That Stinks: Expanding Your Mind & Deflating Your Ego

People are smart.

It's also true that some people are pretty stupid.  In my opinion, these are people who ride three-wheeled contraptions and that guy who jumped off of the Eiffel Tower with a cape.  Come on, folks.  Nature wins, every time.

But otherwise, like I said, most people are smart.

I was thinking the other day about how it might be a clever thing to get a particular custom t-shirt made.  It would be chocolate brown, and on the chest it would read in gold letters: My name is M, and my poop smells.

You're probably laughing a little.
Or shocked.
Or praying for me.
I'll take 'em all.

What I'm trying to say is that on most days, I feel (and certainly behave) like I have the master copy of life's manual, My Way tucked into my back pants pocket.  You see, I know how to answer the phone the right way, cook an omelet the right way, drive a car the right way (HA), and even tell a story the right way.  I've got the instruction book that you desperately need.  In fact, I AM the instruction book, so listen up.

(If you don't know, I tell stories as well as a rat giving you directions to the interstate)

So I've got this rule book, my rule book, in one back pocket, and in the other, I've got a copy of another text, The Highway.  I'm sure you're following at this point.  My way.... the highway....

Bottom line: I am CRAZY.

I am crazy not to listen more, to learn more, to shut up more.  I am the girl who has walked into walls [in daylight] and talks more to her cat than to most people.  The woman who drives to the right town in the wrong state is certainly not a woman who should be giving any form of instruction, even omelet instruction.

I spent a bit of this week at a conference for industry professionals, and again I realized that... my poop smells.  Shocker.  Don't ask me how I ever manage to forget this - somehow I find a way.  I am young.  I am arrogant.  I am at the beginning of things.  I am NOT an expert.  I am just another girl, and need as much advice and help is my dense mind can possibly absorb.  Particularly in the area of common sense, in which I am desperately lagging.

Harry Truman said, The only things worth learning are the things you learn after you know it all.

I shouldn't need a reminder for my insufficiency, but sometimes I do.  And there is no better reminder than smart people.

In conclusion, I'm 100% positive that I need to listen more, hear more, and humble myself more.

And here's an unrelated (your favorite kind, I'm sure) and free snip-it for you readers:

Refrain from keeping books in your back pockets.
No one likes a lumpy butt.


And A River Runs [All Over] It

Now this is what I'm talking about.

This is the spring I dream of.  Warm, sunny, bird-chirpy and full of mud.  It seems funny that of all the smells I've smelled, one of my most favorite is the aroma of recently upturned dirt.  There such a sweet irony to the idea that something we associate semantically with filth and nastiness can smell so dang clean.   I once bought C this Demeter cologne, and was pleasantly surprised that this was no essence de pig, but was rather an almost perfect replication of the beautifully musty, heavenly clean smell of a mud pie.

I'm currently sitting in an adirondack chair, on our porch, looking out over the grand front lawn of camp, still covered in sad, browning snow.  There is water trickling somewhere (everywhere) due to the snowmelt, and little streams and rivers are making themselves seen on trails and along dirt roads.

Yesterday, C and I took out our cross-country skis and had a nice little jaunt through the woods.  I know that there won't be enough snow cover for this activity much longer, because along our way, we passed puddle after pond after small lake of standing water.

I got a good look at one, in particular.  After visiting our co-workers/friends/fellow-commune-dwellers on the other side of the [real] pond, we turned around to take a slightly different route home.  This route would bring us down along the shore and back to connect to the lakeside trail that would take us home.  One of these friends had, 15 minutes earlier, pointed out the dead beaver that was "resting" at the base of a pine tree near the trail.  This was, allegedly, for luring coyotes, but was still pretty much an identifiable beaver at this point, albeit with entrails stringing out along the ground.  

Anyhow, we hiked up the snowbank by the driveway and whooshed our way down toward the shore trail, all with the grace and beauty of a pair of hippos on ice skates.  Sure, it was a little mushy down there, but with 60-degree weather in March, what's not mushy?  We pressed on.  

And then I pressed a little too far forward.  

Have you ever seen such a stride?

I don't have a picture of what happened next, because unfortunately my iPhone was under 4 inches of water for most of the duration.  The tree well - the beaver-tree well -  had filled with gallons and gallons [and gallons] of snowmelt, and though covered by a thinnish layer of snow, the dark water was the clear property holder.  Here, in this slushy mess, I lurched.  And in the briefest instant, I was on my stomach, drinking it all in... 

gulp after beaverish gulp.

Fortunately, my phone came through the incident astonishingly well, and despite being soaking wet, I was adequately warm in the toasty afternoon air.  Apart from the squishing in my boots, all was fine in the world.  

Relatively fine, I suppose.  

The aroma of dirt wafting through the air is a high point of this particular spring,  but the giardia is bound to be a real downer.


When Things Come Full-Circle

It's a cheeky example of divine humor, really, that I ended up in working in the camp industry.  When I was a little girl, my parents took time out of their summer and volunteered for week-long chunks at a youth camp a few hours from our home.  They'd take my sister and I along with them, enrolling a very happy Renee in the current session and attempting to enroll me.  What I mean is that I would start my week in a cabin on the hill by drudgingly taking a bottom bunk somewhere in a hut full of other 9-year old inmates, er, campers.

Then I would



I was that kid.  I'd last maybe a day or two, and only that long because my two teenage counselors had the patience and willpower of a couple of hearing-impaired elementary school bus drivers.  But even they could only hold it together for so long, and after day two of my desperate, home-sick blubbering, they'd escort me down to whatever farmhouse room my folks were inhabiting and I'd resume my week, having not only ruined the first two days of my counselors' session, but now ruining the whole experience for my parents, because at that point they were no longer alone.

And I in my current state, would be the worst kind of company.

My memories of my time as a camp drifter are few and fading, but I haven't lost them altogether yet.  There was this set of metal pipes that was hammered into the ground in an upside-down U shape, and I remember swinging my body around like I was a competitor at the Olympics, showcasing some brilliant, high-scoring (and almost certainly unsafe) moves on the uneven bars.  This was also my first memory of having the wind knocked out of me.

When it happened, I knew I was going to die, which made me so mad, because dead people don't make it to the podium, ever.

Another good memory was our camp pool.  You see, it wasn't actually a pool in the way of your local YMCA, but was rather a concrete mold (in the shape of a pool), filled with water running from a nearby brook.

The brook was also the residence of a moderately-sized family of beavers.  
Or were they moderately-sized beavers?  
Both, probably. 

Our open-swim was held in an opaque brown rectangle that was full of frogs and snakes and salamanders.   We kept a big salt shaker on the lifeguard stand to use in the case that any leaches became stuck to the legs and arms of campers.  There was usually a line to use it.  

You didn't touch the bottom of this pool.  Ever.

Other pages in my mental scrapbook: huge bonfires, camp songs with more verses than 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, chicken patty lunch, a plastic tree with gumdrops on it that you won for "cleanest cabin" (along with getting to keep a stuffed owl for a day - this only works with the under-12 crowd, trust me), feeding our leftover meal bits to the pigs down the road, and wandering semi-aimlessly, playing with kittens and making the next space shuttle out of pom-poms and googley-eyes.

So even though I was a nightmare as an actual camper, I still have some pretty good memories when it comes to our weeks away.  Between morning calisthenics and my post-cookout watermelon binge, I was like a free-range chicken, checking in here, exploring over there... running to the sound of the bell when it was time to eat and giving too much attention to the resident animals.

And now when our campers want to play in a vat of Jell-O pudding or paddle across the pond on their mattress, I'll be flashing back to my own childhood and remembering that, like the time I threw some dish detergent in with my juice, natural consequences are the best kind.

I learned mine at camp - why shouldn't they?


They Are Who We Thought They Were

An hour ago, my husband was in our den, sitting on the floor inside a brand-new Fun-series Jackson Kayak.  On the floor, in his kayak, with his paddle, practicing his bracing.




And he couldn't have been more excited.  He was over-the-moon, more-than-a-clam, teenager-in-love happy.

Why is it that things make us feel good?  Even as I write it, I have this instinctual desire to turn up my nose at the idea that a kayak could spark inner cheer.  I want to make some qualifying statement, like

"it only seems like happiness",

or, spoken like a true New Englander,

"material things will always let us down".

Don't you feel it?  We're fixed in a mantra that trains us to overlook the little things.  We don't even take a proper moment to revel in the small delights that are easy to come by, simply because they are just as easy for us to lose.  

Yes, you're right - a fresh flower bouquet is sort of already dead.  
Yes, that glue on the back of your new insurance card will lose it's stickiness after a minute or two.  
Yes, the tiny marshmallows on your hot cocoa will get squishy.

But they're crunchy right now, aren't they?

So come on, admit it - it's possible that this kind of thing can make us happy.  I'm talking about simple satisfaction, high spirits, endorphins -  stuff that makes you laugh and shoot Jello out of your nose (not that I've done that).  I'm not going to give material goods some crazy qualitative value, because hopefully we all know that the better part of life is not actually found in what we see and touch, but is beyond and around it. However, in the day-to-day of walking this earth, there are lots of things that make me sprout a smile:

  • Kiwi, the black cat, who's off licking her hindquarters somewhere
  • Vanilla soft-serve ice cream
  • Daffodils, and imagining the existence of spring somewhere 
  • Large animals with small legs
We went to find this guy ten minutes later and he was gone... but how?
  • Mixing stuff with my hands
  • Nights when it's so dark that you can't even see your arms in front of you
  • Temperatures above 30* F 
  • Wicked awesome cards that my friend Jenn makes

  • Freeze-dried bananas
  • Mud [that I can mix with my hands]

Now, I know what you might be thinking: But M, finding happiness in temporal things can really mess us up, and yeah, you're right.  I totally agree.  Lets each hope that our small delights are the right ones, like puppies and pine trees rather than crack cocaine and cheap gin.  Or Jersey Shore and circus peanuts, for that matter.  If those are your happy things, you should call someone.

Right now.

By this point, C has finished his stint as an indoor kayak dynamo, and is washing a steel pot which held the beef stew we had for dinner.  A fire is crackling in the woodstove, Kiwi has returned to languish on a chair in the corner, and the marshmallows in my hot cocoa are still crunchy.  These are good things.  Temporary, but good.

And I am going to enjoy them.   One happy, crunchy bite at a time.

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