Astigmatism

I’m closing in on my final doctoral recital next week, and with it the end of my terminal degree.  Terminal degree, the end of the line, the train stops here, no more school, please and thank you.  This has been an odd journey, but a good one, and I’ve had to remember what’s really important in life to keep myself from going crazy in the mean-time. Some of those lessons on “the important things” pop up at odd but good times themselves. I was over at Anne Meade’s place the other day, goofing off and laughing; I put on her glasses and struck a pose that was supposed to be at once fashionable and farce.  Since I’m not terribly good at fashionable, I’ll let your imaginations do the rest.  But as I stood there in her purple bejeweled spectacles I notice that I could see perfectly clearly.  I commented as much and she acknowledged that her vision is actually alright, she just has a strong astigmatism.  Eerily enough, just like mine. Though her glasses are far too narrow to sit on my face in any sort of comfortable way, I could see clearly, and we got to talking about seeing.  Not just sight, but seeing. An astigmatism is a funny thing.  I went all the way to my senior year of high school without glasses; without knowing that I needed them.  By and large the world was clear and easy to read.  But if I stared at things, really focused, they got messy.  My first glasses were as unfortunate-looking as any pair of first-glasses: my mom picked them out,...

Something to Say

I had a conversation a few days ago with some dear friends, friends I met while working at a summer camp.  My one friend is nearing completion of her Masters degree, and at the ripe old age of 23 is wondering what to do with her life.  She mentioned the possibility of getting a doctorate, but I recommended making some hard, messy, delicious mistakes with her life.  You know, get a job making rugs in a commune in New Mexico, meet and date a painter named Raul, and get a tattoo espousing her love for figs.  All the sorts of things that make for great stories after you get over your embarrassment. No, I have not done any of those things, though I do love figs. Some years ago, when I was living in Cincinnati, my roommate George was finishing his Masters and we had a similar conversation.  But he wasn’t interested in a doctorate, only in where he should go next to further his education.  George made a very astute observation: he said, “You do a doctorate when you have something to say.”  A doctorate is about having something to share with the world, and needing the support a university can provide.  Because he knew he didn’t want that, he chose an alternate route, and has had great success. I meet plenty of folks in the classical/academic music world who look at a doctorate as the next logical step after earning a masters.  I’m not one of those folks.  It’s not because I don’t believe in the degrees, but because I believe more in the power of experience. ...

Like Ships

Cars loom large in the American psyche; they are machines of power, status, freedom.  They are symbols and experiences and possibilities.  And despite my green leanings, my urge to distance myself from the mass-consumption I see prescribed as The Way, I find myself waxing rhapsodic about the road, and the reliable four-door steed I trust in for my journey. My trip to Michigan for the holidays was relatively unremarkable.  I drove the whole thing in one day, and one tank of gas, passing the time with audio books and podcasts, missing the winter weather as it stomped through West Virginia.  The visit to my home-state was wonderful; full of family and friends, with never enough time for everyone. The trip home however was something to think on.  I took two days of travel, and spent my intervening night enjoying the hospitality of Frank and Ann in Columbus.  Frank and I used to work together in Cincinnati 10 years ago, and we’re still friends, after all the years and miles.  It’s always a wonder to me how friendships work or don’t, regardless of miles. I woke up the next morning after a restful night and hit the road, anxious to see my home.  The cold spell had broken the night before, and the snow which had blanketed everything was not just melting but sublimating, blowing as fog across the hills of southern Ohio.  I get to see that stretch of road in the daylight so seldom that it was a treat for my eyes and my heart, but the fog and snow obscured where the land met the sky, leaving...