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  • About twenty seconds before this photo was snapped, the Notorious B.I.G. came through the random shuffle on my stereo. It could just as easily have been a fiddle solo or a Sanskrit chant, but "I like it when you call me Big Poppa" brought a laugh. The photographer had asked me if I could sit in full lotus, so I was showing him I could. When the song came on, I couldn't help but dance by wriggling my seated body. I can take myself--sometimes--unseriously.

    I have spent the past two weeks at a writers' conference, and I come away rich with insight and still absorbing nuggets of wisdom that sometimes hurt my feelings. We decided the last morning over breakfast that if we stayed another week, we would need to start filming the soon-to-unfold drama. Take one hundred and fifty sensitive people out of their element for two weeks, and they start getting honest. Keep them out for three weeks, and their best behavior would likely devolve to sophomoric. Fortunately, the conference was situated on a bluff overlooking rolling hills, green fields. One particularly long afternoon, my new friend Renee happened to pass me and suggested we walk together to a vista. Nothing changes your perspective like horizon.

    I was not in a particularly shaky position as a first time attendee. I am still climbing the ladder of success one never has done climbing, but I do have a job. There are stations both above and below me, as my mother promised there would always be.

    I did notice something I'd like to bring back to Cowbirders though--since I know at least some of you all share similar preoccupations with audience, attention, waxing or waning desire for accolades. I got to meet some namedrop-worthy writers. I met people with jobs that make my lifeguarding job in high school look like hard industrial labor. There are some jobs that no matter what you have done you couldn't be said to have earned them. I'm not talking about karma. I'm talking about the difference between Knob Oaks and Hickories. There are short sticks and there are Walnut logs. There is something is us that wars to explain justice as we define it, and will fail.

    But I do know--or saw anyway--that no picture of happiness has happiness inherent in it. If there is no gratitude in me for what I have right now--whether it is the fact that I can walk to a dining hall or lift a glass and toast multitudes--nothing will convince me.
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