Category Archives: symbolism

Greenbroke

In which Carrie writes a poem …

Horse photo Sisters

 

Greenbroke

When the rider is green

and keeps falling of

the old cowhands say:

She’s got too much horse.

But she always learned

To get right back up.

12/28/14


I Reckon

In which Carrie reflects on the matter ….

 

Explosion of earthly

Wonder

I wonder why

I am born a reckoner

And would I be

without our

Milky Way.

 

Orion points me true

I see you in the

spattered galaxy.

 

From Sisters

I stop and think

Of ways I might

have been

Startdust

Less beautifully.

 

1/10/15


Hidden Flowers

In which Carrie recognizes terror management theory and its relevance to everyday living . . .

I confronted issues of mortality and morality at a school the other day.  The previous night I went to the local university’s psychology club film and lecture event centering around Terror Management Theory (TMT). The film was Flight From Death (2005).  We discussed conscious ways to confront fear of death., instead of unconsciously acting against it.  The film suggests most people suppress this natural fear but are prone to fighting evil with evil in the form of hurting those who are not like ourselves, Others.  When we dehumanize someone out of fear of mortality, TMT supposes this is an individual’s (or nation’s) way of immortalizing themselves.  To erase or damage another’s dignity, or a culture’s worth (think of Nazi Germany or the 911 terrorist attacks), we build a temporary, but unsustainable, sense of being right while making the others somehow wrong. This unconscious suppression of the knowledge that we are all going to die causes war, and impresses on the “winners” that they are somehow more worthy of others.

 

I live where I do not have “death reminders” everyday, which is not the case for countries presently at war (on their home soil).  I do not live with explicit violence everywhere, and do not see humans being shot down on a weekly basis.  I know nobody who owns a firearm except for hunters.   Death reminders are scarce, and passing subliminal, in my sheltered world, but I see things like it which remind me I need to protect myself, and others from harm.

 

The other day a little boy comes up to me at the last period of my day after I had already been through much which reinforced my (mistaken) beliefs in an incompetency of my worth as a teacher.  The day had been hard, and with each new challenge my will to work at my best potential became weaker and weaker.  I found it hard to do my job as well as I usually do.  But there are always wonderful things which happen on the hardest days.  They keep me coming back.

 

This boy approached me with two hand-lenses held up to his eyes like out-of-fashion  nerd glasses, showing me his humor, his geekiness.  I believe now that while I intuit he is not popular and is consistently the recipient of micro-aggressions from his peers, he rose above that sadness and showed me the strength of his creativity and humor.  He also asked me later if he could use one of the high-powered microscopes to examine the parts of his flower, being only the second student who wanted an in-depth view of their specimen instead of using just the hand-lenses (which are just easier to distribute).  In this case, he demonstrated—beyond the motivations of his peers—an inherent interest in the learning for the day.  He had probably been looking forward to this all week, since they planted the flowers.

 

The “greenhouse” was in the corner of the room.  Each of the lab plants was under lights to help them photosynthesize (there are no windows in the room).  By the time I got there to fill in for the teacher, most of the flowers had dropped off.  As a result, I had the supply management issue of making sure every student got one flower to observe and dissect for the lab.  This rationing was another level to my worry on top of jumping from other classrooms, a back-t0-back schedule and spring fever among students, and as the last period rolled around I skeptically gazed at my supply of specimens and back at the number of students, wondering if there would be enough.  I passed the tender flowers out, carefully.  Some students accidentally blew theirs off the table or had little success extracting the petals, sepals, pistals and stamens resulting in some smushed bug likenesses.  Somehow, there were just enough which I could find under those mock-sun lights.

 

But this boy might have hidden his own plant away from the others.   I don’t know. He approached me with a reasonably healthy plant filled with about ten blooms.  I wondered how my eyes had missed them, a sudden surplus.  Everyone by that time had one so I didn’t bother asking to use his.  It was his plant, with his name written in sharpy on the styrofoam container.  Originally each student was going to dissect their own, but they all became a collective resource by that time.  Good for him keeping his away from view, like it was a rare wildflower one finds in the most remote wilderness.

 

Later during that class, I had some time to think and watch.  The one thing about labs is they usually draw students in, being so close to art and equally messy.  Only the students with the highest of spring fever relinquished their curiosity of botany to forego the assignment altogether, but most did their jobs.

 

There, in my exhausted observation, I listened to a few students arguing quietly, quietly enough for me not to be able to hear the content, but I could clearly see distress in their bickering.  Small faces turning like machetes in the angle of enemies, tossing glints of anger at each other, their perceived immortality at risk.  I noticed this boy was still trying to concentrate on his work but his neighbors were taking stabs.  He defended himself with some degree of assurance but it was making his life miserable.

 

I called him up and asked him what was going on.  He started talking, his eyes dropping water.  His demeanor of expressing his frustrations about another student were not filled with large tones or expansive gestures, but coherent explanation through the drip, drip, drip.  The water stained his shirt.  He told me his object of frustration, another girl with low social standing, wasn’t really liked by anybody.  I saw he felt sad and invited him to take a break—go out and get a drink of water, walk around a little.

 

I then called the girl over who was the object of his present frustration.  She narrated her story and I heard that it, too, was understandable  Her backstory—from what I have gleaned through my brief interactions with her—would make every adult in this community want to pause their momentary pleasures and obligations to help her out.  But with our limited vision reaching not far behind our American identity, I would doubt that anyone would—leave it to those who deal with that sort of thing.  I suggested that her classmate was sad and that she might meet him out in the hallway to give him an apology.  I told her that he might not accept it, but that it would be a good thing to do anyway.  She smiled and walked off.

 

As I reflect on this—it all happened so fast—I realize now that I don’t know if either of them finished the lab, to the chagrin of their teacher and tazpayers.  I don’t know how the apology went, or if any harms were undone.  If I see them again I might ask, given the appropriate time to do so.  It is important to follow up on these things.

 

This minor episode, including the nerdy glasses sported by the boy,  was the highlight of my day.  The situation I found myself in for the entire work day was one of high stress, as is the usual nature of substitute teaching, only disastrously more than usual.  I don’t feel like I came close to doing a good job. But I took some lessons in terror management from this particular boy who confronted who-knows-how-much-bullying day-to-day with humor, interest in inquiry learning, and self-directed motivation to get what he could from a lesson in botany.

 

I still wonder if he had the plant hidden away, knowing in advance that in order for his project to succeed he needed to take it upon himself to create the right conditions, including asking to use the high-powered microscope, unlike his peers.  I also noticed that he let me know, after I asked, a frustration—not the first in his young career as an object of dehumanizing attacks.  This open door to talk is something I believe most students would welcome if a concerned person invited them to speak, and cry if need be.

 

Where the village ceased to be the raiser-of children, I don’t know, but it is for these hidden students that I work to protect.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Love and Grit

In which Carrie thinks of two “Bobby McGees”  . . .

 

A jarring purr-call of crows in the forest, which, to other avians must seem like a lion’s roar.  I ignore my labor and self-doubt with the distraction of interesting looking forest debris and idle chatter about things I would have a much easier time discussion were I sitting with my hiking companion over a cup of coffee.  It is eight in the morning and we put one foot in front of the other up a gentle incline which nature will turn into steep, loose cinders later on in the hike toward the end.  This is my first, my second, my third, my fourth attempt up the mountain.  They all blend into each other.  I have known this country.  My memory assures me it was I, Carrie Anne Ebner, who travelled there.

 

I also once tried the Portland Marathon.  I remember this September (or was it October) morning, after a night of watching two strange black-and-white movies (Pi was one of them) and not really feeling like sleeping, as the sun was rising by the second and I was smiling (at least internally) at the little downhill bit near the Naito Parkway.  An older woman passed me and I followed her skinny frame and the sign clipped to her shirt which said, “This is my 18th marathon.  How about you.”  I remember lime green something, and her moving farther along ahead of me.  It didn’t matter that she passed me or that this was my first official marathon, or that she was, like, 80.  I was happy to be there.  I wore a cut-off shirt with a giant sunflower printed on the front.

 

I have just read, and re-read a quote found in the book Running Away: “When a bad thought floats into your head you have to say, Thank you for coming, thank you for visiting, now go away.”  The runner Bobby McGee said it.  It is probably a well-worn sentiment used by coaches of many varieties to motivate their charges.  It has succeeded in both advising me right now while also invoking the Janis Joplin song which will probably be in my head for most of the day.

 

The trail is getting steeper, but I know there is relief coming, this being my multiple time here, the Three Sisters Wilderness.  Soon it will flatten into a plain and to the right of my companion and me will be Moraine Lake, and Broken Top, void of snow this August, farther off.  We’ll stop for a snack and some water up by those damn-tough looking trees.  They are probably five hundred years old or something.  How would I know, but that I suppose someone told me that they grow slowly, but enduringly, in this hostile habitat.

 

The other marathon was a lot more successful, though unconventional.  I might have worn that same sunflower shirt part of the time.  I remember waking up on my twenty-first birthday with something like a smile.  I had been thinking of running my own version of 26.2 miles for a week or two, and took two days off of work at Black Butte Stables to allow for the run and a day of recovery.

 

I jogged my first 5-mile loop in sweatpants.  I came home and ate and drank water, changed my clothing into something cooler–it was August– and went for a different loop.  Ten miles in a row was the longest set I had put in ever. My “training” consisted of ten-hour work days with horses and an occasional hike.  My ambition was fueled not by knowledge that my body was ready for this but that I loved something about the idea.  I wanted to at least try.

 

I went for another jog, had a longer break and completed the last 10 or so with a couple of friends of mine who seemed to admire me for this strange enterprise.  For some reason I didn’t consider it a big deal, not like getting an advanced degree or having a baby or buying a home.  I sipped a few gulps of merlot where they took me for a birthday dinner and complained of soreness.  I had run five and a half hours in one day which, by my loose estimate on my average mile time (13 minutes), was, indeed, a marathon.   I am the tortoise.

 

I miss running.  The book I read made me crave it.  I missed running and hiking long trails when I was studying philosophy and linguistics at Portland State.  I underwent a different genre of endurance–one where my thought and creativity and scholarship was remarked upon to the point of feeling not very good about myself–almost the entire time I was there.  I would read biographies about mountain climbers–the real ones who faced actual death every moment of their Himalayan treks–and would fit some homework in here and there.  Probably those stories kept me on track to graduate.

 

It was hard to thank the bad thoughts which floated into my head and firmly, but gently, invite them to leave.  I took therapeutic walks with my German shepherd while writing my papers in my head.  The verdancy of Tryon Creek State Park enriched me in my darkest moments in which I composed nothing resembling philosophical argument but passionate explorations of deep philosophies–useful ones.  Life-affirming ones. I would look upon the cyclical habitat with awe.  I came to know Wolf spider webs in the fall and explosive buds littering the trail in the spring.  Very different from where I grew up.

 

The summit of the mountain wasn’t really the end.  Nor the second or third one. Maybe that is what helped me think, It’s not a big deal.  Sure, nobody can take away those accomplishments one accrues in a lifetime, but there is still the downhill trek.  And the next unremarkable day unremembered now.  I faced other ambitions later which took longer and required the participation of more than one or two people in order to make me win or lose, more or less.

 

I finish and finish again and try something else and remember who I was in my sunflower shirt with nothing, really, to lose.

 


Memoryin’

In which Carrie remembers something nearly forgotten . . .

Now it is used to store trash cans which aren’t really cans and several boxes of my books are in the stall named “Annie,” for she was the last resident.  She came along after I had gotten past my horse ownership phase, but my mother took up the torch.  I had three that I called mine.

 

As an adolescent I was introduced to horses by getting one and getting bucked off him a few times to instill the fear properly.  That horse (He Who Shall Not Be Named) was sold three months later.  I got Scotch Lad, or “Scotch,” soon after.  He might have really been my first love, as girls who get to own horses can understand.  We even don’t think their shit stinks, which helps.  It has a oaty-hayey clean smell to it and is usually around tack and other good smells, like the horse himself.

 

What I was just memoryin’ (to borrow David Mitchell’s coinage for “remembering”) came back to me like a twelve-thousand pound hug.  A salve for loneliness and feeling lost and driftless in an ocean between continents.  Is it why we have memories like these, and why something in me plucked at that stray daffodil among a field of cheatgrass?  The warm tones in the barnlight and the horse fur kept me in some cloak of okay then and now.

 

I believe I must have felt lonely a lot as a kid. Not unlikely, not uncommon.  But some have more usual routes to manage that and more friends and family to share the burden.  I had those but was too afraid to ask sometimes.  I had the horse too which is better in some ways than people.

 

I would ride in the daytime, but not everyday.  It was work and effort to saddle up.  Plus, I was afraid sometimes.  I wasn’t one of those girls who was all free spirited and fearless.  I had to work myself up to getting on.  But one thing was an easy release of my self.  My way of losing who I was in that state called by some “flow.”  I didn’t really know about it until now until I remembered going out to the barn in the evenings.

 

The trail from my parents house to the barn is still slightly carved, and gets some rare foot traffic.  I remember it being thick with snow sometimes.  I would go out in the middle of the night in my jacket and nobody looking.  I would walk and call to him.

 

He came for the little extras, carrots or a handful of hay or oats, and sometimes I’d just leave it at that.  I’d stand there, arm across the barn wall, in the beautiful barn colors of leathery saddles and cloudy saddle pads and firm bridles and earthy hay bales and those standard bark chips on the floor.  I’d watch him rolling the food in his jaw, or sometimes go in there and put my ear to it and hear him demolishing the carrot.  I think I thought in those more serene moments, watching.  Smelling.  Thinking about my troubles or pleasures.  Troubles become pleasures like that.

 

Other times I would put him in the cross ties.  His face looking out the rolling barn door usually closed in winter.  It was well lit in there.  I could have used it as a reading room but I don’t think I ever did.  Hay is kind of uncomfortable to sit on.  It comes through the cloth and there are spiders and stuff.

 

Sometimes I would have so much energy.  Some nights practically burning with it pent up by the square chairs at school or the suffocation of other people.  I’d let it out through brushes and hoofpicks and other weapons of mane and fur maintenance.  Scotch’d just go with it.  The hind feet were a little ticklish at the hocks.  He’d pull a little in resistance but I wasn’t really too afraid of being kicked.  He was a really trustworthy animal.  An all-around good guy.

 

I’d talk to him.  He’d smell my breath when I breathed into his nostrils. He’d let me fondle his ears, and I still retain the old habit of scratching the insides of ears belonging to other horses to check for fly egg deposits or lice or whatever gross thing it is inside horses ears, mostly in the warmer months.  This, I just realized, represents something I know.  This is knowledge I have in the form of an action.  I’d never really thought it before.  And now I write it.

 

This helps to think about.  The image of a saddle when I type “saddle” but more than just an image.  It is like a whole miracle that happens only within me.  Same with hoofpick and handful of hay and Scotch’s copper penny fur, thick and dull on this remembered winter night, shiny when it becomes summer inside my imagination at another time I call on horses to help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Theory and Fact

Our facts convince us but do they convince ultimate reality?

There has been some discussion here recently about what a fact is and what it really depends on to get a hold on the world (i.e. our minds understanding it as “fact”).  The problem is our species believes all of these facts–which are abundant–stand on their own.  A person can state something–their belief–and name it “just a fact about the world” and assume his interlocutor (s) will buy into his worldview.  But that’s just it.  There is a worldview there, from which the so-called fact depends upon for its existence.

I’m not trying to use the highly abstracted hand of skepticism to wave reality away from knowing creatures like yourself.  I’ll leave that to Descartes or Berkeley or Putnam.  But my aim is to remind you that “facts” are highly theory-dependent.  There are theoretical presuppositions behind every fact a person can name, and the truth of the fact depends upon the robustness of the theory.  Else it falls into the category of opinion.

We understand that objects fall because of our theory, or mental concepts making sense of patters, of gravity.  Or if you have never had the privilege of studying gravity in a formal way (school), you were (in fact) born with the fear of falling, as experiments on children show given controlled circumstances.  So, biologically, you will understand gravityness as true, that falling objects will not suddenly start misbehaving.  You will not test this embodied truth on yourself by throwing it (your body!) over a cliff.  This is a positive example of a fact which holds some mass in our worldviews.  My assertions utilizing biology and observation of physical objects and common assumptions about instinct or cognition back these asserted “facts.”

However, one must be wary because moral kinds of “facts” (or any using good/bad, better/worse, etc.) masked under the sacrosanct markers of True or False, ought to be realized as idiosyncratic preferences of individuals often arguing for thier opinions of how they would prefer others to see the world.  This can often be self-serving, selfish, and potentially destructive (the opposite might make up the consequence as well, as a matter of opinion). Beliefs also comes from biases, prejudices, and that ilk.  They are not justified until proven so.  It takes a maturer mind to question its own beliefs and opinions, and test them against alternative beliefs–even unpleasant ones– judiciously.

There is a wonderful game to examine the theoryladenness of factual claims, and how much we rely upon them,  often taking them for granted.  We have rich worlds within ourselves coming from our unique experiences, real or imagined. Below are a list of “facts” all linked to a common theory.  It is a puzzle to figure out.  See if you can guess the correct “theory” which links the list of facts below.  Feel free to comment on this blog.  The answer (guiding theory) will be in the categories at the end of this post.  Good luck!

  • Newspapers are better than magazines.
  • The seashore is better than the street.
  • At first it is better to run than to walk.
  • It takes some skill but is easy to learn, even for young children.
  • It’s true that it needs lots of room.
  • Beware of rain; it ruins everything.
  • A rock will serve as an anchor.
  • If things break loose, you won’t get a second chance.

Exquisite Corpse

In which Carrie, Steven and Kariessa play a game of Exquisite Corpse … 

ROUND 1

Seed: It was a dark and stormy night at

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always

It was a dark and stormy night at

the circus and the clowns were restless. It had

neva occurred to Smithey that for once

he had gone a whole month without drinking water.

But that wasn’t important now, because the

water was there, in his four-tentacled hand.

He took a deep drink of the salty brine, savoring the

burn of it as it went down his esophagus. “Oh how

much better this would taste with a twinkie!”

So, he made a twinkie out of rotting wood and slime.

But somehow it lacked that je nais sai qua, like

the way dust motes dulled vision in wind.

He sighed and realized that he was forever

restless, forever a clown, and it would always be dark and raining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bella’s Addiction, Edward’s Reform

It was a dark and stormy night at

the end of a pencil when Bella snorted when

she was taking drugs. Then, Edward came

and pointed out that sugar wasn’t really a drug.

She looked up at him with dulled visage

as he hadn’t fed in weeks. His eyes gleamed

in a satisfied, easygoing sort of way, as he contemplated

the slimy snot running down her lips and

the gaping rents in his face, from which pus

had dripped. “You look good tonight,” he said with

Victorian charm. “Your earlobes look pale

and your scent…” He lunged forwards, crosses bared

and then changed his mind. There was a better way-which

involved vegetarians, and their little dogs, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conquest of the Eyeballs: A History of Their Victories and Pulsating Ways

It was a dark and stormy night

at the haunted restaurant. Eyeballs floated

nervously, unsure of themselves, but confident

of their ultimate design. Dawkins appeared

and the zombers wondered who he was. Then,

he pointed out how clever he really was, so much more than

the evil scientist so many had thought

was going to be the first to make ants dance.

But the eyeballs had a new though, that perhaps

they could evolve, or devolve from high rank.

So, their floating changed. Each started to pulsate

and stared intently, daring Dawkins and the zombers

to do what they might, but knowing how

they would eventually pulsate their way into victory!

ROUND 2

Seed: She was a bad cat, really, if you

How Kitty’s Heart Turned to Ice: A Cautionary Tail

She was a bad cat, really, if you

weren’t paying close attention. “Once,” I said,

“She walked all the way across the field, carrying a

mountain on her back (dwarves included).

And the next day, she lounged around all day,

weary and sore, but tender in her affections.” Then,

everyone realized that the last sentence didn’t

follow from the first. But a cat has its tail

tucked underneath, and like the every flexible feline

she could produce round droplets of slime from her

ears or her… But wait! She has some

other things she cared about besides slime and genes.

She also loved to eat slime, which was totally

divine to cat kind, the Opiate of Meow.

So she became content. No more mountains, no

more affections. Her heart became cold and desolate forever.

Bad Cat I

She was a bad cat, really, if you

looked at it from the bird’s point of view. But

who cared about the bird, anyway? He was just

“endangered.” All those hippies need to come to

realize that there was an easy solution. Penguins

just needed to be genetically modified so that

they stopped the tux act and blend in.

And the cat knew that – knew that in a way that

made the world make sense. So, her evil plot

started edging up the plot pyramid, vying

for Evil Plot Victory. The first step was to get rid of

the lesser plots. She did this by suffocating them with

furball clots. The penguins paled. They

knew they had just one chance. They had to get

the Dark Lord Voldemort to help them. So they did. The

Dark Lord gave free tux rentals & she was finished.

Bad Cat 2

She was a bad cat, really, if you

thought about how she had drunk dog vomit and

then vomited that up, and drank that, too.

But that wasn’t the worst thing. Not at all – for

she also loved to roll around in her scat, and

then cat skat at the local club where all

the kool cats sat, chewing the fat on the mat eating

their own flesh. After all, they could make

more! The gene-squencing cats at Washington

had found a way to power cats with nuclear energy,

turning them into warheads. Technically, it was the plutonium,

but, when used effectively, those suckers

really roll round ranking, rhyming, running, and

eating each other. What no one knew was that

Edward and Bella never kissed or ate

cats, after all. So she was finally able to sleep, purring contentedly to herself.