"Some calls it madness...I calls it HiDeeHo." - Cab Calloway
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Monday, April 05, 2004


I knew this GI bug wouldn't last long. It wasn't even 12 hours long. Take that, gastroenteritis!


I forgot my membership card to check in to the upper level of the Y today, so I ended up getting my cardio outside. I went down into Vernon Marsh and entertained thoughts some might call delusional, but since I am aware they are fiction, aren't so crazy. Just entertaining.

It was a bit chilly, not even 50 degrees, but bright and sunny. The weeping willows were greening, red-flowered silver maples and silvery-gray pussy willows were abundant, and the redwing blackbirds were kang-ka-reeeee-ing their little heads off. I crossed the dry longstem grass field that slopes down to the wetlands in a kind of slippery amble, just looking and listening. The closer I got to the fens, the louder and more varied the sounds got - small bird songs, waterfowl wing beats, crane calls, and something that sounded like a duck gangbang. The water on these fens is not deep, but it stays cold for quite a long while into spring. Today it was so, and it looked like it, with that particularly frigid-looking deep blue color. A slight breeze rippled an acre of water at a time. The bleached remains of trees long since drowned stuck out at jaunty angles from the water, usually near higher points covered with reed and cattail sprouts that broke the surface. Visibility was excellent - I'd say a good 20 miles where the flatness of the ground allowed.

So I'm walking. I find myself walking very carefully, lest I disturb someone or something. Turns out the cranes, ducks, geese, mergansers, swallows, and swans weren't perturbed in the least by my presence. They went about their business, which at this time of year is still settling in to newly-claimed territory and making as much noise to each other as they possibly can. I was reveling in it.

Now those of you who know me well know I am absolutely an outside kind of person. I'd rather be be out wandering and exploring in crappy weather than inside, even doing something I enjoy. My outdoorsiness, as Josh put it, is not really exclusive to any one habitat. I can consider myself a denizen of deciduous or coniferous woods, plains or hills, boreal, temperate, subtropical, coastal or inland - it doesn't matter much. Or so I thought.

Standing attentively on the edge of a large marsh pool covered in waterfowl, watching the odd crane flap by, listening to the twittering and clanging of song birds, blinking at the sudden plop of a chill-tolerant frog, feeling the breeze off the cold water, scanning the horizon for yet more cranes or something less expected, hoping not to aggravate the notoriously territorial and aggressive swans...I realized I am absolutely bound to wetlands. Nowhere else I've ever been - not even my beloved prairies and northwoods - calls to what I may presumptuously call my soul as do marshes, bogs, swamps, deltas, lakes and rivers. This is where I started creating my fiction.

I imagine that I must be a shapechanger of some sort; some aquatic mammal like an otter, a migratory water bird like a duck, or maybe even an amphibian like a frog, who has somehow lost her ability to change back into her animal form. What did I do to deserve having that gift taken away? I'm always going to gravitate to wetlands, feel that pull to just stay, abandon my human life and go back, to strip down and enter the water or flap up, up and away from my human family and obligations...but I can't. I've forgotten how. I've even had the memory of what kind of animal I'd be erased. My parents found me somewhere in the extensive marshes of Waukesha County and that was that. It'd explain why I'm nothing like them at all deep down. I don't want to leave. I can't leave. This is where I belong...and so on.

At noon, I heard a church bell ring. That shook me out of my stasis on the bank of the pond, brought me back to fully human, no delusions, common sense, and glad I had kept my clothes on. I ran the mile back to my car, scaring up what looked and sounded like hundreds of those birds I'm so fond of, moving silently no longer. I reached my car, drove home and got back to work.

That feeling of belonging somewhere is powerful, even if it's in a place you can't realistically live. I take that with me everywhere I go. I'm driven to distraction when passing marshes and lakes by car. I want to get out and look around. I want to stop and maybe stay. I want to put my fur or feathers back on, or grow oxygen exchange skin, and settle in for a season.

But I know this is just a fiction. It's a pleasant, poignant way to district myself from the mundane business of work and real life.

Now Josh comes into play in these thoughts, too. My other boyfriends have belonged strictly in the real world - all about finding places to work, finding places to live, attempts at coparenting animals and eventually a child, social lives or lack thereof - and not at all in my fiction. Josh belongs in both worlds. He belongs in the folktale of my inner life as well as the grind of my outer life. That's something worth having.

posted by Julie Neff  # 4/05/2004 02:03:00 PM

Sunday, April 04, 2004


Recall how Josh and Morgan were down with a tummy bug last weekend? Well, now a week later, I have one. It took a whole week. I don't know whether to be proud of my immune system for fighting it for a week, or demoralized because it gave in. Sadly, I haven't had close contact with anyone but those two for the duration (I don't get out around people much), so I'm fairly sure it's the same thing. I am susceptible to tummy bugs - always have been, probably always will be. But I'm tough. I can handle it. I shrug off most bugs, GI and otherwise, within a day or two, so I should be back to myself by tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest.

Heh. If there's one thing I know how to handle with aplomb, it's throwing up. Ooh, the bleak humor.

posted by Julie Neff  # 4/04/2004 09:14:00 PM


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