Society Where None Intrudes

I haven’t been well lately.  And when I’m not well, I’m not myself.  I don’t really know what’s going on.  I mean, I know I have an autoimmune disease and am recovering from a concussion, but I don’t know exactly why they seem to be ganging up on me the past five days or so.

So before I returned to tutoring my high school student today, I made sure I had enough time for my “me time” ritual.  I swung by Starbucks, got a muffin and a chai latté, and then drove to my usual beach.

When it comes to beaches, I have an abundance of riches.  There are no fewer than four wonderful beaches within a ten-minute drive from my back door.  I am somewhat spoiled, living here.  I don’t think I could live anywhere but beside the sea.

My routine at this beach is pretty standard.  First, I play my location-based games (Pokémon Go, Wizards Unite, and Jurassic World Alive) because I am 50 going on 15.  Then I zone out and just listen to and watch the waves for a few minutes.  And after that, I will eat 95% of the muffin.

Except for today.  Today I forgot and ate the whole muffin — and then got yelled at for it.  By Charles.

About a year ago, I noticed a crow sitting on a sign, staring at me intently as I ate an apple.  (My snack was healthier that day.)  Because I was curious to see what the crow would do, I pulled off a couple of pieces of apple and put them on top of the nearby garbage can when I threw out the core.  Sure enough — after I got back in my car and shut the door, the crow swooped over and scarfed down the apple bits.

That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  This crow (whom I’ve since called Charles, for no other reason than he feels like a Charles) has learned to recognize my car and will take his place on the sign to wait (sometimes more patiently than others) for his treats.

COVID has messed up the corvid, however, because for six months I wasn’t tutoring, and therefore not coming to the beach regularly.  And so when I pulled up to the beach today, Charles did not come.  And — without the visual cue of him sitting in front of me — I forgot to save him a piece of the muffin.

Then we both remembered.

Charles and a friend landed in the parking lot next to my car, and I hastily scraped together some crumbs from the inside of the muffin liner, feeling terribly guilty of course.

If you want to see what happened after that, I did make a little three-minute video to share.  You can find it here.

Even though I don’t tutor tomorrow, I think I will go to the beach to visit my feathered friend.

We have a lot of catching up to do.

 

Here Comes Teddy

The wind is whipping the rain against my window, and it seems to come in waves.

As we do most Septembers, we are dealing with the remnants of a hurricane that has come up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, hit the colder waters of the North Atlantic, and become a post-tropical mess, sending its wind and water all over the Maritimes.  Teddy is no different, and Nova Scotia is bearing the worst of it.

I like listening to the weather outside while I’m cozy inside, curled up on the bed with my dog and at least one cat, a cup of tea, and a book. (I would put the Fireplace Channel on TV, like I do for snowstorms, but ‘tis not yet the season, regardless of what the aisles in the stores would have you believe.)

In the next room, I can hear my husband playing a video came.  A second cat has just come to join me, and I notice that somehow the jar of peanut-butter-filled pretzels is now empty.  (As the only one in the room with opposable thumbs, I am baffled.)

The first day of Autumn has come, and thanks to COVID-19, I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that both spring and summer have happened.

Time has broken, as a fellow writer said this evening, and I would add that it has also folded itself up, accordion-style.  Because I certainly can’t sense that those months were ever there at all.

Of Squirrels and Bees

Attachment.pngOne of the most difficult things about having a concussion is that unless you’re in the club and have had your cranial computer go haywire, it’s not something that’s easily understood. Questionable Bonus: You usually “look normal.“

It’s not like a broken leg, where people see that it must be serious, and they sign the cast as a sign of support. And a broken bone is also common enough that friends and family are familiar with your experience. Well, seeing as I’ve become something of a reluctant expert in this field — four diagnosed brain injuries, likely six in total — I thought I may as well seize this teachable moment and make something good out of it all.

Trying to think and interact with people these days is kind of like trying to concentrate with a head full of squirrels and bees.

Let’s start with the bees.

Imagine that you are standing near a bee hive, close enough to hear and nearly feel the vibration of all those tiny wings. The buzzing is a low hum — not enough to drown out anything, but enough to be distracting. So you have to work extra hard to concentrate on what you’re doing, because that low hum is taking up some of your brain bandwidth. It’s tiring, and you have to work at it, but you can mostly function around it.

The squirrels are a different story.

I quite like squirrels, but not in my head. These pesky cerebellum rodents usually turn up when I’m talking. One of the areas hardest hit in my brain (pun probably intended) is my language centre, so often I say or type one word when I mean another that sort of sounds the same or has a distantly similar meaning. (For example, pictures when I mean worksheets.)

As a result of this ding to the word bank, if I get interrupted when speaking, it’s like I suddenly have squirrels ricocheting off the inside of my skull. Red squirrels! Grey squirrels! Flying squirrels! And I stand there with absolutely no idea of what I was saying, or what I was going to say next. It happens each and every time someone breaks into my communication stream, and then I inevitably feel stupid and frustrated as I try to recover. Intellectually, I know it’s not my fault, but emotionally it’s a hard default to set.

There really isn’t a way to fix the squirrels. You can say “Please don’t interrupt me,” but that attempt at squirrel sedation usually sounds like a reprimand (especially if you’re also trying to talk over the bees), and some people’s communication styles just don’t work that way.

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Healing from a concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) is exhausting. Each and every thing a human being does uses some form of brain activity. Taking a shower today knocked me on my butt and I had to sleep for two hours. (Write down each and every motion of your typical shower experience from deciding to take a shower until you are ready to walk out the door and you’ll see what I mean.)

For now, the squirrels and bees are settled down. I’m alone in a quiet room, and so my attention is focused solely on this screen and this keyboard. And it feels good to be writing — a balm for those moments when words pop out of my head like soap bubbles on thistles.

Silent September

At lunchtime today, I found myself gravitating to Lily Lake at Rockwood Park. I wasn’t expecting to feel so sad. But having just come from a deserted Staples (“It’s September 1st. Do you have all your school supplies?!”), seeing the still lake and hearing the rustle of leaves in the middle of a September weekday packed a punch.

Lily Lake is a kettle lake, formed by the glaciers of the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. As the ice sheets retreated, enormous chunks of ice fell off. The weight of these chunks caused a depression in the earth beneath them, and as the ice melted, it filled in the depression with water, creating a lake. Perhaps the most famous example of a kettle lake is Walden Pond, in Massachusetts–

Normally in September and October, I say these words five or six times a day, rumbling down the hill on my doubledecker bus — with 70 of my newest friends — holding my microphone steady, with my arm hooked around a pole.

September and October are prime cruise ship season in my little port city, and on any given day, anywhere between 2000 and 11,000 visitors spend their day with us — and I with them. They sail in early in the morning and leave just as the locals are thinking about supper.

But not this year.

A seagull lands on top of the wrought-iron garbage bin, his razor-sharp bill stabbing at a Tim Hortons cup. Slim pickings for you too, eh?

I haven’t heard a New York City accent in person in nearly a year. I haven’t convinced anyone to try our local edible seaweed, or sung to people, confessing “I can only sing in front of people I know I will likely never see again.”

Every now and again my husband will casually mention a building as we drive by — often in the most general terms — and I’m suddenly telling him the history of the house, the family who originally lived there, how it survived the Great Saint John Fire, and to take note of the details in the woodwork surrounding the door.

I can’t help it.

I miss them. I miss the ships, and the people they bring to me. I miss my beloved Routemaster buses. I miss hearing a continent’s worth of voices in 90 minutes, and answering questions I’ve answered a thousand times or never before.

It has been so long since I have had a September to myself that I’m not quite sure what to do with it.

But we’re only twelve hours in.

I’ll figure it out.