Stream of consciousness

…when your doctor changes all your medications—blood pressure, allergy, and mood control—at the end of November, so that the first week of December you cannot assess which things are shaping your approach to life: the change in medication; dark, gloomy skies; later sunrises and earlier sunsets; an allergy to oak leaves and their dust; pressure of the holiday season; the latest senseless obsession; traffic and bad drivers; tedious tasks at work….

Listen: When I was a teen-aged boy, my mother would bring me to the county fairgrounds on the day when all the 4-H members in the county would bring in their projects to be judged and displayed. In the morning I would help check in the wood-working exhibits—woodworking! (And all these years later, I still can’t complete a decent woodworking project. It’s taken me all fall to finish the task of rebuilding a wooden rail around the front steps. A decent carpenter could do the work in half a day, but I’m doing the same steps three or four times to get it right, and often walking away for days in disgust before I can return to the task.) Anyhow, when all the projects were checked in, I would go over to the Home Economics building, with its 4-H exhibits of cooking, baking, canning, sewing, knitting, crocheting, macramé, ceramics, flower arranging, table setting, and the like. Each category was being measured by a different judge, who would award blue, red, or white ribbons and then select champion projects from the blue ribbon winners, while a person such as my mother would record the judge’s remarks on each exhibit. My job that afternoon was to gather all the sheets of paper containing judges’ remarks and arrange them alphabetically by exhibitor name. Each 4-H exhibitor could then come to the fair and pick up the judges’ remarks for all of his or her exhibits. Little did I know at the time that this annual task would prepare me more for my present career than all the classes I took in college and in graduate school.

For some years ago Mr. X and his secretary arranged all his incoming mail and copies of outgoing mail in folders by the month. Now these papers are being saved for researchers to study Mr. X and his boss. But no one is going to care what letters Mr. X received and sent in February 1985. No, they will want to know if Mr. Y sent a letter to Mr. X or his boss in 1985 or 1986. So I am taking boxes of folders, removing all the letters, and arranging them alphabetically by year, just like those 4-H forms from long ago. My task is not to read and interpret the letters. All I’m here to do is arrange the letters and describe the arrangement in a database so other people can come here and read and interpret them.

Meanwhile, we have a sick cat at home. About three weeks ago he suddenly lost his balance so badly that he could barely walk. We asked ourselves what could afflict a cat so suddenly: a stroke? MS? ALS? Guillen-Barre? The veterinarian suspected an inner ear infection and started the cat on steroids and antibiotics. He (the cat) has gotten better, but we cannot be sure how much is due to clearing the infection and how much is due to his ability to adjust to continuous vertigo and (perhaps) double vision. He can walk and even run a little, but his jumping is limited to beds and couches—this of a cat who regularly patrolled the top of six-foot-tall bookcases, not to mention the china cabinet and the grandfather clock. He seems content with his lot rather than unhappy. But, when walking or sitting, he tilts his head to one side as if that helps him see things better. It’s cute and endearing, but also heartbreaking because he never did that before.

And why do WordPress and Createspace both demand that I review my work one more time before I can publish it? I always write in Microsoft Word and read through the text several times to make corrections before I copy and paste it. Why do these companies assume that I’m handing in a rough draft that needs another look before it can be shared?

And we are gradually unpacking the Christmas decorations which were sent out for cleaning after our fire last May. They are all in good shape, except for an occasional stain here or there, nothing intolerable. But they were not packed by the cleaners in any sort of discernable pattern. So at present we have a manger scene with ceramic figures of Mary and Joseph, shepherds, wise men, camels, and angels—but no baby in a manger yet, and no sheep. And other random items are similarly appearing in the house as we unpack one box at a time. Still, life goes on, and it’s hard to know how to feel….

J.

 

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Square pegs in round holes

The expression “a square peg in a round hole” is used to describe a misfit—a person who does not belong in the place or situation where he or she is. I suspect the picture many people have of a square peg in a round hole comes from children’s toys which consist of several objects of different shapes—a square, a circle, a triangle, a star—with a corresponding hole for each object. The objects are carefully sized so that they will fit only through the hole where they are meant to fit.

When I was a boy, I read that carpenters in America often used to put square pegs into round holes. There were several good reasons to do this. I never saw square pegs in round holes, though, until I was an adult. A farmer was giving me and my family a tour of his farm, and he came to a barn that was more than one hundred years old. “And it has never had a single metal nail or screw in it,” he added. I looked, and sure enough: there were square pegs in round holes.

Why would a carpenter put square pegs in round holes? First, it is easier to drill round holes than square holes. Square holes can be made, but that takes much extra work. Second, it is easier to cut square pegs than round pegs. Round pegs can be made, but that also takes much extra work. Third, when they are the right size, square pegs are easier to insert into round holes than round pegs the exact size of the holes. There are four gaps around the square peg as it is tapped into the round hole, so it goes in easily. The corners of the peg are crushed, making a strong bond with the inner surface of the hole. The bond lasts a long time—more than a hundred years, as I have seen with my own eyes.

We all have days when we feel like square pegs in round holes—we feel as if our Maker designed us for one situation and then put us in a completely different place. On those days, we can remind ourselves that square pegs and round holes are meant for each other. They sound like opposites, but they are  successful teams. J.