31 July, 2014

(this memory) 110

This is the story behind last Monday's (this moment).

It's July 2005, and we're just below the Inaccessible Pinnacle on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, peering over the edge of Sgùrr Dearg.

I was originally told that this was a Brocken spectre, but have since learned that the term really refers specifically to the optical illusion of a greatly magnified shadow, when the observer is looking down on clouds with the sun shining from behind. Technically, my shadow is not impressively magnified here.

The confusion was probably due to the fact that Brocken spectre are often associated with glory, an optical phenomenon that causes a circular, halo-like rainbow to appear around the observer's head. This is apparently due to classical wave tunneling, "when light nearby the droplet tunnels through air inside the droplet and...is emitted backwards due to resonance effects." Thanks for nothing, Wikipedia...I did get an A in physics, you know.

At the end of my second year of med school, I was obligated to partake in the ritual torture of taking the first Step in the U.S. medical licensing exams. It was sadly kind of awesome. There was something unexpectedly freeing about having only a single obligation - to study for and pass the test - for five weeks. I spent them at my parents' house, sleeping until noon or later, and studying until 2 AM (my biological clock's preferred schedule), enjoying my father's wine collection and my mom's fantastic cooking. I didn't even do my own laundry.

About a week before the exam, my father and sister headed to Europe to...unclear. Visit Hard Rock Cafés and the Freud museum, I think. After the exam, my mom and I flew out to meet them in Dublin and make our way through the land of my (eight-plus generations removed) ancestors, Wales and Scotland. I originally wanted to hike a large part of the trip, along the West Highland Way, but since that was clearly not suited to anyone else's traveling style, we compromised on a trip to Skye where I could rock climb in the Black Cuillin...now possibly my favorite place on earth.

This hike was particularly breathtaking. It was also brutal and exhausting at times, but I came down feeling purified in a way that has only happened a few times before. Like doing Bikram yoga in the sky.

Random side note #1: I deeply wanted to name my son Skye, in honor of the wonderful time I spent with my family there, but I worried that it had been co-opted by female soap opera characters. I'm still a bit sorry I didn't include it as a third middle name (that seemed excessive), but maybe I'll give it to my next child, boy or girl. Before I settled on his name - I'll get to that in another post - I searched for pretty much any word association that could work. Since "Dearg" (the name of the peak I climbed) wasn't appealing, I considered Alasdair (Sgùrr Alasdair is the highest peak in the Black Cuillin), but Alasdair sounds decidedly pretentious for an American child, and it's just named after the first guy who climbed it anyway.

Random side note #2: I am good at taking tests. For better and for worse, at times, it has always been that way, since kindergarten. But after I took the MCAT, the admissions test required for applying to medical school, I was petrified to view my score report online. A day or two later, I was taking a nap (college = sleeping a lot) when my father came into my bedroom and asked, "So what's the lowest score you could possibly get and still try to apply to med school?"

"What?" I mumbled from underneath the blankets. "Who cares? Why? I don't know. Go away."

"Would a __ be good enough?" he persisted.

"Um, yes," I said through sleepily gritted teeth. "Duh. That would be, um, like, stratospheric." (I hope I didn't talk like this...but I probably did.) "Now, go away."

"Well, that's what you got," he said, dropping a slip of paper on my pillow.

Turns out I left my codes for accessing the scores next to computer (ah, the days before every member of my family - even the dog and the toddler - had their own iPhone, iPad, and MacBook open 24/7), and my dad had decided it was a subconscious message that I wanted someone else to peek for me.

I taped that slip of paper into my college scrapbook...not because of the score, but because it reminded me of my dad's sweet confidence in us.

28 July, 2014

{this moment} 110

{this moment} is a Monday ritual that my father started in May 2011, and that I have maintained since May 2014. He described it as "A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes." When he passed away in February 2014, he left a folder containing images that he hoped to share in the months and years ahead. For some, I share my perspective of the story behind the moment on Thursdays, in a companion ritual called {this memory}. For others, the story is lost in the ocean of time, but I welcome flights of imagination and speculation from readers.

{this moment} was adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. My dad suggested, "Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment." I encourage the same.


23 July, 2014

Mighty Finn - Update #27

Mamma is not nearly as good at staying on top of my comings and goings as Grandpa was.

But here's where we left off...

My first visit to the dentist! Something about strangers telling me to open my mouth or hold on my arm for a shot makes me curiously well-behaved...whereas Mamma asking me to please not wipe mango on her shirt makes me want to do just that.

Then I spent the day at Sunflower Farm with a cute little girl named Charlie. She seemed to have forgotten about the time I put my hand under her skirt (okay, I was all of 16 months old then). 

Here I am feeding a goat. I was very upset that the grey one kept coming back for more and the white one wasn't eating at all.

And here I am driving a BIG tractor!

Meanwhile, Mommy started packing up my books and toys! At first, I thought putting things neatly in boxes seemed pretty fun, but then I realized that they stayed in the boxes. So then I started to unpack when Mommy's back was turned.

This was my last day of soccer practice before our big move. My mommy accidentally packed up my uniform but I didn't mind - I like to stand out from the crowd.

After the chalk art festival, we headed to a new market - Le Jardin Secret. It lived up to its name when I discovered this hidden fountain!

Then I spent an exciting morning at the Children's Museum. I could blow giant bubbles all day long. I even shoved a little girl out of the way when she tried to steal my wheel!

After another trip to New York for Mommy's job interviews, we headed up to Crested Butte for a much-needed break. Here is the view from our deck! I spent a lot of time watching the prairie dogs and demanding, "I need more moo cow!"

Back in Denver, my nonna and I shared gelato (pistachio and strawberry panna cotta) at Spuntino. Mamma tried to keep it a secret but I also discovered that Yasmin makes the BEST coconut almond macaroons in the WORLD.

And then we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. They had these giant bubbles just for me to play in.

Good-bye, Colorado! It's been fun!

22 July, 2014

(poetically plagiarized} 25: Vandenberg

A poem recently shared with me by my good friend Lauren...

Marrying Late
by Katrina Vandenberg

When I think of what it means not to marry
the high school sweetheart, but to find each other
as we did at ages thirty and forty, I think
of John and I singing along to an old cassette
of Jackson Browne on car trips, and how, as we sing,
a part of me is hearing the song for the first time
in Detroit, on WRIF with my first boyfriend
in his truck as he took curves, shifting hard and fast.
And probably John is making love with a black-haired girl
in the carpeted back of his van in 1979, out west,
the cassette new and popular, draining the battery.
How unlikely that we ended up traveling together
singing a song we each learned with someone else.
Neither of us minds that, the way we might have then.

"Marrying Late" from The Alphabet Not Unlike the World by Katrina Vandenberg (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2004). Copyright © 2004 by Katrina Vandenberg.

12 July, 2014

A tree grows in Imlil

This one has a certain magic or whimsy.

Tree, vines and door
Imlil, High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
March 2007

09 July, 2014

Light For The Navigator, V

Wednesday Without Words

Key West Light
First Lighted in 1849
Key West, Florida

Originally posted three years ago, my father planned to revisit this series of lighthouses this year. Although he never did, I have chosen to repost these monthly on the day of his passing, in his memory and in celebration of his love for lighthouses.

See: Birth of Salvation
Digital scan of 35mm color slide
Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

01 July, 2014

Tuesdays With Another

What Do Women Want?
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

From Tell Me by Kim Addonizio. Copyright © 2000 by Kim Addonizio. BOA Editions.