Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Empty Nest

A bird's nest is not only a work of art, it's a work of love, lust and great patience. I think that's why in some species, it is THE mating ritual. The male bird will painstakingly gather materials for the nest -- soft things, durable things, flexible things -- and weave an impossible bowl out of these little bits. I tried it once. It was terribly, terribly difficult and my creation in the end was a horrible, gap-toothed, twiggy, lopsided, ouch-y mess. I don't think even the trashiest bird would think of laying an egg in there! But then, I was never a nest-builder, real or figurative.

In some of those animal documentaries, the male would spend days lovingly crafting a comfortable place to lay and hatch eggs and then the female of his choice would critique his creation. If she liked it, if she thought he did good, she would mate with him, but if she was at all displeased, she'd peck his nest to bits. Spitting in the eye would be less damaging to the soul, I should think.

But no matter how much effort went into building the nest, no matter how many happy moments the young couple had there, no matter how many offspring there were or how they fared, when the kids are gone, so are the parents and the nest is truly empty. The eaves of our ranch house is littered with many of them. Being the Great Recycler, I keep them there, in case some slacker bird wanted to plagiarize one, but I guess birds aren't like that.

Big Dog and I spent the weekend helping his niece move into her freshman college dorm. Well, actually, her parents moved her in and we were just hanging around as amused bystanders. It was quite a scene on campus, with cars and people and moving carts all over the place. Parents hauling giant television sets, kids bringing ATVs, and of course, tons of tears as parents loosened their grip on their kids.

"They'll be crying all the way home," Big Dog said of his sister and her husband. It was the end of an emotional week and a hyper-emotional weekend.
"Yeah. And then, when they get home, it'll be worse," I added, imagining how empty their house, their nest might feel without their bubbly, vivacious daughter.

Birds don't fret. They build their nest to raise their young and when that job is over, the parents abandon the nest as eagerly (I think) as their children do. Human parents could definitely learn a thing or two from the birds.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

And Always Remember to Floss

Remember "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen), that "song" released by Baz Lurhmann a few years ago? It was allegedly a speech given to MIT students by Kurt Vonnegut but was also strangely similar in nature to the "message from the Dalai Lama" chain email going around a while back. They both had some very good advice, but let me reinforce the importance of 1) always using sunscreen and 2) remembering to floss.

When I was a young thing, I didn't care. I let myself get as dark as I could possibly get every summer. Sunscreen was something that we Asians didn't have to worry about, I thought. And flossing? Who had time to floss every day? All I had time for was a good brushing after meals and a rinse with a mouthwash. But I wasn't thinking about how long I was going to live, either. Heck, it wasn't very cool to live too long, anyway. Better to burn out than to fade away, right?

Well, today, I think it's Very Cool to live forever (or as close to it as humanly possible.) It's proof that you were doing something right. It gives you all sorts of second chances, including the chance to get "life" right. Needing to learn and grow doesn't change just because you reach a certain age!

Now that I am focusing on living for more than a century, I am kicking myself for not taking care of my body when I was much younger. Until we can get replacement parts for what wears out, we'd better take good care of what we've got. I am generally pretty fit, but I wish I hadn't abused my skin with all that direct sun. As for the teeth, I have been going for my check-ups quite religiously since I discovered Lady Dentists!

I detested my last male dentist. He had huge hands that were as rough as a longshoreman's. Plus, he was rough with his rough hands, forcing my mouth open far wider than was comfortable, complaining that I wasn't opening wide enough and then drilling and poking and doing whatever dentists do, except it was like there was road construction going on in there. After the root canal job was over, I never went back. That was when I went online and found a nice lady dentist in Tokyo and what a world of difference! I would actually fall asleep while the hygienists cleaned my teeth, they were so gentle.

Here in California, I also have a lady dentist (and a friend who is a hygienist who works for her.) I got to spend my birthday afternoon in their aquatic-themed office (think stuffed fish and other marine animals hanging from the ceiling) getting my teeth cleaned, being told that my teeth were fine and getting a goody bag of dental hygiene products. Okay, so it wasn't an all-day spa treatment, but it was probably even better for me and my goal of one day being the Oldest Person Alive.