A Heart of Many Places

Today has been a day, and this week has been a week. It’s excellent that I write a blog. I’ve done my sort of anguished decompressing over today already, so now I can share the happy kind with you. I’m thankful for a house to come home to.

Also, just interrupted by a housemate who, what horror, has made too much pancake batter. So I’m going to have a pancake. Much more befitting the mood of Thanksgiving than some of the darker thoughts I thought today. I’m thankful for pancakes. Also, pie.

Firstly, I’m just loving the decorations all around town, especially around Grafton Street and Temple Bar. They’re just so festive, and have been so for a while but I feel that I can share them now without any backlash since it’s after Thanksgiving– a temporal decoration marker that they lack here. Anyway, here are some mediocre pictures of lovely Dublin at Christmastime. I’m thankful for cheer and goodwill toward men.

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Monday was the dress rehearsal for our performance of the Messiah which we then performed on Tuesday and Wednesday, both lovely performances if I do say so myself. It was, firstly, a lot of fun and a new experience for me and, to some extent, I didn’t even care how we sounded. On Wednesday, a number of my classmates were kind enough to grace the performance with their presence which was just lovely of them. It’s so much more meaningful when you’re performing for people you know. There’s much more heart, at least, regardless of the sound. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to have them there and, in lieu of flowers, they got me a little kitten who is the most precious thing in this world. I’ve been incredibly blessed by this awesome group of people. They’re my favorites. I’m thankful for friends near and far.

IMG_20151126_202723  This is Freddy (Handel) and he is my new best friend. I’m thankful for cats near and far.

Bullseye2015-11-22 Bubba2015-11-16 Camaro2015-11-16

 

 

Also, more cat updates. The new cat is living with my sister for the present. His name is Bullseye.

 

This morning bright and early (a bit of a difficulty after the lateness of the performance yesterday) I gave a group presentation on EAL (English as an Additional Language) in the Irish education system–a topic I found really interesting– and the presentation went over famously. We were the first group, and I think we set the bar pretty high (sorry other groups who have to go after us. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you). I’m thankful for education and all the opportunities I’ve been given.

Aside: the pancake has arrived. Have I’m mentioned how thankful I am for pancakes? And wonderful housemates?

After the class with the presentation, I went and had some pumpkin pie (and an awesome pumpkin swirl cheesecake) courtesy of the Global Room for international students. The whipped cream left something to be desired, but the whole occasion was delightful. Then I just had a leisurely afternoon until the next class reading inspirational quotations and poetry aloud (either to my friends’ chagrin or pleasure, I wasn’t really paying attention). I’m thankful for pie. Also, literacy.

Then we had Research Methods which I will not discuss so as to stay positive. I’m thankful for teachers who are passionate about their subjects.

Then, in true Thanksgiving spirit, I video called my family. We’re spread across thousands of miles, but united in heart. Super cheesy, but true. At one point, the iPad with my image and voice was passed through the dining room, kitchen, and living room to ensure that everyone got to say hi and I got to see everyone. I felt like Zach from Bones in that Christmas episode where they’re trapped in the lab and his whole family comes to the door and they chat through the glass. And I mean that in the best way. It was really heartwarming even just to be able to see my family for a moment. I’ve haven’t been in Ireland that long, really. I was in England longer. But it was such a joy to see everyone and be able to take part, in some small way, in the festivities. I think it’s different because I was in England over the spring. I didn’t miss any major holidays. And the point of Thanksgiving is being together–with friends, with family, with friends who are basically family–just together. And I got a bit of that today. So I’m thankful for family and getting to be together.

That about concludes the fun happenings of this week. It was pretty busy for me (I’ve often said that my threshold for busyness is relatively low) but it was also just a really lovely one. In The Geography of Bliss, writer Eric Weiner says, “Some places are like family. They annoy us to no end, especially during the holidays, but we keep coming back for more because we know, deep in our hearts, that our destinies are intertwined.” And so it is. I’m thankful for family with whom any annoyance is still love, and that my heart can live in so many places.

And, as a sort of finale to this month of poetry, I thought I’d include one of my own compositions. (Oh my goodness, he’s going to share one of his awful teenage angst poems. Please let me die…). While I share such a sentiment which will be common among you, I’m sure (no shame), I’m going to share anyway. I think it really fits with the autumnal theme and I’m actually really proud of it, as opposed to most my my actual teenage angst poetry. And, for future reference, I did write this while a teenager, but I was in college and it was for a class. Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t really care what you think, in the end, because this is my blog and I do what I want. So there it is. I leave you this day with a thankful heart and some musings on the season of decay. I’m thankful for small, soft things that comfort.

Autumn Rhapsody

I open the box of sepia photographs,
crinkled like dry leaves in a cold November alley.
Through the narrow attic windows, a mysterious
darkness creeps, echoing the sigh of gas-lamps which
illuminate quiet lanes shaded by trees of propitious girth.
There is no traffic at this late hour, bringing a damp hush
to my end of the street. The lamp on the walk flickers
and summons spirits of streets long past, silent faces
near forgotten highways or on a trolley going down to the shore.
The gentle piano of a chill autumn night sends the whispered
strains of a nocturne for the rain through welcoming windows,
translated by the years as muffled chords from a distant radio.
Dim shadows of barren trees recall sumptuous ballrooms with
graceful dancers dressed in exquisite splendor; a quivering
branch an elegant leg, silk clinging to flesh long since
returned to dust. A solemn exhalation, the breeze brings back
breath to figures once friends and lovers, who lived lives
now only remembered on nights like this, when time’s golden lens
lends its light to such reminiscences. Filaments of tender thought
tremble in air roused by the stiff wind outside, whose ageless
blowing never remembers and never forgets. Outside the world’s
dim electric glow, trembling drops descend through darkness to
swell some great expanse of somnolent water. It is as though
a great clock is turning backward, and the rain is like remembering,
a phantasmal pattering on the inside of my eyes.
The musty air is an ocean lapping against memory, stirring thoughts
and ladies’ skirts and men’s overcoats, melding
into the soft pearls falling outside on my weary city,
flowing in rivulets across the pavement toward the storm drain—
a Lethe for our age.

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The Lamb

This week has been pretty uneventful in my own life. Things just sort of progressed, as they are wont to do, and I find myself roughly in the same place as the last post, only a week on. A couple of my classes were really interesting this week, though, so I enjoyed them particularly. We had discussions in various classes ranging from Kosovo to the antisemitism/Islamophobia comparison to European citizenship policies and contemplating the future of the European project itself. I am also preparing for a group presentation on English language education policy in Ireland which is a super interesting topic, but lame in the sense of doing work.

I do have some bad news, though. This was the last week of having Research Methods for an hour and a half every Thursday afternoon. For the rest of the term, we have it at normal time in addition to two hours on Fridays in a computer lab doing statistical analysis. So that’s dumb. I’m really not about that life. It does mean the end of pop quizzes on the reading (I think) but it also means that we’re getting tested on statistics. I don’t math, and I certainly don’t statistics, so it’s going to be an especially rough few weeks in that class.

I feel like I should say something about the events of this past week around the world which are simultaneously momentous and all too commonplace. But I also don’t know what to say. And I certainly don’t want to get into this whole thing that has erupted in some quarters about whose suffering is worse and all this ideologically based arguing. Because it’s ridiculous. Sometimes I look at mankind and echo Blake’s contemplation of the tiger:

“Did he who made the lamb make thee?”

But I have hope because I know that my redeemer lives and he is making all things new. Decisions shouldn’t be rushed into, because that almost always makes things worse, and we need to be thinking long-long-term, not just responding to immediate crises. I understand that these issues are immensely complicated–I’m literally getting a degree in this sort of stuff. At the same time, though, some things are easy to see. And, as I’ve said in another post, the best answer, while not outlining policy objectives or elaborating on implementation, is extremely simple: love. Any reaction, if it’s based in loving everyone, will turn out alright. I don’t know, but there’s my two cents on being human.

On a different note, I present the third installment of my month of poetry with another American sonnet, this one by one of my favorites– Edna St. Vincent Millay. I often have difficulty with seeing beauty in autumn. I’m not one of those people who’s really into fall colors and falling leaves and all that (though I can appreciate them on occasion). I do, however, love certain feelings that autumn sometimes inspires. Most of the time, I think of it as contemplative, solemn, and a little melancholy–a combination that I love to luxuriate in. This poem captures something else, though, and it calls to my attention another autumnal feeling entirely, this one much more positive. Enjoy.

God’s World

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
   Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
   Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour!   That gaunt crag
To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
         But never knew I this;
         Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

We’re All Maniacs Here

Just got back from the cinema, saw the new James Bond film Spectre with a friend. It was thoroughly enjoyable, I thought. My favorite bit (not a spoiler) was, I think, the part where Bond and the girl are shown into the villain’s lair place and there’s a meteorite and it’s all fancy and everything and Bond whispers to her, “I think we’re supposed to be impressed.” Not much of a favorite part, you may contend, but I’ve been informed by certain sectors (particularly regarding my top five movies listed earlier in this blog) that my film sensibilities might be somewhat in poor taste. Nonetheless, they’re my sensibilities. A close second for favorite bit was when Bond and the girl get off this train (that they’re just ravaged) in the middle of the Moroccan desert, immaculately dressed. Style, if nothing else, makes Bond Bond.

Haven’t been up to much this week. It’s Reading Week here at Trinity which is to say, that time when people catch up on all the reading that they’ve missed and begin work on final assignments. The first wasn’t an issue as I’ve kept up with the reading and the second I decided to ignore because I have enough free time to complete my assignments in my normal schedule. Perhaps foolish of me, but it’s Thursday so it’s a little late to change tack. Regardless, I’m guilt free and expect to finish out the term just fine. I might have done some exploring in Dublin and surrounds but the weather’s been quite foul the past few days and I’m not about that walking miles and miles in the rain life. I did have a lovely Sunday lunch with some friends from church on Sunday and had a really enjoyable time. So things are progressing pretty normally. Christmas is creeping nearer with its characteristic tenderness and anticipation.

Speaking of, I’m so excited for Christmas. The main streets in the city center are already decked out. Fancy lights are strung across the streets and shop windows are increasingly cozy-looking. I could just curl up in one and sleep until Christmas. But not really. But actually. But no. But yes.

On another note, in my slow but steady progress through Monte Cristo, I recently came across this superb quote: “When one lives among madmen, one should train as a maniac.” How inspirational is that? I’ve heard tell that this is indeed a mad world. And I think we’ll all admit to having perhaps more than a little madness within us.

Bubba2015-11-7     He agrees.

Perhaps a little more on point as far as meaningful philosophical observations, I present you the following quote from the same: ” ‘ Admire yourself and others will admire you,’ a hundred times more useful in our days than the Greek [maxim], ‘Know thyself,’ which has now been replaced by the less demanding and more profitable art of knowing others.” A bit clunky out of context, but interesting all the same. I’ll just leave it there and, even without context, allow you to take from it what you will.

Now for the second installment in my month of poetry. Feel free to tune out. This selection captures something of the season that arouses our sense of, I don’t know, timeliness, I suppose. And certainly appeals to have us bear it in mind year-round. Anyway, I present a stellar sonnet by the renowned American poet, Robert Frost.

Unharvested

A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall,
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free,
Now breathed as light as a lady’s fan.
For there had been an apple fall
As complete as the apple had given man.
The ground was one circle of solid red.

May something go always unharvested!
May much stay out of our stated plan,
Apples or something forgotten and left,
So smelling their sweetness would be no theft.

In Which November is a State of Being

So that you can all rest easy, I did in fact get to register last Friday. We went in and, after queuing to get another ticket, we were sent directly to a station to register instead of having to wait for a new number to be called. Major relief. All in all, it only took five hours and forty-five minutes. It was a bit of an ordeal. But now I have my fancy GNIB card and can leave and enter the country at my leisure. I so sincerely pity those who had longer waits.

In that vein, here is a cat picture to make you feel better.

Camaro2015-11-4She’s such a blob. But so precious.

Also, today is Guy Fawkes Day, which apparently some people celebrate here, unexpectedly. Probs just because fireworks. Real into fireworks here. Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.

Anyway, onward. This week was pretty good, generally speaking. There was white chocolate raspberry cheesecake at community group, tasty and cheap Thai yesterday for dinner, and a wonderful fireside get-together with my classmates on Sunday which included a lot of delicious desserts. I’m grateful that this week wasn’t a disaster. You may recall, however, some additional meaning to this week being good in reference to the second post I wrote in Ireland. So now seems like an appropriate moment to take stock of my time here thus far.

Moving into this house, organizing school stuff, figuring out immigration, and setting up a new life stage were trying, and at times irritating and disheartening, experiences. In many ways, though, I have settled into life in my little corner of Dublin with remarkable swiftness. My first Sunday I found a church which I am happy to say provides the home, relationships, and growth that I need. When I did finally move in, my housemates proved to be lovely people with whom I get along swimmingly. The first week of classes I also started choir which provides a much-needed outlet as well as new friendships. I quickly came to see the people in my course as friends beyond the companionship of shared coursework. And, in the days immediately before the beginning of this month, I both finished everything to do with immigration and finally figured out how to get American Netflix. What more can one ask before they feel settled?

So it is that I find myself at ease in calling this place home. Not home in the sense of I could stay here forever and be comfortable with this place as a long-term residence, not yet (or, maybe, ever). But home because I more than function here, I really live my life. And, of course, as Captain Hammer wisely said, “Home is where the heart is, so your real home’s in your chest.” Anatomy aside, home is where your heart is alive. Having lived in DC and, briefly, St. Petersburg and Exeter, I can say that finding home is rarely straightforward, often difficult, and fairly temperamental. And, at times, exquisitely fragile. But it remains that once found, that sense of home comes to be the guiding feeling whereby we stride across the varied terrain of life.

So there you have it, November as a state of being. It carries something of the hearth to remind us of home, bringing us close to friends and family–even if remotely and sometimes reluctantly. It asks us to breathe in the wet and cool and decay, leaving it to us whether to dream of spring or ruminate on the tired foliage of increasingly barren trees. November imparts something of the season which, while excluding Thanksgiving here, retains some sense of the goodwill-toward-men, tremblingly close to the peace-on-earth of December.

Recognizing the limitations of prose in describing this state of being, and in acknowledgement of the tremendous autumnal poetry in existence, I will conclude each post this month with a poem. Having heard that only partially stiffled sigh of displeasure, I will remind certain of you that you are under no obligation to read more than you wish. But for those of you who are inclined, I hope you will enjoy my selections. If you don’t, though, I don’t really care 😉 To begin, a poem that captures the sense of not-quite that November epitomizes. I think it’s really lovely and it certainly fits the atmosphere of today.

November for Beginners — Rita Dove
Snow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.
So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,
memorizing
a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!
November 1981