Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wildfire Smoke in Portland

There are wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington right now. I've been watching the news about them, sad to see them destroying homes and much worse, that some firefighters have lost their lives. I was surprised to see that Washington is even accepting volunteers to help fire fight. I also hadn't thought about how the smoke from these fires would spread far beyond the flames, though that should have occurred to me. After all, I can vividly recall traveling through desert in eastern Oregon and seeing a ceiling of smoke due to wildfires (that's another story).

The smoke moved into Portland Friday night. I guess I recognized it in my sleep, because I dreamed about fire. I dreamed that someone was either burning a field or their trash, I'm not sure which, before the dream moved on to auto accidents that resulted in fires. This probably wasn't helped by the fact that I had both my windows cracked so that I could enjoy fresh air in my bedroom. Or, I was supposed to enjoy fresh air. Instead I woke up to smoky air, which was a bit alarming.

If you want to know what it's like for the fire fighters you might want to check the news. All I can tell you is what it's like in the Portland area, and that would be officially unhealthy, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

map of air quality index

(Update added a bit after the rest of this post was written: I grabbed the above image late Saturday afternoon, about seven hours before I scheduled this post to go up. Doing a bit of double checking before letting this post go live I found that it's the same around Portland, with the differences being that there are now more red dots south of us plus one "very unhealthy" dot way on the other side of Mount Hood. That green dot is still there though.)

I guess it's not as bad as it could be, since the air quality is merely unhealthy and not hazardous where I am. Plus I suspect that the smoke overhead is helping to break the heatwave we've been experiencing. You know, keeping the sun off of us, like clouds would.

One of the strangest things about looking at the above map is seeing a little green dot of good air quality in between the red dots of unhealthy air. The wind's got to be doing interesting things for that to happen. And, as it happens, here's a video I found giving a visual of what the smoke has been and supposedly will be doing. It's fascinating, though it's in Washington whereas my map above is for Oregon.

Smell some smoke? Here's why.....I recorded the U.S. Forest Service's Blue Sky computer smoke forecast for the Northwest through Sunday night....made this "public" so share if you'd's where the smoke is coming from:
Posted by Bob Heye on Saturday, August 22, 2015

It seems that many of the fires aren't well contained, but I hope that changes soon. I also hope and pray that no more lives are lost in fighting the fires.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blind Spots

Is it simply impossible for some people to really fully understand certain others? We all see events, people, and ideas, through our own worldviews...shaped by our own experiences and the people we have met in the past (and our own encounters with previous people were shaped by the ideas we had at the time...) and given it going to be inevitable that we meet people who we are incapable of fully seeing as themselves, or who are incapable of accepting us as we are?

Perhaps the phrasing above is rather convoluted, but I don't know how else to ask it.

I found myself thinking about this while reflecting on a conversation I had with a health care provider, which is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. This guy was listing off things that cause me uncertainty, and he decided to throw my sexual orientation into the list. When I expressed my confusion at why he included it, he pretty much said "I once had a bisexual friend who chose to live the gay lifestyle since he thought it would be easier to remain faithful that way." I wanted to explain No, that's not how every bisexual works, we don't HAVE to choose between a "gay lifestyle" or "straight lifestyle" as he seemed to be suggesting I need to. But I was too shocked at realizing that he still doesn't get it, despite I don't know how many discussions we've had.

Why is my bisexuality so difficult for him to understand? Just at a wild guess, largely because he views all bisexuals with that one friend of his in mind...and he probably spoke with that one friend with preconceived ideas about what it means to be bi.

This leads me to ask, where are my blind spots? Where am I unable to see people as they really are because I'm too busy looking through Sarita's-World tinted glasses? How do I find these blind spots, and how do I learn to see once I've found them?

I know, this post is full of questions with no answers. Sometimes that's how the world goes I suppose.

butterfly wing

Looks like an eye at first, right? I also had to do a double take before realizing that I wasn't seeing it correctly, so it seemed like a good photo to accompany this post.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Poly Emotions

I make decisions about what to share on this blog, and what to keep to myself. On some subjects I can get quite personal, even to the point where I wonder if I'm over sharing. (I get past that by reminding myself that I'm not forcing anyone to read my blog if they really don't care about my ramblings.) There are other things though that I keep to myself for various reasons. Maybe it concerns someone else and I don't have their permission to write about them. Maybe I'm still working things out in my own head, and am not ready to share. And sometimes I eventually find myself ready to share things that I've kept to myself.

Polyamory: Having a relationship with more than one person. Often shortened to poly.

I've always been fine with friends who were polyamorous, though I admit it did surprise me initially. I first learned about it as a teenager when my then best friend had two boyfriends, and the only problem I found with it was when this friend of mine freaked out over "What if they both ask me to prom‽" (I'm afraid that dateless me laughed in her face, quite unsympathetic, though these days I would have suggested she go with both of them.) I got so used to the idea of polyamory that I even suggested to another teen girl from outside of my usual social circle that she date two guys since she couldn't decide who she liked more. That's when I discovered that the poly life isn't approved of by everyone, and I also found that a girl can silently scream "slut" with just a dismissively disgusted look.

That teenage friend of mine wasn't the only person in poly relationships that I knew, but she was the first. Actually, I seem to attract friends who are polyamorous, now that I think about it, which hadn't really occurred to me before. Maybe it's the people I hang out with, or maybe it's just more common than most people realize. I don't know.

Getting to the point though...

If you guessed by now that I've fallen for more than one person, you win a prize. (Actually you don't, sorry.) And it turns out that I didn't have the same calm attitude when it came to finding poly feelings in myself that I do when my friends are poly. Like being queer, it's something that was easily accepted in others but then didn't know how to handle it in me.

Without getting into too many details, let's just say that my first realization of this fact during spring term of last year contributed to a month long migraine. And then there was my second encounter with these surprising feelings last summer. Waking up one morning and realizing that I had a crush on a new friend resulted in the absolute worst panic attack I've had. Really, it was less than ten seconds after I woke up. Imagine your body saying "You're awake, now here's a panic attack! Yay! And it'll hang around for two hours! Isn't that fun?" Basically, recognizing and then responding to these emotions was a particularly unpleasant experience for me.

For a while I only discussed my confusion with people who I knew were fine with polyamory, either because I knew how they viewed poly people or because they are poly themselves. I didn't want to find myself in a position of having to defend what I might be while still making sense of myself. Recently though I'm realizing that I'm tired of hiding it, and if it somehow comes up in conversation (oddly enough it's been a natural part of conversation twice this summer) I go ahead and mention that I'm in love with two people. Though, I'm still only dating my boyfriend. And yes, he's one of those I've been talking to about this all along.

So, yeah, I've got poly feelings. Polyamorous emotions. Whatever you want to call it. And when I realized that I've been thinking for a few weeks about how to write on this subject, I thought it was time to share.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dear Depression:

 Dear Depression,

I've said before that you feel like an old friend. In any case, you are someone who I've gotten to know fairly well, and whose presence I am used to. I expect that I will be familiar with you throughout my life, but I need you to not lean so heavily on me. Your presence I can accept, but I will do my best to fight you if you drag me down. So please, loosen your grip. Make this easy for us.


journal pages

The above is an excerpt from my journal/sketchbook. Oddly enough, writing a note to depression helped me, at least briefly. And yes, I have found myself wanting to describe depression as an old friend before, which is strange considering how painful it is. But I'm also used to it.

On the opposite page is a simple drawing of a person in the far distance flying a kite, which we see up close. (Though I suppose you could see a tiny figure and a giant kite, if you want to.) Not sure if it has any meaning, I kind of just felt like drawing it. Maybe because there isn't much that makes me feel as alive as wind does, and how better for someone with my limited drawing skills to portray wind that with a kite? But I guess that's me reading meaning into it after the fact.

As I've said before, this particular journal is a work in progress. I'll probably add some color behind the letter, and actually fill in the sky with blue at some point.

sleepy bee

On a slightly more cheerful subject, here's a sleepy bee. I found her when I was smelling some flowering mint, and she almost made close acquaintance with my face. (That wasn't the first time I've had a close call, and likely won't be the last.) She looked dead, since she was just sitting on a leaf under the flowers and wasn't moving, but I recently found out that some bees actually sleep on plants. In any case I didn't disturb her, and when I checked back later there wasn't any trace of her. So I'm going to guess that she was asleep.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Weird but Sweet Kora

When one has pets, odd things can happen. Sometimes these things can be worrisome, sometimes they wind up being just plain perplexing. And sometimes the first turns into the latter.

At first I thought it was just cute when Kora was sniffing my fingers with her eyes closed, but I raised my eyebrows when I noticed that only one of her eyes was shut. Taking a closer look at her that one eye seemed to be stuck shut, which I thought might be a bad sign. It was the middle of the night so I decided to call the vet if it persisted until the next morning, but in the meantime I did what anyone would likely do when they have questions: I asked the Google.

According to my (very brief and limited) research, rats are unable to intentionally keep only one eye closed. That wasn't exactly reassuring. But then I also found that wiping the problem eye with a damp washcloth might removing any gunk that's holding it shut, so I decided to take the Google's advice and hope that it would help little Kora.

I got a paper towel, moistened it with a bit of warm water, and picked Kora up to see if she would let me gently wipe at her eye. (That wouldn't have been a simple feat. Do you know how squirmy rats are?) I didn't actually get to try this trick out though, because she opened the problem eye as she tried to seize the paper towel from my fingers.

So...I guess it worked? In a way? I guess all I needed to do was put something interesting near Kora's face so that she would force both eyes wide open to get a close look at what she wanted to clamp her teeth down on?

In any event, she's fine now, and yes I did give her the prize once I got over my initial "Huh??" And now I know what to do if this ever happens again.

Rats, they're weird but sweet.