Wednesday, February 27, 2008


A few months back on a whim, I sent what started as a blog post to a gardening magazine looking for stories. To my surprise, I heard back within a month or two and received a contract and a check for the story. Today I found out it is in the Spring 2008 edition of GreenPrints magazine. The table of contents is here:
My article is titled "Nursery Tales" from my time working for a nursery and there is a sweet photo, which I think is supposed to be me (check the name tag) trying to sell flowers to an old lady. Needless to say, I am excited that I have something published (even if it is in a niche magazine with a devoted following).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The visceral "Into the Wild" reaction

Fried from months of pouring over pages of xeroxed printed powerpoint slides earlier this year, I suddenly had a strange, but compelling desire to learn about the Appalachian trail. I spent a couple hours on google, amazon, and and before too long had purchased over ten books on national parks, backroad driving, and other travel narratives. I recently developed a fierce desire to drive solely on backroads through less populated areas. My former roommate spends the late part of every night buying baseball tickets and books and planning brief three-day trips with a core group of friends to baseball games. When talking to a friend earlier this year, out of the blue, he mentioned to me that he wanted to hike the Appalachian trail this summer. The common tennant of all of these experiences, I believe is a visceral reaction to studying and a stressful life of monotony, high expectations, and little edifying activity.
My former roommate is studying in a masters program, and my other friend is a fellow medical student. We all generally are excited about our future careers, but the dreary path leading to the doorstep can sometimes be overwhelming. Our escape then seems to be to planning what we will be doing when we are not studying. Of course, our plans extend far beyond any realistic possibility, but a small percentage of those plans come to fruition. My current roommate and I are going backpacking in the smokies next week. The following week my former roommate, some others, and I are making a bonzai trip to Florida to catch several Spring Training games. Those few actualities keep the hope alive.
In between lectures, I let myself read a chapter or two (or eight, depending on my current state) of Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. The story chronicles the life of an affluent college graduate who traveled the country, eventually landing in the Alaskan wilderness where he died of starvation. The story is compelling and resonates with so many because it lives out the deep seeded desires within me to just take off and see what happens. I can more-or-less tell you what I will be doing on any given day for the next several months and only slightly more generally the next three plus years. The idea that I may have some unexpected adventures makes the monotony a little more tolerable.
While not everyone may share the desire to return to the wilderness, or take part in the Americana spectacle that is Major League Baseball, I think everyone has some sort of outlet or hope that keeps them pressing forward. I had a discussion with friends about how vacations, which seemed meaningless even a couple years ago, now achieved the sort of status in our minds as they did in the older generations' in our younger years. This is not to say that I do not enjoy my current state as a medical student. In fact, I generally find what I am learning fascinating, but the balance I crave cannot be satisfied by book study.
However, I do recognize the role book study has and will continue to have in my life. Yet the temptation, like the Wordsworth poem below is to flee and learn from the other experiences of life. Still, a parable Luther supposedly used comes to mind in considering the situation: We must be careful, that like a drunk man riding a horse, when trying to recover from leaning too far one way, we do not fall off the opposite side. Still, I include Wordsworth below for my current mood; a little straightening up in the saddle couldn't hurt anyone, right?

The Tables Turned
William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.