Sunday, June 25, 2006

A long time ago, a pledge was made between Cupcake and an old friend. The pledge was that if one of them should ever take up birdwatching, the other would immediately shoot to kill.

It was a sunny day, and they were sitting on a rocky outcrop in Swaziland. Tall yellow grass swished around them, and it was all very Lion Kingesque. Earlier, they had been enjoying a lovely hike. But suddenly someone in their party thought they heard the chittering of a Yellow Phantom-Breasted Tweet-Warbler or somesuch, and all hiking ceased as binoculars were whipped out and the majority of the party (both in numbers and age) surveyed the landscape for idiot avians.

The group stood arrested in captivation for what seemed hours, while Cupcake and her companion baked in the hot African sun, bored and annoyed.

The pattern of stopping to whip out binoculars, and everybody standing around for ages talking about birds repeated throughout the day. The experience imprinted on Cupcake hostile associations with birdwatching and birdwatchers.

And yet lately, Cupcake has started watching birds. Not birds in general, so much-- and she couldn't really give a hoot about ever spotting a Crunchy-beaked Twizzle-Dipster, however rare.

It's not a hobby, really, that has Cupcake thinking about them, and interested in them. And it's not even "birds" in general (although she fears it might come to that, eventually)-- it's crows. Just crows.

See, a couple weeks ago, Cupcake found a baby crow. He ended up dying, as baby birds one finds usually do.

But since then, crows follow her.

Cupcake is not being paranoid. The crows follow her. It's his family. In particular, his mother. But she gets the rest of them going, too.

Faithful readers will recall that Cupcake lives next to a beautiful park. It was in the park that Cupcake found the baby crow, as a number of adult crows were swooping and making cries of alarm all around.

Cupcake saw a cat skulk out of the brush. From the agitation of the crows, she knew someone was in trouble.

So she walked over and saw him, this baby crow. Fledgling crow, really. He was sitting in the grass, hopping. So she named him "Grasshoppa."

That was her first mistake. You should never name them.

Things happened that would make an unwieldy blog post. To spare both reader and blogger, here now appears a montage of the next 48 hours: Cupcake carried Grasshoppa to vet across park-- adult birds follow overhead, cawing. Vet says fine, fell but unhurt, too young, return and parents will care for as long as he caws. Must eat every two hours. Cupcake returns bird, but he doesn't caw. Cupcake waits hours, til dark. No cawing. No feeding. Parents glare from branches overhead, cawing. Grasshoppa is silent. Cats lurk. Uncertain what to do, Cupcake goes home to read up on crows. Brings Grasshoppa with for fear of cats. Calls bird rescue. Voicemail. Digs up worms and feeds him all night. No cawing. Still voicemail at bird rescue. Morning. Takes Grasshoppa home to tree. (Google says if humans make sure parents see baby every day, they will take back when he can fly.) Still no cawing. Won't eat. Sits under tree with Cupcake watching from distance. Parents hover, uncertainly but don't feed. Grasshoppa silent and silent. Then falls over. Grasshoppa dies. Cupcake cries.

There's more about how cool that little bird was. I just can't bear to type it.

I thought-- I don't know what I thought. That I could keep him alive for the week or so it would have taken for his tailfeathers to grow in so he could fly. That's what the problem was, you see.

Baby crows leave the nest at 18 days. But they can't fly until about day 25. That means a week of hiding. And in that park of feral cats--I can't imagine he'd have survived if I had left him there overnight. Although his parents chased away the one I saw, so I probably should have left well enough alone. Except that he was also right by the path, next to an apartment building full of families. He would have ended up being somebody else's shoebox funeral, even if not mine.

The thing is, now--

Almost every day, Cupcake takes a walk through the park. All this week, the crows have found her. They follow her, cawing.

Cupcake wishes she were making this up. She thinks it would be a really good story, if it wasn't really happening to her.

Sitting in a field, Cupcake discovers that Grasshoppa's mother is circling overhead. She circles and caws until she has assembled the whole flock (which seems to number five). As Cupcake rises, the crows fly further up. And then they follow her, still circling.

The next day, napping in the sun under her favorite tree, the distinctive cawing passes overhead. Grasshoppa's mother eyes her angrily. (And who can blame her?)

And so it's gone all week. They assemble and decry, and Cupcake, dressed in her habitual black, walks below them, guilty.

Today she brought them peanuts, but they would not be bought. But at least other people in the park could happily assume that all the commotion going on was that the crows knew someone had brought them peanuts. They didn't realize that the noise was not celebration but accusation.

And please, don't anyone post a comment about "eating crow". Cupcake's as remorseful as she can be.

She really liked the little bird. He had dignity, and sass. The eyes were intelligent and expressive. Before Grasshoppa, Cupcake never really knew a bird she liked. This one, she thinks she could have grown to love.

She said, as she was dropping worms into the rabbit cage she'd put him in, "When you can snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshoppa, then it will be time for you to fly away." Readers unfamiliar with the old TV show Kung Fu, of course, won't get that. But Cupcake was very amused by her own cleverness. Until she realized that the lesson to be learned was her own, not the bird's.

That's the end of the story, I guess. Cupcake hopes this doesn't count as taking up birdwatching because then her friend will have to shoot her. And it's not so much that she's watching them as that they are watching her. And who can blame them.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Great Poetry Safari; or, Why Cupcake Loves Tylenol PM

Cupcake likes words.

She likes them because they grab thoughts by the throat and pin them to the page.

And Cupcake likes thoughts.

She believes that thoughts are flickers of energy. She thinks it’s a pretty nifty trick that words can transmute them from energy to matter, just like that, wit' no explosion or nuttin’.

So, to Cupcake’s way of thinking, the written word is pure power. It’s a little blip of pure thought (energy). And when you’re reading, you’re looking right at it.

Man, that’s cool.

Music don’t do that. One can write music, but it’s the experience of music, not the reading of it, that counts as music. And that sound of music – that is not matter.

Dance don’t do it. One can translate choreography to language but it’s not the experience of dance. And dance, as one experiences it, whether dance or audience, is not matter.

But the written word. That's matter.

And as Cupcake is living in a Material World, she is a Material Girl.

The written word, man. That's its own experience. It’s prime: divisible by itself and one.

Cupcake, who is easily confused, likes things that break down only into themselves. She applauds such integrity. It's easier to fathom.

Poetry, Cupcake reckons, has a shitload of integrity. It is the purest form of the written word.

Therefore Cupcake finds poetry (good poetry, that rarest of orchids) to be as close to pure energy as one can get short of getting zapped with electroshock therapy.

And to Cupcake, a good poem is better than electroshock therapy, for knocking her to her senses out of muddled thinking. (She's never had electroshock therapy. But without the written word-- ah, she might very well have needed it.)

Recently, in a fit of melancholy, Cupcake ransacked Google for hours. She was crazed and desperate, like a chain smoker after the shops have closed, digging in desks for a hidden cigarette. She thought that in all the internet, surely there’d be one poem, one goddamn poem good enough to assuage her unsettled spirits.

She longed for it; she was having DTs for it. She needed the poem, to apply like a poultice to a wound in her psyche. She wanted to wrap it around herself like a cashmere shawl on a windy day, a shawl smelling faintly of a long-lost beloved friend, patchoulie and jasmine. She longed to curl up under its downy warmth, resting in an emotional fetal position so she could cry herself to sleep, knowing that she’d wake up in a new day, a new state of mind.

But Cupcake’s read a lot of poetry. Cupcake’s at the point in life where she scans the Penguin Classic section in any bookstore and heaves a heavy sigh. There are just only so many times a girl can read Agnes Grey or The House of Mirth. Cupcake and Penguin Classics go way back. If Cupcake were dating Penguin Classics, she could finish Penguin Classics’ dinner party anecdotes by rote.

Word for word. Thought for thought.

So there’s Cupcake, scavenging like a wild thing for food, shrieking at Google, “No! No! No more sites where people submit their own amateur poetry, please I BEG you!!!!!!!!!!”

But there was no new poetry to find that was worth reading.

There was plenty of "poetry" to be sure. But most of it was crap.

Water water everywhere.

But the thirst that from the soul doth rise doth ask a drink divine...And dry as a bone, that internet search was. Dry, dry, as a desert.

And her eyes searched the land with her cup full of sand.

Cupcake was sure there would be one poem, one poet, someone say with the delicacy of a cummings, or the stern but complete mastery of Wallace Stevens, or the ability to capture the very scent of a meaning like Anne Sexton.

Instead, Cupcake discovered (to her disgust and horror) that one of the foremost contemporary American poetesses looks like Divine and has written a book of poetry about menstruation.

It is not, ahem, a beautiful work. (Cupcake was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and read some. It was gross. Not even interesting, not even well-written. It was just stupid and dull, and somehow this writer passed it off as poetry. Astounding. Perhaps it’s because she’s secretly Meatloaf’s twin sister.)

Cupcake also discovered that an aged lady who is Cupcake's own neighbor in Vermont is renowned as a poet. Cupcake knew she wrote poetry, but not that she was an icon in contemporary American literature. And Cupcake agrees that this lady has a knack with words. But sadly, the words spill all over the place without delivering meaning, rather like a cup of coffee half sloshed into the saucer, delivered by an unconcerned waitress who avoids eye contact as she moves quickly to another table.

Exhausted, Cupcake conceded defeat and curled up into the arms of Tylenol PM. Cupcake has been sleeping with Tylenol PM on and off for years, but only recently has she fallen deeply in love with him. She can risk it because, since he's only a casual partner, she's pretty sure she can get over him with minimal effort if he decides to ditch her for unexplained reasons.

But who knows. Perhaps she's wrong. She's been wrong before.

Still, that night, the night of the Great Poetry Safari, he was the best she could do. And sometimes one takes comfort it The Best One Can Do.

Although other times it sucks. Like bad poetry about Menstruation. Jesus wept.

So Cupcake implores her readers to recommend poets they enjoy. (Post 1980 poets preferred because anyone before that from Psalms to Brautigan, Cupcake’s been there, done that.)

Little blips of pure energy. Words.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Just one thing

Cupcake wants to know something.

If you do one thing perfectly— say it’s skating a perfect spin, or weaving a flawless carpet, or loving someone completely selflessly—If you do just one thing right— doesn’t that sense of rightness, of symmetry and grace somehow raise the standard of who you are?

Even if it’s all fucked up at the end. Even if, say, the judges at the ice rink look away while you are in the air, missing your glorious spin, your leotard's sparkling, your ponytail's leap, your perfect stance— Even if no sooner is the rug lifted from the loom than some kid with a glass of grape Kool-aid wanders in and trips, spilling the whole thing on your masterpiece— Even if the person you loved somehow randomly decides that you are toxic to them even though you only ever gave them sweetness—(and in nature, not one thing that's poisonous tastes sweet, not one—)

Then don't you still get credit? Somehow? Somewhere?


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Hello, Readers.

In the weeks since her most recent post, Cupcake has thought of you often. But other matters have upstaged you in Cupcake's thinking, so that the pie-chart of Cupcake's mind shows blogging as a very thin slice indeed.

The lion's portion of Cupcakes attention have been to cleaning up and clearing out other areas of her life. She progesses with astounding accomplishment in that endeavor, and shares with you that she's awfully damn proud of herself for what she's managed to tick off her Things To Do list in a short period of time. She is happy, and she knows her life is moving forward. And she is very grateful.

However, all this cleaning up and clearing out takes emotional energy. When Cupcake sits down to type out a blog entry, she feels like an exhausted mother who's promised her children a story, but who nods off over The Cat In The Hat.

So all Cupcake can do is assure you, her readers, that she will be back. But right now she needs (metaphorically speaking) a cup of tea and a hot bath, and perhaps after those (and a short nap?), she will return and give you "quality time."

All she can say is that she believes this blog will be a happier place when she is on the other side of her project.

The job in Lisbon is on hold for the moment. Cupcake's friend who had offered it to her is not in the best of health. For that and other reasons of time, he had to back-burner the initiative. Cupcake is somewhat disappointed but also slightly relieved, as other irons in other fires would have been left unattended in her absence. Still, the sudden prospect of having to leave the country is undoubtedly what set Cupcake moving with the cleaning up and clearing out stuff, and so she's very pleased with the outcome of having to leap out of her stupor and get stuff going to prepare for leaving-- and then to discover that she doesn't have to leave just yet, after all.

All in all, Cupcake is happy. Life has been throwing her some interesting lessons, and though sometimes her papers come back marked with red pen suggestions for improvement, over all she has been applying herself and is pretty sure she'll pass the class.

She may have to give stuff up. But she's aware that it will make room for shiny new things.

And she sends you wonderful, happy thoughts. She pictures your lives being filled with shiny new things, too.