We live in an apartment with two balconies, where a squirrel we’ve named Eddie and another named Eddie Jr, frequent our potted plants to bury their cache for the winter months. They inevitably make a mess with the dirt they scatter all over, which my husband thinks is cute and I don’t. The other day a field mouse was on one of the balconies. I have no idea how it got up to the second floor, but there it was, skittering around and me, making sure the screen door was closed and locked, feeling a modicum of relief that it was a mouse, not a rat. It finally escaped down the storm drain, after two large guys from the maintenance crew stomped around poking a stick everywhere trying to catch it. They said they would have to kill it, so you can imagine how relieved I was when it escaped, though I did wonder later if it could have gotten stuck in the drain, as we haven’t had rain in months and all sorts of leaves, twigs and detritus could have drifted down and clogged it up. I can’t think about it.
I’ve taken to talking to Eddie, Eddie Jr, as well as the palm tree in the bedroom, which doesn’t have a name, but I’m sure is a boy, not really mature enough yet to be a full-blown man-plant. I speak in italics to the painting of the woman with wind-blown hair, an orangish color with stars in it, tell her about my day, ask for a little advice every now and again, about the course my life is taking—if she thinks I might rely on my intuition more, my rational mind less. She just looks at me calmly, with her enormous brown eyes, and I feel better. I have a small collection of miniature glass and ceramic vases that sit on a single shelf, suspended over the shredder in my home office. I adore each one of them, though I do have favorites, which is allowed, as they stand solidly in their autonomy and don’t give a you-know-what about my affections. I pick them up frequently, dust and rearrange them, talk to them, though a good bit of it is in my head, about how happy they make me just to look at them and how I know exactly where I got each one, picked them because they are tiny works of art, uniquely flawed, yet perfect in my eyes.
It’s been a year-and-a-half of a pandemic. It’s been a year-and-three-quarters of knowing that the spiritual teacher I had revered and believed to be of the highest moral integrity was found to be sexually abusing women, some of whom I know and care about. It’s been tough. I could have used a dog to adore me, a cat to snuggle under the covers with at night, probably not a bird or gerbil—I require too much consoling and don’t think they’re built for that kind of duty. I am grateful for not having gotten the virus, for my husband and son’s continued health. I have friends who pull me through every week on a zoom call. I am lucky enough to have an extended family who are more than kind and understanding, even after years of playing second fiddle to my then-spiritual community.
All of this, I feel, gives me the absolute freedom to have conversations with any damn thing I want to, whether it’s my electric toothbrush or the pink dress I just bought, complimenting the organic watermelon on how super sweet and crisp it is, or thanking the sun for showing up every day, in spite of the chaos here on earth, in this country, city and, most of all, in my heart and mind. I speak to the latter two on a regular basis about the state of our union. We debate about the need to keep showing up, rising though we’d rather stay in bed, how we must all row in the same direction and absolutely must acknowledge the excruciating wound in the center of my chest, knowing that to do so is the only way to heal, to come back to self, my authentic self. So, the conversation continues and will always continue and someday, in the not-too-distant future, I will clip a leash on a tail-wagging dog we’ve named Blue and go outside for a long, long walk, he/she looking up at me, hanging on my every word.