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.