So lately I’ve been struggling a bit with the cumulative effect of the last 2 years.
Since I have never been one who is easily bored (Thanks Dad*), being grounded by my Doc, in lock down, in almost complete isolation for the better part of 700 days, just did not bother me that much….or at least that’s what I thought.
I am easily entertained by life, so I may have missed some of the slower-building warning signs.
In the last 2 years, I’ve crocheted 5 baby blankets, adorned 15 hubcaps, dried a few hundred flowers, handmade 50 or 60 Holiday Cards, made 25 inspirational collages, read a few books, corresponded with many long-lost friends, exercised, worked on endless editing for a book 20 years in the writing, culled, downsized, and cleaned my household. That last one sounds so productive, but it was nothing compared to sorting, downsizing and organizing a life long collection of beads, buttons, fabric, yarn, and antique Cobalt Glass.
Oh, and I worked…actually, quite a bit more than I have in a few years. Clearly others were aware of the emotional and psychological effects of Covid sooner than me!
No, I was plenty busy and distracted!
What I have not done is my taxes. Too hard to figure out expenses and deductions for a huge home office and Group Therapy room that has sat unused, and pouting, because I abandoned it when I fell in love with Zoom…the only way I work these days.
When I have found the burst of manic energy it would take me to sit down and actually catch up on my deal with the government (by the way, I don’t owe them. They owe ME!) suddenly I am overwhelmed with a compelling urge to engage with Hulu or Netflix. I guess I should be grateful it’s my only addiction…well, unless you count those life-long collections I mentioned above.
I have binge-watched more than 30 whole series in just under 2 years, burying myself in the characters and their drama in the way one can only when watching 4 or 5 hours in a row. (picture blushing emoticon here…)
I have kept up my short daily walks though. You would think after living here for almost 50 years there would not be anything new to see, photograph or write about, but as I said, I’m trained to keep that small child, wide-eyed wonder alive and well.
Here’s a sample of the things that have stirred my curiosity or delighted that little kid still in me.
First, I love “Urban Tide Pools”!!
Next, the big and little things I see on my walks…the heart rock I spotted on Valentine’s Day!
And lastly, the things I almost missed…
Primroses in the dead of winter…
All these things have helped me through the worst days of how we all have to live now.
AND, I have been very successful at avoided filing my you-know-what’s!
Though I know it has to be temporary, I’m counting that as a win also.
Anyway, my last two bugs, having lived way longer than any of their female-only ancestors, passed away last summer and I was way sadder than I would have expected. It was probably much more existential grief than I want to admit…end of an era…passing of time…my own mortality, etc.
Or maybe I had simply bonded to these mild, extravagant creatures. I confess, I LOVED my bugs!!
For the seven or eight years I have raised Giant Spiny Australian Leaf bugs (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extatosoma_tiaratum) I saved every single one of the hundreds of eggs they laid, hoping for later hatchings. (It takes over a year when *parthenogenesis is the method.) I kept the eggs safe and in the medium suggested by my research on Google (warm, moist soil).
With the last batch born (39 of them) I knew I was getting tired…but not of my bugs. They are so easy to care for. Feed them and put fresh paper towels at the bottom of their terrarium every 10 days or so. No big deal. (Well, I am leaving out the part that James does for me…scrounging around for uncontaminated Blackberry bushes, cutting off several branches, and then “dethorning” them for the safety of the bigger bugs who can accidentally impale themselves on these thorns. Poor James comes home bleeding every time!)
It had become quite an extravagant hobby.
After so many generations, I was up to a whole “colony”. With each new generation, I would happily give away as many bugs as I could to good homes (schools, parents, friends, independent Pet Stores… boy, are those hard to find now…) but it was requiring a lot more of the kind of energy I no longer have due to my age or an exhausting autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s? I don’t know which.
Also, at that number of bugs, there were just too many for me to “socialize”…meaning, getting the bugs used to being handled by humans. I wanted the occasional brave guest to be able to have the experience of one of these mild monsters sitting peacefully in the palm of their hand. This last batch had basically no direct human contact.
When I could feel the end nearing for my two oldest Queens, I did not do anything to protect or preserve their hundreds of eggs in the way their gestation requires. That was a much more difficult decision than I would have thought.
When they both died, I gave them what I considered a loving and respectful send off by placing them on blossoms outside in the sun. My keeping them safe in captivity may have given them a much longer life but had prevented their outdoor experience.
I put away the terrariums, and the jars that acted as vases for Blackberry vines. I gathered books and tchotchkes to fill up the empty shelves, dresser tops and counters that used to hold giant Bug Homes for all to see. I had all those interesting-looking eggs in a bowl and just set them off somewhere on a shelf.
I have missed my bugs. I know they are not pets in the way most of us think of a pet…like a companion. I didn’t talk to them or anything, at least not nearly as much as I talk to my cats (wish I had a winking emoji for right here…)
I did try to provide entertainment for them though…exposure to different settings, and playing loud music for them. They love Comfortably Numb and actually sway in time with music, but I guess I needed copyright permission for a video I made with Pink Floyd playing in the background, because WordPress would not include it in that post long ago.
But for all those years they were such a mild, peaceful presence in my life.
Having that amazing bug activity, straight from a David Attenborough-type nature show, happening right in my living room, was a constant and graphic reminder of the miracles in Nature. The molting process alone would blow the most uninterested of minds.
I think I have missed seeing daily the natural flow of the bugs’ stages, the proof that though one life comes to an end, another is always starting…
And those gentle bugs actually made me miss my life’s work a little less. In my practice, I was a regular witness to the amazing cycle of human life……coaching childbirths, end of life counselling, with all of life’s challenges, traumas and gifts in between.
Retirement! Heck, what was I thinking???
Now this will seem like an abrupt change of subject, but we have this cat named Lucy. She was born in the wild (well, in the woodpile in front of our mountain home). She is by far the most mildcat either of us have ever had. We think she is expressing gratitude for allowing her to adopt us as her humans, and rescuing her from a treacherous life in the mountains filled with cougars, coyotes and bears….to say nothing of the below zero temps we sometimes have in the winter. She is gentle and careful and sweet and affectionate (this last, at her own whim of course…she IS a CAT after all).
And she is also amazing in that she learns after just one or two corrections. I post about her a lot. You can read her story here:
Her most vicious trait is that she hunts, chases, kills and eats spiders. I have mixed feelings about that but so far have not prevented her Spider Patrols. What can I say, I’m a hypocrite.
Last week, I had a shocking experience. I lifted a pile of papers off the table I was working on and found a dead (squashed?) BABY BUG!!! Absolutely no idea how it got there. Or from how long ago? And did Sweet Lucy do this or did I crush a new baby bug and not even know it?
I Confess, I actually cried.
And then, I had an even more surprising realization. It seemed unrelated but in my tears I discovered how much I HATE being even semi-retired. (I see maybe 4 clients a month on average.) I miss working so much. I loved my well over 40 years of being a Group Psychotherapist with a booming practice. I never got tired of it. I never experienced “burn out”. I worked hard to live the principals I taught so I never really experienced the conflict and dissonance possible in that line of work. I was really, REALLY happy being able to do the work I was doing.
AND I missed my post-retirement hobby, my BUGS!
I want BUGS and I want to WORK!
You’ve heard the old Chinese proverb “Be careful what you wish for”?
In the last 5 days, SIX live, baby bugs have appeared out of nowhere in my office. I don’t have any eggs stashed in here. No adult bugs were ever loose in this room to drop unknown eggs. I have no idea where these hatch-lings are coming from, but I do know that after the very first one, which Lucy spotted up on the ceiling, I had a talk with her to remind her the difference between spiders and our bugs. Since then, five more have hatched and been unmolested by our Gentle Hunter Lucy. She just sits and watches them until I can capture and contain them. (I cannot however, confirm what she does behind my back of course.)
But anyway, apparently, I am on my way again, with a whole new generation of Extatosoma_tiaratum.
Gosh, maybe my phone will start ringing soon and I’ll have some new clients to work with too!?!
It started with her sweet but slightly pitiful meow somewhere off in the distance.
The older male cats can really let loose with YOWLS but not Lucy. She is polite in her vocalizations. Sixteen year old Alpha cat, Zorro will talk your ear off, loudly, and will make terrifying and ferocious sounds if he thinks you are hurting one of his “siblings”.
Phineas, on the other hand, will snap off an immediate “F-you”, in cat language, if you try to correct him on anything…that and he’ll occasionally wander the house crying LOUDLY like he is the most forsaken being on the planet.
But not Lucy. She is sweet in the sounds she makes. Don’t get me wrong. She is one tough little cat broad and will take on either of her older and bigger “brothers”, often even the instigator of mostly playful exchanges.
Back to my story…So I hear Lucy’s little cry…somewhere, but I look every where and can’t find her.
There is this kind of vestibule between rooms in our old house that is currently mostly used for storing things after our recent major downsize and internal move (from the main floor to the basement apartment).
This vestibule area is where the mewls are coming from. I look and look again. She is not in here!
But on closer inspection, here is what my camera finds that I could not.
And my favorite…
Cut to the end. Let’s just say, it took a lot of cat treats to coax her back out of her newly discovered hiding place.