Rachel’s Thoughts: Dentists and Validation

This week was amazing. This week I discovered the Validation short, the 24-hour music video by Pharrel Williams, Sherlock 3 (and watched all three episodes-smiles, tears, and absolute shock), and had a dentist appointment that might have changed my life.


Cats are fantastic. We were privileged enough to dissect them over the pre-Christmas term, and one of them was pregnant. The kittens were amazing. Fully formed, itty bitty little toes, tiny tails, their whole bodies size of quarters.

I love dissections. I always have. And I love Bones. So one day, I thought to myself, Rachel, you should be a mortician.

I was told after a few weeks that I didn’t want to be a mortician, I wanted to be a coroner, and after looking it up, I realized my vocabulary maybe isn’t quite what I thought it was and ‘coroner’ is what I meant all along. I had to go around and fix what I had told people. So awkward, especially since morticians are even creepier than coroners, and I think that even with as few people want to work with dead bodies, even fewer want to put makeup on corpses. Seriously, who does that.

So hurrah, I had a new goal for after college. Or at least, I did until the same lovely person who corrected my terminology also mentioned the seven years of med school required to coronate. Oh, the shock. Does it really take seven years of training to be able to say with certainty, Yep, he’s dead all right?

On the other hand, I’m good at drawing, so after I decided that eleven years of college wasn’t happening I decided to move to Paris and draw, sell my drawings to Americans, then move back to America and sell my drawings to China. I haven’t looked into whether the French will purchase drawings of China, but that would be nice.

I also want to travel with fairs and circuses as a caricature artist.

Right about when I became completely psyched to be an artist and was wondering what color beret to get, I went to the dentist and all the truth and inner thoughts and hopes came flooding out of my mouth when the hygienist, Mike, asked about my post-college plans. Pretty much every childhood wish, in fact, except my thirst for piracy. Seasickness eliminated that one long ago.

“Except for the seven years of med school,” I finished as his tools slid into my gaping mouth and began poking and prodding.

“Well, actually…”

It turns out that our county coroner, according to dentist’s-office rumor, is a practicing attorney, a coroner, and a nurse all at the same time. Which means, according to the hygienist and also the dentist, who said the same thing later, she was a coroner with just a nursing degree.

The dentist was thrilled to pieces when he came in and saw the hygienist and I chatting about dead bodies. “Did you know,” he said, his eyes gleaming, “that when you get a blob of fat and squeeze it, oil comes out?”

The hygienist quickly googled pictures of fat while the dentist examined my teeth. “The sheriff was in the other day and he got a call about a suspicious looking truck, and when he went out, he found it swarming with bees, ‘cause some guy had shot himself and the bees were eating him.”

I usually have fairly nice dentist appointments, but this one beats them all. When the hygienist asked about summer plans and was told about my upcoming roadtrip to Texas, he was almost as excited as he was about my coroner plan. “Do it, girl,” he said. “Make memories. Have fun. Get into trouble along the way. Go to med school and be a coroner. And when it comes time for the election, I will vote for you.” Then, slightly embarrassed, “I’m being very motivational today.”

He was. Who needs therapy when you have a dentist appointment?

Rachel’s Thoughts: My Heart is Rejoicing Again

Much has happened since my heart last rejoiced in its own words. For the first time in a long time, this post is not a school assignment, but part of a brief catcher-upper to explain why my blog is in use again (at least for the time being).

It’s been one of those years. Over the past thirteen months I graduated from high school, began my freshman year of college, lost all my friends (twice), was given a new perspective on what it means to be “Christian,” gained a bunch of new friends and rediscovered some old ones, had a study group at 5:30 AM, learned what fennel is and what you use it in, learned how to make pizza, read some amazing books, watched  IP Man (if you haven’t seen it, go watch it right now), cried my way through some of the many, many oral finals, and learned that when I eat potato chips my tongue swells up like something from Harry Potter. It was quite a year.

My perspective on life has refocused a lot. It hasn’t changed, really, but some things are more clear now. I still see through a glass dimly, but God’s graces certainly are new every morning. For example, I accidentally stepped on a mouse at a farmer’s market and it exploded and I didn’t freak out. Much.

I moved from my bedroom into my basement. I have my own coffeepot, and I have a bright red wall and many, many lamps. The first three weeks, I also had many, many spiders, but I caught them all and put them outside and I think my cat probably ate some of them. Over the next few weeks the ants thrived (sizewise somewhere between cute little ones and carpenter ants), but they too have met their ends in the great outdoors. This week is known as the Week of the Centipede, and next week is looking like it might be the Era of the Beetle. If current livestock trends keep up down here  I might train them and sell them to the circus.

For those of you who are concerned about my little leggy roommates, I do have sticky traps. That was how I got rid of the rest of the spiders and a bunch of ants, but I’m learning that the centipedes don’t understand pain and prefer to rip a few legs off than die. Except their brains are too small to understand they’ll just get stuck again. I keep finding little legs lining the glue and a stuck, legless centipede a few inches past.

I feel kind of bad for the beetles, though. I don’t get the impression they have malicious intentions.

If you want to pray for me, pray that God pulls an Exodus 10: 19 in my basement: “And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.”

So there you go. My heart is rejoicing again. Things keep happening and I keep thinking “OH I should blog this!” and then it just doesn’t happen. But it will, because my rejoiceometer is getting full and my laptop is charged. But now, there are beetles to be caught and centipedes to outwit, so I must bid you adieu until the next time.

Rachel’s Thoughts: To Helen (Poe)

Prose adaptation/modification/completelydifferentversionof  Edgar Allan Poe’s To Helen.

Helen, you look like a boat. Now don’t get me wrong; you’re pretty, and practical, too, like one of those log canoes the Indians used to paddle around in. But the kind of boat you remind me of is less the Nicean bark and a little more at home in the swamps of Florida.

Ever since you chalked your hair purple, your skin has seemed even more sickly pale, like mold. You’ve put on airs; you’re thinking Greece, or maybe Rome, but you’re more like London…in the middle of the plague.

You’re always posing–no, literally, posing, trying to look like Shakespeare and Arabian Nights. Even now you’re parading back and forth in front of the window. That flashlight in your hand: what are you doing with it, one if by land, two if by sea? Austen was wrong; your figure does not appear to best advantage while walking. Remember, love, you’re built like an aircraft carrier.

Perhaps I should be glad, my dear, that you don’t speak English, in light of what I’ve said. After all, you can’t help your looks, and I might wound your poor little psyche. But if I can offer some advice, my Arabian battleship, perhaps you should eat a little less?

Rachel’s Thoughts: The Secret Place

This was my third creative sketch of the late night and wee hours of the morning, and I think this one might just fit the bill.

A gap in the bushes separated our yard from the grasses of the secret place beyond. Tall hedges encompassed the whole enclosure, so that when you crossed into it you stepped into a separate world that smelled of lavender and dead leaves. An oak tree grew in the middle, surrounded by lavender bushes and a little cinderblock wall. Its branches were long and the leaves thick, so that in the summer the roof threw green shadows that danced on the ground. A swing hung from one limb.

In fact, it was rather like the Wood-Between-the-Worlds, except earthier and suited to being occupied by children. The oak gave off the feeling that it was the only thing holding the world together, and that like Atlas it held the sky on its shoulders. It was an anchor binding this world to all the infinite realms of adventure, so that you could always return from forays into imaginary places.

It was perfect for a six-year-old girl to get wildly lost in Narnia. Plots could be hatched, house could be kept, and it could easily be defended against pirates. The secrecy kept it a sanctuary, and the wildness left it the sort of place where anything could happen and something always would.[1]

[1] Phrasing courtesy of Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.

Rachel’s Thoughts: My First Rare Steak

I was going to use this for a creative sketch declamation, but wasn’t sure if it quite fit the guidelines. So.

Many, many, many moons ago, I had my first rare steak.

Malevolently. That was how it felt like the steak was staring at me. It was the kind of steak that had probably sat on someone nice in a previous life. I had ordered my bloody slab of cow medium to well done, and this was just so…not. I mean, the edges were singed and all, but I prefer my food dead, thank you very much.

Anyway, there it was, sitting on my plate like it owned the place. The cook had refused to take it back, jabbering something in Dutch about the World Cup. Apparently Holland was playing Spain and, being smack-dab in the middle of Amsterdam, he didn’t feel obliged to provide customer satisfaction on such an important night. Evidently he wasn’t concerned about customer safety, either, because this was precisely the sort of steak that might at any moment pull a Calvin-and-Hobbes move and attack me with my own fork. My personal theory was that he too was intimidated by the gimlet eye of the beastly thing, and was secretly chortling about it back in the kitchen. And still the steak just sat there oozing blood, defying me, practically daring me to try to eat it.

The Rejoicing Heart: Autumn in Moscow

Moscow is a pocket of joy, especially today. The sky is blue, but it’s not a friendly, midsummery sort of blue; it’s more like the color you see on a forty-five degree fall day, the kind where the sidewalk dances under your feet and the buildings meet the sky. It’s the kind of day that doesn’t need coffee to survive, where you can almost hear the words to the tune that composes the world. The lichen on the tree glows yellow in the noon sun, smiling up at the God that made it.

Bentleigh thinks we’re made of music. I agree. At the smallest level, we are composed of sound waves, and so is everything else in the world. This, perhaps, is why certain songs and certain kinds of weather speak more to us than others: our internal songs are the same.
This day is my day. It’s the sort of day that Bradbury would say anything could happen, and something always would. Simple pleasures gleam brightly in this weather, and coffeehouses are, for once, less happy places than the sidewalk. Usually in November it’s better to be in where the air is warm and smells like an eloquent mix of coffee and pumpkin bread, but not today. This is a streetside day. If knew how, I would dance down the sidewalk, but I can’t quite hear the beat well enough in the breeze. My feet wouldn’t be in the right key.
I think my soul is made of Chris Brown and Bach. If you gave Bach a beat instead of a basso continuo, his music would be today.
Some people hate it. Their rhythms are off, their keys wrong. For them, it feels crooked, like the way their feet jolt on the dancing sidewalk. Their equilibrium is off, and they don’t know why. But they know they don’t like it.
These are the Morning people. They prefer dawn, and rain, and Calvin and Hobbes. Which are good at the right time, but today is a Far Side day. It sings of sunshine and evening, of that afternoon glow that hits about thirty minutes before complete and utter darkness. Today is rap counted to a waltz.
Maybe some people just can’t feel the music. Perhaps that is the sixth sense that sends shivers down people’s spines, when the wind hums a minor chord and they can feel the effects without feeling the beauty.
Too many people try to get where they’re going without listening along the way. They miss so much, like remixing Chris Brown’s Forever. You just can’t do that with that piece. The Music of the Spheres is at a crescendo today, and tomorrow it will be gone. We are the Evening people.
Tomorrow, Moscow will be someone else’s pocket of joy. The sunshine will sing a pitch they can hear, and they will be able to dance to the earth’s beat. I will miss it, but I know that my music will come again. God is a Divine DJ, and he always plays our requests.

Rachel’s Thoughts: The Beginning of the End

It all began last summer.

I was working at the local library as a volunteer summer-reading-program helper, which meant I sat at a little table and checked little kids in and out as they reported the books they had read. Sometimes, with the more enterprising ones, I got to hand out prizes. Sometimes these took the form of stickers, other knickknacks, and occasionally books.

A little tiny girl, probably not more than five, came in with her grandmother and peeped up at me over the edge of the table, waiting for eye contact. I smiled at her. “Hello.”

“I finished,” she whispered, almost inaudibly, with that peculiar gleam in her eyes as she waited to see if I approved.

“You finished another book?” I asked, smiling a little more brightly.

She nodded slowly, looking a little uncertain. She glanced up at her grandmother. “I believe that was the last one required for the summer reading?”

“Ah,” I said, smiling again. “What’s your name?” I asked the little girl.

“Cindy,” she said.

“Her last name’s Smith,” added her Grandmother.

“Okay. And how old are you, Cindy?” I asked, reaching for the blue binder. The two binders were divided by color—blue for kids under ten, green for older ones. My guess was correct. “Five.”

I found her page, checked her record, and added the book her grandmother handed me. As they had said, it was the last one. She had finished.

“Good job,” I said. “Now you get to pick a prize. You can take something from this,” I said, tapping the ugly cart full of everything from rubber spiders to sparkly bouncy balls and fake jewelry, “Or a book from the treasure chest over there.” I gestured toward the hideously gaudy cardboard box, dressed up to look like a treasure chest and brimming with books.

The little girl nodded and began to sort through the cart. I returned to my book, but watched her surreptitiously. She was excited, and showed her grandmother every sparkly thing in the box before finally picking a massive green plastic ring.

“Thank you,” said the grandmother, catching my eye. She bent down to the little girl’s level. “Say thank you to the lady.”

The little girl trotted around the cart behind the table to where I sat, City of God on my lap, until she was almost touching my knees. She stared up at me, all excitement and eagerness, the ring clutched in her little hand. “Thank you, Lady,” she said politely.

“You’re welcome,” I said. She grinned at me, and ran back to her grandmother. She took her hands and was led off into the depths of the library, gazing in awe at the ring in her hand.

And just like that, it was no longer simply “Thanks.” It had become “Thank you, Lady,” and I felt it. The innocence flooding from her little self when she spoke to me as “the lady” had touched me more than either she or her slightly embarrassed grandmother knew. Sixteen years old is closer to twenty than to ten, but it took the courtesy of a little child to make me see it—and I honestly believe that was the moment when I began to leave childhood and embrace the next part of my life.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” –1 Cor. 13:11