Monday, September 11, 2017

In Pursuit Of Creativity

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published September 13, 2017] ©2017
Everyone has a creative strategy, a time when you can really let your mind go wherever it wants in pursuit of problem solving or the unleashing of artistic energies.  Olof’s is mulling. Mine is wombing. 
Olof’s prime mulling time is in bed at night before he goes to sleep. Now that he’s retired and can work on programming problems to his engineer-heart’s content, he will position himself on his back and just stare off into space.  For an hour. Sometimes two hours.  Occasionally until two in the morning.  When he’s found the solution he was looking for, a satisfied smile creases his face and he flips off the light.
Years ago, before we were married, Olof offered to replace a section of six-foot fence on my property that had fallen down.  I immediately suggested  hiring him an assistant.  But no, he said, there were some difficult engineering  issues to solve and an assistant would interfere with mulling.  And indeed, he would just stand out there, leaning on his post hole digger seemingly in a trance. But a few minutes later (sometimes a lot of minutes), he’d nod his head and proceed.
I know to never, ever interfere with mulling. The house would have to be on fire first.
Meanwhile, I have always done my best thinking by going back to the womb. You make the bathroom as dark as possible then curl up on the floor of the shower like a pretzel letting the nice warm water cascade over you. Close your eyes. Let your mind go. Regress. Remember the good old days.
It used to be that the only limit on the length of time you could spend in the womb was the size of your hot water heater. But that was before the drought. It became politically and environmentally (and especially financially) incorrect to waste that much water even in the cause of creative pursuit.
So I had to find a wombing substitute. Fortunately walking works pretty well too, especially if it is on the beach.  Even more fortunately,  I live near a beach as this would have been a less successful strategy in Omaha.
I’m hardly the first to appreciate the creative powers of walking.  There is a wonderful Latin expression, Solvitur ambulando, meaning “it is solved by walking.”  
Let me take a short detour here to mention that in high school I studied Latin for four years and still have a huge fondness for the language. Well, the first two years of Latin anyway.  Third year Latin – Julius Caesar’s description of the Gallic wars – was that a total snorer. But then I’ve never been into war stories anyway. Sadly for my high school sensibilities, chick lit was in its infancy in Caesar’s era.
Fourth year was Vergil’s epic poem, the Aeneid. More war stuff but at least it had a big fake horse and a hot babe (Helen). Sadly, 54 years later, I can quote all of the first three words: Arma virumque cano ..., "I sing of arms and of a man”. But that does kind of sum it up (lots of arms, and a man (Aeneas)). 
Already weary of the Aeneid’s ponderous dactylic hexameter a month into the school year, I was delighted to discover that Vergil was a fall birthday - October 15, 70 BCE, to be exact.  Keenly aware even at this young age that chocolate is an antidote to pretty much anything, I got permission from our Latin teacher to throw Vergil a 2,034th birthday party during class time.  I figured everyone deserves a party even if they’ve been dead 2,000 years.  Yup, that’s the photographic evidence right there:  Inga stuffing chocolate in her face at Vergil’s bash.
The phrase Solvitur ambulando is said to have originated from the Greek philosopher Diogenes in 4th century BC, and the concept of walking as a freer of the mind has been espoused by many notables including Thomas Jefferson, Nietzsche, Ernest Hemingway, and Thoreau, among others.  It allegedly helps combat the effects of aging although I’m afraid in my case that ship has sailed.
Still, my best writing is done in my head as I saunter slowly down the beach with the waves as white noise in the background. A paragraph that I was stuck on slowly resolves. Great lines that the La Jolla Light will never print ricochet around my brain like ping pong balls in a lottery cage. The resolution of decisions that had been plaguing me seem to suddenly become clear.
While the drought put a damper on wombing, now that it is officially over, can I start wombing again?  Yeah, probably, but one thing that ISN’T over is astronomical water bills. So I can womb to my heart’s content if I’m willing to pay Tier 4 water rates and turn over my Social Security check to the water folks.
 I think I’ll just keep walking.
Inga scarfing chocolate cake at Vergil’s 2,034th birthday bash
October 15, 1964


Monday, August 28, 2017

A Sticky Situation

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 30, 2017] ©2017

It’s comforting to know that after I’m gone, I’ll live on through Post-it notes.
Truly, I think Uber and yellow sticky notes are the greatest innovations of modern times.  I’m not sure what I did without either.

Self-adhesive Post-it notes in assorted sizes have been around for a while now.  According to Wikipedia, the source for all things accurate, in 1968, a scientist at 3M, while attempting to develop a strong adhesive, inadvertently created a reusable pressure-sensitive glue.  It was almost another decade before they found an application for this “solution without a problem.”  A story, which sounds suspiciously apocryphal, alleges that one of the scientist’s colleagues discovered that the adhesive helped him to anchor his bookmark in his hymnal. Post-it notes are now produced in multiple sizes and colors, different strengths of adhesion for non-smooth surfaces, and even with lines on them. 

We purists, however, only use yellow.

Personally, I’m only willing to try to keep so much information in my head at once.  This is why my computer monitor is ringed with sticky notes reminding me of all manner of info such as short cuts I use during word processing, passwords I use frequently but not quite often enough to remember them, what sequence of commands to use when my computer freezes up, and how to stop print jobs when I accidentally specified 100 pages instead of 10.

Sticky notes on my bathroom mirror remind me of the day’s appointments now that I am a senior. Yellow Post-its over the washing machine exhort Olof to remember that you need to push the dial IN before you turn it, or if the load goes off balance, to stop it.  It is baffling to me that neither of my husbands, a physician and an engineer with a degree in nuclear physics, have ever been able to grasp this concept.

There is no machine in our home that is not adorned with sticky notes advising me of its operational requirements. In fact, with some of them, you have to move the sticky notes to even use the machine.
At one point, my older son Rory sent me a birthday card depicting an old person holding a remote up to her ear and waiting for a dial tone. Rory noted: “Mom - I’m sure there is a sticky note in your house that addresses this.”  

Our assorted remotes all have sticky notes on the back reminding me which of our too-many electronic gadgets it allegedly operates.

When I was editing my book, I printed it out (don’t judge), then went through multiple packages of sticky notes to mark changes. What can I say; I’m from the paper generation. We like to read actual crinkly tree-destroying newspapers and to edit with a pencil.

Post-it notes on the fridge remind me to thaw chicken or put the lasagna in the oven at 6:00. I just have a Post-it note mind. Or, as it has been suggested by mean-spirited persons in my family whom I will not personally name, a mind not sufficiently memory-capable to avoid needing Post-it notes. I will totally confess to my entire mental organization being dependent on them.

A few times my Post-it note habit has had unintended consequences.  In 2009, during a weekend visit, my prankster older son Rory appropriated my 14-digit library card number sticky-noted to my computer and ordered me up a long list of books including The Book of the Penis (it came with an 8-inch ruler along the binding); The whole lesbian sex book: a passionate guide for all of us; Coping with Your Colitis, Hemorrhoids and Related Disorders; and The Rear View: A Brief and Elegant History of Bottoms Through the Ages.  He was aided and abetted by the public library website’s then-policy of announcing “your password is the last four digits of your phone number,” a policy now changed, presumably at the behest of other mothers with creatively-minded sons. But once these titles were on the reserve shelf with my name on them, there was nothing to do but take them home and read them.  And write Rory a book report on what I had learned from each of them. 

If Post-it notes are to be my legacy, I think it would only be appropriate that when I die, the assorted assemblage should be issued with pads of sticky notes on which they could write farewell messages and stick them to my coffin. This could be in lieu of flowers. It would be especially appropriate since yellow is my favorite color.  The messages could run the gamut of, “I’m sorry I never returned your blender!” Or: “I hope those chocolates won’t melt where you’re going, ha ha!  Or even: “Inga – you really should have had that checked.”

But somewhere in the program, there should be an important announcement: Given Inga’s demise, short your 3M stock.