Wednesday, June 29, 2005

For the boy who does not know the answer

Well. Lets just say I've had better days and leave it at that. Actually it wasn't really the day, it was more the night part. But I'll just tell you that tonight made me feel like an incompetent and leave it at that (a hard pill for a perfectionist). I suppose this could be humbling, but I'm not humble enough to take it that way, I'm just un-humble enough to feel shamed and upset and taking it personally. Boy, this ego thing gets tiring some days. What I want is something quiet and soft, like

Prayer in my Boot
Naomi Shihab Nye

For the wind no one expected

For the boy who does not know the answer

For the graceful handle I found in a field
attached to nothing
pray it is universally applicable

For our tracks which disappear
the moment we leave them

For the face peering through the cafe window
as we sip our soup

For cheerful American classrooms sparkling
with crisp colored alphabets
happy cat posters
the cage of the guinea pig
the dog with division flying out of his tail
and the classrooms of our cousins
on the other side of the earth
how solemn they are
how gray or green or plain
how there is nothing dangling
nothing striped or polka-dotted or cheery
no self-portraits or visions of cupids
and in these rooms the students raise their hands
and learn the stories of the world

For library books in alphabetical order
and family businesses that failed
and the house with boarded windows
and the gap in the middle of a sentence
and the envelope we keep mailing ourselves

For every hopeful morning given and given
and every future rough edge
and every afternoon
turning over in its sleep

You know what part of this poem I inhabit right now? I want to be the boy who didn't know the answer. What's more, I want it to be as full of possibilities to not know the answer as the poem seems to imply it could be. I want not knowing to be OK. And I'd like to breathe easily over every future rough edge. I'm not sure I can right now, but maybe I should put this poem in my boot.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Taking stock

Boy, have I got a lot of books. I mean, I thought it would never happen, but I finally have so many that I forget and buy duplicates once in a while. Or maybe that's just the senility creeping in. I'm finally making a catalogue of my library, so I can put it in my PDA so that when I go buy books I know what I already have. This brings out the anal side of me (right now some of you may be thinking, whaddaya mean BRINGS OUT?) and I feel like a dragon gloating over my hoard. Yeessssss my preciousssss, I do I have a copy of the 3rd P.C. Hodgell book in hardcover (so pretty, so shiny, yesssss) that I ordered especially since there were only some minute number printed...(and surprisingly, so does the Portland Multnomah County Library). That illustrates my book SF Fantasy nerdiness (all the prerequisites: obscure author, hard to find book, other connosieurs give a little gasp of delight and envy and I look smug). However, I am not above cheese, and have just about every Mercedes Lackey book known to man (OK, I will argue they're not ALL cheese, but most of them are and you know it's true because you can eat them like candy). Now, lest you think I am only a one hit wonder, I also have a respectable amount of fiction and a healthy poetry collection (big surprise). Then let's not get into the comic book collection (it brings up depressing finance issues)...
Here I must interject for those of you who don't know me: I do in fact dress well, am not hideously pale, have never played Everquest, have social graces, can cook, actually exercise and really do go outside. So that's enough of that stereotype.
Anyway, the truth is, I'm up to 220 records in filemaker (OK, another geek thing, but I guess you were warned when I mentioned the whole PDA thing) and I'm not even through the first bookcase yet (there are 5). I'll admit it freely, I'm a hoarder. The only time this is a problem is of course, when I move, which is unfortunately more frequently than I 'd like. (Next May, any takers on moving help?) Still, I am astonished by people who never read. I feel like an anthrolopologist in the house, noting no shelves, and lack of reading lights by couches, not mention rooms where all the furniture subtly points at the TV. I'm not going to get all self-righteous about the evil of TV (I've been known to turn it on myself) but I will admit I get twinges of fear when it's the only thing presiding over a room. I get this all the time in school "OHMIGOD how do you fine time to read a fun book?" I often respond to people by asking if they watch TV, and they usually say yes, and I usually say, well, I don't really watch TV that often, so there you are. I don't mean this to denigrate their TV decision, but it's sort of a stupid question in my opinion, since it's simply a mattter of time management. Theres only so many hours in a day. Since I am in vet school, there are very few of those I can dedicate to what I want to do. For me, not reading would basically be like not breathing. TV is amusing, but it's no substitute for breathing. Therefore I don't watch TV, I read. There are those who claim they can't put a book down and that this disrupts their studying life (like having to eat every chocolate in the box, it's so good I guess), and while I sometimes burn the candle a little too late, again I say, for me, reading is like breathing. If having to put the book down is a prerequisite of getting to read a bit, than I'll put the book down. Kind of an oxymoron, but if being able to stop reading is required, I can do that too. But that's just me. I have a framed article on my wall from The New Yorker. In it, Art Spiegelman and Maurice Sendak are talking about books. (And I love the fact that this article is not actually an article, it's a comic strip drawn by Sendak and Spiegelman together.) Here's the part I love:

ART: You're doing a book for grownups?
MAURICE: Kid books...grown up books...that's just marketing! Books are books!

ART: I suppose. But when parents give "Maus," my book about Auschwitz to their little kids, I think it's child abuse...I wanna protect my kids! When Nadja, my 6-year-old daughter, was asked what I do for a living, she said, "Daddy draws mice!"
MAURICE: can't protect kids...they know everything!" (section omitted) People say, "Oh, Mr. Sendak. I wish I were in touch with my childhood self, like you." As if it were all quaint and succulent, like Peter Pan. Childhood is cannibals and psychotics vomiting in your mouth! I say "You are in touch with your childhood self, lady--you're mean to your kids, you treat your husband like shit, you lie, you're selfish...That is your childhood self!" In reality, childhood is deep and rich. It's vital mysterious and profound. I remember my own childhood vividly...I knew terrible things..But I knew I musn't let adults know I knew..It would scare them.

I love this perspective. Books are books. The rest is marketing. I love the bit about childhood too--I couldn't resist putting it in--I love that: "you're mean to your kids, you treat your husband like shit, you lie, you're selfish--that is your childhood self!" But that's another blog entirely. Maybe next time. Anyway. I definitely have a lot of books. It's a good thing.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Candy corn, what kind of a person doesn't like candy corn?

I've been busy with so many horses lately I haven't had much time for contemplation. I'm also staying with some very nice folks I've never met before, and haven't wanted to hog their computer. I'm out in Bend, OR, externing at the Bend Equine Medical Center, which has been great. Before I left Portland, however, I made the obligatory visit to Powell's (the best bookstore in the known universe. Ironically, when I lived in Portland I could never go there because I hate torture. Bookstores when you have no money are definitely torture). Anyhow, I bought a book of poems, and so far my favorite is called "I Said Yes But I Meant No." You should read it.

I Said Yes But I Meant No
Dean Young

People are compelled to be together good and bad.
You've agreed to shrimp with the geology couple.
If you like one 85% and the other 35%
that's not so bad.
You need to like one at least 70%
and like the other not less than 25%
otherwise it's agonizing and pointless
like being crucified without religious significance.
Averages are misleading:
I like that couple 110% could mean
each is appreciated 55% which will not kill you
but neither will sleeping in your own urine.
One should like oneself between 60 and 80%.
Under 45%, one becomes an undertaking,
prone to eating disorders, public weeping,
useless for gift wrapping and relay races.
Over 85% means you are a self-involved bore,
I don't care about your Nobel prize in positrons
or your dog sled victories.
Of course there is great variance throughout the day.
You may feel 0% upon first waking
but that is because you don't yet know you exist
which is why baby-studies have been a bust.
Then as you venture forth to boil water,
you may feel a sudden surge to 90%,
Hey, I'm GOOD at boiling water!
which can be promptly counteracted by turning on your email.
It is important not to let variance become too extreme,
a range of 40% is allowable,
beyond that it is as great storms upon drought-stricken land.
I.e. mudslides.
Sugar, retirement plans, impending jail time
all are influential factors.
Generally, most data has been gathered
regarding raising percentages,
the modern world it is argued is plentiful
with opportunities of negative effect.
The tanker splits and the shore birds turn black and lose their ability to float.
Sometimes a good scrub is all that's needed.
A fresh shirt.
Shock therapy has never been fully discounted
and people have felt significant surges
from backpacking into remote and elevated areas,
a call home.
Yet the very same may backfire.
Thwanp, thwamp, the helicopter lowers the rescue crew,
the phone is slammed down.
Each case is profoundly nuanced.
like the lock systems of Holland.
Some, frankly, are beyond help,
but if you are a tall woman, wear shoes to make you taller!
Candy corn, what kind of a person doesn't like candy corn?
Tell that 70/30% rock couple you can not come,
you forgot your fencing lesson,
your cat just had a puppy,
your tongue is green,
you are in fact dying.

I've been feeling a lot of daily variances in in my self-like quotient, which happens a lot when I'm 1) in a new place, 2) really want to not act like an idiot 3) don't really know what is expected of me. All of which is has been true the last two weeks. I've really felt like that, like "Hey, I'm GOOD at boiling water!" Or more like, "hey, I'm GOOD at making meds and taking temps!" The desire to be liked is truly a curse at these moments. And the knowledge of both the curse's existence and its effects on you still don't help you get out from under its thumb. No matter what, your primary objective is to have people like you. How do you get away from such a fundamental hope? Well, so far as I can tell, you don't. You just find some days that your confidence shoots up to 90% and then poof, evaporates. Eventually, it evens out from over a few hours to happening on a less roller-coastery every few days cycle. Maybe I should go get some candy corn (although I guess I really am beyond help if I admit I'm not really all that crazy about candy corn). But I can repeat to myself in the bad moments: "Hey, I'm GOOD at boiling water!"