21 11 2012

There are times when things just close in.  Not even big things.  Just things in general.  Things that looked normal, friendly even, seem to change expression.  And what was neutral becomes uncooperative, skeptical, resistant.  When things are normal for me, I can look at those times from a distance and say: it wasn’t the things changing.  It was how you were looking at them.

Which is all pretty easy to see and diagnose from here on the outside, where the sun is shining, and cats are rolling over to get their tummies rubbed, and even in almost-Wisconsin it is nearly 60 degrees on the day before Thanksgiving.  In other words, a very fine day indeed.

You cannot resist the tummy.

The last couple of days, not so fine, and I was not seeing much of anything clearly.  I’d like to know where the shadowed times come from… all those years of science, so I want cause-and-effect.  Do this, and then this happens.  Cause A yields Effect A.  You would think, with all those years of science, that I would have abundant data showing that the world (or at least my view of it) is not that simple.  It should be fairly simple for me to cross out that particular model.  But I still want it to be true.

So I spent some days feeling like a fraud – working away at some things that I wasn’t getting any traction on, and thinking oh, this is it, the management is finally going to look at me and say “Really?  We pay you money for this?”  Which then seeped into the self-talk: You don’t know what you’re doing.  You really never have.  You’ve been fooling people for years.  Decades.  It’s going to end.  Someone is going to figure this out.  And then this entire façade of competency and skill is going to come crashing down.

So last night I went to chorus rehearsal in spite of feeling vastly incompetent – early as usual because of the eternal highway construction.  (Not actually eternal.  They say they’ll be done in 2021.  I feel SO much better.)  And I took my spinning wheel with me, to pass the time, soothe the spirit, and because I get to meet people when I’m spinning.  Last night the universe sent me Michael.

Michael is six.  A small, exuberant, busy, and interested six.  For a while he danced around the periphery, where I could see him but not easily talk to him.  And then at one point he stopped about ten feet away, and I was able to say, “Would you like to come and see?”  He was at my side literally within the blink of an eye.  And he asked a kajillion questions.  He wanted to know what I was doing.  Why.  How.  Why the wheel went around when my feet were going up and down.  At six years old, Michael understood the concept of spinning ratios immediately – “The smaller that top wheel is, the faster that goes around” – which is something that I’ve seen adults wrestle with.  He took to rolling my extra Ashford bobbins around on the floor and exclaimed about how they were rolling in a circle.  When I asked him if he knew why, he said “Because one end is smaller than the other.”

In between observations on engineering, he played with wool.  He drafted out a piece for me to spin with – everyone I have ever seen breaks the roving the first time they draft.  Except Michael.  He wanted a piece of wool to work with, which he drafted out into what became a blue mustache, and then two blue eyebrows.  He wore the ball of roving on his head.  And became the resident expert when other children stopped and wanted to know what I was doing: “Here – this is merino wool. Want to feel it?  It’s soft.  And you have to pull it out straight like this before you can spin it.”

I can’t say I’ve never met another child like Michael – I have met so many actively interested children in the course of spinning in public – but I do know I’ve never had the chance to spend as much time as I did with Michael.  He was there with his grandmother, and she was concerned that he might be bothering me, but she left him pretty much alone once I said he was fine.  A couple of times he asked if he was irritating me – I always said no – and after the third time I asked him if people sometimes said that to him.  He said that they did sometimes, and it made him feel sad, but he didn’t cry.  I told him that he was really busy and asked a lot of questions – and that I was a scientist, so I knew exactly what that was like.  He wanted to know what kind of scientist.  What kind of work? Did I wear a coat?

I don’t know about angels – in the sense of a separate class of heavenly beings, emissaries of the creator, tasked with special missions.  I do know that there are times when people do show up in your life at precisely the right time, doing what needs to be done to set things back in place again. Last night that person was a six-year-old boy.  I would have come out of the shadows eventually.  Michael brought me out in a single hour.




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