May 9, 2008

Effects of the Bathroom

Graham and I have two cats, Dobie and Emerson. Graham adopted Dobie when we first started dating, and he's really been both of ours since then. He is such a great cat, he's huge (18 lbs), orange, nice, aloof, pretty, etc. He's had a rough life, kind of. He was abandoned by his original owners and brought to my vet, where we picked him up. We've had him for almost three years now, and enjoyed every minute. Its been interesting to get to know the odd quirks that he has, and try to figure out where they come from. Most odd of his quirks is that he gets really upset when either of us bathes. At our old home, we had a bathroom in our room, but it was only a tub, no shower. If either of us took a bath, Dobie would get very agitated, meowing at us with a concerned look on his face, looking over the side of the tub at the water, and eventually settling on the toilet, waiting impatiently for the bath to be finished. We liked to muse that maybe his old owner had a bad experience in the tub, maybe someone died in the tub and he's trying to warn us. Maybe he just doesn't like water. Who knows. I thought that when we moved the agitation over bathing would stop, but I have often been in the shower with Dobie giving me that same anxious meow from outside of the shower curtain.

Emerson is an insane, black siamese cat. Some acquaintances of ours found him meowing outside of their window on Halloween night last year, this tiny two week old black kitten. Though they didn't like cats and didn't want him, they took him in and he proceeded to act like a complete psychopath. He would run after them and attack their legs and feet, run around meowing at nothing, they could not hold him or pet him, and they thought that maybe Graham and I would like him. So we took him in, not realizing the extent of his craziness. At first I was worried that Dobie would hurt Emerson, Dobie has not been nice to other cats in the past, but Emerson is the one that terrorizes him. He's calmed down a bit, he cuddle with us now and doesn't act quite as insane, but, like Dobie, his behavior changes in the bathroom. Unlike Dobie, however, the bathroom soothes him, He likes to sleep in the bathroom, he purrs when I go into the bathroom with him, he likes to be held and cuddles in the confines of the bathroom. He sometimes jumps on my lap while I'm using the bathroom... but he's so cute, he turns from a devil into an angel in the bathroom. He also loves water, he likes to roll around the shower after one of us has bathed. He is so strange.

At any rate, getting to know the strange individual quirks of my animals is one of the greatest joys of my life. It makes me wonder about animals in the wild and what strange quirks those individuals might have. Having pets is great, and I feel bad for people who don't like animals.

Annie Dillard

I was gardening a little bit earlier today, and thinking about Annie Dillard. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she talks about learning new ways to see the world, and nature as a way to do that. I think that nature does this for me in so many ways, and has redirected my sight several times throughout my life. When I was a little girl, I was totally one of those kids who got mad when other kids stepped on ants, wrecked ant mounds, killed bugs in general, etc. It was because I was always taught that nothing deserves to suffer and everything feels. Even now that I understand that ants don't have complex emotions, I can hardly get myself to step on one, even if it's in my kitchen. I just identify with things so much. A lot of it comes out of the fact that I grew up with cats, and at an early age learned how to become friends with them, to identify their moods, to understand their psychology a little bit, and to respect them as creatures with emotions as complex as my own. But I also had to learn that animals have instincts that render them helpless to their own reactions sometimes. When I was 4, a stray cat wandered into our yard (who we eventually brought in as part of our family) but Tommy, one of our former cats, was not feelin so friendly towards eddy. But when I was 4 I didn't understand that when a cat is all puffy, it means you shouldn't touch them. In my immature mind I thought "Tommy's fluffy, I should pet him." I got bit about five times, starting at my wrist and moving up through the rest of my arm. After that my parents told me that Tommy had to get a new home, and I now feel bad that I put him into a situation where he had to be put under euthanasia. I never blamed Tommy for what happened, It simply made me more aware of cats nature. It was like a new level of awareness, a new way to see cats as primal beings whose instincts sometimes take over. It's interesting to think of people that way as well, and I'm convinced that animals could be psychologized the same what that people can, if we can communicate with them.

But anyways, when I was a kid I had a limited perspective of the world, and most of what I thought revolved around nature, and how mean people were to nature. Nature was such an abstract idea, though. Nature was everything that one could be mean to and it was everything good. I saw the world as a war-zone in which evil people (who I thought should be completely exterminated, which is a little extreme for a gradeschooler to think, especially since I even I was a bane to natures existance), were out to destroy everything good about the world. I remember when one of my teachers tried to teach us about child labor and how bad it was, and I got mad because I thought we should be more focused on environmental issues. I was an odd little girl.

But as I got older, nature and education allowed me to see the world in new ways once again. Throughout my college career, I've had a focus on environmental issues, and several of my classes have helped me to view the world as one big ecosystem, a system that we depend on and evolved with. Lately the idea of evolution has been blowing my mind. Island biogeography is probably one of the most interesting things I've studied in school ever. These things have given me a new respect for human kind, but also a new and different kind of disgust. When I see the world as completely interconnected, all functions dependent on one another and all life evolved to fits its specific niche in its particular ecosystem- whose health is completely reliant on the health of all other ecosystems, well when I see the world this way, I see how fucked up our priorities are. But one of the interesting things in realizing how screwed up our priorities are is thinking about human culture and how we got here. Human history in terms of the environment is one of the most challenging and rewarding subjects to study. This study opens up the world to even more new ways of seeing.

I have a feeling that I'm rambling and not making very much sense because I'm really tired and have no idea where I want to take this. All I know is that, when I go outside and work with nature, things open up to me and I feel something profound. Curiosity sparks my senses, I want to memorize every detail of my yard and understand everything in it. And I also think of Annie Dillard, and how seeing the world is not just how to understand your place in it, but also what you see, literally. Look at the world around you and you will see patterns, colors, shapes, beauty. Watching how ferns slowly curl out over several days, spiraling up towards the sun, I can't help but see dragons, and then dinosaurs, and think about how there were ferns when the dinosaurs were alive. There are all sort of things to see and all sort of ideas that can sprout from looking outside. Everybody should have a garden and everyone should watch its colors and shapes paint a ever changing scene of life.

April 22, 2008

Cats

Yes, it's true, I am a cat person. It probably seems like a cop-out to blog about my cats because I could literally talk about them forever. And maybe it is a cop-out, especially because I don't yet know what my point is in talking about them, or really what I want to say. I guess I'll start at the beginning, when I was a baby, and cats first fell in love with me.

I have a picture of myself when I was less than a year old, holding myself in a standing position to look out of the window, and our old cat Sammy doing the exact same thing next to me. Apparently Sammy loved me from the moment I came home from the hospital; he like to sleep in my crib with me, follow me around the house, groom me, etc. Perhaps this is the root of why cat's comfort me, make me feel happy, whole and safe. I don't think that I could ever live in a home without cats, they are just the greatest joy.

Growing up, we had such a huge variety of cats and experiences with cats. We served as kind of a stray cat sanctuary; every stray cat for miles always seemed to end up on our porch. I couldn't even begin to count the amount of cats that we took in, looked after and eventually found good homes for. Some of the cats that found us were wild, feral cats, and it would take sometimes over a year to win a cats trust and be able to do something so simple as pet it. Shadow was like that. He started coming around when I was 8 or 9, and I remember that I was 10 years old the first time that Shadow let me pet him. He lived outside of our house, under the neighbors porch, for a year as we fed him, kept him healthy, talked to him, and tried to let him know that he could trust us, before he finally came into our home to stay. Eventually Shadow came to be himself around us, and he was an incredibly intelligent, loyal and loving cat. He died about 5 years ago of old age.

Besides all of the normal stray cats that wondered into our yard, we also took in the countless cats that our crazy neighbors (the people that lived directly behind us) abandoned. They have a terrible habit of getting a female kitten every year, never spading her, and by mid-summer there is a slew of kittens running around. These people are the type who seem to breed as quickly as cats do, and are not nice to either their children or their cats. All summer long all we hear is a long list of obscenities being screamed at each other, the children (or grandchildren) and the cats. It is no wonder that almost every single cat they've ever had has taken up residence at our house, and they have hardly even noticed the disappearances. Animals are like cute, fuzzy objects to them, not living breathing creatures that deserve love, food and a home. People like that make me sick and ashamed to be a human. What makes it worse is that I know how absolutely wonderful the cats that they abuse are, I've known many of them deeply. I should almost be thankful for the way that they treat animals because it's given me some of the best experiences of my life.

Izzy and Precious (names given by the awful neighbors) are two of the most important figures of my life. Precious was Izzy's daughter, and both of them ended up as part of our family. Precious was my darling, she slept with me, listened to me, played with me and we adored each other. Precious was always a little off, though. She seemed to slowly slip into a paranoid insanity, and eventually became so scared of everything that she would not leave the basement. It turns out that pain was partly to blame, she had a slipped disk somehow, but even strong pain medication couldn't bring her out of her paranoid stupor. It's times like these when a person, or a family, has to think about what's more important: being alive or being at peace. Peace generally seems like the best answer, and we all agreed that it was time to get Precious put to sleep. I can't say that it wasn't difficult, but it was the right thing to do. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Precious, as well as the other cat's of whom that difficult decision had to be made for, was grateful to us for letting her go.

After Precious, Izzy and I became close. It wasn't in the same way that Precious and I were, but we had a bond, and still do, although she died about 5 years ago. Now, this is the part that I'm nervous to write about, because I don't want to make myself look crazy, but I am a firm believer of reincarnation and that when we pass we are not gone, and we don't necessarily need to leave those that we love behind right away. I suppose my belief in this wouldn't be so strong if I'd never had cat's, especially Izzy. Eventually Izzy got old, developed cancer and we had to let her go. Not long after she died I had a dream about her and I know that she was there, I know that she was with me. I can't explain how I know, it's just a feeling, like knowing somebody has stepped into a room with you, though none of your normal senses picked up on it. The same thing happened to me not long after my grandma died. I dreamed that I was in her apartment, I walked into her room and she was there. In my dream it freaked me out and I woke up instantly, unable to shake the feeling that she had truly been there. I know that if it had been a normal dream than it would not have scared me, why would I be shaken up by a dream about my grandma? At any rate, I can't help but feel that Izzy, although not a ghost, has been watching over me for the past few years. Twice since that first dream with her, I've had moments of being incredibly upset, stressed out and in need of comfort. This is when Izzy has visited me in my dreams. The last time that it happened was three years ago, I was going through a rough time, and it wasn't only Izzy that came to me, Otto, another deceased cat of mine, was with her.

Mine haven't been the only experiences that my family has had with deceased cats. Another cat that entered our lives through the front porch and who left our lives far to quickly, was Sabrina. She was another cat abused and abandoned by our neighbors. After she died and we told them about it, they didn't even remember who she was. But Sabrina was wonderful, she was a beautiful, petite, long haired, black cat. She was also fierce, and enjoyed hunting down and killing squirrels for fun, and though my mom is generally irked by that sort of thing, she fell in love with Sabrina. I suppose we all did. She was so cute, yet intelligent and strong. No one could mess with Sabrina, and none of the other cats ever tried. For that brief year that she was with us, she was reigning queen of the house. But one day she got sick, and our hearts were broken when we found out that she had leukemia. For nine days she continued to get sicker and sicker, no matter what medicine we gave her, until in a moment of utter disbelief that it had happened so fast, my mom had to rush Sabrina to the vet to get her put to sleep. That night after she died, my parents had a bizarre experience. Shadow, who was still alive at this point and usually slept on their bed, would not enter my parents room. Sometime late in the night my dad awoke to find Sabrina sitting on his chest. In this half awake, half asleep moment, he pet Sabrina and then went back to sleep. A short time later my mom awoke in a panic, convinced that there was a strange cat in their bed. After both of my parents woke up completely, they realized that Sabrina had come back to say goodbye. After that night we never saw Sabrina again.

It's experiences like these, and countless others, that confirm in me a belief that animals feel as much as people do, and how we treat animals is important. I also intimately understand that death is a part of life, and it's selfish to hold on to someone who is suffering and not let them pass into the next stage of their existence. I know that if I had not grown up seeing the ways in which animals live and die, death would be a much scarier concept to me. But death is part of life, and letting go can be hard, but its something that everyone has to do.

April 4, 2008

April Showers Bring May Flowers

So, when I arrived on campus today, it was 60 degrees out and sunny. I biked to class in springtime glory, soaking in the warmth and trying to hide my face upon remembering that I forgot to put sunscreen on. It was wonderful. I even wore leggings and a skirt, and wasn't cold at all. Feeling the warm air, listening to the birds chirp, watching children play outside and mothers walking their babies in strollers... all of it made me forget how quickly things can change.

I was in Shakespeare class, not so much bored but still hopelessly trying not to nod off (I think it's more the time of day and not so much the content or the drone of my professors voice that makes this a regular occurrence) when I noticed the weather changing. It seemed as though a dark cloud was moving in, "could it be rain?" I wondered. I hoped that it wasn't, I had on a silk skirt that I don't like getting wet, and who likes biking home in the rain anyhow? Class ended and it only seemed to be getting darker, and by the time I got outside it was sprinkling. Looking around I noticed that there was definite blue sky beyond the rain cloud, and I thought I might be able to get home without getting too wet. So off I went.

Not far off of campus, I happened to look towards downtown and saw the prettiest puffs of dark cloud with wafts of rain trailing down like delicate spiderplants formed out of stardust. The trail of rain seemed to fit in so well with the tall buildings of downtown, continuing the pillar of gray color where the buildings reach their height and the rain begins. The sight of rain moving in from the distance is one of my favorite sights, even when it occurs at the most inconvenient moments. It reminded of when I was a child, and my dad and I were out fishing on a lake up north. We were visiting a family members cabin and because it was a beautiful day, we took out that persons small boat with an old motor. We were pretty far out in the lake when we noticed the weather begin to change, and over a line of trees behind us, a line of black clouds with sheets of dark rain became visible. because I wanted to feel grown up or something, I was steering the boat, which was controlled by a handle coming off of the motor at the back of the boat. When we saw the rain, I quickly turned the boat around to head home. The only problem was that I turned the motor to quick, and the handle attached broke off just as the boat began to turn, and we were suddenly spinning around in circles. Whilst spinning, my dad and I had to switch spots so that he could control the motor, and then we started for home, a little shaken and very dizzy. We arrived back to shore in the knick of time, and got into the cabin just in time to see the wave of rain come upon us. It's a humbling experience to see the fury of nature come upon you like an opposing army.

So as I was biking home today, I thought that I was in the clear, and was going to make it home with out getting too wet. That was when it started to hail on me. It was only small hail, pieces of ice surrounded by snow being thrown on me like on me like trick snowballs in a snowball fight. It wasn't too bad until the rain got heavier and I was quickly very soaked with water. I wasn't really too upset, It was kind of fun to be out in the first real rain of the year. The one crack of thunder I heard made me feel all the more heroic. The only thing that was not fun was the wind blowing against me, making ever pedal feel like my hardest gear. It reminded me of a storm that we had late last summer. The storm I'm thinking of was a real storm, where everything is suddenly eerily still, and then a rolling black cloud moves in with fierce wind and crackling thunder. Thankfully my evening class was canceled that day, and I just sat in my room watching the storm move in. Suddenly though, I remembered that my roommate Clara had class, and I quickly darted out of my room to offer her a ride to campus. But she was already gone. "Why would she leave knowing the fury that was about to be poured down on us?" I asked her boyfriend. He just shrugged his shoulders in a typical way. When Clara came home hours later, I demanded and answer to my question. She said that she knew what she was getting into, and wanted to know what it would be like, despite the danger. Apparently it wasn't too bad, the hail didn't hurt and the wind didn't knock her down, but there was a massive puddle flowing out from where she sat in class, which was a little embarrassing. My experience today was nothing like that.

By the time I arrived home today, it was once again sunny and calm, no more rain or wind. The birds were chirping and my cats were waiting eagerly for my return so that they could go outside and enjoy the sun. My clothes are now drying as I sit and type, and I'm feeling very happy that it is finally spring.

April 3, 2008

I think that New Orleans gave me asthma

One of my neighbors once told that in America, MN rates really high as one of the healthiest states. I think that that's probably true, we're not as industrial as other places, though we do have problems with agricultural pollution... but that's not what I"m talking about here. I like MN, I feel pretty good breathing the air and drinking the water here. The exact opposite was true in New Orleans. One of the first things I remember being told when I moved into the dorm was, buy bottled water. Nobody trusts the tap water in New Orleans. I don't know if this is really a valid fear, because I do know that in the US, tap water standards are more stringent than bottled water, but who knows. I guess one thing you learn when studying environmental problems is that lot's of private and even public entities don't follow safety guidelines, and often pollution limits are not as high as they should be to prevent all possible side effects. Anyways, I still drank the tap water in New Orleans because I think buying bottled water is stupid and wasteful. Besides, water was the least of my environmental worries there.

I didn't realize how bad the air pollution situation was at first, but I slowly came upon the facts. I remember being out in the quarter one day, hanging out with my painter friend Jaime and looking at the paintings of another artist set up next to Jaime. I don't remember this womans name, or what most of her art looked like, but I do remember one particular piece. There was a kind of gross green throughout the painting, with an oil refinery scene in the background. In the foreground was a kind of sickly crazy looking person, and a flower. She said this is was a painting of her hometown in, not far from New Orleans.

In an environmental policy class that I took there at UNO, I remembering learning much more about this are of Louisiana aptly referred to as "cancer alley," which is where I'm sure that the street artist was from. "Cancer alley" is a string of poor small towns, inhabited mainly by black Americans, surrounded by oil refineries, where cases of cancer, childhood lung disease (asthma, etc), and general poor mental and physical health is ridiculously high. The people that live there are too poor to move, and nobody with any power cares about them. This is the case with many small towns in the rural Louisiana, big companies move in on small towns, destroy their environment and human health, without any compensation. I remember watching a video about a town where some company started dumping some sort of industrial waste into a pond, which eventually ended destroying the livelihood and health of most people in the town. Yet, almost nothing was done to stop the dumping or help the people. This country can be a disgusting and vile place.

At any rate, besides the environmental discrimination of poor people in rural Louisiana, the city of New Orleans has its own pretty big pollution problems. For one thing, there are a great number of oil refineries that surround the city, and if any one of them were to blow, the city would be uninhabitable for a while. Going about my daily business, I would often wonder what the likelihood of such an event was, and I figured pretty high because of how corrupt oil companies seem to be, and maybe don't follow the strictest safety measures. I don't know. But being surrounded by industry, New Orleans has really really bad air quality. I knew this when I lived there, but I don't think that the gravity of the situation struck me until I left New Orleans, came home, and discovered that I had somehow developed asthma.

I never had breathing problems as a child, so when I came back to MN and started to wheeze every time I rode my bike, I thought it was weird, but I didn't think it was anything serious. After a year of not being able to breath by the time I got to class everyday, I decided to go to the doctor, and finally (yet stupidly because I should have known) learned that I have asthma. Where did it come from? Hmmm, I wonder.

So, New Orleans gave me asthma, and that sucks. I hate having to use an inhaler every time I bike, or walk rapidly, or laugh too much. But asthma is not the only problem that New Orleans air gave me. When I visited New Orleans in the summer of 2005, I developed a tonsil infection. It was weird, I wasn't sick, I just had swollen and infected tonsils. Also, when I lived in New Orleans, that spring I developed a terrible sinus infection, I think partly due to pollution and partly because of all of the natural allergens that my body wasn't use to. New Orleans air is yucky. It's humidity is full of industrial pollution, mold, plant spores, Cajun spices, etc. Apparently my lungs just can't handle New Orleans, which is sad because I love it there.

February 29, 2008

Tree Sitting

I just came into contact with an old childhood friend, Mary. We use to live in the same neighborhood as children,
along with Mary Kay, Jenna, and Zoe. We were all around the same age, and sort of friends, though there were some strained relationships. At any rate, there were times when Mary and I were really close, but I haven't seen her since her family moved away from the neighborhood and I went off to college. But she found me via facebook (of course), and though I had heard bits and pieces of her life's happenings, actually hearing from her was much more revealing than gossip, and it turns out that we have a lot in common. She has been living out west, going to school in Puget Sound, and spending a lot of time in the redwoods. I had heard that she'd spent time living in a tree for a while, but I didn't realize that she was actually tree sitting, that is protesting, with the same organization and many of the same people that Julia Butterfly Hill worked with. Its to strange and interesting to me that Mary Gonzalez would end up out there, and with one of the same passions that I have, trees.

I'm not really sure when I realized how wonderful and amazing trees are, but they really are. Trees can live so long, and be so incredibly big, or they can be as small as bonsai. Trees are home to so many other species that I couldn't possibly begin to name them all. Trees are found everywhere on this planet where there isn't an ocean. They are just so beautiful and grand, and I think that there is something very powerful and spiritual about forests, especially old ones like the redwoods. I don't think that that power is something that I could really describe, but I feel like its more relevant than other sources of spirituality because its grounded in something real and tangible, and environmentally really important. I know that there are a lot of people who would think that I'm silly and out of touch with reality for thinking so highly of trees, but there are also a lot of people out there who agree with me, like Mary Gonzalez.

When it comes to tree sitting, and general protesting in that area of the country, there is so much more at stake that trees and the spiritual value that people get from them. They also preserve our history, our past. They are the only living individuals that were here before Europeans arrived here. They are also a key member of the ecology out in the north west pacific area, and it is not true that new growth forests can act the same as old growth. But there are so many opinions, and sides to the argument out there, it is not easy to come up with any solutions. I sympathize with the people who make there living by logging, I know that they need to feed their families, but its the big companies that don't care about the environment what so ever, who are only in it to make money, that I wish could be stopped. It is just incredible the amount of damage that has been done, the amount of clear-cuts where the damage can't be fixed. There have even been towns that have been destroyed by mudslides because of irresponsible logging practices. This shouldn't happen. Something so precious as the fate these forests, these peoples homes, peoples lives, should not be decided on by companies whose only interest is money. The free market economy should not decide everything, when everything is left to the market to decide, really important things get trampled on, like the environment. Maybe this makes me a socialist, but I think that there should be some political body with the power to say that irreplaceable things should not be destroyed just because this country, which uses up so many resources that it would take 13 planet earths if everyone lived like us, wants something.

I think perhaps I've gotten a little off-topic in thinking about tree sitting. I'm not really sure what else I have to say. I don't think I can write anymore, this makes me too angry. Perhaps more on this topic later.

February 15, 2008

weather or not

I really love the weather. Not just the weather today, but the weather as a concept, as a thing that is predictable but not controllable, and thing that limits what we can and cannot do in any given place and time in the world. Everyday is defined by what the weather does, how cold it is, if it rains or snows, etc. I love that it is one aspect of nature that people have not yet found a way to manipulate, it is an aspect of nature that still gives people daily anxiety. Granted, the weather sometimes causes bad things to happen, there are floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc; but that is just part of life.

Everyday when I wake up, one of the first things I think is: I wonder that the weather will be like today? It must be a question that many people ask, because if you turn on the daily news, you'll find that every news station devotes at least 10 minutes to describing, in detail, and reiterating over and over, what the weather will be like that day, and what it will be like for the rest of the week. On these news programs the weather gets very sensationalized, there are strong storm/snow storm warnings, advice on what to do if caught in a storm, exaggerations about weather situations, montages of extreme weather and the weathermen who got you through, etc. Weather seems to be an extreme source of anxiety in our society. Which is not to say that people shouldn't take the weather seriously, I for one do not like driving afters it has snowed, but enough is enough.

Almost everyday, not matter what the weather is like, wherever you go there will be people talking about the weather. Today it is -4 degrees outside, I personally am debating on whether or not I should bike to class, which I probably will end up doing. I am certain that when I get to campus I will overhear countless conversations about how darn cold it is and how everyone wishes it would be spring. Well it is not spring, and I wish that people could appreciate the weather for what it is today. Today it is cold, that's true, and it's also cloudy and gray, but that can still be enjoyable. There is snow on the ground, which brightens things up, the snow is clean since it just snowed a couple of days ago, it's not -15, it's not windy. I think it could be a pretty good day.

In the paragraph before this I completely lied. I do wish that the sun was out, too many cloudy days in a row gives me a headache. I'm glad it's not windy, but I do miss the sun. While I might not be totally happy with the weather today, I do appreciate the fact that there is this part of nature that effects me to such a degree on a daily basis. Maybe it makes me feel closer to nature, or to the past when there were less options about dealing with the weather, or maybe it makes me feel tough and rustic, I don't know. I do know that yesterday I enjoyed the challenge of biking through day old snow, it made me feel alive.

For every type of weather there is a mood. I recently read a couple of short stories that relied completely on the weather to keep the story moving. One of these stories was "To Build a Fire" by Jack London. In this story a man ventures out into the Alaskan wilderness while it is -75 degrees outside. The story is about dying out in the cold. This story wouldn't exist it is weren't for the weather. The other story I read is actually a short novel, "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. This story takes place in New Orleans, where weather dictates the mood more that what people are actually feeling.

I happened to live in New Orleans for a couple of semesters, which is where I discovered the true power of nature. The defining feature of New Orleans for me is it's overwhelming, stifling, spicy, thick, hot, moldy, smelly, sweet, clinging, drowning humidity. Summer in New Orleans is like swimming through the hot thick air. This humidity clings to you like life and death, it dictates what your limits are as a human, what activity you are capable of before you need to stop moving. I love New Orleans humidity. It was more like an old friend, always with me, surrounding me wherever I went, getting into my head until I couldn't think clearly. I used to go out walking everyday, just walk and walk and walk. Following my senses, feeling the air, just walking outside gave me some of the best experiences of my life.

Its hard to have a clear grasp on reality when it's that hot and humid, especially if your in New Orleans. Anxiety, danger, real threats; they all seem to disappear in a sweaty heap of relaxation, almost. By some horrible coincidence I happened to be on a road-trip in August of 2005, and towards the end of the month I was visiting my friends in New Orleans. People in that part of the country always live with the threat of hurricanes, and eventually it just gets annoying and you try to ignore it, only leaving when the threat seems inevitable, and sometimes not even then. When the news reports that this hurricane Katrina might be heading towards New Orleans, half of the people I knew up and left that day, and the other half said "fuck it" and didn't go anywhere. In the days leading up to the hurricane there was the strangest atmosphere in the city. The humidity was now filled with both anxiety, defiance and fear. Everybody was giddy. There were lines at every gas station. It was really hot outside. The weather, this ominous, huge thing, seemed to be targeting New Orleans, playing with it, laughing at it. I left with a car full of friends and drove to Florida a day and a half before it hit. Every one knows what happened then.

The weather has an ability to destroy people or to make them happy. During that trip to New Orleans, the weather in the form of humidity and all the things that swim in it, gave me a horrible infection in my tonsils. The weather in the form of a hurricane destroyed the city that I love more that any other city in the world. The weather will always be a part of nature that we, as people, have to respect and think about in more meaningful ways than we sometimes do about other aspects of nature.