February, when I had a lot of difficulty sleeping. It was just barely less than two months before my mom died.

waking up suddenly

the tiger within

photo from this website.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so if you haven’t seen or read Life of Pi, maybe you should wait to read this until you have. It might not make sense anyway without knowing the story.

I haven’t read the book, only seen the movie, but am moved to write about the allegorical and “real” stories of what happens to Pi, and what it means to me. Mainly about the tiger, Richard Parker.

My first instinct is to believe this whole story with the animals in the life boat is true. Richard Parker, that glorious Bengal tiger, reminds me of my own orange tabby cat, Henry. He was so wild at first, having been abandoned by his mother at too young an age, he did not even know how to properly be a cat. I had to teach him this, as well as how to love and be loved. He attacked me, bit me, behaved in a way I did not understand. But now he loves more than I have ever seen a cat love.

My mom and I talked about the movie today, and she brought to light some deeper ideas for me. That the whole story of the animals in the small boat with Pi, which quickly becomes just him and the tiger, is an allegory for what really happened after the ship sank– a way for Pi to tell the story and to think about it that is perhaps easier to deal with than the facts. A way of telling what happened that is not dissimilar to religious stories. Did Noah really build an arc? Does it matter? When discussing the truth in fiction I usually bend towards “Does it matter?” Stories, no matter how “factual,” are all True. That’s the reason we write anyway, to dig at that truth.

Tonight I am struck by another level in the tale of Pi and Richard Parker. It’s possible that this tiger is a representation of a part of Pi himself, a deep part, one that is capable of killing– both for food and other humans. This shy, skinny, vegetarian boy does not seem like someone who would kill or even harm another living thing. When he stands with a knife, threatening the hyena (who might be representing the Chef from the ship), he cries out, and Richard Parker the tiger jumps (seemingly out of nowhere) onto the hyena and kills him. Could this be Pi calling upon a beast within himself that can kill another man in order to survive?

I wrote this in an email to my mom tonight: i feel as though, in training the tiger, Pi is training and communicating with the animal inside himself– the part of him capable of killing, which he doesn’t understand. we each have that inside us, and in facing the most fearful times in our lives, the most challenging, we are given the opportunity to communicate with that tiger, to use it to survive. when we call upon that deep thing we don’t know we have, i think that is richard parker. what do you think about that?

Well?

being here

This morning, as I rode my bike in this beautiful day (however climate-change frightening it may be), I realized that I am really, truly Here.

“Here” means a lot of things to me. I’ve been holding onto a lot of secrets for a long time. Recently, I’ve explored letting those secrets go, speaking them out loud, showing all of myself to the people around me. I’ve always been scared to do that because I thought people (besides my family) wouldn’t like me if they saw all that. As much as I didn’t want to admit to myself that was the reason (who me? I don’t care what people think!), it really was, or at least partly. I felt I had to be alone in certain ways to maintain my identity and my true self. As I have let some things open up in the past ten days, which was very scary at first, I’ve begun to feel a lightness.

So, I am Here, in my self. I’m also Here, in my experience. The experience of my mom’s cancer, of what my life means with that in it. I rode bikes with my parents today, and felt so grateful to be with them, to be a part of this. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Riding my bike today with that knowledge, I smiled at the world.

My sister sent me this article about film projectionists. In it is discussed the idea of nostalgia. I already feel this nostalgic pull as I think of how little time I have left with these old projectors and real live film. With this magical, mystical job, which will soon be changing to digital projection. It’s become part of my identity, and I cherish that. But I know I have to move with the transition, and not hold too tightly to this thing which is a realization of a childhood dream for me. I am Here, at the end of an era for film, and the beginning of a new technology.

Today was a good day, one in which all of this is clear to me. Some days are a lot harder. I’m doing my best and I’m going to feel it all one day at a time.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms or books that are written in a foreign language. The point is to love everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live your way some distant day into the answers.” ~Ranier Maria Rilke, poet (1875-1926)