Danger! Keep out!

I was driving to town with the kids this afternoon, and we got to talking about dreams. After concluding that dreams were seriously weird, and even more so considering they come from inside our heads, I said, “Yeah. A brain isn’t a place you want to go walking around alone in after dark.”

To which my daughter’s response was, “I don’t think I’d want to go wandering around there at any time.”

And it struck me that there lies the crux of being an introvert. We go walking alone in our brains, in spite of the fact it’s not a nice neighbourhood.

We go walking alone there, where anything could jump out at us, and probably will. We walk through alleys smelling of rats and urine, where all the stupid things we’ve ever said slouch in shadowy doorways drinking out of bottles in brown paper bags.

We walk through busy thoroughfares where our own doppelgangers repeat every public embarrassment we’ve ever committed over and over and over without pause.

We walk into brightly lit rooms where we are handcuffed and a poised and confident extrovert asks probing questions about why, exactly, we decided to wear our “Nerd is the new Sexy” t-shirt to the bar on Saturday night.

We step out onto the street, thinking the way is clear, and the bus carrying every one of our personal inconsistencies and incompetencies runs us down.

We pass a parked car with tinted windows, and the door opens. Out steps our younger self. She looks us up and down and sighs. “I thought by now you’d have done something with your life.” She rolls her eyes and stalks off.

We walk past a tall chain link fence topped with razor wire. On the other side is the hitchhiker we didn’t pick up last August, the crying child we didn’t comfort two years ago, the Salvation Army bell ringer we didn’t empty our pockets for on December 23, 1989.

The mind is the seedy place we introverts are drawn to in the dead of night, when the happy extroverts are tucked safely in bed or walking brightly lit streets with a crowd of friends. It’s a bad neighbourhood, but it’s our own, and maybe we think we can fix it up if only we visit it frequently enough.


Upcoming Event: The Forest Floor

Join me and the Lincoln Envirotown crew on 13 July to explore the forest floor!

I’ll be there with live bugs and books to sell. Be the first to pick up a copy of my new bug book for kids–limited pre-release copies available at the event!

Thursday 13 July, 10am-12.30pm 

Lincoln Event Centre

FREE Event, Gold coin donation appreciated

Discover the fascinating world of New Zealand’s forest floors.  Examine the variety of life that makes our forest floors so exciting.  Make your own forest and the things that live here.  Find the bugs and insects.  Crawl through the under forest tunnel and many more activities to keep the kids entertained.

Booking not required. Caregiver must be present.

This year find us in our larger hall at the Lincoln Event Centre.

For all ages 1 to 100!

Taking Life Seriously

These hands were made for walkin’

Life is full of serious stuff. Hard work, difficult decisions, earthquakes, fires, death, politicians, lawyers, and accountants…it’s easy to be overwhelmed by it all, and to walk through life with a frown.

So I’m thankful for those who can show us the proper way to take ourselves seriously…

Like the fellow in front of me at Farmlands this morning, who was buying fence posts.

“Anything else?” the clerk asked.

“Yeah, I’d like matching holes to put them in.”

Or the man I once caught stealing a marker flag off a research site. Surprised in the act of untying the flag from the tree, he smiled impishly, shrugged, tied it back on and walked off.

Or the awesome women I see around town with their hair dyed fuchsia, peacock blue, or lime green.

So, In an effort to take life as seriously as these leaders in the field, I’ve decided to tackle an issue that has bothered me for many years.


Yep. The important issue of our time–our orientational and gravitational challenges.

Oh, I can do handstands, and I can walk on my hands for half a dozen steps, but I lack control and finesse upside down. It bothers me that I can’t just stay on my hands for as long as I want, like I do on my feet. Eventually, I lose my balance. That shouldn’t happen. I should be able to remain in a handstand long enough to sing every last verse of Ratlin Bog. Long enough to read the entire front page of the New York Times (which would probably seem much less serious from that perspective). Long enough to do the bunny hop around the room. Long enough to thoroughly embarrass both my teenage children. Long enough that they deny they’re related to me, or that they’ve ever even met me.

So if you find me upside down at odd hours of day and night, please understand I’m just doing my best to take life seriously.

Throwback Thursday: Carnival

carnivalatjulianshouseCarnival starts in just a few days in Panama. It’s true, the actual date of Carnival isn’t until Saturday the 25th but, at least in our village in the mid-1990s, Carnival lasted the better part of a week. We learned to never plan to get anything done in the days before or after Carnival. After all, people had to spend the days before Carnival practicing getting drunk. The day of Carnival was spent being drunk, and the days after were spent recovering from having been drunk.

In the lead-up to Carnival, the women would make vast quantities of tamales (polenta-like corn mash filled with meat and vegetables, wrapped in leaves and boiled) to sell to all the young people who would come home from their jobs in the city for the celebration. The making of tamales was a group activity done only by the women, and the rules of behaviour were…relaxed. It was Carnival, after all! I seldom saw the women of our village drink, but the lemonade we drank while making tamales was spiked with seco.

But Carnival was about more than drinking. It also included dancing, and getting wet. In Penonome, the Carnival parade was made of elaborate rafts that floated down the river. The local fire tanker crawled through the crowded streets, turning the fire hose on the crowd as it chanted “Water! Water!”. The unspoken rule was that men could splash water on women, and vice versa–you’d walk down the street and have cups of water thrown at your face by laughing men.

In our village, there was always a parade. Not on water, but up to the community building–a large open-air pavilion–where a band would play until late into the night. Our neighbours also usually had a dance, just for a few local families. No one in our village had money for a proper traditional pollera, but a long full skirt and a t-shirt was good enough for the local party. Kids and adult alike danced through the night, and the next morning was very quiet…