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.

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Unnecessaries, Treachery, and Idiocy

There was snow on the ground, several inches, when I returned to Michigan. And in the ensuing days, more snow has accumulated. Because. So temperatures are cold and snowfall is yes; it must be January.

In other news, the earth is still round and the sky is still blue.

I do not have overmuch to share this week, as happens sometimes, and I struggled to come up with anything at all worth writing about. Throughout the day today, I had an odd song stuck in my head, as I often do, and I thought I’d share it with all of you. Not sure it’s actually worth writing about but it’s happening so you know, whatever works.

It isn’t really a song, even, it’s a weird remix of a portion of a newscast that was a little bit viral while I was in Ireland. And it’s really not that funny except I just rewatched the video and I still find it unaccountably hilarious. So here, watch it.

Get ready for it, because I’m gonna bring you three takeaways from that song/broadcast and they’re going to be wildly outsized philosophical musings for something that is barely humorous to most people.


“Don’t make unnecessary journeys.”

I’m not sure how I feel, philosophically, about this line. Because when I was in Korea, I said that sometimes the most important journeys are the ones you didn’t mean to take. Letting your feet run away with you is a great way to experience new things, meet new people, and grow in ways you could not expect. Variety is the spice of life, as I’m fond of saying, and sometimes you should balance out planning and necessity with spontaneity and unnecessaries. Like chocolate. Chocolate for me is often a spontaneous, unnecessary delight.

On the pro side for this quote, though, is the idea that on other occasions, we are not equipped or prepared to make any other journey than the one that we are already on. When we’re tired and just slogging onward through the Dead Marshes, as it were. Muddling along with enough oomph for one journey and that journey alone, no side quests. Wisdom may be knowing how much oomph we do or do not have for unnecessaries.

“Don’t take risks on treacherous roads.”

I am likewise on the fence about this one. When things are looking grim, it’s often best to buckle down and just survive. Whether it’s stress or crises of a more overt sort, getting through it is sometimes the best you can manage. That’s certainly true for literal, actual treacherous roads.

But also, I feel, if you’ve been trying to solve a problem and you haven’t yet met with success, usually what’s needed is another approach. Something you haven’t done before, something that may be more or less ‘risky.’ Hard to say. Wisdom in this lens, I guess, is knowing which kind of road you’re navigating: is it treacherous, brooking no room for risk and error, or merely difficult, in which case risk may be the very thing that helps you break through.

“Their actions are idiotic.”

I don’t really have anything for this line, I just felt like I should probably mention the President’s national broadcast. Nothing to add that hasn’t been said really, just reiterating that it’s idiotic. Here, I suspect wisdom is at once simple and unachievably mysterious: don’t be an idiot.


Anyway. I’m driving to Chicago today, for a non-spontaneous but unnecessary journey that I think may brush the edges of difficult but should mostly just be enjoyable. The roads themselves, given the weather of late, may be a little more treacherous. But I scouted out a little yesterday and they seemed well-cleared already and the forecast is on my side, so I don’t anticipate any shenanigans in that department.

Here’s hoping. May we all have such balanced, three-pronged wisdom.

 

One Hundred Things That Have Happened in the Past One Hundred Weeks

  1. I moved to Korea.
  2. I read Pictures of Hollis Woods and The Graveyard Book for class and enjoyed both.
  3. Britain decided to leave the EU.
  4. I lived in a house that was perpetually cold and had no heating.
  5. I got a Kakao and a Line account for work. Kakao is much better.
  6. I developed a deep and abiding love for Tesco.
  7. I felt at home in a place that was not my home (more than once but not often).
  8. I visited my sister and checked off two more US states (AZ and NM).
  9. I learned that LG originally stood for Lucky Goldstar not Life is Good.
  10. I watched Inside Out and thought it was alright.
  11. I consumed gochujang in many forms and still don’t like it.
  12. I received this picture of my cat. Bubba2017-6-29
  13. I learned how to use screen mirroring because I do it in class every day.
  14. I despaired of finding real cheese in Korea.
  15. I found some real cheese in Korea, but only on one particular dish.
  16. I learned Hangul.
  17. I started playing D&D again (virtually) and it’s great.
  18. I felt lonely (more than once).
  19. I ate some tangerine named after Hallasan (the tallest mountain in South Korea).
  20. I killed a rosemary plant and nearly a mint but the mint is still hanging on. Barely.
  21. I washed a quilty-thing when I probably should have had it dry cleaned but it’s fine.
  22. I visited Antwerp.
  23. I read The Count of Monte Cristo.
  24. I tried aged kimchi for the first time. Better than regular, but still gross.
  25. I moved to Ireland.
  26. I got over not having a dryer.
  27. I learned more Konglish than Korean.
  28. I moved into an apartment that is always hot but has AC.
  29. I went to Jeju. IMG_20170621_105549827
  30. I graduated with an MPhil from Trinity College Dublin.
  31. I took a trip on a single line of the Seoul metro that was almost two hours one way.
  32. I visited Amsterdam.
  33. I had a Belgian waffle (with Nutella) in Belgium. Exceeded expectations.
  34. I started saying ‘grand’ all the time because the Irish do.
  35. I worked in retail at midnight on Black Friday (but not directly with customers).
  36. I had ox bone soup. It was delicious.
  37. I tried and failed to figure out how to turn down the temperature of a toilet seat.
  38. I learned that Ohio is the only US state that shares no letters with the word mackerel.
  39. Donald Trump was elected president.
  40. I read A Man Called Ove and am still emotional about it.
  41. I got over not having a key but still sometimes check my back pocket for one.
  42. I found out who BTS was and kind of wish I hadn’t.
  43. I became a teacher.
  44. I climbed Ansan multiple times.
  45. I reread Stargirl for the umpteenth time and still enjoyed it.
  46. I found an English-speaking church in Seoul that I like.
  47. I received this picture of my other cat. Camaro2017-6-29
  48. I got Snapchat. I mostly don’t regret it.
  49. I learned about gene doping because I had to teach a lesson on it.
  50. Three members of my family visited me in Korea for a week.
  51. I felt embarrassed (more than once–often).
  52. I read the Chaos Walking trilogy and very much enjoyed it.
  53. I made many new friends.
  54. I grew to hate air pollution personally rather than in the abstract.
  55. I told my French cat joke to more than one native French speaker.
  56. I watched The Bourne Legacy and wasn’t impressed but was entertained.
  57. I planted basil and it’s doing well.
  58. I went to many museums in Seoul and learned a lot about Korean history.
  59. I turned 22.
  60. I ate small octopus (different from squid and normal octopus) for the first time.
  61. I got used to waking up at 2:30 in the morning.
  62. As soon as I was able, I stopped waking up at 2:30 in the morning.
  63. I watched Man of Steel. It was decent.
  64. I saw a few of the original Dol Harubang (stone grandfather) statues on Jeju. IMG_20170622_120728388_HDR
  65. I managed to live without a microwave or an oven (so far).
  66. I visited Oslo.
  67. I tried Pokemon Go but gave up because I don’t have data here.
  68. I learned how to pay bills at a 7-11.
  69. I possessed more money at one time than I have ever done.
  70. I successfully completed a dissertation. Or thesis. Still not certain what it’s called.
  71. Macron became President of France.
  72. I walked almost two miles in the rain at night during winter because I am stubborn.
  73. I worked retail on Christmas Eve morning (but thankfully not Christmas).
  74. I started to give a slight bow instinctively in certain situations.
  75. FARC signed a peace deal with the Colombian government.
  76. I visited the Hoh Rainforest.
  77. I had a lovely visit with a friend who had a twelve hour layover in Seoul.
  78. I felt proud of my accomplishments (more than once).
  79. I climbed a (dead) volcanic crater in the pouring rain. IMG_20170620_152819588
  80. I got a smartphone for the first time.
  81. I got another, better smartphone.
  82. I became a multimillionaire after only two paychecks.
  83. I came out.
  84. I was in Dublin for Irish elections to the Dáil.
  85. I was in Seoul for a presidential election.
  86. I visited Gyeongbokgung Palace. IMG_20170619_092830670
  87. Rio de Janeiro hosted the Summer Olympics.
  88. I became increasingly sensitive to and aware of nationalism.
  89. My sister visited me in Ireland.
  90. I did not visit the DMZ because of a mix up but was promised a trip at a future date.
  91. I had to drive to Seattle three times in one week and it made me sad.
  92. I bought a mask because spring air pollution in Seoul was killer (it hasn’t improved much).
  93. I bought a leafy green which turned out to be spinach still attached to the root.
  94. I saw many beautiful cherry blossoms.
  95. I read the Farseer Trilogy and thought it was good not great.
  96. I existed in closer proximity to more humans than I ever had before.
  97. I received this picture of my sister’s cat. Beegashii2017-6-29
  98. I visited Paris Baguette for the first time.
  99. I learned a lot about the Sami.
  100. I started a blog and here we are.

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

Come So Far/Got So Far to Go

Tomorrow is the day, the dreaded day. The series finale of Nightmares in Dissertation Writing. I will not share with what anguish the series was binged and with what agony each episode progressed, but here we are. I made it, and none the worse for it, I think.

I can say without reservation that writing this dissertation has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Partially because writing a dissertation is difficult, but mostly because I have apparently gone insane this summer in such a way as to make doing work nearly impossible. Suffice to say that more than being pleased with the final product, I am pleased that there is a final product. In the same measure as I have been stressed, I am now overjoyed. Well, overjoyed might be putting it a bit strongly. But you know, relieved. In all honesty, though, I am really glad it’s over. It’s been a trying experience, to be sure, but it’s also been an adventure and it’s hard for me not to love adventures.

A major thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me, I am so very, very grateful. I honestly could not have done it without you. I love you all. And a special thank you to my incredible mother who, having read that I was missing my blanket, literally mailed it to me so I could hide under it when the need arose.

Now that I’ve got that covered, I wanted to say a few things about the state of the blog. I started this blog for two reasons. The first was because I was moving 4,500 miles to live in another country for a year.

So here we are, a year on. And that reason for writing a blog is close to expiry. I have one week left in Ireland. But I find myself wanting to continue writing. I’ve so enjoyed this blog, writing to you all about my doings and hearing back from you and just having a weekly chat with whoever feels like stopping by on here. I won’t get into the whole ‘millennials-are-narcissistic’ thing (for just so many reasons) and I’ve already admitted I’m perhaps more than a bit vain. But.

The point is this: I’m going to continue writing. Things will probably be less exciting overall, as I won’t be in Ireland come  3 September, but then again, my life never was particularly exciting most of my time here anyway. Because the second reason I started this blog was because I just wanted to. I wanted to journal, to say what I liked to more than the four walls of my room.

Initially, I expected putting it online would allow people to hold me accountable if I missed a week. Instead, I found myself very much looking forward to writing each week and sharing my thoughts and musings and whatever else I felt like writing. And, of course, the cat pictures. So in truth, my reason for writing is nonperishable.

The name of this blog, Journeyman, alluded both to the fact that I was on a journey and that I was seeking to become a master. But, honestly, it was also probably a bit of my trite philosophy coming through–life is a journey, or so I’ve heard. And, near as I can tell, no one manages to become a master in the brief space of a lifetime. We’re all perpetual journeymen.

Лесная Дорога

From the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection at the Library of Congress. Rural Russia, ca. 1905-1915

And thus, whether you want it to or not, this blog will continue into the indefinite future. I’m sticking to once a week (probs Thursdays still). If you’re less concerned with my life after Ireland, no one’s forcing you to stay. But I’ll  be here, speaking into the vast void of the internet, alone if necessary, until further notice.

Hobey ho, let’s go.

529,920 Minutes

Quick review of the new Jason Bourne which I saw yesterday with my moviegoing companion: it was thoroughly enjoyable because Jason Bourne is awesome, but it wasn’t anything too special. I had wanted to rewatch all the old movies before seeing this one, but I didn’t, alas. Anyway.

This week. My father and brother were visiting, as I told you, I celebrated a birthday, and so did my blog. First, Ireland adventures. Then… the other thing.

I lied. Actually first, cat.

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Aww, she wants to go swimming  ❤

So, Ireland adventures. I went around Dublin with my family on Friday doing the main Dublin things–cathedrals, castle, Trinity ect. On Saturday, we did a bus tour to Cashel, Blarney, and Cork. Probably to great shame, I did not kiss the Blarney Stone but. I was pumped to finally get to Cork, I had wanted to visit for a long time and just never gotten around to it. So yay, I’ve now been to all four provinces of the island: Leinster, Ulster, Munster, and Connacht. Though I still want to visit Banbridge Town and Bantry Bay, having already been to Derry Quay, Galway, and Dublin Town. Anyway. On Sunday, we went up through a bit of the North to see the Titanic exhibit in Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway. On Monday, we went out to Howth once more and did the seaside cliff walk through the bluster and chill because Ireland didn’t really care that it was 1 August. But all in all, it was a lovely visit and I’m glad I got to spend some time with them.

There is no feeling quite like listening to contemplative piano music while watching rain lash the window through the faintly sepia light of what would have been a sunset, had the clouds not obscured and somehow made more radiant the sun. Neither is there much that’s quite so Irish.

Indeed, it has me very much in the mood for looking back on this year of blogging.

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Look at that beautiful line. It was a bit rocky at first, but I never planned on doing Thursdays, Thursdays just sort of happened.

It’s strange to think back to last August, the things that occupied my time and the thoughts I was thinking when not thus occupied. This past year has seen me confront many challenges. Against some I proved victorious, against some I failed, and against some the outcome remains to be seen. Certainly, I have much to be grateful for. Foremost, here, I’m grateful for you, my readers. I mean, I’d probably keep writing regardless of whether anyone read it but it’s nice to know that people I care about stop by and comment and whatnot. And it’s really special when people I don’t know at all think I’m saying something worth reading. So thanks, guys   ❤

There’s still more road to travel on this current adventure, but it’s winding to a close here with one month left in Ireland. As I think about that, I’m glad that I’ll be leaving with more than memories (and relationships, because people here are cool) but I’ll also have some documentary evidence of what my life was like here. That’s one of the really cool things about keeping a journal–you can look back and, even if you’re embarrassed, see what you and your life were like in days gone by.

Anyway, I won’t get too melodramatic here,  I’ll save that for my last post in Ireland. For now, we’ll just leave it. Another year older, a year on the blog, eleven months in Ireland, and finally having made it to Cork.

Thanks for the memories   😉

Baffled

*No literal, real-life horses were harmed in the writing of this post.

My father and brother arrive in Ireland this evening, after spending some time in Spain to visit the exchange student they hosted this past school year. They’re only here for a few days, so we’re going to try to do as much of the island as we can in a whirlwind adventure. Current plans include Dublin, surprise, Belfast, and possibly Galway or Cork. We’ll see. But should be good craic. It’ll be nice to see them and to have them visit. For my younger brother, this trip is not his first time out of the country, but it’s close. And it’s his first time to Europe. Catalonia and County Dublin will make quite a contrast, I’m sure. All the better.

Also, here are some cats for this week, from the remarkable Evie.

So the preceding news is probs more interesting to most of you, but after jilting this post last week, I felt like I really ought to include it. Didn’t want to hurt its feelings. This is the part where the horses come in, for good or ill, if you were confused by the disclaimer at the beginning. Here goes.

I feel like lately I’ve been writing a lot about how confused I am, just as a general state of being. So I kind of hate to beat on that super dead horse. But also, I mean, it’s where I am. And then I stumbled across this wonderful quotation by Wendell Berry who I normally associate with environmental stuff (but who is also a poet and stuff I guess).

When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

I then came across this little stunner from Rumi, whom I expected to be poetic.

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment. Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.

How true. It’s all very ancient Greek, you know–the unexamined life and all. But somehow more human, I feel. Because, in examining my life, I don’t feel that I learn much most of the time. Instead, I become baffled. And perhaps that’s what’s important.

And notice that he’s not like, “It’ll all be grand once you overcome X confusion or solve X problem.” No. If you’re not baffled, you’re not living. Solve problems, do. But always know that the work is never finished, not truly. The seaweed may indeed be greener, but no lake is puzzle-free.

Which is sort of comforting (another deceased ungulate–how to feel better about yourself when you’re abusing the horse of confusion). The idea that you’re never really supposed to get to the point where the stars are perfectly aligned and all the ducks are in a row and everything’s coming up roses. We wander around, having all-too-brief moments of clarity in the midst of an otherwise enigmatic world. And life, generally, leaves us bewildered.

One thing that is actually encouraging, rather than just comforting, is that the world is full of people–not just people who are as confused as you, but people who may be confused about different things. When other people play significant, positive roles in our lives, some of that always-looming bafflement recedes. When we let other people teach us–as in the dark as we both may be–they can show us, perhaps, a better way even as we may show them. When we live together with people, truly together, it just makes things better

I have one final quote for you, if you’ll bear with me. In the course of this year, I have read pitifully few Irish books–not even Dubliners. But I did read a remarkable contemporary novel recommended by an Irish coursemate, The Book of Evidence by John Banville. And though I read it in December, just recently a section returned to mind. Not only is it incredible writing, but it also seems to be an all-too-painful assessment of the state of humanity–not just now, but always. His character says:

I have never really got used to being on this earth. Sometimes I think our presence here is due to a cosmic blunder, that we were meant for another planet altogether, with other arrangements, and other laws, and other, grimmer skies. I try to imagine it, our true place, off on the far side of the galaxy, whirling and whirling. And the ones who were meant for here, are they out there, baffled and homesick, like us? No, they would have become extinct long ago. How could they survive, these gentle earthlings, in a world that was meant to contain us?

I don’t know about you, but those words almost make me ache with their accuracy.

Maybe that’s not a great place to end a blog post, especially when it seemed to be going in a more positive direction. But surprise. There you have it, something unexpected happened and brought down the mood. I rest my case on bafflement.

I guess as some small consolation, I’ll leave you with this:

Tristan2016-7-25

 

License Plates and the Entropy of the Universe

So today I’m leaving my house (good riddance, believe me) for the truly final stage in my Dublin stay. Moving, as anyone who has ever moved ever knows, is generally not loads of fun. I have too much stuff and it’s kind of awful. But I’ve managed to pack it all up and the move itself shouldn’t be too crazy. Ugh, anyway. It’s absolutely insane to think that I only have two months left in Ireland. I’ve so, so  loved my time here. All good things, I guess.

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Freddy helped me pack

I have a couple more days with the parentals, back in Dublin after gallivanting about Ireland. Then it’s hardcore dissertation time (I don’t want to talk about it). My father and brother are, I’m pretty sure, coming to visit in July, and then it’s… you know, whatever ends up being next. I don’t really want to talk about that either.

I’m going to have a TV interlude before I go into the whole entropy thing, because it’s just a depressing mess. And the preceding mess is bad enough.

Past: Dollhouse (2009-2010)

This super crazy quasi-dystopian show revels in showing us the depths of human nature and how easily we can slide into self-annihilation (how scarily apropos). But it also shows the perseverance of humanity in mind, body, and soul. Maybe there’s hope for us after all, even if it takes almost complete destruction for us to find it.

Present: Sherlock (2010- )

If you’re unfamiliar with this show, I must presume that you live under a rock. Not only is it immensely popular, but it is abundantly worthy of its fame. Absolutely fabulous retellings of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries with a great cast and stellar everything. Watch it now please.

Golly. I know it’s already the end of June, but I kind of just want 2016 to start from the top and give it another go. I mean, my life has been chugging along just fine, but the world at large seems to be having a tough time. Granted, it pretty much always is. But. The election race in the US, Brexit, Syria, Zika, Orlando, Istanbul ect ect ect. I feel like the world missed most of the rehearsals for this year and so all the actors are improvising and everything feels a little chaotic.

To be sure, the status quo can be dangerous–very much so. Obviously, just because it’s the way things are doesn’t mean it’s the way things should be. But by the same token, just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s better. It takes wisdom and thought, research and reflection, dialogue and exchange to see things clearly. And, as this article discusses, we’re helplessly blind about things we don’t know we don’t know. The misdirected, if justified, anger against things that are difficult to understand continually confounds me even though the pessimist in me ensures that it never surprises me. The world will go on, whether or not the US passes gun legislation and however Brexit plays out. But it’s a tremendous leap in the dark–not because it’s unknown but because it’s shrouded in the darkness of xenophobia, fear, and selfishness.

And so I turn to license plates for solace. This is going to be absolutely absurd to the vast majority of you, but I promise I actually do care this much about it. In Washington, I was a little bit outraged when we started to transition our plates from the standard XXX-XXX format to XXXXXXX, eliminating the dash for no good reason. Not even bothering to do something like XXX-XXXX. Ugh, it was horrible. You may know this about me: I don’t handle change…well. In Ireland, though, license plates are blissfully ordered and a source of much comfort in a world all too often careening haphazardly into chaos.

In Ireland the format is ##(#)-X(X)-#. The first set is the year. So if the car was licensed in 2008, the plate would begin with 08. A couple of years ago, they added a third digit to indicate which half of the year. So a car licensed in September of 2015 would begin with 152. The next letter or letters indicates the county. It’s either the first letter or, in the case of multiple counties with the same initial, first and last (with a couple exceptions due to overlap). So Kerry is KY while Kilkenny is KK, Waterford is WD (or just W) while Wexford is WX ect. The final number is the number of car that was licensed in that area at that time. So the 5,468th car licensed in Westmeath in the spring of 2016 would have this on their plate: 161-WH-5468 with the Irish for the county (An Iarmhí, in this case) written above it.

Like I said, most of you readers probably could not care less about license plates. But I genuinely find these here in Ireland so oddly comforting. A small bastion of reason in an otherwise bizarre and unpredictable world. Truly stranger than fiction. Say what you will about my mild license plate obsession, but you’d better find your own source of order or you’ll go even madder than you are now (as I’ve said previously, we’re all maniacs already). Of course, there’s also recourse to a much better fortress of certainty and constancy, and he’s made it pretty clear that everyone’s welcome, madness notwithstanding. And so I do not despair.

Here’s to fighting entropy and rebelling against the universe because, as Queen Latifah tells us, just to sit still would be a sin.

Alakazam, Gengar, Vaporeon

Guys, this is my fortieth blog post. Like, we’re coming up on a year. Can’t handle it. Anyway, first things first. My sister left on Monday, so I’ll give you a brief review of the last few days she was here and such like.

On Friday, we spent a lovely day in Dún Laoghaire, a seaside town that I’ve written about before. It was supposed to rain, but didn’t and was actually pretty sunny most of the day. The wind was kind of killer, but. We just sort of walked around, obviously got some ice cream at Scrum Tiddley’s. Went to the National Maritime Museum which was cute in a childish, sad sort of way. On Saturday, we walked through Phoenix Park and toured Áras an Uachtaráin (ARE-us ahn ookh-tah-RAHN) which is to say, the house of the President of Ireland. Then we went to Glasnevin Cemetary and saw cool grave markers of some important people, but mostly unimportant ones–or, I should say, ones largely forgotten by history. Sunday, we didn’t do much really. We took a slow walk through the park memorializing World War I, a very peaceful conclusion to her visit, I think. Anyway, I saw her onto the bus to the airport on Monday afternoon and here we are.

Tuesday was my first exam invigilation day with a short, small set in Regent House, a lovely room over Front Gate. It met all my expectations of being exceedingly boring but nothing really to complain about. By far the highlight was the Environmental Science student with a little Gengar figurine on his desk, presumably for good luck. Since Gengar is my second favorite Pokémon, I hope he does really well. The other three exams were two law classes–one on the French constitution and the other on the French Civil Code– and econometrics. Yay for me not having exams.

Also, headline in the Irish Independent I saw yesterday: “Mini Heatwave to hit Ireland this weekend after the coldest April in decades.” Of course, an Irish heatwave means that temperatures will ‘soar’ up to 22 C (about 70° F) in some places–the average high in Dublin for July is 20.2. This after spending part of the afternoon reading (for pleasure) in the sun on campus. Pumped, but a bummer my sister missed out. Alas. For me, though, it’s going to be great. Reading in the sun is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. There’s something really special about it. And, as someone who grew up (and continues to live, apparently) in a place where reading in the sun is a very restricted activity (by weather not policy), I deeply appreciate it whenever I can partake. Also, I’d love to not hear about how the weather’s been in Gig Harbor. I know, guys. I get it. You’ve had some sun. Some rain too, but way more sun than we’ve had. I don’t want to hear about it.

And finally, on a totally unrelated note. As last week concluded the monthly poetry posts (for a while, at least), I thought I’d try something different for May. Each week, I’m going to list ten songs that I’ve listened to and enjoyed, without commentary, so that you can get to know my tastes a bit. I encourage you to give them a try. You’re most welcome to react to them (in any way you see fit) but I doubt that any raging diatribes against a particular choice (or choices) will forever alter my taste in music. Perhaps a better tack, should you disapprove of my choices, would be to simply suggest alternatives. Anyway. I have pretty wide-ranging tastes but in the past year or so have started to identify a sort of style that I particularly like. The only genres generally that I don’t like are rap and country, but even there some good songs are to be found. I’m also going to refrain from including choral/instrumental music and songs from musicals because most of you already know I’m real into that and I want you to know that there’s more to my musical inclinations than what my elementary school (and even middle and high school) friends almost unerringly referred to as “opera.”

This is just another way for me to share me with you, so whether or not you like these selections, you can know that I do, at least. One way or another, here’s the first installment.

  1. Barcelona – George Ezra
  2. Birds of a Feather – The Rosenbergs
  3. Имя 505 – Время и Стекло
  4. War of Hearts – Ruelle
  5. Style – Taylor Swift
  6. Classic – MKTO
  7. Electric Feel – MGMT
  8. Cosmic Love – Florence + the Machine
  9. Nothing – Ji Nilsson
  10. Losing My Mind – Charlie Puth

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.