С Новым Годом!

I felt bad having Irish post titles and no Russian, so here’s a good one. I hesitate to give you a pronunciation, preferring to leave non-Russian readers floundering with fun Cyrillic letters, but maybe I ought to. Anyway, it means “Happy New Year!”, New Year’s being a major celebration in Russia, even more than Christmas I hear.

Fine, it’s S NO-vym GO-dom.

Anyway, I had a lovely Christmas and I hope the same for you. I’m actually writing this post on Wednesday because I will be spending all of Thursday (from early morning until late night) at the Hoh Rainforest. If you’re unfamiliar with the forest, you should familiarize yourself because it’s amazing. Since I have zero idea when next I’ll be in this country, much less in this state, I wanted to do something really Washingtony. And nothing says Washington like the rainiest place in the continental US (not sure if that’s a verified claim, but probs close if not number one).

It is a really strange feeling, having a one-way ticket back to Dublin and zero idea what my life will look like come September. I find myself looking forward once again to November, hopefully having written my dissertation and gotten a job of some description, settling into ‘real life’ (not that I’m actually looking forward to being an adult but…). I don’t know, it’s a whole thing. I’ll manage somehow, I suppose, a gazillion people do every year. But that’s not really what I like to think about, I’d rather imagine that no one else has ever become an adult and I’m blazing a trail into the vast unknown where monsters lurk around every corner and the chances of survival look grim. Leave me to my little devices, they make me feel better.

Sorry for that little tangent. Sometimes I have these little oh-poor-me moments. It’s easy to get into that sort of vein around New Year’s. I’ve never been much one for resolutions, partially because I (like a gazillion others) forget them so quickly and partially because I’d rather just try every day to live better. I know goals and things are important, and I do have them if the circumstances are right, but for things like New Year’s resolutions I just don’t usually go in for it. There’s a great line from a great poem (ugh, he’s back to poetry) that sort of sums it up. Longfellow, in A Psalm of Life says, “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,/ Is our destined end or way;/ But to act, that each to-morrow/ Find us farther than to-day.” So there’s my resolution, I guess, every year. Not really to do anything different in particular but to find myself farther along, somehow improved, in a better place, this time next year. This time next month, next week, tomorrow. To always be moving in a better direction.

The horror! A math metaphor just occurred to me and I’ll share because it’s super accurate but I’m hereby registering how uncomfortable I am with math metaphors (and math, generally). Sometimes, y will oscillate up and down, but I always want to be moving in the positive x direction.

Ugh, math.

Also, I lied, let’s have a New Year’s resolution: in 2016 let’s make NCIS: Bremerton a thing. #NCISBremerton

On a totally unrelated note, when I said at the beginning of this blog that I have always failed to keep a journal, that wasn’t quite true. In fact, I do have a journal that I do continue to write in. I’ve had it since New Year’s Day 1997, in fact. The thing is, I typically write in it once a year, sometimes twice and sometimes not at all, and write only a page at most. For example, I gave the years 2007, 2009, and 2012 a miss but wrote three times in 2005. It’s actually super awesome to see the different things I talk about and how I write, not to mention the development of my handwriting (and spelling). A quote from one of my favorite entries, dated 4 January, 2001: “I Maeb Snowflaks with Krista anb Xanbra it WaS Fun!! We Maeb aBunch The Ent” How precious. If ever I become famous, my biographers will definitely have to reference it. Quicky fact check, though, her name is Xandra, I have never met anyone named Xanbra.

Anyway, here’s to the new year. However you celebrate, wherever you are, and wherever you’re going, I wish you all happiness. In words not entirely suited to virtual communication but expressing a wonderful sentiment nonetheless, I leave you with one of my favorite little blessings:

May the roof above us never fall in,

And we friends gathered below never fall out.

Happy New Year!

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Oíche Chiúin

Ah, Christmas Eve! Merry Christmas to you all! I am home and have spent my time with friends and family, enjoying the opportunity to catch up and to do nothing. I hosted my annual Christmas party for my friends, always a delight, and according to tradition, we decorated gingerbread houses and watched Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, at once the best and worst Christmas movie ever made. Anyway, it is Christmas Eve, so I’ll keep this post fairly short.

Of course, a major highlight of being home has been snuggling with the cats who, having obviously been missing me for three months, have been making up for lost time.

Bubba2015-12-24Bubba2015-12-24-2Camaro2015-12-24Camaro2015-12-24-2

The Irish for this week (EE-huh kyoon) means silent night and I hope that you all experience a bit of silence tonight in the midst of whatever you’ve been up to this holiday season.

Some readers may recall that December is National (Re)Read The Phantom Tollbooth Month. It is, of course, an absolutely wonderful book that teaches more with every reading and which is amply appropriate for every age. At one point, a character says, “You’ll find that the only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.” Often, doing good is hard; doing right is hard. The great Albus Dumbledore said, “Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” While it’s true that some good things are easy, I’ve found that a great many are difficult. I think that’s something to bear in mind at Christmas–Jesus’ life was perfectly right and good, but it was also incredibly difficult and often painful. He both gives us an example to follow and the strength to live like we otherwise would be unable to.

I leave you this Christmas Eve with my last carol quotation, one that has long been my favorite and which says everything I wanted to say in this post with far fewer words.

Truly he taught us to love one another.

His law is love and his gospel is peace.

Love-Light

I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love

even more than I usually do.

And although I know it’s a long road back

I promise you…

Early Saturday morning, I head home to spend a few weeks back in the Pacific Northwest. Very much looking forward to seeing friends and family and just being home. I know I haven’t been away for a long time, really, but this season just brings my love of home right to the fore. After all, it’s all the things we do for love that feel like Christmas. Basically, I want this whole post to be quotations from Christmas songs, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. To get things started, here are a couple pictures of my cats getting in the Christmas mood.

So, my final week of classes included only two actual classes, one of which was a group presentation. I still have two assignments, one of which I’m in the midst of  and the other not due until the end of January. School-wise, this semester ended up being really good. There were some things that were difficult to love (Research Methods) and some that were interesting in content and kind of awful in delivery (UN) but generally I really enjoyed what I learned and my professors were, generally, pretty wonderful. So I’m grateful for that, because things would have been a great deal worse if I came all this way for a lame education.

Also this week were a couple fun events that really helped facilitate my procrastination. On Sunday, I sang carols with Choral Society in Heuston Station to raise money for a charity and we’ll be in front of the General Post Office this Friday for another charity. It’s a lot of fun and who doesn’t like caroling, yeah? So really enjoyed that. On Monday evening, I attended the Graduate Students Union Christmas Commons and it was absolutely fabulous. We had a three course meal in the Great Hall at Trinity, then moved next door for dancing (though there wasn’t a ton of actual dancing, they had some technical difficulties with the music or something). It was 1920s/Great Gatsby themed and was just generally, all-around good fun. On Tuesday night, we had our last Community Group of the year with dinner and everything. There was a great deal of laughter involved, so you know it thoroughly enjoyable (and probs extended our lives by several months in one go).

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m super pumped to go home. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Dublin and will look forward to returning in January, but I’m glad that I’ll be home for Christmas. In the immortal words of the Muppets, it’s the summer of the soul in December. There’s a great short story I my family reads every year around this time called If He Had Not Come. A young boy wakes up on Christmas morning and nothing is different from normal–no decorations, not presents, no goodwill toward men, nothing. He goes down the road to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan–an empty lot, with a gateway arch inscribed with the words of the title. He then rushes back to bed and wakes up again to the real Christmas morning and says simply, “You came! You came! Thank you for coming.” It’s such a piercing reminder how connected everything around us this season is to a small human in the Levant who changed the world.

In my last post, I was pondering what the world would be like without Christianity, particularly around this time of year. Because pagan Europe certainly had midwinter festivals and things and some of those traditions are actually preserved in modern Christmas celebrations. But at the same time, nothing would be the same because it would still be a season of hope. Hope that spring would come, that the crops wouldn’t fail, that the Vikings wouldn’t attack… Instead, we live in the reality of hope (if that’s possible?) because all our hopes were fulfilled in Jesus’ birth (and life, death, and resurrection). We don’t live in hope anymore, it’s more like expectant waiting. We know that spring is coming (and so much more) and we’re just sitting here tapping our feet impatiently.

I love Christmas (let me make this clear) and going home to see friends and family. But it’s so much more than that. It’s even more, dare I say it, than songs and presents. It will come without ribbons, it will come without tags, it will come without packages, boxes, or bags. It will come because two thousand some years ago, he came, and that changed everything.

In singing carols this past week, a particular line of one of my favorites stuck with me, relevant to my life, my studies, and the world at large. Bid thou our sad division cease and be thyself our King of Peace.

So here’s to peace on earth.

Yuletide Carols

Several of my classes are officially done for the term, just a few more sessions next week and then I’m off home! This weekend, I have one relatively brief paper, and then another that isn’t due until the end of January (so definitely not writing that one until January). It’s remarkable, I feel like this term has rushed to the finish. Things often seem to work that way–swift at the exciting beginning, interminable in the middle, and lightning fast at the end. Anyway, here we are.

This week has been pretty good, I haven’t really been suffering undue stress because of finals or assignments (I do sincerely sympathize with those who have). Last Friday, I went with some friends to a ‘Christmas Bazaar’ which ended up being a bit of a disappointment, but we made up for it by having some great Chinese food at a restaurant recommended by a Chinese student in our program. It wasn’t sufficiently spicy for her taste, but I think the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There were six of us, and we got our own private room (not sure how that happened, the conversation was conducted in Chinese) and had a wonderful time chatting, eating, making animal sounds, and discussing our personal physical abnormalities (because that’s what friends are for).

On Sunday, we had a meal together after the service and decorated a tree with ornaments and what have you, and that was delightful. On Wednesday, we had a little rehearsal with Choral Society in preparation for singing Christmas carols at a couple events coming up. Who doesn’t love Christmas carols? It was a lot of fun. FYI, this is one of the few areas in which I’m comfortable with favorites: favorite carol is O Holy Night and favorite song is The Christmas Song, though Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is a close second. I knew almost all of them, though there were a few that were unfamiliar or I knew the words and not the tune. Interestingly, some of the ones I knew had slightly changed lyrics–similar but just a line or two of variance. It was sort of a disorienting experience in large part because it was so unexpected. For example, in Deck the Halls, where I’m used to singing “Don we now our gay apparel” the Irish sing “Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel” (surprise, the Irish version references drinking–and that’s not the only time!). My favorite, though, was the version of Silent Night that we sang, no questions asked, in English then Irish then German. That just made me smile inside and out.

It made me think of the traditions associated with Christmas–not the actual things we do, I guess, but the things we feel. For me, at least, the feeling of Christmas is coziness, joy, comfort, togetherness, excitement, thanksgiving. I’m not really maligning the commercialization of Christmas (mostly because I think doing so is almost as commercialized as the commercialization of Christmas itself, if that makes any sense) but getting at the feel-goods of the season. We decorate with evergreens and cover things in lights. And people (at least, the people of my ancestors–northern Europeans–and probs other peoples too) have been doing this long before Christianity. This time, the darkest, coldest, harshest time of the year has been transformed into the brightest, warmest, sweetest time. It makes me feel cool about being a human being, that we have persevered through conditions that were really very awful by celebrating the goodness that we know will come–and in fact, we make it come in spite of the awfulness! Think of those living in modern-day Norway 2,000 years ago. All they had to keep them going was the thought of spring, the knoweldge that days will grow longer and warmer and kinder. Think of the mostly pagan, quasi-Christian traditions that we still keep–evergreen boughs, Yule logs (at least in cake form), feasting, singing…we’re still just a cold and hungry people seeking light in darkness.

I don’t know, but there are some thoughts on the season. Things in the world have seemed so especially dark of late, so remember what people thousands of years ago knew–in times of great darkness, we ourselves provide the light.

And so I leave you in the words of the season, echoing across a great many years:

Wolcum Yule!

Wick

Happy December, everybody! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty good week, made only better by the nearness of home and Christmas. It’s just the most wonderful time of the year.

First, I would like to share an excerpt from my current literary endeavor (admittedly a much faster read than my previous), The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s a rather lengthy quotation, but I found it so inspiring, well-written, and altogether touching that I just have to share.

One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then that one is quite sure that one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by one’s self in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes.

So there you have it. To ancient times and distant music…

Anyway, this week featured an extra session for a class that we had missed earlier in the term. We made it up this evening and the lecture was entitled Globalized Racial Regimes or something like that. It was an incredibly depressing session in which we were basically really critical of development and aid and things like that, but at the same time, I enjoyed it immensely because we got to talk seriously about flaws in systems that implicate us every day and which, to be honest, I hadn’t really thought much about previously. And it wasn’t entirely depressing insofar as the professor reiterated that the opposite of what he was trying to do was say, “Everything is bad, therefore do nothing.” So there was sort of a note of hope at the end, though he said he mostly wouldn’t talk about it until the last class. But anyway, there’s a brief look to prove that I am learning things, I find those things for the most part very interesting, and there is a point to getting this degree (something which is always nice to hear).

Also, backtracking a bit, we had our program Thanksgiving (I’m not into the term ‘friendsgiving’) on Sunday and it was absolutely fabulous. There were the staples: turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and bread. There were also some dishes that I was unused to seeing on a Thanksgiving table but thoroughly enjoyed nonetheless: Chinese dumplings of some sort, Shloer (the adult soft drink?), and Snickers salad (which is apparently a thing, brought by an American). There was some small contention over the sweet potatoes– I wanted the kind with brown sugar and marshmallows and the Brits wanted plain roasted ones (I lost)–but it was all in good fun and a really great time. I will once again express how grateful I am to have such amazing coursemates and thank them again for being so awesome. Though one slightly sour note–on my way to Thanksgiving, I took the bus most of the way, then was going to walk for the last ten minutes or so. On the bus, the weather was fine, but of course the moment I got off, the torrential rain, severe wind gusts and sprays of hail began. So I arrived a bit wet, bedraggled, and generally worse for the wear, but spending the evening with friends warmed me up inside and out.

It’s now that time of year when assignments are causing anxiety and Netflix beckons ever more fiercely. I’m grateful that my course load doesn’t actually involve a huge amount of work, but I am doing my best to procrastinate on the small bit that is required. All things considered, I think I’m in a pretty good place to finish out the term strong. Or as strong as is sufficient. Sufficiency isn’t a particularly ambitious goal, but it is what it is. And I certainly am going to work hard, I’m not going to slack or anything, so don’t freak out. I’m a good student, I promise.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed last month’s weekly poetry. I won’t be continuing it this month, but I anticipate bringing it back sometime in the spring. It’s so easy, reading my book, to believe that it is spring (much the same way I often feel it’s raining if I’m reading about rain or frigid if I’m reading about cold) and the weather today certainly made a concerted effort to remind me that it’s December. By the same token, though, it reminded me of all the things I like about rain. Living here, my relationship with rain has been somewhat strained since it’s just over two miles walking to school, but ours is a tenacious romance. I love the sound of rain, the feel of it, the way it changes how everything else looks and feels and sounds. It comforts me. It embraces me. No matter how vociferously I complain, we’ll be lovers for as long as I live.