Even on a drizzly day (yesterday) we manage to pull a great outing out of Vermont including biking, brewing, & beauty.
Imagine there’s a parallel life where you didn’t spit in the tube for ancestry at all. Imagine another where you did but wasn’t able to track anyone down. Imagine another where you tracked people down but nobody answered you. Imagine another where you did not have somebody pushing for you & biodad to meet next week. Imagine another where he refused to come.
Imagine one where he backs out next week. Imagine one where he comes and you hit it off beautifully and you gain a new friend and some great new stories. Imagine one where he comes and you can’t relate to him at all. Imagine one where he comes and he stinks (thanx Sara) or he asks for a kidney (thanx Ruth). Now imagine one where he comes and everything is just kind of middle of the road.
So, this is the parallel life you’re in right now. All the dominoes clicked to have you very close to meeting your sperm donor very soon. Which life will this turn out to be?
“You figgered I went back on you. Now there’s a thing ever’ man has got to know. Mebbe you now it a’ready. Twan’t only me… Boy, life goes back on you.”
I was mesmerized. I never wanted it to end.
You become immersed in the world of the Baxter family – Penny (Pa), Ory (Ma), and 12-year-old Jody. They live post-Civil War in the Jacksonville area of Florida on a small clearing where they subsist growing corn, sweet potatoes, cow-peas, and cane sugar; augmented by a dairy cow and plenty of hunting. Their nearest neighbors are their frenemies the Forresters, a rough crowd of four or five grown men with their Ma and Pa. Jody has a special relationship with his Pa; not so much with Ma, who is hardened by having buried too many of her babies. Half the book goes by until the main plot commences – Jody finds Flag, an orphaned fawn he adopts, after having longed for years for some little creature he could care for and call his own. You know how it ends.
These people know their land so intimately, they know their game, their predators, their weather, in a way like I imagine most people today have no idea.
It was absolutely beautiful. I love coming-of-age stories. I’m partial to those with girls, and this is a boy’s book through and through, but it was still about that magical portal between child and grown-up.
“Ever’ man wants life to be a fine thing, and a easy. ‘Tis fine, boy, powerful fine, but ’tain’t easy. Life knocks a man down and he gits up and it knocks him down again. I’ve been uneasy all my life.”
The view from Bent Hill Brewery. This is a great place, but talk about the middle of nowhere – Braintree, VT, way up a dirt road with no commercial activity around for miles. I find that you cannot throw a rock in Vermont without hitting a beautiful place. Every place in the world has at least little pockets of beauty. We have rolling hills and mountains of it. I was drawn to want to try this brewery when I heard about the great variety of styles they have (an appropriate number of IPA’s – maybe 3 out of the dozen offerings, thank you!), and that their taproom menu was fully vegetarian. It is still my preference to eat low on the food chain. However, as I’ve been telling people, I’m finding it harder to do lately – Xopher recently got some blood work results telling him to lower his saturated fat intake, so there goes all the cheese I like to put on things. Dairy fat & refined carbs are usually what make vegetables a meal, and they aren’t as healthy as certain birds and fishies. Finally, it was a lot easier to cook solely vegetarian at home when it was winter – surprised, since it’s summer that offers all the fresh vegetative matter? Well, three reasons: split pea soup; black bean soup; and mushroom barley soup. These were all great go-to veg meals in winter, but I just don’t want to make soup in the summer.
But I digress. Back to beauty. I tried to find an official kind of bike, rec, or rail trail in the vicinity of Braintree to no avail. So I just used a map and found a loop we could do that was 8 miles and didn’t look too hilly. It was in fact too hilly but I am better at hills than I used to be. And it was such a beautiful and peaceful ride, on the Randolph-Braintree border. It’s so amazing to be able to just pull out the gazetteer and make your own journey and trust it will very likely be fabulous. I love you, my state!
Sometimes the only thing that calms me down is promising myself that I’ll kill myself in the morning.
Anyway, today was like a dog walking on its hind legs:
‘I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”‘ Boswell: Life
I told myself I didn’t have to do today well, in any respect. As with a dog walking on its hind legs, I would be satisfied as long as today got done at all.
Simon Baron-Cohen is a psychology professor and author of six hundred scientific articles and four books. He is proposing a theory of Systemizing vs. Empathizing brain types, with the former associated with both autism (well established) and inventiveness (his new theory). Chapters were most interesting when discussing the brain types, and autistic and intensively systemizing people in particular and in general. There were less interesting chapters about how early we can date true inventiveness on the part of homo sapiens; and whether animals can invent. These things did not seem relevant to the theory to me. Baron-Cohen passionately calls out for better accommodations in society for autistic people – they need remunerative work, and to feel valued, and to have friends. These passages made me want to go out and befriend an autistic person. I guess that proves I have an Empathic side of my brain after all. That’s just a joke – he emphasizes that the “empathy” skills that autistic people lack are not those of “affective empathy” – feeling compassion and a sense of justice for others; but “cognitive empathy” – able to put oneself in another’s shoes, commonly called “emotional intelligence”. There are tests you can take in the appendices to see whether you rate as a Systemizer, an Empath, or a “Balance” of the two. I think there was an error reversing the legends of the axes of the graph in Appendix A, however, so I am not sure if I am something of a “Systemizer” (though I am definitely not an extreme one) or a “Balanced” individual. Another appendix lets you quiz yourself to see how many autistic traits you have. I rate about six; so does my husband; this puts us on the “low” end of being “high” in autistic traits.
I was originally mildly surprised that he wasn’t rating more “systemic” or more “autistic” than me; but upon further reflection, I buy it – I think we are both true Systemizers, but in different ways. He has some spot-on spectrum traits – zeroing in on the details all the time, seeing flaws, seeing how things are constructed. Me… my favorite thing in the world is to apply a system and see how it turns out. I am that person who “follows recipes slavishly”. I love cooking and have tried to study those books who teach you how not to need recipes anymore; but, I LIKE following recipes. I do them to the letter as well as I can, and I don’t peek at the ending. Likewise I follow knitting patterns slavishly. I don’t try to adjust my recipes or patterns as I go along; I am totally non-intuitive, because that is what I LIKE. I want to apply the system, apply the rules, see what I get. Something I used to do when I was a kid was come up with a wacky system for coloring a picture: all the things that begin with “A” will be this color, “B” will be this color, etc. I would end up with something nutty, but the point was not to end up with a beautiful picture – though it would be awesome if that happened – but just to see what would happen. I also used to pick colors at random a lot. I still like randomizing my life. Can’t describe it any better – I just like to see what happens – and the more I think about all the aspects of my life, the more this seems to apply: I like to have systems and apply them.
In a rare straying from vegetarian cooking I tried this NYT magazine recipe last night, and X deemed it “excellent,” as did I! That’s mushrooms and breadcrumbs on top. Copious butter, and some white wine, white vinegar, and lemon juice round it out.
From the department of Don’t Tell Anyone: Sometimes I think X thinks of me as some kind of household appliance. But it’s OK because sometimes I think of him as some kind of a pet.
Recommended to me by a coworker. Tries to teach you how to view problems not in isolation but as systems – interactions of many variables at once. Tries to help you identify the likely leverage points – places where you can most efficiently effect changes in the system, hopefully in the direction you want (not guaranteed).