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Thoughts on 3 Dreams, 9.26.15

September 30, 2015

I wrote a poem some months back that contains the lines: Estoy perdido / I am lost — the same sentiment, in both Spanish and English. There have been days that I’ve woken up with dreams scattered to the winds, but the words ‘Estoy perdido’ at the top of my mind.

I’ve soldiered through countless episodes of (ordinary) depression in my life, but I’ve also weathered several catastrophic depressive episodes within which my entire life disintegrated. In all of those, through my grief and anguish and uncertainty, I adopted a ‘can-do’ attitude about ‘getting back on my feet’ as soon as possible. Maybe I couldn’t recreate a version of my life that was particularly similar to what had gone before, but I needed to create something recognizable.

I needed to know who I am. I needed to verify.

I also sought others to witness the new incarnation(s), if not approve them. (This worked much less well; the ‘real me’ seems to be at least partially socially invisible at the best of times.)

= = =

Every incarnation seemed to make progress bringing me closer to … vague and fuzzy yearnings … and yet.

I never actually arrived at Something I Deeply Truly Want.

In fact, that … seemed as far away as when I started.

= = =

What’s gone missing?

I’m reminded of Clive Hazell’s words, in his book, The Experience of Emptiness:

“One word on the true self. It cannot be known ahead of time: by definition it is spontaneous, emergent, mysterious. In this there is wonder, awe, surprise, even fear.” (p. 199)

My ‘fertile void’ has been a palimpsest for words, ideas, images, that aren’t even my own.



Why not explore “stretches of rural IL that I’d never been in before”? Why be in such a rush to escape? What good are maps if I want to be lost?



From post about dream: “I definitely don’t want strangers thinking they understand me because they know ‘where I’ve been’.”

What do I ‘know’ about where I’ve been?

Instead of always trying to figure out ‘where I’ve been’ so that I can project how to arrive at where I think I want to go, what if I… dump every fucking thing I hate about my past? Just release all of it.

In this dream, when the man asked which 5 states I’d lived in, I remember thinking I’d pick ‘neighboring’ states: Missouri and Arkansas both border Oklahoma; my thought was that Tennessee borders Kentucky [where Spouse is from], even though I’ve never lived there.

I see from Google Maps that Missouri and Arkansas border each other, and Arkansas borders Tennessee.

Why didn’t I pick states that bordered New York, and Maryland? Or how about states that I have some attachment to? Why not West Virginia? Vermont? Ontario? Why not New Mexico? Hell, why not Iowa? Why not Alabama? Why not Washington state?

Why two states that border the second-worst year of my life? Why one state that borders a place I initially thought I could be happy — because of the way it smelled — but it turns out, the people and the culture would have a much bigger influence, and despite 20+ years of visits, I don’t understand either.

Why didn’t I just walk away? Other people’s friendliness doesn’t obligate me to continue conversations I don’t want to have.

What questions would I want to ask myself?



I was an undergraduate over the course of 1984–1999. The class I learned the most in, by far — so much, in fact, that I still reference things I learned to Spouse, I still think about the class a lot — was a graduate-level Animal Behavior class I took when I was a 1st-year biology major at Purdue. The professor gave me a C (iirc), maybe a C–, but it really should have been an F. I was in so far over my head, I understood 1 word in 3 of his lectures. I practically lived in the Biology Library, which didn’t help nearly as much as I needed. I was pig ignorant at the start; the whole world was different at the end. I loved the class — I had to turn my world inside out to understand even a fraction of what the class covered. The tests were the hardest I ever took. Every moment, I was stretching myself in bizarre directions. I worked harder in that class than any other in my entire life.

If I’d received the F I likely deserved, I’d still love the heck outta that class. It was a marvelous experience.

It helped me discover/decide, though, that I shouldn’t be a biology major after all. That I couldn’t fit the culture.

My real-life instructor was not a 30-something cis woman (like in my dream).

But… I was a 30 year old cis woman that year. I made no attempts to get my professor, fellow undergraduates, nor graduate classmates, to ‘like me’ — I did not have the time, nor the energy, as the classwork itself took everything I had. (I was taking a number of other classes, as well as commuting ~400 miles per week.)

I have been an Environmental Scientist. On paper. But I wasn’t doing anything related to zoology, botany, or ecology.

I had the wrong educational background to fit in with my coworkers. (I always do.)

I don’t have Any Idea what I could even aspire to do, professionally, with my background. And I’m so fucking sick of scrambling to figure something out. All the while knowing I won’t ‘fit in’ with anybody anyway.

I’m currently fascinated by estuaries, but not as a scientist. Nor a ‘citizen scientist’. Not even a science writer.

As a grown-up kid who imagined I saw alligators swimming in Long John Slough. (In northern Illinois.) Someone who heedlessly waded in bare feet in the DuPage River, looking for fish, snails, and mussels. Who learned to love water snakes. A person who talked to river birches as they grew up from baby saplings to mature trees.

These days I call myself a “water witch”, but I don’t know what the words mean.

I’m a poet who sometimes writes about waterbodies. I changed my first name to Meander.

I feel things, a great many things, but I’m no longer sure I ‘know’ anything much.

Time to drift.

Reading List 10 of 2015

September 28, 2015
tags: ,

Covers the period from 9.12.15 through 9.28.15  


I own 3 of these books. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 12 of the books; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 15.


Research ~ Gaia:

  • Between Earth and Sky: Our Intimate Connections to Trees by Nalini Nadkarni {partially read}
  • The Ecology and History of Jug Bay [Maryland]: A Volunteer’s Guide by Elaine Friebele
  • The Great Marsh: An Intimate Journey into a Chesapeake Wetland by David W. Harp & Tom Horton
  • The Hidden Forest: The Biography of an Ecosystem by Jon R. Luoma
  • Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems, 3rd edition, by Robert G. Wetzel {partially read}
  • Marshes and Swamps by Lynn M. Stone
  • Wetlands of Maryland by Ralph W. Tiner & David G. Burke



  • 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye {partially read}
  • Blood, Tin, Straw: Poems by Sharon Olds
  • Gold Cell by Sharon Olds {partially read}
  • Earth-Shattering Poems, edited by Liz Rosenberg
  • Everything is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis
  • Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge
  • The Poetic Species: A Conversation with Edward O. Wilson and Robert Hass
  • What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World by Robert Hass


Literature ~ bilingual:

  • Juan the Bear and the Water of Life / La Acequia de Juan del Oso by Enrique Lamadrid
  • Poetry Translations [Lithuanian–English] by Frank Yakstis


Autism spectrum:

  • Bastards: A Memoir by Mary Anna King
  • Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway by Siobhan Roberts
  • Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison
  • [Fiction] The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • [Fiction] Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier


Memoir & Biography:

  • Criminal That I Am: A Memoir by Jennifer Ridha
  • Extraordinary Women of the American West by Judy Alter
  • Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin


Fiction ~ SFF:

  • Chalice by Robin McKinley
  • The Other Half of the Sky, edited by Athena Andreadis
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel {partially read}
  • The Very Best of Kate Elliott {partially read}



  • Honey & Jam: Seasonal Baking from My Kitchen in the Mountains by Hannah Queen



3 Dreams: 9.26.15

September 26, 2015

When I had the first 1 (maybe 2), they were kind of icky, and I didn’t want to write them down. I went back to sleep. The third one was very compelling — although still icky. I woke up and wrote it down in my dream journal, then remembered more and more from an earlier dream, which I also wrote down.

They now seem to be connected, so it’s that much more important that I figure out what they’re trying to tell me.

[Analyses to follow in a later post.]



Something about driving long distances with Spouse. Being back in Illinois [where I was born], but in stretches of rural IL that I’d never been in before. Everything unfamiliar. Maps no help. “How do we get out of here?”



I’m in a huge dining hall, filled with people. I don’t know anyone there. I strike up a conversation with an older man sitting near me. He’s friendly. At some point, it’s relevant that I say, “I’ve lived in 5 states.” But when he asks me which ones, I suddenly realize he’s too interested in me, and it makes me nervous. I almost get the vibe that he’s… trying to track down my life story? I definitely don’t want strangers thinking they understand me because they know ‘where I’ve been’.

I’ve already told him I’d lived in Illinois and Indiana, but I go on to say (thinking fast) that the other 3 are “Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas”. There! That’ll confuse things!

[I’ve driven through Missouri a lot, mostly as a kid on my way to Oklahoma. Since I’ve been married, I’ve been to Tennessee several times — to visit the Smokies. I’ve never been to Arkansas.]



I’m in a room in a basement: no windows, all the walls painted white. It’s a classroom. It’s near the end of the semester. I think I’m in graduate school; the class is biology, but it’s not exactly my major.

Teacher hands back all our accumulated work. I see a field report that has a photo of me (a selfie) and I’m grinning. I feel pretty good, remembering that day.

And then I look at my grades.

On the most-recent exam (where I thought I did decently well), I got a D-. [Even though the teacher is now explaining the curve to the class: a 53 is a C. But I got a 58, and that’s a D-?]

She’s “helpfully” included an estimate of what our final grades will likely be, now that there’s just one assignment remaining. For me, it’s, “I’m sorry, but… F.”

I turned everything in. I worked hard. I enjoyed the things we did.

I failed no assignments or tests; I skipped none.

How can I have earned an F?

[In my extremely long undergraduate career, the only F’s I ever got were for classes I didn’t withdraw from soon enough (that I’d stopped attending), and then 2 classes in 1990, 1 of which was a subject I didn’t understand at all (Drafting), and the other (Chemistry), where I’d miscounted how many labs I completed and turned in, an automatic fail.]

The rest of the class has moved on to something fun: a classmate brought in t-shirts they made, and people are picking out the designs they like. Many will get their names put on them. They’re not biology designs, they’re stripes and things, but unusual colors. They’re actually pretty cool, and I like them, all of them. For the first time, I notice the wide range of body sizes and shapes of my classmates, and yet, all the shirts fit. I recognize that as pretty cool too.

The teacher realizes the class has kind of gotten away from her, now that everyone (but me) is feeling very festive. She runs around, trying to reassert her authority, but still remain likable. I realize, for the first time, she’s Trying Way Too Hard to get us all to like her. I feel sorry for her, but distantly.

She mentions an opportunity for “extra credit”: doing a presentation to the class at lunch tomorrow. Visual aids will be required, but otherwise it’ll be kind of informal. (Although still a speech.)

I could do it. Probably. I mean, I know material that I could talk about.

Holy fuck, a speech though.

[I’ve given a lot of speeches for school, beginning in high school. They’ve all been terrible. Truly awful. I get so wound up with fear and anxiety that I can barely talk at all. The one speech I gave that actually was pretty good — as a graduate student — apparently because I fumbled the projector at the beginning, I got a poor grade. Even though I caught myself, made a joke about it, relaxed, was articulate, answered questions, all that.]

But wait. The teacher says I’m going to get an F anyway.

I sift through the other papers, while I’m thinking. There’s something handwritten in here that isn’t one of my assignments or an exam. Well, what is it then? It’s a personal note from the teacher [who is a cis woman ~10 years my junior], “explaining” that it’s “unprofessional” for me to “obviously” not wear a bra.

Tempted to tell her I haven’t ever worn a bra as an adult. 30+ years. Including, obviously, at every job I ever had.

Tempted to tell her I’m transgender, so her “cis woman” standards don’t apply to me.

But no. I decide this class period is the last time I’ll ever be here with these people. I don’t need to come back and watch other people’s lunchtime presentations. Hell, why bother taking the final exam? I’ve already failed.

Time for Whatever Comes Next.

I have no idea what that is.

autism: connecting mishaps

September 24, 2015

Princeton science historian Graham Burnett, explaining his colleague, the mathematician John Horton Conway:

“He had a lot of enthusiasm, even something akin to spring-in-the-step affection for everyone. And yet the enthusiasm and the affection — in fact, his whole mode of reaching toward other humans — appeared to be achieved exclusively through what felt like a giant prosthetic carapace of mathematical knowledge and mathematical appetite. That’s what he could reach toward you with. And this was unusual. It left me with a genuinely disconcerting feeling that I’ve known really on only one other occasion, with another person I think deserves to be called a genius. It is the feeling that one has fallen under the attention of a very animated and apparently good-willed god-monster-being, who really wants to connect, but whose capacity to do so is entirely mediated by this huge and very powerful and just-barely-controlled exoskeleton. He’s in there, you can tell. And he’s probably friendly. He seems friendly. But what you’re actually dealing with — what is looming up over you, swinging its arms around like a dervish — is this gigantic, unwieldy, and frankly sort of menacing animatronic erudition/cognition. And he/it is reaching toward you. Clearly, the only way you are going to be able to interact — and it doesn’t look like you have much choice, because he seems to be very excited to see you — is through the giant articulations of the strange prosthetic machine. If you are going to hug him, you are going to hug that . . . . Plenty of very learned people are sort of ‘trapped’ in their tremendous learning. But most of them — the ones who really are trapped — do not give a shit about reaching out. [With Conway] there is a real buoyant exuberant appetite for connection, it’s just that it works in a way that is really not normal, it’s not normally the way you see somebody reaching out toward you.” (p. 296, Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway, by Siobhan Roberts)

I do not think of myself as a “god-monster-being” (nor a mathematical genius), but this description of how John Conway yearns to connect with others, and yet, cannot… resonated deeply for me.

I engage with the nonhuman natural world every day. I’m also “buoyant, exuberant” about a great many things of interest, including connecting with human beings, but… connecting rarely works in a way I find satisfying and enjoyable.


On the flip side, Conway is just as anxious and insecure as anyone. He’s been depressed, he attempted suicide at least once. He’s hyper-competitive, but just as worried as anyone about how he/his work stack up against others and their work. Being a famous genius doesn’t mitigate those preoccupations at all.

I think it’s time to give myself permission to stop obsessing about all of that crap — the stuff that apparently everybody worries about, at least sometimes.

If all memories of me fade into dust the minute I die, and I’m never remembered by anyone… well, I had a really interesting life, that I mostly greatly enjoyed living. Process >>> Results.

Dream fragment: 9.21.15

September 22, 2015

I didn’t remember much of any of my dreams when I woke up Monday. Late that evening, I was reading a passage in a book where the author talked about driving from Chico to Berkeley, and I suddenly flashed on an image from a forgotten dream.

I dreamed I was wandering around Berkeley, California, on foot. I think I was in a residential neighborhood, although whatever houses there were, were set way back from the street. I guess I was on a street, but it looked more like a wide path in a (very large) garden. At intervals, there were these… nooks… sort of like (above-ground) swimming pools, but without water. Square-shaped, with square-shaped tiles, mostly ivory; a border of dark blue tiles at the top. There were trees all around the square tiled areas.

There was something weird about the trees. They all had round crowns of foliage, approximately the same height. They all somehow seemed to be… waist-height. Except they weren’t bonsais, nor topiaries. So maybe my dream-self was extremely tall, but that doesn’t seem right either. My dream-self’s relationship to the trees was Escher-like, so that even I cannot parse what it was, sensibly. I remember it, but I can’t describe it, nor can I think through how it must have been.

At some point, there was also a man with me (no one I know in waking life). Short in stature, with red curly hair. Tricksy. He kept being amused by things; I wasn’t always sure what they were, or why they were funny.


Someone I used to know, R, was born and raised in Berkeley, but has lived all over the country. She was in Ohio when I met her; I don’t know where she lives now.

I’ve never been to Berkeley. (I didn’t even know it was near San Francisco Bay until I Googled it just now.)

San Francisco Bay is one of ‘my’ estuaries, which is to say, one of the ones I proposed visiting for the purpose of learning about, when I applied for the Gift of Freedom Award from AROHO in late 2012. The others are Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound (Washington state), and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta (Alabama).

I think about, and imagine, ‘my’ estuaries periodically, even though the only one I’ve seen in person is Chesapeake Bay.

(I also think about Prince William Sound in Alaska sometimes, as well as Long Island Sound. I have been to both of those places.)

If my dream was somehow about San Francisco Bay, though, why wasn’t there any water in the dream?

I got very very close to applying to the Stanford-Stegner writing fellowship a few years back, but that’s at Stanford, not Berkeley.

I’ve almost applied for a residency at Djerassi, which is on the west of San Francisco Bay — Berkeley’s on the east side.

I was thinking that Spouse and I went to Point Reyes National Seashore when we were last in California some years back, but looking at Google Maps that can’t be right. We flew into San Jose, not San Francisco, and then we drove down to the Monterey/Big Sur area, where we were staying. Maybe it was Spouse who visited Point Reyes when he was in San Francisco on a business trip — I wasn’t with him.

I’m just really puzzled here. I could see dreaming about California itself, or SF Bay, or the Pacific Ocean. I could see dreaming about Stanford, or Djerassi. But a place I’ve never been and never thought of going?

Why the tiled square areas?

What kind of trees were they? Nothing I recognized, which is kind of weird actually.

The winding paths I was on, now that I think on’t, were kind of like a maze. Kind of. I didn’t know where they went, nor did I know where I’d come from.

And there’s the trickster guy… I was mostly bemused by him.

What could uncanny trees + square tiled Escher-like areas + Berkeley + winding paths + a red-haired male trickster have to do with each other? With me?

how I learn, part 1

September 19, 2015

A conversation I saw on Twitter about racism in schools got me thinking about what was good (or not) about my schooling experiences as a kid.

Considering the time period of kindergarten through 8th grade, I guesstimated there were perhaps as many as 5 projects I had worked on, probably in subject matters that I liked, that I enjoyed. When I counted them up, it was a bit more complicated than that, but…

  1. ART ~ Finger-painting (1 instance only). Kindergarten/possibly 1st AV, the public school.
  2. FIELD TRIP ~ Wastewater treatment plant. 1st or 2nd AV (public) or SJ (Catholic).
  3. FIELD TRIP ~ Jewish synagogue. 2nd or 3rd SJ (Catholic).
  4. BIOLOGY ~ Genetics in your family. 4th grade, Miss Pfeiffer! SJ (Catholic).
  5. SOCIAL STUDIES ~ Oklahoma history. [NM had already been picked.] 4th SJ (Catholic).
  6. ART HISTORY ~ Profiles of (male, white, dead) artists. Volunteer mothers taught these sessions every other month. Naturally there was no budget for actual art classes. 4th SJ (Catholic).
  7. SOCIAL STUDIES ~ papier-mâché sculptural map of Israel. 6th SSPP (Catholic).
  8. “SCIENCE” ~ names of ‘street drugs’ (so we’d know to avoid them). The parts I enjoyed were: lots of drawing + metaphors + storytelling. 8th SSPP (Catholic).


Not exactly a “project”, but when my public school kindergarten teacher discovered I already knew how to read, I was allowed to do my reading time with 3rd graders. That was fun. I spent a lot of time at the (tiny) school library.


Ages 5–13, my top interests were:

  • ART


*Would have really really enjoyed making things in school, but… there was only that 1 map. (I made things at home all the time.)

I attained reasonably decent grades in school, despite being despised by teachers, administrators, and kids alike. The (rare) nice teachers never seemed to notice I was being mistreated; the (common) venal or cruel teachers either looked the other way, or joined in. Telling my parents and expecting help…. Hahaha. Oh, that’s funny. Yeah, no.


I think I had…. hmm, maybe 3 teachers in high school who ‘knew me’ as an individual, and hoped I would do well in their classes. {POLITICAL SCIENCE, CHEMISTRY, ART HISTORY}

I had 1 teacher in high school who challenged me to delve deeper into the source material, and to creatively engage with it. I excelled in her class senior year, and it was awesome. {POLITICAL SCIENCE}

But mostly…. I learned on my own.

I read. All the time. I practically lived in my high school’s library. Also, our town’s public library. I spent more of my discretionary income on books than anything else. (Still true.)

I asked people a lot of questions. Including recommendations for books to read.

I’ve interviewed people.

I’ve taken classes, at various places. By the time I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I’d attended 5 colleges in 3 states, over a 15 year period. I also took these classes/workshops/seminars:

  • plant communities of Indiana at Franklin College (Franklin, IN);
  • controlled burn training (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, IN);
  • botanical illustration at the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, IL);
  • many different art media at the Indianapolis Art Center;
  • database, Adobe software classes at IUPUI (Indpls, IN);
  • private weaving lessons (Arcadia, IN);
  • private sewing lessons (Sparks, MD);
  • fabric collage at Potomac Fiber Arts Guild (Bethesda, MD);
  • science writing, writing, poetry at the Writer’s Center (Bethesda, MD);
  • urban gardening at the Smithsonian (DC);
  • biodiversity at Koshland Science Museum (DC);
  • conservation biology at the National Zoo (DC);
  • various software, creative classes at Community College of Baltimore County;
  • an online copyediting class;
  • poetry at writer’s retreat (Ghost Ranch, NM).


Hands-on stuff:

  • Photography
  • Collage ~ mostly paper
  • Painting ~ mostly acrylic; sometimes oils, or watercolor
  • Fiber art
  • Graphic design
  • Balancing objects ~ mostly papers and metal; sometimes seeds, leaves, flowers, rocks
  • Visual poetry
  • not-gardening
  • Interior design
  • Exploring my synesthesia


A learning situation where the instructor actually cares about the student, as a person? Beyond the subject matter? I wish I could imagine a situation like that, with me in it. But I can’t.

Oh, wait. Therapists. But nothing that’s educational springs to mind.

Definitely not my parents. Maybe Aunt Carol (although I can’t recall any situation where she was explicitly teaching me something).

Autistic people are not supposed to be impossible to love, care about. But maybe I’m an exception.

Luckily, there’s always more to learn. I learn very very well when I’m solitary, and self-directing things.

Reading List 9b of 2015

September 10, 2015

Covers the period from 8.23.15 through 9.10.15  


I own 9 of these books. Baltimore County Public Library system supplied 4 of the books; libraries in other parts of Maryland, via Inter-Library Loan, supplied the other 5.


Research ~ Gaia:

  • American Terroir: Savoring the Flavors of Our Woods, Waters, and Fields by Rowan Jacobsen
  • Estuarine Ecology by John Day, Jr., et al. {partially read}
  • Glacial Geology by Jon Erickson {partially read}
  • Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination by Barbara Hurd
  • Tanaina Plantlore: An Ethnobotany of the Dena’ina Indians of Southcentral Alaska by Priscilla Russel Kari



  • A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry, edited by Czeslaw Milosz
  • Lake Superior by Lorine Niedecker
  • The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, edited by Rose Lemberg
  • One Secret Thing by Sharon Olds
  • Other Suns by Patricia Killelea
  • The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio


Lithuanian History, WW2:

  • Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė by Julija Šukys


Memoir & Biography:

  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  • Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman


Fiction ~ SFF:

  • Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
  • Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz


Autism spectrum:

  • 22 Things a Woman Must Know if She Loves an Aspie Man by Rudy Simone
  • Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman



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