November 9, 2009
I married a Nordic god. He’s tall, blond, rugged, chiseled . . . all those things you read about in a romance novel that make you sigh. He’s also brilliant, which is a good thing in the Oracle database world.
Unfortunately, he suffers from what many brilliant people suffer from . . . it’s a little something I call “the butterfly effect.” (No, not the real butterfly effect . . . something else entirely as you will see.)
In his Belgariad series, David Eddings describes a situation when the protagonist, Garion, is coming to terms with his powers. He has embarked on a quest with a group of warriors. On the journey, they rescue and adopt a young colt.
Garion, unsupervised, decides he will attempt to hurl a boulder with his mind. Aparently in the world of magic, the same laws of physics apply as in the normal world. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The boulder is tossed and Garion finds himself sunk into the ground to his neck and unable to move.
Being the wizard that he is, the boy telepathically summons his horse to go for help. He links his mind with that of the colt and sees . . . flowers, butterflies, bees, birds . . . and senses the young colt scampering off in pursuit of these follies instead of bringing the trapped Garion the help he needs.
This, my friends, is the butterfly effect. And my husband has made it a sport. He, in fact, is its top athlete.
He will exit the front door. His destination: mailbox. Distance: fifty yards. Twenty minutes will go by. Twenty become thirty. Thirty become forty. I’ll peek out to check on him only to find he is standing waist high in prairie grass studying a spider web or a sapling or a flower in our daughter’s butterfly garden, a stack of mail tucked safely under his arm.
He is a considerate man, my husband. “Do you need anything, honey?” he asks. “Love a Diet Coke,” I say. “Sure thing. Right away.”
One hour later, he’ll join me in the living room, knowing only that we spoke sometime earlier . . . although he can’t quite remember what was said.
If we go to Jamestown or Yorktown to see the sites or on a guided tour, he lags behind, savoring every moment, examining every artifact. When he’s done with that, he studies the trees and the dirt and the plants and anything else he can see or touch or smell.
Now, you may think I’m poking fun at him . . . and I guess I am. But what you need to know is that these things set an example for me.
In her book, If You Want To Write, Brenda Ueland stresses the importance of recognizing the need to pay attention to “now.” “What is happening to me now.” She recognized that writers spend a lot of time inside their own heads, hosting conversations between characters, dreaming of plot, pushing forward. We forget to stop and smell the roses. And sometimes, the best ideas for scene description or mood in a chapter can come from the things we observe if we’ll only take the time to look.
I try to be like my husband. I try to be more observant. Often I fall short. I cannot be the athlete. I can only be the athletic supporter.
What about you? Is there someone who sets an example for you, forces you to slow down a little bit? Someone who influences you in weird ways?
I’d love to hear about it.
April 14, 2008
My oldest child is 15, at the stage of life where much of his time is spent in his room brooding over the meaning of his existence-wondering how these strange people he calls his parents could have produced one such as him: normal.
It is with awe that I watch him change from boy to man, from child to adult-the change in interests, the difference in how he solves problems, relates to his siblings. I am proud.
This summer, he will be left over a thousand miles from us. We will drop him off and trust that the teachings and lectures and discipline we’ve offered over these 15 years have served their purpose. He will be with friends in the city.
As I think about that trip-the importance of it, the reality of it, the necessity of it for a boy on the threshold of manhood; I don’t think about the trouble he could get into. I don’t worry that he will make bad decisions. I don’t worry that he will be homesick. I know too well his level of responsibility, the dry wit that sees him through every situation with his own warped form of optimism.
Rather, I worry about how he will experience these friends he left behind two years ago. I think of the things they did at ages 12 and 13 and recognize that the gap from there to here is a big one. Friendships evolve as children evolve. As adult features push out from childlike faces, so too do the mannerisms and points of view of the adult emerge from the personality of the child.
And I suppose this is what I worry about as my son prepares to spend weeks away from me this summer. We talk a lot, he and I…about everything. And as he has grown, I have grown. And so, our relationship has evolved. But what about these friends he has not seen for years. Will they relate to one another in the same way? Of course not. Without being present in their lives, he has missed out on the evolution that has no doubt taken place within the workings of the group. And although I know this will not be a disappointment to him, I know he will, on some level, feel the strain of it and wonder if all childhood friendships end after one moves away. Perhaps he will mourn a little. Perhaps they will find new ground on which to build a friendship. Only time will tell.
As I think about my oldest child today, I think about the lessons he can teach me about my work; my writing. As much as I hate sitting with my hands on the keyboard some days, I know it must be done. Without the discipline, evolution in my work cannot occur. What I write today will never improve unless I work at it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
And so, I’d better stop all this musing and get back to work…or I’ll stay a monkey forever.