Sunday, March 11, 2012

Beause I May Die Today

And that's ok.  It's true everyday, and one day will become inevitable.

I will die imperfect. So will you.  It may be sad, and it may be tolerable.  If I die suddenly and soon, you will be unprepared (I imagine, so will I).  That will be harder than if you remind yourself- as I will- that I may die today.  If I die young, and since I think anyone shy of 60 young, it is a certain possibility, then it may feel tragic.  You may want to idolize my memory, my name, the things I used to say.  I give you permission in advance to let these things go.  To remember me warts and all, for how I am ornery at times, and for how I have a tendency to go crazy when living in cold dark climates too long, or when I choose to not say what I mean and by the time I'm ready to talk I blame you for it, even if it's not your fault.  I give you permission to be sad, but also a little relieved, because I can be difficult even though you love me.

5am airport cupcakes

I turn 28 today, sitting at the airport moving from one type of family to the other with equal importance, and two vegan red velvet cupcakes.

In the past two weeks I have been to Massachusetts, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. I feel like my life has flashed before my eyes. I can see in my minds eye the long strait house my grandmother grew up in with her family of 13, before I or even my mother had yet become an idea. I can feel the weight of the bench that lived alongside the table where they all ate meals in a single room of their shotgun double in downtown New Orleans. I know now that on Halloween they wore no costumes, but carried small pumpkins (before the days of GMOs made them big and watery) with candles in them. There was no candy handed out door to door.

Down the street on the corner was Mrs. White's sweet shop where a nickel would get your box of ginger snaps. Aunt Irma sent little Edna in to ask for the nickels, cause she was the smallest and cutest. My gullible baby grandmother wouldn't see that her sweetness was being exploited by her sister, and really maybe it wasn't since they both got to eat the cookies.

Pop was mean mean mean, my Momie tells me, my mom reiterates, and my uncle Johnny too. But when he was drinking tea and not alcohol you could sit on his lap and he'd be sweet. But he was drunk walking all the girls down the aisle in their beautifully built handmade dresses.

Ole mom would buy the beer and the cokes for the weddings, she'd make chilli and someone would make ham sandwiches, the kids got their own cakes, and were they ever beautiful. For the first few kids they'd have the reception in the house, open up the French doors that separated the main room and the kitchen... Or was it the main room and the bedroom? Dining room? I'd need to see a sketch of the house to be sure.
One could write a dissertation on the legislation involved with the Massachusetts Right Whale Dilemma.  The problem started over a century ago when whalers realized there was a "Right" whale to hunt...

For the slow, quiet, 40 ton whale this marked the beginning of the end.  Now, it's an international problem, a federal problem, a state problem, a community problem.  It's a human problem... meaning that we caused it, and may have the ability to remedy it.

On September 11th, 2001 the ports of the eastern seaboard went quiet.  The large vessels that pass in and out and in and out, for a moment were forced to stop.  The ocean took a moment of silence.  For the first time in years, the right whales could relax. 

A team of researchers were out that week, and despite the tragedy of the day, they took to the water to find the handful of whales that were left.  What they discovered was that in the days following 9/11 when the ocean was calm, so were the whales.  Stress levels were low, much lower than were ever seen before, or have been seen since.

It was a tragic way to find silence.  When tragedy strikes humanity, we take a moment of silence, reverence.  Our culture, many cultures, value that moment. For 9/11 quiet was a gift that we gave to nature, to each other, and to ourselves.

Calm begin with quieting the mind.  I don't yet know how quieting the mind will lead to quieting the ocean, though I'm certain one leads to the other.

When I quiet my mind, I find peace.  Peace is an absence of longing.  An absence of want leads to an absence of material things.  The absence of things leads to the absence of production, which leads to a decrease in shipping.  Quiet. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The lives our things live

Philosophy tells me there is life essence in everything.  Theatre tells me that props are endowed with importance when an actor takes the time to build their story.  Science (well... at least some science) tells me that the world is made of energy and vibration.  My hat tells me today that it is willing to help me out through grad school- no simple 'thing' could tell me that.

In my life John wakes up first.  Vista wakes up second, she eats breakfast and comes back to bed... so in essence she's out of bed second, but stays in bed the longest.  I get up after roughly 10 minuts of unadulterated pup snuggling.  I shower while John cleans the house (He does this every morning for us), I dress, gather my bag and my bicycle, and head out the door for the coffee shop at approximately the same time John packs Vista out for her morning romp.

I am well loved.

I spend at hour or two sipping tea and sorting through my five e-mail addresses, my multivariate thesis research, my graduate classes, and my job as orchestrator of Salmon Bowl.  I search for grants and donations to support my research, to support my interns,  to support our non-profit, and if I find the time I search for ways to support myself. I try (to the best of my long distance ability) to prepare my 12 incoming interns, to tend to my newly single friend in Alaska, and my dabbling vegetarian friend in Boston, my pregnant sister in California, and sadly my sick grandmother in Louisiana. 

I do pieces of this every morning... at the coffee shop... I haven't even made it to my 10am class yet. 

But I don't do it alone.  I bring with me a bag of things and pieces and ticky-tackies to support me through my day.  What keeps me alive, is the hat on my head, the gloves on my hands, the shoes on my feet, and the jacket on my back.  These things are closer to me than, well anything.

Fast forward through the day.  Statistics assignment completed? Check. Salmon Bowl volunteers e-mailed? Check.  Spring classes registered for?  Check. Flowers sent to grandmother? Check.  Papers read for ecology? Well... Half-Check.  Resume and personal statement reviewed for friend in Minnesota?  Check. Research questions elaborated for meeting with committee?  Check. Hat, gloves, jacket, bag?  No check.

My hat is gone.  I frantically check bag jacket pockets, office, bathrooms, classrooms.  I skip my statistics lab as I walk, in rain and hail, stair stepping through my day.  For a moment, forget the assignments, forget the emails, forget the schedule-  think about just one thing.

It's just a hat. 

But it is more than that.  It's the hat that my mom gave me for Christmas 4 years ago to go with an outfit, that honestly, I never got around to wearing because it was just too cute and too nice for Alaska, but even Alaska appreciates a good hat.

I saved it, and one day when I needed it most I rediscovered the hat and now wear it 6 days a week to survive the Pacific Northwest winter.  Almost daily someone tells me how great it is.  I let them in on the secret: my mom gave it to me.

It's just a thing, but it's bigger than that.  It's my relationship with my mom.  It's the past I left in Alaska.  It's how I'll survive the bike ride home.  It is the one stylish thing that makes me feel like at least on the outside I'm holding it all together.  A thing that, if I had it when I ran into my sister would inspire her to tousle my head and say, "You look just like you should." It's just a thing, but it's the thing that daily touches my bare body most, and no matter how many times I toss it in the closet, or drop it on the floor, or tenderly lay it out to dry in front of the dryer, it waits for me.

It's just a hat.

Funny thing about retracing one's steps. You always ended up where you started. I'm standing by my bicycle, outside of the coffee shop.  No hat.  It's noon now, and I haven't eaten anything in this busy day.  I won't get another chance until 7 o'clock.  I should give up on the hat.  My mind asks me what it is I want to eat, but my body is disheartened, not hungry, and it starts to rain.  So I give up on the idea of food, and head into the library coffee shop for my second cup of tea. I'm tired.  But for the first time in months, my mind is relaxed.  For almost an hour I only thought about one thing.  Just one.

It's a university coffee shop.  At noon, you can't find a table.  Tea in hand I look out over the swarm of students for a place to sit.  Every table is taken.

Except for one.  A small, high table, tall chairs, near a window, is being reserved.  Someone left a hat on it.