Sunday, April 10, 2005


When I was in high school, one day, one of my teachers, Mr. Harrison, the Biology teacher (and wrestling coach) decided he needed to refocus everyone's attention.  He did this by having a contest of sorts.  Everyone had to write down, on a little slip of paper, the one thing that he or she wanted the most.  He collected them all and read them off.  We then voted on them.  The person who got the most votes was a girl named Priscilla; she wanted a horse farm.  Nobody voted for mine, which was to know everything.

Here I am thirty years later:  I have a horse farm; I have no idea whether Priscilla ever got her wish.  Probably not.  I didn't get my wish, either.  In fact, I keep getting farther from it.  As Oscar Wilde said:
"I am not young enough to know everything"

When I was in college, one of my favorite albums was Horses.  I wanted to see Patti Smith in concert.  Thirty years later, I still like the album, but I have not seen Patti Smith.  She's still around, although I don't know if she does concerts any more.  I did buy her retrospective set, Land 1975-2002, which includes sleeve notes by the late Susan Sontag

My wife does not particularly care for Patti Smith, but she does care for horses.  She grew up on a farm, used to ride horses bareback when she was four years old.  She also sang in a rock band when she was a teenager.

Due to various misfortunes, she needed something to enrich her life.  We decided to have horses here on our property, for that reason.  We can't really afford it, but sometimes you just do what you have to do. 

When I put up the most recent post with pictures of our new colt, it stuck me as odd that I was writing about Linux and digital image acquisition and manipulation, just a day or two after getting my hands dirty delivering a baby horse. 

Bits and bytes, after all, are pretty much the epitome of cleanliness.  At first glance, that is.  But then fire up a computer and connect to the Internet.  It seems so clean at first: electrons in a wire.  But look at what you see.  Death.  Deception.  War.  Betrayal.

Then watch the colt.  Two days after the birth, the mother has licked him clean of blood and amniotic fluid.  Let him out of the stall for the first time.  It is a sunny spring day.  At first he tries to canter, tentatively, perhaps stumbles a bit.  Within minutes, he and his mother are at full gallop.  Perfect unison.

For a moment, you forget to breathe.  You also forget about Death.  Deception.  War.  Betrayal.

Perhaps it is true, that cleanliness is next to godliness; but it is not always obvious, what is truly clean, and what is not.