I have been coming to Oaxaca for 16 years now. I come for weeks or even months at a time, and yet I am so far unable to master the language. In spite of all the time I’ve spent going to dinner, riding in taxis, and attempting to decipher the labels in the galleries and museums. Despite months of Spanish lessons at home, I speak like a stunted toddler: in monosyllables, two words at a time. I am unable to coherently express so much as, “I came from Seattle yesterday.”
Here I have no tenses but the present. I can say “I going out now,” but cannot manage “I arrived on Tuesday,” or, “I went to the Toledo museum this morning,” or, “I would like to ride the horses tomorrow”.
In Mexico I have few futures. I can manage a sort of “further tense” using the present tense of ir (to go) and an infinitive — loosely “I am going to” [do this thing]. Voy a scriber mañana. I am going to write tomorrow. Continue reading
There are things in the woods.
One of a Pair of Coyotes That Call Our Woods Home
Paying attention is one of the fundamental tasks of being human being. Paying attention to what’s around us is a survival skill. Paying attention keeps us from being eaten by lions, helps us to find nuts and berries, and keeps track of our mates. But it is more, it is also one of the ways in which we indicate what things are important to us. It signals what we value and what we feel responsible for, even as paying attention changes our relationship with those things.
Lately I’ve been thinking about a particularly local sort of paying attention. The attention that I focus on the bit of the Earth that I feel particularly responsible for, the small ground of 20 acres of forest and pasture, the house and the business that make up Black Dog Farm. On any day there are sheep to feed and water, eggs to collect from under broody hens, dogs to be exercised and trained. Meals must be prepared, jobs attended to, and the buildings maintained. All of these things and more must be carefully and mindfully attended to lest a sick sheep or a client’s deadline escape our notice. Continue reading
Recently I was looking for this picture of an artfully rusted steam engine that I took during a cross-country trip in 2009.
Portion of the Engines for the Wake Robin.
Rather than dig through the many thousands of photographs on the back-up server, I searched through the series of blog entries titled It’s a Big Dam Country that I wrote while on that road trip. When I began that trip I was running very hard, and very fast, and very much away. I was running from myself and my itching demons. I was running on professional advice. I was making no progress while standing in the middle of the smoking crater that I had made of my life. My therapist — against all the rules of therapy — actually suggested that I go ahead and run for a while, to see what it felt like to move again. So I did. I packed up my little blue car with a handful of road snacks, my special pillow, and every scrap of camera gear that I owned, then set out on the finest fool’s errand I could conjure: To attend the graduation party of my oldest niece two weeks hence in the city of Pittsburgh and along the way to take as many pictures of as many dams as I could find. Continue reading
… is an old computer term for removing all of the software from the hardware and starting over again. Back when we could rm ‑rf we would occasionally find that a system had got itself into a non-recoverable state and need to be rebuilt from the ground up in order to function again. Or on a happier note when a project finished we often wiped the software off of the hardware and repurposed it for the next project.
While systems have become much more resilient than they used to be, and rm ‑rf is rarely available to the average user, a compete wipe down of the buggy system using rm ‑rf’s newer relative, reset to factory settings, is still the only solution to certain problems. My iPhone got into one of those states recently. Slow to load apps and data for several weeks it finally reached the point of being unable to load the App Store for updates.
Google has as many solutions for these sorts of problems as there are ways of creating them. Everything from killing the running apps to fully erasing the phone’s memory and rebuilding it from “like new.” It’s a fraught process. There is a frisson of dread and hope. You will definitely start with the simplest least destructive options but there’s always the question: What if you have to go all the way?
I found and tried a number of folk remedies. Kill all the running apps and then restart the phone. Tap any button at the bottom of the App Store app 10 times to clear the cache — that worked for about 10 minutes. Remove all of your network settings and reboot your WAP — okay so the WAP was little wedged, etc. In the end none of these worked. The last non destructive option was a full backup and restore. And easy but lengthy process that could leave the phone in exactly the same barely functioning state that I had started in. An hour and half later that’s exactly what happened.
So there I was — faced with the option of last resort. The nuke and pave. Leaving me with a blank phone without a single bit of the personality that I’d given it over the last two years. That at once wonderful and frightening prospect of a new start. There is dread. It’s a colossal hassle. You lose everything. Every setting, every App, every bit of data. Your contacts, your text messages, your fitness band data, your photos of the dog acting idiotic. All of it. It’s like losing your phone only without the cost of new hardware. A total PITA.
And yet, and yet. It is also an exciting prospect. The new, virgin terrain. All of the miscellaneous cruft and crap and useless apps and passwords for wi-fi points in airports you’ll never visit again, and oopsie pictures of your feet are gone. You get to start again with a simpler, cleaner, less overwhelming device. You will also spend the next week adding back the apps, passwords, and data that it turns out you were using but had forgotten about. You will lose all of your deeply ingrained kinetic memory, the automatic finger presses and unthinking scrolling though the pages to reach the thing that you need.
Still.. new terrain. As an adult how often do you get enter new terrain for such a small price? Sure you can change jobs, change houses, change spouses, all of which take up a lot more than a lazy Sunday afternoon babysitting a hardware reset and a couple of hours of software updates and restoring data and passwords. And so I did it. Settings -> General -> Reset -> Reset All Settings and pressed the many pop-up buttons that confirmed that I did indeed intend to remake my phone into a pristine version of its now non-functioning self.
We all love the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Even if it’s only in terms of little bit of pristine electronic wilderness that we can remake to suit our now two years older and wiser self. New phone wallpaper, a clean slate of wi-fi settings, and some nifty new apps. — Even if you end up reimporting all of the depressing fitness band data.
At certain points in every girl’s life gender politics force choices between the male world and the female world. Between girlfriends and guy friends. Between the sometimes fickle loyalty of female friends and the weirdly nonchalant allegiance of male friends.
I long ago opted for the male world. Frankly, men are more fun. They have better adventures and cooler toys and they like pretty girls who are their friends in a simple, pleasant way.
Being the pretty girl in the room among a bunch of guys who are also your buddies is, no joke, one of the best feelings in the world. Coming into a room and knowing that you’re going to make people laugh and have a good time and be happy is a kick. Make no mistake, this dynamic is all about attention — the attention that a pretty girl can trade with most men and some women. Continue reading