Monday, August 30, 2010

Separation Anxiety. ...Minus the Anxiety.

I miss Jay.  
He was gone all last week.  
He's gone all this week.  
And as much fun as the weekend was
(absence makes the heart grow fonder and all of that),
it wasn't enough time.  

I feel off-kilter,
like a part of me's missing.  
I don't eat right.
I don't sleep well.
I don't take care of myself.

Baby, come home!

Stupid dental school.

Friday, August 20, 2010

OLLU: A Photo Essay

I recently posted an essay in which I attempted to paint an evocative picture of my graduate school.  A couple weeks before I graduated, I walked around campus with my camera in an attempt to visually capture the atmosphere.  There were several things I meant to shoot but didn't (like the building I "lived" in), and a few things I didn't plan on shooting but ended up liking.  The library, pictured above, is one of my favorites.

Moye and the corridor into the quad

Quad and bookstore

The "Lake" and the ducks.  

The back of the convent and a sampling of statues

Hibiscus and Amaryllis.  Love them both.

The construction on not-quite-burned-down Main.  Love the "fallout shelter" sign--wonder how long that's been there?

Scrolls and Gothic arches

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing Wednesday: 20/20

I first realized there might be something wrong with my vision in sixth grade.  My teacher, Mrs. Bullock, switched up the seating chart, and I ended up on the back row next to a black-haired boy named Alan.  Boys still had cooties in those days (and for the next five years, at least--I was a late bloomer), but I had to break my silence when I noticed something odd.  Mrs. Bullock was standing at the chalkboard, her wrist moving smoothly, producing her signature curlicue script, except...

"Is the chalk broken?" I hissed.  Alan looked at me blankly.  "The chalk!" I said.  "There's nothing coming out of it!"  Alan continued to stare.  Looking back, I'm not sure if he was afraid of my cooties or if he just thought I was stupid.

Finally, he said, "Uh, the chalk is fine."  He turned towards the front with an eye-roll.  I followed suit, staring intently at the blank green board and wondering if this was an Emperor's New Clothes-esque conspiracy.

I waited for the teacher to sit at her desk before timidly making my way to the front of the room.  Several rows up, thin white lines appeared on the board.  A few steps further, and the lines formed themselves into legible script.  I was unnerved.  Moments later, an understanding Mrs. Bullock switched me to the front row.  

I didn't think much of the incident until a couple weeks later when it was time for vision screening.  I was nervous as I stood in line waiting for my turn to read off the lines of letters.  I took the proffered cardboard circle, held it over my right eye, toed the line and said, "E."  

"Good," the man said.  "How far down can you go?"

I hesitated.  "Well, the next line looks like P and... S?"  He frowned.  
Next thing I knew, I was at the end of another line--the line for the kids who failed the screening.  I felt ashamed and embarrassed as I watched the rest of my classmates troop back to the classroom.  

A few weeks later, my mom set up an eye appointment for me.  I still remember trying on my glasses for the first time.  I stood in the optometrist's office and glanced out the window at an adjacent empty lot.  

"There are clods of dirt and tiny little rocks all over the ground!" I exclaimed.  "And individual leaves on the trees!"  It was surreal--I'd had no idea what I was missing.  There was a whole new level of definition to the world that I'd been completely ignorant of.  


There are times when I take off my glasses at night as Jay drives me around.  Every light we pass is a swollen, twelve-pointed sphere with the symmetry of a snowflake.  I'm surrounded by colorful globes springing from taillights, stoplights and streetlights.  I feel blind, but warmed.  

I love sharp, crisp detail--to see things as they are.  But sometimes, surrounded by starkness, I miss the softness of blurred outlines and fuzzy figures.  

One of my favorite things to this day is to take out my contacts and sit in the dark in front of our lit Christmas tree.  Each tiny colorful light becomes a large, brilliant globe, each ethereal sphere hung like an ornament.  There is something transcendently beautiful about the softness of it.

Becoming an adult, losing childhood naiveté, has been refreshing in some ways, like putting on a pair of glasses I didn't know I needed.  Still, though, I sometimes miss going through life in a blissful haze, seeing the world without its sharp angles or harsh details, each pinprick of light something delicate, gauzy and beautiful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing Wednesday: If You Think You Can, You Can. Except When You Can't.

When I was young, I was a very picky eater.  I didn't like pasta sauce, so I would eat the noodles plain with salt and pepper.  I didn't like ketchup, onions, pickles, mayo or tomatoes, so my hamburgers were garnished with mustard only.  And I didn't like potatoes.  

I'm not sure why that last one was such a big deal, but in my family, it was.  I didn't like them in any form: not mashed, grilled, baked, twice-baked, or in a salad.  (I might have liked them fried, but french fries don't really count as potatoes, do they?)  I can't even count how many times relatives told me it was a good thing I wasn't born in Ireland.  

One evening, before a Sunday dinner at my Grandma's house, I decided--made up my mind, just like that--that I liked potatoes.  After all, how many times had my parents cajoled me to eat something by saying, "just try it--you'll like it"?  

I walked into the living room and announced to my family, "I like potatoes now."  My tone was definitive enough that they didn't even question me.  I remember them being happy for me; although, looking back, I'm not sure that they actually cared all that much.  At six years old, though, I was pretty proud of myself.  I'm sure that I was too young to be familiar with the phrases "mind over matter" or "attitude determines altitude" or other such platitudes, but Grandma had read me The Little Engine that Could enough times that the basic idea had penetrated my impressionable psyche.  (Side note: even to this day, I still hear Grandma's voice in my head when I look at that book--she has a very pleasant, distinctive reading style.  And she read to me often.)  

I proudly marched into the dining room, excited to eat my potatoes.  I served myself a generous helping.  I buttered and salted and peppered, then brought the fork to my lips.  I imagined all eyes were watching, sharing this moment with me.  The moment I'd join the potato-eaters club.  The moment that would ensure I'd never have to hear about Ireland's potato famine ever again.  

I chewed and quickly swallowed, working hard to keep my face neutral.  

I did not like potatoes, as it turned out.  Did not like their mealy texture.  Did not like their bland taste.  Did not like them.  Did not.  

I don't remember the details of the rest of the evening, but I'm sure I eventually had to fess up.  To eat my words.  It was no fun.  I sometimes wonder if this event was the death of any budding optimism I may have had and, in turn, the birth of my cynicism, skepticism, pessimistic realism.  

Is there power in positive thinking?  Sure.  But thinking something's so doesn't necessarily make it so.  

And, yes, I did hear about the potato famine several more times over the ensuing years.

And, yes, I do like potatoes now.