Now I’m sitting here looking at tickets to fly to Tennessee even though we don’t have the money, and I really don’t have any intention on going. I keep thinking there’s no real reason to go since the only family of ours still there is Lance’s sister, and if we want to see her, we'll just have her fly out with her frequent flyer miles from work. But then I think of my old friends still there that I knew in high school, and I feel like I’ve turned my back on them because I don’t know if we’ll ever really go back. I just know how life works. Money always seems to have other important things to do than pay for a trip to only visit a few people. I feel like we’ve turned our backs on our “roots” and forgotten the little people. Not that I or my husband are famous by any means, but I feel like by not going back to visit, I’m telling all of those dear teachers, leaders, and friends from my youth that they mean nothing to me and that they didn’t do anything to help me become who I am today. But, of course, they did. They did a great deal for me, and I don’t even have the decency to come back for a visit.
Why do I always need an excuse? Haven’t I learned my lesson with my uncle?
I know I’m nerdy, but a perfect evening for me would be to have the entire Monterey Bay Aquarium to myself for a night. I would wander from tank to tank to examine and read about every sea creature without a soul to disrupt me.
However, even obnoxious crowds with their smart phones pressed up against the glasses and obstructing the view couldn’t stop me from enjoying the giant octopus tank this past Christmas. Normally, Ms. Octopus is hiding, and you spend your time straining for a glimpse of even a tentacle. She spent my entire visit this past time suctioned right up against the glass, moving back and forth. On a previous visit, the staff told my parents at a dinner about some crazy octopus escapades:
At one point, several fish were going missing from a display. Since there were no predatorial fish in the tank, museum staff decided to set up cameras to find out what was happening. The video footage revealed that the giant octopus was using her suctioned tentacle to sneak out of her tank, scurry across the floor, and jump into the fish display. She would eat her fill, and then return to her own tank.
Octopuses (yes that is the right plural form according to the OED) are a lot smarter than we give them credit. They actually use tools for protection and to eat, which is a sign of intelligence in the animal world. To solve their octopus problem, the Monterey Bay Aquarium installed AstroTurf around her tank to prevent their giant octopus from using her suctions to crawl out. Also, to engage her mind, staff started placing her food around her tank in hamster balls. This acts like a puzzle for the octopus and keeps her mind occupied from plotting other escape plans.
Today, I found this on Science Friday:
Bucket List: Touch a live octopus
Two people were sitting behind the desk under the sign that hung with two chains from the ceiling that said, “The Writing Center.” Tentatively, I walked up to the desk and asked to see Sister Morgan. The tall girl with the dark brown hair and matching eyes told me she wasn’t available. The shorter girl with matching hair informed me that most likely they weren’t hiring. I left, but Jacob told me to keep going back until I got a job, so I did.
* * *
It became a natural path. Seven semesters of walking through the doors facing the Spori, passing through the useless book stealing detectors, up the right stair case with the painting of an old street in colonized Utah, a quick stop at the drinking fountain next to the small tree, and then to the back room to find my black vest and name tag on the blue, not red, lanyard.
I stuck a blue, newly sharpened pencil behind my ear and flopped onto a stiff chair with a book I pretended to read to look busy. I did a quick glance to the back row of offices to check if Sister Morgan’s door was open or closed. Most often she was still unavailable. Now I knew the names of the two girls: Miriam and Kaitlin, my friends.
* * *
I don’t work there anymore, but out of habit I still follow the rutted path to the Writing Center. I only know a few of the battalion of assistants now, but I still stop by for a quick hello and chat with a new different person sitting at the desk each time.
Generally, I check Sister Morgan’s office first. If it is closed, I may just keep walking. If it is open, I slide through the door and sit down in a chair. Sometimes she vents; sometimes I do. Most often we just talk. It is refreshing to listen, to be listened to, to communicate.
This time around, I copied and pasted some of those sentences into a word document labeled “quotations” that resides in a folder labeled “journal” on my desktop. The document is over 30 pages now. It started with words of famous people. I added your words because they are meaningful to me, and I don’t want to forget them. Some of them lack significance without context, but I know what they mean, and that is enough.
This all started (looking through the blog, that is), with me trying to write a post. I have three unfinished essays also residing in the “journal” folder on my desktop.
I was trying to capture what I have been feeling lately, but I haven’t gotten it completely.
I moved last week. I packed up all of my things, drove them across town, and put them somewhere new. Somewhere I eat, sleep, shower, live.
I know we’ve had numerous discussions about “home,” and that’s what was on my mind this time, too. Or at least one thing on my mind. Especially since this move wasn't emotionally stressful like some of my past moves have been, and I wonder about it.
I also thought about how I moved everything myself. Not a single soul helped me. I’m sure there are people that would have if I had asked, but I wanted to do it alone, so I did. And even now, I’m ridiculously pleased about it. I love activities in which I don’t have to rely on others, and I wonder if that’s healthy.
While I was packing I thought about memories. Some seem to fade with time, so I keep as many reminders as possible. Or I used to, at least. This time I threw away a considerable amount. Some things I threw away because I don’t want to remember them anymore. Like a red Hot Wheels car from a former boyfriend. I used to place it somewhere prominent, where I would see it often. Some of my roommates asked about it once: where it came from, why I kept it. The only explanation I gave was “it reminds me of a time when I felt loved.” Now it just seems cheesy, so when I found it I threw it away. Other things I threw away because I don't need them as reminders anymore. Like the sparkly gift bag from my cousin Toni. I'll never forget her, so I don't need the gift bag anymore.
Reading through the blog was a similar experience. Not with wanting to throw things away, mind. But reliving and remembering. I laughed out loud at some posts/comments to posts (see here and here). My eyes welled up with tears when I thought about some of you I haven’t seen in ages. People like Nathan, Kirsten, Anona, Julie, EmPo, and others. My heart almost burst out of my chest when I thought about how I came to all of you for support when I thought I might have breast cancer. "Thanks" seems insufficient for the solace I found in you on that occasion.
Over and over again, I was reminded that we never say goodbye. Even so, I saved symbols we call "letters" that form "words" and "sentences" in a Microsoft word document that I won’t have to throw away the next time I pack or move. Then I feel like I have the semblance of something to hold onto when I can't see all of you.
Again, it seems insufficient, but thanks for all of it. Thanks for the good times and the bad. Thanks for the times that were neither good nor bad. But most of all, thanks for being my friends.
Feb. 18: A writing center employee reported a male student often comes to the center to receive help with sexually explicit stories he has written. The male also pushes to spend an hour with tutors even though most students are only allowed 30 minutes. The writing center is taking action while police are monitoring the situation.
It's hard to tell which situation the police are monitering--the student's writing of explicit stories or his practice of taking up more than his alloted time at the WC. "Hey you! Yes, you! Thirty minutes are up--let's go!"
"There she goes. She started it." Skyler
"Soooo, you're an expert on Bieber." SM
"I don't think I said anything." Kirsten
"You don't need time to think." Kirsten
"Say something else--Eric? Kirsten? Skyler? SM
"This doesn't make any sense. Blaaaaah." Eric
"I've graduated from going to Devotional." Kirsten (OOOOooo. This one is edgy.)
"Chan taught us a funny cardgame." Skyler
"Noooooo, we'll fall in forever boredom." SM
"Nope. You did it wrong. What?" Skyler
"Like baby, baby, baby, baby, noo." Kiersten
"Nobody puts Baby in the corner." Kirsten
"Sister Morgan, you're the coolest boss." Skyler
I was having this discussion with my friend the other day about ambiguity and vagueness in writing. It started out wondering about universal truths in philosophical terms. I asked if there was such a thing as a universal truth that could be considered objective. We wondered if maybe a sentence describing a situation in time that could be considered a universal truth such as “There is a cup on the table and 9:40 PM.” I pointed out though that one person may view that flat surface with supporting legs as a table and someone else may view it as a desk. So if they can’t agree, is the sentence still a universal truth?
So for the next few days we’ve both been pondering about vagueness and ambiguity in writing. Is it possible to clearly convey your intent without making your writing too tedious? Or is there a point where the author should accept that it is impossible to make everyone see and read what he/she intended? Is it possible to predict all interpretations and write in a way to avoid all misconceptions?
I think I am leaning toward no, that it is not possible and as an author there is no way that you can possible achieve that. And that is why the books that we read and reread are so good. It’s because there are so many possible interpretations and we will never know what the author’s intent is (or that it should even matter . . . very formalist, no?). I mean, I will never be able to figure out whether Shakespeare was for England invading France or whether he thought it was kind of a bad idea from reading Henry V. But that is why I like it. I may be able to go and dissect the text and formulate my own hypothesis, but I will never know Shakespeare’s real intent.
So, I am curious what everyone else thinks. Do you feel that it is important and possible to have your intent clearly understood by all your audience or do you think there is a point that you have to let go of your text and be okay with someone seeing an analogy for baseball where there never ever was one (or something like that)?
Also, by vagueness, I mean the philosophical term in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy:
vagueness Many sentences are relatively vague; others relatively precise. A term that is perfectly precise would generate no borderline cases, and although this is often presented as a theoretical ideal it is extremely unclear that any learnable, speakable language could begin to meet it. For even basic observations (‘this is red’) admit of borderline cases (in the oranges and purples), and even when care is taken to make terms as precise as possible, unforeseen contingencies, new kinds of discovery, and things with new combinations of properties, may always provide hard cases whose classification is left unclear.
Let me know what you writers think?
I've been thinking of writing more on my personal blog, mainly to get myself writing and to feel that I'm doing something that extends beyond the walls of my home. I was therefore rather amused when reading this line from the post: "For young Mormon women, who face immense cultural pressure to stay home with children rather than pursue a career, blogging about their adventures in homemaking becomes a sort of creative outlet, a way of contributing to the larger world beyond the home."
Guess I'm normal, then? :-)