Archive for January, 2010

shells and such

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

I’m making scrambled eggs for dinner tonight.

I was walking around the kitchen, holding the eggs, looking in the fridge for other ingredients. Trying to think healthy and not immediately grab the cheese, of course I dropped one. It didn’t splat, but hit right on the round end, cracking enough to begin leaking. I put it in a bowl and it emptied out. Not all at once, I had to shake it a few times but didn’t break it further. Once empty, I was amazed at its lightness, and its strength.

Looking closer, feeling the surface, you could tell it wasn’t actually smooth. There were bumps on it. The shell was thicker in some places, and thinner in others.

We think about eggshells “being formed” as if it was an automatic process…I guess it is a biological function, uncontrollable by the chicken, but I like to think that some higher power, call it what you will, supreme being, evolutionary imperative, its not important to name specifically. Somehow, there was a knowledge that life, as it is taking form, needs protection.

Protection from what? All things external to the womb? Sure to a large extent, the shell protects from impact, too much light, its not a universal shield though. The egg must still be kept warm, and protected against being squashed.

You hear people say “so and so is coming out of their shell” as a way of saying a person is emerging as themselves, and are ready to face the world without the protection the shell offered. It takes work to get out of ones shell I think.

I remember seeing on “The Wonderful World of Disney” shows about chicks breaking out of shells, alligators breaking out of shells, turtles, even a duckbill platypus! The process was remarkably similar for all the species, what was inside began poking, pecking, chipping away at the shell until it cracked. Then there always seemed to be a period of resting. Then more poking and pecking, and the hole in the shell got bigger, and bigger. Then more resting. Then a final burst of energy, and what was inside flopped out into the nest. Usually they were a mess, still covered with what nourished them, feathers askew, and exhausted by the process. They’d rest some more, then finally roll and tumble and scramble around the nest. Probing its limits, poking their head outside.

I remember seeing the parent alligator scooping up the squeaking, emerging babies in their mouth, and shuttling back and forth between the safety of the nest, and the safety of the water giving the emergent generation an extra chance to survive the first few moments in the world.

Turtles weren’t so lucky. They’d emerge en masse and sprint (for a turtle) to the edge of the water, hoping their mass numbers would let a few survive being plucked up by seabirds.

I can’t remember any species moving in and out of their shells. But I think it would be a handy trait to have. To be able to retreat to the quiet place where you first became aware. Kept warm by your family nest so you could re-emerge from time to time. There’s probably a reason why nature doesn’t do that. Still, I’d like to leave it in the suggestion box.

I pull back to my shell from time to time in life. Mine isn’t the translucent perfection of an egg, with its clear form. Mine seems to change, a competition here, a book there, obscure details in history I really don’t know why I enjoy learning, writing this blog, a bit of wood and a sharp tool, a fountain pen and a good piece of handmade paper. These are safe places for me. Its true, you could say I hide in them. But its not really hiding I don’t think. Its just a safe, quiet place to develop.

That’s what makes a shell more than a boundary. Its really three dimensional. A space for growth.

Its true that to re-emerge, one will have to invest effort. Poking, pecking at the shell until you hear it crack, see a bit of daylight, then you can rest for a little while and build up some energy to make the crack larger, pressing the pieces to the side and taking that first breath of air. I remember that’s what the first step out of the car in the pine woods at the lake was like… a first breath. Then some more rest, building energy, flopping around, learning the limits of the nest, and preparing for the mad dash to the edge of the water. Operating on instinct, knowing there are risks, predators looking to feed themselves. But believing that if you make it, life in the water will be more fulfilling than in the nest, in the shell.

If you come across my shell, step lightly, I’m in here working, building energy for the next emergence.

Step lightly wherever you tread. Respect the shells you come across. If you see an emergent floundering, help get them safe passage to the water.

Be good to each other.

Time for dinner.

denial and dreams

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I fell down yesterday, big time. Somehow I thought I could actually catch up with a fly ball over my head…on lumpy ground…that was very very soft following a few days of rain.

I saw that the ball was over my head almost right after Marcel hit it. I took the right first step, but was backpedaling before I knew it. At the last moment, glove over and behind my head, I did what you’re not supposed to do, jumped.

The ball smacked the glove, I closed the pocket around it but was already in full stumble, falling on my back, my speed (well.. it WAS technically speed… just not fast) took me over on my neck, shoulder and splashed down on my knee. In true ESPN form I lifted the glove up to show the 7? year old I was playing with that I had caught the ball.

It didn’t take long for my body to tell me this was a silly thing to do and this morning as I lay on the wood floor warmed by the sun, picking at my all-vitamin cereal while a pan of fresh brownies sits on the stove, my body is still asking me “what did you think you were doing catching that ball?”

But that moment when the ball hit the glove was a pure instant. I didn’t think, I just acted. Didn’t evaluate the ground, just jumped. As I ache this morning I was wondering…was I just in denial about my age when I put the glove on?

Maybe when faced with the opportunity for something good its hard to make an informed choice. (thinking about brownies for breakfast instead of wheat flakes) Somewhere deep inside though, we’re often fighting with the inner voices that say “c’mon, have some fun” and “hey! act your age”

So if you can’t always get what you want, how do you know that what you’re getting is what you need? I’m sure its all about balance, and if mine was better maybe I wouldn’t have rolled and splatted in the field after the catch. Instinctively, we take risks. Sometimes we make the catch, sometimes we splat…and pay for it later.

But thinking back to the moment the ball hit the glove, there was a feeling of satisfaction I don’t think I could have had watching others leap and fall.

This is all pretty convoluted. I’m thinking of the satisfaction my Dad had in making fires in his fireplace, even if it meant going up on the roof to point the brick chimney. The fire in the fireplace took him back somewhere, gave him satisfaction that he could still split wood, still knew how to build up the tinder to have a “one match” fire, satisfaction in the sound, the smell, the heat, all things that are pure moments, real things done at a risk, but so much more rewarding than watching a fire on tv.

So we can proceed through life safely, not taking risks, denying ourselves brownies for breakfast, or we can deny our limitations and jump for the ball. Might as well jump, even though I know there will be some aches and pains as a result.


On the way home I remember making what i thought was a similarly amazing catch during American Legion baseball tryouts. The other players on the field congratulated me on the way into the dugout, I felt pretty good at that moment. Then a coach sat down next to me and said “son, you have slow feet,” pretty much saying that if I was faster, I wouldn’t have to make spectacular falling catches.

So, if I was better prepared, had worked to be ready to jump, maybe I wouldn’t have splatted so hard.

All this of course is a way to talk about love and the risks we take with it. If we do the work (on ourselves…no fair “fixing” the other person) maybe we’ll have faster feet, be able to chase down the ball over our head AND avoid rolling and splatting in the mud.

I can see another question though, sometimes a second baseman needs to look carefully at the fly ball and tell the outfielder “its yours.” There’s another blog there but it’ll be even more confusing than this one.

I’ll finish my healthy cereal now, and just peek at the brownies.

Take Care, do the work to be prepared for the fly, avoid the splat.
Be good to each other.