Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Paper tigers

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

(Theodore Roethke, “The Waking,” 1948)

I pushed it too hard yesterday, and the extreme fatigue I felt at the end of the day—heavy in body, heavy in mind, slow getting to sleep—made me realize I’ve been pushing it for a while, for example not really having given myself time to rest and recreate after coming back from four days at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference in LA last week; and so I’m giving myself a slow morning today. Maybe even a whole slow day.

I slept in till just before 8:00, got up and did my stretches, took a shower, took Dillon out front (Anna had actually fed him earlier and let him out in the backyard too), then finally sat down to the lovely omelet Anna had made and left for me followed by a quarter-cup of Elke’s kefir and a big yogurt smoothie Anna had put in the fridge for me.

Today feels like the right day to get back to blogging—I’ve missed it, don’t like feeling too busy to have time for it. Of course that should be “too busy to make time”—I’ve been choosing the busy-ness, clearly, even relishing it despite what I’ve just said. I like being back at work and working hard, thinking hard; I like feeling needed by various people and groups, I like having my views solicited. It’s gratifying, and the work is interesting and satisfying. All good for the ego, and some of it’s good for the spirit, too: there’s a real joy in working through a hard problem, writing my way into it and through it—though I interrupt myself constantly just as I feel I’m on the verge of breaking through, choosing those moments to check email or get up and go to the bathroom or see if Dillon wants to go out in the yard, anything but actually writing the next sentence. What’s that about? It’s a very old pattern of self-interference…

I’m trying to sneak up on what I think (I hope!) are two different but related projects—a proposal to the National Science Foundation to develop courses, curriculum, and learning/assessment activities for two undergrad courses on accessibility, and a chapter on Web standards to introduce part of a book to be published by Springer-Verlag. Why am I trying to sneak up on these things? (Sudden image of two giant cats' eyes in the tall grass: so I’m not “sneaking up on them” at all: I’m trying to get past them without being jumped and mauled! So that’s my image of writing the hard scholarly stuff?? Wrestling with tigers?? Geez.)

Flashback to graduate school: the night before orals, the qualifying exams for which my classmates and I had been preparing for eight months, I had a dream. I was at the Buffalo Zoo, a place I loved when I was a kid. I was in front of the outdoor tiger habitat, watching the tigers, when suddenly one of them was racing toward me. Terrified, I crouched at the rail that separated me from the deep moat that separated the animals’ environment from the humans’ environment. It was supposed to be an unsurpassable barrier for the tigers, but there they were, in the moat, climbing up the walls. Still crouching low, I ran (scuttled?) along the railing, hoping to escape. The tigers were gaining. I could hear them behind me. I took one last look over the railing and into the moat. And I found that they were paper tigers, like big Japanese kites. I woke up laughing. Orals went fine. Guess I ought to walk into the tall grass and say hello to those big cats in there. Of course, I might get ripped to shreds.

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