Sunday, February 20, 2011


Today marks a big anniversary for a friend of mine.  In 2001, she was a physics teacher at a private school, teaching equestrian lessons as part of her contract.  She has always been an accomplished rider.  She is one of the smartest and most motivated people I have ever met.

She was kicked in the face by a horse, suffering massive trauma to her jaw, face, eyes, nose, and brain.  For the longest time, her eyes didn't work and for the first six months after the accident she breathed through her mouth.  I can know this intellectually and I can tell it to you, but there is no imagination big enough to fully understand. She lived, lucky for me, because even though our contact is infrequent, she is a touchstone, a link to my past and a good friend. If she was not who she is, I would not be who I am. In 2005, we met for a bite to eat in Dayton, Washington, where we graduated high school together.  She ordered nachos, because she had recently had bone growth enough to allow to eat solid foods - four years after the accident.  She was already back to riding, a feat of mental fortitude that I probably would have foregone, but such is her tenacity and love of riding that she braved her own fears.

Today is ten years.  Ten years of healing, of love and lonliness, of reliance on friends and family, of teaching and learning.  Ten years of resilience.  She earned her master's degree and also got married to another teacher.  Her brain is still healing and her body is still getting used to the idea that things are not what they used to be.  And this year, she swears she will stop thinking that this anniversary is important.

It is probable that I will never know that physical trauma.  I will probably never know what it's like to suffer years of reconstructive surgeries, only to have some succeed and some fail or to depend on a blender for my nutrition.  I will probably not know what it's like to lose a portion of my life to a freak accident, or deal with the years of recovery afterwards, suffering the added humiliation of ignorant people expecting her to just get over it after only a few years.  She was angry.  She is still angry and she has a right to be.

When we met up in our hometown that night, she asked me "Do I look different than I used to?", because people had told her that she looked just the same as she did before.  "Yes, you do look different.  You look like you, and I would know you anywhere."  It's true; she looked slightly different.  Not so different that you'd mistake her for someone else.  Same beautiful young woman, with the same hearty spirit born in the cradle of the Blue Mountains.  Same warm eyes. A bit more cautious, but still.

Why would we want to look the same? It is a good question.  As the years have gone on in my life, my physical appearance has changed too.  People from my hometown don't know me anymore, unless I introduce myself.  I am older, I am wiser and I have suffered my own traumas- some physical, some psychic.  They play across my face, in the sharpness of my look, in my countenance.  It is also natural.  I was a pretty girl once; now I am different and I am glad.

There was nothing wrong with me then and there is nothing wrong with me now.  I wish to God or the universe that this had not happened to my friend.  She is kind and quiet and fun, with a rebel living inside her.  Wherever she is tonight, out in California amongst those who seem to value only physical beauty, I hope she knows how much she inspires me and how I could never carry such a thing off with as much grace as she has shown.  I hope she is gentle with herself because the body may heal, but the spirit has to heal too, and some scars take more time.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I'm doing this 30 day challenge on Facebook.  Silly, really, but every day you put up different photos and comment on them.  Day one is a photo of yourself.  Another day was a picture of something you love, then something you hate and so on.  I'm enjoying it, and am exploring the interaction of image and word to make a point.  You get the idea.  I don't like to skip ahead. I don't want too much time to overthink these things, so I wake up in the morning and resolve to have the picture plus some text by bedtime.

I had a hard time with today's prompt: A picture of someone who inspires you.
I thought about it all day.  Who inspires me? Who inspires me the most? Who 'deserves' to have a picture and some sort of mention of how awesome they are? I don't know.  I wasn't really feeling inspired and really, on Valentine's day, I just want to go to bed and wait for tomorrow.  But I had to pick someone and some image. I wrestled with it and decided that there are just too many people who love and care for me and who inspire me and give me some sort of reason to get up in the morning. So here it is:

Day 16 - A picture of someone who inspires you.

This is a picture of you.
Who are you?
You are my friend.  You are my student and also my teacher.  You asked me for help the other day and feeling like I could make a difference made all the difference for me.  You were once the most important person in my life.  When everything went wrong, you looked me in the eye and said it would be alright, that I could do this.  You believe in me.  You turned in your essay late because the lights were turned off. You inspire me and make me want to make the world a better place for future generations.  You make me want to be a better person.  You make me embarrassed of my faults.  You make me smile when darkness creeps past my brow.  You once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and I believe you. You send me postcards.  When you ignore me, it hurts.  You have been in recovery for a long time and it suits you.  You brought your children over to make peace signs.  You were deployed to Afghanistan and came home in one piece.  You are my favorite cousin. You are my sister.  You are my niece who has to walk a rough road alone.  I wish to God I could help.  You offered me a place to stay.  You honked at me in the parking lot.  You taught me how to ride a scooter. You make me want to have children.  You never judge me for not being able to sing.  You are my world.

Honestly, I just don't know what I would do without you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day...Again

Every year I get cranky about Valentine's Day.  Last year was not so bad- good relationship and an evening spent playing games with friends.  I've never been one to celebrate a day devoted to selling cards, candy, gifts and strawberry-flavored condoms in an effort to reduce the spread of STD's.

This year seems somewhat disheartening.  It could be because of the large movements in my life- writing my dissertation and preparing  for not being a student anymore, finding a permanent job and a place to live- but it's difficult for me on a regular day to kow-tow to romantic love, let alone to a day devoted to reaffirming that I am indeed, lovable.  I don't think there will be flowers or surprise gifts.

Instead of this mental masturbation and head games aimed at trying to see if one can somehow finagle a declaration of affection from someone who may or may not be into it, let's instead consider a greater love, that of one human to another; a love that does not expect anything in return but is its own reward.  Let's consider holding hands with our neighbors, our enemies and even people we know and don't like that well in an effort to just all get along for a few moments.

Me, I plan to look outside of my own selfishness for a few minutes tomorrow and do something for someone else.  I'm not sure what form that will take and if I did, I wouldn't tell.  If we consider Dr. King's idea that all of our destinies are intertwined, then let's just say that in performing any act of kindness, I really am helping myself.

Wait... I bet it works both ways.  Hmm.  If I eat chocolate, then I can be happy, and if I am happy, then it will make others happy...

Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Paulo Revisited

In December, 2010, I visited the Seattle Museum of Art.  There was a special exhibition of Pablo Picasso's works.  His cubism, African inspired period, classicism and surrealistic phases, the women he loved and portrayed and the surprising sculptures, and drawings all showed a depth and breadth of a man who lived his life translating creativity into tangible , touchable, poignant and evocative art.

One painting in particular caught my eye and I stood and stared for awhile.  A portrait of his young son, Paulo, hung amongst others, waiting for me to discover it.  In it, Paulo is dressed as a harlequin and is portrayed just as one would view him in real life.  His face and hair are photo-perfect, with an expression not of joy or loving or youthful exuberance, but what I interpret to be patience.

Picasso does not fill in all of the details for the viewer.  Paulo's feet and the ruffle around his neck are merely penciled in, as is the background of the painting and the rest of the chair.

As I begin my dissertation, I will keep this in mind.  An authethnography is much like this painting.  Perhaps not a virtuoso, but a framework from which to work.  I will give best detail of the important and telling parts of the picture, but the reader must fill in the spaces with their own interpretation.  And we, like Paulo, must be patient and allow the viewer to come to their own conclusions.  It is perhaps best this way.  My work, this dissertation, is but one piece of the greater body of my research, creative writing, and attempt to make sense of the world around me.