experimental surrender

Happy birthday, John Muir. My favorite Muir quote:
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

I’ve had an interesting week, full of what felt like thundering horses through my mind. I love my horoscopes from Rob Brezsny. I woke up to this one, after dreaming of a consuming fire.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): There may be a flood-like event that will wash away worn-out stuff you don’t need any more. There might be an earthquake-type phenomenon that only you can feel, and it might demolish one of your rotten obstacles. There could be a lucky accident that will knock you off the wrong course (which you might have thought was the right course). All in all, I suspect it will be a very successful week for benevolent forces beyond your control. How much skill do you have in the holy art of surrender?

Bill, who is a careful and classical scientist (and therefore has an infinite supply of cold water available to trickle or dump on whatever your sparkling ideas might be) says that non-specific personality analyses (like Internet tests or horoscopes) are rot, and may as well be written by bots. True, not true, but why am I such a Gemini, I wonder? It’s absurd, but it’s not like I try to fit the profile.

Patrick Michaud Pop Tart Blowtorch

photos Patrick Michaud 

Early this morning, I dreamed that the house was on fire. Except it wasn’t this house, or that house, or any house I’d ever lived in. It was a Victorian on a wide and busy street. And it wasn’t very seriously on fire when my dream started, just a few little flames here and there. They were in so many different places, though, that I understood it was not a recoverable situation.

For whatever reason, it didn’t occur to me to call the fire department. It was like I had been expecting it eventually, and I was calm, oddly willing to stand back and watch it burn my house down. It didn’t seem to be a genuine problem in the full picture of reality; I felt that I could watch, and learn.

I found the cats, put them safely in their cat carriers, and took them outside of the house, I got my MacBook, and my backup drives, and I was looking around to see if there might be anything else that  I needed to take with me. I picked up a photo of Bri; today is her 28th birthday and even metaphor should take care with things like a child’s birthday.

I looked at everything; the paintings, the photographs, the books, the treasures. I felt a wave of love for it all. At the last minute, I picked up my handwritten notes on Roald Sagdeev and Andy Ingersoll, because that story is what I’m working on today. I didn’t know if it was a dream, or if it was a kind of reality, but in either case, I didn’t want to lose my rhythm. This is my Hartmannian training kicking in.

I went outside with my few things in my Astro Boy bag, and saw that tiny flames were licking around the wooden window frames at the front of the house. People were freaking out, pointing, holding their phones, but oddly no one (including me) had called for help. I wondered what city we were in. I went back inside, got my IPhone, and called the fire truck. I was disappointed that I’d forgotten to consider (or know) that the house was on a full street; it is rude let one’s house burn down when it is next to other things, other people.

That last bit was, apparently, the only thought I was trying to get to with all of that, and I said, “hmmm“, and woke up.

Larry Lebofsky and I are (also in defiance of Bill’s ice water on the topic, and however dolorous one of us might seem from his Asteroid Lunch mailings) waiting excitedly for our Ceres ice geysers, whether Dawn sees any this week with its jank little instruments or not.

We don’t mind it if we turn out to be wrong. We just feel like we are right, which means to us that even if we are not right, there is something in the idea for us that can become a seed.

Personally, I like to get my Ceres news from the Guardian. They’ve done a bangup job with the Dawn mission.


This is set to be an exciting week.

I think of the kind of seatbelts that vintage racecars used to have, the harness, over the head. I close my eyes, and I can turn and smile at my beloved, evaporated uncle (a nuclear physicist, so pertinent to my week) and I let him reach over and check the buckles for me.

He raises an eyebrow, smiles, and lets out the clutch; we are off like a rocket, shooting straight at the future, which is now, and then, and before then.

This morning, I heard back from Roald Sagdeev, and he blew my mind with what he told me. I watched a movie on human ovulation, I lived and died a thousand times, I took a shower outside, naked with the birds.

I have in fact had, in the past 36 hours, a series of personal earthquakes, and also a personal flood, and a very personal fire.

I have also heard the ideas expressed (by that same careful scientist) that the huge numbers of fracking-related earthquakes in Oklahoma are mostly an inconvenience (only a geologist could say that) and that the real issue is the purity of their water. Nuclear meltdowns? Also in his mind mostly local inconveniences; the real issue is the purity of the atmosphere – nuclear power is cleaner in that regard than fossil fuel power. These points of view are correct from one distance, but in my mind myopic, or abstract; they do not consider a more elegant near-term solution that pollutes nothing. Why not? Pessimism about what is possible.

This is bad for us all, this diminishment through pessimism (individual or collective; what is the true difference?) of the window of human possibility. I can no longer sit quietly (if I ever could) when I hear it. Almost anything is possible if we have the will to do it. Conversely, if we think we cannot do a thing, our probability of success goes down, and the difficulty level goes up.

Abstract views of ground-level pollution and disruption must also be seen as metaphor; he is correct in that all disruptions are essentially local. We can use this (like we can any other law of the universe) to make positive, game theory sorts of adjustments to our complex systems.

I worry that if most of us decide that fixing things is someone else’s problem, or think that a few heroes are going to solve our suite of imbalances, or if we think we have time to make gradual changes in our behavior, we just aren’t going to make it.

8 thoughts on “experimental surrender

  1. Oh Kate! I SO totally agree with your perspective…”We don’t mind if we turn out to be wrong. We just “feel like” we are right, which means to us that even if we are not right, there is something in the idea for us that can become a seed.” This is just how I feel about so many things & you have expressed it beautifully for me.

  2. I’ve had those type of “calm in the face of tragedy” dreams. I too would act all cool and non- chalant about the situation. Almost as if it was going on around me but not to me yet I would be doing things that I needed to do because of it, but then I wake up and have an anxiety attack. Worrying about what the dream was trying to tell me. Was it some sort of premonition, or warning, a sign of danger to come. I would end up calling someone who came to mind during my worries. Thinking I was being forewarned about them. I finally got out of that mode and actually don’t have as many of those dreams.

    • I am very lucky not to be an anxious person. I tend to welcome dreams, especially morning dreams, and you know how those are, it’s a different kind of sleep, and one often knows one is dreaming…

      • When I had a “bad” dream, I was always afraid to go back to sleep. Even though in the dream I was calm, in reality I wasn’t. Now I hardly remember dreams. A few weird ones once in awhile.

        • I think that is one of the concerns about shutting down bad dreams, that it might put you further from being in touch with all of your dreams. If I can, I try to work with a bad dream, instead of forget it.

          Each time I have it, or one like it, I try to bring my consciousness to bear to remind me that before, things like this have been dreams. So maybe this is too. It usually works; if I can take control during a dream like that, I can change the narrative, even work for a heroic or peaceful outcome.

          I remember one as a child that I had to do battle with until I finally succeeded in surviving the event; it was about clinging to the back of a moving truck with a large, dark dog chasing me. As I got older, I also got stronger, and faster, and eventually I was big enough to not fall off of the truck. And as soon as I survived it, the dreams stopped. I hope one day to have a better understanding of what they were about.

          • I guess my way of controlling is suppressing. Kind of like denying a problem to avoid confrontation. At 60 yrs I’ll accept that. They plagued me long enough.

  3. this made tears spring into my eyes; I’m not sure why, and I don’t really want to question them. I just want to let them spring.
    This made my heart squeeze, a little painfully, but reminding me that I am alive ; I’m not going to question why.
    I am in the process of leaving a scientist for the very reason that you express so beautifully here…

    and also, this is true “This is bad for us all, this diminishment through pessimism (individual or collective; what is the true difference?) of the window of human possibility.” Oh yes. yes. yes.

  4. Leaving a scientist, that sounds like a serious thing. <3

    Oddly, almost all of the men I love best are men of science… we have something important for each other.

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