Saturday, August 30, 2008

Belongings and Belonging


Last week we loaded the Tacoma and drove Oaks down to UNM for the ritual unpacking of the socks and stereo gear. We helped him set up housekeeping in Hokona Hall on a co-ed floor. Unpacking a person's belongings provides a clue or two about that person. And my son is no exception. His belongings speak, if not volumes, at least a few notes hastily scribbled in a note pad:

Oakley is a person of character who reveres his ancestors. The first objet d'art he found an honored place for (atop one of the stereo speakers) was my dad's Roll Tide elephant keychain.

That takes a little character--to set up a University of Alabama mascot in University of New Mexico Lobos country. I was touched. I could feel Pa-pa smiling down.

My son appreciates the playful...


...and the less so.

Don't ask. All I know is the black comforter and sheets I purchased at Linens 'n' Things coordinate rather nicely.

Oakley's taste in clothing is diverse...

...as is his taste in books.



And the first book cracked by my son this semester was the menu at the Route 66 Diner.

As you can see, it's one of those provocative books that leads to questioning: Shall I have the Fender Bender or the Pile-Up? Root beer or malt? Fried okra and french fries or coleslaw and mac and cheese and potato salad on the side of my chicken chimichanga? And on that chimichanga--red or green? Room for dessert? (Puh-Leeze. That's a no-brainer. Do I look like I'm observing Lent months in advance?)


Route 66 is a retro comfort food place where the excess of the portions is outshone only by the expanse of the Pez dispenser collection.

(Chewy, this photo's for you.)

Flanny joined us for dinner and afterwards we took an after-hours tour of her workplace, the Mind Research Network.

(This dazzling photograph was downloaded from the website of the MRN.) The building looks like a giant sculpture set under the turquoise New Mexico sky.


When we entered the vestibule, we were greeted by a Japanese rock garden. This split rock...

...continues on the other side of the glass, as does the garden. A subtle reminder that this is a place where breakthrough research occurs. And it occurs in a tranquil setting. Overlooking the raked sand and the flowing arrangement of rocks is a minimalist painting in shades of blue. The effect is calming.

Inside the lobby is the graceful curve of a contemporary stone sculpture....


...and a vibrant large-format abstract painting.

The forms in the painting echo the roundness of the sculpture and the rock garden. Even the night janitor's barrel echoes the roundness.

Flanny's office is upstairs.

Isn't this a great space in which to discover new frontiers in the human mind?
Isn't this a great space in which to conduct biomedical research?


Flannery, engaged in biomedical research.

And speaking of the biomedical, I've read that a sense of belonging, a feeling that one has a place in a family or in a community or in a social network, an awareness that one fits in somewhere, is an actual physical nutrient. This belongingness nutrient helps our bodies negotiate treaties with those hormones that trick us into feeling combative when we are really just feeling fragmented and overworked and stressed. When we belong to others, we're soothed. If that's the truth, that means that on this particular evening I got my fix. I loaded up on...


fried okra




green chile



and belongingness.

In my book that's a feast.

74 comments:

andrea said...

A nutrient! I love that. I could feel that sense of belonging as I read. A family who embraces the differences of its members with affection/humour must be a wonderful place to grow up. It makes so much sense to me. (And I LOVE the t-shirt. I think I need more cowbell.)

murat11 said...

Thanks for taking us all along in the road trip, Sista San. Some thoughts:

1. All praise Mother Pez.
2. In the photo of the MRN, it looks like Jesus is coming.
3. I have a different take on the breakthrough rock: across from the Tres Leches Witte (pronounced witty, and no, it's not) Museum of my youth (younger youth, say), there was a Jim's FrontierBurger joint with a "tremendulous" (thanks to Dallas Cowboys' PacMan Jones for that neologism) oak tree growing right in its middle, honoring sylvan in the midst of charred meat. I was thinking maybe the minds at MRN were honoring original habitat, building around, as the burgermeisters of old.
4. Funny how biomedically researching looks a lot like urchinesque pedagogy.
5. Your belongingness ode to fried hollyhocks is heaven.

Feast on, sista, and Roll Tide.

WILSONART said...

Ahhh, belongingness.
A place.
The people.
How sad for those who may have neither.
This post says so much,,,
thanks for reminding us.
Counting blessing,,,,,,

Lee said...

Oh San! What a happy trip you've turned the sending off of your youngest into. I'm glad you built some special memories of it.

Belonging! What a great family attribute! You've zeroed in on the key element in family, friendship, and close community. It's what we want and search for if we don't have it. It's what keeps us there or brings us back when we wander. :)

Hugs to you, Momma of two wonderful people!

Akelamalu said...

I bawled my eyes out when I left our youngest at Uni! You did good.

lime said...

belongingness as a nutrient. yes, i'll have the blue plate special today....a greek salad, peanut butter and hot fudge sundae for desset with an appetizer, side dish and aperetif of belongingness. thank you.

CHEWY said...

PEZ Heaven!
I was here earlier... realized I haven't been keeping up with my PEZ collection... went out and bought $30 worth; Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney Fairies, New Batman, Disney Princesses and some others.
Thanks for thinking of me San.

I thought you might like my Mandalas. I'm not specifically spiritual in my art, but I am learning through the art of Mandalas.

SandyCarlson said...

What a great post. I hope your son ha a wonderful year. That's a beautiful campus. He is blessed with loving parents!

Daryl said...

Looks yummy ... and the 'kids' look great.. what a wonderful place to (in no real order) to eat, go to school, work ...

Family is everything.

:-Daryl

Karen said...

bittersweet! Good to see our children grow and move forward with the lives they lead. Sad to see them end the childhood years of our protective guidence.
At least UNM is fairly near to Santa Fe!
and ohhhh you tease me so with that bowl of only in New Mexico Green Chili!! How I miss that!

Kim said...

I think I need more "nutrient" in my environment/community where my home is and will be. Will keep this in mind as we contemplate our relocation.

And the Son is settled in his home away from nutrient home. All good things here, San.

katie jane said...

I love your trip, San. And I love diners!

That's interesting, about belonging being a nutrient. Don't we all wonder from time to time if we are really from this planet?

Your daughter's workplace looks fantastic. I'm definately envious.

Jeff B said...

Fried okra...$6.99

Green chili...$2.89

Time spent with the ones you love...priceless!

San said...

Andrea, that Oaks has a way of finding the very best t-shirts. And the cowbell makes the difference.

San said...

Paschal:

1. Amen, bro.
2. Ditto, bro.
3. I like your take on the rock. It rocks. We've got a tree in an eating establishment here too.
4. Isn't that when the best ideas come? With the feet on the desk? The blood running to the brain?
5. No wonder you experienced 2.

Roll Tide is right. Chow down.

San said...

Babs, thanks for a comment that reminds us to be mindful of those who may feel very dis-connected. It's up to us to connect.

San said...

Lee--hugs to you, a wonderful person, who is connected to many! And loved.

San said...

Pearl, so you've been there! The day I moved my firstborn into the dorm, I actually fell on the sidewalk, sending a bunch of coat hangers and clothes all over the place. A cousin in the family, a therapist, when hearing the story over dinner one night, said, "I would think that helping one's child move out of the nest could throw you off balance." So wise.

San said...

And Michelle, with all those menu items, we might as well ask for a roll of Tums for the road.

LOVE your comment. Said like a mom.

San said...

Dar, I do enjoy your mandalas and I look forward to seeing more.

Of course I know it's your Pez dispenser collection that really receives your contemplative time. New Batman--YES!!!

San said...

Sandy, I am blessed by your well-wishing visits. Thank you.

San said...

Daryl, family is important. And I'll admit--I find solace in the fact that my "kids" are less than two hours away. For now anyway.

CoyoteFe said...

Excellent post! Thanks for the tour of your family, the diner and the research facility. Really interesting about the "belongingness" nutrient. Echoes some theories I have about the hidden benefits of relationships. Also loved the un-split rock. We should build-around more often.

San said...

Karen! You know about New Mexico green chile! You know what's really important in life!

Oh well, family too. But the family that eats green chile together--they connect.

San said...

Kim, you do sound good. Your life is sweet.

And planning the nutrient source, especially when relocating, that's some smart thinking.

San said...

Katie Jane, what is it about diners? They are just so comforting!

I envy my daughter's workplace too. And her work is so stimulating. She loves it and I am grateful for that.

San said...

Jeff--your sense of humor. Worth its weight in fried okra.

San said...

Fe, I would enjoy reading your theories about relationships. And building around things. You are a rich thinker.

CHEWY said...

Ah-Ha! I must do a PEZ Mandala! Thanks for the inspiration San.

Lori Skoog said...

San...I like traveling with you. Family is good! Glad to see that you are communicating with (Coyote) Fe... she is a fine writer. I so enjoy getting to know all of you.
Lori

RiverPoet said...

Wow, so that explains why we women love to join in groups and such. We really do get something out of it.

Tell Oakley that I totally get the Christopher Walken t-shirt and that it needs more cowbell.

I love that your daughter studies the brain. I know a bit about it myself, and it's a fascinating subject. She'll never run out of things to learn.

Peace - D

Raven said...

I love the idea of belonging and being part of something as a nutrient. Makes perfect sense to me. Glad you had such a nutritious evening. It's the kind of feast that can feed you for weeks, I imagine because it's always there even when the sources are at a distance.

Your kids seem wonderful. Your daughter's office does seem like a wonderfully creative environment. What a beautiful setting in which to work. I bet they treat their employees well too.

Lovely post as always. Nourishing to the reader.

Hilary said...

What a wonderful way to illustrate your son's new journey. With this sense of belonging, he has the best start ever.

Blog Princess G said...

What fascinating work your daughter does! I love that fact about belongingness.

You must be so proud of your fabulous kids!

That is Christopher Walken on the tshirt, isn't it?

San said...

Dar, I cannot wait to feast my eyes on your Pez mandala. What about a series?

San said...

Lori, it's a joy getting to know each other, isn't it? I believe we have a powerful nutrient flowing right here in our blogging community.

San said...

Doris, women do want to connect. We need the vitamins. Part of why we blog?

I'm pleased that you get the t-shirt, cowbell and all. I'll tell Oakley.

And I agree with you about the study of the brain and the mind--it offers up endless possibilities.

San said...

Raven, thank you for the nourishing comment. It is now coursing through my veins. My internal organs are basking in it!

Yes, it seems the employees are treated well at that workplace. It's a very positive setting in which people are respected. Everyone is allowed to live up to their excellence potential.

San said...

Hilary, thank you. That's a kind acknowledgment.

San said...

Princess G, yes that's Christopher Walken and the words refer to a SNL skit from several years ago. I believe though it's one of those images that's fun, even if the viewer doesn't know the inside joke. I didn't until he bought the t-shirt!

Todd said...

What a wonderful post! I hope your son has a wonderful year. My oldest is a sophomore this year. Can't believe how time flies. Fried okra! Haven't had it in years!! Paired with green chili would indeed be a New Mexico-style treat!!
Peace!
Todd

david mcmahon said...

We are SO related. You love your kids and you'd walk 10 miles for fried okra.

Me too.

Your love for your children shines thru this post, San.

(Am in Haines Junction today. Drove thru Alaska y'day.)

Indigo said...

halo incarnates

wanted to greet you. am too tired. wanted to think of something. too tired to think. am so tired. wanted to say hi. can't stay out long. hi.

Carol said...

I'm feeling so healthy after that great meal and all of the nutrients I just absorbed via your family.

What lucky people! The four of you are gifts to this earth.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Wow! Moving into the dorm takes my memories back a long way! You actually helped him unpack? My parents drove me from Louisville to Lexington, dropped me off at the dorm, and left. They also said that they hoped I made enough money the next summer to afford a car so they wouldn’t need to drive me.

[:-(

jsd said...

what awesome spaces...the one being created and the one being occupied...

"And speaking of the biomedical, I've read that a sense of belonging, a feeling that one has a place in a family or in a community or in a social network, an awareness that one fits in somewhere, is an actual physical nutrient."

I just read this weekend an address from Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks - given at this years Lambeth: "To cut a long story short, what they [sociobiology, game theroy mathematics, computer simulation] discovered was that though natural selection works through the genes of individuals, individauls -- certainly in the higher life-forms -- survive only becuase they are members of groups."

And then we (the familia) watched Star Trek I (can't remeber the title) - but it was about the search for purpose, about there being a point to all of this.

Value through connections.

Meg Wolff said...

In my book that's a feast too!

Celebration of Life said...

WOW, San! I turn my back for two days and your have a new post with 47 comments! Sheesh...that's what I get for not watching the post!

See you in the morning for coffee!

Jo

San said...

Todd, thanks for stopping by the gallery. That was fun.

I actually had the green chile on a separate dish from the okra, but hey, green chile is a magical go-wish-all elixir. That makes THREE times I've typed go-wish instead of go-with. Maybe I'm getting a message here.

:-D

San said...

David, I'm enjoying the photos of your travels.

I knew you were a solid family man. But a solid okra man TOO--I am definitely impressed. My friend b2 founded The Order of the Golden Okra. Maybe we will tap you for membership.

San said...

Hi, Indi. Get some rest. Sweet dreams.

San said...

Carol, you are a gift to the blogging world. As well as the other world.

San said...

Nick, it's my "softer side" that enjoys the unpacking. It is a kind of a ritual for me that marks the ending of one phase, the beginning of the next. The older I get, the more necessary I find such rituals. Otherwise, it all blurs together.

San said...

J.S., I appreciate your acknowledging both spaces. Yes, each is awesome in setting the scene for making things happen!

I would have enjoyed the Rabbi's talk. Natural selection has formed us in many ways, but, yes, our interdependence, keeps us going. And makes it all so much more fun. As does that search for purpose.

San said...

And Meg, you wrote the book on feasting!

San said...

Welcome back, Jo. I look forward to hearing all about your weekend, every juicy detail, over coffee.

sukipoet said...

And what a heady feast too. Your children are beautiful and creative and ....wow. All you need is an "O" on the "Bama" and you're all set, maybe. May Oakley and Flannery have a wonderful autumn full of fun and study. Be well, suki

sukipoet said...

After reading Chewy's remark I had to return and enlarge the photo that was for her. Pez collection!!! What a trip.

Paula said...

A feast indeed !

TheElementary said...

Whether it is a question of books, food or music, it's always a treat to read about somebody with diverse tastes who can enjoy an eclectic collection of what life has to offer. None of my books match with others, my musical taste is completely roundabout- I think that's so much more interesting.
I do agree- you can tell a lot about somebody from their belongings.

Kim said...

San, what a lovely peek into the lives of your precious ones! They are very generous to give you so much room to write about them, photograph their belongings and the place where they work!

It is truly amazing to watch our children grow and become. I can hear your pride, and as a mother of children about the same age, I know that pride is very well deserved!

So Beautiful!

San said...

Suki, thank you for your warm wishes for my offspring this autumn. O before BAMA is right!!!! And hold the elephant.

San said...

Yes, Suki, Chewy collects the Pez dispensers and now is inspired to photoshop some Pez mandalas.

San said...

Paula, I'll munch to that!

San said...

The Elementary, you're right--the roundabout, scenic route through books and music and food is the way to go.

And the belongings tell the story of the trip, don't they? Part of it anyway.

San said...

Kim, yes, they're generous-spirited at that. They give their mom considerable leeway!

From one proud mom to another--many thanks for your continuing well-wishing!

Sandi McBride said...

A feast indeed...it took me back to the day we went with our son to move him in at college...I cried all the way home...then Friday night there he stood at the front door, laundry in a bag and a grin on his face...he went to Lander University and was only 4 hours from home, but good grief! Your family seems so familiar to me San...like my family...we're all so different it makes us alike...lovely post...lovely family!
Sandi

roentarre said...

So full of interesting stories and photographs. Great series in this blog!

San said...

Sandi, both of our "children" are only a little more than an hour away. This is Oaks' second year away and he is YET to bring laundry home, except over Christmas break. I've been a bit surprised by this. I know I used to bring mine to my folks' house when I visited. And Flan sometimes brings hers home, although she does it herself. She started doing it herself when she was in high school, didn't want Mom or Dad (especially Dad!) to put the wrong garment in the dryer and shrink it.

Like you, I always feel a bit sad when I say good-bye to them. If/when they move farther away, I know it'll be yet another kind of letting go. But of course, we (like you) are blessed to have children who are making their own way in the world.

Thank you for your sweet compliments, Sandi.

San said...

Roentarre, I'm really glad you enjoy the blog. Thank you!

Velvet Ginger said...

What a wonderful thing to take your sin to college and help him unpack. Looks like you guys had a great trip, wonderful you spent time with your daughter too.
Route 66 is quite a piece of American history. Great trip! Thanks for sharing.

San said...

Rubye Jean, I am lol. You will be too when you read your awesome typo. I not only took my "sin" to college, I helped it unpack. And I am hoping for my "sin" to make the Dean's List.

I have made some BRILLIANT typos on people's blogs too. Seems the older I get, the more confused my fingers get. I am much older than you, far more confused.

Thank you for your very positive comments, Rubye Jean. I always love your visits.

Celebration of Life said...

Good morning, San!
I love reading your blog and all the comments; I am impressed by your 'international' circle of friends. Blogging has opened the world upto me also! Thank you for being in my 'circle'!!!
Jo

CrazyCath said...

What a feast! And I like that it is a nutrient. I am a belonging person. I need to belong and know where I belong. My children help me with that. ;0)

Great post. It made ME feel good. You must have been in 7th heaven!