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.”

 

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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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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.

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.

Manunkind

Once again, I turn my mind toward poetry this week. The poem itself is wide-ranging and powerful, covering important topics that I feel ill equipped to grapple with at this juncture. The poet is Victoria Adukwei Bulley and she composed it as part of an initiative at the Victoria & Albert Museum to wrestle with its links to slavery. I encourage you to listen to it in full but I’ll draw your attention to the first line:

Men like you say mankind and mean yourselves, your brothers, and your fathers’ fathers.

When you draw the circle around humanity, in other words, you draw it to include only people like you without thinking. When you consider the human experience, you imagine that the world, in all its beautiful and diverse complexity, is essentially experienced only one way. You do not necessarily set out to exclude but you cannot conceive of ways that are not your ways, people who are not your people, hearts that are not your hearts.

It is not wrong to be self-aware and self-reflective. It is wrong to believe that the way your self is is the only way a self can be. With every concentric, constricting ring whereby you lessen the pool of who counts, those inside lose knowledge and wisdom and empathy while those outside lose respect and dignity and often their lives. Being inside means, all too often, not only that you forget how to look outside but that you forget there’s anything worth seeing out there at all.

I am, time and again, confounded by people who say that they have finally found the limits of who counts, the limits are these, and this is the end of all possible discussion on the subject. To say–with a surety that could melt steel–that others have neglected so-and-so a group while esteeming another group overmuch. To clearly delineate the bounds of the valuable and the valueless, and often to claim that doing so is an act of Truth, Faith, and Love. To assuage the excluded by saying that it’s not so much that they don’t matter, just that they matter differently or less (by which they mean not mattering not at all).

In an odd turn, considering the poem’s colonial/historical/racial context, I’m sitting here thinking about the US Declaration of Independence. About certain truths it claims–erroneously–are self-evident. On the one hand, they were exactly right: all are created equal. On the other, they didn’t actually just say “all,” did they, and they definitely didn’t mean it. They said mankind and meant themselves.

I do not consider myself a utilitarian in the macro sense, but in the micro I think the mindset has, if you’ll forgive me, some utility. There is probably some natural inclination in humanity to seek a ‘tribe’ of those like us. And there are reasons such a drive was useful in the past and is still, in some ways, useful today. But I think we live in an era when the tribal drive has, at best, a declining utility. Not just because it’s exclusive and often very dangerous (when you arm tribalists with nuclear weapons, for example). I feel this way because I think it has limited utility insofar as it limits, at the very least on a personal level, growth. There is some pleasure in living surrounded by people like yourself but there is greater personal utility in learning difference. You will be a better person, I am convinced, when you leave your little circles behind.

It is good to say mankind and consider the wealth of life that the term can include. Perhaps it is better not to say mankind and instead acknowledge the diversity of that life. Perhaps it is best not to say anything, in turn, and simply listen to the stories that life is trying to tell you. As Rilke said, live your life in ever-widening circles.

Any Unsaved Progress Will Be Lost

Update on what it’s like to live in northern Michigan: More snow. Still cold but substantially warmer. Really a great deal of ice. That’s been my Michigan February experience and I have to say, I’m not taken with it. But this past week, I’ve really felt the extended daylight, so that’s a plus. Spring is coming. Eventually. Daffodils I need you.

Not much excitement to speak of this week (as per usual, I know). I wanted to tone things down a bit from the serious level of last week’s post and it’s pretty easy since I don’t have anything to say. Kinda making it up as I go along which, surprise, is often the case here. We’ll take a brief cat intermission because that’s always a good idea.

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Aren’t they just so cute. My sister was telling me that she’s been taking fewer pictures of them because they’re just constantly so cute and I get that. But of course she does still take some pictures because look at them. You can’t not.

Not feeling particularly nostalgic this week but for once the title came first and I wanted to write a post that fit. Maybe it’s just a bit of a late-ish winter vibe (what is the line between late winter and ‘spring is late’ anyway). Maybe it’s a bit of a low-key ache for companionship. Maybe I ate something that didn’t agree with me (that’s a joke, food always agrees with me, I just don’t always agree with it). Maybe it’s just your friendly neighborhood ennui. Anyway.

Life in some respects mimics video games. The endless pursuit of mostly meaningless coins; repeated and often fruitless efforts to save a prince(ess); overt level-ups at 16, 18, and 21. And plenty of other things. But a big disappointment (is it really disappointment if I never expected it?) is the lack of saves. You can’t save the game. (Also, no magic.)

I don’t mean that in the old-people sense of ‘I want to go back and try again now that I know all this stuff’ nor in the sense of ‘I have a new strategy that I think would give me a higher score’ nor even in the sense of ‘I have regrets.’ I mean it mostly in the sense that, if I may mix my metaphors, saving the game acts like a bookmark so that you can close the book for a sec and see how far you’ve come and how far you’ve yet to go. A major strike against ebooks.

In that vein, sort of, I have this blog. It is at once a real-time ticker of things happening in my life, and a record of my previous weekly save points. Reviewing those saves is often pretty cringey (I mean, do you remember that time I literally titled a post A Dark and Stormy Night and it wasn’t really ironic). But I also love looking back and remembering my trip to Amsterdam, or the unimaginable victory of turning in my dissertation, or stepping into North Korea, or all the people and places I’ve said goodbye to, even at this fairly young age.

Also, it’s always a delight seeing the languages I’ve had in my titles. Let’s take a second to count: English (169), Irish (4), Russian (4), French (1), Norwegian (1), Welsh (1), Navajo (Diné) (1), Korean (3), Latin (1), and most recently, Croatian (1). Hope to see that diversity continue to grow. Probably will need a Dutch one when I go back to Amsterdam and a Portuguese one when I get to Portugal. Because those trips will hopefully happen eventually.

Some little nuggets of memory are almost silly while also being cool. That two day trip to Oslo, amirite. Wild. The blessings of the doughnut gods of Tesco, sending me gifts beyond my worth. That’s really a big one. When a pipe burst and the floor below my apartment flooded and froze. Yech.

Anyway. Saving…

 

 

The Tyranny of Caution

This is not a theology blog and I am not a theology person. But, being a religious person, sometimes theological things happen in my life. So we’re back to it for this week, sorry if that’s not your cup of tea.

I grew up in the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) and, though I’m not particularly attached to any denomination, it’s one that I like. Kind of the main idea is that agreement on the main things trumps disagreements on subsidiary things. They have six ‘affirmations’ about, like, Jesus and the Bible and that stuff. But everything else is less important–baptism and what have you. The denomination is not affirming (they’re not about the gays) and a pastor recently resigned, after an incredibly lengthy and arduous procedural process, after she performed a wedding for two men.

She wrote a letter (which is long but worth a read in general, and specifically if this is your area) and it inspired a lot of thoughts in me. I’ve presented a few of them below. This is, of course, not an exhaustive post and I’m not certain how well I’ve expressed what I mean. But this is one of those times, I guess, where I feel like I ought to say something, even if what I say isn’t exactly right.


I’ve been blessed by a fairly lifelong security in faith that didn’t significantly waver when I came out to myself. I’ve been blessed by the family and friends around me who didn’t waver either. I didn’t feel hurt by the church growing up because my closet at the time was invisible even to myself. So I come at this from a pretty good place.

The church has a lot of issues with gender and sexuality, of which homosexual marriage is only one. But it has become a pretty brutal part of contemporary church identity. Part of the concern is the small matter of burning in hell for all eternity. While relevant, that is an argument for another day.

I spoke with a former pastor of mine on this subject a while after I came out. A good family friend who genuinely wanted to understand and love. But he was confounded when I insisted again and again that you cannot love me if you do not love all of me. It is not love if it’s conditional on a) me being straight or b) me being gay but never having a romantic relationship ever. You can’t say love the sinner and hate the sin (which is iffy in general but I can see it re: a thief, for example) because the ‘sin’ is me.

Here is the essence of the church’s conundrum on this, and many other issues: is it better to err on the side of caution or of grace?

It is not a question of whether this is right or wrong. I reject the notion of fallible human beings being entirely right about every matter of doctrine. It is a question of Jesus having enough love and mercy and grace to accept us even if we are wrong. The answer is clear to me. Besides, I would rather be condemned for loving too much than loving too little. I do not know what else to say.

What does the church stand to lose in this argument? As far as I can tell, pretty much only power from a system built on injustice. A friend of mine added loss of face and loss of comfort, which are valid. Then she said this, as simple as it is true, I think: “Is the church really concerned for the souls of people who are not heteronormative? Or is it a fear of the loss of comfort? ‘What will I tell my children?’ Well damn Karen, you’ll tell your children, ‘You know how mommy and daddy love each other? Those two men love each other too.’ And that will be that!”

This is not my final argument. This is not even the conversation we should be having. But apparently it’s the conversation many in the church still need, and history shows us it’s the needs of the oppressive majority that take precedence over the needs of the oppressed minority. And I feel that I’m coming from a strong enough position to allow that in this place at this time. But come on. I feel disheartened by the extreme apparent ‘caution’ of the ECC on this issue.

When you are part of the empowered majority, caution feels easy–the status quo benefits you so why should it be changed. It is when you are in the minority, just trying to live life as well as you might, that the caution of the majority becomes tyrannical. This is not new, it is intersectional in the extreme. This is just my small corner of it as a middle-class white American cis man.

Authority is not granted to the church to open or close God’s doors. So stop trying. Just love more. Not love if we comply, if we’re righteous, if we fit. There is not simply room for us at God’s table, there are seats reserved with our name: Beloved Child of God.