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Change is Good

In my quest to find something introspective and wise to say about the past year on this, my 24th birthday, my thoughts kept returning to one thing: Veronika. I guess this shouldn't have surprised me since the last fourteen months have been devoted almost entirely to her, in one form or another, but it struck me as odd that in considering my own life, all I could think of was another. When Dinka and I were married, I didn't feel the same kind of change; it was more like she joined me in life, we became one and it was now our life. But with Veronika it's something entirely different because for as much as she depends on us and we are one as a family, she is still very much her own person. Maybe this is just my awe at witnessing a new life talking.

Friends and acquaintances have asked me if having a child has changed my life and I have always immediately answered "no." A few weeks ago, after having that conversation again, I asked myself why I would respond like this and realized that I was primarily saying no to where their questions were leading. When people say "Has having a baby changed your life?" they often mean "Is your life over now? Has it been a horrible adjustment?" I answered no because having a child was such a beautiful, natural and logical extension to my (our) life that I never felt the kind of shocking, debilitating change that the inquirer's tone betrays. I answered no because these questions seem to be probing for regret, doubt and weakness, as if people are looking to have their fears confirmed and decision (not to have children) affirmed in my response, and I have felt no such things. So to be truly honest, I would have to respond that yes, my life has changed, dramatically, completely and in wonderful, unimaginable ways. This is the kind of change that is beyond even the realm of dreams but when it comes and envelops you, it feels like you've never known anything else.

Perhaps instead of wasting so many words I could've just told you to start here.

January 26, 2004

Body and Mind

I just finished Death of the Soul, by William Barrett, and found it to be quite refreshing. From reading this book and from what I've heard of his others, Barrett seems to sense that his task as a philosopher is to draw upon his knowledge to present an issue or concept in the context of its philosophic history, thereby making it accessible to the non-Ph.D. crowd. I think that this is an excellent idea and an important task, and when you can write with the lucidity and economy of Barrett, it also becomes quite valuable.

The focus of this book is to trace the differences in philosophers' conceptions of the soul from the 17th century on and identify the reasons for its fading presence. Along the way, he discusses the effects of advances in mathematics and science and manages to incorporate it all into an intriguing and well-formed narrative of ideas. Only a philosopher could weave these ideas and history together with such clarity and authority, yet it seems that most feel compelled to generate some original work instead, even when it borders on the ridiculous.

I think it is a testament to the quality of the book that it left me wanting to read more (especially Kierkegaard), but I have a whole stack of Russian literature that cannot wait any longer. I will begin tonight with Dead Souls, in which Gogol set out 'to solve the riddle of my existence,' or so the back cover says. Na zdorovie!

January 22, 2004

Ain't No Sunshine

It has been strange to live here by myself for the past week. Everything is familiar yet somehow empty. I try to go about my normal routine, only to discover that the other side of the bed is empty or that no one is sleeping in the crib so there's no need to be quiet. I talk to myself a bit and to Digby almost constantly (he seems ok with it). Perhaps I'm just not used to spending time away from Dinka or Veronika (this is the longest I've been away from either of them) or living alone (never done it), but I can't say I'm particularly interested in becoming accustomed to either.

I have been occupying myself by constructing task lists on my blackboard and then ticking the items off with satisfaction as I complete them. I have been remarkably efficient as a result but it's good that they're coming home tomorrow because I'm about out of things to do. I've already done all the laundry, put away everything from the trip, taken down all the Christmas decorations, including the tree, and cleaned the entire house. This amount of cleaning and tidying up is also odd because I am not known for keeping an orderly nest. I guess the combination of needing to keep myself busy and knowing that it was somehow for more than just me made it possible. I also devoured everything I had available on DVD and made it nearly through my current reading.

To top off all of these accomplishments, I came up with the brilliant idea that I could make a dessert for my wife as a welcome-home surprise. Instead of choosing a recipe according to my experience in the kitchen, I dove right into something difficult, a recipe for blackberry butterscotch tart from the Nigella Lawson cookbook that I got for Dinka for Christmas. All was going splendidly (even the preparation of the homemade pastry crust, which I had never done before) until it came time to take it out of the oven. The recipe says to cook at 425 degress for 10 minutes, then at 350 degrees for "20 minutes or so, until the filling is set." After 40 minutes at 350, the filling had not set. I removed it from the oven, hoping that it would solidify as it cooled. Two hours later, I tried to cut myself a piece of the seemingly scrumptious dessert, only to find that the interior was nothing but blackberries and a butterscotch sauce, as far from set as ever. It's hard to say "it's the thought that counts" without laughing when you're looking at a disastrous pile of mush like that. I am saving it for Dinka to see tomorrow night, in the hopes that she can tell me where I went wrong.

Oh well, at least the bathroom's clean.

January 18, 2004 | Comments (2)

There and Back Again

The most beautiful vines in the world

I have returned from the land of plenty with a clear mind, a refreshed spirit and a full belly. Although it was my shortest vacation there to date, it was as good as it's ever been. We smartened up this year and made a conscious effort to do less, so as not to overextend ourselves during our allotted relaxation time. We chose instead to do things like eat, nap and spend time with our wonderful family. Veronika was the center of attention, as always, and everyone finally understood what we've been saying all along: she's perfect.

My visits to Austria are always characterized by the epic battle that ensues between my mind and stomach (backed by the cavalry of the rest of the digestive system). While my stomach constantly protests that it cannot take another bite of central European cuisine or another sip of dry, crisp riesling, my mind forces me to forge on, driven by an insatiable appetite that transcends hunger and, to be honest, reason. Despite a few complaints and a tantrum or two from the digestive team, my mind has always emerged the victor.

So I think it was after the arrival feast (that included four different roasted meats and enough food for at least forty) that my stomach decided to strike early and hard in an attempt to take me down before too much damage was done. The attack was a success--I got some kind of odd flu and was forced to severly limit my intake for a few days. Luckily I was feeling better in time to get in some good eating before I left.

But now, one teary flight later, I'm home. Digby is as neurotic as ever but we're enjoying our time together with lots of barking and napping on the couch. I grew tired of being here without Dinka and Veronika by Monday night but they'll be home soon (or so I keep telling myself) so there's no need to be concerned.

It sure is quiet around here without them. Well, not if you count the continuous barking.

January 15, 2004