Thursday, October 29, 2009

90 Degrees?

When we put furniture in the corners, it becomes evident that there are very few right angles in this apartment. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Most Beautiful

Yesterday morning the church bells began to chime out some old hymn as I was walking/running in to my office from the T.  I started to find myself getting a little annoyed, I think because it sounded like too cheery of a song (believe it or not, I don't really like a lot of cheery songs, especially not cheery churchy songs).  That is sad that I would feel annoyed, because those bells are one of my favorite things about this location.  Anyway, the phrase ended up surprising me and resolving itself into a sorrowful minor chord which filled my soul with this beautiful achy feeling.  

Then, this morning, I was walking through the rain in my new boots, noticing to myself how the clouds diffused the light and deepened the color of every single leaf, how the moisture saturated every dark tree trunk and released that cool earthy scent, how droplets of water on railings reflected a black and white world gleaming with russet and amber and saffron. 

And I thought to myself, this might just be the most beautiful autumn of my life.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Worlds within Worlds

Perhaps it is a little arrogant to think of the summation of my experiences, thoughts, relationships, and memories as a "world" or a "universe." But in terms of my subjective reality, it IS my world, my cosmos.  My mind, as I know it, is infinite.  And yours.  And there are billions and billions of worlds, galaxies, overlapping, weaving, colliding, tearing apart. 

An LDS hymn based off of a traditional folk melody touches upon these ideas.
If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward with that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever, through all eternity,
Find out the generation where Gods began to be?

Or see the grand beginning, where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers, "No man has found 'pure space,'"
Nor seen the outside curtains, where nothing has a place.
The works of God continue, and worlds and lives abound
Improvement and progression have one eternal round.

A few months ago, I peeled up a little corner of my world, and there lay the seeds of an entire universe, quivering with expectant life, just waiting, waiting for the air and light. Like Jack's magic beans, they sprouted and grew beyond anything I had expected. This simple gesture of curiosity has brought a brilliant friendship into my world and has enriched my life (and the lives of several others) in so many deep and meaningful ways. It has been a remarkable gift to be able to experience. And I can see the echoes continuing to ripple across our little cosmic spheres.

It has been tremendous.  Truly cosmic.  

There are some really fascinating ideas in Mormon teachings, ideas which are somewhat controversial to some mainstream Christians, ideas which are - at least publicly - skirted around because they are not conventional. But I find myself drawn to them like a dreamy moth to a kitchen screen.

Lorenzo Snow, who would later become president of the church, taught the famous couplet, "as man is, God once was; as God is, man may be," (you can see some interesting discussion here and here).  This idea appears, watered-down to various degrees, all through the LDS theology.  But the implication is that we have divine, infinite potential within each of us.  In LDS scriptures, it refers to God's creation of "the worlds,"
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God (D&C 76:24)

This is our divinity.  We are constantly creating, discovering, shaping worlds and worlds every day.

And then a song came on my iTunes that reminded me of another universe which had the potential to have been beautiful. It might have been breathtakingly beautiful but perhaps will never exist to the full potential I once glimpsed there. And every time I hear that song, I do feel a little bit sad, mourning what very well may remain an eternally unborn world.

You just cannot force it. 

As I was thinking about it all on the train that morning, the words came to me, powerfully, chillingly, "your curiosity will move the world forward."  Maybe The World world, or maybe just the world I know - my life, the people I love or even just come in contact with. But then as I was reflecting upon it, my power does lie in my curiosity, in my intelligence, and in my love. I very rarely get these small glimpses into my infinite nature.  An intimate moment of self-knowing as I hurtled toward Copley with a couple hundred strangers. Worlds within worlds.  Love within love.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Post Office

Somehow I am hesitant to write this blog post, because a I know a lot of people aren't huge fans of the USPS. And yet, I just can't really help loving it. Everything about it.

The little labels for priority mail or for shipping insurance and all sorts of other crazy options. The different themed stamps. Writing someone's name and address, putting a sticker on it and miraculously having it arrive across the country. Seeing which stamps are for available for purchase.

The taste of envelope adhesive.


Imagining the person getting the letter and about to open it, curious what is inside.

I don't even mind waiting in line to send a package.

I love the somewhat distracted/shortsighted British gentleman mistaking me for his wife and asking my opinion on what they should wrap the gift in. I love the wife coming over and asking him what he's bothering me about. I love his polite embarrassment.

Or when I am sprinkling Kit Kat bars into a puffy envelope for my little brother and an old guy attempts a joke about sugar overload.

Or mail carriers with their shoulder bags or little trucks with the steering wheel on the wrong side.

Or peeling open the blue metal lips of the mailbox on the way to the train, slipping that white sliver of an envelope in, the feathered sifting of paper into the beast, the creaking and then snap of jaws, and pulling your hand away just in time.

Old letters. Old handwriting. New handwriting. I love these tactile objects shipped across states, countries, the world.

Sure there's a ton of white noise: The crotchety people in line to get their package weighed and stamped. The occasional letter that gets lost along the way. The credit card offers, the bills, the rebates, the catalogues. But every once in awhile, there's a treasure. And isn't that what life is about? The small smooth stone you find nestled at the beach? That moment among moments when you pause and recognize the sunlight that is skipping off of the trees and the that air is tickling behind your ears. The couple hundred people, among the billions and billions, whom we are lucky enough to know? And really, what are the chances that words on a page, handwritten and sent off into the wide wide world, will make their way across those miles to that one in a billion? You would think it's a miracle.

But really, miracles happen every day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Cried

I never even had a dog.

But I cried.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Peggy the Three-Legged Calf and Other Adventures on the Way Home from Roslindale

On the way back tonight, I had a conversation about farming* with the girl/woman who lets me go in her car on the way back from tutoring.

She is a delightful person - I could probably listen to her talk for hours, with her bleached blond hair and wild, wild eyes. Very warm and expressive and speaks in this almost distracted way, like she is floating among dandelion seed puffs, yet she somehow simultaneously gives you confidence that she knows exactly what she's talking about.

Anyway, she grew up on a family-owned, commercial farm, playing with her siblings alongside animals which she her family would eventually eat. It was just really interesting to hear her perspective on it all. The way that the animals were always well cared for and respected, but that she thought it was foolish the way that some "animal rights people" personify non-human creatures and how they form opinions without even being familiar with how things really are. It is probably true to a large extent. I mean, how many religious vegetarians/vegans actually grew up on a farm or have spent significant time caring for farm animals? Probably not many, I would wager. On the other hand, the detachment with which she spoke about it all was rather disconcerting. It was such a part of daily living for her and her brothers and sisters growing up. I imagine you sort of would have to have some degree of emotional detachment from the creatures - to categorize them differently from yourself - or the cognitive dissonance would be overwhelming. And maybe that detachment is more than a defense mechanism, maybe it is perceiving things as they really are. There really is no way of knowing whether humans are a unique category of living organism or whether the "animal rights people" have it correct.

In my world, someone who has lived with, cared for, known, named, and eaten the same animals... that is rare. So I do value this opinion tremendously.

Cute baby cow for effect.

She asked me how long I've been a vegetarian (over ten years now) and why I don't eat meat (once I found out what it was as a child I didn't really have any appetite for it - the fact that it was the muscle of animals, the fact that I have muscle, it was just all too much for me to deal with - it just doesn't, hasn't ever really, felt right to me at that sort of gut level). At this point, she leaned over to me as we drove past the turn indicated on the GPS device, those crazy eyes glimmering as though she were about to share a delightful but horrifying secret. "Imagine if you had to live among the animals you ate for meat." I admitted that it would be pretty intense. She described one cow that was born with only three legs. They called the cow Peggy, for this reason. The family decided to raise Peggy like any other calf until she reached the size at which her legs couldn't support her body weight. At this point they slaughtered her and sat down at the dinner table and ate Peggy. "It would have been inhumane to let her grow any larger." She recounted the entire story with the same sort of jolly, reflective detachment.

And I had to agree. It would have been inhumane. They gave Peggy the best life they could have given, everything a little three-legged cow could have wanted, and then didn't allow her to suffer. And in some ways, I think I even have more respect for people who actually acknowledge the creature they are eating. I think of my humble grandfather who would hunt deer and other small game to provide food for his family to eat during the days or weeks or months - however long - when his factory workers' union was on strike. A man who owned beagles as much for function (hunting) as for companionship. From all I know of him, he did not kill animals for sport. He respected the dignity of every living beast.

I don't really have any conclusions. Just some musings.

*Well actually, a gchat earlier primed me for the farming conversation. Streetsorz was describing how everything is cooked in lard in the South and I began rambling about how vegetarians and vegans can often act/be perceived as self-righteous.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Autumn is Icumen In

Things I have noticed:
  • The occasional emblazoned tree or brilliant leaf.
  • Craving for pumpkin baked goods.
  • Evenings getting darker earlier.
  • Neighbors erecting those shelters for Sukkot.
  • Long shadows at 9:00 am.
  • Wistful feelings.
  • Snuggling.
  • Autumn smell.
As my friend Foff put it one time, when explaining to someone from SF why she loved New England so much, there is a distinct smell in the air on the first day of every season. Not necessarily on the calendar date, but on the first REAL day. It is a smell so familiar and haunting, because it hearkens back to every other cool, damp autumn (or crispy cold winter or hazy lazy summer or brilliant mushy spring) you've spent in this place. Each season so distinct and SO intense. Sneaking like a thief until that one day you step outside your door and breathe in and the air is carrying a new but oh so intimate scent and your whole body and responds to the memories.

I don't really tend to like autumn, because it means winter's coming: darkness, even sadness. However, this year, somehow, I feel brave, excited, and yes, a bit wistful. On that breeze I can smell those twenty-five past autumns, but what's more, I can smell so many more future ones which haven't even happened yet.

This weekend we go out to Pittsfield, all of us minus one brother this year, who is too far away to come camping with us. It is sad. And we remember at autumn that life is about change. Good and bad change both. Try to hold it close and you'll be left staring at the trees' clutching, empty fingers. Best to just ride your bike and pick apples and press pretty leaves between the pages of your favorite book to rediscover one winter's evening.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blog Data

Visits to my blog dropped dramatically about a week ago, as you can see below.
This is not due to an actual decrease in readership. Rather, I would more accurately describe it as the elimination of an artificial inflation of site visits.

About a year ago, I noticed a jump in visits after I wrote one particularly problematic post about the afterlife (problematic in terms of collecting accurate data about blog readership - the topic itself is probably at least 60% silly, possibly as high as 85%). seemed to indicate that this increased traffic was coming from google image searches, although there was no apparent way for me to discern the exact search terms. Maybe there was/is, but I couldn't seem to figure it out or forgot about it or was lazy. Anyway though, all I had done was link to the image on another site, so I was surprised the image search was leading people to my blog. I even got a couple comments on the post from unknown people who seemed quite eager to share the depth of their wisdom and the acuity of their insight. A month or so ago, curious to see how much traffic my blog was actually getting, I saved the file to my desktop, uploaded it with a new, simple filename, and waited to see if that changed anything.

It did not.

Last week, still curious, I changed the term "Michelangelo" to "Signore di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni." That did the trick. The average number of daily site visits dropped about eighty percent at this point. That is all.