life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


three vignettes

courtesy of Jeff |

I've had thoughts recently -- I really have. You can't know them yet, though. They'll be appearing as a column in the March issue of Idaho Magazine. Meanwhile, here are three vignettes from early 2012.

* * *

I arrived at the train station 15 minutes early for my first commute of the new year. I'm not sure how that happened. As I stood, back against the wall, I first glanced down at my ripped shoe, then began to pan slowly from the bystanders all the way to a point far down the empty tracks.

For one of the first times in my entire life, I wore earbuds in public. As a rule, I never do that. For one thing, it's always seemed to me a little rude to shut the entire world out so forcefully, even as the rest of my generation has been doing it ad nauseam for years. Mostly, though, I'm strangely bothered by the thought of missing whatever natural sensory experiences are occurring around me.

But this day it was earbuds, because I had two new Coldplay albums and I hadn't yet had the opportunity to really take them in -- something I would normally have done in the car. And here I was, leaning back against the wall, combining art and life, and feeling the melancholy, rhythmic waves transform my ripped shoe and the train station into something beautiful. "Warning Sign" seemed to have been written specifically for wall-leaning and gazing down the tracks.

I'm still uneasy about musicians explaining my surroundings to me, no matter how meaningful their conclusions. But imposing a little beauty on the mundane moments doesn't seem too sinister. I'm about 10 years late, but I think I understand my own generation a little better now.

* * *

Last week, I planted a mini bonsai tree in the cold windowsill in my office. I've always liked those. Growing a plant from the seed up appears to be quite the delicate process, though, and I don't have much faith in this, my first attempt. However, regardless of whether it thrives or dies or never even opens, it seems like this little tree will provide a convenient metaphor for my overall experience in this job, whatever that turns out to be. My legacy in stifling/fertile world of higher ed administration sure was formative, as I discovered it truly was possible/impossible for my real potential to blossom in such an environment.

You're welcome, future second-rate biographers.

* * *

Growing up, I never had a clear idea of what I wanted in a future spouse, other than the list of obvious, vague attributes most people want. At some point, though, I developed a boiler-plate answer for whenever the subject would arise. "I want a girl who will go with me to a hockey game one night, and to an opera the next," I said. It seemed the best way to illustrate the importance of well-roundedness and general lust for life.

Tomorrow night, Sarah and I will be watching the Sharks play Ottawa at HP Pavilion, and on Saturday, we're going to see the new production of West Side Story. We surprised each other with tickets for Christmas. West Side Story isn't the opera, but the juxtaposition still seems significant.

Last Thursday, I added something to the list of ideal wife attributes. Sarah was preparing lunch on a low table when Adam made an inexplicable mad dash from across the room straight to the boiling water. Sarah jerked it away and the water cascaded over her arm, and a little on her pregnant belly. She sustained massive second-degree burns from her elbow to her wrist. She's been in intense pain, and her arm has looked like something from a zombie movie ever since. It will heal entirely, but there will be a permanent stain as a mark of her selflessness. Adam would have had it much worse. The water could have landed anywhere on his body and he would have had irreparable, disfiguring scars for life. Instead, her instinct kicked in, and he didn't sustain a single burn. Sarah saved my boy's life. I want a wife like that.