Quickening

It’s Friday and on Fridays everyone has a two-hour lunch break (you do, right? If not, send a letter to your Congressman) and because Odin  has time to meander a roundabout path he almost makes it to the store before the crow notices him.

Let me tell you something: having largish birds swoop around you close enough to hear their feathers on the air quickens the heart with joy, as long as they’re not pecking at you or shitting on you or something belonging to you or where you wanted to sit.

Heart quickened, Odin buys a mylar bag of cashew nuts and dried cranberries, and a small plastic bag of miniature dried sausages.

Odin eats some nuts and eats a sausage on his way back to the bench to share with the crow.

The atmosphere is cycling back and forth between the poles of nice, sunny, late-spring day and Is it maybe going to rain or not, without ever actually raining.

When he arrives at the bench, Odin is thinking about writing a love scene with the sentence, They kissed so hard a piece of dried sausage trapped between two molars was dislodged.

The grey crow has its rules of engagement, and they include not approaching closer than four feet. It will not come onto the bench for a bite of sausage. It hides the big pieces, and some of the nuts, and eats the small pieces and the rest of the nuts and cranberries.

On a two-hour lunch break, you have time to just sit on a bench in the sun/shade/sun/shade and rejoice in being a living thing.

Part of all this.

Just a part, one part among many.

What say the slain?

How fortunate you are, this very second.

And how I love you.

There is a word for it

Definition: the emotion a parent feels when their 16-year old daughter returns home from a weekend at a boy-laden rock festival in a city three hours away, happy, thorn-scratched, sunburnt, exhausted, hungry, filthy, robbed of sleeping bag and backpack (including contents) but not purse(+more important contents such as phone, ID, money, etc), long hair wild and glamorous and full of twigs, a goofy smile on her face and glad to be home.

Relief might be the word.

Or gratitude. Thanks for watching out for my kid, universe! And for the dozens of stories you gave her!

As others have said, this is the deal. If you do a good job, they leave. If you do a really good job, they come back. Now and then, at least.

Her sister’s still in the States. She’ll come back too, eventually. I hope.

We have her cat.

Her early-rising cat.

It’s fence-painting season. It’s Gamma’s summer job this year. I keep forgetting to tell her the Tom Sawyer story, but it’s just as well, I can’t imagine any other kids doing as good a job as she does.

Meanwhile, I found myself in a cloud of mosquitos yesterday evening trying to get the pool set up, because my wife wants her pool set up, and also it would be nice if Gamma could jump in when she gets hot out painting the fence.

Definition: the period of time in which a person forgets how the hoses connecting the pool to the filter and pump are connected; equivalent to the time from the end of pool season one year to the beginning of the next pool season the following year.

Imagine me standing there in a tie-dyed T-shirt and old running shorts, slapping mosquitos, staring at the pump, then the pool, then the hose in my hand, trying to grok the nature of this set-up. Eventually I do, of course, I am actually not bad at this sort of stuff, but this is where the fun part begins.

The pool is almost full, just a few more inches to the inlet/outlet holes. I turn on the hose, do stuff around the house, write myself a postit note to turn off the hose before I leave, and go to work. At lunchtime I call Gamma and tell her to turn off the hose and ask her if anything is flooding or leaking.

Flooding no, leaking yes, she says.

When I get home in the evening, I change back into my pool assembly clothes and reality morphs into a version of the cake factory episode of I Love Lucy only instead of cakes moving ever faster down a conveyor belt, I find ever more new leaks. I replace a leaking hose with a new one. I tape up another hose, but I can’t find duct tape and the packing tape I use does not stop the leak and looks decidedly white trashy so I cut more fresh hose but before I can take off the old hose I have to drain the pool below the outlet, so I get a pump  into the pool and water the garden.

All of this is done, by the way, with Beta’s cat walking in a figure eight around and between my feet.

I also tighten every screw on the pump and filter that can be tightened, and that stops a lot of the leaks too. Ditto the screws on the leaking skimmer thing on the pool.

Yes, then the water is down and the new hose goes on and the pool gets filled back up and I’m done.

Kind of wet, and covered in mosquito bites, but done. As happy and relieved as a girl arriving home from a pop music festival.

Careers in science: Helioseismology

She is quiet.

Silent.

They drive down the road at night, the helioseismologist is tired and his daughter isn’t talking.

She just got off work after a long school day and she is 15, and the helioseismologist understands there are a million reasons why she might not be speaking, and a million more he cannot imagine, never having been a 15 year old girl himself, only fearing them or admiring them from afar.

That’s all you can do with a 15 year old girl, fear or admire her. Or love her, as in this case.

The helioseismologist drives through drizzle and night and freeway traffic, someone always going somewhere and he is thankful like you wouldn’t believe for this girl, and for her sister, and for their mother. He is thankful for his brother and sister, and for his mom and dad, and his uncles and aunts. The helioseismologist is thankful for his grandma, and for his grandpa he never met. And maybe his other grandparents he never met, and all his cousins. And other friends and relatives, past and future.

The helioseismologist is thankful for his painting gear and his music gear, for his writing pads and his yoga mat and his big, big bed. He is thankful writing was invented, and clothing and agriculture, poetry and the Internet.

The helioseismologist is thankful for other people, and the idea of artisinal anything, although he prefers the idea of doing simple things well – making soups or fruit salad, or bread.

The helioseismologist is thankful for meditation and mass production, the scientific method, flowers, sunrises, sunsets, meteorological phenomena in general, and something else he forgot. He is thankful for symbioism, mitosis and meiosis, virii, bacteria and interesting parasites.

He is thankful for singing and crossword puzzles, weight-lifting, and cross-country skis. He is thankful for massage, kissing and cutley.

The helioseismologist is thankful for stars and kangaroos and hedgehogs, normal hogs and olives both black and green, his garden in the back yard and the houses he would build some day if he had the money, the houses that would approximate his beautiful heart.

He is thankful for these and many other things, but he  would still like to talk to this girl, his daughter, the way they used to before they both got so tied and busy and whatever else.

The helioseismologist thinks about patting her on the leg; a love tap, his father called it.

The helioseismologist pats her on the leg.

World prematurity day

Yesterday, 17 November, was World Prematurity Day. I saw a discussion on Mefi where a list of the things that can go wrong was mentioned, and I remember how terrified I was when Beta was born seven or eight weeks early because I had seen the same list. So much increased risk for so many conditions. You’re just gobsmacked when you go in and see the tiny child in the incubator for the first time, hooked up to wires and tubes and the doctor gently explains what to expect and what to fear.

It gave my opinion of medical technology a real makeover. Until then I had seen it primarily as a way to expensively and questionably drag things out at the end of things, but it made a real convert out of me.

I have written about this here before, so I won’t go into great detail, but it is important to me to point out, in case some frightened young parent stumbles across this by chance some day, that while all of those risks are real, things can also go very, very right. Both of my daughters were born prematurely, and they are both healthy, brilliant, original, wonderful, funny and beautiful, beyond all hope and expectation, and I am thankful for them daily. So have hope. May you be as fortunate and lucky as I was.

Thanksgiving 2010

So much to be thankful for.

We had enough food for everyone this year. Every year we worry there won’t be enough, and there’s always too much. The turkey, although smaller than usual, and slightly injured in one spot from trying to escape through a fence (organic), was plenty big and turned out well. I thought the apple pie could have been a little juicier, but it was pretty good. The pumpkin pie looked a little funny but tasted good. Alpha’s corn soup was delicious, as was everything else. Her biscuits were especially fluffy this year. None of the guests got into a fight. The barfing cat barfed twice, but no one noticed. It was nice seeing everyone. I generally do better with smaller groups, though. More than two people and it gets hard for me to follow conversations, and I’m a lousy host repartee-wise, but you can’t have everything. We fired up the theremin and the singing saw after dinner and half of us spent some time jamming, including my cello teacher Alena, and Ute, and her friend Rich, and his daughter Megan, an 11-year old thereminist who also bakes awesome cookies.

Here is a recording Ute made of Megan on the theremin, accompanied by me on the saw:

migmegansawtheremin