Conscription

This summer has been pretty cool. I’m grateful to have the means and opportunity to have this big trip. Mostly, I’m doing well. But a little bit, I’m not.

I read a short reflection about loneliness a while ago. The writer spoke of how we find ourselves in lonely places in several ways. Rarely a choice, it might have been a conspiracy of circumstance or Divine Providence. Most of the time, he said, we experience solitude by conscription.

To be sure, there are voluntary alonenesses. As an avowed introvert, I am well acquainted with many of them. But these that he was talking about are of a different sort. Being a conscript in the legions of the solitary does not restore, as being alone so often restores me.

I have spoken of this before on this blog, and many indicated that they had felt something similar. Some kind of mash mixing loneliness, homesickness, fear of missing out, fear that we are better friends with others than they are with us–just general ennui. Sometimes, I feel very needy for companionship. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “My friends are my ‘estate.’ Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them.”

Throughout my travels this summer, I have been so deeply blessed to have People to See along the way. Just yesterday morning, I left my sister’s after an extended stay which they were gracious to host me for. And before that, new friends in St Louis, old friends in DC, a friend in Pittsburgh and friends in Michigan… Lots of friends.

But at the same time, seeing them all has been so temporary. My life currently is so transient, so liminal, so ephemeral (though I’m not sure such a fairy-magical word feels all that appropriate). It’s a little frustrating not to be living around friends that I keep up with in person on a regular basis. I like my friends. I would like to see them.

Instead, I remain unmoored and adrift, awaiting the time when I can exit this enforced loneliness. A time when I can once again Be in a Place and Do Things with People. Or, at least, begin making inroads toward doing so, since we all know that I am not a fast friends-maker or overly-aggressive doer. One must remain hopeful.

I have become more aware of my neediness in this area. Neediness not necessarily in a bad way, though I guess that’s not really for me to say. I struggle with the idea of burden–surely my friends will not be burdened if I bother them a little but I am equally sure that at some point it just becomes annoying. I just don’t know what that point is, and I would be loathe to conscript another into something that they didn’t sign up for. That’s kind of my whole issue to begin with.

On that note though, quick plug, if you are my friend, please always feel free to send me a message or arrange a little video chat. Literally always. I’m all about that communication life. (See? V Needy)

Part of the problem, of course, is that I am unemployed and have just a lot of time on my hands. There’s only so many job applications, so much Netflix, exercise, gaming, or reading that I can do at a time. So I have plenty of time to sit and stare at walls, which I literally do, trying to stop myself from messaging all my friends a million times because, you know, they’re actually doing stuff and it’ll take a sec for them to get back to me. Not an awesome way to spend my time, I’m working on it. But here we are.

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An Arizona sunset

Someone inadvertently reminded me of one of my favorite life sayings recently. They said “Belong where you are,” and I immediately thought “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Here’s the thing about flowers: sometimes, they’re grown in greenhouses. Naturally, they belong in the ground somewhere. But they are perfectly capable of being stored indoors for the winter or when they’re young or whatever the case may be.

So I guess that’s what I’m going for at this juncture. I may not be in the ground I wish to be in or even in any ground at all, really. But I can–and may we all–bloom anyway.

 

No One Braver

Because sometimes, you just need to have a post titled after lyrics from Hercules. If you can’t immediately summon up the line I’m referencing first, shame on you, second, listen to the whole thing. What a great song from a great soundtrack. Fun fact about me that you can use if ever you want to woo me: my favorite line from that song is “Is he sweet? Our favorite flavor.” I just think it’s so cute. I’d love to be someone’s favorite flavor.

First things first, after Hercules apparently, I have not been doing anything much at all this week. I truly have nothing of note to report. I tried to help start a batch of pretzel buns for my sister and added approximately one-third of the appropriate amount of yeast. It was remedied adequately but yes, I continue to be a yikes baker.

After that thrilling accounting of my week, we have our little gallery of kitties. I had so many excellent pictures, it was a challenge to narrow it down at all, but here are my top two from the week. I just want you to know, since I’ve been with them pretty much all day every day for a week, they really are this cute pretty much non-stop. It’s wild.

 

Anyway. Some of you may be aware that, while Anastasia is my favorite animated film of all time and is now technically owned by Disney, it is not one of my favorite Disney movies. Buying the rights doesn’t really make it yours, you Disney scum. My favorite Disney movie is a tie between Hercules because of course, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Both have incredible music and great stories but let me tell you, Hunchback is what we need right now.

I was trying to make this a silly, upbeat post about fun Disney sing-alongs. They’re fun and silly and why not. But then, having started this, I saw a friend on Facebook post a gif from Hunchback— the moment at the festival when Frollo commands “Silence!” and Esmerelda responds “Justice!” Absolutely iconic. There’s bravery in defeating a hydra but golly if there isn’t more in standing up to injustice.

I could almost have a Sorcerer’s Stone moment here and don’t even get me started on God Help the Outcasts. Maybe I should’ve titled this post “I Thought We All Were the Children of God” but I’ll leave it as is because I originally intended to go the lighter-hearted route. Alas, I’ve gotten sidetracked by social justice, as one does.

Fun transition: I’ve always felt weird about Facebook fundraisers. I do not know why; it hasn’t stopped me from donating to other people’s on occasion but I have never done one myself. But I started one on 4 July because I couldn’t not. It’s in support of RAICES which, from all I have read, is a pretty great organization. I don’t really know what else to do but at least I can say that I’m trying.  I recommend donating to them and/or organizations like them, and making it a recurring donation if you’re able.

The state of the country such a thing, you know, I couldn’t not say something about it. I still don’t really know what to say, exactly, I get that outrage fatigue is a real thing. I’m not at Hercules level brave, and certainly not at Esmeralda level. But I hope and pray that I will always be one who says Justice when the powerful say Silence.

 

Meet Me

I once had a fortune cookie that said “You will step on the soil of many countries.” I really liked it and kept it, it’s still pinned to the bulletin board in my childhood bedroom. I haven’t left the country this week but boy have I been many places.

Since last we spoke, I have passed through twelve states. From Maryland to Missouri via West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. From there to Oklahoma via Arkansas. And from there to Arizona via Texas and New Mexico. It’s been a lot. But there have definitely been some wonderful bits along the way.

When I went to St Louis, I drove across the Mississippi River and saw the Arch from the bridge… and that was sufficient for me. The arch was pretty much the only thing I was aware of for the city, and it wasn’t really a landmark that I was committed to seeing more than, you know, just seeing. I’d much more recommend Forest Park, the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, as an attraction to see in the city. I was only there for one full day and I saw the park and the botanical gardens and was more than satisfied. Love a good botanical gardens.

Of course, the main thing was to have friends to see there, they made the stop delightful rather than just pleasant. Knowing people and building community with them– even if it’s only for the briefest of visits– it just felt validating to make new friends. Maybe validating isn’t quite the right word but anyway. Definitely want to visit again. Compare: Oklahoma City, where I saw no one and did nothing other than sleep and was meh about the whole thing.

The beautiful drives, though. For the most part, I actually avoided a lot of the really boring bits (Oklahoma through north Texas and Ohio through Illinois notwithstanding). I always set my navigation to avoid tolls on principle (though the principle is to not pay tolls, rather than tolls are necessarily bad). What that means is that I often enjoy some routes that are a little more endearing than the major interstates. Driving through the tip of the Appalachians and across pretty much all of the Ozarks, for example, was pretty superb. And I did play spectator (as best I could while paying attention to the road) to some incredible lightning the night I drove into Oklahoma City.

And now here I am, back in Arizona at my sister’s. Obviously, a major highlight is seeing her precious kits in person again.

 

They really are twenty times cuter in person, as hard to believe as that is. I just really love cats and I’m so happy that I know people with cats that I can visit. Cats have definitely been one of the highlights of the summer so far.

I have no musings and no further updates for this week. Job applications continue to be sent out and continue to be rejected (though I remain grateful for a formal rejection instead of institutional ghosting). It’s kinda looking grim. But hey, I made cool new friends this week and I think that will buoy me for a good long while.

Still aimless, jobless, and technically homeless but what are you going to do. Here’s hoping progress on those fronts comes sooner rather than later.

Nacotchtank

In Australia, it is becoming a relatively common practice to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where important meetings and government functions take place. They recognize the people who occupied the land they are on and sometimes are given a little bit of relevant history by a representative of the tribe. Australia has a VERY VERY shaky history with indigenous people, in ways similar to and distinct from the US, but that is evidence that at least some effort toward peace and justice is being made.

I had never heard of the Nacotchtank until yesterday, when I decided what I wanted to write my Independence Day blog post about. They are a tribe that is no more, one of the countless victims of White People in History. Facing encroaching violent settlers and dwindling numbers, they departed their homeland and became absorbed by larger tribes in the area.

They lived throughout what is now the District of Columbia, including on Capital Hill itself. Archaeological relics, including pottery and bones, have been found under and around the Supreme Court, White House, and Bolling Air Force Base. We owe them at very least the name Anacostia, some weird Latinization of Nacotchtank. In case you haven’t heard of it, the Anacostia is the river that flows into the Potomac in the southeast part of the District.

The National Museum of the American Indian (which, yikes, not even going to talk about that) has said that they only briefly mention the tribe because it essentially ceased to exist in the early eighteenth century, instead preferring to speak with the living tribes in the area–which they do, so that’s good. I’m not convinced we need to go back and find all the historical groups, especially on the East Coast, that’s just not really possible.

However. On some level, we need to remember. Not only were other people here first, people were here first and we deliberately exterminated them.

To be clear, I think America is a good idea. I appreciate the thought, and in many ways the reality, of the United States. But there’s a lot of very dark history that we consistently, as a nation, refuse to reckon with. I think that’s a big reason why there’s a lot of very dark present times. Because people who are not indigenous feel no compunction about railing against ‘illegal’ immigration.

ALL WHITE PEOPLE EXIST IN THIS COUNTRY BECAUSE OF COLONIALISM ie theft, murder, and genocide.

In a practical sense, yes, we are here and we have set up a government and that government should function appropriately. But in a sort of macro sense, we are still an occupying force hostile toward the local population. In a practical sense, immigration policy needs reform of course but is itself, in principle, a valid thing. In a larger way, though, borders are arbitrary and imaginary so why not let any and all people live anywhere they wish. Reality is a thing that we have to deal with, definitely, but so is morality so…

I do not imagine or expect this country to be perfect. And as a citizen, I am certainly not exerting every possible effort to effect the change that I wish to see. Even so, I think it is important that we, collectively, at least are trying to work toward justice and peace in a meaningful way. And we aren’t. Instead, we’re setting up concentration camps and killing innocents, then dehumanizing them by calling them illegals.

This is a pretty good place to live. A good place to be born. Especially but not exclusively for white men. But most of the ‘American idea’ stuff also exists in other countries and a lot of them do it better. Now more than ever, I just don’t feel much like celebrating. I don’t know exactly what should be done, Australia is an example of some bare minimum effort but isn’t necessarily the template to follow. And I think that I, as a white guy, probably shouldn’t be the one figuring it out. At least not on my own.

But here and now I want to apologize for my complicity in the oppression of indigenous peoples here and abroad. And I want to continue to do better.


I apologize, I’m too upset thinking about all this to include cats. I don’t want to subject them to this level of negative emotion.

Leaving tomorrow morning for a brief stop in St Louis. Wish me luck, it’s a long drive.