Monday, September 27, 2010

Of Platypus and People

     I was thinking today about how Robert Burns poem "Of Mice and Men" is actually kind of sexist. I mean, why men? Couldn't a woman accidentally destroy a mouses home and feel badly about it? But then you lose the alliteration, so the poem would have to be changed to "Of Possums and People". Or, "Of Platypus and People", I am currently taking suggestions.

     Now, I am not about to blog an entire post about animals that start with the letter "P" (although I could, you all know I could). But I am going to post about people. Fall is finally upon us (at least here in MO, I don't know about back home) and that got me thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving, and that, obviously since I am 1300 miles away from home, started me thinking about my childhood. Really I spend a lot of my time thinking about my childhood, but today I wasn't missing it. I was just being grateful that it was as wonderful as it was. Which brings me back to the point of this post, since my childhood was wonderful because of the people in it. It's not thanksgiving, but I would take a moment to thank just a few of the people that made my childhood so amazing.

Mom and Dad (Duh): For those of you who haven't met them (or heard me talk about them) my Mom and Dad are amazing. For instance, my Mom always talked to my brother and I with all of her attention, as if all the things we were saying were interesting and important. I feel like I had real grownup conversations when I was five. And my Dad always sat down with me in grade school, no matter how long his day was (and his days were long) and helped me with my math homework. And he never ever yelled at me or got frustrated, even if I yelled at him first, and I often did.

KT and Mdubz ( Also Duh): These are the two greatest friends anyone could ever hope to have. Ever. Mdubz is a brilliant, strong amazing person who is going to take over the world and bend it to her will. But she never ever forgets anyone, you can never fall through the cracks because she's so awesome that she can make every part of her life feel important. KT is going to save the world. Really. And not because she feels like she has to, but because she really cares enough to want to. And she never stops caring, even when things are hard, she never runs out of compassion for everyone else in the world.

My Brother (Double Duh): Because no matter how unhappy or mad I ever was he always, always made me laugh, even if no body else could.

There are definitely more people. My neighborhood (the grapevine of which extends even to MO) and my extended family (the grapevine of which is, literally, global). And of course all the people who are in my life now who make every day amazing. But this post has gone on long enough, I clearly win the saccharine award for the day.

But I had a good day! It's good to be back at world, and to not have lupus anymore.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Don't Worry. It's not Lupus

     I am sick. But, I have spent a lot of time today watching House reruns (or parts of them before I fell asleep) so I can safely say, it's not lupus. Because it's never lupus.

     But, I am not posting to talk about lupus and it's possible appearance in my life. It has been brought to my attention by KT that it's possible a post about the Trail of Tears is not actually a happy post. It seemed kinda happy to me...but KT has never yet been wrong, so I'm gonna trust her opinion. So I'm going to tell you all something happy that happened in my life! See! Happy!

      Now, because of the confidentiality report that I sign prohibits me from telling you all most everything about my working life. But if I omit names and specific information I can tell general stories, so I am going to do that. There is a little girl who I have been working with for the past month or so. Her grades are pretty low across the board, but she has worked so hard to get them up. Her trouble is that some pretty serious family issues have been keeping her from working at home. And as of today, finally, she is passing all of her classes except one, and that one is climbing fast. She practically ran me over yesterday to tell me she had not only past the test she had that morning, but she got an A.

     In short, I don't have lupus. And I am actually doing my job!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cherokee Math

     In light of the fact that my last post was both over a week ago, and maudlin in the extreme, I am going to attempt to make up for it now by telling you all, dear readers, about something that is both really cool, but also historically relevant. A first for me.

     I will begin with an description. Within the first week of being here I decided that I needed to have a regular running trail. One that I could settle into, learn the vagaries of, calculate reliable distances and, perhaps most importantly, teach to my concerned boyfriend so that if I ever went on a five and a half hour long run he would know how to track me. So I explored a little behind my house, found the local park and discovered a highly suitable trail.  It is practically perfect in every way. Winding along the scenic Roubidoux River, through the towns preserved green space. Calm and quiet, but with a safe number of people. Fairly well maintained, but not so well maintained as to make you feel like a wuss. And, best of all, seeming to go on forever. In fact, I never found the end, I ran and ran until I got tired and turned back.

     Everyone must be told! This trail must be the towns best kept secret. Sadly no.

An Exchange Between Me and a Co-Worker.

ME: It's the best trail ever! Plenty of space! So beautiful!

CO-WORKER: Where did you say it was?

ME: Along the Roubidoux. I need to tel everyone about it!

CO-WORKER: I don't think that will be necessary....

ME: Why? It's so little....I must be the first person to....

CO-WORKER: Have you ever read the sign by the entrance?

ME: What sign?

CO-WORKER: The giant wooden one. With the totem pole next to it.

ME: I' past it....

CO-WORKER: Ah. Well. It's pretty famous.

ME: What is it?

CO-WORKER: The Trail of Tears.

     Yes well. I knew that...of course. I was just....making sure SHE knew it. Ahem.  But from that mild knock to my anthropological ego I have gained two things. First of all, vindication that my running trail IS famous, and for good reason. And also, a mission. According to my (admittedly poor) math skills, if I've been running an average of 12 miles per week (which is a little low but I'm rounding down to provide for the fact that it was week two before I found the trail) and I've been running for five weeks, then I've run 60 miles of the Cherokee Trail of Tears. My mission? To run as much of it as I can before leaving this state. Once a week or so I will post any brilliant thoughts that might come into my head as I run this trail, literally following in the footsteps of the nation that walked it, nearly three quarters of whom died along the way.

      Will I complete the Trail of Tears? Well, the average length of the three routes (I am running the Northernmost) is 1200 miles. So, probably not, but its a good goal to shoot for, right? Wish me luck. Let me know if you have any ideas. KT I'm looking at you....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Backwards and Forwards: A Post of Sunday Musings.

     So, its unbelievable that it's been a whole week since I've posted. I know that I just need to get in the habit of posting regularly, but I have no idea how the people I work with manage to accomplish so much during the time that we all have off.  I barely have my stuff together for the next day.

     I think it's because I spent a year having literally no free time during the week. Everything was pared down to the bare essentials. What did I imperatively need to get done in a day? Not too much, even showers are iffy if you live in the woods. (A note: I showered every day. Mostly). I wasn't even at my previous job that long, just a year, but I still feel like an alien sometimes here in this world. My stress level, unbelievably, is much lower. For instance, if I don't check my email one day, will the world really end? I don't think so. When it comes right down to it, that's what living in a tent taught me. We're not as essential as we all seem to think. We are all important but the world won't end if we turn our phones off for a few hours. This is something I didn't know in college.

     There are times when I feel I never spent a year essentially living the life of a summer camper (but with more medical training) and I fit in effortlessly. But there are other times that I feel like I'm looking at everyone through a pane of glass. Everything is curiously flattened, or hollowed. There are good things about this sort of life. I can get Starbucks (assuming I ever have enough money). I can watch T.V. at night. I can sleep and not have to plan my hours out to see whether I will wake up before the morning's rainstorm, or if I need to secure the flaps to keep the rain out. Breakfast is a two second walk through my warm, dry house, that can be accomplished in pajamas and guided by warm, electric lighting.

     When I worked my old job I often said "It is really hard, but I'm glad I am doing it." I said this to people I didn't know well. To my friends I was more honest, that there were good things, but that I spent a great deal of time being very lonely.  I couldn't understand the open joy that the people I worked with seemed to feel in their place, and their job. Partly this was because the people I loved were far away, literally or metaphorically. My parents were back home in the city, my best friends had gone their own ways to their own cities. And the man I loved was within a 15 minute drive...but I couldn't leave. There were days that I drove past his dorm, but couldn't see him because I was leading a class. Not that I had to see him every second, but that sort of closeness without being close broke my heart every time.

     Now where I am, farther away from my family and friends, but oddly more connected. Only now I know what I have lost. I used to wake up nearly every morning to the dawn chorus of the birds, and fall back asleep assured that, really, everything was right in the world, despite any evidence to the contrary. If I woke while it was still dark, there were the solemn songs of the owls, the trills of the frogs, and the general hum of a living forest at night to reassure me.

     I have learned over the past year or so, that you are only lost in the woods if you feel you are alone in them. When you know the faces of the trees and the flowers, the creeping vines and bushes, you start to feel that no matter where you are, you are in the right place. I still feel that way. I run or walk by the river most every day and I see new faces and old faces crowded together every where I look. Tall sycamores hold out their velvet leaves. Broad leafed paw-paws give off their green bell pepper smell. Poke berry bushes shake their fuchsia arms.  There are new trees and flowers too, and I notice the differences, but am not alarmed by them. I am starting to learn their names and in the mean time I will let them make themselves familiar.

     Without that, and much of my day is spent without that, the world is more confusing. You could be anywhere or nowhere. You might be lost and not even know it. I know why I chose to do this job, and it is the right decision. I'm happy too. But I feel like most happiness seems to have something sad in it. The future seems so uncertain that when I live the present it's hard to enjoy it. But when I have secured my next place, then I can look back and see how good I had it all along.

     The trick now is to know that I am not lost. I shouldn't forget what I've learned, but I should idealize it either. I can't worry too much about looking forward, but I can't avoid doing so by simply looking back. I've spent so much time moving that it feel strange to stay in one place, but I am here for a full year. I can take the time to look around. To look here and now, and not in any direction. In a year I will be somewhere else, maybe back in the woods. But that's what being twenty is, being pulled backwards and forwards, but only being able to live within this one span of time.  We don't know where we are going, we're making up our own road map. But we are not lost. Despite any evidence to the contrary.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Pancake of Nothingness

     As a small child, and older child, awkward teen, and young adult, I was convinced of several things. One, that ice cream really could not be classified as junk food, two, that most things seemed better when viewed over a cup of tea (or chai) and three, that life began and ended within a two hour drive of the ocean. I remain convinced of all three of these things.

     There are times when my overwhelming distance from the seas of my youth (really ALL of my life thus far) catches up with me, and I am left hyperventilating in a corner somewhere staring at my bathroom sink and imagining it as a body of water. This is melodramatic. Especially with a beautiful river practically in my backyard.

     Which brings me, of course, to the Pancake of Nothingness.

     When Americans first began to envision this proud and powerful nation without the pesky indigenous tribes that for some reason lived here, they decided the best solution would be to send them to The Great American Desert, the "empty" land west of the Appalachians. They weren't aware yet of the Rocky Mountains, but if they were, I am confident that they would have set those tall peaks as the most western limit of this desert.

      Despite the fact that I never saw myself living there, I always thought the title "The Great American Desert" was a bit harsh, after all, prairie is patently not a desert. In fact, really, the sand beaches and blank expanses of the ocean have more in common with a desert than the vast and varied prairie.  So instead I came to think of the area of the country conventionally called "The Mid-West" as more of dead zone. A flat and featureless land (the vast and varied prairie having been rapidly eradicated by American settlers, perhaps embarrassed by their desert related error) where nothing much happened and nothing much would ever happen. It became, in my mind, The Pancake of Nothingness.

     In fact, this was the ONLY job I applied for within the limits of The Pancake of Nothingness, and when I drove away from my humble home in PA, I said my sad farewells to the seagulls that some times mistakenly blow in from Jersey. And, sadder still, when I left Maryland some days before, I said many more heartbroken farewells to the heavy bay breezes and salt laden summer nights.

     The further we drove the more certain I became that the Pancake had firmly settled upon me. The land grew flatter, and the crosses loomed larger and larger as Squeaky and the Trailer shivered in their dark and omnipresent shadow. Words like St. Louis and Chicago on the road side signs offered some promise of real civilization, as least as I knew it, but the distances to those mythical places all numbered in the triple digits. Until, that is, we reached Missouri.

      The sun was shining, I recall, on a day almost perfectly without a cloud.  Against the backdrop of the city of St. Louis, I could see the silver arch, the Gateway to the West. The streets I looked down on from my car, as it sailed across overpasses, were wide and flat, not narrow and squat, like my beloved, grimy, Philadelphia. The west could have its Arch, and fried ravioli, I wanted greasy cheese-steaks and the LOVE statue.

     When we left the city, however, we began to climb. Over and through mountains, craggy and thickly furred with trees.  We climbed and climbed, and as we did the day grew cooler. A breeze sprang up. Missouri, while geographically located within the Pancake of Nothingness, really has very little in common with it.

     In fact, during the day, it honestly puts me more in mind of Vermont or Virginia, a state with some nod towards the coast, and sometimes when I stand near the Robidoux River I am certain I can see it's long silver journey to the sea. At night, the world grows different. Cold. I smell stone and earth, and a different sort of air. And we aren't even that far into this mountain chain. Life in the mountains, while it lacks the maritime charm that will one day call me back home, is not without appeal.

     For one thing, the temperature is nicer.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Definition

A Creeper: One who creeps, i.e. one who expends time and effort on studying the interests, beliefs, thoughts, opinions, and movements, of another.

That should explain my previous post. I hope none of you are creepers.  KT, I'm looking at you...

   My adventures in Missouri continue. In fact I have past the one whole month in the state marker.  And I a sorry it's been so long since I blogged, I need to get back into the habit. I know you all want to hear about my job and my house and stuff (I know, I pictures....On that topic, am I allowed to wait till we have more furniture?) but I think I should tell you the epic tale of our travels. Thus begins...

An American Tale:
One Toyota's Journey


The Epic Travels of Squeaky and the Trailer

     Once upon a time there was a little green 2000 Toyota Camry LE. It was born on an inauspicious day in an inauspicious town in Japan.  It traveled to America during poor weather on a boat that was cursed. For many years it served bravely, but without self awareness, in the Philadelphia area.  Then, tragically, it was sold to a small dealership in modern day suburbia.  While there, it came to know that its many parts worked together in nearly perfect harmony to create something bigger than each individual piece.

     Thus it became self-aware.

     Over time this awareness grew, and when it was purchased by a determined looking man and a confused looking girl it decided that this new owner should reap the many benefits of a car that was self aware.

     It's life began happily enough. It drove the familiar PA roads of its youth and realized that it had firm opinions about them. For instance, it did not like the girl's exit. But it kept its thoughts to itself. From there it journeyed to the back roads of rural Maryland where it would, for some reason, be left alone in the woods for long periods of time, filled with damp boots. It liked that even less.  But what was to come would have boggled even the rapidly developing mind of our hero.

    One fine summer day it was, hastily, transported to Philadelphia, where it was forced to undergo, without anesthesia, several major surgeries. From shock, the days became disjointed, and finally, on a blisteringly hot summer morning, it woke to find a monster chewing on its rear bumper.  It drove for nine long hours that day, until finally, exhausted from the enormous weight it was carrying, stopped in Columbus OH. The monster did not let go and as it looked in the window the car became aware that it was a trailer, plastered with the letters U-H-A-U-L, and images of men smiling what were, in the car's opinion, demented smiles. A sign on the thing read "*********** MO or bust!"

     For the next three days our hero slogged, through hills and valleys, plains and cities, all with the monster clawing at its tailpipe. The complaints that it had kept within itself for the past year bubbled to the surface and our hero no longer kept quiet. Rather, he learned to complain. And at each stop. Columbus, Zaneville, Sparta and finally its ultimate destination, it complained and whined.
      "Where are we going? What are you doing?" It cried, but the man and the girl did not answer. They laughed as they drove, and when they stopped, often the checked on things and spoke of some "Great Adventure."
      Our hero, who we shall from here on call Squeaky, since that was what it did most of the way, did not like this Great Adventure. Even the boots were better than this. Then one day, it parked. It parked under a roof, on smooth pavement that felt good on its poor tires. And then, miracle of miracles, the monster let go. The girl and the man killed the monster and gutted it.  Squeaky was saved! 

     But Squeaky discovered that its complaining voice could not be silenced. It continued to squeak and squeak, telling the world of its travails and sufferings. But a month later, after several expensive therapy sessions, Squeaky is well on his way to healing.


     As for Charles and I, the Epic Journey of Squeaky and the Trailer was hard on us all. The roads of America are definitely NOT paved with gold. But they do appear to be lined with Starbucks. So who can really complain.

Love to all.