1. Imagine a young person you know is about to be deployed to Iraq and has asked for your advice and/or blessing. What would you say?
Pay attention. Soak it in. Find a way to remember. That's what I always try to say, in one way or another. When my children went off to summer camp in North Carolina, I said, "Look around and pay attention. At least every once in awhile, notice the blue mountains rolling above you and the sound of the brooks along which your paths will wind. You'll take it all for granted, but try not to. Try to appreciate it all while you are there and absorb it all to savor later." When one son went off to the University of Chicago, I said the same thing. "Pay attention. Every once in awhile, as you walk across the quads, think about the reality that you are a student at one of the world's premier universities. Soak it in. You are a participant in a great community of research and teaching, and your time there is short. Find a way to remember." And so I would say the same thing to a young person en route to Iraq. I am sure that she would be the recipient of plenty of training about attentiveness in the military sense of the word, attentiveness in the sense that might literally save her physical life. But I am talking about attentiveness to the daily, to the experience of her life: the sunrises and the sunsets; the people, both American and Iraqi; the military base and the villages and towns of the country it occupies. Even in Iraq, even at war, there will be things to soak up now and savor later because -- everything is connected.
2. They say you can’t teach on old dog new tricks. What new trick have you learned in the last, say, twelve months?
I can't really take credit for this one, but I'll claim it anyway. There aren't too many things that intimidate me into inaction (well, almost), but public transportation is one of them. The geometry and inner mind of most metro systems completely elude me, at least at first. I love trains and at one time I worked for a major railroad company, but I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THEM. I have been all over Boston and Washington, D.C. and Portland, and have at least made it from the Atlanta airport into town, but each time I encounter a new set of rails with their accompanying colored and dotted maps, I think I might just go ahead and have a full-fledged panic attack. So the fact that The Quiet Husband and I navigated the Paris metro system for a week and got ourselves to Versailles and Chartres and, astonishingly, back again, all on TRAINS, and that by the end of the week I actually understood what we were doing, was a major triumph.
3. If you had your choice of living in the perfect place, having the perfect job, or finding your perfect mate—and you could only have one of the three—which would you chose?
I choose all three.
4. Do you have a song/music that you think of as your personal anthem? What is it?
I don't really, but as I've thought about this over the past few days, the answer I come up with is: Ta-Da! The Beatles. The Beatles were the background and foreground music to my life from sixth grade onward. I doubt that it takes more than two or three notes or chords coming over the airwaves for me to recognize one of -- what, hundreds? -- of the songs to which I know every word and which transports me immediately back to a scene or experience of my youth. I suppose the other biggies would be:
Carole King's Tapestry album and Joni Mitchell's Blue, which together got me through the difficult summer of 1971, the one which required me to transition from the 24/7 friendships of boarding school back to the world of my unknown family and the sudden death of my first stepmother;
Beethoven's Seventh, Dvorak's New World, and Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphonies, and at least half the songs on Gordon Lightfoot's 1990 Gold album, all of which have been Significant Life Transition Music for me; and
Vivaldi's Four Seasons, especially the first movement of Winter, which I listened to over and over and over again this past year as I moved through a jagged period of discernment to some resolution of the future.
5. Who is your hero?
5. Who is your hero?
Today it's Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
And I think that's enough self-revelation for the moment. For your reading pleasure, More Cows has also responded to Lisa's questions here. If you'd like to be interviewed yourself, which will require me to come up with some questions of my own, just leave a comment and we'll see what happens.