rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So last weekend, [ profile] scrottie and I took the train up to Seattle. Our visit had two three main goals ("fear, surprise, and a ruthless efficiency!...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope!"):

-Go skiing
-Visit [ profile] annikusrex and enjoy some primo baby-viewing
-Haul the rest of my belongings and a couple of [ profile] sytharin's things back to California

Oh, also visiting my parents. I keep getting confused about the proper terminology for this, but during our visit my dad was at the low point following his second 5-FU infusion during this set of chemotherapy treatments for his now-chronic liver cancer. Even though he was tired, he managed to share a story with us about a childhood experience with the Madison River ice gorge, and even managed to finish his Saturday chore routine (albeit on Sunday). A short but sweet chance to check in with him and my mom.

Anyway, skiing was successful, to judge by S's grin here:
The look of a happy skier

And also I did not die and I might even consider going downhill skiing again sometime in the future.

Baby-viewing was also successful, and especially satisfying given that F just now fits into the chicken hat that had arrived when I visited last October, 2 days before he got ejected from the womb.
The chicken hat now fits
(of course, my smart-o-phone photography still leaves much to be desired. sigh)

Stuff-hauling was mostly* successful. I only had around 6-7 boxes of things left at my parents' house, which isn't a huge amount, and yet on our last visit it was clear that my parents would appreciate the extra free space and peace of mind. My mom has been one of the ringleaders for clearing out stuff from both my great-grandma's house and my grandpa's house and barn, so she's no stranger to dealing with other people's stuff. But to me that also suggests that she's extra appreciative when other people take the initiative to tackle stuff management.

Some items went straight to the Goodwill pile, after a brief farewell:
Childhood relics
I don't know if anyone really wants ratty old stuffed animals or the velvety shawl, but at least Goodwill knows what to do with them?

Including three t-shirts kept for purely sentimental reasons:
Original rowing kit
Size XXL from my Freshman year of high school, yeesh

Oscar Romero t-shirt from El Salvador, 1994
A favorite shirt from my trip to El Salvador in high school

FMLN t-shirt from El Salvador, 1994
Shirt for the main political party leading the resistance to the Salvadoran government during the Salvadoran Civil War - Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front

I dispatched some old, bad art from college as well. This painting was the least-worst item:
College painting class

...And then we loaded the rest into the back of a rental car and drove it back to California.

So, now what? I think that, for the next phase of things, Project-Land will have two fronts. One front will involve continuing to go through those six or so boxes and deciding what to keep and what to move along. I suspect that, for instance, I will get rid of the Girl Scout manuals, because I didn't quite like Girl Scouts anyway and mostly kept the manuals as evidence for why. I also discovered that the worst object out of the lot, a neon light shaped like an abstract rowing shell, has burned out, and so now I'm free to dispose of it according to local disposal guidelines. Hallelujah and whew. I am still scratching my head over what I will do with the fine china from my grandma that was rarely/never used. We will potentially take it out for an Extreme Picnic.

The second front for Project-Land is the acquisition and creation of new objects. At the moment, I have slightly too many ideas and ambitions, but really that's my default mode. I need to read and learn more about quilting options other than hand-quilting. I'm also getting ready to start knitting something again (a hat, specifically). And there are a half-dozen things I want to make/sew. It has been helpful to look back on all of the older objects, while thinking about future ones, for the sake of deciding to put time and care into planning for the future items.

*Unsuccessful part: [ profile] sytharin had asked us to bring down two of her sculptures, plus her scythe. I remembered the scythe, but didn't remember the sculptures until we had already driven all the way to Portland. Sigh.
rebeccmeister: (Acromyrmex)
I am finally facing down the boxes of academic papers. This is going to be an iterative project. The thing is, it's hard to visit those tactile memories and make decisions about them. I'd like to believe I can at least recall all of the journal articles I've read, but honestly, I can't. Far from it. In these early stages, I am simply getting rid of articles where I know I'll have a good chance of tracking them down again if they become relevant again, or where I just don't think they're going to be relevant again. This is taking care of about three-quarters of the papers, which should mean I can go from four boxes to approximately two, because at least two of the boxes consist of papers organized in stacks according to relevant subject matter. I am also keeping almost all papers that aren't easily digitally accessible. Eventually I hope to track down a fast pdf scanner to convert them. Academic libraries often have them. Also, in case you have ever wondered, don't get coroplast file boxes. They might seem better than cardboard, but they're terrible - flimsy and fall apart.

In the non-academic department, I need to think about how I want to handle financial paperwork, too. I still have every pay stub from graduate school, every credit card statement and bank statement and cell phone bill, all filed in file folders. I have a storage box (sweater-size) full of every single receipt for every single thing I've purchased over the last 5-6 years. Who is ever going to look at these things? An anthropologist, someday? I guess they're kind of like the story I heard on This American Life about a book some psychologist wrote that documented every single move made by a ten-year-old boy over the course of a week. A monumental wasted effort. The critical files all fit into one of those plastic file totes, so maybe the rest of the financial paperwork will go into a storage box and eventually get tossed when I tire of schlepping it from place to place.

A dream last night helped me partly understand why my mood has been pretty foul since last Friday. I dreamed I was attempting to walk a brevet. You know, because cycling one isn't a big enough challenge. The dream didn't end well because somehow it transformed into the recurring car-driving dream where the vehicle is really hard to control (usually my parents' old poo-brown Dodge Caravan). I think this means that I need to do a better job of consistently getting exercise. This morning is the last morning that I had to get to work by 7 am, so hopefully I can take advantage of this 5 am wake-up schedule in the name of exercise. This always feels like a "spirit's willing, flesh is weak" situation. I will report back to you tomorrow.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

Today I finished work in time to get home before bedtime, something for which both I and my cat are grateful. She was unhappy when I came home late and went straight to bed last night, and who can blame her - she deserves attention. She got her revenge in the usual manner - meowing periodically in the middle of the night to wake me up.

I am especially grateful because it means I have a bit of time to write about something that has been bothering me over the last couple of days. The day after I had a long conversation with S, he e-mailed me, and then I e-mailed back, and then, after that, silence, for the past week and a half. When we broke up, he said he would probably withdraw for "some time," and accordingly un-"friended" me here and on other social media platforms. I observed a blog post that I wasn't sure I was supposed to see, and let him know in a very brief message (not sure what the right etiquette is for that situation), but again, silence. That's not the specific bother, but is tied to it.

It's hard to listen to that silence, especially after becoming accustomed to frequent contact, especially coping with the ambiguity of the situation. I had gotten to feel like there wasn't much "relating" going on in what was left of our relationship (felt like a litany of complaints directed at me), and like I was no longer sure whether we were really good for each other, which to me was a sign that it was time to put on the brakes. [I try to not be a Flounce Majeure sort of person, but at times it feels necessary to take a step back from things, the overall goal being one to restore a sense of self-balance so as to be able to think and act from the heart].

Over the last couple of days, tied to coping with the silence, the recurring thought and bother has been about a letter and an e-mail I sent, that were both incredibly hard to write, best summarized by the e-mail subject line, "Things about myself I need to work on." I wrote both things focused around myself because I was starting to feel like outside labels were imposing themselves on my actions, BUT I also wanted to acknowledge that I am aware that I am a far from perfect human being, I do things that are hurtful to others, and need to work on recognizing that, and especially recognizing that I need to work on being patient and listening.

So it is hard to let that silence extend out, a good week and a half now.

But let me touch on the more general subject of this post, on non-reciprocity in relationships, before returning to the specific bother. One of the items I found in one of the boxes of mementos was a copy of a typewritten letter I'd sent to my Writing professor at Tufts, concerning a conflict I was having with her over some of the final assignments for our Peer Writing Tutor class. The details of the conflict aren't critical, but the outcome is. Instead of acknowledging and addressing my concerns, she basically said to me, "Well, _I_ am the professor and you are the student, end of story." So I finished that course still deeply unhappy with how things were handled, and I've had to carry conflicting feelings with me ever since then. There's really no chance for resolution, because it all happened about 15 years ago, and besides, she passed away from cancer.

What do we do, about these things? Many would argue that reciprocity an intimate part of forming friendships - I think tied to the concept of social exchange theory, but this could be inaccurate. That's part of why, when going on bike rides here in town with strangers right after S and I broke up, I didn't run around going, "Hi, my name is Rebecca, and I just broke up with my boyfriend!!" I could have done so, but that assumes an often unwelcome level of intimacy and familiarity with strangers. Instead, they ask where I have moved from, and to reciprocate I ask about where they are from (general answer: Nebraska, heh). So when things go non-reciprocal, my sense of what's right and proper gets violated, and I get rocked back on my heels. I think humans are also equipped with extremely good bullshit detectors on this front, such that I readily register the difference between a thoughtful response and something parroted back at me.

But non-reciprocity is as much a part of life as reciprocity. After struggling with waiting, I've had to remind myself that it's still patience that I need to work on, and that I can't tell someone else to write their own homework assignment of "Things I need to work on" to reciprocate my own list. Wow, that would be a good way to get exactly the WRONG thing. So that's the answer to my bother, after several days of thinking.

Multiple times over the past couple of years, S suggested that he and I "take a break," although he never explained what he meant by that or how it differed from living two timezones apart and communicating only sporadically. He also suggested that I go and date some other Mister Perfect and said he doesn't need to hear about it, at which point I go, to me, being in a relationship with someone, whether it's a friendship or otherwise, means I should be able to share things about my life with that person, and not have to sneak around or hide anything!! For one thing, I'm not interested in dating other people (good Lord, especially not right now, and especially not in Lincoln), and for another thing, I absolutely reject the notion that I should have to separate out parts of my life in that fashion. [And why does Miss Perfect get left out all the time?? It's always Mister Perfect that causes the paranoia.]

And so here I am, sitting home alone with my cat in my lap, purring, as I have been spending most evenings lately. As I think even further, I think, inasmuch as S declares that he wishes I find Mister Perfect, you know, altogether, I will continue to hope that he finds meaning and satisfaction in his life's pursuits, whether those pursuits involve finding a deep and satisfying relationship with another person, or otherwise. I cannot know whether that will be the case, but I hope that it is true for all of you as well.

Lastly, I would return to the same notion as I put as the title for my previous post, because sometimes it deserves repeating: when I write things about other people, in actuality I am mostly just saying things about myself.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
I wound up at least briefly going through those other boxes this morning, mostly because in the shuffled contents of one box, I could see a couple of medals from some athletic event or another, and I knew they weren't grouped with the other box and bag of medals.

I skipped over most of the cards and letters, for now. Should I save all of those wedding announcements? I don't know, but I realized that it was more useful to group them together than try to keep things in any kind of chronological order.

I am glad I went through those boxes. I found some really important items in one box - a cut-and-sewn doily made by my grandma Clark, a crocheted piece by her as well, and that one doily I made once. Plus a tatted table runner.

Here are all of the medals I have wound up with, from 19-plus years of rowing, a little bit of running, and about 10 years of long-distance bicycling in "t-shirt events."

We are all winners

Many of these medals lack very basic information, like the year of the event and category of the race. When I mentioned the dilemma of what to do with all of this stuff last Sunday, S remarked that there should be a rule that medals can only be made of precious metals, so that people won't go around making them and giving them away so willy-nilly. There might be even more medals from high school hiding in a box somewhere in Seattle, or maybe I actually got rid of those. I think I threw away a bunch of ribbons already. For the moment, I think I am going to stuff these ones all back into bags and boxes. Learn from this: Write the relevant information on the back of the medal when you get it. Or don't. If you can't remember how you earned it, it must not have been that meaningful an experience anyway.

A couple of the other items that made me laugh:

I like ants
My brother made this postcard for me while I was writing my dissertation.

Busy cat
My sister drew this comic for me at some point during graduate school.

Tiny weasels
I printed out and pasted up this Dilbert comic in an office at some point.

Rocket Incident Response
This one you'll just have to look at closely. I don't remember where I got it, but it's hilarious!
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
It seems to be allergies that are waking me up so early in the mornings, again.

When I woke up this morning, I started thinking about the pair of half-matched ceramic coffee mugs that I made that have been the go-to mugs for breakfast when S is in town. I've maintained a private sort of ritual, where I don't drink out of those mugs when he's out of town. I've mostly drank from another porcelain mug that's chipped and cracked, stamped with ants, but when our relationship broke apart I couldn't drink out of that one, either. Instead I switched back to a mug made by my ceramics instructor, from an unusual clay body and painted with her signature china-painting methods. She gave it to me as a graduation and going-away gift, so it is comforting to drink from it and think back to that supportive community of friends in Tempe.

The half-matched mugs are a trick I learned - even if two handmade ceramic pieces aren't precisely the same, you can turn them into a set if you glaze them similarly or identically. When I threw one of the two mugs on the potter's wheel, I must have accidentally bumped it or touched it, denting part of it. Porcelain clay is challenging like that, in that it is a tremendously unforgiving medium. Instead of completely scrapping the mug, I reshaped it to build the dent into its character ([ profile] annikusrex will have observed a similar trick in a mug with a crab illustrated on it). Despite their differences, the mugs are a set, made from the same clay body and glazed with the same glaze.

One of the other things my group of ceramics friends and I would occasionally discuss was what to do with all of our misshapen, unuseable pieces - an inevitable part of a creative process where one must practice extensively to learn the medium. My younger sister [ profile] sytharin said that, for instance, there's a ceramics graveyard at Western Washington University, where students would leave their unwanted art pieces at the end of the semester. I guess eventually it would be someone's job to go through the graveyard and haul things off to a dumpster somewhere.

Those discussions made me think back to a fundraiser party I attended a while back, for the Bike Saviours bike co-op in Tempe. As with many big parties, it was a generally awkward experience for me. I cordoned myself off behind a table of baked goods for sale, because I am most comfortable if I have a job to do at a big event like that. That meant I didn't go downstairs to listen to the incredibly loud music, or go outside to watch people batter into each other on tallbikes.

At the end of the party, I helped clean up, and discovered that one of the activities someone had come up with as a fundraiser item was a "china-chucking" alley. Since I hadn't participated earlier, my friend A encouraged me to try it out. They had a bunch of miscellaneous plates and bowls and cups from a thrift store, so I picked up a saucer and flung it down at the concrete floor, where it shattered into a thousand pieces. [I actually brought home one of the unbroken saucers, and used it as a plant saucer for a long time.]

Remembering this experience led me to suggest a ceramics-chucking party for all of our unloved pieces.

Thinking about those two mugs, whether to break them, though, also reminds me of the tradition during Jewish weddings of breaking a glass. Wikipedia gives several reasons for the tradition, but the one I remember being mentioned at weddings is as a symbol of life's fragility (seems not to far from the idea of tempering thoughts of joy).

The inverse of the overly-intense negative emotional spirals is complete and utter withdrawal and silence, or the parroting of emotions instead of a genuine response. What can a person even do in the face of such things, except try to wait, and in some capacity, pray.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Berkeley is the first institution to request evidence that I actually have a PhD. As a result, earlier in the week, I wound up frantically scrabbling through several boxes of mementos in search of that one thin, large, flat envelope.

It wasn't in any of the boxes. I did find my college diploma, easily, in its fancy padded folder. The PhD. was in a separate pile of large, flat things.

I didn't try to immediately put everything back in order in those boxes of mementos, so as to shove them back on shelves in the closet. I've been thinking about this lifehacker guide to parting with sentimental items, and it seemed like this might be a reasonable time to spend a bit of time going through the contents of those boxes. Especially because a lot of the initial items I encountered were things that I know carry little individual sentimental value (do I really need to hold onto three of those beanbag good-luck frogs from high school rowing??).

So tonight I went through a good portion of a box that mostly contains stuff from college. Some parts were hard - especially trying to decide about long letters and getting sucked up in re-reading them. I think I've kept most of the physical letters that my brother and sister have written and sent to me, and those are ones I will continue to keep. Letters, in general, are keepers. Cards...depend.

Some parts were not so hard.

I no longer have any means to read files off of Zip disks, or floppy disks. Those disks pre-date the era when I had a digital camera, so I know there aren't any photographs on those disks. Just papers and assignments from college classes, plus my honors thesis, which is also saved to a more recent hard drive and set of DVDs (which may also go bad over time, but perhaps that is okay).

I'm keeping the mini-cassette recorder and all of the tapes, even though I know some of the material on those mini-cassettes is ridiculous and embarrassing. They will be a novelty in twenty years. I just...have no use for the action figures.

Other things were more poignant to encounter.


-The knitting instructions on the left are from a wonderful college friend. She also majored in Biology and was interested in veterinary medicine, so we took a lot of courses together and studied together. She was also an athlete (track and field), and also loved to knit, so we could relate to each other on multiple levels - especially knowing what it's like to have an over-full schedule including practices and competition and intense coursework. Over the years, she shared several mitten patterns with me. She used some of her dog's fur to knit mittens at one point, but found the mittens too warm. She also played the accordion before it was cool. Whatever she's up to these days, I know it's good stuff. I'm going to tuck these instructions in with my other knitting patterns. Good to remember M.

-The polar bear envelope is from my dear friend SJ. I pulled it out to photograph it BECAUSE it's evidence that she's been making awesome envelopes for much longer than I have been! She's still super-crafty. And clearly inspirational. :-)

-That postcard of the Pullman, WA sign is a picture of my high school youth group leader, T, kissing the sign after riding his bicycle out to Pullman. I pulled the postcard out because I think T was the first person I ever knew who rode his bike long distances. That ride out to Pullman was part of T's participation in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training program. I'd forgotten this, but the accompanying letter reminded me: T rode in honor of a French exchange student who was a part of our youth group, who died of leukemia just a year or two after his visit to the U.S. T's big ride was, of all things, the Tour de Tucson! I'm holding on to the postcard and letter from T. He is a person with a big heart, and was such an important role model and mentor in high school.

I am not sure if I will find the courage anytime soon to touch two more recent boxes, from the period beyond college, into grad school and Texas. But I am oh so glad I got to spend some time with those older memories this evening, cherishing many, releasing some back to the world.

I guess I saved a lot of newspaper clippings. I kept only two sets - one about the Seattle WTO protests, one about the Nisqually earthquake. Most of the musty pile was laid to rest in the recycling bin at last.

Our land

Dec. 14th, 2014 09:43 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
My last living grandfather is in his final days. He's surrounded by loved ones, giving vigilant attention, which, as an uncle has noted, is exactly what he would want. I'm ever more grateful that I was able to visit him twice while home over Thanksgiving. The living memories are so, so important.

As I process my emotional response to this, I'm remembering a phrase shared by a native American woman who felt called to work on explaining to us non-natives some distinctions in our respective worldviews. She said, "The earth is our ancestors. We are walking on the ashes of our ancestors."

Once again, Mt. Rainier factors into this story. My grandfather has been moved, at his request, back to his home of over a half-century. He's in the living room, where Mt. Rainier is present to greet him. He has gone out to visit the mountain just about every year of his life. It has been a rich, fulfilling life. In the way of Western civilization, none of the family members have been especially interested in and committed to the project of inheriting the land he's lived on and cared for and cultivated. So, in the way of Western civilization, the lot will be sold once he passes on. Given on to a new set of memories, without much attention to the history and legacy of the space. I suspect the sad, old apple tree will go, too. Maybe the blueberry bushes will be spared, and the pears. The house's septic system is in poor shape, so the house will probably go, too. The barn, with its distinct creosote barn-smell, long disused, slumbers. In many ways, it's the barn that's the center of that piece of land.

And with the house and barn and land gone, our memories will be loosened to roam free, like ghosts. They will be called back on Mud Mountain because it is so big and sloppy that not even westerners could turn it into a thing to be bought and sold.

I think, too, about the phrase uttered by the native woman when I read about this decision. Just as Texas is leaching its earth, so is Arizona. We Westerners still aren't any good at thinking in cycles (birth-life-death-rebirth), or thinking beyond our individual life spans of profits and incomes and wealth and power and force and violence.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Some people say that many of those who go into studies of psychology, do so because they experience some level of psychopathology that makes it difficult for them to relate to other human beings, and so they study psychology to obtain at least some level of working knowledge of how other human beings function, and use that knowledge to be able to function on at least a pseudo-normal level in society.

A basic and related concept presented by my Abnormal Psych professor is that everyone displays symptoms of different psychological diseases, but if the person generally isn't pathological he or she shouldn't freak out about it and make the giant leap to concluding he or she is ill. Thus, the boundaries between pseudo-normal and normal are thin or nonexistent.

Social Psychology was the only college course where the professor: (a) tested us on whether the material we learned came from the textbook or lecture, and (b) curved grades downward, such that my 94% turned into an A-minus or B-plus (don't remember which, and it hasn't really mattered, aside from the sting of diminished reward relative to effort). Aside from that, I found the course to be highly informative with respect to how individuals manage different kinds of social contexts (groupthink, the fundamental attribution error, self-fulfilling prophecies, stereotype threat, attitudes, persuasion and routes to persuasion, the diffusion of responsibility, cognitive dissonance, et cetera). As someone with strong empiricist leanings, I think the field appealed to me more than other subdisciplines like cognitive psychology or developmental psych, because it is rooted in experimental design and testing of human behavior.

There are just two small problems, for me. The first is that, as a field rooted in empirical research, findings generally deal with average behavior, not with individual behavior. And if there's anything I know about individual behavior, it's that it can be tremendously variable, to the point where it's often hard to distinguish signal from noise. It can also be affected and changed through education, which is a hopeful message for negative behavioral attributes (think stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination). So, how useful is it, really, on an individual level? It's also pretty hard to engender goodwill when pointing out someone's self-fulfilling prophecy.

The second problem is, how good are we, really, as individuals, at identifying and characterizing our own behavior and thought processes, as they relate to these identified behavior patterns? A recent, excellent long read might suggest that we're not really good at all at identifying what we know and what we don't know. What I know for myself is, I'm rarely certain, for it seems unwise to be certain after we become aware of how our individual perceptions and moods shape our memories of events.

And so, despite devoting their lifetimes to the study of human cognition and behavior, many psychologists persist in having just as many social abnormalities as the rest of society.

While my academic focus shifted away from psychology and towards animal behavior more broadly, I'm still grateful for the time I spent in the Psych department as an undergrad. If anything, I hope that having learned more about how humans behave, as compared to the behaviors humans hold up as ideals, can help me be a more compassionate and forgiving human being, myself.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
What do you do when you have to cope with difficult emotions?

not short )
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I got up to go rowing this morning. It was kind of cold--maybe around 60 degrees F (15 degrees C). I wore shorts and a long-sleeved shirt and was a bit chilly on my bike ride to the boathouse. When I arrived, my rowing buddy wasn't there, so eventually I wimped out and went home again. Time to bust out the cool-weather gear.

Yesterday one of my friends from undergrad e-mailed to ask if I was going to the Head of the Charles this year and I had to say no. It made me really sad--more sad than I thought I would be when I decided not to go. New England is the place to be in the fall, and I always love to go for a visit.

It reminded me of visiting last year. I went for a run on the last morning I was there because I was training to run in the marathon here in January. Fine mist was falling, and I ran through the cold and rain along old, familiar roads. I ran from Tufts along Mass Ave, through Harvard Square to the Charles River. I took a left and ran along the river, down past MIT, where I thought about my cousin Zack, who went to school there before he died. I thought about the quirky dormitory where he lived. I took a right across the MIT [Harvard] bridge, and saw all of the Smoots measured out. After I crossed the bridge I took another right to head upstream, where my glasses got so wet I had to take them off and run blind. I ran to the Eliot Street bridge, past the Cambridge Boat Club and looped back towards my former home. (my friends live in the house where I lived my senior year of college, which makes it strange to go back and visit) Afterwords, my friends made a big breakfast and I ate and took a nap on the couch.

I wasn't happy when I lived in the Medford/Somerville area. But I found people worth holding onto, and nooks and crannies where I was content to stay for a while. I like to go back and remember what it's like to feel wistful and dreamy and cold, and full of possibilities.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
I came across the quotation in my previous post while reading Conversations With God and decided to post it for two reasons. First, I found its perspective useful for my life and coming to terms with deaths of those I know--particularly my cousin Zack's death, which continues to occupy my thoughts.

Secondly, I decided to post it here because it's true--we live in a culture where it is often hard to speak openly and freely about death. But it's important to do so. I was struck by [ profile] rainswolf's first experiences with her grandmother's recent death and thought that others might benefit from a discussion of some sort or another, or from the idea that we need to have such discussions.

Here's what I need to talk about some more. At the gathering after the search for Zack was called off, his mother, my Aunt C, spoke of something that Zack had told her many times: "I'm not afraid to die, Mom."

He wasn't.

I think it was during my junior year of college when Zack's struggles to understand his life started getting most difficult for others. He was always an odd person and up to this or that crazy scheme (let's not count how many times he got into trouble), but I spend much more time thinking about that particular year. He was a freshman at MIT and threw himself head-on into his studies, pulling all-nighters and working working working without spending time to take care of the rest of himself (his physical or emotional or spiritual selves). Eventually, one of his friends grew really concerned about his behavior and he ended up being hospitalized for a while. I was the relative who lived closest to him in the Boston area, but not the one who was in closest touch, so I ended up finding out after some resolution of the crisis began to occur. But I vividly remember the trip to visit him in the hospital, trying to understand what he was trying to tell us about fate and feeling ready to die, trying to talk about how I saw and experienced what he was trying to describe about his understanding of the universe. C said that was the visit when he finally started to talk and begin to work his way out of the precarious state he was in. It was a difficult conversation and a difficult visit. I also think that on another level Zack had always dreamed of being an astronaut, and that period in the hospital was a time when he was beginning to understand that he needed to think more deeply about his dreams. I'm not sure, really. I don't know if I can fully convey the extent to which Zack was a Dreamer.

This period was incredibly difficult for C, and it was hard to see her struggle for both herself and her son, something that she has consistently done in the way that only a mother can. She is such an aware, giving person, and I know that I was so wrapped up in my own life that it wasn't always easy for me to be present to her or to Zack. But we do what we can.

I don't want to end this here, but this is all I can write right now. I've always had an easier time writing out my thoughts than talking about them, I guess. But I've had a hard time figuring out how to tell/understand Zack's story. It takes great courage to talk about death.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Highlights of yesterday and today:

-Feelings of stability and constancy, and fun visiting with family and old friends. My best friend's mother mentioned that she has known my father for close to 40 years by now--she and my father attended Gonzaga U together. My parents and [ profile] annikusrex's parents have been like family for each other. As time goes on, I'm ever more aware of how unique my life is in terms of the glue of family and friends that holds it together. This is why, no matter how far away I move or how long I am gone, I always feel like my life goes on pause the moment I am away from Seattle. I'd like to believe I can find the same sort of consistency and stability somewhere else, but it's taking a lot of looking and I haven't come close to finding it yet.

-Rowing on Lake Union/Portage Bay this morning. It has been YEARS. Ahh, I missed it so much. This is a huge part of why I'm drawn to return. Rowing on Seattle waterways is so different--the air is softer and easier to breathe, the scenery is so varied and interesting (houseboats, oh my!), and it's both familiar and different. One of my fellow Arizona Outlaws said that coming to Seattle felt like putting on an old, favorite pair of pants (he's from San Francisco, but the feel of the two cities is similar). The water, the air, the trees, they are in my blood. One of the poems that used to be on the Metro Buses had a line about Northwesterners that I have never forgotten--moss grows on the north side of our bones. My friends from elsewhere get tired of hearing me talk about Seattle, but I cannot stop. I can't expect them to really understand. I only hope that rowing this morning and again on Tuesday will be restorative enough to continue to inspire me in the months to come.

And I actually got some coaching! A whole five minutes of it. I think the coach was surprised by how rapidly my rowing stroke changed. But it was one of those moments where I knew I wasn't rowing as well as I could and only needed a few small remarks to adjust and expand my technique. It seems like coaches are often surprised by how adaptable my stroke can be--I think years of playing the piano taught me to be flexible where many rowers end up stuck with their bad habits. It also helped me when I realized, some years ago, that coaches are trying to help me row more comfortably and efficiently, so even if something feels awkward at first, it will feel so much better in the long run.

-Good times with [ profile] gfrancie and the gang. People are so interesting and fun. It's neat to get to drop in and see in person some of the people whose thoughts and ideas I read so regularly.

And on a random note:
In the past two months, I think I've encountered more opportunities to ponder the phrase "sowing wild oats" than ever before in my life. (most of these opportunities stem from hanging out with the boyz too much) Seeing as I have only limited patience for getting involved in all of this oats-sowing business, I'm finding it quite amusing.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
To follow up on my most recent coffeeshop expedition--I've been wanting to find a good database for finding independent coffeeshops. My father's list is a great start for Seattle, made more entertaining/enlightening by the inclusion of his objective, five-point rating scale.

But I think it would be grander to develop a national database so that one can hunt down independent coffeeshops in all of the cities that one visits. My initial Google search for "independent coffeeshop database" was disappointing--it turned up a half-formed, rambling site. A further look, however, revealed, a site that will allow one to enter one's zip code to find local coffeeshops as well as note all of the competing Starbucks (for a sense of perspective on the ratio of local:mass-produced coffeeshops). The site appears to work reasonably well, although it relies on contributions from the public, which results in duplicates when readers don't bother to look through the places already listed. It also includes brief comments about all of the coffeeshops.

Here are some sample results:

Tempe near my house:
6 independent coffeeshops listed within 5 miles (+1 listed that has gone out of business, and 1 duplicate)
16 Starbucks in the same area

Somerville near Tufts:
41 cafes listed (too overwhelming to check for duplicates)
15 Starbucks in the same area

Seattle near my parents' house:
91 cafes listed
126 Starbuckses

Quite interesting, and in the case of my present locale, depressing. And that's why I can't follow in my father's footsteps (or would that be bike-tracks?) around here.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
[regarding the subject; What did one frog say to another?]

I keep on learning about changes in the lives of people whose lives lie on the peripheral of my own--you know, those people you hear about, but don't interact directly with all of the time. It makes me more aware of how quickly things change outside of my immediate life. I always irrationally want everything outside of my immediate sphere to remain exactly as it was when I left; the new buildings that pop up overnight in Seattle are disconcerting when I return for a visit, for example. But life keeps moving forward; old things deteriorate and fall apart, and new things spring up to take their places.

When I visited El Salvador in high school, we stopped by a small town for lunch on our way to another town--I think the town was called San Jose de los Flores, or something along those lines. Our group leader had visited El Salvador the year before, and attended mass at a church in the town. That particular location had been the site of a number of bloody battles during the civil war; part of the stop involved hiking to the top of a hill to visit a memorial where hundreds of people had died. Anyway, the church had been caught in the crossfire and had been riddled full of bullet holes, but had survived and continued to be used. However, by the time we visited, one year later, the whole building had collapsed; the only parts that remained were part of the tabernacle and a bell tower, which stood amongst rubble. It was hard to believe that a building had stood on that ground just the year before. How quickly things change.

But still, I try so hard to save things, holding onto old photographs and letters and journals, perhaps with some vague hope that knowing where I come from will help me figure out where I'm going.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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