Discover more from An Irritable Métis
Frogs Don't Get Into Funks
But toads do
Welcome to the midweek(ish) version of An Irritable Métis. This is where things are usually a little less … irritable. If you forgot what all this is even about, you may remind yourself here. If you want to help me keep the lights on, well….
“I had a friend who went on a date with a man who said he was suffering from general malaise,” Ada Limón writes in the introduction to a recent edition of The Slowdown. “So we said it for years, general malaise. I’m sure I’m remembering this wrong, but I feel like they had gone sailing and had this beautiful day and still he was sad, distant. General malaise is no good on a first date.”
General malaise really isn’t that great no matter the context, is it? It’s a perfect descriptor for the vibe most of us are probably living in though. Unless you’re a sociopath the last couple years have probably dragged on you as much as it has the rest of us. I’ve been doing my best to transcribe poems from a two-year’s-worth pile of notebooks in preparation for putting together a manuscript. It is the project I am working on while waiting to hear about edits for Becoming Little Shell. But the poems all suck worse than I expected, and I’m asking myself daily, “Oh, what’s the use….” I know that is largely the malaise talking. The funk I am wading through.
We are all dealing with a kind of funk. It’s hard to function in this surreal environment we have created for ourselves, trying to live our “normal” lives in a global situation anything but normal. Maybe the sociopaths are fine, who knows. I was lectured by a 10yo last week during one of my poetry classes about how he doesn’t have compassion for people who wear masks. That they know masks will kill them because “it’s a known fact” that masks trap carbon dioxide next to your face, then the person breathes it, and it’s poison and so they die, and it’s their own fault so they deserve it, etc. I didn’t even hear this boy’s voice; instead I heard the echo of some ignorant parent hell bent on indoctrinating their child into a mindset they will likely face the world with for the rest of their life … but maybe, hopefully, not. How does one react in such an exchange? I did the best I could while wearing a mask and not dying. We talked a lot about compassion last week.
I wish someone would take me sailing. They wouldn’t have to talk to me at all. I’d just like to get out on the water. My beard is in a state that is mostly unmanageable right now but would look great assaulted by a salty breeze.
Just Because They Look Related It Doesn’t Mean They Are
When you are in the middle of it, how do you fight back against your own malaise? Faith? Community? Exercise? I’m fortunate to live where I do, at least the parts that aren’t overrun with people. Just yesterday near the old mill just down the road, in one of the fields a cattle ranch paid me to flood irritate and buck bales in way back when I was in high school, I saw a red fox skittering in dashes and circles across the crusted snow, nose down, obviously hunting whatever she could find below. That gave me a jolt of pleasure. Just as seeing a coyote not too long ago out rummaging around the skeleton frame of a tumble-down barn not far from where I live. Near the river I’ve been watching several beavers … or at least what I thought were beavers. I’m convinced now that it is beavers and muskrats sharing the same habitat, sometimes within just a few feet of each other. I think I love that even more, love their little community.
I love beavers and I love muskrats for different reasons. Muskrat plays a critical role in the Anishinaabe creation story that describes how Turtle Island came to be called Turtle Island. It’s the best kind of story.
My story is nothing without time spent in the company of my non-human relatives, and I am grateful they are so willing to reveal themselves to me.
Speaking of, I re-encountered this wonderful quote from Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) writer Richard Wagamese. I have it saved somewhere but then I also encountered it anew on the website of the Potawatomi (Anishinaabe) writer, Kaitlin B. Curtice. I am currently reading her wonderful, most recent book, Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God. Here’s the Wagamese quote:
“All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship – we change the world, one story at a time…”
– Richard Wagamese
Isn’t that the best? Commitment to our stories will get us through this dreadful time in the world. They are the only things that ever have! Which is why storytellers like Wagamese are so necessary now. He left us a few years ago, off on his own spirit journey, and we need more like him to remind us of the importance of our own unique stories.
In that same episode of The Slowdown I mentioned earlier, Ada Limón also talks about describing moods with colors. She says:
I have often thought that moods have colors. The green of calm and creativity, the red of anger and of passion. When I get sad, I say I have the blues. I say I am blue around my edges. And it makes sense to me. It makes more sense than saying “depression” or “sadness”…just a little blue, just some blues today, that’s all. Sometimes it’s my way of saying that I know it’s nothing to get worked up over, nothing anyone should worry about.
I’ve never been one of those people who experiences emotion as color, or sounds as color, etc. Vibe on people via color. Music as color? Nope. I envy people who do. I’m like an old 8-bit video game when it comes to color, or a printer cartridge running low in two-out-of-three reservoirs. Which is unfortunate, because I love a joy-filled palette as much as anyone. Colors are joyful, aren’t they? I like thinking about it, though. I like trying to imagine what feels like green, or what color the presence of someone I care about might be. Ada Limón might be my favorite living poet. What color would she be if I stood near her and closed my eyes? I’ll never know because even if/when I do meet her, this color thing just isn’t my mystery.
Here’s the poem from the Slowdown thing I’ve been stealing from all newsletter. It’s a good one….
Be gentle on each other, and yourselves. Throw flowers, not rocks.
P.S. Just now as I sat re-reading this one more time before scheduling to post, out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw my old cat shuffle into my room. I turned to say something to her, then realized it’s impossible because she too crossed over a couple months ago. Does that ever happen to you?
It was nice to be visited. Thanks, Puny.