Tag Archive | college

The Fowl Revolution

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General T stalks the evil beast

 

For the last couple years, every time I visited a certain area of my daughter’s campus, my car was attacked by a turkey. He was an angry, brave little dude, darting fearlessly into the street and pecking ruthlessly at the tires on a mysterious mission that we may never fully understand.

This local wild turkey had for some reason decided that he had had enough of these fools overwhelming his homeland. The many students hurrying to class or studying on the lawns of the nearby library had grown accustomed to the aggressive fowl, barely taking notice as cars seeking shelter in the nearby parking lot were forced into gridlock when confronted by the university’s very own, and very real, angry bird. He comes out charging, head down, feathers slightly ruffled so that his stunted wings looked more like spoilers on a coupe, as he fearlessly holds his own against two ton hunks of motorized metal. He was almost as persistent as the metered-parking enforcers that lurk amongst the trees wielding citation pads. Almost.

And now, after a good year or two of breeding and gene transference there are no less than eight attack turkeys. General T has taught his family well. An avian army is mustering. One has to wonder what’s in store for these rebels as they continue to reproduce, passing on the DNA of aggression to the next year’s generation. What will it be like over at the Engineering department next year, or even a decade from now? I envision students and faculty in shin guards, riding in armored campus buses, or hurrying fearfully between buildings and lecture halls while turkeys with bandana covered faces chant, “Humans will not replace us!” while brandishing pine cones and twigs in a menacing manner.

Hey, I don’t blame the birds for their random acts of violence. They live all summer, as they have for thousands of years, in this pristine forest filled with redwoods and ferns, and all of a sudden here come seventeen thousand humans in the fall, reeking of tea tree oil shampoo and melon scented deodorant, their limbs are stained with ink pictographs, they carry noise makers and are draped in brightly colored costumes that clash mightily with the environment. Come on, you can almost hear General T saying, get it together dude, unless it’s mating season your plumage is supposed to blend in! Camouflage, hello? Stealth? And what right do they have to bring these nasty, greedy, black-smoke-belching predators right though our ancient breeding ground! They don’t even eat what they kill. Forest Justice for all poultry!

It is, after all, an institute of learning known for activism. Just ask my Republican family, they’ll snort derisively and snidely imply with a condescending tone of voice that it’s a hippy school. Never mind that this University produces more top scientists, biologists, astrophysicists, and business leaders than Harvard, nevermind that it’s an academic education that far exceeds their own, it’s in Northern California, and to my republican siblings and parents that means the dirtiest of dirty words. Liberal. It’s the one word with no S’s that they can still hiss. Three syllables that make their ears bleed, not unlike what they think of my heart. The very idea of learning to evolve as a species seems to scare the hell out of them. So those turkeys would feature in their worst conservative nightmares, no doubt causing them to wake up sweating, trembling and gobbling, “Fowl!” Before they turn on their Tiffany’s bedside light and start muttering, “Why can’t those damn turkeys go to their own segregated college like God intended. Next thing you know, women will be allowed to play professional golf with men! This country is going to hell. God Damn liberalsssssss.”

What would they think of that one damn indigenous bird fighting for his turkey rights? “Who the hell does he think he is objecting to having his world paved over? Damn turkeys should be grateful to be smushed into American pavement! It would be an honor for him to be eviscerated and stuffed full of stale bread in our country!” Friggen’ wild turkeys stealing jobs from our factory farms!”

Okay, my family isn’t quite that bad, but it’s fun to poke back at them when they laugh at me for not believing I’m as entitled as they are, and I can’t really think of a nicer way to put that. I deleted quite a few other versions of that sentence.

When you send your kids to college, you never know what added benefits will come from that higher education. This is one time that trickle down is actually a factor. I consider my new knowledge of Meleagrididae, of the genus Meagridea, (aka common wild turkey) worth the tuition. I was also horrified to discover, while doing research for this very scientific blog, that the third most asked question about this bird is sadly this, “Is the country of Turkey named after the bird?” Yep, higher education is pretty desperately needed right here, right now, in this country. “We’re number one because one is higher than two!” I can just imagine these uneducated citizens chanting. I’m guessing those same people think the Ottoman Empire is the name of a furniture factory. The Ottoman Empire, by the way, is also commonly known as the Turkish Empire and they invaded Europe around 1354. Maybe this current day college turkey has transcontinental empires on his tiny brain too. It would explain the antagonistic tendencies and the increase in his military.

A few other fun facts; Did you know a very young turkey is called a poult? I guess the birds who live on this campus earn their ‘RY’ when they complete their degree, or reach eating age. It’s a title they are granted at commencement. Theresa Poult, RY. Major in delicious with a minor in entomology. Or did you know that turkeys eat small animals? Who knew your holiday bird could be fattened up with slugs and rats? The knowledge you can acquire at a top-rated University for half a million dollars is really pretty amazing.

So moving on; since we have now learned that turkeys will eat meat, do you think those turkeys will attack a vegan on campus as decisively as a meat eater? Do they discriminate? Do they prefer the taste of cannabis-smoked freshmen to beer-poached sophemores? Does wild muscadine grape pair well with organic graduate students?

I’m being silly, I know, but evolution is a funny thing. And there is a strange parallel here. Creatures learn to adapt in order to survive, our kids learn for pretty much the same reason. I wonder if those turkey chicks pulled-all nighters memorizing the strike zone on Volvo tires. I imagine the extra credit question on their finals; “Which area is most likely to puncture through the inner tube? Draw a diagram of the layers of steel belted radials and a short essay explaining the pros and cons of attacking a whitewall.”

That first attack turkey, General T, sent his chicks off to scratch out a living and fight the man in spite of all the scary changes to his world. We send our kids off to college to learn to deal with authority, scary real life, and apparently, uh…turkeys?

You never know what you’ll have to deal with in life, but one thing I think I can promise you is that if you educate yourself about it, you’ll do much better—and be far more entertained—than if you remain ignorant. So let me close with some fun facts to know and share.

The country of Turkey was not named after the bird.

Ottoman is not the name of a low, upholstered stool.

Education is not your enemy.

Look it up.

You have a dictionary in your hand.

Learn something.

Evolve.

Or be devoured by wild turkeys.

Poultry justice!

Life is full of funny choices.

 

 

Shari, October 18th, 2017

 

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LIfe’s Little Sequels.

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The joy and reward of doing the right thing.

Three times now I’ve been asked to write sequels to books I hadn’t planned. Now that I’m just finishing up a sequel for “Invisible Ellen” which I really hadn’t originally planned, I realize, once again, that there is almost always more to say. Returning to characters and story lines and fleshing them out, having the chance to take them in a new direction is a real gift. There are two kinds of sequels, those that forward the characters and their lives, and those where the characters remain the same, but the mystery or plot line changes. 

Sounds like life. Sometimes, for instance in jobs or friendships, we continue to personally grow and change, giving ourselves up to new opportunities and hopefully becoming better-rounded individuals (character development). Other times, say family holidays, the characters remain the same, but the situations and dramas alter, change, rock, and resettle. (plot device)

Let me give you a life example. Over a year ago, I mentioned in a blog that my ex wasn’t paying for college. His new wife attacked me heartily, writing a blog about me entitled, “Jealously”, the theme of which is that my entire life is based on my debilitating awe of her. What I’m supposed to be jealous of, I’m still not sure, but you have to understand and forgive that that’s how narcissists are, they honestly think your life is about them, not you. They don’t see past themselves. The entire thing would have been an amusing bit of fiction if not for the fact that it deeply hurt my daughters and my husband. But I kept telling them that we all knew the truth and nothing else is real. But it was such an unreal, unthinking act from a woman who should have had their best interest at heart that, in trying to understand it, I learned so much, enriching my mental list of extreme characters. 

Ultimately we let it pass, I encouraged my girls to forgive, and we moved on. Now comes the sequel. My husband and I pay for college. I helped my daughter hunt for colleges, went to visit them, filled out the stacks of paperwork, moved her in, moved her out. I talk her down off the ledge when work is overwhelming, cuddle and spoil her when she desperately needs R&R, was there to share the hugs and tears at the end of her first year, moved her into her new apartment, and I loved every second. Now here’s the kicker, I have always had the most amazing relationship with my daughter but helping her through the college-slash-growing experience has deepened and rounded and smoothed our love until I stand overwhelmed and silenced by blessing and gratitude. In short, I support my girls and my life is richer for it. I have no anger or residual animosity from that silly attack because, simply, I am happy. I do what I want because I love to do it and it is exactly what I want to do. I adore sharing all that I have. What else is there?  What else is it for? 

I am the lucky one. That’s the sequel. 

It’s the same in writing. There must be dilemmas and challenges to discomfit your characters, evil-hearted people to throw spanners in the path, sociopaths who damage without conscious, it’s sometimes as difficult to write as it is to live, but then, as writers, we can pull our characters out of these situations, elevate them, make them victorious, or sometimes, just accept life as it is and be happy. Just like in life.

My character Ellen is not a pretty girl. She is not a particularly talented one. But she is an exceptional human being, by the miracle of her very survival. She finds joy in watching the small dramas and kindnesses of others, in doing small favors for people who may never even know she exists. 

And she’s all right with that. 

So when you write, be it your book or your life, remember that ultimately, it’s about you. No matter if people like your book, or lie about you in public media, it doesn’t matter. What matters, and what will make you happy, is doing what you do because it’s right for you. If you ever find yourself doing something to hurt someone else, think again, it won’t work. Their happiness is not based on you. 

But here’s the greatest thing. No matter what happens in your life, you can use it to make a better story. No matter how frightened, or angry or sad you may be if you are an artist, in writing, acting, or in life, it’s all fodder. Or, well, humorously put, all the BS is fertilizer, and your story, your characters, and your day to day personality grow from the choices you make about how to deal with it. 

Want richer characters? Delve into why someone resents you so much. (hint, it’s about their lacking) Want stronger plot lines? Examine the motives behind indignant rage. (hint, they feel no control.) It’s the small things that affect the big picture. And in the end, the big picture is made up of the small stuff. Take a step back and really look at it. 

As writers we have to get into the heads of so many characters, if we don’t find some truth, something real, then those people will not ring true, they will be shallow and uninteresting. So explore your own motives, and then sit back, disconnect, and explore. Examine others, but mostly, examine yourself. 

Don’t judge, that leads to preachy writing, and nobody enjoys that. (Bless my editors for scaling me back there!) Just understand it, justify it, even the bad behavior. You can’t write or act ‘bad guys’ if you don’t understand their motivations. If you can stand back and observe it, like Ellen does, you won’t have to take it personally to write it personally. 

And remember, there’s always a sequel. 

 

Shari, May 15th, 2014

 

The Perfect Day

Watching my daughters’ faces as they experienced embarrassment and distress at breakfast, caused by someone who is supposed to protect them was a difficult start to an already emotionally charged day, but there is never any  stopping the joy and flow of a grateful life. I had one of the best days ever with both my girls. Of course, they both felt very angry and betrayed at first, but after a swift condemnation, they rallied round with hugs and declaration of love, reminders that I am not the problem, and laughs about particulars They are so brilliantly aware, my darlings, more evolved.  And then, the day just got better and better. To go and join the swarm of college vitality, to help and see all these brilliant young people showing up for the move in day to their dorms, to a totally new and separate life, watching their faces as they met the people who may very well be their friends for life, well, it was awesome. I am truly blessed. The mother of one of my daughter’s new roomies was leaving, tears streaming down her face when I passed her. I stopped and smiled. “Don’t worry,” I told her, “Creason will take care of her.” The mom smiled and nodded, and I could see that after only knowing Creason for half an hour, she believed me. That’s the kind of grace my girls have. As hard as it is to let your baby go, I have this sense in my bones that it is right. It is her time. I am sad, and elated. It is time.  To let you know the resulting effect of the early morning drama, it comes to this. You just have to be very sorry for some people, though you can understand their particular psychological problems, it doesn’t always soften the blow when having to deal with them. I can’t help what other people say or choose to believe, none of us can. I suppose I should be flattered, if my girls weren’t involved, I could certainly ignore it with utter ease. Better yet, I would never have to deal with them, I could just wish them love and money and fame and the envy of all others, and all the other things they think they need to be happy. But you know what? I do anyway. Bless them, and may they find peace. 

Shari, 9-21-2012