Thursday, July 29, 2010

how old am i again?


technically, i have arrived,
i am a grownup and need to act my age.
but i still stress like
i was 14 again.
oh my gawd, this life business…
it’s hard.

summer angst (yes, even more)

whenever summer rolls around, there seems to be a new crisis. it’s weird, because during the much busier school year, i typically don’t go through these periods of drama and angst. perhaps it’s because i’m doing so much that i don’t have time to think, just go go go. but during the summer, when things slow down and i can focus, i always manage to unearth something momentous from my subconscious.

last summer the task was to come to terms with an extended or permanent absence from the place i call home. it took about 6 months and several cross country trips, but i’ve reconciled myself to it. visiting will satisfy.

this summer, i’m stressing about school. specifically, about transferring to another one.

my small, liberal arts school has served me pretty well, considering that i never wanted to go here. i’ve had the opportunity to build some solid relationships with professors and have never lacked for attention in classes. however, as someone who wants to get into the biomedical research industry, it’s the undergraduate research experience (both quantity and quality) that really matters to me. sadly, my current school is lacking in both. sure, there’s 1 or 2 professors who have done some recognized work, but overall the research endeavors here are underfunded and lack organization. so far i’ve spent 1.5 summers in a lab where nothing gets done. it looks good on my resume, but really, that’s all that i’m getting out of it.

so, i decided to transfer, mid year, to the R1 university in the city. i think i have a decent chance of getting in, and if i do, i’ll go. i haven’t told my research lead, my academic advisor, or any of the professors i count as mentors. how am i supposed to tell them? the big shiny rival university just stole one of their most promising students, one that they’ve put a significant amount of time and resources into. (of course, this doesn’t factor in the outrageous tuition, which pays for a completely underwhelming education without even a name attached to it, so really, their resources aren’t what’s important here) but it’s my time, my money, my future career, my life, and i don’t think i can stay here any longer.

i want to be pushed, i want to compete, i want to be in an environment with an actual scientific community. i’m not going to find that here, and i don’t think i can wait until grad school. so if i get in to the Big U, i’m going, and i won’t be sorry that i did.

the wave

On Tuesday morning, the air was filled with the scent of roses in full bloom. Every vertical surface was covered with them, wild pink and red climbers with fuzzy yellow centers scaling any wall they encountered. The growth had sprung up overnight, covering the walls of our house with a carpet of flowers, thick enough to completely obscure the peeling paint beneath. In the August sunlight, they seemed to effervesce with velvety luminosity. If it had been dark outside, they would have shone as stars, surrounded by a haze of their brilliance. The entire city was covered, according to the reports of neighbors and friends who had driven through the city in bewilderment, seeking the reason why they had been transported into some version of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The air was moist, as if rain had come and gone and threatened to come again, causing instant perspiration and an acute sense of continually being stifled beneath layers and layers of warm blankets.

Radio and television had both gone dead by about noon, but it was for a different reason than the roses. The sky was achingly blue, the type of blue that picture postcards of tropical islands have in abundance, and there were no clouds. Cumulus, nimbus, stratus, and their myriad other cousins were gone, leaving almost nothing to shield the eyes from the blinding blue that arched overhead like an enormous cathedral. The almost part was striking: a golden wave that hung in the sky like a prop for an elementary school play. It stretched up almost to the height where human eyesight failed, then curved downwards like it was about to break upon us.
The great curve inspired breathlessness in all that gazed upon it, and stuck them to the sticky black streets.

In order to escape, we drove. It was a stolen red convertible. We drove with the top down, away from the city and the shimmer of baking asphalt and the smell of roses. Even though we must have driven near to a hundred miles, the golden wave never seemed to move and remained suspended over us. I still could not breath. Eventually, the paved roads ended and we plunged into dirt roads that wound through the forest. The tall pines obscured the sky somewhat, and the sharp scent of their needles cut through the scent of the roses, which climbed around their trunks. It was cooler, although no less humid under the shade of the great trees, which comforted with their solid trunks and whispering boughs. But the forest ended.

After the forest ended, the gas tank ran empty. So we walked across a plain covered with waving grass, hand in hand, under the golden wave, breathing short, fast, breaths of hot, wet air and saying absolutely nothing. Although it must have been many hours since we had last left the city, the light had not changed and the wave still swept up above us. Roses crept along the ground, peeking out from the thick grass like jewels, their petals offering us a scented carpet. It was the end of the world. The plains ended, and out of nowhere appeared a stream, its waters as blue as the sky. A raft bobbed upon its surface, and we climbed aboard, leaving our shoes on the bank to be swallowed by roses. We drifted down the stream for many hours, days, weeks, months, years, and it turned into a wide river under the golden wave. And at last, the sky darkened. In the twilight, the far away banks gleamed with the roses and the stars were obscured by a veil of gold.

We were approaching a great waterfall. Then everything happened. The sky darkened completely, and in that moment our senses were assailed with the sweet smell of roses, the sight of a black and gold sky, and the sound of water falling, from before and above us. We smiled at each other in the darkness. We plunged over the rim as the wave fell, still holding hands. It was the end of the world, and it was more beauty than we could stand.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010



there are these sorts of events
that put deep scars in your heart,
among other places.
i am so puzzled that they call this
like it can be shed at some point?
i don’t travel light.
but when the sun is exactly right,
these remnants of old wounds
shine silver across my skin.

he says they’re beautiful,
and i can’t help but believe him.

endothermic and exothermic relationships

(explosive reaction of aluminum and bromide, an example of an exothermic reaction)

ever since i took general chemistry my first year of college and got an extremely thorough lesson on entropy, it has established a very stubborn foothold in my brain. i tend to draw parallels between the basic tenants of entropy and all sorts of very complex, decidedly unchemical events. on my mind right now is the idea of relationships being either endothermic or exothermic.

endothermic reactions are chemical reactions in which entropy is reduced; that is, the chaos in the universe has been slightly diminished. chemical a meets chemical b, and they make compound c. the price to pay when entropy is decreased is that stability is also decreased. that is, compound c is less stable than either parent chemical because, simplistically speaking, is that the entropy is being bottled up as energy within the compound. endothermic reactions require energy in order to proceed.

exothermic reactions, on the other hand, result in an increase in the total amount of entropy in the system (that is, the universe). once again, chemical a meets chemical b, but this time, compound c is actually more stable than either parent compound, because energy has been released. exothermic reactions are spontaneous, and occasionally violent and destructive if not properly controlled.

so do your relationships follow a typically endothermic or exothermic pattern? does the chaos in your life typically decrease or increase? are you more or less stable at the end of the day? how much energy does it take to make your relationship work?

although this is certainly an imperfect analogy, it's interesting to apply these very basic scientific principles to the situations we often find ourselves wrapped up in daily life.



i put bright color in my hair but,
it does not put the color back in my cheeks.

for all my preening, i am still the flightless kind of bird.