My junior year of high school filled with friends. I got out on my bike regularly. Got some small measure of space for myself away from parents. Hired for a camp counselor job, one that I shouldn't have taken and failed miserably, quitting once the reality of being responsible for kids barely younger than myself set in. But then got a job at the local branch library that I would keep for nearly three years. The first fragile steps out of a crisis childhood into an uncertain adulthood. A hopeful year, a year that worked. The year I got the highest scores in my school for both the SAT and ACT.
When I was 34, I'd just gotten through my first year in the OR, starting to attain competence. It's a long process, there is so much to learn, and turn into habits. That was the spring D shattered his elbow. I buzzed my hair off, and concentrated on doing what needed to be done. We came to really appreciate each other that year. The last really hard year in a series.
On my third iteration of seventeen, we are doing austerity. Second year for the garden. Other plans for improvements - using as little money as possible. House telling us where the small pinches are. A different kind of stability. A different set of tasks, work to be done.
D's parents stopped by with a thoughtfully chosen gift. A lot of these bamboo chimes tend to thunk. This set is audibly tuned, a rather lovely series of cords, very Eastern sounding.
Thought about putting it in the back, with the garden. But if the wind is up, the constant chimes would certainly keep us awake in the bedroom in the back.
Reading comments in a different forum, stumbled into an old attitude of my own, and the insight to pull me out of it. She was angry at being pegged as unfriendly, hostile at being misunderstood by others calling her "too smart." Difficulties at work, being too fast and efficient, others feeling threatened and made to look bad.
Being smart is fine, it's good, but to be happy, we have to continue to be even smarter. It's not that we are too smart, it's that we need to be even more intelligent in different areas. If we can learn, we need to learn kindness and compassion. Knowing that others can be one-up, and that is really fine. We have to be willing to understand those dim people, since expecting them to understand us is frankly stupid. We have to learn how to get people around us thinking optimally, by giving them time and peace and warmth. We need to let the slower find their own solutions, since the slower answer can often be the right one, a better one. A bright light can blind as much as enlighten. We need dusk and dawn to spot what is invisible at noon.
Hard for us to get that when we are most accused of being "too smart" what we really need to do is get even smarter. We need to learn soul smartness, heart wisdom, body love.
Like cooking, some foods and ideas need a wok, some need a slow cooker. Some high heat, some simmer. To be really intelligent means knowing when high speed and high intellect will entirely ruin the idea. A tough question, a tough bit of meat, probably needs a leisurely stew. And the wise cook knows when to lightly steam a nice bit of fish, or bring broccoli to a bright green snap.
In the end, the problem isn't being too smart. It's being stupid in too many important areas. Being fast, when slow is required. Not allowing other versions of intelligence to work well. Like one particularly brilliant, but obnoxious surgeon I once had to work with (Dr. Evil I called him, when even his name made me break out in a rash.) He enjoyed riling people, then berating them for failing, spreading chaos and confusion. An evil bullying bastard of the first order, and that he was undoubtedly a genius, with astounding technical skill, meant only that patients died because of him, although he saw himself as the savior of the hopeless. He wasn't bright enough to see where he was totally lacking in humanity and wisdom. Skills he could have learned, if only he'd seen them as important, useful, not to be disdained.
Perhaps, thankfully, I can see this, at least now, because I am not a genius. Sub genius at best, on a good day. Pretty smart, so I can compass how the truly brilliant think. Aware enough of my own limitations that I can, on a good day, appreciate the plodders. Tottering on the wire between, I know quite well how dumb I am, and how smart. Didn't always, but I have a pretty good sense of it, especially as my own abilities fray slightly at the far edges, even as I gain depth.
Wouldn't trade my journey now. Nor the grey hair, red face, bad back, sore joints, not one scar. All proof, evidence.
Assigned to scrub on scope cases with a rather particular surgeon. I don't mind him when I'm circulating since I know I'm pretty good at that side of my job. But I'm not the scrub I once was, can't focus my eyes properly, and my solid years of experience were in general surgery, orthopedics is more recently learned - and less ingrained - so fading more quickly. And the less I scrub, the less I can keep up with changes, and remembering preferences. It's better if I take over a case underway to relieve a scrub for lunch or if they leave at 3. Far less if I have to set it up.
Today, I checked my supplies and set up my room, but there was a cancellation and a game of musical ORs. I wound up with a far less helpful circulator, and forgot a few items. The scrub in the same surgeon's other room helped me as best she could, but I was on my own. First two went well, a simple knee scope and an open clavicle fracture - well within my range.
The last one I knew was going to cause trouble. I suggested other scrub take over, and I could do the hand case that was floating into her room. She left, saying I needed the practice, but came back in and did scrub me out. In the middle of the handover, Surgeon asking for stuff I only know from the other side of the table, making me very, very glad to be relieved. The scaphoid fracture repair went quite well, with a much nicer, and more helpful RN.
My room finished last, barely. This is the first time in longer than any of us can remember when all the rooms were done before 4. I asked P if she could remember when.
"1974!" She said, with great gusto and conviction. I had to agree it felt like that.
Better Boy tomatoes. That's the plan. Lettuce, peas, tomatoes. Cosmos, sunflowers, long grasses, marigolds and geraniums. At least one cayenne plant. Maybe herbs, depending on what is available.
Quite a while ago, D got tickets for the college gymnastics meet. Much more of a production than we expected, with lights and video, cheerleader and college mascot, family cheering section with the brass band, multiple renditions of the local U fight song.
Aside from all that, we quite enjoyed ourselves. The vault is much more impressive in person. D loves the uneven bars - which turns physics and the highly trained human body into something magic and impossible. The "timed warm-ups" entertained us immensely, like watching high-level playground antics of very talented children. Boingy-boingy-boingy! The balance beam is far less interesting, TV loves it because it can get dramatic camera angles with little risk of a body falling on them. But from any distance, it's fussy and slow.
The sprung floor is easier to understand seen directly, as well. Not that it makes their leaps and flips any less impressive, only that they really couldn't do it at all on plain concrete. At least not for long. And there were plenty of young women in U jackets with various slings and braces.
I struggled to get out of the small seat in the steep tier without falling. Oh, how the once flexible have stiffened.
The snow continued, but we only had a few blocks to walk to the train. Dressed warmly, out of the wind, we chatted and enjoyed the snow, out past our bedtimes.
Her cartoon style is much more readable in color than B&W in the paper. Never read her before, because of that difficulty, but came across a mention of this book, and had to find out about her. Give her another try. Very much worthwhile. It's a potent little book. Familiar demons.
Now, I want to bring out my hundred demons. Most have exited through this space over the years, after clogging it up for a while resisting being exorcised. They are struggling, squirmy, entities. Children and families, dreams and realities.
More contact with the first cousin once removed. Grandchild of my mother's brother. Analogous issues, she has been braver - to look everyone up, do the research. Safer for me, to come in on the edges and peer in, a kindly disinterested hand on my shoulder. Especially now, as I live in my own real home, with dirt to dig, and a guy and cat to love. I can deal with it, now.
I've explored variations on old sayings before, so this article on Proverbs filled in a few more, from a slightly different perspective.
Holiday, off work. Both of us feeling a bit at odd with the universe, though. Out of step, tripped up. Not crushed under the inevitability of the worlds uncaring whirling, not that bad. Merely at the level of irritation and mild upset, hard to pin down exactly why. Ok, well, the tax bill looming ain't helping.
The increased light helps, but adds a sense of urgency - which we can't act on.
I did not go to get ashed on Wednesday. Thought about it, but never seriously moved toward going. For a long time, it was the one ritual I still craved, a leftover from some earlier religious tradition that resonated with me.
As a child, I was bemused at being besmirched, and a little in awe - afraid to wipe off the magic. We giggled in school about the different marks left on our foreheads, only guessing at how we looked to others. Some years the words freaked me out a bit, other times fey and half in love, always loved the solemnity mixed with the silly.
Remember man that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.
So mythic, the beginning of a fairy tale, archaic speech even when the old King James bible emerged. Poetic and harking back to both a darker and more golden age. A memento mori as make-up. The mark of Cain. A flaming tongue of the holy spirit leaving an ashy kiss behind.
The last time I was so marked was in Boston, the hospital chapel offered the service for staff, and I went. A nun gave me the blessing, but instead of the traditional words, it was a call to reaffirm my faith in Jesus. Which I ain't got. Off putting enough that I have not done it since.
Occurred to me this week why I still feel drawn to the custom. The message expresses what I do feel is the truth - or as close as is possible to know. That I get one life, that's all and that's everything, best do it all right. No second chances, don't mess it up. And in the end, I'll be recycled. Much as that idea terrified me when I was young, for a long time I've found it completely comforting.
And I faced Death, not a bad entity - not at all frightening. Leaving people behind is sad, but being the one gone is fine. I'm good with going back to dust. Which may be why I no longer want the ceremony enough to actually go into a church for it. I don't need the reminder, the mark is on my heart. Death walks beside me. Or perhaps sits.
He turned his head... and saw a small but brightly lit folding chair on the sand. A robed figure was reclining in it, reading a book. A scythe was stuck in the sand beside it.
A white, skeletal hand turned a page. ...
DON'T MIND ME. CARRY ON WITH WHATEVER YOU WERE DOING. I HAVE A BOOK.
The puzzle of my kin has filled in a bit more. Not that I will ever have all the pieces - no one ever does, but I'm finding a small warm joy in this ray of contact from a cousin. I've always liked cousins. She's only eight years younger than me, I'm sure we must've met. Not that either of us would remember, but there had to be a funeral in there we were both brought to.
She says my mother's family has always been dysfunctional. My father's side will always be worse for me. But I grew up feeling like I'd missed out on the more intelligent, interesting and funny side. I wanted to belong more with them, but I was too young, met most of them only at the numerous funerals of great aunts and uncles and grandparents. My father kept contact minimal, and ranted about how he thought they treated him. To hear from a cousin who grew up amid them to call them dysfunctional, eases that loss. I maintain that my paternal side was deeply fucked up, and the maternal side not half as bad.
I never looked into my genealogy for the plain reason that I didn't like any of my alive relatives, I didn't think I'd like the dead ones any better. That, and when I worked at the Burton Historical Collection - I learned to loathe most genealogists. They were picky, ridiculous pedants, and messy - as a group. Some of them were lovely folks, a lot of them probably. But I remembered the horrible ones more. Knowing where I came from, and why it was as poisonous - that I wanted to understand. I'd still like to do the genetic maps - to find out where my genetic ancestry originated. That's facts, that's data, that's interesting.
Work still busy, which is good. I have a job.
The thick ice on the drive between the houses is finally melting. Enough that D could hack away blocks, and the tires didn't slip coming home.
Granny's name, well, that shouldn't be that difficult, I thought. So I threw in names, and an ancestry site comes up - as they do. And a question on a message board appeared with both maternal grandparent's names, and a question about the oldest son who drowned age 17. I left a note, but since it was first posted four years ago, I moved on. Today, got a response, a cousin, offspring of a first cousin,(is that a second cousin or a once removed cousin?) also looking for a photo of her great granddad. I replied that I had one and would look for it.
Took me all of five minutes, if that.
I never knew him, he died before I was born. The story told of him was that he died of drink, found several days later in a flophouse.
Guarded fellow, ain't he? No question he's kin, though.
Funny, I have no trouble with family as an abstract. I'm just no good dealing with them in the real world.
Oh, and she was Mary Alice. But I don't remember what configuration was original and what preferred in later age.
Participating in Your Wild Life projects. Real science, I'm enchanted. Cultured the house last month, sent it back to them. Got an email today about gathering further data.
We’ve hand-picked you from our list of enthusiastic citizen scientists to participate in an extension of the Wild Life of Our Homes project. We’d like your help studying the biomes of your home. You sampled the microbes of your home, and now we want to understand a little bit more about the temperature and humidity conditions inside and outside your home.
Here’s what we’ll need from you: We’ll ship two high-tech temperature and humidity sensors (we call them data-loggers) to you; one you’ll place inside your home in a place that won’t be disturbed (and out of the reach of curious dogs and toddlers) and the other you’ll place outside. The loggers will be automatically programmed to collect data every 60 minutes. After three months, you’ll ship both loggers back to us in a provided, stamped envelope. We’ll then download the data, re-program the data-loggers, and ship them back to you to deploy for another three month round of data collection. Then after those three months are up, you’ll ship the loggers back to us.
What do we hope to learn? We have SO many questions! How does the environment of your house match up with natural, outdoor environments? Is your living room more like a desert or a temperate forest? How much of a difference is there really between indoor and outdoor environments? Additionally, by looking at the conditions outside your home, we’ll have fine scale information that we can then compare to the info collected by your local weatherman or climate station.
We’ve selected just one participant from each state so we’re hoping you’re willing to help us out. The loggers are expensive little pieces of equipment so we want to make sure you’re in before we mail them off.
Well, I know why I was chosen. I sent the tests back with the same meticulous, professional, care as when I send specimens from surgery.
Scrubbed on hands all day, and my eyes strain to focus so much, especially after a week away - when I wore my glasses perhaps an hour a day.
This is balm for sore eyes. I've had a soft spot for Alice since high school. Before that, I hated absurdity and nonsense. After, in part because of my friend Steve*, I embraced the absurd, and perhaps so saved my sanity.
At some point my granny started calling herself - well now I can't remember if she was something other than Alice and wanted to be Alice, or if she was Alice and preferred to be - another name. Didn't matter to me, as I still called her Granny. But my mother was disdainful that she would call herself something other than on her birth certificate.
In this state, more often than not, people do not go by their first given name. Which is why I ask in pre-op - and it's either a nick name or a middle name, often not even one listed. I have no issue with this, be called what you like.
So, one of the advantages of not talking with my mother again is that I will not have to face her contempt for taking a middle name. I don't go by it, but I know it's there. Like my four tattoos - that she will never be told of either.
Going to watch Death in Paradise and Strip the City.
D is definitely a supertaster, we did the blue dye test. We'd love to try the chemical strip one, but it's not really necessary.
One of the most persistent annoyances of our marriage has been a fundamental disconnect on food. When only cooking for two becomes cooking for one - twice as much. Our tastes have always been different, attempts to find common foods have been only somewhat successful, and have not always stuck. Eating healthy, a habit I need to maintain, is a constant struggle. That I never really learned to cook fresh food makes it all worse.
Oh, I've learned how not to ruin good ingredients, and I can do a good meal on occasion. D likewise. I've grown accustomed to hotter spices - preferring actually. Throwing out my mother's Canadian standard - Irish cuisine - cooking - heavy on desserts-baked, was simple. Replacing it with better was hard. When the women at work marvel at people who don't know how to cook a roast or squash, I have to put up my hand and inform them I am one of those. Never cooked a chop, nor made potato salad neither.
I grew up on hamburgers, hot dogs, fried or baked chicken(coated in crushed corn flakes and Lowry Season Salt,) potatoes in all forms - mashed, baked and fried. Canned corn, occasional iceberg lettuce salad. White bread and margarine, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cinnamon sugar toast, french toast, grilled cheese. Salmon patties, tuna, frozen perch fried, fish sticks, on Fridays. Roast beef, meat pie, always dry and tasteless, saved only by lots of ketchup. Jiffy mix pizza, baked spaghetti, spaghetti-os, rice-a-roni. Canned tomato soup, canned chicken soup. Vanilla wafers. Sliced american cheese.
If I listed all the baked desserts, it would more than double this list, easily.
So, on my own, I made a lot of quick breads, because I could. I learned to steam vegetables - usually frozen. Lived on eggs and ramen and steamed veggies. Once I started going to restaurants, I learned to add lemon, parsley, spices other than salt and pepper.
With D, I got used to onions and tomatoes and chili peppers as a normal. Eventually had to reduce the onions and completely avoid the (evil) garlic - as I react badly to alliums. Still steam frozen peas and green beans, but prefer when I can get them fresh. Recently finding it easier to get salad greens. A lot of Tex-Mex style - bell peppers (red, green and yellow) stir fried with chicken or steak, tortillas, jalapeños and pepperoncini, all sorts of cheeses (that aren't american slices), rice - basmati mixed with brown and short grain. Whatever we can find, and put together, a lot of Asian styled stuff, always with whatever we can throw in together. We still order different dishes at restaurants, we have to adjust what we cook, but we've found a middle ground. Most of the time. Some days, we still just make our own meals.
Such a good question deserves better. Some of the answers are the same as to the question, why buy a house? Because then it is mine, my responsibility, my work, my joy, my accomplishment. Mine to treasure and weep for and delight in. D's parents came by for lunch yesterday, and duely admired our dining and living rooms. I could only respond that they gave me much pleasure, and I feel blessed and fortunate and oh, so grateful. I love the space.
The garden likewise, although it is a less obvious beauty. I have no control over it, can't really own it as I own a house. The garden is it's own self, and I feel about it something closer to what parents seem to feel about their children. A matter of trust, attention, and a lot of time. Mine was abused, and needs a patient hand, some gentle skill, only one of which I have - researching the rest. So, better learn fast. Tend it well, hope it grows.
Unexpectedly, learning all about the science thrills me. The chemistry of soil, botany, entomology, digs into concepts learned in other science classes - not as forgotten as I'd have guessed. So much available these days, such a wealth of data for self education. Research is my quiet satisfaction, more so with an internet. My mind is thoroughly engaged. I am fascinated.
Eating fresh out of the garden gave me great pleasure as a kid, cherry tomatoes and rhubarb, sweet clover and Mrs. Rizzardi's grapes through the fence. Eating freely, not a daily occurrence when I was young, a sneaky pleasure, even if technically allowed. I would not have enjoyed it as much if I thought I could have gotten in real trouble for it.
Digging, pure and simple. Getting dirty, spending time without a time limit, getting down deep, no one to tell me not to. Watching the worms and bugs, with admittedly more aplomb in adulthood. Still, looking closely at small things, bits of coal and brick, a shiny rock or marble. The joys of a solitary childhood.
Feeding D a tomato I have grown makes me downright gleeful. A small, savory, miracle. Only a very few last summer, but maybe this year.
Watching the light across the earth. Attending to the sun, movements of everything around.
Finally, it's as inexplicable as love. Whatever aspects I can point to and say, 'yes, I love that about my garden' do not define that overwhelming desire to plop myself down in the dirt and wait for photosynthesis. The heart of it is inexplicable, unencompassable with words.
Zulu is for Z. Not zebra, although most ABC books seem to suggest it is. They are also called abecedaries, or one abecedarium. Zebras are great, but Zulu is a word easier to hear compared to the other words standing for letters.
Zulu is a language, a people and a kingdom in the south of the African continent, and in the country of South Africa - which are not the same thing. Africa is a huge place with many, many countries.
Sometimes Z is zee, sometimes it is zed, depending on which English variety. The Zuiderzee is a bay in the North Sea in the Netherlands, it never answers to Zuiderzed.
Z buzzes and zig-zags, zips and zings. Best in small amounts, which may be why the Z section of the dictionary is so small. It shares space with S, and gets shoved aside so often. Z may not be most comfortable in English, as it is more often seen in words from other languages, like Zulu, and Italian, and Dutch. How else would we get pizza?
Z seems such an afterthought, a straggler behind all the letters. So, here, it gets to go first. Zounds!
Due to owing taxes to the state, of a considerable amount, for reasons I will not go into here, the vacation at home is necessary. I don't object to paying the taxes, only that we didn't know to reserve it earlier, and now have to cough it all up by April.
We are actually enjoying it more, because we've never stayed at a hotel as nice as this place.
I don't have to drive, we are not dealing with airports, nor dependent on restaurants.
And we get to spend it with our dear and furry friend. He is not at all ok with traveling. But he seems to be enjoying having us around so much.
And we are cleaning, which isn't terribly fun, satisfying though. Drifting along. Sleeping in.
Cold, bad, murky air, making it feel like I've been smoking. I did smoke, one year, around the divorce, in no small part as a way to annoy the ex, and a self destructive urge. Perhaps a couple of packs total, stopped completely as of 1 Jan 1991, and never missed it. The painful breathing is the same as inhaling this gunk. I get into a rather dire mood.
Although we got a lot of dust and fur cleared, it wasn't THAT much considering we haven't properly cleaned in well over a month, more like three for some areas, even a year since the initial scrub to the corners. Compared to that last, dusty and cramped apartment, this place is a breeze to maintain.
Thinking about the garden. Lettuce, tomatoes, peas, with whatever herbs and smelly flowers I can find for insect management. Tall grass for the front yard, sunflowers and cosmos. Very simple. Cheap as I can do, since it all may well fail again.
Reading How to Talk so Kids will Listen... and having flashes of insight. My father was beyond the pale, but my mother effectively silenced me. Only good emotions were allowed, and so I was the good kid - seething with resentment and self reproach. She had no idea who I was. We had no relationship, I spent my childhood hiding myself from her - so that she would stay on my side, at least sometimes. I was the smart one - but with a connotation that smart was, well, good - but a problem. I was the quitter, the shy one, the messy one, the pest.
Yes, the surgical nurse who mouths off to surgeons.
Took me a long time to get over all those horrible messages. Probably not done, but nothing insistent at the moment.
One of the questions in the gardening class today was Why do you want a garden? He suggested all kinds of rather practical reasons, most of which are part of why I wanted one so much. To grow my own food - for the taste, the satisfaction, with time for the economy. To heal this small patch as a refuge for some critters. But when he opened the floor, the overwhelming answer was - to dig in the dirt. I loved digging holes last summer. As deep as I felt like. Loved finding roots and rocks, coal and marbles and the hatchet and toy Storm Trooper. It's mine, to do with as I like, and to be responsible for. A bit of earth to love, explore, and care for.
The planning begins. Mostly tomatoes, peas as a nitrogen fixer, maybe lettuce. And whatever I can find in the herbs as smelly bug deterrent. I wonder if peppercorns grow here. Lavender and basil, rosemary, geraniums again. I forget how much I did last year, that I won't have to do again this year.
Danced to Don't Worry Ma, Annabouboula -In The Baths Of Constantinople. Shoulder recalcitrant, but I moved it anyway.
After all the frigid temperatures and dumps of deep snow, the last few days have been well above freezing. Everything is melty. Impermanence demonstrated. The Planning Your Garden class was excellent, as was the one last year on Basic Organic Gardening. Nothing like having an expert talk about their specialty on a beginning level (ha) with great passion. That was never two hours... oh, it was.
My brain is buzzing and my hands itching to get into the dirt again. This year, I won't have to hack back a monster hedge, nor will I need to get rid of masses of ivy attacking the house. I will re-dig most of the back, compost and amend better, and plan better.
I needed much more information than I had, needed to hear what the ground itself had to tell me over a growing season. It's a slow talker, so I have to learn to be a slow listener.
Tristan links to a Tallis composition I found delightful.
Our vacation begins. Cleaning and errands with a stretching out and listening to our own rhythms. Catching our breath.