September, 2005 Archives


September 27th, 2005

I had an apple for lunch today.

This is an entirely insignificant event, but today it reminded me of home: home being New England, specifically Massachusetts and/or Connecticut. I spent the first 7 years of my life in Mass and 4 later years in CT until I went to college, and then I returned to the state for summers and Christmases for 5 years.

This is September; this is apple-picking season. It is autumn, it is fall, it is a time to be outside, a time to wear long sleeves, a time to go pumpkin-picking and foliage-watching and for weather-enjoying and life-living. It is not a time to avoid the outdoors because it is 100 degrees with unbearable humidity.

It is not the time to be in Texas.

But here I am. This is the time of year when I miss “home” the most. I miss everything about fall: the smell of a fresh apple that was just on a tree; the smell of apple-pie baking from the apples we picked that morning; the sound of leaves crunching under my feet; the incredible beauty of the leaves blazing yellow and orange and red and amazing colors in-between; the ache of muscles from raking the leaves and the ridiculous excitement of jumping in the pile; the crisp air that made me feel alive and made me want to run for fun, for the sheer joy of breathing and living…

This is the time of year when I want to be outside, to go for a hike at Sleeping Giant, to get out the sweaters, to spend hours enjoying the weather. Everything here is brown and dying, not coming to life in a blaze of autumn colors. I’m stuck inside with the air conditioning running; I can’t open the windows and let the breeze blow through the house. The heat is oppressive and takes something from me with it.

This is the ninth fall season I’ve missed, and “home” has never felt so far away.

death in my grass

September 22nd, 2005

I watched an animal die in my front yard yesterday.

I was walking toward my house after visiting the mailbox when I saw an animal laying in the grass. At first I thought it was a cat, but it was a possum. It was breathing deeply but laying very still and surrounded by flies. After walking by very slowly to make sure it didn’t jump up and get me, I got my cell phone to call darek.

He looked up a number for some wildlife place, but when I called them they told me to call animal control. I looked that up in the phone book but accidentally called Addison’s twice (it doesn’t take much for me to get really disorganized).

The possum’s breathing had slowed down by the time I finally called the right number. Then he had a sort of spasm and his back leg stretched out twice. I took a few steps back in case he jumped up, but he didn’t.

Then he was very still and stopped breathing.

It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever witnessed “in real life.” If it had been dead when I first saw it, my first reaction probably would have been “ew” followed by “what am I supposed to do with that?” and then finally “poor little guy.” But to actually watch it take its last breath was very sad. Even though it was just a possum.

day of remembering

September 19th, 2005

September 11 is always a rough day for me. 9/11 (I guess that’s its official name) didn’t affect me personally, but the images are vivid and the memories are painful, not only of that day but of the days that followed. For weeks I had trouble sleeping and getting through the days; all I wanted to do was watch the news.

After a few days everyone was back to normal, but I had this lingering terrible feeling about everything. Maybe other people in Texas weren’t as bothered as me because they hadn’t been to New York City at least a dozen times, hadn’t seen the City in all seasons, or slept on the sidewalk for theater tickets, or stood on top of the Empire State Building gazing down at the skyline. Most people in Abilene didn’t have grandmothers who had worked at the Pentagon during WWII, and they probably hadn’t driven through Pennsylvania on their way home for the holidays. Those places are very real to me. I found comfort in knowing that my friend in CT was as upset as I was, but discomfort in seeing how quickly life returned “to normal.”

This September 11 was especially rough. We just got back from Thailand, where we saw devastation from the tsunami. On the plane ride I woke up to see images on the news of what I initially thought to be Iraq or some third world country, only to realize that I was looking at New Orleans. Then comes Sunday, and what day is it? 9/11. I felt a little like I had been punched in the stomach.

It was a hard day to get through.

It’s been a week since this year’s anniversary, and that’s about the distance I needed to write about it. I don’t have anything significant to add, or any theories or politics to throw at it…just remembering, and thinking. Always thinking.

coming home

September 7th, 2005

Today was my first day back to work after spending a week in Thailand. Usually the morning traffic drives me crazy, and by the time I get to work, I’m hopelessly annoyed.

But today as I sat at the same light for 10 minutes, I thought, why do I complain about traffic? I should be grateful that I can afford a car to drive and that I have a good job to drive to.

If I had to describe Thailand in only one word, it would be “unreal.” If I could describe the trip in a two-word phrase, it would probably be “eye-opening.” I’ve traveled to other countries, I’ve seen extreme poverty, I’ve been amazed at the differences I saw, but this trip was somehow vastly different than anything else. It’s like a different world over there.

People frequently talk about how blessed and fortunate we are as Americans, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention how spoiled and selfish we are. We complain about gas prices rising, but it doesn’t really affect most of us in incredibly significant ways. We can still afford the gas to get to our jobs and the grocery store; we even manage to drive to the mall to buy nice things that we don’t really need. We just pay more for gas, and we complain about what it costs. Most people in Thailand can’t even afford a car. There are more motorcycles than cars, some driven by mothers holding two children and almost nobody wearing helmets. People ride in the backs of trucks, or in un-air-conditioned buses, or they walk to wherever they need to go. We refuse to give up our SUVs, to take public transportation, to walk more than absolutely necessary to get from the parking lot to wherever we need to be. We’re spoiled and rich, but we don’t usually see it that way. There’s always someone richer and more spoiled, and that’s not us.

We feel that we’re entitled to things that other people don’t even dream about. In Thailand, many of the hotels have sensors on the room key ring that have to be put in a holder in order for the lights and A/C to work; this saves electricity and therefore money. One of the people we were with found that if he took the key off, he could leave the sensor in the room while he was away, because “if I’m going to be paying for a room, I want it to be cool when I get back to it.” Never mind that the room was already cheap for him, or that the people running the place probably could barely afford to pay their living costs, or that the island could barely sustain all the tourists that visit it. He’s entitled to as much air conditioning as he wants; it’s his right. Lots of people don’t even have air conditioning, but that’s ok; they’re used to the heat; they don’t really need it like we do. Other people don’t need big cars; we need huge vehicles to transport 3 or 4 people at a time.

We went to a church that was an old converted building that had no air conditioning and only had plastic chairs to sit on. Most of our churches in America are pretty nice, and we crank up the AC until the girls are all wearing sweaters inside while it’s 100 degrees outside, because we’re entitled to as much coolness as we want. Never mind that all the money spent on the AC could be used to help people who can’t even afford to eat. We want to be comfortable. We can’t imagine not being comfortable.

Where did we get this mentality? Is it just a lack of awareness? It can’t be that, because most of us have seen news and magazines and downtown, and even other countries. Why does this country use most of the world’s oil and energy? What gives us this right? Although we never say it, our actions suggest that we think we deserve most than the rest of the world. Why?

We have so much. Most of us realize we have a lot, and we’re thankful, but I don’t think we stop and think about how spoiled we really are. Growing up, my family never seemed to have much money. My dad was a minister and my mom didn’t work until we were older, and even then we never had as much as most of my friends. We had hard times and my parents had to make sacrifices, but when I look back, I realize that I always had food to eat and clothes to wear. I never really had to worry about losing my house. My sisters and I frequently felt that we were poor, but by the world’s standards, we were rich.

I worry about money, but I’ve never been unable to pay my bills. We just spent nearly $4000 on a vacation to Thailand. Everything over there is so cheap for us, but the people who live there have so little. I feel that I should help people more, but I have a hard time giving up things that I want. I complain about traffic, gas prices, my water bill, and an endless list of things that don’t really decrease my standard of living. I want to use my money to travel and have a nifty house, and I want to make sure I have enough money to retire when I’m older: luxuries most people will never have.

I’m selfish, and I’m spoiled, and until recently I didn’t realize how much of either of these I was. It’s hard to admit, and even harder to change. So where do I go from here?