Karen Rivers

meanings to find: life

Karen Rivers

It's summer for all intents and purposes and my allergies are bad and I have books to finish writing that aren't quite done and aren't quite right and there's the issue of deck permits and the way the grass behind my house is long and high and has gone to seed.  At night, I'm having trouble sleeping.  In the mornings, the crows wake me up early, so I must have been asleep, after all.  I dream about escalators that are too high and too steep and glass all around and somewhere in the distance is the ground.  


The crows murder.  The crows' murder.  The murder of crows murder.   Murder is one of those words.  Say it to yourself over and over and over again and eventually it just sounds like you are trying to say something else, but you have a speech impediment.   


Last night, I watched Hector and The Search for Happiness.  Hector was unhappy but didn't know it and so went on a journey to find out what happiness was, only to learn he'd been happy all along.  I want a movie about searching for happiness to end with the character finding something new and different.  Something revolutionary.  These films always circle back on themselves.  The characters always find that they were happiest where they'd started.  They may as well not have gone.  What is the message?  Be happy with what you have?  There were truths in that movie, sure, but we all know the truths about happiness, which is that while one is trying to be happy, one almost never is, that it's in doing other things that we are distracted enough to accidentally fall into happiness.  This makes me think of holes dug in the forest and covered with thin layers of leaves.   You have to be looking up to fall into one.  Then, there you are, trapped.  


I love it when my eyes get worse than they were, not because I want to be blind, but because the first time you put on contacts or glasses with a new prescription, everything is so sharply-edged and stunning, it takes your breath away.  Even looking at the morning glory growing through the front lawn can make you stop and stare.  Did everything always look like this, even when we couldn't see it that way?  In photos, soft focus makes things look prettier, so why is it than in real life, a sharper focus can remind you that there is beauty here?  It also shows up your crows' feet, the murder of them that lurk around your eyes.   Those are worsened by squinting, just FYI.  You should get your eyes checked. 


Nobody knows what anything means but we want it to mean something so badly, even when it doesn't.  Sometimes a black cat just happens to be crossing to the Johnson's lawn and the fact that you were walking north and it had to go east does not mean that bad things will befall you, but if they do, you should blame the cat.  As a species, we love having things to blame.   We blame mental illness, mostly.  I have a mental illness and I'd never shoot a bunch of people in a church, for Christ sake.  Let's let that explanation go, please  Let's not give everyone an out when sometimes they are just fundamentally terrible people who do heinous things.  


I'm worried about dying in public.  In this particular fear fantasy, I either choke to death on nothing or my heart stops cold in its tracks while I'm watching a parade.  I have no real reason to think this could happen, except that we all die, and why is it that when you're at an event surrounded by thousands of others, no one is dying?  If we all die, it's not unreasonable to think that you'd witness this every now and then, and yet most people die very privately.   Statistically, it's unlikely for you to die while doing your shopping, so maybe we should all spend all our time shopping.  I think how inconvenient it would be to die now, to die suddenly, to die unprepared.   I haven't finished the books and my children --  well, they need me.   Besides which, I don't want to die.  Death seems like a pretty long sentence.  Life is a blip.  I want to get on with improving my blip but I'm busy and the house is a mess. 


My kids are going to see the movie Inside Out tonight.  "If you were an emotion," they tell me.  "You'd be fear."  I'm taken aback.  I think, is that how they see me?  I try very hard to be braver than I am.  But of course, they are right.   I don't know what I'm afraid of, apart from the aforementioned public death.   I mean, I'm afraid of obvious things, like the unpredicatable man in the woods who shouts.  I'm afraid of the feeling I get when I stand near the edge of something that's high up.  I don't like scary movies.  I hate rides at the fair.   I tend to hyperventilate when I'm pushed outside my comfort zone, which is actually pretty small.  That's probably an issue.  Therapy scares me.  One can know too much about one's self.   Let's not dig too deep.  I'm not exactly afraid of crows, but the way they amass on my neighbour's roof to murder the small birds at her feeder is definitely chilling.   Sometimes I think too much about the mechanisms of breathing and how little it would take for that to fail and for the whole operation to stall.   That's pretty much all of the fears I can label, for now. 


Let's think about how we'd want to look back on our lives, shall we?   I'd want to be remembered for being kind, only sometimes I forget that and I yell at other drivers, "YOU IDIOT!  Do you not see me here?   Use your signals!"   That's not a nicety.   Sometimes I forget that in order to be remembered for my generosity of spirit, I have to be generous with my spirit.  My spirit can be very small and somewhat sticky.   My daughter leaves popsicle wrappers on the kitchen island and they melt into a small puddle of sugary syrup on the patterned surface that I don't notice til I accidentally put my hand in it, or the mail gets stuck.  


My son, who is dyslexic, has fallen in love with books.   This has gone the way of all things, in that the balance has over-corrected the other way and now he won't stop reading.   We are late for everything.  "Hurry up!" I shout.  "Put on your shoes!  We're late!"   "But I'm READING," he says, like that is enough of a reason.   Reading is obviously very noble, an act as giving as donating blood or raising money for orphans overseas.   It's hard to explain how this is not a fact.  The truth is that I want to sit down next to him on the couch.  I want to pick up a book and lie back on the cool grey fabric, put my feet on the ottoman.  I want to read for the good of the world.  In this way, I'll save us all.  But we'll still be late for everything, every day.   "At least it's not video games," he says, consolingly, patting me lovingly on the leg, as the clock ticks on, marking the minutes we are spending in this place that is not where we are supposed to be.


I sometimes think about geography, which is also destiny.  If I moved somewhere at random, how would my life change?  There is probably someone somewhere in a tiny town in the mountains in the middle of America who might be my true soul mate, a thing I don't even believe in, but let's use it here for the sake of argument or fiction.  We'll meet in the lineup at the post office, which is also the dry-cleaner and the corner store, only no one will ever use a dry-cleaner because there's nothing fancy here to dress for.  There is nowhere else we need to be, so we'll be at the post office just for human contact, or to pick up our bills and assorted junk mail.   "Hi," I'll say.  "Howdy," he'll say.  I don't know what happens next.   Maybe we'll go home and read, together or separately.  That story wasn't as gripping as it could have been.  You fill in the blanks.    I'll probably have a nice house.  Houses are cheaper in my imaginary small town in middle America.   I would miss the ocean though.  I would walk down the dusty roads and look at the unfamiliar trees and think, "What posessed me to think that I could live without the sea?"  I'm allergic to fish, by the way.  I swell up.   I get hives.  


There's a toxic algae bloom in the Pacific Ocean that is spreading up the coast.  This is no small thing and yet no one is talking about it very much.  There was a similar bloom in the lake up-island.  Maybe it's all a sign.   Maybe it means that it's time to go.  Maybe we should be packing our books into boxes, hiring moving vans, and moving to somewhere that is away.   I can't see why though.  Nothing is different anywhere else.  There are just more or fewer bookstores.  More or fewer things to do.  More or fewer people who are wondering what it's all about.  


Two kids in North Carolina lost arms to a shark within a couple of hours of each other last week.   The fact that no one will stay out of the water now, in spite of that, is a testament to the human spirit or just an indication that we only see signs where we want to see signs.   Statistically, it's unlikely anyone else will be attacked on that beach.   Someone needs to advise the shark of that.   He, after all, has his reasons.  It could be that he's mentally ill.   Or maybe he just hates people and the way they murder all his kin, the fins of his elders right now making someone more powerful in China, making someone else's penis grow.  


If you're looking for meaning here, try joining the sentences together in a different order.  I'd like to write a book like that, with all the sentences out of sequence.  The game would be for you, the reader, to put them right and to tell me what I meant after all, to show me what I didn't see when I wrote it in the first place.  Sometimes none of us know what we are saying.  Sometimes none of us know what we meant when we said what we said, when we did what we did, why we were the way we were.   It just happened.  All of it.  This blip.  This life.