Of Clouds, Silence, Astrology, and Requirements Comes Imagination

You know, there is something so very peaceful about lying on your back and watching the clouds go by.  I forgot to take my phone with me this time, or I’d have more cloud pictures to share.  But just lying in the pasture—hearing the breeze as it blows the tents and whispers through the grass as the clouds slowly drift across a blue canvas, morphing here and there as they go into completely different shapes—is a wonderful feeling.

The herd wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous today, and so they didn’t come over to say “hi” while I was lying there.  I got up and went to them instead.  As usual, Ebony wanted her belly scratched; the flies have done a number on her this year.  As much as I hate winter and the cold, I do hope that it will give her some respite from the little fuckers.

I made it my goal today to love on the herd wordlessly today.  Typically I say, “Hey, guys” to them as I approach, and then there’s a bit of a monologue along the lines of, “Does that feel good?  Yeah?  Does that feel really good?  Yeah, that feels too good!”  Today I skipped all of that and just focused on feeling instead of speaking.  And I felt very relaxed.  I felt the animals being relaxed.  I must’ve loved on Ivory for a good 30 minutes today, just scratching and rubbing her back in slow circles.  She seemed so relaxed, and she’s usually kind of uptight.  Casper even let himself drop, which was pretty nice; he doesn’t do it very often.

A word on “dropping” for non-equine owners: there’s one set of muscles for the males to “suck” their penises up into their sheaths, and there’s another one to extend them out.  Under normal conditions, the first set is flexed, keeping them tucked up inside in case they need to make a run for it or do something where having two feet of sensitive flesh whacking around would be suboptimal.  When they’re really relaxed, though, they’ll relax that set of muscles, and their penises will kind of “flop out”, not getting hard and erect, but just kind of hanging out there.  It’s a good sign when a donkey or horse is looking generally relaxed and has his dick dropped out.

Between the walk back up to the camper and typing this, it’s been about 10 minutes since I left, and I still feel so relaxed.  Not so much sleepy as just peaceful.  It’s a really nice feeling.  I should love on them in silence more often, I think.

There are some other things I really should do more of: think about impossible things and eat breakfast.

 

I’ll admit I’m a bad nerd when it comes to books.  There are a lot of classical fiction stories that I’ve just never bothered to read.  Though the Looking Glass was one of them until a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say that I really appreciate the notion of believing impossible things.

As a little background, I’m a Pisces, born about eleven hours before the cusp of Aries.  It has been interesting over the years watching to see which set of traits is more dominant.  When I was young, I was very imaginative.  I invented the bug vacuum long before it was ever actually invented (albeit in a far more cumbersome and gross form factor: it required rotten meat as a lure, whereas the actual bug vacuums are handheld and require no stinking meat).  But what do you want; I was five.  I imagined what my house would someday look like, had multitudes of imaginary friends, and was basically your typical Piscean: head in the clouds, very imaginative, but not very practical or good at actually making all those dreams realities.

Over the years, I think my dad in particular was influential in convincing me that there was more to life than imagining things and that life itself was worth living.  At that point, I began to realize that I was losing my creativity, but I found that I was better at making things happen.  Case in point, making a plan and sticking to it for all these years to buy the property, and then all of the planning and work involved to get the driveway installed, the fencing done, the water installed, the camper moved, and myself and the herd all moved in.

But now that I’m here and life is really in a bit of a holding pattern for the next few years while I save up for the house, I’m finding my mind beginning to wander again, beginning to miss just enjoying my imagination.  Certainly the books I’ve written have been wonderful opportunities to explore my imagination in a structured way.  But consider this: if you spend all your time on vacation taking pictures, how much time to you spend really experiencing your vacation?  Here’s a hint: not much.

Writing down my stories is like taking pictures but even more demanding:  a picture is worth a thousand words, so for every picture I see in my mind, I must write a thousand words to convey it.  Figuring out how to properly describe something is a challenge—and that’s coming from someone who literally describes things for a living.  I write requirements that describe medical devices so that everybody—engineers, customers, management, etc.—sees the product the same way so that we can all work towards the same goal; it’s very difficult to describe something so that everybody sees it the same way.

Let me give you an example:

The system shall be powered by A/C.

There are so many things wrong with that requirement.  First off, it sounds like we’re ordering someone to power the system, “By order of the King, you shall power that system!”  But that’s not the intent.

Next, there’s the whole “A/C” thing.  What do people who live in cold climates do to power this thing?  Oh, wait, no, I didn’t mean we’re going to use air conditioning to power the system!  I meant alternating current!

Okay, so that’s two things, and I haven’t even gotten remotely technical.  The electrical engineer will then say, “What voltage?”  If the intention was to plug the device into the wall outlet and have it be powered, then the location of the device matters.  Here in the US, we use 110VAC; in Europe, 220VAC, and in Japan, around 90VAC.  And as soon as I answer that, he’ll say, “how much current?”  This matters because if the device needed to run on a standard outlet, it would have to draw less than 15 amps.  Beyond that, you need special wiring, special breakers, and special outlets to be able to handle the current.

And so on.  You see my point?  Words matter, and it takes time and effort to find the right words.  It might not be as important to get exactly the right words to describe the texture of Colton’s feline prick as Shane fondles it with his tongue, but diction still matters.  Taking the time to find those words, type them out, and edit them detracts from the experience of letting my mind wander and following along where it goes.

And so back to Lewis Carroll and believing impossible things.  Why is believing in impossible things so great?  It frees the imagination.

Our minds typically think within constraints that we may or may not realize that we impose on ourselves, the proverbial “box” outside of which it is good to think.  For instance, if I always believe that humans must walk on the ground and that the flora and fauna I have seen (in person, online, or in books, TV, or other media) are the only types of organisms that really exist, then my writing reflects that because I cannot conceive of anything else.  Animals do not talk; therefore, the thought never crosses my mind to write a story about talking animals.  People do not fly because gravity holds them to the ground, and so the idea of floating through a space shuttle is a completely foreign concept.  I’ve even made decisions based on self-imposed constraints: “I can’t afford a house, so I can’t live on the property right now.”

Believing in impossible things helps us to escape that self-created box that imprisons us.  If I dare to believe that people can live in campers instead of houses, then lo and behold, I can live on the property!  If I allow myself the indulgence of talking animals, suddenly half of the Disney movies spring into existence, and if I allow myself to believe that people can be weightless (for you pedants out there, note that I did not say “massless”), then we fly around in airplanes and send people to the moon.

The designs I came up with as a child were horribly impractical.  My bug sucker required a shop vac and a stand-alone shop vac-shaped cylindrical tank with a clear plexiglass window on it through which the flies could see the rotten meat.  In hindsight, I know that’s a bad design, but at least I dared to think it up as a child!  In becoming practical, I often find myself shooting my ideas down without even trying them.

Here’s a great real-life example: I have generally been good at maintaining the level of cleanliness of something.  For example, my company moved into a brand new building purpose-built for us in March or so of last year.  Everything was new and clean, and I have done (I think) a great job of keeping the faucets in the bathroom looking just as new as they did the day we moved in (our cleaning service for some reason does not regard them as worthy of wiping down apparently).  If I go on vacation, I come back to find them filthy and again clean them up.  On the other hand, my standard of living has gone down pretty consistently from the day I moved out of my parents’ house: I’ve lived in smaller and smaller places and older and older places.  The older places tend to be less well-maintained, and so it’s not uncommon to find mold and mildew growing in the caulk on bathtub walls.  I am not good at restoring those to looking new.  Despite using bleach, Softscrub, Scrubbing Bubbles, old-fashioned dish soap, and other things (never at once, mind you!), I can never get them looking good.  The only remedy I’ve ever found was to cut the caulk out and replace it with fresh caulk (preferably the mildew-resistant kind!), and what can I say, I’m not willing to do that in a place that I do not own.  And so I dutifully keep the place at its current level: the mildew doesn’t spread beyond where it was when I moved in, but it doesn’t go away, either.

Enter my camper.  It is 26 years old—not much younger than I am—and although it has aged well, it has aged, and with age comes dirt.  When I got it, I gave everything a wipe-down and said, “okay, this is the baseline.”  I didn’t bother very hard to try to get rid of the dark spots or the soap scum in the bathtub, since I figured it was temporary—I’d be moving into the house in a few years anyway—and there wasn’t much point in belaboring it.

Well, the other day, the soap scum was just getting to the point that it bothered me, and so I sprayed some Scrubbing Bubbles on it, let it sit about a minute, and then wiped it off.  Lo and behold, the bathtub looked cleaner than it ever has!  I had boxed myself into believing that if the bathtub looked like crap, that was just how it was going to look, and I was just going to have to put up with it.  It’s amazing how you can actually do things when you dare to try them!

And so I believe it’s important to my mind occasionally, to dare to believe impossible things—like I can clean my bathtub, even though it’s old.

Yet the reason I don’t just sit and let my mind wander on about impossible things is the same reason I don’t eat breakfast: I don’t have time or money for it.  I pass multiple breakfast places on my way to work, or if I really wanted it, I could make my own breakfast in the camper, yet I’ve convinced myself that I lack the time and funds to do it.

But let’s be honest: I come home at night, check on the herd, and then sit down at my computer, sometimes to write, sometimes to check on finances or something else, but often to just sit and watch YouTube.  There is a lot of time spent that could be used more productively—like eating breakfast or letting my mind wander.  Granted, breakfast tends to be a morning thing, but if I were to move my relaxation time from the evening after the day to the beginning, it might put me in better spirits at work, and having eaten, I might have more energy to boot.  And from a financial standpoint, breakfast one or two days a week would not break the bank, and sitting and imagining costs nothing.

So maybe I need to practice what I preach and free myself of the constraints around breakfast.  Maybe I should make a conscious effort to eat it just once a week.  It might do me some good.

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