The Flower that Blooms in Adversity

I had predicted, before arriving, that I would hate Avenue Road in Toronto, just conceptually. I was correct, of course, because how are you meant to like a place with a name like that? Disgraceful.

But otherwise, I quite enjoyed my time in Toronto. Allow me to backtrack for a moment.

We finished parent conferences last Friday and, after a weekend of relaxing and hanging out, I headed south to Canada. The temperature was technically, though not noticably, warmer than Glen Arbor but I did note a distinct lack of snow on the ground–not just in the cities but in general, which was refreshing.

My first stop was in Waterloo, a bit outside Toronto, to visit a friend. We had some dinner, played some games, watched some Queer Eye. Very satisfying indeed. Having friends you see in person is pretty cool, I guess. (Plus also, the Airbnb in Waterloo had a cat and so that was a big positive).

The next morning, I drove onward to Toronto, approximately tied for most populous city that I have personally driven in. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. It does make me happy to drive a Prius but still sad that I have a car at all. It seemed much busier than any of the driving I’ve done in Chicago but I think I’ve just been miraculously blessed whenever I’ve driven there.

I spent most of the remainder of the day in the Royal Ontario Museum, which was delightful. Great collection of historical doodahs, dinosaur bones, and colorful crystals of various chemical makeups. I love a good geology exhibit. Ancient Egypt, of course, is always a joy to stroll through. Then I had dinner in a converted mansion, kind of a Sherlock Holmes/pub vibe which was neat.

Yesterday, I spent a great deal of time just wandering around. Saw some beautiful historical buildings around the University of Toronto, Ontario’s legislative building, some cool old churches, as one does. I also visited a public greenhouse and conservatory which was superb. I just hung out there for a while and read because it was warm and I was cold but it was also beautiful. Filled with gorgeous flowers heavily perfuming the air, a riot of color and scent and wonder. They were my first flowers of the season and so what if they were in a greenhouse.

I also saw the CN Tower but did not explore because why. And my third Great Lake, Ontario, which was great to see. Though the little islands right off the city kind of preclude good lake views, at least from what I saw along the waterfront. For lunch, I had a peameal bacon sandwich, and subsequently learned what peameal bacon is (I’m not telling, look it up yourself, apparently it’s a Toronto thing).

After a brief respite back at the Airbnb, I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario because they have free Wednesday nights! I got a discounted tickets to the special impressionist exhibition and had a good wander. I really appreciated their use of indigenous languages when taking about indigenous art and artists. I really enjoyed the Canadian artist Lawren Harris, just as an aside.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Ottawa, then Montreal, then Rochester, and back. I love this two week spring break: one week to go and do, and one week to stay and not do. It’s a great combination.

I have no big thoughts for you, other than that vacation is great and more vacation is even greater, this week. In particular, this vacation was really needed and so gratefully received.  I think my overall opinion, you know how I do, is that I wouldn’t live in Toronto. I mean, of the opportunity arose, I would be here in a heartbeat. But it doesn’t strike me as much as other places have. Perhaps another of my stops this week will. Perhaps not. The road, I am always hearing, goes ever on and on.

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Snowdrifts and How Not to Be One

Here we are, the first full day of spring, following the equinox yesterday evening. Welcome, my friends. I am very much looking forward to the coming months. Though, even before those coming months, we have spring break beginning this weekend! And this school, being a fancy private sort of school, has two weeks off. Going to be great, can confirm. Even if it’s not great, it’ll be great.

The weather back home has had its moments of sun as well this week. The parentals sent this picture:

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Obviously, some furniture had to be moved in order to accommodate their needs for sun exposure. And sun napping, which I desperately wish I were able to participate in. I do so miss those kitties.

Don’t even get me started dreaming about reading in the sun. Oh Sun of Spring, warm us!

There remains some snow/slush/freezing temperatures in our forecast here in northwestern Michigan but, having officially started spring  yesterday, I feel confident that we are all on the up and up. Highs consistently topping 40°F. A great deal of melting has already occurred, revealing roadways and pathways and even some just plain ground. With the equinox solidly under our belt, true spring is only a matter of time. We’ve gotten some nice rain (you know I love a good rainy day) and some spectacularly comprehensive fog.

The thing is, there are still plenty of snowdrifts. Whether caused by ploughs or wind or who knows how else, the big piles of snow remain largely intact. Slightly smaller, from the sunny days we’ve had this week, but still pretty immobile. And they are dumb.

In the depths of winter, snowdrifts are still dumb, but they fit. Everything is snowy, some things are more snowy than others. It makes sense. It’s horrible when you’re walking along and suddenly the snow is two feet higher than the rest of the path but hey, che sera sera. The landscapes that they build make sense in a grand scheme. Some of these views of rolling farmland, antique farmhouses, barren trees all covered in a thick and glittering blanket of snow–it’s a strong yes from me.

But now we’re in spring. The ground is reemerging. Your snow is not wanted any longer. Get out. Go away. Get with the times.

If you’ll allow me a bit of personal unpacking for a moment. I’m a little contradictory on this front of change. I at once hate it and embrace it. If Facebook changes even one little thing, it’ll drive me up the wall. I wore essentially the same style shoe from maybe second grade until earlier this year. But I also didn’t really have any problem moving to a different continent twice, not knowing a single person.

Change as a concept aside, let’s talk about growth because this is definitely the season for it. I’m trying to be more conscious about how I want to be growing as a person. Not necessarily changing but taking who I am and refining and strengthening and committing. Most of the time, I’d rather just be an out-of-season snowdrift. But I’m working on it. And I’m telling you because working on yourself in secret makes it easy to just not.

I mostly eat decently, but I really want to commit to it. I’ve started exercising some but I really want to increase it. I’m trying to spend my time in more deliberate ways–not cutting down reading or Netflix or anything, but committing to a series, for example, and following through instead of just watching for a second when I’m bored. These are just a few examples of snowdrifts I’m trying to melt (I don’t care that I’m abusing that metaphor, it’s a metaphor and it can’t feel it).

All this to say: snow is beautiful, in its time, but when the air warms and the clouds part, let the sun shine in.

The Infrequency of Words

The important news this week is also, unfortunately, weather related. Unfortunate because it means that my life is incredibly boring, not because it’s unfortunate news. The news is, actually, fabulous: today’s high is approximately 50°F! I cannot describe to you the amount of slush and puddles that have entered into my life this week but I will bear any burden to see spring arrive in full force.

I think, having made it this far, I can say with some confidence that I could manage just fine living my life in a snowy place. I have yet to live in a deserty place, so that’s up in the air, but I’ve covered a lot of ground in between. Growing up in Washington, then Ireland was basically the same, DC was definitely doable climate-wise, Korea as well. I don’t particularly want to test my mettle against a perpetually hot environment but that’s really the major one that’s missing.

Before I go any further, here’s a quick update on Bubba in the form of a picture where you can actually see him! A feat indeed. What a cutie.

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Camaro was not available for comment or, apparently, a picture.

I know that I’ve mentioned Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay on here before but I feel like I’ve neglected the third poet who is tied for my favorite: Emily Dickinson. I was reading a bit about her this week, both biographical and poetical information. I just really love her work and she seems like a pretty interesting person as well.

There are a lot of misconceptions about her and a lot of unsubstantiated theorizing. As far as I know, extant sources do not really elaborate on anything that may or may not have been a love affair so speculation on that area is just that–speculation. The idea that she was a recluse does stem from the actual state of things but it seems to be a bit of an unfair characterization. She did limit visitors and didn’t get out really but a lot of this seems (and there is text evidence from her letters to support this) that she was mostly trying to avoid the stereotypical women’s work that, for her position, involved a lot of formal ‘calling’ in the Jane Austin mode. She didn’t really like calling or being called on, she had other things to occupy her time.

She wasn’t anti-social, just differently social, as many people in the age of the internet are. I’m not an expert on this so don’t take my word as indisputable fact but still, interesting things to consider.

Anyway, it was lovely to learn a bit more about her. Her poetry is often just straight up weird, especially considering her time and that she was pretty much a respectable middle class New Englander but wrote in really kind of odd ways. So many dashes. (There were loads of edits when her poems were first published in a volume posthumously). Talking about science and religion (while herself decidedly uncommitted to organized religion). Talking about death and nature and ‘wild nights.’ Seems like a pretty cool lady to me.

I don’t have any particular thoughts about her this week, just wanted to share some more poetry love. I know it’s not for everyone but for me, it can say things so beautifully and so obliquely and so just mysteriously. I wanted to include one of hers here, especially because many of them are quite short, and it took a long time to decide. There are so many excellent options.

I settled on this one because it seems uniquely appropriate for a blog where I rarely have much to say.

Your thoughts don’t have words every day
They come a single time
Like signal esoteric sips
Of the communion Wine
Which while you taste so native seems
So easy so to be
You cannot comprehend its price
Nor its infrequency

 

Lion

This week I guess is mostly just a weather update, not a whole lots of thoughts to share. People always say that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb and I’m just like really looking forward to that lamb. Such lion right now.

We’ve gotten quite a bit more snow this week and the high on Monday was 8°F–and that was with a substantial cloud layer (because it was snowing). It just keeps snowing. And while it continues to be super beautiful, I’m just kinda over it. Put another way: my appreciation of the snow has not decreased but my desire for spring has dramatically increased.

I will say that Pádraig has been performing most admirably in all this snow. For such a little guy, he’s had minimal slippage. He’s just been wearing all weather tires, new as of August, which are good but not super well suited to these often mediocre-ly cleared roads. Even so, he’s done so well with all the icy, snowy, sandy, gross bits. Though he’s in desperate need of a wash which won’t come until we’re well past snow. We’ll muddle through.

Here is a little kitty update, since they’re the cutest twinsies. Also, if you want your cat featured, give me the pics because I love all the cats as I think I have intimated here before.

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There’s truly not much else going on this week. I have planned out the accommodations for my spring break trip, so that’s excellent. Not planning activities too thoroughly, preferring instead to just kind of go with it. Probably no spire-chasing, since I’ll still be in North America, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. We have a sec before that, don’t want to be getting too far ahead of myself.

I said I didn’t have any thoughts for this week, and I don’t really, but yesterday was Ash Wednesday and I was thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know). Recalling this time of year back when I was in Ireland. Being there for the anniversary of the Easter Rising. How the reminders of death were so potent and repeated, the names and faces on huge banners across the city. But then to remember that the ashes imposed yesterday are not a morbid dwelling on death, but a call to life–the birth of a republic or perhaps something a little more personal. I’m not here to give a Lenten homily but. There’s something.

I’ll conclude with a few lines that seem relevant to all sorts of things this week: the weather, Ash Wednesday, muddling through, and lions. I’m talking, of course, about Aslan (which, as an aside, is Turkish for lion). It is said of him,

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

Let us then take this time to observe a memento mori, to take a turn in the danse macabre, and then turn away from the dark of winter toward the life of spring that the Lion ushers in.