birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


“Hello, my name is Odine. I would like to travel to the conference with you.”

“What the —!” I thought as I moved the phone from my ear and looked into it.

There was nothing to see. We didn’t have FaceTime then, but I was trying hard to “see” who this total stranger was! It seemed truly odd for a perfect stranger to ask for such a thing.

I think I would have understood a request for a ride to the airport—maaaybe—with more of an introduction and some social massage.

So, Odine had gotten my name from the administrator of the conference I was going to in Canada. That trip was about a month away. I wish the administrator had checked with me first.

The conference was a six-day event that consisted of three two-day workshops, hosted by the Marion Woodman Foundation, to be taught by Marion [Dream Interpretation], Marion and Judith [Jung and Yoga], and Marion and her husband Ross [The Romantic Poets and Jung]. I was excited about them, and looked forward to studying with Marion. I had read her books; they had influenced my dissertation choice deeply, even though I couldn’t use much in it because they weren’t “academic, empirical psychology”. They were just “airy-fairy” and “Jungian”. But, nonetheless, they were formative for me, and I was excited and grateful for the opportunity to study with this wise woman who seemed to know valuable things about femininity.

Odine said, “I don’t like to travel alone. And, I don’t drive on freeways all the way across town. I’m not much out of your way, if you're flying from Burbank. I live in North Hollywood. And, I mean, since you're going anyway, I just thought it would be nice to travel with you. We could room together too. It’s so much cheaper that way. I mean ….”

I didn’t stop this fast stream of speech, but I wasn’t really listening either. “I mean”—I think I’m pretty friendly and gregarious, and I like meeting new people. And, I probably did need a roommate— But, I felt a coldness rising in me against the onslaught of her need.

First—I lived in Pasadena and planned to fly from LAX, so North Hollywood is, in fact, out of the way. It would have been, sort of, even if I had planned for Burbank. But this didn’t matter, because Odine was OUT OF THE WAY. I’d never heard of her--never met her--never laid eyes on her! Who the hell is Odine?

And, her voice grated on my goodwill. It was one of those voices with a slightly nasal and singsong quality that can drill right through your forehead, in under a minute. You know that two-year-old “but why mama?” sound that every kid masters just to make you give up everything dear, so that it will STOP!

I am pretty good at the social graces—just coming to terms with that—so I stifled my annoyance and put on my best “tell me about yourself” vocal mask.

“Odine, forgive me … ” Who the fuck are you? “ … catch me up a bit … “ How do I get rid of her? “ … Did Patty give you my name? Maybe she’s a little unclear about our geography.”

“Well, I know we don’t know each other, but we both adore Marion’s work, right? I mean, that’s why we’re going to the conference—well, workshops really, right? I mean, she’s all about workshops, right? She wants us to EXPERIENCE the unconscious, right? I mean—I LOVE the UNCONSCIOUS, right? Don’t you? I mean I just have to …. ”

There! There! There is that disconnect in me again—where the whinny voice starts to fade, like the train whistle leaving the neighborhood at high speed. I couldn’t, just couldn’t, stay with this woman—now, or in Canada, or EVER.

She’d been talking for over five minutes and hadn’t asked a single—NOT. ONE. SINGLE—thing about me. I was fainting from fatigue, and wondering if a person can die from the burden of another’s words.

“I absolutely CAN NOT ‘travel’ with this woman!” I thought to myself.

But now my “social grace” was turning on me: “What do you mean, you can’t travel with her? She obviously needs help. It would be unkind to not to help her out. After all, Marion’s work is about the feminine, and about community! You even wrote a book about femininity, and how it is under-valued and under-expressed. Well, here’s your chance to be feminine!—giving!, caring!, NURTURING!”

No, I just couldn’t. I’d be drowned by the words and affects of her need and history. No, I couldn’t! Could I? Must I?

Well, as it happened something, I forget what, came up and I had to cancel. I didn’t get to study dreams and yoga and the romantic poets with Marion that spring. And, I didn’t have to travel with Odine. I didn’t have to practice femininity on Odine. I didn’t have to embrace social grace.

Marion is a WISE woman. “Odine” means “wise woman”, though the woman Odine clearly was not. The universe was way wiser than I when it orchestrated my getting to NOT travel with Odine.


The Gift Of A Towel