December 30, 2009


Are three callings too many? Is one?

I am a Buddhist, a Writer, and an Architect. This is how I define myself, by those things I am called to do. They are not merely jobs or interests. They are compulsions. I did them before I knew I did them. Once I had names for them of course, I chose to define myself by them, creating an illusion of solidity. Sometimes I think I was building my house on sand. Or perhaps on the San Andreas Fault, where the pushing and pulling of giant forces will shake this house, this life, this illusion I’ve built for myself down upon my head.

Mostly I try to find balance, weaving all three together in a manner I hope makes for a rich life. Maybe “rich life” is just a euphemism for attention deficit disorder. Of course, they complement one another, or so I tell myself. Besides, in addition to what I am called to do there is what I am – daughter, student, coworker, friend, sister, woman, Nebraskan, American, white, young, tall, boss, granddaughter, introvert, cousin, classmate, etc. I manage all those roles well enough, so what’s the big deal about the Big Three?

I can’t say I chose to be Buddhist or a Writer or an Architect anymore than I chose to be a daughter or a woman. I can’t even say I’m more successful at these than others. I’m not a good Buddhist; I barely ever sit and don’t even have a sangha or a teacher. I may write a lot, but I’ve never had anything major published. Legally I can’t even call myself an architect until I pass my exams, which I am beginning to believe I never will.

I console myself with dreams of these things. Someday I’ll move somewhere with more Buddhists and I’ll join a sangha and sit every week. Someday I’ll write a book and find a publisher. Someday I’ll build a really awesome building that I’ll be able to look on with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Someday…there’s no such thing.

But I don’t really think it matters. I heard a quote once: “Better to write for oneself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.” From a Buddhist perspective it is quite a peculiar turn of phrase. What do we strive for if not “no-self?” Who do you write for if you have neither self nor public? That could be a koan, but if it is, I have yet to riddle it out. (Though, personally, I am of the opinion that koans don’t actually have answers.)

Ironically, I don’t believe I’ll ever be a Writer or an Architect, at least not properly, not as my sole profession. I may someday soon add Teacher or Professor to that list. I only get to be a Buddhist because that seems to lack any sort of formal qualifications. Because I feel called to these three things I may not end up doing any of them. Instead I’ll weave my “rich life,” my “middle way” and always wonder what Someday will look like.

I’m not complaining mind you; that’s just samsara and I knew what I was getting when I signed on.

December 28, 2009

Nebraska Winter

Five days with my family and no internet. It went by in a blink.

“Tom, is it okay if I leave a little early tomorrow if the weather is getting bad? I want to get to Omaha ahead of the snow,” I asked my boss on Tuesday. The sky was already overcast and we were predicted to have freezing rain tomorrow morning, turning to snow by nightfall.

“You’d better go tonight then,” he said. “Today is the day for travel.”

“Oh. Okay.” I love my boss.

I arrived on my parents’ doorstep with a bag of gifts, bag of laundry, and a cat in a box, two days ahead of schedule. The cats, my mother’s Lucy and my Isis were segregated. Isis gets the basement, Dad’s cave, and only comes upstairs to the guest room with me, carried like a furry football in the crook of my arm, squalling and hissing all the way, every night. Lucy gets the rest of the house, and doors are carefully closed between them. Neither seemed disturbed by this arrangement. Not knowing how many days I might be snowed in, I declined to leave Isis in Lincoln by herself.

Wednesday brought rain which froze over everything, including snow still on the ground from last week's storm, and turned to snow by nightfall. Thursday was a continuation on a theme, snowing all day, but Mom, as a true Nebraskan working for that great Nebraska institution Mutual of Omaha, was in to work regardless. Mutual has only shut down twice that I recall in the twenty-three years Mom has worked there, even when half of their workers don’t show up (Mom never being one of that half). Dad took me to breakfast at Vidlak’s, one of a very few authentic diners left in Omaha.

“I’m leaving work now,” Mom called at two o’clock.

“Okay, be very careful. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Ten minutes later, too soon for her to be home but soon enough to have gotten stuck or in an accident, the phone rang again.

“Well, hello, Monica!” It was my Aunt Donalee, calling from her place out in Custer County, 250 miles due west. “How’s the weather out there?” We exchanged reports. Her son, Jason, drives truck and had called in to report on highway and interstate conditions between here and there a little while ago, which she passed along. “So will you still be coming out do you think?”

“Well, Mom’s on her way home now, so I suppose we’ll decide when she gets here,” though I strongly suspected we weren’t. Dad had been hinting as much since he arrived home on Tuesday, but Mom is never one to be dissuaded by a little snow, so I left the ball in her court. “I’ll have her call you when she gets home.”

Ten minutes later Mom was on the phone with her sister and the decision was made. We were staying put.

Christmas Day dawned to more snow. Or rather continuing snow, as it had not stopped once in the past thirty-six hours. I was woken by the obscene ringing of the telephone. Both my parents, my mother especially, are losing their hearing and as a result the phone in the guest room/paper crafts room (to distinguish it from the sewing crafts room) makes the most horrible noise. My cat took advantage of my apparent wakefulness (aka full body spasm) to lay on my chest, purr, and bump my hand each time it stopped petting her.

Coming downstairs my suspicions were confirmed. Brandon and April were also staying put, at the very least until the plows in Missouri Valley made it through their alley. Given the size of Mo Valley, that might should be “plow,” singular. From the view from my parents’ stoop, the Omaha plows hadn’t made it into the residential neighborhoods yet either. A similar confirmation came from Grandma around nine o’clock, though she only lived two miles away and her subdivision’s private contractors had been out plowing since Christmas Eve.

“Of course them have,” Mom reported with a snort, after having said goodbye to Grandma. “They get paid by the hour, not by the day or the storm. Her association’s going to be over its budget for snow removal again this year.”

Dad just shrugged, ensconced in the rocking chair in the living room, under a blue lap quilt Mom had made the year before. He set the newspaper aside. “Well, shall we open presents?”

We did. Only Dad had declined to abide by the ten dollar limit for the year. I got iTunes gift cards and Mom got three seasons of CSI. We found gold-toe socks in our stockings in memory of Great-Grandma Peterson, who’d passed away two years before. Everyone had missed her gold-toe socks last year. From me, my family got a toile sack (made from the generous bolt of toile Mom always keeps in the back of her sewing closet) tied with ribbon, containing the best licorice in the world from what may be the only store solely dedicated to its sale, which just happens to be found in the Lincoln Haymarket, chocolate oranges, and an assortment of odd pins attached to the fabric. Dad displayed his “Born This Way” and “Don’t Panic” proudly on his tee shirt, while Mom laughed at “Logic has no place here.” Isis and Lucy got a new cat toys, the classic feathers on a stick.

Lunch was eggs, sausage, and toast to which I added canned peaches and orange juice in a feeble attempt for balance. And the rest of the day simply passed. Every couple of hours I would put my book down and wander downstairs to visit Dad and Isis, but always left quickly in the wake of the Gilmore Girls marathon taking place on his fifty inch flat screen. Every once in a while, Mom would look up giggling from one of her Terry Prachet Discworld books and explain in great detailed glee about Igors or Golumns or Dwarves or Vampires.

My hero had just been reunited with my heroine after a twenty-year separation and little bit of time travel when Mom called for me to come upstairs.

“It’s a Youtube,” she said, clicking play on the little video, chuckling as she watched the second time, as the little rat terrier hung his stocking and set out a plate of cookies for Santa, then waited in increasing agitation, before a ribbon wrapped bone was quietly delivered, after the little fellow had fallen fast asleep, of course.

I watched over her shoulder and smiled, then turned to harass Lucy, who was supervising from my parents’ bed. I leaned my head down to her and we bumped noses, then I buried my face in her fur and growled. She only rolled over onto her side and patted my head with her big paws, looking at me curiously when I came up for air.

After the sun went down, I bundled up and headed out, not that there is anywhere to go. My parents live in the middle of a suburban wasteland. But still, there is something about snowy nights that is inviting, peaceful, and somehow invigorating, even in the cold. The wind was blowing from the north and it was still snowing, but I tramped resolutely down to the playground at the end of the block and back, following the ruts made by tires with deep treads, pausing now and then. The plow still had not come, but a few hardy folk had ventured out anyway.

The city is pink and quiet in the snowy night, save for the wind, which is only a hushed murmur, finding the smooth snow a good acoustic baffle. The trees, bare of leaves and laden down, don’t even speak. The birds, what silly few remain during a Nebraska winter, are all safely tucked in for the night, along with the squirrels, rabbits, possums, raccoons, foxes, and deer. Teenagers and college kids, being the only other urban wildlife likely to be about, are well corralled by their extended families and the drifting snow. I ventured out for a little walk every night after dark, much to Mom’s amusement.

Saturday started with only the occasional flurry. The plows had come in the night, and the contracted snow crew had made it to my parents’ drive by midmorning. We had Christmas dinner then, among family, ham and potatoes and green beans, etc. I handed April one of her presents before Grandma arrived, a small white pin with dainty script that read “I wouldn’t mind an orgasm right about now.” She cackled with glee and tucked it into her shirt, out of sight.

Dean called at some point, my mother’s brother. They were snowed under in Colorado, too, but he and Jim had still been out to feed the cattle, not an optional activity no matter the weather. We’ve made a slight game of it these last few years, but this time he knew who he was talking to right off. Once we talked for half an hour before he finally stated “This isn’t Dayle, is it.” I’m told I sound like my mother, particularly on the phone.

We made it to our traditional afternoon movie, Sherlock Holms, with an entirely too handsome Watson, all piled in to Mom’s four-wheel drive Jeep, my long legged brother squashed in the middle between April and I. He didn’t complain and I turned my head out the window to ignore their giggling canoodles. Brandon and April stayed to watch the latest Doctor Who on BBC America, which only Dad gets on his fancy HD cable. Dad slept through at least half of it, while April and I discussed the mythology, merits of the various companions, and vociferously agreed that David Tennant is the best Doctor to date during the commercial breaks.

Dad may not be a Doctor Who fan (or even conscious of the phenomenon), but he likes having us around and happily announced to Mom that everyone was coming back next week for the two-part conclusion.

“So I suppose I better plan something for dinner,” Mom replied, in a voice of put upon resignation, which all parties concerned routinely ignore.

“Or we can order pizza,” Dad said with a shrug.

Sunday dawned with no snow. The streets were plowed and we ventured forth for pancakes and then to the second hand bookstore (having already made the required trip to Barnes & Noble earlier that week). We headed home in the midst of a few flurries and I loaded up my bags, boxes, cat and all, and headed back to Lincoln. The drive was uneventful, at least until I’d made it to my block, where I promptly high-centered myself in the entry to the alley, breaking my lifetime record of never getting myself stuck in the snow.

A minivan came up the alley toward me.

“You might as well back out the other way. It’s well and truly stuck,” I told the girl with the piercings behind the wheel, waving back to my car.

“We’re gonna hook on and pull you out,” was her swift reply.

By the time I had trotted my cat upstairs and returned with a snow shovel, they had the nylon strap hooked under my bumper and the younger of the two women was down on her knees, flashing her ass and fishing under the minivan with the other hook, while a crusty older woman with short hair and an black jacket with Army patches watched. She reversed and I accelerated to no affect, until the older woman got behind the wheel, gave a little slack to the rope, and then reversed with a sharp jerk. I shifted into low gear and the two vehicles moved with spinning tires back up the steep drive.

“Thanks a lot! I appreciate it!”

“Don’t forget your shovel!”

By the time I’d parked on J Street (at the other, less steep end of the alley) and made my second trip out to my car, two African men in a black sedan had gotten themselves stuck at that end. The dozer that had been slowly moving snow from the lot across the street to the state lot next to my alley where trucks would come for it later, was patiently waiting for the men to sort things out. I set my laundry bag back in my trunk and returned to them, as they peered at the underside of their car.

“Time to push,” I said. “It just can’t get any traction,” I added, when they appeared to be baffled as to why the car wasn’t moving, exchanging puzzled sounding words in a language I didn’t know. At that, the driver waved me into the seat and with a good push and the proper combination of low gear and gas, we got it out. I wondered if that was their first Nebraska winter (they really ought not to have gotten stuck in that spot if they’d known how to drive in snow) as I lugged my laundry back of the alley, in the deep grooves left by the dozer.

All of that accomplished, my cat and I settled in for yet another lazy evening (after fetching the shovel).

December 21, 2009

I See You

My father and I saw Avatar on Saturday. It was, in a word, beautiful. It will get some criticism for seeming cliche. It is, but that is only because it's a story we've heard a dozen times before. It is history repeating itself, with flavours of Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, Wounded Knee, The Battle of the Little Big Horn, Zulu and a dozen other stories both fictional and historical. They are lessons we should have learned long ago, which in Jame's Cameron's hands become a warning. What if we haven't learned those lessons?

The effects are unmatched, wonderful in every sense of the world. They serve the story, to reinforce, advance, and depict without distracting. The characters are good, if predictable. The plot is almost too well known, well-articulated, and even though we can see where this is going (we've been there before, after all) it doesn't detract from the excitement. It's not Terminator, Aliens, or The Abyss, but it's definately Cameron. It's not Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but I think it will stand the test of time.

"I see you," is the Na'vi greeting. Maybe this will help us see ourselves.

December 18, 2009


Between is a relationship. Often we think of it as a state of existence, a fixed time or place, but it is not. Anything between is only such in relation to at least two other things. Between, like all else, is empty. It has no inherent existence. It is only dependently co-arising.

I feel very between. It is very groundless, yet also anchored. There is a light tug back and forth, a shifting of gaze, place, time, state of mind between two (or more) things. These are not things I have to decide between, choosing one over the other. I do not have to fight against them. In an interdependent world, “freedom from” is an illusion. I am never free of the things I am between. These things are like navigational beacons, showing the way without prescribing it.

Frank Lloyd Wright always designed an elaborate entry sequence to his houses. One turned at least twice and sometimes as much as half a dozen times – onto the path from the sidewalk, up some steps onto the stoop, into the front door and out the vestibule, into the hall, and finally entering the grand living room with a large fireplace opposite windows and views. This way was clear, elaborated by steps, planters, views, doorways, and columns, between this space and that, but never absolute. There was always the opportunity to see the other paths and to take them, turning into the backyard, the dining room, down the hall, yet the intended route was clear.

Life is not always so unerringly defined. I was born between, raised between, have lived between, and now plan a future that is between. I live between east coast and west, great rivers and great mountains, hot south and cold north. I was raised in that time between feminism and the history books about feminism. I can read a map and ask for directions. I’m not poor and not wealthy. I’m preparing to leave and preparing to arrive at the same time.

Life is very between. I don’t even think we realize it most of the time. We default to a view of life that “is” failing to see the life that “is between.” There is life between myself and my family, my friends, and my coworkers. There is life between everyone I know – life I can sometimes step through, sometimes watch, and sometimes step away from. Spaces are only ever between – one wall and another, the building and the street, the tree and the fence, floor and ceiling, earth and sky. Time is only ever between – the past and the future, history and the master plan. Sometimes we lose sight of that and see only me, only here, only now. Life does not exist that way.

The universe exists in relationship to everything within it, even if (especially if) those relationships are unseen. We will always be between things and things will always be between us and something else. The trick is not to get whiplash trying to look both ways at once.

In the forest there is always a path. Most people can’t see it. They are looking for a thing, some kind of easily identified symbol or marker, a red flag or blaze on a tree, but paths are often more subtle than that. We think paths are intentional objects made by people, but lots of beings live in the forest. They make their own paths. The trick to finding a path in the forest is to look not for the path but for the relationship between things, trees, shrubs, flowers, rocks, hills, light, and even wind. Then you simply walk the way that seems to be between. You may find yourself at a place where the path disappears, but just stop and look calmly, and find the way between again.

Life is like this, but often we don’t, or feel like we can’t, stop and look calmly. We think we are searching for an object, a “me,” a “here,” or a “now,” and because of that we don’t pay attention to the things we see that are not “me here now,” so we don’t see the between. Between is where we fit, it is the path, and exists only in relation to the things that are not “me here now.”

We are never “me here now,” we are only ever between.

December 10, 2009

Bye, Bye Shampoo

I found this thread over at Treehugger today about ditching hair products. Given that I've only just shaved off the last vestiges of my long hair, I might give it a try. The sides are now about a quarter inch with an inch long on top. I've never washed my hair more than once every couple of days, and it always looks better on the second day, once the natural oils have had a chance to replenish.

It may be time to give up the consumerist myth that I 'need' to use hair products at all.

December 09, 2009

Thought Break - Feed Me!

I noticed the shakiness in the shower. It was two o’clock in the afternoon and the first I’d been vertical for any length of time that day. I’d slept in that morning, then spent the rest of it either on my couch or at my computer, sitting still, allowing my resting heart rate to border on sleep. That is fairly normal, as is the dizziness and clouding of vision upon standing. It takes a while for my heart to catch up and pump the necessary blood to my brain. As someone with naturally very low blood pressure (I think my systolic has been recorded over 100 once in my life), I’ve grown quite used to it. But the shakiness in the shower is a tip off that I’ve been neglecting myself.

I was dizzy, almost nauseous, hungry but not really interested in food, and focusing my eyes seemed far too tiring. I made it through the quick hot shower and the long process of dressing. Putting on clothes in winter is a ritual unto itself. I’m always cold, even in the best of seasons. Air conditioning seems to be a torture device designed specifically for me. It is likewise related to my low blood pressure, a byproduct of poor circulation and poor heat distribution throughout my body. Even putting on twenty-five pounds since graduating high school hasn’t helped. So I dress in layers.

Underwear first, then long socks, then tights over the long socks and a second pair of socks over the tights. Jeans go on over the tights, then on top a tank top, long-sleeved tee, and today a turtle neck and long knit wrap sweater, the kind that’s half shall and I can toss the loose ends over my shoulder. I top it all with my mala and glasses, wallet sliding into the back pocket of my jeans.

I had planned to head straight up to campus in order to keep working, but instead I plunked myself back in front of my computer with a can of non-caffeinated cola and bag of guacamole flavored chips. I wanted a little sugar in me. I shared the chips with my cat. After the Daily Show was over and the Colbert Report had started I got up to make some ramen, but to my chagrin found myself out of even that. Last night around six I’d had a sandwich I’d picked up at Walgreen’s, along with some of the chips and a cola. Around ten that morning I’d had a cup of coffee. It was now three in the afternoon. I wasn’t taking very good care of myself, but that’s normal.

I have a stress reaction to food – I don’t want any. I’ve suffered from irritable bowel syndrome for literally as long as I can remember, since we lived in Tripp and we moved from there when I was four. IBS flares up in response to triggers. In my case, those triggers were movement (such as physical exercise or riding in a car), stress, and food. Eating literally made me sick. My particular set of symptoms were extremely painful and debilitating. I was basically a forced anorexic for the first fourteen years of my life.

When I was fourteen I decided this was not normal and told my mom to make an appointment with our doctor. I was easily diagnosed and prescribed Levsin, or hyoscyamine, tiny white-pills that when taken at the beginning of a flare up quickly ease the symptoms of IBS. I could finally eat as much as I wanted. I gained ten pounds in a month. Later that year, I grew another four inches, reaching my full height of five foot eight inches by the time I was fifteen. While I now had a treatment that worked, and was cheap, a thirty count bottle only costing seven dollars, the syndrome remained unpleasant, if no longer debilitating, and my relationship with food remains cautious to this day.

Very early on my doctor had suggested a relation to stress. After journaling my eating, exercise, and stress levels for several months revealed no correlations, I shrugged and simply did my best to avoid my other triggers and treat each flare up as it occurred. That is, until I moved out. I mean, moved entirely out, on my own.

My brother and I had bought our house from our parents when I was nineteen. They’d moved to a low-maintenance townhouse a few miles away and a batch of our friends moved in. Tenants changed over the years, eventually even my brother moving out to go live with my now sister-in-law, but I stayed in the house with at least four other roommates until it was time to start college in Lincoln. We sold the two-thousand plus square foot house that summer and I moved into a five-hundred square foot condominium a mile south of campus a few weeks before my twenty-fourth birthday.

Things changed after that. I refilled my prescription before starting school, then a month later like normal, then two months later, then six months later. I wasn’t having flare ups and I wasn’t using as many of my pills. Moreover, I loved living alone, loved it with a passion I’ve usually reserved for important things like architecture or science fiction. I wondered if the doctor might not have always been right, but the low level stress of always dealing with other people had been too constant to be discerned at the time.

It’s been over two years since I’ve filled my prescription, not since I worked at the mountain center for a summer of communal living, yet some habits remain. I don’t eat when I’m sick or sad or stressed. During the end of semester rush, I often stock up on Slim Fast. It makes a good substitute for food, full of vitamins and protein. Necessary calories can come from bagels and ramen. It’s easy on the stomach and opening a can amounts to a two second pause in the work-flow.

I haven’t done that this semester. It’s been cold and I’ve been busy. Between the heavy snows, over twelve inches in twenty-four hours, yesterday’s forty mile an hour winds, and the drift my car is currently buried under, getting to the grocery store hasn’t made it to the top of the priority list. Thus, the shakes in the shower.

After the cola and chips got me together again, I set out to school, walking halfway and catching the bus at the State Office Building. I fished the sandwich I’d saved out of the refrigerator in the graduate student lounge and bought a milk from the machine in the lobby. Adding that to some hot tea and naproxen has made me feel almost human again, even if my brain isn’t functioning quite at full drive. My neck and shoulders hurt and my jaw aches, a new stress reaction I’ve only developed these last few months. I can’t believe I’m grinding my teeth. I’ve never slept deeply enough for that, but I have been known to frown in my sleep, so clenching my jaw can’t be that different.

I am, all things considered, amazingly healthy. I’ve never had a broken bone or stitches. I’ve only been in the hospital once, for impetigo combined with a bad reaction to amoxicillin, and then I was so well drugged that I didn’t really mind. I’ve always been slim if never athletic. I have strong healthy hair and nails which grow like crazy. Low blood pressure is something I’ve learned to deal with and the flip side means I’m unlikely to ever suffer from heart disease or stroke. The women in my family tend to live an amazingly long time. I’m expecting no different, busses willing.

But that doesn’t mean I can just take this body for granted. It too will age, become sick, die, and decay. There are dangers everywhere, disease and injury. A bad bicycle accident one day could cause me to lose entire parts of it. And neglect, like the twice yearly end of semester stress-fest, can cause all kinds of damage to mind and body alike. After all, the two are not separate entities. When my body suffers, my mind suffers. It’s one of the reasons I prize my sleep so dearly.

However, I can’t take time for granted either. My time is finite and my health is not invulnerable. I may occasionally let myself be lulled into the idea that things will never change, but I know this isn’t so. It takes episodes like today’s to bring that home sometimes. I may be occasionally worried or troubled, but the prospect of age and death doesn’t really upset me. I have better things, better emotions to spend my time on.

When I am reminded of my own transitory nature, I’d like to think that I take the time to reflect on attachment, interdependence, change, and selflessness, but the truth is I don’t often bother. I read Dharma Punx by Noah Levine. During the later portion of the book he spends a year like he’s dying, doing all the things he’s wanted to do, getting his affairs in order, visiting friends, and preparing for his death. At the end of the year is says goodbye to his family and symbolically dies. But how often is death like that? How often do we get to approach death with a sound mind and strong body? How many of us get to put our affairs in order and say our goodbyes?

My Great-grandma Peterson was one of the few who had that opportunity, I believe. She was ninety-three and cheerfully forecast her own death, only wishing everyone would have a chance to come visit before she went. She got her wish, but she was certainly not of strong body there at the end. She was old, withered, and frail, in a wheelchair attached to an oxygen machine. But her mind was there and she was content.

Marilyn died in drug-hazed pain, wracked by tumors growing in her body, her children weeping beside her. She would have been weeping for them, and no doubt had in the days prior, if enough of her mind had remained. The last time I saw her, she was not there. Neither was my Grandma Elaine. She was like a tiny decaying doll my father could barely bare to see for a few minutes. I don’t think she had made peace with her own passing, not even the measure of peace Marilyn had made during the long months of her illness, despite Grandma being eighty-four.

In the next few years I’ll undoubtedly lose my remaining grandmother, then my parents, likely my father first. My mom swears she’s going to live to be a hundred and thirty just to make my life miserable. She may manage it, but she has also declared she wants to go out like Grandma Pete, and I’ve no doubt she’s the will to do it. My brother is likely to be a widow someday. My sister-in-law has already had heart trouble in her early thirties and her family has a history.

Someday, busses willing, I’ll follow them. I may not have a year’s warning, or even a single day’s. I’d like to think I could go tomorrow and I’d be fine with that, but I’m not. Most people would wish for quick and painless, but I’ve seen that. It leaves the most grieving, the most pain behind, shock and confusion. I wouldn’t want that for my family. I would want them to have time to prepare, to say their goodbyes. Maybe in the long run that doesn’t lessen the pain, but I would hope it might.

That’s a large jumble of odd thoughts, past and future musings, all from a little shakiness in the shower. However, I’ve often felt it’s those kinds of little things which spark great realizations. In the movies it’s always the life or death experience, the near miss, the great trauma, but if that is what it takes to wake most people up, then most of us will continue to walk around in a haze our entire lives. Maybe it’s just wistful thinking, but I’d like people can wake up just where they are, even if only by small degrees.

I think mainly it helps me bring my brain back on line, pull out of the work-work-work rut I’ve been running in these past few days, remember the other things like eat, talk, think, walk, laugh, and eat some more.

And speaking of, if I’m ever going to die, I ought to get on with the business of living and eating.

December 04, 2009

Ode to the Nascent Academe

The time arrives when one becomes cognizant of one’s own academic overindulgence.

Realizing this paradigm shift creates a new existential reality.

Conscious became subconscious as archaic modes of behavior lost relevancy.

New philosophies blossomed from the academic archetype upon which post-modern pedagogy has modeled one into a fine representation of itself.

Pursuit of symbolic cultural capital served as a forcing mechanism for remold an individual consciousness.

One’s habitus irrevocably evolved into a distinct new doxic environment.

This evolution is unseen until jarring realization strikes.

Subconscious becomes conscious until a single conclusion remains:

I think too much.

December 03, 2009

Pay Attention

I leave the hall later than my usual habit. It is quiet, except for the relentless hum of the city. It's the sound of cars and trains, not close, but not far away, and the continuous breath of living buildings. Then above it all rises the cry of geese. I turn just in time to see the massive V flash above the red-brick bulk of Architecture Hall, lit like commets from the city below, glowing gold against the starless night. Then they're gone and only the full silver moon is above, directly overhead.

I watched it rise six short hours before, just after twilight fell, over the white monolith of the Sheldon Art Museum. I paused for a moment on the grand steps of the hall to admire the sight, before hustling out for food and then swiftly back to my work.

On the way home, the wind is with me, blowing down from the north at my back, pushing me along like a strange two-wheeled sailboat, my sail a crow-black coat and my pennant a polar-white cap, rabit fur down snug against my cheeks. The clock at 11th and O Street read 12:27 AM, 25 degrees Farenheight. A trio crosses the street where I stop at the light, two white girls and a black man, two pushing bikes alongside the one who walked, all bundled tight against the chill. They are laughing.

My teeth hurt from the cold and my glasses fog with every breath, but I don't mind it. I realize for all my wining, I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. The fact that I'm here is enough evidence of that. It's Hell Week, the week before Dead Week, two until Finals Week. Hours are long and tempers are short, yet everyone is oddly cheerful. It's that time of semester where we all get a little punchy, but no one takes offense because we haven't the time or energy to bother. Besides, we've all been there. We all know. We snap and smile and quip, all forgiven in the blink of an eye.

If not for the late night, I'd not have had the geese or the moon or the laughing trio. If not for being overstressed and underfed, we'd not have the camraderie. There'd be no war stories to tell, no scars to show where we got our first (or fifth) set of stitches from yet another 2:00 AM exacto knife accident. We'd not know, and the next time someone got a little punchy with us, we might just punch back.

That's how compassion works. And gratitude. And beauty. It finds us when we lease expect it. Not when we're sitting on a cushion or chanting a mantra, saying our daily affirmations or reading the sutras, but when we most need it.

All we have to do is pay attention.

December 01, 2009

DN Column - Always 'In' Style

Thank you Gary Stevens for presenting Bourdivin sociological theory so neatly for me in your book, The Favored Circle. Thank you Kansas for making great music.

Cultural capital and style affect impressions of others