Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dolled Up & Ready to Go... Where?

May 3. True story.

 As a kid I wanted dolls to play with; Barbies, babies, etc., & my little sister felt the same. So that's what our Christmas presents usually were. Being poor, we felt lucky to get any gifts.

We didn't know we were making a choice that was supposed to represent our major life interests. We didn't know to ask for telescopes, spaceships, microscopes, easels, guitars. Those were things I could have wanted, given a chance-- I don't know about my sister. I wanted drums, I wanted a mummy, I wanted to be Mr. Spock, but didn't know how to ask for those. Maybe being trained in girl-ness for six years was enough to show me I shouldn't ask. After all, the train set I had asked for never appeared. The Hot Wheels track in the basement belonged to my older brother, and despite my enthusiasm for playing with the cars, on the rare occasions he allowed that, nobody ever considered that I might want race cars & a track as well. No one asked if I wanted them instead of dolls.

Why would they? I was a little girl during the early 70s, and that meant I could play house (they should call it HouseKeeping 101), put on pretend fashion shows, play with baby dolls, Barbie dolls, color pretty pictures, use my BFF's Easy Bake Oven. Oh, and read, which I did, daily. Any interests I had outside of the conventional set were not going to be overly encouraged, at home or in school. No one was going to notice how, before actual 'play' I spent two hours setting up every detail of Barbie's house, made of discarded shoeboxes and whatnot, and think that I had a talent or desire to design & organize. The teachers at school didn't see that while the other girls were swinging & braiding each other's hair at recess, I was playing Star trek with a (boy) friend, roaming invented galaxies and negotiating with aliens.

To be fair, I was encouraged in some ways-- my Mom made sure I got books on whales & archaeology, two of my interests, and got me art supplies & books on how to use them. But I was miserly with my paints, knowing there wouldn't be more anytime soon, and was afraid to really experiment and thus use them up. A side effect of being poor. I guess another issue was that I learned better by being shown how to do something, than by reading instructions (still do). So the How-To books didn't work for me, and my lack of production of a masterpiece was taken for lack of strong motivation, although I drew constantly, on any paper I could scrounge.

This kind of unconscious choice we make, as kids & adults, is almost heartbreaking to me, now. I carry some guilt to this day, for not somehow intuiting the methods & techniques to become A Great Artist; and that I didn't figure out how to ask, despite the behavorial programming, for the guidance & gifts to become some kind of scientist. And I bristle when I see children being locked into similar choices, choices that they too are unaware they are making.

I wanted it all-- to be an artist, to understand whales and dig up ancient civilisations to study, to figure out the mysteries of space, to learn to play drums and to create my own fairy tales. My heart was full of all these desires. And still, I asked for dolls, mostly, and that's what I received.

C 5/2016
by Mari Kozlowski

Monday, May 2, 2016

May 2. 

 This is just a beginning-- there's more to come later this month or week.

  Hang in There.

 "Dammit, Malky!" he said, nearly tripping on the cat as she raced by him; and then, not paying much attention, he looked up and caught sight of something new. Not Jenna's usual style.

 Len would never have noticed the poster hanging next to the desk in his wife's office if the cat hadn't tear-assed by him so that he had to stop short to avoid stepping on her long, furry tail, & breaking it, very probably. He was jostled, in other words, and so just accidentally saw that where there used to be, had always been, an illustration of a kitten clinging to a branch beneath the sovereign advice to "Hang in there, baby!" now there was a drawing of an evil looking typewriter, along with the message "If you were in my novel, I'd have killed you off by now." 

 He stopped to take it in, a rare concession to fate's whims. How you make a typewriter look nasty, vicious even, was beyond his artistic scope, but not beyond his comprehension-- the thing was menacing, along with the words, and Len slowly absorbed the oddness of finding such a piece of snark in his wife’s personal refuge. Now he saw that the paint just above the left corner of the poster had been scraped, getting the old picture down. She hadn't fixed it, or asked him to, or mentioned it.
C 5/2016
by Mari Kozlowski

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May 1, 2016.

 Story-A-Day May.

 Bird Wars

 This morning I saw a sparrow being attacked by a pack of crows. It was an unfair fight. The sparrow kept struggling up, struggling to stand his ground, while the crows kept swooping in to pick and bitch at him, one & two at a time. He didn't really try to defend himself, and I'd say he was as shocked as I was. His posture & movements seemed to say, You can't mean to do this, can you? He was as baffled as I was, I'm sure.

 I'd never seen a skirmish like this between the birds of the neighborhood. Sure, if there was food in the street (a rare happening, as we have regular weekly street cleaners here in my suburban village) there might be a couple of birds that tried to steal it from each other, though never as violently. But there was no dropped food or any other obvious cause for the conflict I witnessed.  It's hard to imagine what could drive a half dozen or more big crows to beat up a little sparrow on a sunny Sunday morning. They were so cruel to him, a robin actually came over to help, strafing the crows as they hit the poor little guy, then taking care to fly away fast after each run.  He was still taking a chance, and he knew it, but he couldn't do much against so many, brave as he was.

 My ragamuffin cat & I watched from the window, horrified and fascinated (it all happened very quickly) and then suddenly the sparrow was down, and not getting up. On his back, eyes closed as far as I could tell, and not moving.  His attackers noticed, too. After a last peck at his silent form, the whole gang of crows took off, while I ran to find a box and a small towel. I intended to try to revive the bird, if possible, or at least keep him safe & warm in his last moments.  I hoped it wouldn't come to that.

 In a minute I had dressed & found what I needed. I hurried out to do what I could, wishing I had been fast enough to rescue the sparrow before he got seriously hurt. It was early, not yet 7am, and I had been barely awake when the birdfight began; I'd only come out to the front window to say Good Morning to the cat before making some coffee. Now I was going to the front lines to tend the wounded, sans my daily caffeine ration.

 Outside it was cool, and quiet, now the combatants had fled the scene. My hands were trembling as I walked across the street to where the sparrow had fallen-- I was not simpatico with birds, generally. I found them interesting, but they found me scary, probably because I spent a lot of time with cats, and had the smell of cat fur on me. Thus I had some trepidation about getting the bird into the box, if it was still alive, but that didn't matter. He needed help, and I was the only witness able to respond.

 When I reached the battleground, I was surprised: the downed sparrow had gone, whether flown away or carried off, I couldn't tell. Not a trace of discord remained, & there was nothing to show what had occurred moments earlier-- not a spot of blood nor a dropped feather. I hunted around to be sure the poor creature hadn't merely crawled under a bush to die, but no; he was gone, the brave robin was gone, and all was now as peaceful as a spring Sunday ought to be. I was relieved, but a touch worried over the circumstance of the sparrow's disappearance, and wishing I had been awake enough to do more. I tried to take comfort from a thought that the bird had only been stunned, then recovered.

  Soon my neighbors would wake and begin their weekend rituals of yard work & dog-walking. The sun would warm up our lawns, and my cat would shift his attention to the back window to watch the usual rabbit action on display there. No one would know about the strange little war I'd been privy to, or my ineffectual attempt to participate. I slipped into my morning routine again without much effort, but as I sipped fresh coffee and watched my cat watching the backyard, I wondered, over & over: what was the war about between the crows & sparrow?

by MK