rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
One of the things I deeply appreciate about [ profile] scrottie is his strong drive to do work on projects. There's a piece of that drive that could be labeled "introversion," but it's more than just that. I relate to this aspect of S because after a certain point I grow weary of neverending parades and parties and social occasions and talking. Weary of sitting and watching movies, too. I have a higher tolerance of these things than he does, but the underlying sentiment is the same. Enough; let me go do things on my own, take time to think and not speak.

A couple of visits back, my uncle F and I had a brief conversation about projects. He pointed out a simple insight he'd had, that the thing that has kept him up and moving in the long term has been projects. If he didn't develop projects in his workplace, he said he wouldn't have managed to keep burning the rubber to get to work every morning. He went over one day to check out the activity happening at a retired neighbor's house, spying a group of guys hanging out and watching a construction crew, and they all knowingly glanced at each other and said, "Projects." Even in retirement, that's what keeps them going. If I'm kept too long from my stream of projects, I know I get anxious. But I know many other people who have been content with sliding into something of a mental vegetable state. Did they make that choice consciously? Is it the result of some sort of giving up? Are they stuck in a state of struggling to survive that makes it hard to think of much else?

For me, the projects are a piece of the Existential Crisis. It's important to be aware of that. In many ways, they're a struggle against many of the conveniences handed to us on a platter by modern socioeconomic circumstances present in the United States of America. I don't really need to finish making a quilt; it would be cheaper, easier, and far, far faster to just go to a store and buy one, especially if I'm willing to be completely blind to the conditions in which the quilt is made. The quilt also isn't even art in the Western sense, as it's being made for a small audience, and won't be particularly good or nice because it's my first quilt ever and I don't entirely know what I'm doing. But it's there, and I *will* work on it.

The projects are also not hustle and bustle in an attempt to cover up the silence. The silence still creeps through and sends me back to books like Man's Search for Meaning. We'll see about Goedel, Escher, Bach and whether or not it speaks to me at all. I want to go visit the silence, actually, on mountaintops or on lakes.

Is it possible to shift the national discourse away from happiness? It's written into the Declaration of Independence, and yet I'm inclined to agree with Man's Search for Meaning that happiness doesn't relate back to fundamental aspects of the human experience. Advertisers have long exploited the idea because it's an effective selling point.

Religious practice or spiritual development can be a form of project - for many, if not most, a very worthwhile one. Rowing, for me, has been a long-term project.

I remember, quite distinctly, waking up one morning while I lived in the Farmer House, the white light of the Arizona sun shining in through the white curtains, reflecting off the white walls, making the room almost impossibly bright. I had the distinct sensation that my arm, made up of its billions of tiny, metabolically active cells, wasn't fully a part of me, that it would one day return to dust. Then the inner demons compelled me to get up and get back to work.


Mar. 4th, 2010 11:39 am
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Still feeling the blahs from these darned allergies.

I think I'm also hitting some of that springtime restlessness. I need to send packages to people - my father, for his birthday (yesterday! Happy birthday, Dad!), my grandfather, for being himself, [ profile] annikusrex, because I owe her one for not visiting Chicago, and probably also [ profile] trifold_flame and [ profile] sytharin just because. Maybe my uncle F as well.

I need to draw pictures - especially what I'll call a Bike Phoenix picture. Plus something simple of the garden in the backyard. Or maybe something not-so-simple that captures everything that's happening there. I'm at that point where I'm regularly harvesting lettuce for sandwiches, herbs for all kinds of things, and eggs for all sorts of eating. Plus, the artichoke plants seem like they're almost doubling in size on a weekly basis.

I need to build a modestly-sized container garden box or two. I can build them out of salvaged lumber pretty easily, it's just a matter of finding the time. Almost every single plant that I have grown inside of wooden frames has done really well, and I think it's because the wood helps the plants regulate their humidity levels. If [ profile] scrottie and I are going to be successful in our attempts to grow tomatoes, we need to get the plants into nice, big containers that can stay in the sunshine while it's still pretty cool, and that can get moved into more shady sections of the yard once it starts getting really hot. Plus, I think they will look nice.

I need to read more books. I need to get out of Working, and into at least one of the other books that has been accumulating dust on my nightstand. Books are a way of dreaming.

I want to go to the farmer's market. I won't go this Saturday, because we have a regatta all day. I'm afraid of missing some of the better plant-growers.

Spring break happens in two weeks. I will take a few days off over the break, to take care of such projects. In the meantime, I hope I can convince myself to wait - I hope I can continue to move ahead on projects at school, and can satisfy myself with small-scale cooking projects.

I need to think about where I will be going in a year, and how I want to go there. My mind isn't wired to think about such things. Or, rather, I want to think about such things more carefully, and in a different way, than I thought about such things previously. I want to be respectful to Arizona, in wherever I go or whatever I end up doing.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Clearly, the trip over the weekend was wonderful, and yet it was one of those times when I really wanted to be enrapt but just wasn't. The landscape was beautiful, the company entertaining, and I love to ride my bike, but I didn't feel subsumed in the experience or the place. I talked to D about this deadened feeling a bit yesterday and the fact that she could relate to this experience was comforting--she has such a good emotional perspective (you do, D, you do).

Beyond that, I could recite for you a narrative of events, or a list of facts and figures, but reading text on the internet isn't the same thing as stepping outside, strapping stuff on a bike, and going, going, going.

The other thing that really stuck in my mind was conversations with one of my traveling companions, P. I should back up for a moment and mention my connections to the entirety of the group, because it was not a gang of the usual suspects. Well, one suspect was kind of usual, a grad student with a professed love of bikes and interest in touring. The other three are people who I have gotten to know through biking in various formats (the co-op, bike rides, biking-related events, bike shops)--it seems that K is right that like-minded people end up eventually finding each other here, whether through usual or unusual channels.

Anyway, one of the other riders is a "ships in the night" sort of person for me--even when we are in the same space, we can't quite talk to each other in a straightforward way, but look past each other and see mostly ourselves. I wouldn't ever expect to be able to really talk and don't necessarily want to be able to, but this slippery quality makes me think of other people with whom I've had transient connections but who have nonetheless had a disproportionate impact on me. In the present case, our infrequent contact and conversations give us interesting perspectives on each other. The previous time I had talked to him he said he was quite pleased with how his life was going, what with a switch to a new, stable job, and that he wasn't really looking to date anyone or make any drastic changes to his life--things were good. Subsequently, of course, he proceeded to start dating another biker, which is another great thing for him, and on the present trip he could not contain his joy about having a job that lets him do what he loves, a great girlfriend, and opportunities to do incredible things like go bike touring for a weekend through beautiful country.

As a transient outsider, I couldn't help but agree--his life does sound like it's going well. Yet something about the conversation bothered me, but not in any way I could articulate to him or myself (I don't really have to articulate the bother to him, but to myself, I must always articulate). I thought of my own life, which is also going well by many such standards--I do like the emotional rollercoaster of my academic profession, I have the opportunity to do the many things I love (rowing, biking, Scrabble, etc.), and I am surrounded by loved ones.

And yet--it is the "and yet" in my brain that makes me wonder and that reminded me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (read the entry for both definitions and criticisms--even if incorrect, the concept has utility). All of the things that he has described and that I have described for myself fill our basic human needs for a sense of security and even more "advanced" needs like a feeling of participating in a larger context and making a positive contribution to society. At least for me, though, there's no way for me to stop striving and seeking out more, more, more, and I don't mean the material more or the social more or the artistic more. I just mean the beyond. I could tell you that I accept this truth of myself, but I don't, always. Right now I think the "more" lies in a need for a connection to the land (is this "more" merely the restlessness described by Berry?), but I don't know for sure until I try the thing out.

Last night I went on another bike ride with a larger group of people--since it's a week before a major Christian holiday, we decked ourselves out in festive colors and played Christmas carols as we rode through the neighborhoods. I attached dangly snowflakes to my handlebars, where they twirled in the wind, and hung a Jolly Gnome Ornament from my saddle. In the darkness, riding my bike felt safely dangerous and fast, and as always the lights on the sleeping lake drew me in as we rode alongside.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I am sure I am far from alone in spending time considering how I am connected with those around me, especially as I continue to think about how blogging and inter"networking" tools and other efforts fit in to the picture (Do I call? Do I write?). The most recent XKCD is appropriate for considering this subject:

A brief passage from The Gift of Good Land has also been floating around in my mind. I'll put it here, with halfhearted apologies to those who might have preferred to encounter it on their own (though I find it equally interesting that I cannot read this book without feeling compelled to talk about it straightaway--I'm reminded of Breaking the Spell).

The second chapter is begun with a visit to Gary Nabhan in the Southwest, where Berry attends a Hunger Conference (o his commentary on academics hits a sensitive mark) and learns about the agricultural methods of the Papago Indians:

Like other traditional regional cultures, wherever they have come into confrontation with industrial economies, the ancient culture of the Papago is on the wane. It has been on the wane through most of this century. Whatever one may think of the opinion of the expert at the Hunger Conference, there is a conflict between the operations of a cash economy and traditional, local systems of agriculture. It is easier to buy your food than to grow it. It is hard to persuade a community to grow its own food once it has become available for purchase--provided that money is somehow available. It is easier to drink soft drinks and throw the containers out the window than to practice the difficult disciplines of health and frugality.*

And so the society of abundance becomes dependent on a society of scarcity, consuming exhaustible resources as rapidly as possible in the conventional American Way, and leaning on the fragile props of inflated cash and government programs. And so the intricate, delicate culture so responsive to the needs of desert life is gradually replaced in the mind by modern restlessness and the desire to shop. And so the body loses its resilience and strength as its purchased diet is converted to fat.

* In a healthy culture, of course, personal health and frugality would not be difficult--they would not be perceived as "disciplines." They become difficult when disease and waste become normal.


Yesterday was an exercise in place and community: I rode my bicycle to the croissant shop with [ profile] faisdodo and [ profile] trywhy (it has existed for 22 years!), and then ventured onward to South Mountain to meet up with R and J and company--newish biking friends. We luncheoned on bread and wine and cheese at Dobbins Point, which overlooks Phoenix and the surrounding areas. Even after Friday and Saturday's rains, a low brown cloud lingered over the vast spread of suburb. I couldn't help but think of how much this place is awash in sprawled loneliness. Then we whooshed down the mountain and homeward.

In the afternoon, I visited the Tempe Festival of the Arts. So did a lot of other people who might have attended on Friday or Saturday instead if it weren't for the rain. I saw several rowing (/biking) friends who I do not ordinarily encounter, which was good in small ways. The "art" ranged from good to bad to hideously tacky, yet it was generally good to see people who have poured their livelihoods into such things, be it metalworking or finding water-polished glass or painstakingly painting in every detail on coins (so silly). There is an earnestness to such endeavors, even if we're left wondering to what end.

In the evening, I attended a neighborhood association meeting to discuss traffic calming plans for my neighborhood. I was easily the youngest person in a room full of my grey-haired neighbors. I'm tempted to always project my sense of impermanence about living in this place, but my actions belie this sensation, especially as I learn more about this place and remember to be grateful for things like the ability to ride my bicycle and row the entire year-round. (I am drawn northward--am I drawn northward?)

Then I dined with school friends and felt the familiar awkwardness of socializing without saying anything meaningful. At last, I slept.
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.


Aug. 11th, 2006 03:51 pm
rebeccmeister: (1x)
I should prolly update with happenings before I forget all of them.

travels and such )
rebeccmeister: (Default)
This is some of the stuff that keeps on getting a bit lost in my life. It's always nice to have reminders. I just have to keep on trying. The other day I *did* realize that I stopped gossiping about people around me about 3 months ago, and that felt like a really positive change. After all, how can I work on the stuff in my own head if I'm that focused on other people?

Maslow's characteristics of self-actualized people )
rebeccmeister: (latte)
It was a busy weekend. Saturday morning, the City of Tempe held the annual Town Lake clean-up. There are only four full-time maintenance staff to take care of the entire lake, so some things end up getting a bit out of hand without the help of volunteers. Since I use the lake almost every day, I felt some responsibility for helping to improve it, so I headed down to the lake to volunteer for a while. I ended up on a crew that was removing desert broom from along one of the paths that runs along the lake. It was a nostalgic reminder of the summer I spent landscaping.

After that, I headed to the Town Lake Marina to help out with the first annual Rowing Expo, a learn-to-row event designed to introduce people to the sport of rowing. My housemates and [ profile] kihle all showed up, which was pretty fun. I love watching people learn to row. They say the darndest things.

Saturday was a beautiful day, so even after spending the entire morning outside I still wanted more fresh air, so I hopped back on my bike to bike down to the Extreme Bean (coffeeshop). My rear tire was a little low on air, so I stopped by the corner bike shop to fill it up because they have a handy air pump outside. The pump has no pressure gauge, so the inevitable happened--I popped the tube. Fortunately, the service window was right there and the mechanics had a spare moment, so they changed the tube (and the tire itself, which was also looking a bit worn). And because I was there and waiting, I finally replaced my uncomfortable bike seat as well. With the new back tire and seat, my bike's feeling pretty nice now.

After biking and coffee, A, E, T, and I headed over to a nearby park for a rousing kickball game. I finally made it on base this game, which meant a bit more sprinting than the last game and I'm actually sore from it all. Hipster sports are quite amusing. These kickball players usually take a break between innings to socialize and drink and smoke and heckle. E and I tried to figure out what would become the next popular hipster game. I said dodgeball (there's a dodgeball flyer up at the AII, where I tutor); she thought broomball. Who knows.

On Sunday, I pottered around the house for a bit and then headed to the lab for a packing party. Our lab moves on Wednesday. We spent five hours packing and threw a bunch of stuff away. I'm sure we'll throw even more stuff away once we get to the new building. It was pretty exhausting, but I'm really grateful to everyone who showed up to help out. The lab looks kind of sad now in its mostly-packed state. I won't miss the roaches, but I think I'll miss the comfortable feeling of the room where I've spent the past 2 1/2 years doing research, socializing, drinking espresso, reading, and writing. Oh, and sleeping. I must not forget the sleeping. Most of the other labs that are making the transition with us to the new building are relatively new additions to ASU, but our lab has been accumulating stuff for a good 15-20 years. That makes packing quite a process.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Today has been windy, but cool, so we were able to keep the windows open all day. I did a number of chores that I have been putting off for a while. I'm still tired from yesterday, but at the same time I feel restless and don't want to do much in the way of work. I keep telling myself I shouldn't feel guilty for not working this weekend.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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