Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A gift of obstruction

On Saturday, I was supposed to drive to New Jersey, to a mathematics conference, and give a talk.

Then an unexpected snow blew in.  Not just any snow, but a snow that would close roads, cause power outages, and cause all sorts of unexpected devastation.  I called the organizers of the conference, and together we agreed my coming would be a really bad idea.  Even if I could travel the 150 miles there and 150 miles back safely, many conference goers wouldn't want to stay around in the evening to hear me talk about projective geometry -- getting safely home wins out over Desargues' Theorem, any day.  (Yes, even for math geeks).

In a sense, we were all devastated.  We've been planning this conference and this talk for months and months now.  All sorts of emails have gone back and forth, making sure that all the details were in place.

N-son wishes it to be known that he took this picture.

And in another sense, I think we were all relieved.  At my end, I all-of-a-sudden gained a day of "extra time".  I spent my Saturday on issues of deferred maintenance.  With N-son and K-daughter, I cleaned up our dining room.  My husband took J-son grocery shopping, and we restocked (really, over-stocked) our pantry.   I began patching holes in our walls. I wrote a report I'd promised to write.  I got in touch with people I'd lost contact with.  I got to listen to Prairie Home Companion, after all  (ahhhh).  None of this was hugely important.  But all of these tasks had been niggling at the corners of my mind, and I got to take care of them in an unexpectedly leisurely way.

I remember a columnist in our local newspaper, a woman who was chronicling her bout with breast cancer, describing how she had been looking forward to surgery as a time finally relax -- a time to get away from her other obligations.  She marveled at how over-scheduled her life must be to make her think this way.

This snow was my own version of disaster-as-peace.  For whatever it means, I'm glad that every once in a while nature intervenes and reminds me that I can't do it all.


  1. Completely agree. There is little I enjoy more than the the boon of some unexpected time off. Even if it involves me being sick at home.

    How over scheduled must our lives be? An interesting question.

  2. Dogs or Dollars,

    I saw today you were feeling sick recently. Yuckers . . . hope the time off has you feeling better, in several senses of that word. -- MM