Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My other third

My partner returned on Sunday, much to the joy of both Epsilon and myself. I think we were all nervous about how the reunion would go, but Epsilon seems to be very happy to have his father around and in his space again, in spite of previously voiced uncertainty. We are taking some time off to spend with each other now.

Once this euphoria wears off, and we go back to the routine of things, I'll have stories of cultural exchange and dissonance from my partner's experiences abroad to share.

For now: YIPEEEEE!!!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Knowing how way leads onto way

I doubted if I should ever come back... (Frost)

I remember interviewing at a graduate program the day after a ground breaking paper came out. Not yet a grad student, I found the excitement at the group meeting immediately tantalizing, particularly the fact that there were tools being applied in this paper that had been developed for a different subfield, that were completely unknown to this one. One of the post docs looked over at me and said that I was probably watching a world wide phenomenon.

He was exaggerating the impact of the paper, not on the scientific community, but on the world at large. I didn't get accepted into that program, and worked instead on a different project involving, if not equally ground breaking techniques, at least major results by equally important scientist. Over the years, I've looked back at that meeting, and that grad program and wished that I'd had the opportunity to study there, if, for nothing else, the buzz I felt that day.

Last week, I stumbled on an interesting paper slightly off my beaten path. Then I found out that one of the grad students in our group is interested in similar material. We met, admitted our confusion, and started poking around for better expository works on the subject matter. The first item on my google search? An expository paper based on a lecture series given on the material in and surround the paper that caused all that excitement 8 years ago.

Sometimes, way lead's onto way quite nicely.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Camping trip

Spring break found my mother, Epsilon and I taking advantage of our ability to leave in the middle of the week to go camping. As Epsilon napped, my mother and I discussed how my father was becoming more adventurous these last few years, and why he never wanted to take family trips like this when we were growing up. My father has his reasons for not liking to camp, though my mother and I disagree on what they may be.

After an afternoon of playing in the rocks, walking and playing hide and seek, we gather around a fire and wait for the stars to come out. I tell Epsilon the story of Prometheus, discuss why there is no moon tonight and why Epsilon need not worry about falling back to earth should he visit the stars.

My mother starts singing. Epsilon curls up in my lap and I realize the rock I'm sitting on doubles as a rocking chair. My mind wanders to a childhood where my father and mother take turns singing songs from their childhood while my brother and I roast marshmallows in the woods. We sing along to our favourite songs. I imagine having the courage to bring these foreign camp fire songs to fire circles in college. Epsilon's hand turns my face to meet his. He requests a song. My mother and I take up the tune. Within a line, Epsilon joins in with a close approximation of the words. Our little trio repeats the verses to the hills.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To mark another passing.

My ex girlfriend's brother just committed suicide. What a bizarre sentence. Maybe I'll scribble it down somewhere for the start of a poem once I've unpacked my grief.

My ex girlfriend's brother just committed suicide. I didn't know him well. In fact, we met only once on an ill fated visit to her parent's house while we were both in a contentious coming out process. Nor do I really keep in touch with my ex very much. With nearly a continent and 13 years between us, good intentions and warm feelings are not enough to keep our lives from drifting apart. So while I am sad, my feelings  are not from any direct connection to any of the parties directly involved.

Rather I feel like I have passed through a spectre I thought myself long rid of. As someone who lives with depression, who built a support group out of similarly suffering friends, who went to an undergraduate institution with a high suicide rate, I relate too well with the person who does not see the point of tomorrow.

I have sat with a friend on his ex girlfriend's grave, on the anniversary of her death. He pats the grass, says his goodbyes. The entire ritual is necessary, but somehow anticlimactic due to his inability to fully express his love and his anger. Driving back to town, he explains his irrational anger at the windows that open on high rises. ... We both remember the nights, years prior, when I had called him, full of self destruction; the nights he took me away for a few hours in his car, and sat with me on my bed until I fell asleep. Those midnight drives lie heavy in car, heading back to the city. We both know that, but for fortune, he could have also done this for me.

This experience does not help me find words to comfort my ex girlfriend. Maybe, if we lived closer, I could bring over a few board games and Xena reruns, and we could reminisce, or not, as she felt she needs to do. But we don't.

I remember walking along a riverbank during spring break with my room mate. The trees were in bloom; pink and white petals fluttered to the ground. A friend of hers had killed herself a month prior. My room mate looked up at the trees and said "If she'd just waited, she could have had this. If you end your life at a low, you never get to experience the good things that will come after." There is wisdom in those words, both for those considering death, and those they leave behind. I just wish I could filter it and pass it on.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bread and Roses

Today is International Women's Day. A day for "Take back the night" marches on college campuses across the US. This day always reminds me of my time with the women's movement when I lived abroad. Last month saw the passing of a friend and a leader of the movement there. She lived a long accomplished life, and had been ailing for several years. Her death is not unexpected. In fact, each of the last several times I went back to that country, I made it a point to see her. We both agreed that each visit was an unexpected gift given to both of us. She had a chance to meet my partner and Epsilon. For this I am very grateful.

This post will not be a tribute to her. My words cannot do her life justice. Instead, I mark this, my first International Women's Day without her with a few things that I think she would have enjoyed.

I start in song. ... Because you can't beat the Joan Baez/Mimi Farina combination for some things:

While you are listening, for your skimming pleasure, the history of this song in the Lawrence Textile Worker's Strike. While this happened after initial celebrations of a women's day of any sort had started in the US or world wide, its a historical touch point for the day, and what it means.

As with many women of her generation, my friend was educated as an afterthought. She wasn't enrolled in school until she was 7, and had to fight to go to college out of state. As an adult she was an influential columnist for a major newspaper. I think she would have been amused the following Peggy Seeger song.

I cannot think of today without dwelling on the contraception/abortion chaos of this election cycle. However, given my friend's generation and location, the thought of explaining the nuances of the "debate" to her is beyond me. However, if I step back from the details of it all, here's a message she would understand. (Source.)

Finally, and on a completely different note, the last time I saw her, as we were leaving, she commented on how much she would have loved to once experience leaves turning color, New England style. (Source: lokidude99)

You will be missed.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Sometimes the morbid part of my imagination takes over and proposes a situation in which I find myself "widowed" as it were. These scenarios are in general based, to greater or lesser degree on the lives we lead at the moment. The less mundane ways in which I imagine my partner dying include: he gets on a train where a swarm of killer bees gets loose and kills a good chunk of the passengers, he is caught on the wrong side of some protest or another*, he catches malaria and refuse to go to a doctor, he gets on a speeding bus to visit me on a particularly bad wintry night.

Yesterday's encounter with my morbid muser involved something happening to my partner's plane en route home at the end of the month. My mental eye skipped over the details of the immediate aftermath, which is where it usually likes to dwell, to next October, where it found me applying for jobs again, as planned, but to public high schools and a few progressive organizations in Grad School City. When I asked myself what I'm doing, I replied with surprising calm "The academic game is over. It was fun. It's time to settle down for the sake of Epsilon."

I wonder what this says about me.

* This is the only one that is completely a figment of my imagination. The other situations are minor variations of events that have actually happened. 

Friday, March 2, 2012


I still have no words to deal with this properly. So I'll post other people's pictures instead.

This one made me close my legs and search of an asprin.

from here.

This one's a bit lighter, but I can't find the original source for it now.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eggmus: Marketing

If it weren't for child labor laws, I might consider passing around Epsilon's CV to marketing departments. Here are a few gems:

The neighborhood coffee shop with communal toys for kids: Sweet Milk and Trains

My bookmark light: Shadow Maker

I'm biased but this is pretty good.

The train themed advent calendar: Chocolate Train Book

Maybe not.