Such Sunrises as Have Not Yet Been Seen

Happy New Year! It’s 2019, for good or ill. I had a pretty low-key celebration but I’m all about that so it worked. I hope the year is off to a good start for you but even if you’re in a tough place, it’s only January– plenty of time for things to turn around. See what I did there? Best of both perspectives.

The past year, as I said a bit last week, has been a bit of a whirlwind. It didn’t usually feel like that–the pace often seeming to be more like molasses–but I was on three continents! Two of them for quite extended periods. Five countries. Two jobs. There was a lot going on. I don’t really feel the need to reflect on it all that much again but I couldn’t avoid having a bit of a new year look back.

And once again, not a particularly clear idea of where I’ll be this time next year but whatever. It’ll be fine.

Before I go any further, it is of course important to start this twelvemonth with some very cute cats. Taking advantage of their uncle and aunt cats’ tree gifted to them.

Now that you’ve gotten a bit of a kitty fix, I will also share my baking adventure. Didn’t do a whole lot this Christmas but I did, just on Monday, make my first Yule log. Simple conception, kinda tricky execution, wonderful finished product, if I may say so. The recipe told us not to worry about the cracks, they add character, and I concur. A definite snow-dusted log of happiness. Such a lovely, airy, seasonal kind of dessert. I’d strongly recommend giving it a try. So long as you’re game to get stiff peaks in your egg whites.

Yes, it was very delicious.

I’m flying back to Michigan tonight, ensuring an adequate buffer between my return and the return of students on Monday. Plenty of time to readjust to Eastern Time, reacclimatize to the cold, and mentally prepare for the next six months. Yech, let’s not think that far ahead yet. June, what’s that.

Anyway. I’ve said before that I’m not really into resolutions and, surprise, I remain uninterested. All I’ll say, I guess, is that I hope each day to love more people more.

And this title, what’s with that. I don’t know, it sounded kind of poetic at the time and you know I’m a sucker for the poetic. But it’s true: each day is a day that has never happened before. Every moment of a moment of fresh opportunities.

Even when life is pretty mundane and pretty monotonous–that precise moment has never happened before, if only by reason of the date of its occurrence. And shouldn’t that be something to savor? I’m no advocate for change in life because change is hard but newness, that’s something I can get behind. Not necessarily to do new things or go new places, though those are good as well. But to do the same things in the same places and still feel that they can be new.

It is good to cherish the new, I think, and good to recognize the new in the familiar. Value time itself; it will not come again.

The sunrise can be beautiful for its color and majesty, of course. And there’s something incredible unique about each one, from each place you may stand to view it, for each second it lasts. Not something that can truly be shared, even with the most talented photographer.

Time is a weirdo so we should probably live and love in the moment. Each one is precious and can take you anywhere. I’ve no idea what adventures may await me but I’m confident that they are indeed awaiting. I’ll keep an eye out and let them take me by surprise all the same.

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Really About the Same

If you are not familiar with the artist Mary Engelbreit, I highly recommend her work, it’s playful and thoughtful and beautiful. She often accompanies her pictures with quotations or aphorisms that add greatly to the scene she depicts. One of my favorite of her works shows a traveler having just passed a fork in the road, walking down one of the paths. The sign at the fork points that direction and says YOUR LIFE and the other direction is labeled NO LONGER AN OPTION. The banner above the picture reads DON’T LOOK BACK.

This week had a lovely start at the Maritime Parade, a seasonal fixture of Gig Harbor. It’s officially summer, basically. Though we feared rain or at least overcast, the weather turned out to be warm and sunny, which was fabulous. It wasn’t much as parades go but it was fun and my brother was marching with the high school band so that was nice.

In the intervening days, I had several opportunities for catching up arise all at once. I felt very grateful to have time with old friends, catching up and passing the time. Waffles were made, games were played, and years worth of lives were recounted. Sometimes the routes we’ve taken surprise even ourselves. On that note.

One of my biggest poetry pet peeves (because that’s definitely a category of pet peeves that I have) is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Robert Frost is in my top three poets of all time (with Edna St. Vincent Millay and Emily Dickenson) but come on. I cannot pretend to know exactly what he was thinking when he wrote it, but there is substantial evidence in the poem to support my titular thesis about that particular work: he did not, in fact, take the road less traveled because “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.”

This, I think, is the crux of the narrator’s point: it does not matter whether you actually took the path that fewer took, it matters mostly that you chose a path. The title, you’ll note, is not The Road Less Traveled (as some erroneously believe), it is The Road Not Taken. The important point is that there will always be a road (correction: many roads) that we do not take. However we may justify the choices that we make for ourselves, good or poor, the important thing is that we chose. One cannot go back.

I could have gone to Columbia to study Russia instead of Trinity to study… whatever it was that I studied there. I could have stayed at home until I found something a little more suitable than a job in Korea which, to be honest, I did not really want. I could have come out a long time ago and probably saved myself a lot of trouble. I could have pursued any number of opportunities and avenues and possibilities and skills. But I did not and here I am.

A friend recently told me in a moment of incredibly clear and concise insight that my life has basically been a series of random choices with little coherent meaning. Except he said it in a kind way.

“I think your problem is that even though you have done a ton of incredible things it has usually not really been part of a plan beyond going abroad which means even when you do talk about it you feel insecure because when you have to explain why you do anything even to yourself you know the only real answer is that it is because you had to do something.”

A fairly accurate assessment of most of the choices I’ve made as an adult. It’s not even a bad thing, I don’t feel like I’ve made a series of mistakes (most of the time). I have directed the course of my life with very little thought to a grand plan which I sort of thought was going to be a plan when I was in high school. But at the same time, it’s not like I’m thirty and have been working as a bartender with broken dreams for the past ten years. I have actually done stuff with my life, plan notwithstanding.

My life would be very different if I had made different choices at some key intersections. I feel, though, that the roads would end up being really about the same. Experiences and things would be different but my general, overall existence would be approximately comparable. Having given life a go in a number of varying contexts, I think I really could have made most of those decisions work. I think I would be okay.

If happiness and life were simple, I should probably be seriously getting down to work being a Croatian orchardist. But they are not. So I’ll continue to make decisions that are just this side of random and have faith that mistakes are mistakes but mistaken choices are less mistakes and more just different paths that, in the end, are probably not that different.

All of this is to say: I have received and accepted a job offer. It is, needless to say, not quite what I had in mind. This post has dragged on long enough or I would provide some more details.

As it is, suffice to say that it is in Michigan. So there’s that.

I am Very Blessed by Having Lagoons in My Life

On Tuesday, I had an unexpected and delightful adventure. A friend invited me on a picnic (though it wasn’t particularly picnicy weather, it wasn’t supposed to rain and that’s good enough). She told me where to meet, about ten minutes from my house along a random stretch of road. We parked in a little gravel patch on the side of the road and I followed her–and the snacks–into this sketchy little trail next to a power pole.

Surprise, there was this whole park place there. It was just a single trail, plenty of nature about, but it was a real thing. Not sketchy. A few minutes in, we encountered a fairly new-looking State Parks sign telling us not to leave trash. Huh. We kept going, following a teensy little stream toward the water. And surprise again, it was the beach! We saw a few little ruins among the trees (research after returning home revealed that this land was purchased for a state park a while ago but that it hasn’t actually been developed as a park yet–it doesn’t even have a name!). It was quite a place.

My friend and I had our little picnic–which is to say, we ate some snacks sitting on a blanketed driftwood log. Then we just wandered around the beach and lagoon for a while. The sun tried valiantly to shine, so it oscillated between a little chilly and relatively pleasant. I got a little wet trying to hop around the lagoon but it was worth it.

We spent quite a while designing, on a whim, our own Hogwarts-style school for the Pacific Northwest. We settled on a migratory island, very outdoorsy, very environmental, very involved with muggles (or no-majs or whatever). Instead of Ollivanders, prospective students simply walk along a beach until their driftwood wand catches their eye. We came up with all sorts of details, 10/10 would attend. Would definitely write that series if ever I became an actual author and I wasn’t infringing on intellectual property. All in all, a very pleasant day.

Suffice to say that I am very grateful for this place in which I was raised. The trees, the sun, the water, the rain, the mountains, the moss. The lagoons, even when I get wet without wanting to be.

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Unrelatedly this week, I was thinking again for a sec about potential. I’ve said before that I don’t really like the idea of potential, it doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t think that it offers a great way to look at life. For me, at least. But I wasn’t sure exactly what I thought did. Saturday morning shower thoughts–it came to me in a snappy little phrase, which is always helpful. Not potential but fulfillment.

I have the potential to learn Arabic but not learning Arabic doesn’t mean I’m wasting my life. When I was at Target, it wasn’t that I was squandering potential but that I was unhappy. I felt undervalued and underutilized and generally underwhelmed by life. But if, for example, I was working in a podunk little bookstore in the middle of nowhere, making hardly any money, some might say that I was wasting my potential. But if it made me happy, if I felt valuable and fulfilled, then that’s all that really matters, yeah?

Not a monumental breakthrough, lots of people talk about fulfillment. It’s just a useful thing for me. Now I can put a name to something (embarrassing that it took me this long to come up with ‘fulfillment’) instead of just saying potential is a dumb concept. And, granted, this is how my brain works. You think about whatever works for you.

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Anyway, this month we’re back with random musical recommendations from Keegan. For now, I’ll return to contemporary, non-choral music. You probably have heard at least a couple of these. Selections range from old classics to top 40 to Eurovision entries (say what you will about that). I actually put my full list into a randomizer so I have nothing to do with the order, it’s a surprise. Give one or two a listen–especially if it’s not one you’re familiar with. Without further ado.

  1. Running on Air – Nathan Trent
  2. Boys – Charli XCX
  3. Hold Each Other – A Great Big World
  4. River – Charlie Puth
  5. Never Apart – Benny
  6. Пьяное солнце – Alekseev
  7. North – Sleeping at Last
  8. I Was Wrong – The Oh Hellos
  9. The Cure – Lady Gaga
  10. There for You – Martin Garrix & Troye Sivan

Santa Fe

Surprise surprise, this week involved a great deal of doing nothing and so I’m already back to the super boring posts. Quite a letdown after Australia and New Zealand, but che sera sera.

I did, this week, finally finish a series that I’ve been reading. A nine book saga, it was a trashy gay FBI romance and I’d say each book was worse than the last but it’s simply not possible. They were absolutely overflowing with cliché and cheesy lines, scenes, and plot points. It was unreal. If you really want to know, message me and I’ll tell you but I wouldn’t otherwise recommend them so no title for you.

Obviously, I still read all nine and enjoyed them. Though they were not emotionally draining like a lot of books that I read, I did get caught up in them and had to put them down occasionally because my feelings were getting a little out of hand. Things were also easier to deal with because I had absolute certainty that there would be a happy ending (partially because I asked my sister and partially because no way would books like this not have a happy ending).

Nine books involved quite a bit of the two main characters’ lives, though it started relatively late age-wise. Plenty of FBI-related action and twists. Eventual marriage (which was precious). Even retiring and opening a little bookshop with their apartment above (the literal epitome of precious even though it was in Baltimore and not Croatia). Plus cats and the CIA. Something for everyone.

Escapism is such a great word. And a great concept. Even when you’re escaping your own problems to deal with other people’s and theirs are much worse. I mean, I get tremendously emotionally involved with my books, even the bad ones, but it feels so right to have these fictional lives to deal with instead of whatever mundane complexities I’ve got going. I love the heartbreak and trauma and all of it, though sometimes I need a nice ending wrapped up so completely and satisfyingly.

It just feels nice to read some books that are just nice, you know? Many other books I read have happy endings, of course, but it feels so good to have everything so unrealistically pat with a bow on top. I’m already feeling a little nuts being at home–anxious to get out and anxious about having so little willpower to do anything that will help me get out (mind you, I am applying to jobs, I just feel like I’m not doing enough and I’ll be here much longer than I want to).

Whenever the subject of me ‘getting out’ comes up, I feel a little guilty. There’s nothing (much) wrong with here. Many people I care about very much are here. I can’t really explain it, other than encountering other people who just know exactly what I’m talking about without explanation. I’ve just got to get out and the feeling’s stronger now than ever. But that means back to the horrible task of begging for rejection in the teensy hope that someone will eventually say yes. The same task that threw me to Korea.

So those books were a bit of a turn away from the doom and gloom in the more surface-level, essential role of entertainment as escapism. Because, bombs and serial killers and drug cartels notwithstanding, you end up with a great husband, a cozy bookstore, and maybe a few black market orchids. And cats, did I mention the cats?

Here’s hoping we all get a little bit of the escape we need this week, whatever its guise.

The Literal, Figurative Shire

Because last week’s post was just a laundry list of fun things I did in Sydney, I thought I’d change it up a touch this week. I have just a few sections with observations mixed in with activities.

Concerning nature:
I will never not be obsessed with fern trees. They are everywhere and I love them. I could almost convince myself that I’m in Ireland, or maybe parts of England, but then I see a grove of fern trees or a field of pampas grass or a stand of palms. It’s very dinosaur-y. Haven’t encountered a lot of animals but I’m hoping the South Island will have some in store for us. Mostly kiwis. So far, it’s been pretty exclusively cows and sheep. The sheep thing about New Zealand is totally true, not that I’m complaining.

The weather has been mostly good. Apparently, the sun here is especially intense, so we’ve had our bouts with sunburns and all that. Recovered or recovering at this point, we’ll see how the next week treats us in that regard. Recently, it’s been quite rainy but nothing that we can’t handle. Besides, the low misty clouds make the mountains unbelievably magical. Also, the ocean is a very pleasing color.

Concerning the landscape:
Lots of green hills. Not the rolling kind like I saw in Devon, a bit more rugged like around Galway. My sister described it aptly as some strange combination of Ireland and Hawaii. Definitely bears a strong resemblance to Ireland with palms and volcanoes. But whereas Ireland seemed to work really hard to be green, like the land was strained to its utmost limits producing that rich emerald, the countryside here looks just easier . I don’t know if it’s the stronger sun, the awesome volcanic soil, or what. But the green here is easy. I would describe Ireland as ‘verdant’ but New Zealand as ‘lush.’

Except for the barren volcano parts. Which, when we did a section of the Tongariro Crossing, were alpine and ghostly and awe-inspiring.

We’ve visited many waterfalls, all incredible and jungle-y. We stopped for a swim in a thermal stream which was relaxing and cool, made more so by the rain and thunder.
We spent a quiet afternoon on the beach, reading, while Thomas tried to surf having watched one instructional YouTube video.

Driving this afternoon to Wellington, we encountered a great deal more of what I want to call heath, though I’m not certain it’s accurate. Heather, low shrubs, and mountain-y hills. Beautiful.

Concerning adventures:
We walked and tubed through the Waitomo glow worm caves, which were incredible. It wasn’t extreme or anything, but it was fun to get all suited up for a fairly lengthy sojourn. The little maggoty constellations were made a little more mystifying and ethereal for me because I wasn’t wearing my glasses, courtesy of persistent and strong humidity.

Thomas pressured Kaitlin into trying bungee jumping for the first time in Taupo. Into a river. They both seemed to enjoy it though, certainly a rush if nothing else (though not the kind of rush I’m interested in chasing). There was also a cat at the bungee place, they seemed cool.

Concerning entertainment:
There is a TV channel called Giggle and it is just quick, like five second ads, sandwiched between little animated memes and dad jokes. Also, saw the official world’s coolest McDonald’s in Taupo.

Concerning hobbits:
On Wednesday evening, I had the distinct privilege to visit the Hobbiton movie set. Though most of the North Island that has so far been in evidence strongly resembles the Shire, it was amazing to see door after round door built into the hills. We toured the grounds, rebuilt for the Hobbit movies, and then had a fantastical feast at the Green Dragon. Just… a truly incredible time. It rained heavily, lightly, and not at all in random cycles, but it was warm enough that it didn’t detect one iota from the tremendous atmosphere. Definitely an experience to remember, the inevitable kitschy bits included.

We arrived in Wellington this afternoon and, being rather tired from our late night at the Green Dragon, didn’t do a whole lot of exploring. Even so, I feel pretty confident in saying that I would definitely be okay living here. Auckland, definitely not. But Wellington, or some small town in the countryside, yes. Yes. Yes.

Everything has been such a whirlwind and at the same time incredibly relaxing. This trip has surpassed my already high expectations and is, even though I’m typically uncomfortable with absolutes, probably my favorite ever. It’s just stunning, and it’s not over yet.