Pegasus Fell to Plowing

“And folding his wings, Pegasus bent his neck to the yolk and fell to plowing.” — Louisa May Alcott, ‘By the River: A Legend of the Asset’, 1875

 

Every horse person has their pegasus, some are lucky enough to encounter him multiple times. Really, every horse has a little bit of pegasus in them–and I briefly wrote about some of the many significant horses in my life here, but today I intend to tell you the story of my Pegasus (I’ve had this piece of writing prepared for a while due to a brief comment thread with mainepaperpusher, after she told a horse story and suggested I should as well).

My Pegasus, seemed like a giant to me at twelve years old. He stood 15.2 hands high and on the day of our first meeting, both of us having lived 12 years and some unknown number of days, Pegasus plodded with a lowered head, away from a group of weanlings and youngsters. He was sleepy and slow but to a horse-crazed youth he was everything! And just like that I was sold and he was bought.

For nearly a month Pegasus plodded for me, reluctantly trotting if one could offer enough encouragement. On the thirtieth day everything changed. I got a call saying Pegasus had fought the herd leader and though he was no worse for wear the herd leader was (slightly). Pegasus had remembered his wings.

For months after that I found myself chin between his ears, butt behind the saddle, and saddle horn beneath the ribcage, until I groaned and growled at the idea of getting on Pegasus. He took charge of the herd, of the pastures, and of rides and out-horsed me by leaps and bounds. Though never malicious, Pegasus revealed himself to be athletic and independent minded, with plenty of muscle to back him up. He embarrassed 4H leaders and clinicians alike.

So, upon seeing I was out-horsed, my dad offered me an out. A cowboy friend was willing to take Pegasus off my hands for a while and work with him. I was defeated. Pegasus rode off on the trailer the next week when Cowboy travelled through on his way home from the rodeo circuit.

And Cowboy loved Pegasus; he had never met a horse quite so cow-y (a term that means the horse can anticipate a cow and works them almost without instruction) and smart. He could sell Pegasus for twice our money or more likely. Again I was asked, should he look for a buyer? There was a catch though, if Pegasus was sold I may never own a horse again, so long as I required my parents money to subsidize it.

I agreed.

Pegasus had other thoughts.

He refused to perform a basic (I mean first year of elementary school in the horse world) task required for sale, despite months of competent riding. Cowboy couldn’t make him.

So, Pegasus was returned to me. For two years, we fought with one another–as my riding became more competent, Pegasus’s tricks became more elaborate. He bolted, he bucked, he turned on a dime, he stopped harder than a plane hitting a mountain. Through it all I gritted my teeth and rode, despite derision from my 4H group, despite bruises and headaches, despite grass stains and dirt baths (pretty sure I was concussed a couple times). Until I couldn’t remember why I ever wanted a horse.

At this point I could jump off from a full speed gallop, sit through a minute of bucking as though I was on a rocking chair, ride through a turn so hard my inside foot was touching the ground, at one point I even did a flying mount when Pegasus refused to stop after I jumped off the first time… and then I jumped off again and made him stop. Pegasus just found new gears, new buttons to push, new twists to make with his body. He did learn to do the thing Cowboy couldn’t get him to do and much more–he would have been an accomplished riding horse if he had a tad (or you know, a lot) less attitude.

One spring, I lead my horse into a clinic lead by a dressage instructor, tacked up in all western gear, to the eye rolls of my 4H instructors. While Pegasus had many faults ground manners wasn’t one of them, so on initial inspection he appeared gorgeous. The instructors eyes lingered on him and I had to give Pegasus one thing–physically, he was flashy: well muscled and well conformed, with a strawberry roan coat, golden legs, and a multicoloured mane and tail, Pegasus looked like a Ferrari (or Lamborghini or whatever car you think is the hottest) of a horse. Then the ride began and while the other horses moved about at moderate, put together paces Pegasus flew about the arena, twisting and turning, bending, and using 100 different speeds on each trip around.

The instructor always gave us a slightly different task compared to the rest of the group. By the end of the lesson I was ready to scream. All these push button horses got to do everything and here I was with demon-horse getting given different tasks because we were, as a team, completely incompetent, despite years, YEARS of practice. Then the instructor came over and said, “He’s amazing!” I couldn’t believe it–she loved Pegasus, everything about him. His athleticism, his intelligence, his movement, his conformation, his crazy. She asked us to come early next time, and we did.

We worked that weekend until sweat streamed off the midline of Pegasus’s belly like a tropical rainstorm and my muscles whimpered in submission, and the instructor beamed at us and praised us. Us. As a team.

I took a summer job that year which required 5 hours of riding per day and then rode in my free time as well 6 days per week. By the end of the summer Pegasus’s wings spread at the sight of me–you could see it, his ears found my voice before I entered the pasture and he moved towards me excitedly when I walked to the barn, he was all excitement for the next adventure. We swam across lakes, we rode without bridle or saddle, we jumped and spun, we chased cattle, and galloped down empty roads, until I was Pegasus and Pegasus was me.

We still had our bad days, we still worked hard and failed, but we worked together without fail and when I was frustrated so was Pegasus–because we knew each other wanted things to go a certain way and just couldn’t communicate clearly sometimes.

The next fall, back in 4H, the instructors asked if I had bought a new horse. We placed in every gymkhana event (except keyhole because flour is scary and musical matts because when I jumped off he would stop and go backwards not forwards–a throw back to an early career as a tie down and team roping horse), meanwhile the public turned up to watch Pegasus buck in the mandatory flat classes (I still can’t figure out how he knew the difference between the show class and the practice ring). They whistled and cheered as I rode the buck out across the arena with my stirrups flying about and rolling my eyes.

I set up a chair in Pegasus’s stall and read books while he ate, I would lay down on his back and watch other events while he slept standing up (until I got in trouble, because what if something surprises him–yeah, they didn’t believe me when I said I would land on my feet), I would load three other people onto his back and we would cart across the exhibition grounds until we got in trouble for having four people on a horse bareback (apparently it’s “dangerous”), I would hang off his neck and sit on his haunches and stand on top of him, I would pretend I was a corpse and get him to trot around with me flopped over his neck or his hips, I would ride side saddle with my leg wrapped around the saddle horn, I would use his forelegs as a backrest, and snuggle with him when he was laying around. Pegasus even learned to bow.

Beyond the few shows and clinics we attended though, Pegasus was one of my best friends: we would take walks through the city to go get his dental work done while we were in for a clinic, we spent hours together every day doing one stupid thing or another, we rode by the light of the moon without any tack, and he snuggled with me when I was upset. Old cowboys would come up and complement Pegasus or just look over and give us a smile and a wink, I think they could see something immaterial in how we interacted–maybe once they had had their own pegasus. Other cowboys would ask if he was for sale after seeing him stare down a cow or gallop through a pattern and when I said they couldn’t afford him would just nod and smile. People would look on terrified as we pulled out any number of stunts, pelting about like hell on wheels.

Pegasus and I flew together everyday for two more years, he passed abruptly the day before my seventeenth birthday–three days before his own birthday. I still can’t help missing the feeling though. Five years together was too short.

I am so thankful that my Pegasus never fell to plowing but rather, taught me to fly.

 

xx.

 

P.S. Sorry for another extended absence, I’m in the middle of finals and there was recently an event locally that really forced me sit back and think and let those feelings I normally ignore exist a little more openly for a while. Nothing that directly affected me but definitely a reminder that we should all hold those we love close while we can. Thanks if you’ve read this far! Be well.

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Coffee Shop Confessions

My headphones are rarely on. I know, they make me look like a safe person to sit near when you want to talk with your friend about your secrets. Large, fluffy, and clearly noise cancelling with a long cord trailing off to my backpack or computer, my headphones say, “don’t worry, I couldn’t hear you if I tried”. To be honest, when not turned on they do still muffle people, but your conversation is clear enough when I am at the next table over. Further honesty though? While I do occasionally enjoy listening in to a conversation, most people have really boring ones that aren’t worth the effort to follow. Also, I never tell anyone about the conversations I do listen too—I mean really, who would I tell?

When I appear to be staring out the window or blankly looking at the back wall I am catching a glimpse of you. Sometimes I do this on purpose, other times it just happens. Most people have fairly generic outward appearances and, with a window behind them and my glasses off, are fairly indistinct, provided they are at a bit of a distance to me. If I am doing it on purpose it’s probably because you have a unique or interesting appearance and frankly, its as close to complementing a stranger as I get most days. It has nothing to do with me judging you, it has to do with me appreciating you in a non-creepy way (with headphones on and out of the corner of my eye).

I finished my drink three hours ago and no I’m not moving. I’m not trying to be rude but I need a change of pace from studying in my apartment and I try to spend 5$ or so per hour I plan to spend here (sort of like an occupancy rate and still cheaper than most activities). Please don’t think I’m bumming around, I’m just an introvert with not a lot of friends places to crash at when I get tired of mine (plus, friendly people are distracting). Don’t expect movement any time soon.

Yes, I see your ticks, it’s okay. I have them too. The way you twist your hair while you’re on your phone, the way you are looking at your watch while your friend walks you through every moment you’ve been apart, that little catch in your laugh. No judgement here, it’s just interesting to see different people have different little things.

I see you being an ass to the barista. I mean, this one is rare, but I see you and despite the previous point, I judge you. And then I judge myself for judging you and remind myself that everybody has a bad day, and that I should make a point of trying not to take my bad days out on others. Still, just don’t.

I’m not a writer. I know, I am sitting in the quintessential writers cafe, tapping away, or highlighting, or making notes, but no, I’m not that person—sometimes I dream you are though. Don’t wreck it, k?

Each and everyone of you is sort of my favourite person right now. Because you know about my favourite independent coffee shop, and seem to appreciate it. You seem cool, from the outside looking in. I’m just loving being in your presence for this brief moment and I hope you have a good life, and know you are loved (in a totally non-creepy way, again…). But I also wish you would leave… because this is clearly my coffee shop and I like it in its usual, quiet pace okay?

 

xx.

The Ultra-Ultra Marathon

So, life update/doggy ultra marathon experience story.

One of the more exciting things I’ve done this past month is spending time (four days) helping vets at a sled dog race. Day one was vetting the teams before the race and days two through four where spent on the race track at various check points.

It was amazing fun, resulted in utter exhaustion, and solidified my love for working dogs of all sorts. The dogs that work in this sport are distance athletes of the highest calibre. They are also team athletes with unparalleled drive to run. Honestly, these dogs blew me away day in and day out–from the energy they brought to the first day to their continued tenacity over hundreds of miles of hard terrain, in frigid temperatures.

I was tagging along to the checkpoints and standing out in the cold for hours at a time and it tired me out! These dogs were racing through it. I honestly can’t say enough about these dogs. Although some of them were a bit timid, they were all easy to handle, compliant patients even when we interrupted their sleep, or got them up from their comfy bedding to check them. They enjoyed people but during the race were focused on work, eating (almost 10 000 Calories/day!), and sleeping more than socializing with the vets.

And the mushers! The mushers, bundled up in massive parkas, going through the night with less sleep than their dogs, were insane!

I think what impressed me the most was how conscientious the mushers were, of their dogs and of the vets. Dogs always got fed and bedded first (which is expected) but beyond that, before the musher slept, dogs got massages, blankets, booties taken off, and checked. Even at non-mandatory check points basically every team would have a few dogs checked by the vets based on how the musher felt they were doing.

As a vet student I stood taking notes, checking hydration statuses, making sure dogs were getting the medications they needed if they were dropped, and whatever other miscellaneous things needed doing. All the while I had a front row seat to the vet-musher interactions. The mushers listened carefully and patiently to the vets comments, they dropped dogs without being asked, and they got dogs rechecked before they left checkpoints.

The partnership between the dogs and mushers and how early mushers could recognize a dog that wasn’t having a good time was far and away past what you see with most pets. Their was no ignoring a minor stiffness, or breezing past a sore paw pad–these things were noticed and treated appropriately. If a dog wasn’t pulling in the harness and was just drifting along with the others it was noted and checked and if it didn’t improve with a few hours rest it was left with the vet or the handler (depending on the checkpoint), treated, and allowed to recover.

Honestly, the only sport that might compare (from the human end of things) would be ultra marathoning–but they aren’t carrying weight while they do it, and you would have to do 5 one hundred mile ultra marathons in a row to compare. Extreme athleticism is the name of the game!

Overall, this experience was amazing–I believe my previous story, Howl, expressed the emotion of being there better than this, if I do say so myself. So feel free to swing over to that post to “feel” this more.

 

xx.

Daylight

Hey guys, yet again I have dropped off the map for an extended period of time! I have been on some adventures and also simply been uninspired (and antisocial). I’ll expand on things over the next couple of weeks–look for posts on Mondays and Fridays. Mondays I’ll try to catch you guys up on my activities and thoughts and Fridays I’ll probably post something with a creative writing bent. Don’t count on the schedule being followed exactly but for the rest of the month I’ll be attempting it! Hopefully, the lengthening daylight will wake me up a little and inspire me to write more.

Back to the Beginning

Happy New Year!

Beginning again is always so… well, it just sort of always is, so we’re going to be intentionally optimistic about it! “But it’s already the tenth,” you protest. Yes, well… I like to let things settle and decide whether they are real before I comment, okay? You never know when we’ll all be surprised by the end of the world on the Friday after the New Year begins.

On that note I thought I might update you guys a little.

I did make a few new years goals which I’ll share despite their wonderfully cliche nature.

  1. Study more consistently–Honestly, I’m a horrible crammer when it comes to school and it’s not very good for long term retention. My grades have been better this last semester then in my first year in vet but I would still like to see them get even better and really want to keep practical information in the forefront of my mind.
  2. Be careful of my nutrition–I found myself being really lax during December finals about my food, eating more carbs and just generally not being very intentional. The problem is I feel way better when I keep my diet more consistently healthy so when it seems more difficult to do it is probably when it is most important.
  3. Increase my exercise–While I am not doing morning swims this semester, I do want to work more on my flexibility and focus on some strength and grip training, as well as trying to increase my running capacity. Part of this is because I would like to see my weight in the 160-165 lb range (or less) by the end of the summer (I am hoping to decrease or eliminate my need for a daily inhaler for my asthma and this would be a good step), and partially because I would like to increase the steadiness of my hands (for suturing) and the amount of weight I can lift (for calving and other large animal procedures).

That’s a pretty vague list as far as actionable items but I think you get the gist of it.

A few things I am excited about this year:

  1. I have two opportunities to work with performance dogs this year. One is confirmed and the other may be this year or next. Pretty pumped for the opportunity to be a student under some talented vets participating in the industry in very different capacities.
  2. My summer job! Seems crazy but I have had this lined up since November (for funding application reasons). I’m still working out accommodations and details but am super excited to work with a new (small) team in a small town this summer. Plus I’ll be close to the US border so I am thinking of maybe popping into North Dakota and Montana.
  3. Puppies! Okay so this one already happened. I was bugging a family friend about having two intact, young dogs of the opposite sex and guess what? By my estimate they conceived about a week later and the puppies were born just before Christmas. While I by no means support irresponsible breeding or keeping intact pets, I do love puppies despite their less than prime origins and I am so excited to go home for a weekend in February and visit some really cute puppies (and also check that Max, the male dog, has been to see the vet about his… eh-hem, testicles). I also get to house sit in February with some cute dogs, horses and cats.

Speaking of Christmas, I had a great one. A few highlights were having my Grandparents around, we also had Max (male, Great Dane x Brazilian Mastiff) and Sugar (female spayed, Red Heeler x Bernese Mountain dog) as Christmas guests (their families were on holiday), my new lunch box from Denmark (my sister got me a super amazing metal box from the Museum of Design or some such), my lap desk (which my mom purchased from Amazon–her first Amazon purchase ever), and preg checking cows with my dad (he’s a vet in case you forgot, we were doing this by ultrasound so there were some heartbeats and little faces and everything).

It was a quiet but good Christmas season. I swam a lot, I ate a lot, I played with dogs a lot.

Low-lights of the New Year so far: our classroom at school seems to consistently become frigid around 11:30 in the morning (no idea why but sweaters or blankets are required, and yes we do bring blankets to school since we’re vet students and we practically live there); I had some sort of 24 hour bug this week which resulted in the first time I have vomitted since grade one due to an actual stomach bug (my occasional migraines frequently put pressure on the vommition centre of my brain and cause me to be sick but it doesn’t count because it’s a neurological symptom not a physiological syndrome/disease); I’m sad to report that all of my plants, which I attempted to keep alive last year, are now deceased, let us all have a moment of silence for my poor plants.

So that’s the deal presently! Not much to talk about.

 

xx.

A Tribute to the Horse

Horses shaped my daily life from the age of eight to the age of twenty-two. At first they simply impacted what I read (when I was eight to ten I poured over anything remotely horse related), then they became the activity in my week that I most looked forward to (at ten or so when I finally begged my way into regular riding lessons), and eventually they become part of my daily activities and chores (at twelve when I was shown the horse I would be allowed to have).

This journey started out only because I was the daughter of a veterinarian and spent many days chasing around cows and horses owned by other people. To those producers willing to have me on their properties and those who let me ride their steady old boys I owe a great debt. I was afforded great opportunities, despite living in town, to become a country kid.

Years later I look back on that first horse, Smokey, with fondness and a measure of chagrin towards the early years when we didn’t get along a fair bit of the time. He was an old tie-down and team roping horse with a stop that could dump you over the fence, a go that could send you off the back end, and a buck that taught you the meaning of having a seat. He was also aloof and a one person horse, and if you were his person… he would do everything for you.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 10.00.09 AM.png(Smokey, lunging attentive and relaxed, at approximately fifteen years old.)

This Christmas, a year after selling a different horse (Luna), I find myself looking back on the horses that shaped me. Smokey was my boy, heart of my heart; even before Smokey there was Pokey, a determined pony who never met a saddle tight enough not to roll towards his belly; my first lesson horse Homer, a former chuck-wagon race horse turned three-day eventer who danced when you forgot where your leg was; after Smokey, Black Betty, a pitch black percheron/quarter horse cross standing taller at her shoulder than my head and wider than any other horse I ever rode, who’s hooves rolled thunder when she ran but who rode like a rocking chair; my moms horse Mojo, who ended up being my horse, who I could never get along with because he was just too in your pocket and dependent on instruction; a friends horse who I called Beau after Bucephalus, who freaked out at nearly everything until he had five days of work on him and then was able to be ridden bareback and bridleless through a full flat routine, who I got in shape for a summer.

There were others but the next big one was my small statured Luna, an untrained racing bred thoroughbred/quarter horse cross that I started before I owned her, who I bought for a dollar when she was a three year old and rode for three years until I finally had to let go of her. To be fair to her, young as she was, she needed someone to ride her regularly and having gotten into a professional college, needing to be able to go where the wind blew fair for summer work and having no time or money to keep her where I went to school, I needed to sell her on.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.55.00 AM.png(Luna, the week I sold her, six years old.)

These horses shaped me. Smokey was my therapy and my friend when school bored me out of my tree–we spent hours together every day wind, rain, snow, or shine for years. Pokey was my confidence builder when I needed to remind myself how fun cantering was. Homer was my teacher who wouldn’t let me get away with anything. Black Betty was my first summer love after Smokey passed on, she reminded me why I loved the difficult ones. Luna was my project, the student who made me a teacher and a lovely little spit fire who, when she was young would try to nip your shins when she was frustrated.

Today I still ride occasionally with horses by the names of Indie, Mae, Will, and Gord, but certainly not the way I used to. There is no horse to come home to at the end of the day, there are no four hour rides into town, or helter skelter full speed gallops for miles, or evening sunsets on the hilltop while I lean against solid legs. I sold my last horse last Christmas and now I’m in a period of waiting, for the day when my lifestyle can again accommodate a 1000+ lb best friend.

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.59.15 AM.png(Smokey with his friends Jazz, the bay, Sunday, the grey, and Shag, the donkey.)

Not too long ago I found myself speaking to a couple of non-riders who asked some questions about riding. As I explained the incredible feeling of being of one mind with an animal ten times your size they looked at me quizzically and I realized again the privilege these friendships have been for me. I often imagine who my next big friend will be.

 

xx.

Pressing Play

Hey guys, if you haven’t read my previous post, you might want to so that this post makes a bit more sense!

Alright, we were talking about my sister in an effort to come back around and put my finger on what bothered me so much about Sam (with whom I had a friendship before I hit the pause button on said friendship). My purposeful, driven sister, inadvertently makes me feel odd in a particular way but at the same time has learned to appreciate some of my quirks. My sister is lovely and has a gift for raising people up, even those that differ from her in the extreme. She refers to me (to my face) as a genius, a visionary, a dreamer, an artist, and adventurous. This is of course far too kind when held up to what I actually am, but she has found a way to appreciate my quirks.

I remember driving with her from a city I was working in back to our family home (a friend had dropped her off with me). I was explaining the route we were taking and that the back roads didn’t add much time but happened to create a much more beautiful route to drive than the highway. She looked at me and asked when I had driven this way before and why I took this route instead of the highway for the first time. I had to think a bit but it really came down to the fact that I had been leaving from an area a little ways away from the city one day and the map gave me a few routes, all of which took me back into the city and onto the highway. It seemed boring to go back through the city (and felt like back tracking) when I didn’t need anything from there, so I manipulated the map a bit until it gave me a different route. My sister agreed the scenery was prettier but found my mentality towards route finding rather amusing. The idea of changing your route, at the sacrifice of convenience, simply because the other way was too familiar is alien to her.

Sorry, I really am trying to make this come full circle.

My sister called me recently, to have a conversation about a fairly personal topic and she rambled about it for some time, to my pleasant surprise. Earlier in the summer, during a family holiday, we had had a pretty big… incident. These two moments together taught me something and that I think fundamentally changed our relationship.

The disagreement we had illustrated to me how strongly she identifies herself with the teachings of people she respected because the whole thing occurred when I tried to politely and then not so politely explain why I didn’t want to listen to a podcast that she insisted we finish after taking a long break at an attraction. I ended up calling the person speaking in the podcast something like a “sexist, mysogynistic ass-hat passing judgement on people like he has a monopoly on what a Christian needs to be to be lovable, while simultaneously contradicting himself by referencing God’s unconditional love” and she ended up pulling over (mildly endangering us all) and crying. This instigated a long conversation which ended with me finding a way to apologize for hurting her while simultaneously refraining from rescinding my opinion of the speaker (this took at least three tries), because she found my verbal assault on the speaker to be a direct reflection of my thoughts on her beliefs.

The long rambling conversation we had recently confirmed to me what I had always hoped but never dreamed of, which is that she will tell me when something important or wonderful is happening in her life. I always felt like she never told me about herself or her life, I never heard from her that she was struggling (occasionally I heard it from my mom in retrospective terms) and it made me think that she wouldn’t want to communicate her struggles with me and therefor she also wouldn’t necessarily communicate her joys with me. In the last few months though she has communicated with me some of her stresses and worries as well as some of her joys.

I suppose to me my sister always seemed a very “flat” person, too flawless to be believable, and assuming every body is like me—with complex, three dimensional depths and a healthy (or unhealthy) level of self-doubt and internalized personal crisis—I also assumed that this “flatness” meant she was withholding her true self from me. In my sisters case, perhaps I was somewhat right and she was holding back some of her complex inner world from me. As children I think we shared our world more and now as adults I think we are gradually learning to do that again while remembering to respect each others differences. Regardless I suddenly felt like I was an adequate friend. I had somehow reached the point of deep and fulfilling relationship with a fellow adult.

This brought Sam back to my mind, for the first time in a long time, and I tried again to put my finger on what bothered me so much about him. It was the first time I made a connection between the disconnect I felt with him as a friend and the rather stoic relationship between my sister and I. A phrase came to mind: “You have to be real when you’re alone, too.” This statement was like a key, it echoed with importance in my mind but I failed to see what it was meant to unlock. Until today.

I walked through a campus art gallery today where the art varied from the traditional, to the fundamentally beautiful, to the bizarre but that the dichotomous styles presented due to the exhibit being multi-artist were truly extraordinary. To me though, the bizarre pieces only felt validated when they elicited a reaction. I couldn’t find a truth behind them. It made me think on the idea of a true self.

I feel most true to myself when I am alone and retreat from external influences, perhaps to maintain the integrity of what I believe is my true self.I also despise eliciting a reaction because reactions are a form of judgement and judgment is an attempt to exert influence and elicit change. I suppose you could say I am a long term project. I know every layer of medium within myself better than I can express making a reaction extraneous because my true self is in knowing the development that has occurred as the layers have built up. This also means as a piece of art I would likely appear slightly incohesive but display a rich variety of methods and mediums in thick muddled layers.

In contrast my sister is both true to herself alone and in company but much of what her truth is reflects the external influences she chooses to respect and listen to. As a piece of art she is one in which you can see the personally curated influences of the masters, where the layers are careful, each one integral to the final project and showing through just as much as they need to, and the mediums are unmuddled. She is as real to the public eye as she is when she is left alone with herself—like a Mona Lisa—a timeless beauty.

Sam bothered me because I believed that he was presenting a one dimensional and therefore inhumanly bizarre picture to me. In some part my sisters Mona Lisa appeal can seem almost the same, but it’s nuances are more true to life, there is less negative space and more background and setting. Sam seemed to only be real by external validation—the shock or even awe elicited by his minimalistic personal credo projecting a stronger impression of self than he in himself actually had—and thus to be unrealistically empty. I guess you could explain it as a form of modern art primarily defined by it’s negative space (that is it’s largely white with one primary focus onto which the observing public projects meaning).

To me it is impossible to actually be this simple. Nobody can possibly be satisfied with a single layer of paint to express what they are, which means I always felt like there was a secret painting beneath that top piece that was being hidden from me. I felt like I was failing as a friend because I couldn’t have long and deep conversations with Sam. I could’t imagine who Sam would be when he was alone, in his own mind, and so it seemed to me as though he wasn’t letting me in as a friend. What I failed to recognize is that it is all art .

I am a piece that stands in the artists studio perpetually unfinished, perhaps manifesting the artists fear of being unoriginal, and evidencing continuous attempts to be true to new understandings of the nature of art; my sister is a well planned and orderly piece that stands in a gallery to be admired for it’s technical merits as well as its beauty, that has reached a certain level of completeness but that offers new nuances the more you observe it; and Sam, Sam is a take it or leave it minimalist statement piece that can be rather unforgiving if you try to hang it in a room that doesn’t suit it, it is complete even without multiple layers of nuance and offers a stable, unchanging perspective on it’s subject. Each of these pieces is true as long as the artist is satisfied. They question comes down to whether you like you when no one is watching.

So I unpaused, and decided to let Sam be Sam and not worry so much about whether our relationship had depth or whether we run out of things to talk about. If our conversations are destined to be simple reports of what has happened recently then so be it. Perhaps I need to learn a lesson in minimalism and start applying a bit of paint thinner to my layers.

 

xx.

Pressing Pause

I pressed pause on a relationship with a friend a while ago. I was frustrated with the cycle of our conversations. He found my meanderings and questions non-sensicle and unimportant and I found him… holier-than-thou. Perhaps he needs a name to make this easier: we’ll call him Sam.

Sam and I always started our conversations with, “Hey, how’s it going?” or “What’s up with you?” We would tread a familiar path of conversation through the forest of friends problems, work, school, and family relationships and then… a butterfly, off my mind would go. Do you think it’s possible to be good but not have a soul? What is a soul? How can goodness be defined outside of a higher power? If a higher power exists could it exist within time? If time is non-linear is there a way to access other points in time from a human perspective?

The pauses between our texts would grow longer as my questions and ideas became more abstract and I accepted the petering out of the conversation and thought on things myself. Until one day Sam’s reply set me on my haunches and made me… feel… inadequate.

“This is why I sometimes forget to text you back. Why are we having this conversation”

“You don’t think it’s interesting?”

“I think it’s meaningless to talk about. I don’t need to understand the world or seek it’s mysteries, they pale in comparison to God.”

Now, I do subscribe to a faith personally but you have to understand God and I love each other in a never ending round table discussion. God blessed me with intellect and my intellect pushes and pulls me at times, it forces me to reconsider and reconfirm my faith, and it presents me with questions. I often feel like a rather odd creature—out of place in the world of faith—not just a black sheep but a wolf in sheep clothing because I seem to be incapable of following a straight line with my brothers and sisters (figuratively). This incident reminded me, “you’re not one of us.”

The conversation continues:

“Anyone ever tell you you’re a goody two shoes?” (Me)

“Once or twice, I would tell them that I’m surely not.”

“If you can actually keep your mind so singularly focused on God and not be distracted by questions about life I would say you are.”

“That’s not being a goody two shoes. That’s just being focused on God.”

A few texts later:

(Me) “… as of yet God has not put strong enough blinders on me to keep me facing one direction at all times. I do what I can and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest but that doesn’t mean I never get distracted.”

“And this is me putting on my blinders and not getting distracted it’s not that hard.”

I’ll stop quoting here and summarize. I expressed that the questions I have address life and the afterlife and the nature of creation and life as a creation and as such are worthy because they therefore address God and life purpose. I also reminded Sam that I take medication on a daily basis just to sit still and listen. Sam retorted that he had better things to do with his time such as helping people and reading the Bible, to which I asked whether he ever did something just because he wanted to do it. As you may suspect by now, the answer was, “I try not to do things just for me.”

Now I fundamentally disagree with the idea that enjoyment of creation and personal time without directly focusing it on God is purposeless. As an introvert personal time is very important to me particularly time spent purposefully doing nothing very important. So my reply was rather succinct and unencumbered.

“Well… I’m going to the lake so I’ll talk to you later, once your incredible spirituality ceases to make me want to barf.”

After that we conversed once in four months. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what bothered me so much about Sam, because him making me feel inadequate really wasn’t it. I’ve honestly felt inadequate all my life, it’s one of the driving forces behind me achieving or rebelling against anything.

When I reflect on this whole situation it reminds me of how I feel around my sister—though my sister never questions the purpose of my round about conversations—she always seemed to carve out this straight line to the things that where important in her life, without distraction, and with iron-clad determination. Nothing stopped her and she never seemed to question what was right for her.

I think I’ll stop here for the day as this post is getting rather long winded, but there is a conclusion to it so come back in a few days to read the rest.

 

xx.

Sheepish

Hey guys! I thought today I would do a quick post highlighting something I’m studying for presently–Bacteriology!

So today I rather hesitatingly present to you a dating profile for a bacteria you have probably never heard of:

Corynebacterium renale

C. renale (or Ri-ri to her friends) is looking for a nice ram to snuggle up with at night. She loves rams that eat a tonne of protein and it doesn’t hurt if they convert urea to ammonia super readily! She’s totally game for that, in fact C. renale just loves the irritating environment it leads to. As a fan of irritation she will get all up in her rams space (if you know what I mean) and eventually cause injury and scarring.  Fair warning if you’re still thinking of taking her out for a spin though, she’s also a bit promiscuous and may wander off with your buddies if you turn your back (she even goes for cattle).

If you end up wanting to get rid of her at some point it’s good to know that she hates penicillin, bright light/dryness, and really wishes rams would stop trying to get rid of the dead debris that builds up in their nether regions, employ any or all of these tactics to get rid of her faster than freemartin at weaning!

(Disclaimer: the bacteria mentioned in this profile does not actually have a gender and will and does cause “pizzle-rot”. No matter how fun a bacteria makes themselves sound we do not endorse attempting to form an attachment to a bacteria, they are silly and flippant creatures that don’t just break hearts, they break other parts of your body as well.)

 

xx.

A Very Uni Christmas

Hey guys! Last night was absolutely massively draining and it was for one reason: Carolling. My college is small and tight knit due to the small class sizes accepted each year which means our profs get to know us a little better and are expected, to some degree, to be willing to invest a bit more in us. One of the ways they do this is through a tradition of Christmas Carolling.

Here’s how it works, every year each class chooses three professors who are willing to host them at their houses and busses from one house to the other to eat their food, trample the snow around their houses, and just generally cause a lot of fuss and most likely leave a mild mess everywhere they go. While this event is by no means mandatory and other classes have a lower turnout, my class has embraced this tradition whole heartedly and fills a full sized school bus to the brim with three to some seats and many standing in the aisles. We even invite additional professors and lab personelle to join us on the adventure (this year we had three join our ranks).

Before carolling classes generally do a gift exchange, which generally ends up being pretty boozey, and take a big class photo (in which I decline to participate). Students often bring a dog or two to this part, and everyone has a chat.

This year we spent the evening at our Anaesthesiology professor’s, Neurology professor’s, and General Pathology professor’s homes drinking mulled wine, cider, and hot chocolate (with peppermint schnapps or Baileys); eating mince-meat pies (courtesy of our professor with English heritage), cheese and crackers, sweet treats, Christmas oranges and anything else that was sitting out anywhere! Hopefully they hid the things we weren’t supposed to eat.

One professors little black lab was utterly overwhelmed by us but was utterly charming (as was her cat, whose name was Pumpkin I think), while our other professors ten month old English bulldog and middle aged flat coated retriever soaked up the attention like the stars of the show that they are!

We progressed from a three story classically built house, where high ceilings were standard, with a dining room, sitting room, reading room etc.; to an old modern house with a swing hanging from the exposed rafters and a brick fireplace standing centrally in the living room which was open concept to the dining area and kitchen, where the line of the roof was evident in the ceiling; and finally to an older house, the traditional single story bungalow with hallways between smaller rooms which where warm and homey, and which featured a myriad of artwork (my favourite being the two oil paintings, hung together which depicted a flying saucer, teacup, and spoon with only clouds in the backdrop) but left you in danger of getting stuck in a corner (luckily food was laid out in most corners so stuck people wouldn’t starve).

We sung a few songs at each house, and were informed by one professor that we were apparently the only class she had encountered which actually adhered to the obligation to sing implied by the word carolling. This utterly shocked all of us! We honestly just assumed that because it was called carolling… It won’t be changing for us anyways I suspect, although the song at the last house was much worse than at the first as a good portion of the class was slightly more inebriated than they were when they started.

I was utterly worn out, socially, by the time we finished at the second house but the third house is where the event got particularly interesting for me. I kept to myself at the first couple of houses, visiting with my English professor’s soft spoken husband and a friend from class who I speak with frequently. At the second house I was again drawn into conversation with a single classmate and then a couple of professors and more of my normal crowd. To properly explain the events at the third house will require me to explain an earlier incident however.

Last year, during an event referred to as Drink a Small Town Dry, I received a phone call as I wandered towards bed in my PJ’s (my favourite cow shorts in fact). While the voices at the other end were moderately unintelligible I eventually found myself changing back into street clothes  and crawling into my messy car to give three classmates, who had missed their bus to the bar outside of town, a ride. I pulled up to the front of the college and texted to say I was there which resulted in three men barreling out the doors and sprinting up the ramp to my car as they shotgunned beers, the tallest and gangliest of whom was body checked into the side of my car. The rule of don’t throw up in my car and no criticizing its messiness or my driving was established and we rolled out.

One of the guys happened to be musical and the others (musical guy also included) happened to be drunk which resulted in being serenaded with country songs and random raps as I drove out of town. Eventually I mentioned I only knew one rap start to finish. Well this of course resulted in me rapping, and loosing my place because they tried to beat box, oh, and making a wrong turn because they weren’t being very good navigators.

Anyways, apparently this left quite an impression because at the beginning of the night last night, on the bus, on of the other guys turned to me and said, “So ___________ told me that you rapped for him once.” To which I said, “Umm, yeah that’s true.” Which resulted in the inevitable question, will you do it again? Or do you need a few drinks first? And an offer to supply said drinks. I ran of a couple of verses of rap before someone made me laugh and I told him I had lost the words thanks to that.

Fast forward, we’re at the third house. I’m sitting around, the guys are peer-pressuring one of our profs to shotgun a beer and he lays down a sick burn in response. A few minutes later all I hear is one of the guys saying my name and insisting I can rap and I needed to do it right now and were was I. It was pointed out that I was a couple of feet away and I eventually tell them hush, I’ll come over. Standing in the group they ask if I’ll rap and glancing over at my professor I sheepishly agree. The response to which is three of the guys beginning to beatbox. Now, I cannot, to save my life rap to someone else’s beat and I try to stop them saying it’s not the right beat and that I can’t do it if they keep going.

One of the guys insists he can do other beats and starts running off all sorts of different rhythms. Finally I hush them up and take a breath to stop laughing and start.

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scottsman,

Dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean,

By providence impoverished in squalor…

I got to–By fourteen they put him in charge of a trading charter–before the beatboxing resumed and I absolutely lost it. Then the guys insisted I keep going and I told them they couldn’t beat box if they wanted me to finish, my prof reminds me of the time I said I couldn’t sing and I insist that wasn’t singing. Finally the beatboxing subsides and the all try to get me to start again. I start and another of my professors roams past looks and me and goes,” Hamilton!” I nearly keel over, I’ve literally never met someone else who knows the musical (yeah, I know it took the USA and the general Broadway crowd by storm but it didn’t get to my neck of the woods).

Which is the story of how my General Pathology prof and I ended up having a long conversation about Hamilton and how he had been to see it, just after Lin stopped playing Hamilton, and how the guy who was playing the King when he saw it was better than the original, and how great the music was and how insanely well done the songs were and how a relative of his had seen the show twice when Lin was still in it!

Honestly, it was just the best conversation ever mainly because it is so rare, when you spend all day surrounded by students and professors who study or studied the same subject as you, that you talk about anything other than that subject. While I can’t say I ever finished the rap I did at least prove I’m not the least hip person ever and I also learned drunks have surprisingly good memories (so don’t  say or do anything too interesting or it’ll come back to bite you)!

And so ended another year of carolling. I have had a relaxing and lovely morning decompressing from last nights social whirlwind, complete with French Toast (made with rye bread) and canned peaches. So for your next Saturday morning brunch here’s my recipe:

(This will make about four slices, and yes I know it is easy as pie but you can’t knock tips right?)

2 Eggs

3-4 Tbsp of Milk (I eyeball this so this is a best guess measurement)

a splash of Vanilla (I love vanilla so I put in lots but try a tsp. to start)

4 Slices of Bread (I’ve been loving rye bread lately!)

Warm up a frying pan with just a little bit of oil in it (think a Tbsp.) on medium or medium high heat. Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla in a container large enough to fit a slice of bread in it (so the bread is flat). Dip both sides of a slice of bread into the container, allowing it to soak a few seconds on either side and then place it in the hot pan and repeat! Let cook on either side until golden brown throughout and then serve–these are great with fruit, syrup, or–my favourite–cinnamon sugar.

Alternatively you can make them into a grilled cheese, to do this put sliced aged cheddar cheese (if you must go with mild go ahead, but not pre-sliced because, bleh!) onto a slice  AFTER you have done the first flip and flip another slice onto the top. Cook until the bottom of the bottom slice is brown and flip so the top browns too (and the cheese has plenty of time to melt). This is also pretty amazing if you throw some marmalade in before you put the cheese on! Weird I know.

Again, I know this is super easy and you probably already make this but still its such a yummy, fast breakfast, I just have to remind you about it!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Great Whatever-You’re-Celebrating-This-Season! Be generous and show love.

 

xx.