An Enjambment

So maybe enjambment is not a word that’s often kicked around in the common parlance but wow, it’s a great one. It refers to (since I know probably one of you, readers, will actually look it up) lines in poetry where a sentence is broken up across lines or stanzas. As in, “so much depends/ upon/ a red wheel/ barrow” ect.

In other words, when there’s more to say but the line is finished. A new start but the same thing continuing.

I want to share with you a few numbers in my life right now that are pretty large. This is my 201st blog post. Which is to say, I’ve been writing here for more than two hundred weeks. Which is a lot of weeks. Today is also my 712th straight day meeting my practice goal on Duolingo. Those are some long lines and I’m pretty proud of them. I struggle to be dedicated to much, so I’m proud to have those two things, however trivial, to say that I can stick with something.

Patterns like those are a bit of an anchor when the rest of things seem to be so up in the air. Enjambments can be so interesting but I’ll tell you, it’s not loads of fun living in a line break. The history of my line spacing has been pretty thick–about six months after grad school and Korea alike. Hopefully, this time will be a little more prompt. I haven’t had leads, really, other than that one interview (I kind of desperately hope that a second one will follow in the next couple weeks).

I need a bit of a cat intermission here, before wallowing a bit more in angsty poetry and existential job-related despair.

I don’t want to labor the point too much but I would like to, at least kind-of-briefly, draw your attention to Emily Dickinson’s enjambments. They so very often are simply dashes. Scholars have spent years either re-punctuating her poetry or trying to figure out what all her dashes mean. They’re such an enigmatic mark and her use of them is so peculiar; it’s a whole, mysterious thing. And I love them.

Here’s a concept to unite all this: one can have dedication without certainty, constancy without direction. I have come to the end of another line and, like plenty of lines before it in this confusing ‘adulthood’ I’ve been forced into, it’s enjambed and ending with a dash–something that isn’t clear, something that can go in any direction it chooses. It’s not a formal or tidy comma, colon, or semicolon. Ambiguous but done on purpose, even when that purpose is utterly unknown. A line that ends on a dash points onward to the next line; a poem that ends on a dash points onward into our very lives. Or maybe I’m reading too much into them. She’ll probably forgive me.

I have one more week to finish packing and cleaning and visiting a few more places I ought to visit. Mere days to write and read and apply to more jobs. To spend time with friends and sketch out to some degree the next part of my life. Hours and hours to spend sitting at my computer or standing out on the beach, hoping wretchedly for something to happen soon.

As before, I know intellectually that something will happen. Eventually. And not necessarily something that I will want. But right now, it’s the soon that is the most scary. Because, while I’ve had to go home before, I’m not going directly home. I’m roaming around near-aimlessly for a sec. And I know that I have some places to land but still. Sooner would be better than later.

To conclude, a small poem I’ve just now written, in the vein of all that’s come above. A special thanks to Emily Dickinson and all her weird capitalization and punctuation.


Oh God of the Universe:
Hear my prayer and help
me with my Soon.
Grant the patience until such time
as a Soon becomes a Now.

Be with me
Whatever comes
Draw near

in the great, unknown
Next.
Be the God of Waiting
and help me survive
all these dashes–

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And I Know Things Now

This Saturday is graduation. Instead of having end-of-job thoughts, it might be nice to take a sec to have some graduation thoughts instead. Graduation thoughts are hard, though, so I’ve taken some inspiration from a book and a song. Because, you know, that’s how I do.

Yesterday evening, I finished reading the first in a new series. Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft. A really interesting book, a fantasy set in a world inspired by the kingdom of Ur and the Tower of Babel, but steampunk. Adventure and romance and conspiracy. It’s a fun read, and well-written. Would recommend, though we’ll have to see how the rest of the series pans out.

At the end of the book, there was a brief author interview. Mr Bancroft had this to say about his main character, Senlin:

He rushes when he should linger, and he is patient when he should insist. He does learn, but slowly; he grows, but not in a straight line.

When I graduated high school, I felt pretty good about where I was going. I tried to be open to the possibilities of the formless future, but I had a pretty good idea of a direction. Not a detailed plan but some strong, if general, convictions. I had fairly concrete goals, which started with a course of university study but continued after I received that diploma. I was going to go places and do things and it was going to be great.

Then, I redefined my goals, what I wanted my life to look like. A valid thing to do, but what I came up with as a replacement was exceedingly vague and, in response to the pushback I’d been given by the world, a little more half-hearted because I wasn’t sure that I could really accomplish much. Not that I’m entirely lacking drive or purpose, but they’ve both been tempered by setbacks which, I suppose, are inevitable to most people with dreams.

I’m not about to fill this blog with a bunch of advice for graduates. I’m not far enough removed from it myself, for starters, and I’m not sure that advice of that sort is as helpful as we’d wish it to be. Experience is sometimes the best teacher. I feel like parents can attest, sometimes children just do dumb things no matter how persuasively you explain that it definitely won’t end well. We will, like Senlin, learn slowly, misjudge, anticipate inaccurately, take lessons from situations that are not perhaps the lessons we ought to take away.

And in this, there is a constant kinship with the recent graduate. I’ve spoken with some older people recently, those who seem to have normal real-person careers and whatnot, and it seems to me that we’re all just bumbling around pretending that we know how to do stuff but in fact, we are still rushing when we ought to linger, being patient when we should insist.

Can I just take an extra moment here? I love that phrasing. So poetic and so exactly right.

I’ve had things pretty good. My trials have been trials, but they have been small trials. And for that, I am exceedingly grateful. I am not afraid of growing slowly (at least, not in my best moments). No experience is ever wasted, as I was always telling myself in Korea. I do know things now, many valuable things, that I hadn’t known before.

And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.

Now I know:
Don’t be scared.
Granny is right,
Just be prepared.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not.

May we know the difference between nice and good. May we learn to linger and insist appropriately. May we grow, be it ever so slowly and circuitously, into more compassionate, wise, and humble human beings. And may the growing never cease.

Mostly They’re Darked

The school year here is rapidly, terrifyingly, drawing to a close. For me personally, the end of the year doesn’t exactly necessitate any additional work or stress in the way that students and teachers experience it. However, seeing as I will be minus a job in a few short weeks, I have plenty to stress about. The proper phrase is job hunting, but I feel like the anxiety is more like running away from a hunter named Joblessness.

Days here in northern Michigan have lengthened considerably and I do love watching a flaming sunset over the lake. It is very calming and even the veritable hoards of midges cannot lessen my enjoyment of the moment (at least, not too much). I have posted pictures of the Lake Michigan sunsets before so I won’t trouble you now but, rest assured, I am enjoying them as much as I am able.

On the note of pictures, though, I will definitely come through with some cat pics. That’s why you’re here anyway, and I know so many wonderful cats. I also encountered this superb human/cat pair, both of which are very alluring to me.  Can I please move to Australia and travel with that man and his cat?

 

Quite a rogues’ gallery of cuties this week. Love them all. Even the poorly-photographed, screaming Copper. (Copper was one of two cats that I briefly cat-sat last Friday for my neighbor/coworker/friend).

Anyway. I had an interview yesterday, which was a nice change of pace from the usual direct-to-rejection pipeline. I’m not getting my hopes up too high because, you know, I’ve been burned before. But it was nice. Made me feel valued. It annoys me that some part of me derives feelings of value from a corrupt and corrupting system of morally bankrupt capitalism but what is a poor twenty-something gay to do.

As an aside, I kind of hate the construction behind ‘twenty-something’ but whatever, I am what I am.

Thinking about places I might be going. And having truly, absolutely no idea where those places might be. It’s easy to get discouraged. Even with the giddy high of having an interview with a cool place, immediately after I felt like I might have squandered the opportunity. Not that it went poorly, but it just didn’t seem like I made myself exemplary and so might not get this cool job. Too early to say, but it just was sad to take a second and go over the 48 hours between confirmation of the interview to its completion: ecstatic to morose. Yech.

I have quoted before Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go and I would like to do so once more today. Near-ish to the beginning of the book, as you’re getting on your way with brains in your head and feet in your shoes, there is a brief warning about some of the places you might encounter. The narrator says:

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you can sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?

I feel a bit like I’ve wandered into some town way out there in an unknown land. Walking through the gates, seeing window after window darked. Not even because they are paths that are closed to me, but more because they are just obscured. And in that darkened obscurity, I very much feel like I might sprain both my elbow and shin.

There is no question, for me, about daring to stay out or go in. I am not staying here and so, necessarily, I am going. The question is also only partially whether to turn right-and-three-quarters or maybe not quite. There’s only so much I can do, applying to jobs. I feel justified, having this education and experience and living in this current economic climate, not taking a minimum-wage-ish position. But maybe it’ll come to that while I move somewhere and continue applying. Let’s hope not.

I think what I’m trying to say is that things are a little bit scary, but I’ll survive. The streets are not marked. The windows are not lighted. But the streets and the windows are there all the same and I’m learning that, while I may not be too smart to go down any not-so-good street, the not-so-good streets that I’m faced with don’t have to be doom, gloom, and slump.

Sometimes, it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness, as they say. But sometimes, I think it might be better to step into the darkness exactly as it is and find that maybe it’s not so bad. That’s the hope, at least.

 

There’s Only One Way to Find Out

I contend that one of the chief pleasures of life is reading in the sun. For me, it is a joy and satisfaction that few activities can achieve. A uniquely gratifying way to pass time, and an occupation which I treasure long after it is finished.

I know I’ve talked about it before but somehow I’m startled over and over again. There is a true contentment that settles deeply in my inmost parts when I am reading in the sun. A park, a bench, some shade, some breeze… It’s almost more happiness than I feel a right to. Profoundly pleasurable.

It has taken longer than it should have, but this week spring finally got itself together enough to allow that and I am all over it. I was so all over it on Tuesday, in fact, that I got pretty sunburned. Which isn’t ideal. But it was a cost incurred in the course of a supremely good pursuit, so I’m dealing just fine.

I do not know what I am doing with my life. Pretty much everything about my future is currently up in the air. But then I have a day like Tuesday, when I spend most of my hours engaged in what some might describe as frittering but I would describe as necessary. Yes, there were more productive (essentially so) things that I could have done. Should have, even.

But I will not apologizing for frittering away my time in such a fashion, even though I am in a bit of a press.

Putting in the effort is necessary. Things generally haven’t just happened to me, I’ve had to go out and see what there is to see, and I expect that trend to continue since I would like to have another job (sooner rather than later). However.

Some opportunities should not be missed. A Tuesday afternoon getting sunburned while reading. A Wednesday evening baking cinnamon raisin quick bread. A Thursday morning publishing an obscure blog. Without these things, even in the midst of the urgent press of ‘what I’m doing with my life,’ I think the uncertainty of it would all be a little too much to bear.

It’s true that I have no clue what is coming down the track at me, a few short weeks away. But, as I am often fond of saying, there’s only one way to find out. Stride into the future and live it.

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Carpe archa, seize the box.

Avatar Aang

My sister requested more cats and it would be unforgivably remiss of me if I did not comply. Here are a couple pictures of her precious ones. How are cats so cute. I for real cannot handle it. Yes and forever.

If you have not seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, I highly recommend it. Both because it is, in my humble estimation, deeply excellent, and also because this post is going to have pretty much the largest spoiler. You have been warned.

The show is great because it’s a goofy children’s show that takes place in fantasy land. But at the same time, it takes on a lot of heavy issues. Not just things like bad parents and awkward relationships. Literal, actual genocide. The whole premise of the title comes from the fact that all the other airbenders were massacred in a war a century ago. It may not look at genocide as deeply as an adult show could, but it definitely doesn’t shy away from it.

This week, I had a sudden and intense urge to rewatch the grand finale of the series. It’s a four-part, hour and a half, episode that includes the culmination of all the storylines and a happy little denouement. In particular, I was interested in seeing again the titanic battle between Fire Lord Ozai and Aang. Because of how it plays out.

And here’s the spoiler (that really makes sense, in the quasi-Disney children’s entertainment sort of way): Aang doesn’t kill Ozai. They spend three seasons trying to come up with a way around murder and come up empty. Aang asks a bunch of his past lives and they were all telling him to do it. Even the peaceful airbending Avatars. Something about needing to sacrifice your own spiritual wellbeing for the sake of the world.

But Aang, this random twelve year old gentle soul, refuses. When it comes down to it, even in the midless Avatar state, he does not kill. He does something probably no human has ever done–he takes away Ozai’s bending. He’s not just thought outside the box, he’s done what had been heretofore impossible, unthinkable, and unknowable. But he did it, and it was perfectly executed (pardon the pun).

I just think it’s kind of an incredible feat. Not just the act itself, which is obviously avatar-awesomeness. But that someone was so utterly convinced all life was sacred that, even on the brink of essentially the end of the world, he refused to bend the principle. Not saying that we should precisely follow in his footsteps.

But it is a heartening reminder that principles matter, integrity matters, even when it seems like they’re barely the dust on a villain’s shoes.

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I have been enjoying some lovely days (we’ve had some pretty trash days, too) though for the most part it has remained rather more chilly than I’d prefer. On Sunday, we had surpassing good weather, pure sunny and even getting up above 70. Now, of course, we’re back in the upper 40s, but still some sun mixed in with the rain.

Flowers have been blooming and that has been a great comfort to me in this trying season. Trees haven’t quite gotten the message that they’re meant to have leaves by this point but they’re getting there. Deciduous trees. I know they can’t help it, they were born that way, but couldn’t they just try to be coniferous?

Not much else to say, other than the (apparently, unfortunately) annual cycle of job applications has begun in earnest. So far, I’ve only applied in this country (sad face) but I’m up to seven states. Here’s hoping. I’ve given the Great Lakes a go, let’s see where to next.

Good Laws under a Free Government

This week, I’m just going to do a reading and explication for you, everyone’s favorite pastime! The text is George Washington’s farewell address, when he declined to put himself forward for a third term as president. It is quite lengthy, and written in the high formal style of it’s time. Today, I will quote it liberally and offer my humble thoughts and layman’s translation of sorts. I’ve never tried anything like this, and it’s a weird turn of events for this blog but hey. I will be using the copy of the text from the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale, since they have it online and it was a top Google result. Bear in mind that this truly is very long; I preserve a great deal of block quotes because I love the language, it’s so beautiful.

The first president of this country was a man of his time. There are plenty of things about him that I’m not wild about, to say the least. He is problematic, as is idolization of all founding fathers. However.

He had some excellent ideas which he believed, as far as I can tell, with deep fervor and expressed with timeless eloquence. He sums up what he thinks about the country he helped birth and gives some warnings that everyone promptly ignored. But, as he himself says, they are warnings worth reviewing periodically across the span of history. Here is my attempt to highlight a few of his points.


  • He begins by saying that he’s really pumped to retire and almost did before his second term, but decided that things were in such a delicate state that, when they asked him to stay, he thought he ought. But wow, he’s excited to get out of town.
  • He then proceeds (as, in fact, he does throughout the speech) to indicate that he knows how flawed and imperfect he is saying, “I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable.”
  • He thanks the country for all that it has given him and hopes that whatever good has come out of his presidency, it will be helpful for all future Americans

If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.

  • When things get tricky, and people aren’t thinking clearly because everyone’s so worked up, the support of the people made sure we came out okay

…that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

  • He hopes things go well for the country and that it inspires great things in all countries around the world–to support freedom, wisdom, and happiness
  • He decides to give some advice and hopes people will listen since, as he’s retiring, he doesn’t really have a stake in things
  • He says that unity of government is absolutely essential, and he knows that internal and external forces will work to attack that unity for unsavory reasons. Therefore, we need to keep an eye out and always return to unity as our foundation

watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

  • Citizens, “by birth or choice,” must identify as American over regional identities
    • The North, South, Atlantic, and West are all bound together for each others’ good, don’t let politicians exacerbate/exaggerate/make up regional differences for political gain. National unity is in everyone’s interest
  • The Constitution is great and should reflect, at any given time, the people. The people can and should change it when necessary.

The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.

  • Obey laws. Parties are a “fatal tendency” and obstruct law. Party interests are not the people’s interests. And when parties change power, they disrupt the orderly function of the government.

[parties and factions] put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

    • They may be popular for a moment, but they are never good in the long run

…cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion

  • Be careful about changing the Constitution, but also make sure that the government doesn’t become weak. Liberty requires a government strong enough to make sure that it can protect rights, maintain law, and combat factionalism

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.

  • Parties are bad and, in the end, lead to dictators, basically, because people get tired of the back and forth and grow distrustful of the mechanisms of government
  • Parties might be kind of helpful in monarchies, as people can express themselves, but are entirely bad in democracies
  • People in power need to respect that power and make sure not to expand their spheres beyond their constitutionally designated areas (checks and balances)
  • Government requires morality and morality requires religion
    • This isn’t really a thing but whatever
  • The “general diffusion of knowledge” is absolutely essential. People need to know things to participate in government.
  • Public credit is precious. Use it, but use it wisely

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.

  • He’s really big into neutrality, other than time-limited alliances as necessary.
    • Don’t have countries you hate, don’t have countries you love. Both will make you do stupid stuff. Just be nice to everyone.
  • Be super wary of foreign influence
  • Don’t get involved in foreign wars
    • I’m neither here nor there on this

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

  • I’m going to retire and it’s going to be great

Bringing up Trump and Congressional Republicans at this point seems a little on the nose. And besides, pretty much our entire governmental system would probably be pretty disappointing to President Washington. Like I said, I’m not 100% behind all of his thoughts and everything, but I like much the above. I guess we can only shrug and, to paraphrase another president I like (Teddy Roosevelt), do what we can with what we’ve got where we are.

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.

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.

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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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