The Five Seasons

Autumn has begun. I understand the astronomical, physical, and cultural realities behind the seasons. However, the true seasons do not align perfectly with the way I personally define them. For me, the five seasons of the year are as follows:

  • Autumn starts 1 September and goes to Thanksgiving
  • Winter begins on Thanksgiving and ends at New Year’s
  • New Year’s to the Spring Equinox is just sad
  • Spring is from the equinox to 1 June
  • Summer is 1 June through the end of August

And so, remaining jobless and having reached my self-appointed deadline of applying-only-and-not-working, I am looking to start something–anything–so as to be doing something with my time and also earning money. Lots of waiting, even while I try to fill up the waiting with activity.

Not wild into the idea of still being directionless after the passage of almost two entire seasons since I started applying but what can you do. I feel like I complain rather a lot about my job search which, while valid, is probably a little boring and/or a bit of a downer for most of you. It does occupy a lot of my waking hours but also, it doesn’t really since, you know, it’s not an actual job.

It’s a weird feeling, being certain that I’m kind of waiting in a holding pattern but also knowing clearly that time marches on, as it is ever wont to do. It’s September already! And not only that, but like almost a full week into September. What happened to August? Though I have been able to still read outside, it has been somehow diminished, knowing that it is officially (according to  me) fall now.

Anyway, I did get to spend some time with a neighborhood kitty this past weekend. No idea what name they prefer, but they did respond to Toast. Such a long, pretty kitty.

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That was a fun time, who doesn’t like a random, affectionate kitty wandering up to spend an afternoon with you.

I don’t know what seasonal favorites may or may not be heading your way in the coming weeks and months. I don’t know whether you revel in seasonal changes or if you’re hoping summer has a long, slow demise. Regardless, though, I hope that you are able to face the September air with fortitude, knowing that time and tide wait for no one.

Since I’ve got plenty of waiting on my plate as it is, I’ll not hold you up any further and end this post here.

Michigan is Happening

So maybe it’s me, but 20 October seems pretty early to have your first snowfall. Driving a van full of students back from the mall, in the dark, in the snow-then hail-then snow is not ideal, I’ll tell you. Doing it in October is just that much more disheartening. Well, maybe that’s not it exactly. Because I am, obviously, excited about the snow. Snow. What’s not to love. But I’ve been warned so many times about the kind of winter that I’m likely to have here in northern Michigan than I’m leery of it starting so early.

The next morning, driving to church in Traverse City, I saw areas of nothing, areas of dusted shoulders and fence posts, and areas of true coatings of snow. It’s all gone now, we had temperatures in the mid-fifties this week. But we also had days with highs right about 40°. Seems a little bit like that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where they skip a season. Spring turned to summer, summer gave autumn a miss and went straight on to winter. Something like that.

Though, in Michigan’s defense, there have been some tremendous fall colors. It’s a genre of natural beauty that doesn’t typically hold much sway with me but I’m just as able as the next guy to acknowledge the magic of a tree lifting its unburning fire toward a chill, sere blue sky.

In any case, time marches forward and the seasons continue on their imperturbable rounds. Nothing else much to report on the life front. We’re up to five students (five!) in our house, so that’s been a development. Manageable and that’s pretty much all I have to say about it.

Another side to this job, the side that sort of compensates for what I expect could well be a disastrous winter, is the sunsets. Part of my job involves walking around campus in the evenings and that includes checking the beach on Lake Michigan. I often go after dinner. I often see spectacular sunsets. Case in point, earlier this week (though well after the snow experience in Traverse City):

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It did also start to sprinkle right as I went down the boardwalk and, just behind me taking that picture, was a lovely and pretty clear rainbow catching the last rays of the day. Just incredible.

Michigan nature, as I’ve said, isn’t quite my usual but it is very good nonetheless.

 

Doughnuts, Sweaters, and Being Together

So the super important news of the week is that the Paris Baguette across from work, which has been closed all month, is finally open again!! It’s been magically transformed into a Paris Baguette Café which means I’m not sure what. But it looks very fancy and shiny and new (but also mostly the same). Yesterday was the grand reopening and everything in the store was 20% off, obviously I bought everything in the store. It really was almost exactly the same but still. One new product I saw was blueberry doughnuts so I got one and it was delicious (though it kind of made me miss Tesco).

It was truly a hardship while it was closed. There’s another one ten or fifteen minutes down the street near my grocery store, but I only ever go there on Saturday, it’s such a burden.

Okay, that is all the first-world complaining I have for this week, promise.

I would like to share a really precious picture of Camaro who just wonders why life gotta do her like that.

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Work continues to be pretty generally fine. I covered one of the three hour sessions of the extra course I taught last term and, while the class itself was fine, it did renew my gratitude for being free from teaching that this term. We’re also having a little Halloween poster contest for the whole hagwon, a fun diversion for them instead of stressing over the test. Some of them are taking it very seriously which is always nice.

My students are pretty good, several of them are definite favorites. Teaching higher levels is a major plus for me and hopefully I’ll finish strong next term with similar classes (and I’d love to have a bunch of my students again). Next week is the level-up test which means there’s only one more month left in this term.

Sweater weather is finally here, too. A great relief after long-enduring days of too much heat. It hasn’t been hot hot for a while, and we long ago left the humidity behind, but it was getting pretty late for an actual start to fall. So I’m very much enjoying wearing all my sweaters again, giving them some fresh air after too long stowed away in the closet.

Not much else has been going on this week. Doing some reading. Doing a lot of waiting because I’m on hold at the library for like twenty thousand books and it’s taking forever. Also, I have not suddenly become fluent in Korean, I’m referring to the Pierce County Library which has on online lending system for Ebooks that I’ve been using.

Also, how crazy is it that Martin Luther nailed up his theses 500 years ago? Five hundred years of protest. Maybe next week I’ll have some thoughts about it, I didn’t realize that it was actually on 31 October, just sort of interesting because, like, Halloween and stuff. You know. Not feeling eloquent today, and feeling generally lazy, so that’s all I’ve got on that but there is plenty to be said, maybe next week.

I don’t have much to say this week in terms of discussion topics, but I did have a little moment of almost déjà vu. Did you ever see those Android commercials from several years ago? With the animals playing together? I do happen to use an Android phone but regardless of that I really love the slogan for that ad campaign: Be together, not the same.

That’s my closing thought for today.

Equinoctial Ensorcellments

I must admit that I had to look up the adjectival form of equinox. But now I’ve done it so you don’t have to. Now that that’s out of the way.

So the equinox is actually a moment, not a relative phenomenon. Unlike something like an eclipse that moves around as things move around, the equinox refers only to the equator and so only happens once each time. Which is a poor explanation for why I’m used to it being on the 22nd but this year it’s on the 23rd. Because I’m in Korea. And so it’s in the early morning of the 23rd while most of the world is still on the 22nd.

I don’t really care much about it, but it’s a bit of an interesting fact. (Also an interesting fact, the meaning of ‘factoid’ is an interesting fact that is actually false). Ancient peoples, I’m sure you know, often put great emphasis in the various celestial comings and goings and celebrated them in many ways. In Korea, more concerned with the moon than the sun historically, the primary autumn festival is coming quickly upon us in the next couple weeks. More on that as it comes.

The equinox itself is kind of a fun thing, the true beginning of fall (though I often feel like the equinoxes and solstices should mark the middle or like, one third of their respective seasons but whatever). I don’t really have anything mystical to say, but I wanted an alliterative title so I had to say something mysterious. Something evocative of druids or ritual sacrifice or ancient, harvest-helping dances. Anyway, I think that’s enough of that.

Nothing much is happening in my life. Except I feel like I’m having a really good week. My week itself hasn’t been anything particularly pleasant or good, but I’ve just been feeling it, you know? Most of the time, at least. I’ve gotten a couple errands done in the past week or two and so that’s nice. Bigger errands, the sort that have been hanging over my head for a while.

I’ve been reading some too, of course, and that’s been nice. But mostly things have been pretty humdrum here.

Thinking about the equinox, while I’m here, I might as well say a few words. Equal night and all that. My halfway point in Korea wasn’t actually that long ago and I guess I’ll take a moment to examine that.

When I tell people here that I’m planning on staying for a year, they typically say something about that’s how they started and here they are five years later. And I’m just like, no. Maybe it’s the mindset I came here with (though I’m not sure how exactly I’d define that) or maybe it’s just different strokes for different folks, you know? But I’m not cut out for Korea. My time here has not been bad. The food, as long as I avoid the spicy things (as difficult as that often is), is good. My coworkers are cool. Places I visit are cool. But it took essentially zero time for me to decide that I wasn’t going to stay for two years as had been my initial hope (because two years looks nicer on a résumé than one).

I think I’ve taken to teaching fairly well, especially since I don’t have to come up with a curriculum or anything.

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Doesn’t she just look like the epitome of cozy? It’s possible she’s trying to actually turn into a pillow, she moves about as often and she’s just about as squishy.

And with that incredibly sweet kitty, I’ll leave you for the week. The beginning of the end of the year is upon us. It will be November, methinks, before we know it.

A Heart of Many Places

Today has been a day, and this week has been a week. It’s excellent that I write a blog. I’ve done my sort of anguished decompressing over today already, so now I can share the happy kind with you. I’m thankful for a house to come home to.

Also, just interrupted by a housemate who, what horror, has made too much pancake batter. So I’m going to have a pancake. Much more befitting the mood of Thanksgiving than some of the darker thoughts I thought today. I’m thankful for pancakes. Also, pie.

Firstly, I’m just loving the decorations all around town, especially around Grafton Street and Temple Bar. They’re just so festive, and have been so for a while but I feel that I can share them now without any backlash since it’s after Thanksgiving– a temporal decoration marker that they lack here. Anyway, here are some mediocre pictures of lovely Dublin at Christmastime. I’m thankful for cheer and goodwill toward men.

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Monday was the dress rehearsal for our performance of the Messiah which we then performed on Tuesday and Wednesday, both lovely performances if I do say so myself. It was, firstly, a lot of fun and a new experience for me and, to some extent, I didn’t even care how we sounded. On Wednesday, a number of my classmates were kind enough to grace the performance with their presence which was just lovely of them. It’s so much more meaningful when you’re performing for people you know. There’s much more heart, at least, regardless of the sound. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to have them there and, in lieu of flowers, they got me a little kitten who is the most precious thing in this world. I’ve been incredibly blessed by this awesome group of people. They’re my favorites. I’m thankful for friends near and far.

IMG_20151126_202723  This is Freddy (Handel) and he is my new best friend. I’m thankful for cats near and far.

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Also, more cat updates. The new cat is living with my sister for the present. His name is Bullseye.

 

This morning bright and early (a bit of a difficulty after the lateness of the performance yesterday) I gave a group presentation on EAL (English as an Additional Language) in the Irish education system–a topic I found really interesting– and the presentation went over famously. We were the first group, and I think we set the bar pretty high (sorry other groups who have to go after us. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you). I’m thankful for education and all the opportunities I’ve been given.

Aside: the pancake has arrived. Have I’m mentioned how thankful I am for pancakes? And wonderful housemates?

After the class with the presentation, I went and had some pumpkin pie (and an awesome pumpkin swirl cheesecake) courtesy of the Global Room for international students. The whipped cream left something to be desired, but the whole occasion was delightful. Then I just had a leisurely afternoon until the next class reading inspirational quotations and poetry aloud (either to my friends’ chagrin or pleasure, I wasn’t really paying attention). I’m thankful for pie. Also, literacy.

Then we had Research Methods which I will not discuss so as to stay positive. I’m thankful for teachers who are passionate about their subjects.

Then, in true Thanksgiving spirit, I video called my family. We’re spread across thousands of miles, but united in heart. Super cheesy, but true. At one point, the iPad with my image and voice was passed through the dining room, kitchen, and living room to ensure that everyone got to say hi and I got to see everyone. I felt like Zach from Bones in that Christmas episode where they’re trapped in the lab and his whole family comes to the door and they chat through the glass. And I mean that in the best way. It was really heartwarming even just to be able to see my family for a moment. I’ve haven’t been in Ireland that long, really. I was in England longer. But it was such a joy to see everyone and be able to take part, in some small way, in the festivities. I think it’s different because I was in England over the spring. I didn’t miss any major holidays. And the point of Thanksgiving is being together–with friends, with family, with friends who are basically family–just together. And I got a bit of that today. So I’m thankful for family and getting to be together.

That about concludes the fun happenings of this week. It was pretty busy for me (I’ve often said that my threshold for busyness is relatively low) but it was also just a really lovely one. In The Geography of Bliss, writer Eric Weiner says, “Some places are like family. They annoy us to no end, especially during the holidays, but we keep coming back for more because we know, deep in our hearts, that our destinies are intertwined.” And so it is. I’m thankful for family with whom any annoyance is still love, and that my heart can live in so many places.

And, as a sort of finale to this month of poetry, I thought I’d include one of my own compositions. (Oh my goodness, he’s going to share one of his awful teenage angst poems. Please let me die…). While I share such a sentiment which will be common among you, I’m sure (no shame), I’m going to share anyway. I think it really fits with the autumnal theme and I’m actually really proud of it, as opposed to most my my actual teenage angst poetry. And, for future reference, I did write this while a teenager, but I was in college and it was for a class. Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t really care what you think, in the end, because this is my blog and I do what I want. So there it is. I leave you this day with a thankful heart and some musings on the season of decay. I’m thankful for small, soft things that comfort.

Autumn Rhapsody

I open the box of sepia photographs,
crinkled like dry leaves in a cold November alley.
Through the narrow attic windows, a mysterious
darkness creeps, echoing the sigh of gas-lamps which
illuminate quiet lanes shaded by trees of propitious girth.
There is no traffic at this late hour, bringing a damp hush
to my end of the street. The lamp on the walk flickers
and summons spirits of streets long past, silent faces
near forgotten highways or on a trolley going down to the shore.
The gentle piano of a chill autumn night sends the whispered
strains of a nocturne for the rain through welcoming windows,
translated by the years as muffled chords from a distant radio.
Dim shadows of barren trees recall sumptuous ballrooms with
graceful dancers dressed in exquisite splendor; a quivering
branch an elegant leg, silk clinging to flesh long since
returned to dust. A solemn exhalation, the breeze brings back
breath to figures once friends and lovers, who lived lives
now only remembered on nights like this, when time’s golden lens
lends its light to such reminiscences. Filaments of tender thought
tremble in air roused by the stiff wind outside, whose ageless
blowing never remembers and never forgets. Outside the world’s
dim electric glow, trembling drops descend through darkness to
swell some great expanse of somnolent water. It is as though
a great clock is turning backward, and the rain is like remembering,
a phantasmal pattering on the inside of my eyes.
The musty air is an ocean lapping against memory, stirring thoughts
and ladies’ skirts and men’s overcoats, melding
into the soft pearls falling outside on my weary city,
flowing in rivulets across the pavement toward the storm drain—
a Lethe for our age.