Bread

First of all, how propitious that this post falls on April 25th, the perfect date according to some. Not too hot and not too cold, all you need is a light jacket. Which, miraculously, is true of the weather here today! Anyway.

This week was Easter! A celebration of the possibilities of becoming new. A recognition that life and love prevail. A feast where the food is sacrifice and the appetite is of the soul. A table where all have been invited to sit and eat without condition and without price.

I don’t want to try and be too theological again, not qualified, but I have some thoughts.

But! Before we get too far into the Easter things, I think a small cat gallery is called for. This week, a curious juxtaposition of cool, calm, and collected (and unusual state for that one) and quirky sleeper.

It should come as no shock to any of you to hear that I am a great lover of baked goods. Rarely met one I didn’t like. And so it might be a bit of a stretch but I’m going to try to knead out a bread-based metaphor here.

We had a sermon a few weeks ago whose central theme was the ‘bread of affliction’–both the difficult things that we face in life and the ways in which we try to feed ourselves unhealthy things. The guest speaker, in my understanding, had two main ideas: take a look at what you’re consuming and make sure it’s a life-giving diet, and when you see people who are eating bread of affliction we ought to have compassion on them.

And I will say again, in the words of a mentor of mine, compassion is to care enough to do something to help.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ellen Goodman said,

I have never been especially impressed by the heroics of people who are convinced they are about to change the world. I am more awed by those who struggle to make one small difference after another.

I’m all about changing the world. There are undoubtedly those who can and do. But most of us are not in that number, not in any kind of Bill Gates/Marie Curie/Nelson Mandela kind of way. And so we are faced with the immense task of the routine small things by which the world operates.

And one of the big things about Jesus, if you ask me, is less about the big changes we normally think about–though those too–and more about the small ways we can change our hearts to act in love toward ourselves and others. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I truly believe that we just need to love more and more; the world will change in radical and maybe unexpected ways when love is the driver of action.

People are in different places. By circumstance, certainly, but also by heart. Some people have love to give and other people feel like they’re running a little dry on that front. And that’s the idea of the bread of affliction, I think. We should spread love when and where we can and when we can’t, we should take and eat the bread offered to us.

If you are feeling like things are going well for you, that you eat little of the bread of affliction and you are generally satisfied with life, first of all, congratulations. Second, look around you. Look intently, not a quick glance up from your happiness. Go to those with a harder diet. Be gentle with them, succor them, and be prepared to work hard with them.

If you are feeling like all you ever eat is the bread of affliction, then come to the table that has been prepared for you. Visit the one who has invited you and be filled by that which the world has not offered. The invitation is for all. And when I say all, I actually mean all. There is nothing that you must do or say to be seated at that feast. You yourself, all of yourself, are welcome.

You are expected. Come, the meal is ready.

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Perhaps

E.E. Cummings wrote that “Spring is like a perhaps hand” and I think he was really on to something. Things haven’t been wintry this week, for which I am very grateful, but they have felt rather perhaps. Spring comes, I’ve heard, slowly and then all at once.

I have not seen flowers, really, but I have seen sprouted bulbs lengthen into mature leaves. I have not seen trees with their leaves but I have seen leaves budding, so very very tender. I have seen sun and rain and clouds and wind but I have not seen snow. I have heard the birds and the thunder and the small sighing breezes that mean life is happening.

Anyway, there has not been much going on in my life this week. Starting to apply to jobs, as one does, always a joy. Thinking about what it will be like to once again live elsewhere, start anew, uproot and replant. I would kind of rather not but here we are so.

I will say that the few sunny days that we have had truly have changed everything, winter-wise. It’s less that it’s warmer and sunnier (though those are both deeply excellent developments) and more that they are definite and delightful evidence that time is moving forward and we won’t be trapped in winter forever. Especially in the absence of much new green as of yet, I need some kind of promise that spring has arrived.

I guess there’s no way to know for sure, it’s entirely possible that we’ll get a little more snow yet. I really, really hope not. I’m not sure if I could handle anything more than the lightest of dustings at this point.

I’m going to keep this post short in anticipation of an extraordinarily long one that will be upcoming, probably in a few weeks. It’s about politics, wooooooo. I’ll leave you with the ending of the poem, one that I think is so gentle and inspiring. Spring comes to us and transforms the world, but it changes everything carefully.

May the perhaps of our spring blossom into a certainly of summer. Someday.

“moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.”

 

Roots, Routes, and Sunflower Shoots

For the record, I am neither here nor there on the pronunciation of routes; sometimes I say roots and sometimes I say raw-oots (I have no idea how to phoneticize that). Obviously, for the purposes of this post, I’m going with the former.

I have dark tidings: I am writing this on Wednesday night and the weather forecast is calling for some pretty strong snow possibilities in the coming wee hours. This must not be. I will not give you an update in the morning because I fear that the worst will come to pass, I will just hope and pray that better plans prevail.

Also, some actually exciting news before we go too much further. One of my good friends has recently adopted a new friend and his name is Jackson and I was instantly in love. Hope to meet him in person some day soon.

Whether or not the weather actually agrees, it is spring. We may or may not get a little more snow this month but I don’t care. Immediately after returning from Canada, I planted some dwarf sunflower seeds and they have sprouted and they have given me hope (even if they don’t live much longer, I don’t have a green bone in my body). I saw my first flowers of the season on campus this week as well, all three of them.

There are still a few lingering snow bits tucked away in corners or where ploughs made great big heaps. But mostly, the ground is free and clear and soft and lovely. My DC friends were sending me all kinds of gorgeous pictures of cherry trees and though I have yet to see a single blossom here (land of the Cherry Capital Airport), I know that they are coming. Spring marches on, following ever after winter. There is hope, after all.

And coming back from break, we now have nothing between us and the end of the school year. It’s one straight shot. Racing down the track at us. And, though we still have two months, I’m already starting to get that my-departure-is-immanent anxiety. Job applications, of course, thinking about packing and finding a new place to live and all that.

I do not recall when I first heard the phrase ‘roots and routes.’ I feel like it may have been a book discussed at Trinity. But I don’t recall and I’m too lazy to look it up. But what a catchy saying, am I right? And it so elegantly captures a huge element of the human story. I, for one, am one always on the move and always longing to stretch my roots deep into home soil.

It is far too early to be thinking about my time here concluding (but I just couldn’t not use this title when I saw my seedlings and thought of it). Even so, I think I might make a few observations in the general sense.

Unless you are a very new reader, it should come as no surprise to you that social is very difficult for me. I have a deep hunger for intimate friendship but I am also very introverted. So when I’m moving frequently and have to social all over again with new people in a new place, I sometimes despair of that deep relationship. But at the same time, everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been blessed with people who I have been able to social with and become at least some modicum closer to. Though my living arrangements the past several years have been relatively fleeting, I feel like I have been able to grow some roots eventually in each place. And I think I’m getting better at it.

On the flip side, I love traveling. I love not just traveling but coming to live in a new place. Even when those places have sometimes been places I didn’t particularly want to go, I have found such a joy simply in the act of going. Yes, I long for roots. Desperately. But I must not let that ache blind me to the bright spring feeling of arriving. The routes that I have taken, sometimes unexpected and undesired, that have taken me literally across the globe.

Roots and routes. And as for the shoots, as I’m so very fond of saying: bloom where you’re planted.

ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ

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Ottawa Airbnb cat. So affectionate.

Lest ye imagine that my trip to Canada in late March was a vernal dream and that I walked about with perambulatory ease, allow me to set you aright. I woke up my last morning in Ottawa to snow, still descending, which decayed into freezing rain as I drove to Montréal. Upon reaching that municipality, rain and ice unabated, I proceeded to wander a while upon Mont Royal, the landmark which furnished the city with its name, and cover myself in ice while seeing only fog-obscured views and getting a little lost along poorly labeled paths. My last morning in Montreal preceded in line with that, a dusting of snow once more. And, about an hour out from home, more snow. And waking up the next morning, first morning back in Glen Arbor, just a teensy bit more.

So you know, spring.

People have talked about the great variability of spring in this region but I have not seen it. I have seen only more winter with slightly warmer temperatures. As my dear Edna St Vincent Millay put it, “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”.

Anyway. I thought instead of a play-by-play of the rest of my trip, I would offer just a few summarized points and then move on. I had a lovely time, truly, but I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed on the whole. In Canada, as in the US, it seems the west coast really is the best coast. But it was not all in vain.

[As a general aside, I’m confident that all this was very colored by my experience of the weather. If I were to visit for the first time maybe in May or something, my review might have sounded quite different. I tried to enjoy regardless, and mostly succeeded, but snow in April simply isn’t my scene.]

Ottawa was kind of an odd city. I told a friend it gave me a feeling that somehow combined Dublin, IE and Anchorage, AK and Burlington, VT. None of those are ringing endorsements (though I do love Burlington). I really appreciated the way indigenous art was presented, included, and described (in indigenous languages) in the National Gallery of Canada. And the buildings of Parliament Hill (and a few others) were absolutely exceptional, loved them a lot.

My experience of Montréal was, I think, the most hampered by inclement weather. I just didn’t want to go see much. I did hit my few highlights, so that was nice. I appreciated some nice architecture, and was pleased to walk through the Gay Village which was right near by Airbnb. But it was the end of my trip, it was cold, it was rainy, I stayed inside and read a good deal. The book wasn’t even that great so.

Finally, I arrived in Rochester, NY, for a visit with an old friend and her fiancé. It was very rejuvenating, just chatting and catching up and hanging out. Relaxing with someone who knows me well. Saw a bit of the city, which seemed nice enough, but mostly enjoyed a quiet finale to the journey.


My host in Montréal, interestingly, was French. From Brittany, which proved especially interesting when I learned (and told him, because he hadn’t known) that the much-celebrated Jacques Cartier, essentially the European who first got what became Canada going, was also born in Brittany. In fact, he was not even born in France. The Duchy of Brittany formally became part of France by an edict in (its status was super complicated so assigning a single year is iffy but) 1532 when the explorer was middle-aged.

I do not know a whole lot of Jacques’s biography other than a perusal of his Wikipedia page. I do not know his native tongue. But I do know that Wikipedia lists his name first as Jacques Cartier and second, suggestively, as Jakez Karter. Did he speak Breton?

I noted this to my host, and rather ham-handedly compared it to Québec in terms of linguistic imperialism. He replied that that was of an earlier age, that it was the time of colonization, whereas Québec was not. We moved the conversation on from there and it was all good but I have to tell you, I disagree strongly.

First, let it be said that a) yes, the whole Québec thing is an entirely different question than Brittany, that wasn’t really a good comparison, and b) I love minority languages and cultures and all that, preserve preserve preserve! But. You’re white Canadians mad about people barging into where your ancestors lived and foisting their culture and language on you? Tell me more.

I don’t want to get super political on a topic about which I am very poorly informed. So I will only say this: the people with the best claim to Québec–and all of Canada and really the Americas– speak, historically, neither French nor English.

Like I said, I really know nothing about this. But it seems to me that Canada seems to be trying, for French-speakers and indigenous peoples alike. Not doing super well all the time, but trying. And that’s more than I can say for my current country of residence. My two cents, at least.

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