Can you nurture the children of your actions?
~Miller & Lee, in Plan B

In this dream there is a great party in my honor. It is my baby shower; I feel my swollen belly, warm with new life as I look through the heavy curtains of the sound booth over the packed auditorium. The stage is brightly lit, empty, its forward curtains open. I seize a microphone, the techs around me showing faces concerned that I might flub a line with nervousness. In a hearty, full voice, I welcome one and all and thank them for coming.

What I remember next is tossing and turning in a bed in the dream, tired, so very tired, in desperate need of more sleep. But I know that outside this room all my assembled guests have been waiting, expecting. They came for a party, and there was nothing prepared for them. No music, no games, no entertainers, no food or drink. They have been expecting me, but I am so tired. Groaning with the effort and filled with shame at my weakness, that let me disappoint them so, I haul myself out of bed and dash into the dining room. I know that the throng of celebrants were to have been seated there, but it has been a long time--hours?--since I vanished.

When I arrive in the dining room, I see long tables covered with white cloth, long rows of empty chairs. Not a candle or a piece of silverware or anything else is on the tables, and where earlier there had been a packed house, I see at the near end of the table a mere handful of stubborn, tough older women. I sit myself among them, my heart heavy, and place my head in my hands. I apologize.

There is conversation I don't recall clearly, but it seems important. Someone comforts, perhaps; someone offers advice. I make some kind of effort, and food at least, at last, arrives. It's too little, and stale. Each is item wrapped in foiled paper that's been wrapped around it too long and has either stuck to the food inside or broken open. I pick one up and unwrap it. Some kind of messy, spicy sandwich, lukewarm from its long journey. I taste one experimentally--too spicy, too much bread.

One of the ladies says something then which offends me. Command, derisive comment on the food, obvious observation about events already transpired? Something insulting. I lose my temper and make an impassioned little speech which I don't recall, but which ends, "now you owe me one!"

End of dream.

So I know that right now I biologically cannot be pregnant. At a certain time of the month, which propitiously arrived a couple days after Dave's visit, makes me very sure of this. Which means this dream is about a spiritual pregnancy, not a literal one--about the children of my actions and my intent, not the children of my body.

Lots of earth and air, not enough water and fire. I mean by this, a grand place in which allies may assemble, and a great name to bring them there, but nothing to sustain the flow of interaction, and no purpose to move them towards a commonly held goal. Magic in the right amounts but the wrong proportions.

And in trying to fill the lack from myself, I exhaust myself.

It's a puzzle, though, how to fix it.

Lacks in air and earth, I understand these. I think of them as vertical-draw elements. Your relationship with the physical, material world is earth, down. You draw more power through conscientiousness, reliability, steadfastness. Your relationship with the intellectual world, the perception and understanding of what's around you, and your understanding of how your perceptions are framed, how your judgments are made, as well.

Lacks in water and fire are harder for me. Horizontal draw.

Fire, what burns in the spiritual space "behind" you and drives you forward, is your motivation, your passion, the power of your will. Willpower, too, though, comes from somewhere. Even though it's central to the self, it, too, rises from relationships. Your fire rises, I think, out of your religion in the special sense. What is sacred to you, where your innocence and wonder come home to roost. The strength of your commitment to these things, and how much of yourself you pour into their service, is the measure of how strong your fire is.

Water, what draws you onward and discovers, by its movement, the shape of the space and time within which you move.

I still have a lot to learn in that department. I'm starting to get the hang of the basics, but it's slow going.

the peace of hidden places

I have started and not finished a couple blog posts recently. There is much, so much to tell, but my internet time is ridiculously limited. And I spend it on KoL and keeping in touch with Dave, and am content. Maybe when I've successfully *left* the deli counter I can finally find a way to post things in my upcoming series "tales from the deli counter."

It's been almost six months, and I have finally reached the point where I am emotionally ready to leave.

Upstairs, behind the breakroom, there is a room where all the temperature control machinery flows. I've hung out there before, even played my guitar there once, but lately I have been sitting in there for a minute or so at the end of each shift. My heart knows it is time to begin the deep appreciation that comes before goodbye. Even though I have yet to actually find or get interviewed for another job, it's a fact that the decision to desire something makes one more effective at pursuing that thing. The magic of the decision rests in choosing the right moment.

The other day I was applying for a job online. It's a tedious process, since just about every company has their own website, and every website has a different application form into which a candidate must type his or her entire employment history. Typing it all in again brings back memories, of people I have known and buildings I have loved. Oh, granted, I love the people too. A building, though, you love in a different way.

People know they're interacting with you. They form opinions, make guesses, react to you, change their behavior based on how they perceive their relationship with you. This is a wonderful thing; from the process of getting to know people and be known by them, the whole rich symphony and dance of human life, sprung from passion and forged in necessity, emerges. It is exhausting, though. Some interactions fill you up emotionally, others wear you down. There's no predicting in advance which will be which, though you can hedge your bets a little by being bright and charming and easy to get along with. A building filled with machines, though, keeps right on being what it is, like a tree or a stone. Unlike a tree, though, it was built by humans for a purpose. And as long as people who understand that purpose expend their will and effort--even their love!--to keep it running, it will do what it is, be what it is, act out the essence of itself in every moment.

I like to sit in the machine room to listen. To feel in my bones the thrum of motors as the many strong pipes blast out cool, spread the chill that keeps food safe to eat, all through the departments of my store. I've looked at the pipes and I know some go to the deli, others to meat, some to produce, others to the frozen aisle, and I picture this river of cool branching out from that room, just as the electricity that keeps the lights on flows through different channels to keep all the lights burning. I listen to the song of the motors and it calms me, helps me think of the store as an organism in which moment-to-moment human uncertainties play a large role, a starring role, but cannot give life to the living thing that is a store all on our own.

To me a holy place is a place where things happen--specifically, things which change people's lives for the better. It's additive, cumulative, so a thousand little good things weigh in one sense, a few amazing good things weigh in another. Holy places which are unremarked, which don't attract attention, though, these I love for the peace I find in them. These are powerful metaphors for me for the parts of life, the parts of ourselves, which keep on working because they must, not because they are loudly praised. It brings me peace to love such places, to have had the opportunity to do so, even if I know that sooner or later I must leave them.

a bit of cta gossip

Amber, you are way, way right about the wry fondness.

Like being loyal to the office of king/queen without having to like a particular monarch, I love the CTA's spiritual and practical role in the organism that is my city without necessarily approving of the way it is run.

Starting on Sunday, the CTA enacted massive cutbacks, eliminating 9 express buses and reducing frequency of service on 119 bus and rail lines. Prompted by this, today I had a conversation with a bus driver today which underlined that. Some of his (paraphrased and condensed) opinions and observations about the CTA follow.

It would not have been necessary to reduce service so drastically if the CTA did not manage their money so poorly. Every bus garage serves approximately 20 bus lines, yet each garage also boasts about 20 managers, who pull in manager salaries without actually driving buses themselves.

(I was aghast at this, since I work at a deli with around 20 employees which is run effectvely--albeit with a great deal of stress and hard work--by one manager and two assistant managers.)

In addition to possibly excessive amounts of managers, each garge also has a complement of supervisors, who drive around in official CTA vehicles to oversee buses and ensure they are on time.

Furthermore, even though the CTA has no official connection to the utility providers of gas, electricity, and water, all of them are run by the city. This means that when a CTA employee is late on his or her utility bills, the employee's name gets written up on a board in a public place in the garage, and they are required to go and talk to their manager about the status of the utility bills for their home. If the employee does not promptly get caught up on said utility bill, they are threatened with no longer being scheduled to drive buses.

(I was outraged by this, and said that was some freaky medieval crap that had to be illegal. Why couldn't they get their union to file a class action?)

The union itself is useless, and the so-called leaders of the union are themselves Daley cronies who won't say boo to actually support the workers.

In addition, the now-deposed head of the CTA, who is responsible for the current mess, has been moved to a position of authority in the Chicago Public Schools. The replacement person isn't helping the CTA much, but the idea of someone who created the mess the driver himself had lived through in charge of kids' education was worrisome to him.

(I agreed with this. Alas, at this point I'd reached my stop.)

So there's some stuff there that I really ought to fact check. Other stuff is more difficult to check. Still, it's a sweet but of gossip that wrinkles my lobes and makes me feel more informed. Even if I'm not.

another love poem to the CTA

I'd been trying to write a poem about work, a dense little thing in sapphics, but it didn't fly. So I said to myself, Self, you haven't done anything in freeverse in just months and months. It came out pretty well. There's a couple swears, so be warned if you don't like swears.

Lullabye wheels scrape tracks, and I watch sparks
ricochet off the concrete. I love them.
A man sits to my left, rocks; he sneezes
at demons. I wish I could tell him,
"you tell 'em, man. fuck 'em."

I'm in love with the train and the tunnels
it travels, the spiderwebs of rusted iron
that keep it off the street.
Run my fingers across and the metal flakes off.
Park my ass on the floor of the platform;
it sucks up my heat.

I don't care if it makes me a sweet fool,
a naive fool. I'm that nice crazy lady
that buskers and beggars look on with fond pity,
don't know what to say to me.
In my dreams I recreate them, impersonate them--
whistle and tapdance while playing the banjo;
dance the robot, my silver hands just so.

And there through the dim space behind me
the cold city's blood flows.

Yes, we kick the bums out of the stations at night,
and the subway performers' first act
is red tape acrobatics, streetwise mathematics.
Yes, all that we're trying to do
is come out in the black
at the bottom of some balance sheet.
So deep beneath the city streets, steel wheels
still carry us, sing to us, flow with us
into the darkness that only swallows.

We are blood, heat sucked out by stone,
bone borne forward in steel. All we feel
is the moan of cold metal on metal. It rocks us
to sleep, then jerks us back awake
as it bleats, "doors. closing."

But under the bleats and the sneezes
the rhythm resolves, as the passengers trudge to the top.
Sway, shiver, whatever--you are the cold blood
of my city. You're moving. Keep moving. Don't stop.