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Catherine Fischer

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Trip to the Oregon Coast [Nov. 9th, 2008|12:58 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Spent the weekend at the coast; Brent worked a relief shift at a one-vet practice in Tillamook, and we opted to make a romantic getaway out of it. We’d been needing the opportunity to reconnect, to focus on one another, away from the demands of the mundane, and since the practice graciously provided a motel room…

Tillamook is a quintessential small Oregon town, with its history, only slightly scuffed, worn proudly on its sleeve. In a lush green valley where five rivers empty into a wide estuary, it is full of good people who like the way they live and don’t hesitate to tell you about it. At an antique store/coffeeshop, whiling away the hours during Brent’s shift, the kindly woman working there showed me postcards of the town in the 50s and 60s; the landmarks of the former one-street town are still proudly and prominently in place, despite the highway diverting much of the traffic from Main street.

We left Portland in the pre-dawn rainy dark of an amber-leafed November morning, and made our way over somnolent streets to the highway; I slept the fist hour of the journey. Once I woke, I took a turn driving, so Brent could have that last half-hours to doze before working (works better than coffee, he tells me). I spent the drive in silence, winding through the coastal range in a deep-shadowed, cloud-tattered forest that pressed itself into my consciousness on all sides and limited the dawn light to dim green gloaming.

Breaking out of the trees, the verdant dairyland of Tillamook was a relief to the eyes, bustling with morning business and a sense of having arrived. Brent coffeed up and showed me around the tiny practice, introduced me to the friendly and professional staff, the adorable brain-damaged clinic kitty. After which, suffering from an overindulgence at the Patron tequila dinner the night before, I went back out to the car and slept until noon. My eyes opened, refreshed and not aching, a few seconds before Brent arrived at the car; he took me to lunch at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company, where he’d lunched before and liked it.

Having grown up in California, I am intimately acquainted with the highway roadside attraction. It’s huge business, down south. Casa de Fruita, a glorified fruit stand that has added on a miniature golf course, giant shop of tchotchkes, pony rides, petting zoo, and various and sundry other amusement-park-like attractions in a process of seemingly random accretion, stands as a shining monument to how far the gods of greed and commerce can take you -- it is not the only one of its kind, either, not by a long shot. (There’s a split pea soup restaurant that advertises 500 miles in all directions… seriously, split pea soup? They have the crazy collection of roadside attractions, as well. And I won’t even go into Wall, South Dakota… *shudder*. A Twilight Zone experience I’d like to forget, and drove away from as fast as I possibly could. Broke the speed limit by a hefty margin; would have broken the sound barrier, if I’d had the capability.)

So the Blue Heron French Cheese Company was nothing new, save perhaps in its execution. The entry drive boasted an interesting and eclectic collection of vintage vehicles; the cheese shop was in a cute little red-barn farmhouse, filled with handmade candies (and the irresistible fragrance of buttery pralines), espresso drinks, local vineyard wine-tasting, cheese-tasting, locally made sauces and dips and condiments (also available for tasting), jams and jellies, holiday decor, imported foodstuffs and novelty items I haven’t seen since childhood, unique and amusing gifts that made me think of people I’d like to buy them for (but resisted), souvenirs, clothing, an entire sock-monkey menagerie, and a delightful deli, with tables and chairs all crammed into a pleasingly labyrinthine and surprisingly cozy layout, lit by windows filled with a view of rainy farmyard and pasture. The service was typically Oregon: friendly, efficient, pleasant. The lovely woman at the counter expounded on the specials of the day, recommending items with convincing sincerity; she served us by wandering the nooks and crannies until she found us. We were allowed to find our own drinks, and just let the cashier know after the fact… a trusting business model, which speaks well of the town. (Nothing like being trusted to make most folks put on their best effort at being trustworthy.) The panini I got (caprese) was delicious, with fresh, high-quality ingredients (including fresh-made bread). The latte was a bit lackluster, but then again, I’m a Portland coffee snob; it was tolerable, and I needed the caffeine. The good food and ambience made for pleasant conversation over lunch, after which we wandered out to pet the goats and sheep in the muddy pen out front (we refrained from buying food to feed them, as they all looked overweight). One particular nanny goat, her horns beautifully intact, took a shine to us; we felt a bit badly for her, as it was a cold rainy day, and she had a cough and a crusty eye. We scratched behind her long soft ears for a while, and the emu wandered up to growl at Brent (they sound just like the dinosaurs they’re descended from -- at least, how I always imagined dinosaurs would sound, like dragons rumbling deep in their chests). Brent went back to work, and I ensconced myself in the musty, roasted-coffee-and-dusty-antique-scented embrace of an easy chair beside the woodstove of the Five Rivers Coffee Roasting Company, and settled in for an afternoon of camomile tea and storytelling.

Checking into the motel that evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find the room was really quite spacious, with a mini-fridge, a built-in hair-dryer, a wet-bar counter (!), and plenty of counter-space to put our stuff. Big king-size bed that was refreshingly comfortable (I’m used to insomnia on strange beds, because of my back). Non-smoking room that didn’t reek of old tobacco smoke covered up with disgustingly cloying air fresheners. Indoor pool and jacuzzi were open 24 hours -- a first, for me. Small but nicely-equipped workout room… and not only a dry sauna, but a steam-room! O delicious luxury! Free wifi, too, plus an attached gas station, mini-mart and restaurant/lounge… a lot, for a middle-of-the-road chain (Shilo Inn). Well worth the $106/night. The steam room was just what I needed, followed by a long soak in the hot tub, followed by a bit of horseplay in the pool, followed by running back to our room like a couple of giggling teenagers. Nothing like lifting the must-dos from one’s plate to free up the want-to-dos…

Dinner was at the Rodeo Steakhouse, recommended to me by my coffeeshop friend. They seat you there with a bucket of roasted peanuts; the shells are tossed to the floor, and crackle satisfyingly underfoot when you make your approach to the table. Vintage buttoned naugahyde chairs and “old west” decor, with some pithy quotes on the wall on burned-wood plaques, and a saddle to have your picture taken on. Alarmingly enormous mixed drinks, buncha beers on tap (a few more in the bottle), all the ribs and steak and campfire-barbecue-style sides you could ask for (including garlic mashed potatoes and baked sweet potato), fresh-baked cobblers. A few different meat-centric salads, to appease the diet-conscious or the not-so-hungry. We had the “hot legs” (actually the humerus of the bird), dripping with piquant and spicy sauce, served with chunky blue cheese dip, to start with, and split the special -- meltingly tender half-rack of ribs, succulent but heavily sauced grilled chicken breast over rice pilaf, garlic mashers. That plus beer plus “small” margarita (served in a glass boot) only $30 -- quite worthwhile. We left satisfied, and Brent laughed that we went to a steakhouse and got away without trying the steak. To be rectified, perhaps, when he works here the first week of December.

The next day we decided to take our time and go wherever the mood led us, instead of keeping to any sort of itinerary. (I had bookmarked a few things to do in the vicinity, in case we ran out of ideas; we didn’t end up needing any of them -- save them for another day.) However, the “as you will” schedule came with a caveat: I was NOT going to miss the Tillamook Cheese Factory! When I was a tiny little kid, my parents took me on a cheese factory tour in Northern California, where we lived; I still remember the giant wheels of aging cheese in the musty cold cellar with an inordinate fondness (plus, I think that’s where my Dad got me hooked on creamy ripe cheeses -- I’m guessing it might have been a Brie he introduced me to). So I’ve had my eye on the famous Tillamook Cheese Factory pretty much since we crossed the Oregon border… we ate breakfast in the food-court-style foyer, surrounded by fudge-shoppe and ice cream scoop shop, souvenir shop and (of course) cheese shop. It was passable, if not nearly as good (or as personable) an experience as we had had at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. But the self-guided tour of the factory was worth the trip: plenty of interesting factoids, a museum of old photos and cheese-making equipment, dusty trophies, a polished video presentation, life-size model cows and terrific viewing windows of the cheese-making action! (Cue ‘Powerhouse’ by Raymond Scott.) The automated assembly-line was a thing of wonder… they even had a couple of touch-screen kiosks! My favorite part was the guy on the assembly line, preparing 40-pound blocks of cheese for vacuum-sealing prior to aging -- he knew he had an audience, and grandstanded, just a little.

Leaving town for the coast, Brent suggested that we take a scenic drive around the “Three Capes Scenic Loop”, which I happily agreed to -- he’d been curious about it since his prior trip to Tillamook, and I’m all about enjoying the scenery in Oregon. I love my state. It never fails to inspire and delight me. And true to form, the whole drive was beautiful -- astonishingly beautiful, everywhere I looked. In fact, it was excruciatingly lovely with monotonous regularity, my heart clenching in my chest in an agony of emotion, with each new vista gained, at each bend in the road. From rugged and rain-shrouded cliff-edges with wind-sculpted trees and picturesque lighthouses; to mirrorlike wet sandy beaches with gulls huddled against the wind; to grey-green waves piling mountainously on the horizon, cresting in halos of wind-blown spray, crashing thunderously into cataracts of foam along the caverns and tidepools of the shore’s craggy feet; to misty islands with alluring natural arches, circled by seabirds and surrounded by a sea gone suddenly lambent silver in the spearing brilliance of an occasional sunbeam… I could have wept for what my camera could not capture. And, swept up in the electrifying spectacle of it all, dressed for indoor adventures, I got thoroughly soaked and spent the afternoon fogging up the windows of the car, slowly drying out as we made our way up the coast. Coasting through cliff-perched seaside hamlets and enticingly bright tourist towns, we made our way as far as Cannon Beach, which friends have been recommending to me for over a year. I felt foolish for not coming sooner, pretty much as soon as I laid eyes on the place: tidy, tiny, enchantingly friendly and brightly-lit, with sea-weathered shingle architecture, hidden hollows and grottos tucked away in the hills, alder grove-cloistered beach houses and appealing shops, bustling with locals come for the art and wine event that weekend and tourists making their way out of the rain. The beach itself is home to Haystack Rock, one of the world’s largest free-standing monoliths, green with moss and algae and haloed by nesting seabirds, crying in the wind. Tourist town or not, the place had magnificent appeal, with the windows shining brightly in warm invitation: “come inside, out of the cold and grey…” I found three scrumptiously fuzzy sweaters on sale in a little shop filled with treasures, and we ate dinner at a European-style charcuterie bistro, with delectable fare including finely prepared fresh local seafood. Stuffed and sated, we sadly made the decision to drive the hour-and-a-half back home, foregoing the pleasure of wandering the art and wine fair in favor of giving Brent a full night’s sleep on a work night. I was sad to leave the intimate space we’d shared all weekend, and the cats didn’t even miss us, as they were spoiled by their “Auntie Jodi”…
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I'm Published! [Sep. 12th, 2008|06:05 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[mood |happyhappy]
[music |Teardrop on the Fire]

One of my photos from Vancouver (my trip there in early Spring of 2006) has been published! Yay! I'm famous!

I've been posting some of my new photos on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=552562249

I love photography! :-)

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How Many of Me [Jun. 30th, 2008|12:31 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]
[music |F.M., Steely Dan]

From a friend:

LogoThere are
people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

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Surfacing [Jun. 29th, 2008|03:44 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[mood |awakeawake]
[music |Message in a Bottle, The Police]

The amber cracks,
The air shivering into prismatic shards of light and sound.
The isopod uncoils, tests the ground gingerly;
The dreamer surfacing, reaching for life and breath
The pain of the dream receding like a shadow across the brow
The world suddenly populous
and plentiful
and impossibly bright.

The air outside is heavy, today. I've been avoiding the heat all day, shutting out the sweaty mugginess of it all, envisioning the friction of air and the grand climactic spectacle of a real thundershower, washing away the high pressure zone that's been baking us for days. The weather report suggests no such thing, but they've been wrong before; I still have hope.

Have just finished reading "X Saves the World" by Jeff Cordinier, and made the startling discovery that so much of the personal journey I've been on seems to be shared by my cohort -- or at least the intelligentsia among us. The realization washed over me as I was listening to "Message in a Bottle" by the Police... made me feel a lot less lonely. Made me feel like the answer is not in sending my own plea for help so much as it might be in answering others.

The world is out there. Time to go forth!
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Wisdom [Jun. 15th, 2008|10:16 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[mood |relievedchagrined]
[music |On the Turning Away, Pink Floyd]

Wise words from a friend not on LiveJournal:

"I did not know you quit your job.....are you in a new one? I sounds like a good move....we don't have to practice to be unhappy! After a school year of working with a most difficult student, I jumped (at the 11th hour) at a chance to take on a different one-on-one for next fall. It seemed like the thing to do. Sounds like you've had your share....and more....of scary and disturbing experiences along life's highway. It's O.K. to question where you're headed but, since your goal is to be happy, don't worry too much that you won't make it. You will, cuz you desire to! Enough of my grandma philosophy..."

Thank you, my dear friends, for your support, your persistence, and most of all, for your PERSPECTIVE. The latter is a little hard to achieve when one is wrapped in a personal cocoon.

Did you hear a popping sound? I think that was my head...
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The things they don't tell you in vet school [Jun. 14th, 2008|10:07 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[music |Eleanor Rigby]


Today a woman arrives with a cat that "hasn't been breathing in a while". She arrives late -- 45 minutes late, after the phone call telling our receptionist that the cat isn't breathing -- and it comes out that she has been in an auto accident on the way to our clinic (in a car borrowed from a friend). The technician who goes to assess the case/bring the patient back to the treatment area comes out of the room white and incoherent with horror. I go in to talk to the owner...

Who has her mouth around the cat's face. The cat is dead. Deaddeaddead. Deadsky. Eyes are sunken and dessicated. Abdomen is distended and liquefying. Rigor mortis has come and gone. The cat is putrefying -- actively decomposing.

I gently tell the woman that nothing I can do -- nothing -- will bring her cat back to life. I tell her that her cat has been dead for too long; she tells me that it died last Thursday (today is Saturday). She asks me if I will try to resuscitate it, and that she is "praying for a miracle". She has that unfocused, dissociated look of someone undergoing a schizophrenic episode.

I tell her that, since nothing I can do will help the cat in any way, it would be unethical to take her money. Then I ask her if there is anyone I can call, or if I can help her understand what has happened to her cat. She looks at me sideways, and asks if I can direct her to Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital (I tell her that they will say the same thing that I just told her; she tells me that several vets before me have told her the same thing). Then she sidles out the door. Nitwit me -- didn't get the license plate. Did file a police report, and called Dove Lewis and all of the other emergency clinics in the area. My friend Rob wanders in (his fiancee is my friend and colleague, Marsha) and tells me that she visited his clinic 2 hours ago.

I come home and tell Brent about the episode, and get the only gross-out I've ever managed to extract from the man. Totally heebie-jeebies. It was excellent.

Welcome to my world.
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I'm Back! [Jun. 10th, 2008|10:05 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[mood |uncomfortableuncomfortable]

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping… into the future…

It has been a hell of a year. More of an internship than my internship, really. I allowed my desire and need to professionally grow to meet the demands placed on me at that ultra-busy practice to subsume my desire and need to grow personally… in fact, I backslid, letting go of elements of my life I swore I would be working to reclaim (like better communication with the people in my life, and rediscovery of hobbies and personal passions). Instead, I worked myself into a pit of depression, leaning heavily on my friends at work to keep me sane, trying to support Brent in his 80-90 hour work weeks (only partially successful), and losing more and more of myself as it just hemorrhaged away.

Damn, I hate my obsessive tendencies.

I haven’t written anything since last December, when a computer interface problem (and subsequent user error) caused a loss of a year and a half’s original writing. Gone. Poof. Like children wiped out in some sort of digital plague, with only gravestones in my mind (“I loved the one using clematis as a metaphor for summer inertia”) to mark their passing. Then again, I’ve produced very little of value in the last 2 years… I seem instead to have devolved mentally and emotionally from the brittle, bright core of self surrounded in swirling chaos to shapeless protoplasm masquerading around as me, dissipated and vague, without any trace of self-awareness, motivation, inspiration, or creativity. In short, I Got Lost, blaming exhaustion for my lack of a life/personality.

I haven’t found my way back to the path yet, but I’m starting to hear halloos. Starting to feel more coherent, and conversant. And starting to feel pretty annoyed with myself for my dissipation, my waste of precious time.

I’ve started taking steps in the right direction by quitting my job. No, the timing is not ideal. Brent’s also looking for new work, as his internship ends in three weeks. With no nibbles, and with my same old bad financial habits, it looks to be a squeaky summer, until we can get down to work. But just knowing that there’s an end in sight frees me of a terrible burden of guilt and shame and fear and emotional exhaustion and cowering self-loathing. Here’s the ridiculous thing: I’ve done all this to myself. For no reason. I did this during my internship, and during my senior year -- it’s been a disastrous pattern that there is no basis for; it’s just inherent in my mental makeup. And it kills me. Lack of confidence, based on lack of experience, coupled with a not-so-nurturing boss whom I cannot effectively communicate with, leads me to shrink within myself, seeking fewer opportunities to learn, avoiding the boss, approaching each workday with terrible anxiety, and feeling bad about myself and my skills. (The boss in question seems to feel that browbeating me for long sessions and reducing me to tears will improve my performance and shape me to his mold, and dumping me without help into situations that are way over my ability level will improve my capabilities. This is not the mentorship I signed on for. Generally, I need someone to present a learning opportunity as a “hey, did you know…” or “hey, let me show you something cool…”, or even “hey, I was going to do this procedure, and I wondered if you wanted to scrub in and learn it”, rather than a “let me see you in my office” followed by making me feel I entirely mishandled a case.) And I have worked my heart out this year, taking every suggestion, working on my own time to improve my knowledge base, attending as much CE as I can, asking for different opinions and canvassing my colleagues for different ways of performing a procedure (medicine is frequently more art than science, as there are usually multiple right answers to a single question). While my colleagues tell me that I’m a good vet, and have grown consistently faster and more proficient, that is just not the feedback I get from the higher-ups, who have blasted me down to ground level, over and over -- even in situations where I was hurting from a failure and needed to be built back up. Too sensitive and thin-skinned for this place. I no longer wonder at its extremely high rate of turnover. I do wonder in awe and amazement at the tenacity of my colleagues, most of whom tell me they cried every night for the first year at that practice. And for the last year, I have wondered if I just needed to ride it out, or if I was just clinging to the devil I knew, rather than launching (as I hate to do) out into the unknown without a safety net. Gods. I agonize over decisions too much. As Robert Fulghum once said, “the examined life is no picnic”.

That isn’t all that is dysfunctional about that place. There are well-established and well-empowered social cliques that seem to feel they have the right to villify any individual they please, for any reason. There is no communication directly between individuals -- it all goes through the head office. So miscommunications turn into giant games of “Telephone” involving half the staff, who then establish sides and take up arms against the party they feel has offended. That shit has cost the practice some very good vets over the years. It should not be tolerated in the workplace, but that’s how the place runs, and has forever, seemingly. Ideally, my new employer will employ a support staff that is actually supportive. I hate feeling hung out to dry over a mistake a receptionist made, that I am forced to take responsibility for the consequences of.

On the downside, there are some people I will dearly miss working with on a daily basis, most of them my colleagues -- the other associates. (A few technicians, and a few receptionists, too.) If I were working for almost any one of my colleagues, I would continue to stick it out through thick and thin. But the things that do not work will never change there -- my associates assure me that many have tried to implement changes, and have failed (and usually moved on). All of my enthusiasm met with the giant inertial blob of The Machine and fizzled it out. Now, I’m looking forward to simply being part of a team that wants me there, doing the best work I can and taking every opportunity to expand my skill set. I’m looking forward to not feeling sucked dry by the end of the week, so that my every weekend is spent in flat-out exhausted recovery mode. And I’m looking forward to loving my vocation again. After all, I sacrificed a lot to get here -- in pursuit of a career that I could grow with, that was personally rewarding. I have found myself wondering a lot, over the last year, when the sacrifices would pay off.

Bad habits I have realized I need to work on (and need a suitably supportive environment to work on in): I turf or avoid cases that I feel are beyond my capabilities, rather than tackling them in order to learn. Basically, I hate failure. However, the pace of practice at my soon-to-be-ex-employer is partially to blame; no one really has the time to guide me through uncharted territory, and I cannot afford to slow down and take my time navigating on my own. (Not to say that many of my wonderful colleagues haven’t stayed late to offer assistance! They have!) This is most pronounced when it comes to physical skills -- I have such limited physical experience, and some of my hands-on skills just aren’t what I would like them to be. So much of my education was spent reading and watching… I need help training my hands, now. Watching or looking at pictures just doesn’t teach the fingertips. This whole problem is compounded, of course, by my innate lack of self-confidence: I am uncertain of a skill, so I am trepidatious approaching the procedure, which kind of sets me up for failure. Perhaps I am too quick to give up, and hand it over to more experienced hands. That only leaves me feeling less confident. *Sigh.* I need to take courses in improving my confidence, and in taking failures as the natural process of learning. I hope my new employer can help me feel that way about it, rather than making me feel that more was expected of me, that I’m nothing but a big letdown. Gods, I hate feeling that I failed to meet expectations. Hate feeling that I disappointed someone invested in me.

Also, I should learn to be more proactive about asking for what I need -- I am notoriously bad at delegating or asking for assistance, since I feel that I incur resentment in doing so. But that’s what the support staff is there for! And yet, there is only one technician (my favorite one) who answers my “sorry to ask this of you, but…” with “that’s what I’m here for -- to work!” God, I love days when I get to work with her! She improves my efficiency by an enormous percentage -- the days she’s my assigned technician are the only days I leave on time. The other vets don’t have a problem grabbing people and giving them tasks -- just me. Confidence. Ugh.

Speaking of confidence, I’ve discovered a terrific new phobia to torture myself with: the fear that I am actually mentally unstable, and due to heritable chemical imbalance, headed for the sort of psychotic break my father experienced (and so graciously shared with me) a couple of years ago. Whee! Instead of feeling that I derive more meaning out of life through soul-searching and pursuing philosophical understandings of The Human Experience (which is how my father has spent his life, as well), I wonder if the natural, HEALTHY way to exist is to merely float along the surface, accepting all as it is and taking what comes, as my husband prefers to do. Gaaah! This is not an argument with myself that I can win: I double-interpret everything I do or have ever done with this new, more sinister view. I have always experienced wider swings of the emotional pendulum than most other humans of my acquaintance; does that denote chemical imbalance, or a personality predisposed to borderline personality disorder? Will it eventually crystalize into inflexible patterns of paranoia and anger and self-victimization, as it has for my father? Perhaps “normal” as viewed by the people in my life that could not identify with my mental landscape or state of being is really just that… perhaps, after a lifetime of arguing that there is no “normal”, that there are just people with differing views of and approaches to the cosmos… perhaps I’m wrong? And so lately, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to remember what I was like when I was happy, which I freely admit I have not been, in a long time. It worries me. I used to consider myself a mostly happy person. Other people used to consider me a mostly happy person. So who the hell am I now? I know when I departed from being that mostly happy person; how do I get back?

This last line of questioning got started during an event that occurred in the middle of my mini-vacation with Brent, at the end of May. The Portland Rose Festival rolled around, even if the summer weather still hasn’t, and we went to play at the waterfront carnival, since we had 5 days off together (we spent them exploring locally). As we walked in, I thought I recognized marimba music (Shona music from Zimbabwe, which I adore), and I dragged Brent to the main stage to check it out. The marquee showed the band playing was Boka Marimba -- one of my favorite bands! And suddenly, all of the terrible evenings their joyful, danceful, exultant music got me through came crashing in on me -- the nights I would play it loud to dissipate the dreams of my mother dying, the nights I could no longer focus on studying but couldn’t sleep because the crushing weight of grief over the failure of my first marriage would land on me the instant I closed the books, when I played the music and danced to exhaustion… their music took me from the happy person I was, looking forward into a future I was eagerly working to achieve, through terrible metamorphosis, into the person lost and fractured I have become, looking backward to discover some lingering thread of self to work with to reweave myself into a whole… one I could wish to be. I broke down and started crying -- helplessly, in great racking sobs that embarrassed me, that I could not control. And I realized that I had not dealt with the grief and the pain of the past 6 years, as I thought I had -- I had only buried it under new joys (such as meeting and falling in love with Brent, which now takes on the character of a sort of frenetic, rebounding self-preservation in my memory), new experiences (some of which were also painful, which I was keenly sensitized to), and time. I have failed to make sense of this all on my own, as I thought I was doing. I have failed to heal, which I always thought was as easy as breathing, always saw as my personal birthright. I have tried to move on with no foundation beneath me. And realizing this at last, I think it’s probably time I sought help to get through -- and past -- it all. Next step: figure out where. And stop trying to go it alone. It’s stupid that I withdraw into myself when I most need to reach out. That I have the least to say when the most profound changes are underway.

Poor Brent. I don’t think he really knows what to make of this, but he’s gamely trying to figure it out, and to be there for me. He deserves better; he deserves the happy person, the me of better days. I’d like to achieve that for my own sake, of course, but also to have that to gift him with. I’d like to have that to offer the world.
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Washing Machines and Other Mundane Things [Oct. 7th, 2007|10:19 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[music |Mrs. Bartolozzi, Kate Bush]

It was a quiet day at work today. I was recovering from a 5-day case of bronchitis (5 days bedridden), and so was grateful for the lack of crises. About half of my Sundays are like this. The other half are filled with emergency hit-by-cars or bit-by-big-dogs or "emergency" vomiting-for-4-days. Usually 4 show up during the last slot of the evening, when I don't have the time or staff to do anything about it.

I had a moment of disorientation driving to work: a footrace was happening across my beloved St. John's Bridge, with checkpoint volunteers shouting encouragement to the runners tramping past. Sunday. Sunday. I always work on Sundays; others pursue other aspects of their lives. It made me feel like a stranger, peering in through the window on an alien reality -- one that I used to be part of.

Driving home through the drizzling darkness over the mountain on Germantown Road, I could feel the bronchitis squeezing my airways again, with that sick, syrupy feeling like breathing molasses... found myself in a pensive mood, analyzing just how much I'm in a year of DOING, rather than a year of THINKING. Why do these things never happen simultaneously? I'm either experiencing life as hard as I can, or I'm withdrawn, mulling it all over and digesting it through the process of writing, making sense of it all. Listening to Kate Bush's "Mrs. Bartolozzi", I marveled at how she can take a topic so mundane as doing laundry, and create a frame in which sensuality/sexuality and the everyday love in an old marriage are examined through the eyes of someone stepping just outside her pedestrian chores, and looking back from a slightly different viewpoint. Mindless tasks are never truly mindless; the memories and analytical processes wander, freed from the leash of focus. I spend so many of my days concentrating for all I'm worth, and spend the remainder disappearing -- escaping into books, into chores, chasing my tail in circles like the Ourobouros, not looking outward and exploring the world around me. Perhaps I'm on input overload, with the sheer cliff of learning curve sloping ahead of me like Sisyphus' punishment. Perhaps my orbit is just getting tighter, spinning faster and faster and denser and denser until not even light can escape. And I wonder when (or if) I'll start unfolding again, stretching my toes toward new roads, since the way past feels so terribly closed?

The fortune cookie I got with my hastily grabbed won ton soup, on my way home in the rain, said "A fond memory will soon lead to a renewed friendship." I'd love to renew my friendship with my husband, whom I never see anymore, because of his work schedule. I'd love to renew my friendship with my father, whom I haven't heard from since his psychotic break in Minneapolis. I'd love to renew my friendships with so very many people -- distance hangs like a knife over my days, severing the threads of kith and kin, my ties to others, my anchors to this life, this time, this place. Those of you who still bother looking to see if I've written -- I'm here! I think of you often, from the well of my seclusion, and hope there is room in the future to travel a new road with you all...
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End of Summer, and catching up [Sep. 3rd, 2007|01:05 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Arcadia]
[mood |contentcontent]

Dear Everyone:

Forgive me for being such a poor correspondent – life has been so full of doing these last many months that I’ve hardly had time to sit down and think, let alone write about it. Then again, my life always seems to rise and fall, like the ebb and flood of breath, in cyclic waves of frantic activity and quiet winters of the soul into which introspection and the need to write naturally creep. I suppose if you still remember me after all this time, you’re probably used to it by now. Thank you for bearing with me. I’ve thought of you all rather a lot more than my paltry communication would suggest, with memories of you crammed into the interstices of my life like some mad crow’s horde, catching the sunlight and making me wonder.

Last summer, I was trying awkwardly to settle into a brand new internship – more realistically, trying to cram myself into a space not yet defined, wedged between a fiercely independent and self-sufficient group of tight-knit senior veterinary students (the “guinea pigs” that would be the first class to complete all clinical rotations in the new OSU small animal hospital), and their sometimes overprotective professors – more like parent birds, watching their chicks fledge and leave the nest. It was often uncomfortable, and frequently confusing; with no real defined position for me to fill, and with different clinicians having varying degrees of expectation and ability to communicate, I lived with a kind of vague sense of anxiety and guilt that I should be doing more, with no real idea of what I should be doing. I read a lot, trying to brush up my knowledge base, and asked a lot of questions, trying to learn from experience, tried to be proactive, to the best of my ability (and, more germane, courage), and tried to assist the students and pass on information that I thought was useful (which wasn’t always appreciated or welcome, although it was part of my job description, such that it was). The constant anxiety wore me out, wrecked my health, wrecked my sleep. Thoroughly burnt-out by last Spring, I gave up my often ill-timed and socially inept attempts to be as helpful and useful as possible, and focused on just getting through it, getting as much out of it as I could. I know I tried too hard. Alas, when I do, it often results in awkwardness. With the exception of a few gracious clinicians, the majority of the feedback I got was negative. I really had no idea what I could do to improve, and was uncomfortable with so much, feeling that I would get into trouble for overreaching (and trying to push my boundaries often resulted in competing directly with students for experience opportunities – students invariably won). In retrospect, although I did learn from the experience, it was probably not the ideal internship for me. Those of you familiar with medical terminology can add a new syndrome to your vocabularies: internship-related Cushingoid.

Compounded on this, the Move from Hell (from Minneapolis to Corvallis) left me in a stuporous lassitude, my spirit cooling in concrete shoes of inertia, with no drive or energy to complete the projects (creative/fun or otherwise) that were once part of daily life and certainly part of plans made prior to the move. I never even finished unpacking, let alone painting or any of the other home improvement projects I had wanted to complete to make our little bungalow feel like a cozy home fit for entertaining in. Instead, it became the cave (complete with moldy old cave-bottom carpet and neglected garden wilderness) that I crawled into at the end of the day to hide from the world and the overwhelming list of things I felt I should be doing. Like a deer in the headlights, the sense of urgently unfinished business froze me to the spot, and I accomplished nothing. Initially, I had thought it no more than exhaustion, physical and emotional, from the move, coupled with the stagnation that often sets in in summer for me (Spring and Fall, my favorite seasons, are seasons of motion and change, followed by the inexorable march of monotony, lush or barren, that summer or winter bring in their carpet bags). But the clematis stopped blooming on the vine, the raspberries brought their final crop forth and dropped their leaves, Autumn lit fires of vermillion and ginger and smoldering aubergine all across the land, and still I lived in a capsule of stasis, spiritual hibernation, within my busy but trivial life. Gradually, I came to understand that Corvallis, like Santa Cruz, is an energy pool – a place to hide, to heal, to ripen on the vine, but never to move forward, never to achieve great transformation.

That all changed at the beginning of July, with the move to Portland. Ah, Portland. First seen on externship in 2005 when Dr. McLean from the Wildlife Safari took us on the road to explore the Zoo and other highlights of Oregon, my first glimpse had resulted in a shocking sense of recognition and familiarity, which I had been excited to investigate. Finally, last Autumn, flying back from a wonderful wedding in Michigan, I took the time to explore Portland with Brent, and had a peculiar experience: one long, running déjà vu, like a movie played in front of me and behind my eyes simultaneously. Like the converse of the ending in The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath, cities in dreams I had had since childhood – dozens of them – revealed themselves not to be compilations of cities I had known and lived in, as I had always thought, but a single, real place: here. I recognized houses, neighborhoods, parks, even the angle of the light. Places I had always loved suddenly seemed be reminders of neighborhoods in Portland. It was a bewildering, overwhelming experience; it left me speechless and near tears. Now, it leaves me with a sense of belonging and purpose, as though I am finally on the right track, and finally home.

And so the dust is finally settling in my life. Brent is happily (and busily) ensconced in the internship of his choice – an emergency/critical care internship at Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital. Dove Lewis is a well-recognized and well-thought-of non-profit institution, and so far, Brent is receiving plenty of encouragement, support, and experience. He was good to begin with, but has been steadily improving. I’m terrifically proud of him, even though I hardly ever get to see him (I can tolerate anything for a year). He’s interested in pursuing residency (three more years of training) and board certification as an emergency/critical care specialist; I’m willing to support him in that. However, we’re tired of moving, and love it here. I think we’ll likely wait for the residency program at Dove, rather than pursue residency anywhere else.

I’m working at a busy, 10-doctor general practice that sees cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, and pocket pets – and am learning fast, on the fly. I’m not anywhere near as efficient as I’d like to be, but I’m working hard not to compromise the thoroughness that gives me the greatest satisfaction. So far, by taking extra time and explaining things to owners, I’ve been able to sell them on a better quality of medicine for their pets, and my average doctor-client transactions are near the top of the practice. I love my colleagues, who are supportive, experienced, and great human beings, and I’ve already collected some wonderful clients. My daily commute takes me across the soaring span of the St. John’s bridge, into the woods and dappled green shade of Forest Park, over the mountain to the farms and fields of Hillsboro, edged in bobbing yarrow and goldenrod in the tawny grass of late summer, and down through the heart of the town to Aloha. It takes about 25 minutes, almost all of which are enjoyable. The trip home frequently includes a view from the bridge of moonrise over Mt. Hood, with Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier basking in the surreal golden pink haze of alpenglow, reflected in the mighty Willamette river below me. It often brings tears to my eyes.

Home is Arcadia, a 3-story row house with a tiny fenced yard on level 1, and decks on levels 2 and 3. Basil and thyme, catnip and tarragon, lavender and lemon balm and tomatoes bloom in profusion among summer annuals and perennials on my main deck, framing the forested hills across the mirror-smooth surface of the river. The bridge rises to the right of the view, over the nodding golden bamboo in my neighbor’s yard. Dante and Lucien lounge in the sun on the deck all day, beneath the squabbling songbirds at the feeder, and the zip and flash of the hummingbirds. On weekday mornings, the pounding from the steel mill at the water’s edge and the tooting of the tugboats competes with the drawn-out wail of the trains passing through the rail yard; St. John’s is still Portland’s last great undiscovered neighborhood, largely because of the industrial interests still here. But it has the feeling of a secret, shared among friends – a golden sanctuary from the commercial claims and uncaring, unthinking urbanization of the wide-open city. I know my neighbors; we share a wink and a nod in the halcyon summer garden of the John Street Café over scrambled eggs with brie and fresh chives or Marionberry and hazelnut pancakes. And on the weekend, the meadow below our bedroom deck is filled with the arias of the songbirds, and the mournful passing cries of skeins of geese, heading south. Fall is already tinting the hills with dustings of amber and russet, and the light falls clearer and thinner on my old cats’ hides, and the wet winter nights will no doubt find them curled up beside me in front of the fire. But first, my favorite season: Autumn. And nights at the symphony, the opera, the theater. Blues festivals by the water’s edge. Twilight bike rides through the park. Farmers’ markets and crafts fairs and long afternoons in Powell’s City of Books. Trips to the seaside. Concerts. And, of course, the company of friends. Come, and be welcome. The spare bedroom is just about ready, its bathroom clean, its closet with plenty of room. There is still enough basil in the garden for insalata caprese, or fresh pesto. The games stand on the shelf, ready and waiting. Buster and Griffin are ready to swarm the laps of anyone sitting down to a movie in the basement entertainment room. And I’m recovering from the exhaustion that has so long claimed me, ready to renew acquaintance with a far-flung family of patient friends.

Love to you all,
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Hurray!!! [Mar. 5th, 2007|07:15 am]
Catherine Fischer
[Current Location |Home]
[mood |ecstaticecstatic]

Brent got his first choice in the match -- an emergency and critical care internship at Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland!!! No more long cross-country moves, and now the dreams I've been having about Portland have a chance to come true...
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