Song

Since 14 June, I have driven almost 5,000 miles, stayed in ten cities, and been physically present in nineteen states plus the District of Columbia. Since 1 August of last year, you could add five more states and five Canadian provinces to that list. And now I am in Seattle. So close to being right back where I started.


Today’s my birthday but I don’t have any good birthday musings–or any musings at all, really. And because it’s my birthday, I don’t really feel like wringing any ideas out of my mind. I’m okay with a brief entry today.


Langston Hughes wrote that, “Song is a strong thing,” and I think about that a lot.

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Forgettable

 

I have a terrible memory. I can memorize song lyrics, country flags, stuff like that. But my actual life, as anyone who knows me can tell you, is pretty vague in my mind. I was talking to a couple of my parents recently about places we had gone as a family and they kept listing places and I would just shake my head, “No, I don’t remember that one either.”

I felt awful at the time. It must be a little bit crushing to have gone to the effort of ‘making memories’ for your children and then learn that, in fact, no memories were made. But I think I’m putting together an alternative perspective that might make you, parents, feel better. Of course, I’m in no position to offer parenting advice but since when did having no authority stop people from giving their opinions?

I think most of the meat of life is actually pretty forgettable. It’s like on the spot describing for someone what you did at 6 pm last Tuesday (maybe you’re great at remembering that sort of stuff, good for you). Oddly, though, I’m starting to think that being able to forget the little stuff is a kind of blessing.

I don’t remember a lot of the things we did as a family when I was young but there’s no doubt in my mind that we did them. I couldn’t give you details but I know that my family did things together. I know my family is my family. And I think that’s probably more important than the details (however expensive or trying those details were). Some people aren’t sure of their families, regardless of things done or not done together.

It’s easy to get lost in searching for the Major Thing that will Make Memories. Nothing wrong with those things, of course, but they will not make up the great proportion of the substance of our lives. It takes a great deal of understanding to acknowledge that the small, mundane, forgettable moments are what we are actually made of.

It takes humility and courage to seek those moments, to be ready to participate in them, knowing that they will never really be a Big Deal.

I’m also going to take this opportunity to thank people–mostly but not exclusively my parents– for the moments they’ve had in my life, whether I remember them or not. They’re the foundation of our relationships and I’m very grateful for them. Those all-too-often forgotten (by me, at least) and exceedingly ordinary acts of service and presence matter. They matter so very much.

It probably won’t take long for these periods at home since graduation to fade into generalized recollections that aren’t quite memories (that’s how I do) but even so, they matter. So thank you also, family, for letting me come home. Twice. For just a lot longer than any of us expected. You let me just kind of do my thing but also made sure that I was still involved in family life. It matters.

I’m trying to be ready for boring moments, now that I’ve thought of them this way. By their very nature, it will be difficult. But I think that if we all put a little more meaningful presence into the ordinary, we just might be able to build the extraordinary without realizing it.

No Such Beauty

Before I get into anything else, a small observation that struck me for a sec this week. I wrote a sentence or two last week about appreciating the later evenings. As a sign of spring. I realized this week: I’m not used to it being dark. And not in the seasonal, latitudinal sense. Like, obviously I’ve been back for a while. And was in New Zealand before that. But Seoul was never dark. Ever. And I missed it. There are lots of advantages to city living and a lot of reasons that I miss that, too. But I think somewhere inside, living in a city kills me a little bit.

Anyway, on to something that brings me life. Cats. And also other things, probably.

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This past weekend I was tremendously privileged to be able to attend the Chamber Singers reunion at American University, my undergrad alma mater. I was a member of Chamber Singers my whole time at AU, including tours to Russia and the Balkans. I’ve only been absent from DC for three years (almost exactly) but a lot has happened in that time. This reunion was a deeply welcome change of pace and settling of heart.

I was in Choral Society at Trinity, but that was a) not a very in-depth choral experience, as enjoyable as it was and b) finished more that two years ago. And in the intervening time, I have not been a part of a musical group of any description. The only singing I’ve done has been to myself or at church. And that truly was and remains a hard thing for me.

So this past weekend was a bit of a remedy for that, however brief. Friday and Saturday were absolutely gorgeous, a particular blessing in light of the bizarre weather they’ve had this year (and spring weather in general). They were too hot, in my opinion, peaking in the mid-eighties. Sunday and Monday were grey, rainy, and mid-fifties. What can you do. I got to see cherry blossoms galore, daffodils galore (my second favorite flower), and a regional tree climbing competition because apparently that’s a thing.

Also, I visited the Wheaton station on the metro for the express purpose of riding on the longest escalator in the western hemisphere. Apparently I’ve already ridden on the longest in the world, a three way tie between stations on the St Petersburg metro.

There were plenty of alumni events during the weekend. It was quite a crowd, about 55 of us (from a group that’s usually around 30 at any given time) with graduations ranging from 2004 to this past winter. I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t do large social situations well and these were no exception. I’m uncomfortable and that’s that. But it was still a special kind of soothing to be around some old faces, old friends, and other people who I barely met for thirty seconds but who cared enough about singing to come out for it.

After the (smaller) concert on Sunday, I was also able to catch up in person with my best friend whom I hadn’t seen in three years (since graduation, pretty much). And that was really good. I wish that I had stayed longer–I didn’t have anything pressing back here. We’ll see how the job search goes, maybe I’ll be back for another visit sooner rather than later.

Our alumni group was actually integrated into the current Singers’ regular spring concert which had a very laid-back vibe focused on some favorite songs. One in particular, which we sang on tour in Russia after my freshman year, we sang as a joint ensemble some 85 strong. One line, in fact, in the midst of a text that feels definitely applicable to my current aimlessness.

There is no such beauty as where you belong.

I’m not sure where, exactly, in the world I belong. Where in life, where in all kinds of metaphysical senses. And, as I’ve said before, I wasn’t 100% comfortable with all the people I was singing with. But there’s a power in music and I can say with certainty that I belonged on that stage at that moment. I belong in music.

I feel like some people feel that way about sports or whatever else moves people, so I probably don’t really have to explain it any further. One way or another, this weekend was exactly what I needed it to be.

Love One Another

Spring is such a hopeful time. I don’t have any other observations about it at the moment but I just had to say. I spent a little time meandering in parks this week, and several times noticed how late the light was lingering in the evenings.

Once again, I have little to discuss this week. It has been a great deal of nothing, generally. I visited some friends up in Seattle which was great fun. I visited another church because I had never been to an affirming church and variety is the spice of life. I visited Tacoma to see a movie called The Death of Stalin which, of course, is a comedy. Thoroughly enjoyed it, can recommend.

Along with all that, of course, I’ve had plenty of time to read and I have been doing plenty of it. Nothing earthshatteringly good but lots of normal good. I do sincerely wish, sometimes, that I did not become so emotionally invested in books, though. I don’t know if reading fiction does actually make you more empathetic, but sometimes I wish reading didn’t have the power to totally change my mood for the rest of the day–provided I can actually put down the book. Of course, I wouldn’t trade my reading experiences for the world. But still, it’s draining. Even knowing what’s going to happen and that it’s not real, I spend anxious (or giddy or frustrated or sad) hours between reading sessions.

In the midst of my not-doing, and the generalized angst and feelings brought on by books, I’ve had plenty of time to just think (a dangerous pastime, I know). I’ve not had dark nights contemplating the deep, dreadful fates in store for a world as sordid as this. Nothing quite so dramatic, though I do that often enough, too. It’s just been me thinking soberly about things in the world and in my life and how my life is a part of the world. And, as per usual, I’ve found that a lot of my feelings have been voiced quite eloquently by someone else.

Some time ago, I encountered W. H. Auden’s poem September 1, 1939 and I’ve often thought about it since. It’s both anti-fascist and somehow anarchist. Historical and informed but also strikingly topical. It combines a dismal but accurate view of the poet’s world in 1939 (not a great time for anybody) with a persistent attitude that, in spite of or perhaps because of the poem’s general despondency, seems almost wildly hopeful.

I get that poetry is not for everyone and it is often difficult to understand. Not claiming to totally comprehend this particular one, there are still some salient points that seem pretty straightforward to me. If you find nothing else in these admittedly convoluted lines, look for these: fear, justice, love, hope.

I will not reproduce the whole poem here (though I would encourage you strongly to read it). Instead, I will quote only the final two stanzas.

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

 🕯️

Washington, My Home

Oddly, states have their own state song. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Washington, My Home and I don’t think I’d really like to. But one way or another, Washington is my home. I’m trying to do some more exploring while I’m here in anticipation of leaving again (as vain as that hope may be). So yesterday I went on a lovely hike with a friend and it was very Washington, much home.

We decided on Lena Lake in the eastern Olympics, a relatively short drive and a relatively easy hike. It was the first forecast rainy day in a while, but the drive over was dry, as was the start of the hike. Cloudy, of course, but dry. As we continued, the rain picked up but it remained a tolerable rain not an absolute downpour. We had coats. We lived.

And my goodness was it gorgeous. Similar to New Zealand, actually, with ferns and moss and water and mist. Also fjords and rainforests. But in a distinctly different way. Sword ferns, for one, and cedars and pines for another. And it just felt good to wander through a solid Washington forest and marvel.

Lena Lake Trail

As always, pictures hardly to it justice, but suffice to say it was definitely a worthwhile trip. There was still some snow on the ground, too, which was a little surprising and fun. It was all-around an enjoyable experience for the company and the scenery.

Other than that, my week has been pretty low-key. I’ve had a couple good catch-ups with people and those have been really nice. My list of friends still around the Harbor has grown shorter in the past few years, but it’s always good to see them.

My days consist of a great deal of nothing. Reading, playing Civilization, doing Duolingo. I did plant a couple plants, rosemary and lemon balm (or BAHM if you can’t read the letter l) and that’ll be nice. I’m continuing to apply to places, mostly in the US so far, but nothing has come of it yet. Who knows. It would be much easier to enjoy doing nothing if I had something to look forward to, but once again I’m confronted with an apparently endless abyss of nothingness so that’s not super fun. I’ll live.

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Also, here’s an update on the yin-yang kitties

So that’s my week. Mostly boring but an acceptable level of activity. Some good catching up and some intense Washington ambiance. See you next week.

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 Best Sauce

I don’t know if it’s an actual adage, or if it’s just something my *favorite fictional character of all time* says, but I’ve heard it said that, ‘hunger is the best sauce.’ I don’t know if I’d say that I’ve been hungry for home, exactly, but being here feels a little bit like being sated.

All the same, this time coming home has been interesting. Little (and big) changes still annoy me, and there’s a bit of reverse culture shock (though I went back to driving with no problems, for good or ill but not having tax included is driving me nuts). But I think I’m finally starting to just let go. There wasn’t any food that I really, really wanted to get when I arrived–not even Kinza (though I will never refuse Kinza). There weren’t any places I really had to visit. People to see, of course. And of course I’m so happy to see my family again. But overall, I basically felt ready to go to the next place almost immediately. So someone get me a job.

Anyway. I am, of course, very much looking forward to some catching up with people because it’s been a long time. And it’s nice that it’s spring because flowers. We’ll just have to see how things progress, I guess.

The last couple days in New Zealand were lovely. During the course of our trip, we truly saw the length of the country. It was impossible to soak up everything in only two and a half weeks, but we went from Auckland near the top of the North Island to Invercargill right at the bottom of the South Island (Invercargill is such a nonentity that it’s saying I’ve spelled it wrong, trust me, there’s really no reason to visit except the Tuatarium which we stumbled into right at feeding time).

I could go on forever about that trip but, as I’ve said, descriptions will never quite do it justice. Suffice to say that it was an incredible time and a much needed respite after Korea.

Now, I find myself with too much time on my hands, facing once more the unenviable and generally unrewarding task of applying to jobs with not enough experience and too much qualification. Hopefully the year in Korea will mean something to someone. We’ll see.

Definitely will keep you up-to-date with all the thrilling developments. I am hoping to do some Washington-y hikes or something because I do really love it here, as much as I want out. It would be positively ideal to find a job that starts like in June or August to give me peace of mind and security in just running around. Maybe a road trip to California. I have a dream of road tripping to Yellowknife and Juneau but wouldn’t attempt it without ample time and financial security.

That’s all for now. With all this time zone hullabaloo, it’s hard to know exactly when to post these anymore so I’m just kind of going with it. I haven’t looked, but I have a sinking feeling that my perfect line of Thursdays was interrupted during New Zealand because this site’s clock is set to Pacific time. I dread checking because I was really proud of that line of Thursdays.

Hope you all have an excellent week. I’m busy doing very little and enjoying the rain of home.

I am Seeking Battersea

Well, I’m home.

I had a lovely day in Vancouver, B.C. because I flew there instead of directly to SeaTac. My parents and I had a fabulous dinner at Legendary Noodle, a restaurant of some renown that I first enjoyed in 2010. I particularly recommend their chrysanthemum tea. Also, while we’re talking about Canada, I would totally move to St. John’s. I had a layover there and it’s gorgeous. So if someone could get me a job and a visa, yes please, I’d do it in an instant.

And then it was Labor Day weekend which involved lots of food and seeing some people. It was nice, but I misjudged the weather a touch–it was definitely sweater weather. What are you gonna do. But at least there are cats. In person.

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Looks at her eyes! The other one wouldn’t sit still for a picture.

Anyway, a while ago I read an interesting post on G. K. Chesterton’s views on travel. He is known for once saying,

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.

The post goes on to discuss, with great art and insight, Chesterton’s other, perhaps paradoxical, views on travel but this initial quote has stuck with me as someone who has just returned home to a foreign country.

I mean, Ireland is not radically different from the US and, in truth, I was gone not quite eight months from Christmas break. I often characterized it (as well as my time in England) as similar enough to be comfortable but different enough to be surprising. But still, some things have struck me as strange. And I’ll try not to be one of those people who gets back from a trip and it’s all they can talk about even when it’s clearly been exhausted as a topic of conversation among your friends. But I probably will be anyway, sorry in advance.

Little things have caught me a bit off-guard, both positively and negatively. For example, I got some food at the St. John’s airport and had to pay more than the labeled price because tax hadn’t been included. Oh, VAT how I miss you. On the other hand, not using adapters to plug things in is so liberating. I got back into driving pretty well, not having had the unfortunate experience of driving at all while in Ireland. On the other hand, though, I miss being able to walk everywhere.

Being home certainly has its benefits but it’s also a struggle. I want to find things to do with my time (besides applying to jobs) but I also am still thinking of this as a temporary time so I don’t want to get too involved. Of course, who knows how ‘temporary’ this will actually be.

Terry Pratchett, a prolific fantasy author, struck real close to home when he said,

Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

And here I am, back at the beginning, waiting for Vizzini. It would be very hackneyed to say that neither I nor Gig Harbor are the same, but it’s true nonetheless.

For much of college, I had a great dread of moving home after graduation. It just seemed like such a defeat. And here I am, not currently with any prospects other than the fact that there are more jobs to apply to. On some level, I do feel sort of defeated. I went away to get a degree, then got decided to go even farther for a second one, and here I am, back where I’ve started, and most of my friends still in the Harbor are high schoolers. But at the same time, I’m feeling alright.

At this point in my life, no experience is really going to be wasted. So if I end up at Safeway for a while (though I think I’d rather move to Gillette, WY before it got to that point), it’s not going to be a disaster. Though I’ve yet to lose a love, it’s a teensy bit like this poem by Elizabeth Bishop. Though it may look sort of like I’ve lost a bunch of things, I haven’t had any true disasters. I can and will manage. And I look forward to whatever may come, knowing that even coming home can be like going on a journey.

Lastly, here’s this week’s playlist. Enjoy.

  1. Tourists – Olympia
  2. Animals – Coast Modern
  3. Everything’s A Ceiling – Death Cab for Cutie
  4. Domino Dancing – Pet Shop Boys
  5. Edge of Town – Middle Kids
  6. Different – James TW
  7. The Wilhelm Scream – James Blake
  8. Ghost of a King – The Grey Havens
  9. We Move Like the Ocean – Bad Suns
  10. In the Shadows – Foreign Air

Slán

Here we are. I leave Ireland tomorrow.

I feel like my time here has been (or rather, should have been) sponsored by Tesco, so here’s a final shoutout to Tesco doughnuts (5 for €1, custard filled is my everything, if you’re lucky you get six) and Tesco Cream Crackers (1 package for 26 cents). They have been, no joke, my life support system. Without Tesco Cream Crackers, I wouldn’t still be around by this point. And I nearly wept while eating my last bag of Tesco doughnuts.

So that’s sort of a light note to start a post about leaving but it’s honest.

In all seriousness, though, my time here has been incredible. In truth, Dublin is not the loveliest city I’ve lived in, but the human element has made it indeed a precious place. I came here to learn, and learn I certainly have, but the most valuable time I spent here was not passed in the classroom or working on papers.

My coursemates are a phenomenal group of people who are passionate about important and interesting issues. Also, they’re just really cool. And I felt really cool that they let me be a part of their cool people club. I’m so appreciative of their friendship, their help, and their time. For waging our collective struggle together, and winning our eventual victories together. And for the fun. “Should time or occasion compel us to part, these days shall forever enliven our heart.”

My church family has also been wonderful. They love Jesus loads, challenge me, care for and about me, and have also welcomed me to this island, this country, and this city. I am particularly thankful for the tremendous family that literally let me live off them for two months. Thank you, City Church, I’m so grateful for having found you. And all my friends there, thanks for letting me live alongside you.

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Very close to seeing this precious one again

In many ways, it seems like a lifetime has passed since last September. Thinking back to the end of classes the first week of April, it seems like ages ago. How was I in Amsterdam a scant six months ago? That was another century, I’m certain of it. Surely it hasn’t been only a year.

It’s strange now, to have nothing in front of me. No school, no job, no plans of any kind beyond just getting home. Turning in my dissertation was not a huge rush and I don’t really feel any different, but (pending the final mark in November and graduation in April) I’m a Master now. Like, a capital M Master. What? Who thought that was a good idea? How did that happen? But here I am. As my sister recently reminded me, the road goes ever on and on.

This year has been… I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s been a year. I’ve had times of fun and excitement and wonder. I’ve also had times of doubt and anxiety and self-loathing. In the final estimation, there is no doubt in my mind that it has been an incredible adventure and one which I’m very glad to have undertaken. What more can be asked?

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My last look down O’Connell Street

I’ll finish with another playlist, one that will hopefully get me through my flights back home. The final song, The Parting Glass, is a traditional folk song which, though I believe Scottish in origin, is also well-loved in Ireland. And while UCD isn’t Trinity, I’m willing to set aside the rivalry and just appreciate the song.

Anyway, thanks to Ireland and everyone here who made it so much more than just worthwhile. I cannot even say.

Slán agus go raibh maith agat.

  1. The 59th Street Bridge Song – Simon and Garfunkel
  2. The John Wayne – Little Green Cars
  3. Bruised – Jack’s Mannequin
  4. Outta Here – Papa Ya feat. Con Bro Chill
  5. Closing Time – Semisonic
  6. Ghost of a Chance – The Blades
  7. Spirit Cold – Tall Heights
  8. Accidentally in Love – Counting Crows
  9. Let’s Go Home – Best Coast
  10. The Parting Glass – UCD Choral Scholars

Why Can’t I?

Okay, lots to report this week. Covered many miles with the feets. Just discovered Kaitlin has a blister on one. Many miles.

Anyway, starting with Friday. We went to Trinity, obviously, and saw the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells continues to be really cool, I just marvel at how intricate the decorations are, it’s hardly to be believed. Then, on our way to Dublin Castle, we saw a sign for Nutella hot chocolate, which is apparently a thing, and immediately stopped and had some. It was delicious beyond words.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Me, when the Nutella hot chocolate was gone 😦 (Also, a bear)

Then it was on to the castle. Now, when I say castle, most people (American and European alike) have a very particular sort of image in their minds, so I want to say right out–no, it’s not really a castle. It was, several hundred years ago, but now it’s mostly just buildings that are vaguely cool, but nothing special. The exciting things are inside, it’s lavish and lovely. Also, surprise, there was a 1916 exhibit thing since the castle was used as a hospital during WWI and one of the leaders of the Rising was brought there for treatment before his execution.

Saturday, we did a bit of prehistoric Ireland at Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Newgrange is part of a series of Stone Age structures (predating the pyramids at Giza) that served basically unknown purposes. All we really know about them is 1) human ashes were kept inside 2) they align with various astronomical moments–Newgrange is sunrise on the Winter Solstice and 3) they were in use for possibly thousands of years. Newgrange is the only one we saw, but it’s super cool, lots of excitingly carved stones that very much summon up spirits of sort of Celtic something or other. The Hill of Tara was something of a seat of power in ancient/early medieval Ireland as the site of the coronations of the High Kings (which, let’s be real, is way cooler a title than normal King). There’s a specific mound there, the so-called Mound of the Hostages, that predates even Newgrange, though is much less impressive-looking. Anyway, it was all very cool.

Sunday was the actual, calendar-date 100th anniversary of the Rising, and the political party Sinn Féin (Shin Fane) hosted what I think was meant to be a parade on O’Connell Street. In the event, at least as far as we ever saw, it was a bunch of people in silly costumes sporadically playing bagpipes and marching a few steps before taking a very long break. It was underwhelming, but about what I expected, since the main celebrations by everyone else happened like a month ago.

On Monday morning, we left Dublin to see a bit of the West. Galway was our destination and what I thought was meant to be a two and a half hour bus ride ended up being four and a half. The first of several bungles on my part which I will not elaborate on here for reasons of my dignity 😉 Anyway, we spent the day in Galway just wandering around a bit. Honestly, there’s not loads within Galway itself, though it’s not a city without its charms. Highlight of the day was probably eating lunch out by the water. Though it was very (very) windy, it was also sunny and that (mostly) made up for it. Also, there were cookies.

On Tuesday (details omitted) we went to the Aran Islands, specifically, Inishmore, the largest. Lots of cool details about the island (that it has a population of about 840, that it first got electricity in 1975, that one of the two primary schools has 22 students) but I think I’ll keep it to about that. I had already been two years ago when I visited Ireland while studying abroad in England. But it was lovely to see it again, and to actually see it with someone else. On the island, there are four Iron Age forts, the biggest and coolest of which is Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus, if you will). It sits on top of a giant cliff (okay, giant, it’s about 300 feet) and is surrounded by a field of spiky rocks meant to prevent charges. Basically, it’s super cool and, while the whole island is pretty neat, definitely my favorite part. Here, also, we were graced with wonderful weather that threatened rain (and did actually, a couple times) but was mostly sunny. At the end of the day, we caught the night bus back to Dublin which was an hour shorter than our journey outward.

Yesterday, we museumed most of the day. In fact, I’ve only been to one museum here and that’s the one we didn’t go to. We did Natural History, Archeology, and the National Gallery. It was very nice. Learned lots about Ireland, mostly ancient Ireland, and got to see some rad bog bodies (they all had red hair, surprise). Also, a genuinely surprising amount of gold. So much gold–gold bracelets, gold necklaces, gold earrings, gold ball things that we’re not sure what they were used for… All the gold. Who knew.

Today, we had some good plans but were finally foiled by the rain. Not actually foiled, but it did rather get me in a bad mood. My apologies, Kaitlin. Anyway, we found some pavlova (after much ado) and that was basically the only triumph for the day. But.

This week, I’ve also encountered some good quotes which I will include here before finishing with a quick little pair of poems. Firstly, one from an exhibit at the National Gallery. It’s something Salman Rushdie said about The Wizard of Oz in a book he wrote, and I thought it was an interesting thought. Especially since I’m not ‘home’ and neither is Kaitlin, and neither of us foresee returning there, at least not to live.

Anybody who has swallowed up scriptwriters’ notion that this is a film about the superiority of ‘home’ over ‘away’…would do well to listen to the yearning in Judy Garland’s voice as her face tilts up toward the skies. What she expresses here, what she embodies with the purity of an archetype, is the human dream of leaving, a dream at least as powerful as it’s countervailing dream of roots. At the heart of The Wizard of Oz is the tension between these two dreams; but as the music swells and that big, clean voice flies into the anguished longings of the song, can anyone doubt which message is the stronger? In its most potent emotional moment, this is unarguably a film about the joys of going away, of leaving the greyness and entering the colour, of making a new life in the ‘place where there isn’t any trouble’… It is a celebration of Escape, a grand paean to the uprooted self, a hymn–the hymn–to Elsewhere.

As one who feels keenly the tension between those dreams, and who feels very deeply the emotions of that song, I just had to share. Somewhere. Somewhere over the rainbow.

Then, just a couple short ones by Oscar Wilde, a renowned wit and generally cool guy. Some of these you may be familiar with. But also, he’s worth repeating.

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.

Who, being loved, is poor?

This has been a long blog post, I know, but lots has happened. And I just like sharing things with you guys. So anyway, here’s a poem pairing for this week. They’re by Robert Frost, one of my favorite poets of all time (around there with Edna St Vincent Millay and Emily Dickenson). As promised, they’re very brief. But they say something that I really needed to hear today and which I think we all can benefit from.

A Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

A Minor Bird

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;
Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

 

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.