Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I head out in a few hours for Llangollen, our wee cottage on Rehoboth Bay. I'll have my Iphone and Mac with me, but the peace and serenity of the place will be a healing balm for my weary body and soul.
There's something about being near the water that does that for people. I once saw a sign in one of those sweet but over-priced shops in Rehoboth Beach that said, "If you're lucky enough to live by the water, you're lucky enough."
There's something about watching the Canada Geese flying in formation (as in the picture above taken by our daughter Mia last November) that lifts the weariness right out of me and carries it out to the ocean where it is deposited on the crests of the waves like so much refuge, to be dredged down to the ocean floor.
I suspect it's what the sharks eat in great jagged-tooth gulps. It may well be part of what makes them natural predators.
All will not be rest and solitude. I'll be working on yet another set of revisions for my doctoral paper. It's due to the second reader on Monday. With any luck, I'll have it done by Thursday so I can enjoy the rest of the week.
After the second reader makes his comments and suggested revisions, which usually tend to be minor, I'll do one more revision and submit my paper to the doctoral committee for Oral Exams which will be scheduled some time in mid-April.
I'm told that sometimes the committee will suggest some revisions which will have to be completed before May 2nd, when the faculty votes to approve the thesis for admission and the candidate for graduation on May 17. Then, the final paper is printed on acid-free paper and bound for submission to the library.
And it will be finished.
I have this theory about this whole process of draft and revision. But first, a little story as context for my theory.
My grandmother was an excellent cook who was, as I have come to call her, a 'peasant nutritionist'. In addition to whatever else she was cooking or baking, she always had a pot of soup on the stove. She knew more about the nutritional qualities of vegetables and added them to her soup depending on what she thought her family needed.
For example, she used to say that watercress and garlic 'cleaned the body.' In fact, watercress is a natural diuretic and the nutritional properties of garlic are well known, so she wasn't far off in her assessment.
She made watercress soup at the change of every season because she thought the body needed to cleanse itself in preparation for the change of season. That, and a concoction of Brewer's Yeast and 'Father John's Cod Liver Oil' she made us drink before breakfast. YUCK!
She also insisted we drink watercress tea after holiday over-indulgences as well as during particularly stressful times. You know, I never remember any of us getting the kinds of colds we get now. I'm sure a great deal of it was due to the nutrition she provided. While I hated seeing that brown bottle of 'Father John's' make its appearance, I'm sure all those 'Omega-3' oils were of enormous benefit to our health.
After she finished cooking ham or beef or chicken, she would make stock for soup. She would even cleave open some of the bones and scrape the marrow out and add it to the stock ("To build up the blood," she would say). But, she would leave some of the marrow in and put whatever bones were left over out in the side yard for the neighborhood dogs (but never the chicken bones, which she said 'splintered' too easily and could get caught in the dog's throat).
We would watch as the alpha dog of the pack would muscle his way into the fray as the other dogs, salivating for a chance at the biggest bone, would pick off the smaller ones for themselves, all the while keeping an eye on the 'prize' bone.
The dogs never started chewing the bone immediately. They would lick and lick and lick it first, soaking it with their slobber before they began to settle down to chew in earnest.
I always thought this a fascinating ritual. One day, I queried my grandmother about this practice. She said that dogs had to make sure the bone smelled and tasted like them before they chewed on it so that all the other dogs would know that it was theirs.
I discovered that she was right. In fact, when the alpha dog was finished with his bone, he would walk away with his nose in the air, with an unmistakable attitude of distracted indifference. The dog with the next highest rank in the pack would approach it, and he would, at first, circle it in an interesting dance.
He would go to the bone, lick it while growling at the other circling dogs, and then leave the bone to walk the perimeter of their circle around it. Finally, after it had been properly licked and the dog was now satisfied that it was 'his', he would sit down to chew on the remains as the other dogs begrudgingly left him to his task.
My grandmother would say, "It's just like when the big bosses at the factory or the politicians at City Hall make a decision. Everybody has to lick and chew on the bone for a while until it smells like them and then they can 'own' the decision."
In marketing terms, this is called 'the buy-in'.
In academia, this is called "first reader, second reader, committee."
Think about any committee or board or Vestry you've ever worked with. Doesn't matter how advanced or sophisticated or educated we become. In many ways, we're still just pack animals.
Off I go then, to satisfy another member of the pack.
Pray for me and I'll pray for you.