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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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.

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…

 

 

Dobrodošli u Veljaču

Sometimes, I recall that many people live their whole lives without seeing snow. And while at this point in this Michigan winter, I’m a little bit over it, I still see incredible beauty in it that isn’t comparable to anything else. An untouched field of newly fallen snow is a wonder. A drift with little bird tracks crossing it is a wonder. A green bough weighed down by a blanketing, yet unbroken, is a wonder. Ponderous, aimless flakes falling from a dark sky are wonders.

These are just some snow thoughts to start us out this week because we remain deeply in winter here. And back home, they’re getting a little taste as well. I don’t want to be one of those people who shames them for how little snow it really is, and how warm the weather relatively is, but the facts remain–it isn’t that much snow and it’s relatively warm compared to our winter so far. Though, I will say, the humidity factor definitely contributes to a cold feeling there even when temperatures indicate otherwise. That lesson was definitely driven home when I lived in Dublin and it was just a cold, cold time while rarely ever touching freezing.

Fact time (you’ll recall that a ‘factoid’ is actually something that is false). Language statistics are particularly difficult to obtain because the numbers are constantly changing and there’s not even a solid definition of what counts as a language. However. Of the ten largest languages by native speakers (generally), seven of them do not use the Latin alphabet: Mandarin, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, and Punjabi. Some of those don’t use an alphabet at all. The three exceptions are Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

As an American and native English speaker, how odd. I am not shocked by this, but it is still sometimes startling to rest upon that little tidbit.

In a similar vein, Croatian does not take its names for months from Latin. Instead, they derive from older Slavic roots correlated to the Gregorian calendar. So February (in German, Februar; in Russian февраль–fevral’) is Veljača–VEL-yah-chah, which likely means ‘the month when the days get longer.’

ANYWAY

There’s your language facts for the week. You know I love stuff like that and I can’t not share. Plus, any excuse to bring up Croatia. Sometimes, I just really get carried away by the amount of trivia in my brain.

I don’t have a whole lot else going on. We have this coming week off, a little intermission between the school’s January term and the start of spring semester. No plans, just some cozy relaxing times, I hope. I may make split pea soup because I accidentally bough split peas instead of lentils back in September and haven’t done anything with them yet (because I don’t really like split pea soup). Maybe I’ll try to bake something a little more exciting than banana bread (though there were claims my most recent batch was the most delicious yet).

It has been a wonder to be able to check in on Lake Michigan through this season of Very Cold Weather. Watching a skin of ice become feet of ice shelf compounded by floating frozen spheres and icy spray. Little ice-lands (you like my island pun?). Strange and foreign and beautiful and mysterious. I’d give you more pictures but none I’ve taken do the least to elucidate the phenomenon.

Instead, I’ll gift you some cats. Because that is a gift for every season.

We did have a sec where everything warmed up pretty thoroughly but then we went right back to the teens and got a little more snow so now everything is just super icy. Which isn’t ideal. But we survive and that’s all there is to it. The days, as the Croatians know, are getting longer.

У природы нет плохой погоды

There is a saying I’ve heard along the lines of “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” This is reflected in the text of a Russian song I had to memorize in Russian class. I now scarcely remember it save the title which translates to ‘nature has no bad weather’ and that it asks us just to be grateful.

Let me tell you. I will not say it is bad, because that is not my place, but it is tough when it is 0°F, fairly windy, and snowing pretty hard. Because that’s where we’ve been for the past week. To be fair, the temperature was only that low yesterday but we’ve been pretty consistently around 8-12° which still isn’t great. And just so much snow.

So much.

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It doesn’t look like much here but that’s just because the beach is super windy

I mean, I say that knowing that there are plenty of places with plenty more snow. Fun fact, the world record for most snow accumulation in a season is Mt Baker in Washington with something in excess of 90′. So our two-ish feet isn’t wild but still, not ideal. And, obviously, Yakutsk exists so we’re never winning any cold contests. But sometimes comparing hardships doesn’t actually make you feel better. You can still get frostbite even when you’re not in the coldest place in the world.

Anyway. That’s about all I want to say about that. Pictures really can’t do the scene or the weather justice. I included the above mostly so I could tell you that there’s a lot of frozen Lake Michigan on my doorstep. Such ice, so freeze, wow.

In other news, there is not a great deal of other news. School was delayed on Friday and canceled twice this week (I know it’s a boarding school but faculty still need to be able to drive in). Which meant a lot of stir-crazy high schoolers on top of the weather, not super awesome but survivable.

I have a couple thoughts for this week. Not philosophical kind of thoughts, just Keegan’s-life kind. But I’ll share them with you.

As today is the last day of January, 2019, I realize how quickly I’m approaching one year from Korea. In fact, when I first thought of it, I was like, it’s been a year since I went to Korea…no wait, two years…whoa. I arrived in Korea on 19 February, 2017. That is almost two years ago. Where did the time go?!?! I still feel like I’ve just gotten back, when in fact I left Korea almost precisely one year and one week from that day.

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Kitty intermission

I’ve talked a little about it before. It’s hard to be moving all the time. It’s hard to set yourself up, learn where to go and how to do and who to see, then leave. And while part of it has been circumstances, of course, it’s always been my choice to leave. To not try to stay, even. I’ve done this to myself. And I will probably do it again and again.

I have found it difficult to get a grip on my life (no wait, that’s not what I meant) when, for example, I can’t even remember which country I lived in for most of 2018. I’m not the most traveled person in the world but I’ve done a fair bit. The people I’ve met and who have been generous of themselves enough to befriend me have been some truly excellent people. But it’s hard when you’re together for a year and then very, very apart. Even with the internet, even when both of you really want to stay in touch, even when you do actually stay in touch. It’s not the same.

Friends are hard. Moving is hard. Not that I’m feeling particularly bad about it at this moment. It was just startling to reflect that it’s been almost a year since my last Paris Baguette, since the last time I heard the Farmer in the Dell-esque metro song, since my last hike to the Kelseys’ apartment to watch a movie. And I still have no idea where I may be a year from now, and no idea what things will strike me as suddenly missing when, a year after deprivation, I finally realize that it’s been a year.

Another odd time-warp: this week marked five years since I took the banner photo of this blog, on a rainy, cold walk along the Jurassic Coast at Exmouth, in the UK. I first went to England five years ago. Huh.

Well. I don’t know that that quite accurately discusses my feelings on the subject but it’s what I’ve got at this juncture. Nature has no bad weather, I’ve heard. Дождь ли снег — любое время года/ Надо благодарно принимать. My time in Korea was some weather. Here in Michigan, we’ve gotten something different. In between and before and beyond, we must receive it gratefully.

Wild the World

Before anything else: I am 2/2 for cute Chicago Airbnb cats, this one was so very bedraggled and old and too precious for this world. We had us a good snuggle.

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This past week, I attended the Q Christian Fellowship annual conference in Chicago. And it was a lot. Basically, a bunch of queer people and allies talking about Jesusy stuff. I’ll tell you a little about it, and my feelings about it, but then I want to take some time to tell you about one of the main things that I heard and want to remember.

So. I drove down Thursday morning, arrived that afternoon, met people and did stuff and kept doing that until Sunday morning when I left. It was pretty non-stop. I didn’t go in with super high expectations for two reasons: I’m not really connected with the organization itself much and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be; and conferences in general aren’t typically a format that I love, especially when I barely know anyone there, because big groups are a strong no from me usually (this conference was ~1,400).

In the event, I was pleasantly surprised by the conference part–the general sessions, the breakouts on various topics, the activities and organized things in general. I wouldn’t say that I was deeply moved by much of it but it was well-done and I enjoyed that part more than I expected to.

The meeting people part was difficult, of course, because that’s how I do, but I think I managed alright. Met in-person a number of people I kind of knew online, so that was nice, and met some other people for the first time in any context. Hopefully, at least a couple of those relationships will continue/grow. It would be really nice to have friends, real friends, that I talk to regularly from this group. Getting there.

I won’t list for you here the topics and specifics of the things that I did, though you’re welcome to ask me. I’ll just take a sec to try and describe how it felt being there and then finish up with the thing I can’t stop thinking about.

It was kind of like Pride–but with an even smaller and more specific affinity group. In other words, there was a shared experience that connected us implicitly with nearly everyone there; that connection is something that I rarely feel in my everyday life and I recognize just how precious it is. To hear the thoughts I’ve thought in my darkest moments spoken by another, to feel a thousand hearts that have hurt and beat and come alive just like mine.

We all live unique experiences, of course, but occasions like that make me feel known and un-alone in deep and powerful ways.


One of the sessions I went to discussed the formation of an ethical framework. The speaker used two lenses to describe how it might be done: bounded or centered. Bounded being where behavior is circumscribed by rules and centered where behavior is evaluated based on core values. She had two metaphors for this. The former is like livestock in pens–moving, eating, drinking is controlled by fences that also protect the livestock from the dangerous wild animals outside. The latter is more like a watering hole–animals come and go, their movement and behavior is unrestrained, but all must come to the water because it is the source of life.

This idea kind of radically changed the way I think about things–not because I was suddenly thinking differently but because I finally had a comprehensive way to think about things I already was moving toward. So that was cool. Lots of things to think about this. I actually drove back on Sunday and immediately went to lead an small group where I kind of co-opted the topic to bring this up, had some great conversations.

But in the midst of explaining this metaphor, the speaker said something that has been echoing in my mind all week.

God is re-wilding the world

I don’t even know if I can tell you how much I am in love with this idea. It builds on so many things I think and feel.

In the most direct context, she was talking about how God is in the work of freeing us from our rigid, legalistic fences and allowing us to live together in diversity by acknowledging the core values we share and the centrality of Jesus to all of us. That’s awesome, especially because the conference itself contains such diversity on pretty much every aspect of life.

But I believe it can be expanded further. Another idea I heard at the conference, as a part of talking about queer theory, is that a queer lens, like feminist and Marxist ones before it, offers a way to interpret the world that upends existing systems of power. Ethics is not the only area in life where people erect fences. There are labels and containment structures all over the place–gender and sexuality, of course, and race and ethnicity and nationality and ability and education and politics and age and socioeconomic status and so on and so on and so on.

Part of the gift that I bring to God’s kingdom and to the world as a queer person is my ability to re-wild some part of the world. I very much think that God is in the business of erasing our artificial and often harmful, if sometimes convenient and useful, barriers. God is not a God of walls. He invites us, ever so gently and graciously, to come drink at the watering hole and welcomes us gladly whenever and however we may arrive there.

I have so many thoughts, metaphorical and concrete, about what this may look like and what it means for us. But I am reminded of something a pastor of mine often said growing up, in reference to the communion table: Come not because you must, but because you may.

So come, let us drink from the watering hole, and let us make the world a little bit more wild.

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.