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A working professional and part-time writer, full-time Mom and modern day Alice in Wonderland...

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Strange Perfume of Memory and the Leaps We Take Alone.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1107 March 24, 2017
Write your entry for today about a place that you have spent a considerable amount of time in--perhaps somewhere you lived or worked before--and whose smells are curiously linked with your recollection. Describe the emotions and events from that period that those smells conjure up, and the ways in which your memories may have been colored by your preference or distaste of those smells.

In my youthful days, days when I was driven by wholly different passions than I am today, I volunteered at the local aquarium. During my tenure as a Sea Urchin, the aquarium's term for their student volunteers, my favorite assignment was working with the aquarists in the back. I remember arriving in the early hours on summer mornings and passing through the mud brown door labeled "authorized personnel" into another world filled a new variety of new sensory delights that I can still recall with absolute clarity.

I would always start my shift in the few hours before the aquarium opened for the public. The vast halls and rooms were oddly silent except for the ambient sounds of the massive filtration and circulation machinery always working in the belly and bowels of the place. The gray green windows of the display tanks cast an almost cosmic glow in the shadowed interior. I would pass the rows of tanks on my way to the back, the round eyes of our residents watching me pass. I would always stop at the shark tank and spend a few brief moments watching the sand tigers circling slowly, their snaggle-toothed mouths agape and their black eyes fixed and staring. Behind the circular shark habitat there were the three expansive windows of the main husbandry tank, most often empty that time of the day. Without a resident sea lion or bottlenose dolphin, it always looked immense and cold to me.

It was the olfactory impressions of this place however that leave the strongest impression on my memory bank. Passing through the main lobby and side rooms and pushing open the door that lead to the aquarist area, I was immediately assaulted by the smells of the space. Here behind the tanks, were all the scents associated with the task of maintaining multiple marine environments and those creatures that dwell there. The air was flavored with the briny, slightly antiseptic smell of artificial seawater. There was also the pungent smell of fish meal loaves being chopped in the stainless steel kitchen or the biting scent of raw mackerel being stuffed with supplements and minerals. The strongest odors emanated from the buckets of squid and bait fish and from the rows of glass jugs where the aquarist cultivated brine shrimp for the filter feeders. Leaning over dark tank of the Pacific octopus, the water of that habitat always seem to have a strange tang of sweetness mixed with the faintest smell of detritus. The tidal touch tank smelled brightly of the powered salt that collected along the water line and low tide marks. The big river tank, the one that housed the rainbow trout and had to be accessed via a false woodsy terrain, smelled strongly like moss and brackish bays.

They were all strong smells, often not pleasant smells. They were the smells of this living world and I loved them. It was messy work, it was smelly work but it was the labor of love for me and I wore those smells home with me each day. The time I spent there is a vivid collection of wonderful memories, the foundation for something I carried forward with me in my life.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1590 March 24, 2017
"In late February, frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians responding to early warm temperatures began migrating from their winter hideouts to vernal pools to begin the spring mating season. Some of the animals were chaperoned to safety by concerned volunteers across trafficked streets late at night in New York and other Northeastern states. Write an essay about a time in your life when you made a big decision or took a leap. Did someone arrive to accompany you or were you on your own? Was your emotional journey guided by a crossing guard who brought you to safety?" ~ Writers Digest

Reflecting on the times of the bigger decisions in my life, I am forced to admit that those were the times I felt most solitary. In fact, I think the big decision moments felt that way because I had to make the decision for myself, with little counsel or guidance. That isn't to say I did not have people who helped me, because I did. The really big leaps though, I took many of those on my own and often, in relative secrecy from my loved ones. Divorcing my first husband is probably the one that really comes to mind. It wasn't so much the act of leaving the marriage that was the big decision but rather the emotional journey of freeing myself from a physically and verbally abusive relationship, one that I had hidden from everyone for almost five years. It came down to one moment, one moment when I had to decide to stand up and fight back. It had taken everything I had to push past all the shame and the fear and come out the other side. The day I pulled myself free, I was alone and it was awful and terrifying. It was also momentous and defining for me. Afterward, I did have "crossing guards" and good Samaritans who helped me with process of recovering myself and with healing. I found it much easier to let people in once I had made the leap. I think that that singular act, that decision, had to be mine alone.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Lesson of the Lorax and The Legacy of Madness

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1586: March 20, 2017
Prompt: Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. Dr. Seuss Use this quote to inspire today's entry. Write a story, a poem, or your opinion.

In the days before I embraced corporate life, I was a student of science. The love I had for exploration and investigation seemed imprinted on my DNA. My childhood heroes were Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall and the shark lady herself, Dr. Eugenie Clark. I was going to follow in their footsteps of research, discovery and conservation. Somewhere along the line, my other passion won out and I was compelled to follow in my father's footsteps. I traded in my wetsuits and regulators for a corporate office and airplanes. Though my career has me pursuing altitude rather than exploring fathoms, my love of science and nature still draws me to the importance of conservation and preservation.

Scientists predict that over the next 100 years, our planet will lose over 50% of our species. The oceans are being over-fished at alarming rates, entire ecosystems are experiencing degradation and ruin and some species are suffering unprecedented rates of die-off... all this while some politicians insist climate change is over-hyped or worse, merely a hoax perpetrated by liberals. The scientific community has offered irrefutable evidence that we are in the midst of a sixth period of mass extinction, fueled in part, by a host of human activities from ranging from deforestry to consumption of fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Certainly some climate effects and large scale changes to the global ecosystems are cyclical and part of the Earth's natural order and evolution, but that should not excuse or pardon the human factors that affect and in many cases, expedite radical and harmful environmental and climatic change. We all consume, therefore we mustn't we also all act to educate and conserve?

It sometimes seems overwhelming. It sometimes seems like a fight that can never be won but still, every minute of every day, there are scientists and engineering researching and designing ways to conserve and protect our national resources. There are activists and educators fighting on the front lines as well as lawmakers lobbying for legislation. There are filmmakers and artists bringing the messaging to the global community with films like Racing Extinction. There are so many movements designed to educate people on how to make conservation a part of our everyday existence.

Regardless of those striving to politicize protecting our oceans and ecosystems, the fact remains that it is our human responsibility to do what we can for our planet. Why wouldn't we want to save our coral reefs, protect our endangered species and national parks? If we could, wouldn't we all try to stop the slaughter of our ocean's apex predators? Slow the rate of melting or our polar ice caps? Save the black rhino, Hawksbill turtle, Asian elephant or any number of those species currently categorized as critically endangered? Where will our politics be in 100 years when 50% of life on our planet has disappeared? Unless...someone like me and you...#startwith1thing


"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1103 March 20, 2017
Prompt: Totally different from the scientific and cosmic black holes, imagine your very own, fictional black hole. What would it be like? Describe it or use it in a flash fiction story or poem if you wish.

The dark space in the earth was an open maw of inky blackness. It called to her, she felt an almost magnetic pull in her gut. The toes of her sneakers, protruding just over the edge, where like bright white triangles against the sea of black below her. If she took one small step, she would fall into it, she would fall forever. No single thought in her life had even been more wholly appealing and compelling.

Alexia fought the urge, the temptation to feed herself to the pit. The physical will it took to draw herself back and away for the edge, left her winded and her skin covered with a slick film of perspiration. Even now as she sat four feet away, leaning against big maple tree and feeling its rough back biting into her bare flesh, she wanted more than anything to hurl her body down that deep shaft. There was no world but the one that was a mystery to her. There was no future but the one that beckoned, dark and endless, from the broken earth. The black hole called her, as it had called her mother. How long could she live without answering?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day - #BeBoldForChange

 "Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 1574: March 8, 2017
Prompt: March 8 is International Women's Day. The theme this year is "Be Bold For Change" https://www.internationalwomensday.com/. Write a story, poem, or something about women or a woman being expressing this theme. Or write your opinion about this theme.

I'm waking up to the fact that today, March 8th, is International Women's Day. I am struck by one, pervasive thought almost immediately. Has this been an annual thing and if so, how have I missed it before? Then, admittedly, I think...what kind of woman does that make me?

In the course of being having a busy full time career, raising a daughter, trying to be a writer, volunteering on the PTO board and running a household, it appears I totally missed the boat on a day meant to observe and champion my fellow women, countless numbers who struggle everyday to fill the same roles I do. At a time when so many feel that womanhood and some of our most important and basic freedoms are under attack, I totally miss "our day"? What does that say about me? As a women?

Admittedly, I have never had the heart of an activist. Sure, I've signed petitions, shared articles of many things of singular importance and written pieces that were strong minded and defiant. I've supported causes and rallied behind those individuals and institutions that I felt represented necessary change. But, I've never been in a walk-out, or walked a protest line or marched. When a dear friend of mine told me she was going to the Women's march in DC, I was thrilled for her but never once remotely considered doing that myself. Does this make me less of of feminist? Am I failing my daughter in some way by not exposing her to a life of active resistance to injustices? I'm raising her to be strong, fight for herself and never let anyone tell her she can't do something and telling myself, at least by some measure, that its the same thing. Is it?I ask myself these questions a lot, but especially this morning.

I work in a very non-traditional field for women. I often joke that is it the industry that social progress forgot. That isn't true but people would be surprised by the things I hear and the battles I still see being fought among my female peers and colleagues for, not just equal pay and opportunity, but for authority, power and credibility. I grew up in this industry though and I feel like I've developed that thicker skin both from being the minority but also from being young and college educated. In my space populated by technology-loathing, "dinosaurs" who see little value in academics, I have often rallied for modernization and vision as much as I have for equality. I use that term "dinosaurs" with endearment, for they are as much a part of my upbringing and my personal landscape as the smell of jet fuel and the whine of a high powered turbine running up on the ramp. I embrace them as part of whom I am and the world I live and work in every day. Over the year I've learned to try not to get sidetracked by the little lumps so I can win the bigger victories. My female colleges number among those I find most supportive, hardworking and loyal. They are easily my "go to" people because in addition to just being straight-up, bad-ass good at their jobs, they get the big picture. They are essential cogs in our machine, even if at times, that machine grinds and moans and occasionally goes on the fritz.

But, back to Women's Day 2017...I clicked the link. I had to get educated. I did not want to start slinging the hash tag #BeBoldForChange about without knowing the values behind it. The website was clearly organized, as one would expect and there near the bottom, was a box marked "VALUES". I clicked it and found a list of words like Equality, Trepidation, Justice...to name a few. I thought about the list and found that three of the words resonated with me a bit more than the others.

Equality. As a woman I want the same opportunities to achieve power and success as my male colleagues. I want the opportunity to make the same money for the same jobs as they do. If Equality is about potential and empowerment, I'm in 100%. However, I don't want total equality. I feel that men and women are different animals entirely, possessing inherent strengths and abilities bestowed on us at birth. Women can be mothers, they can nurture. They can reason with often greater empathy and depth then many men can. They can endure and persist. They can explore countless nuances in their relationships. Women are amazing for all the things that make us different from men. We are not equal because we are not the same and that, that is not a bad thing. It may not be the most popular view among my peers but it is what I believe.

Collaboration. Women need other women. I have seen countless examples of women knocking other women down. There is too much descent among our ranks. We need to all do a better job of seeing what unifies us rather than what divides us as women. One of the unfortunate side-effects of that powerful march on DC was the clearly discernible reality that not all women's groups are created equal, not all women felt welcomed and unified. The weakness of that movement was its failure to be all-inclusive in the end with many factions and groups feeling they had been "left out" or "marginalized". If we are raging against a society that seeks to marginalize and hold us back, why do we fall into the trap of doing that to one another? There is a great quote that sums this up for me..."Strong Women, May be Be Know them, May we Be Them, May we Raise them". Women are still women regardless of whether they are working or stay-at-home moms, Muslims or Christians, Republicans, Activists or pacifists, gay or straight, etc. We need to be women working with women for change first and foremost.

Hope In this world today, in this nation so divided, fear often seems to be the prevailing emotion many are feeling. We are fearful even in our activism and our passion. The concept of the collected "we", as Americans, as women, as human beings feels precarious and forced at times as we watch people taking sides, slinging political rhetoric like weapons, condoning prejudice and inciting violence. I look at my daughter, a child of mixed faiths and mixed cultures and all girl...and I think, what will the world become for her? Will it be kind? Will it continue to be tolerant? Will it provide her opportunities to stand up? Will she find support and camaraderie? Is there hope for her? I would like to believe the answer to all those questions, and more, is yes. Yes, there is hope. There is hope because there are stories of great women to share and inspire, there are great victories won every day for all women. There is hope because we continue to observe, protest, march, speak up and write. We champion the stories of great Americans, regardless of gender, working hard and supporting their communities. There is hope because Democracy is about more than political jargon and party lines. There is hope because we see countless examples every day that give us faith in humanity and that will always trump everything else.