Perhaps

E.E. Cummings wrote that “Spring is like a perhaps hand” and I think he was really on to something. Things haven’t been wintry this week, for which I am very grateful, but they have felt rather perhaps. Spring comes, I’ve heard, slowly and then all at once.

I have not seen flowers, really, but I have seen sprouted bulbs lengthen into mature leaves. I have not seen trees with their leaves but I have seen leaves budding, so very very tender. I have seen sun and rain and clouds and wind but I have not seen snow. I have heard the birds and the thunder and the small sighing breezes that mean life is happening.

Anyway, there has not been much going on in my life this week. Starting to apply to jobs, as one does, always a joy. Thinking about what it will be like to once again live elsewhere, start anew, uproot and replant. I would kind of rather not but here we are so.

I will say that the few sunny days that we have had truly have changed everything, winter-wise. It’s less that it’s warmer and sunnier (though those are both deeply excellent developments) and more that they are definite and delightful evidence that time is moving forward and we won’t be trapped in winter forever. Especially in the absence of much new green as of yet, I need some kind of promise that spring has arrived.

I guess there’s no way to know for sure, it’s entirely possible that we’ll get a little more snow yet. I really, really hope not. I’m not sure if I could handle anything more than the lightest of dustings at this point.

I’m going to keep this post short in anticipation of an extraordinarily long one that will be upcoming, probably in a few weeks. It’s about politics, wooooooo. I’ll leave you with the ending of the poem, one that I think is so gentle and inspiring. Spring comes to us and transforms the world, but it changes everything carefully.

May the perhaps of our spring blossom into a certainly of summer. Someday.

“moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and

without breaking anything.”

 

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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

 

Manunkind

Once again, I turn my mind toward poetry this week. The poem itself is wide-ranging and powerful, covering important topics that I feel ill equipped to grapple with at this juncture. The poet is Victoria Adukwei Bulley and she composed it as part of an initiative at the Victoria & Albert Museum to wrestle with its links to slavery. I encourage you to listen to it in full but I’ll draw your attention to the first line:

Men like you say mankind and mean yourselves, your brothers, and your fathers’ fathers.

When you draw the circle around humanity, in other words, you draw it to include only people like you without thinking. When you consider the human experience, you imagine that the world, in all its beautiful and diverse complexity, is essentially experienced only one way. You do not necessarily set out to exclude but you cannot conceive of ways that are not your ways, people who are not your people, hearts that are not your hearts.

It is not wrong to be self-aware and self-reflective. It is wrong to believe that the way your self is is the only way a self can be. With every concentric, constricting ring whereby you lessen the pool of who counts, those inside lose knowledge and wisdom and empathy while those outside lose respect and dignity and often their lives. Being inside means, all too often, not only that you forget how to look outside but that you forget there’s anything worth seeing out there at all.

I am, time and again, confounded by people who say that they have finally found the limits of who counts, the limits are these, and this is the end of all possible discussion on the subject. To say–with a surety that could melt steel–that others have neglected so-and-so a group while esteeming another group overmuch. To clearly delineate the bounds of the valuable and the valueless, and often to claim that doing so is an act of Truth, Faith, and Love. To assuage the excluded by saying that it’s not so much that they don’t matter, just that they matter differently or less (by which they mean not mattering not at all).

In an odd turn, considering the poem’s colonial/historical/racial context, I’m sitting here thinking about the US Declaration of Independence. About certain truths it claims–erroneously–are self-evident. On the one hand, they were exactly right: all are created equal. On the other, they didn’t actually just say “all,” did they, and they definitely didn’t mean it. They said mankind and meant themselves.

I do not consider myself a utilitarian in the macro sense, but in the micro I think the mindset has, if you’ll forgive me, some utility. There is probably some natural inclination in humanity to seek a ‘tribe’ of those like us. And there are reasons such a drive was useful in the past and is still, in some ways, useful today. But I think we live in an era when the tribal drive has, at best, a declining utility. Not just because it’s exclusive and often very dangerous (when you arm tribalists with nuclear weapons, for example). I feel this way because I think it has limited utility insofar as it limits, at the very least on a personal level, growth. There is some pleasure in living surrounded by people like yourself but there is greater personal utility in learning difference. You will be a better person, I am convinced, when you leave your little circles behind.

It is good to say mankind and consider the wealth of life that the term can include. Perhaps it is better not to say mankind and instead acknowledge the diversity of that life. Perhaps it is best not to say anything, in turn, and simply listen to the stories that life is trying to tell you. As Rilke said, live your life in ever-widening circles.

The Oozy Emerald Frog

One of the things that I can see as publisher of this blog is how many people click the links that I include. Typically, I will get 0-1 clicks any given week that I include one. This week’s title is such a lovely phrase and most of you will just go into the rest of your day never knowing where, exactly, it comes from. Just saying.

Surprise, I don’t have a whole lot to share this week. No trips to Chicago, hardly any trips at all. Because of the snow. Not feet upon feet but enough to make me increasingly wary of driving. And though for the moment, temperatures are maybe around the mid-twenties, there were a few days where the high barely made it into double digits, if at all. And there will be more such days shortly forthcoming.

And, as I wake up this morning, apparently we have a winter storm warning in the area. Several inches of snow to come this afternoon. Not quite a blizzard but very wintry and snowy and Narnia-y (pre-Pevensie, of course).

Quite cold, no matter how you slice it. Some small comfort, however, that I do not live in Yakutsk. I implore you, look up Yakutsk weather if you’re reading this in the northern hemisphere’s winter. In fact, I’ll include it for you here. (Though if you have a lot of money and are willing, I would gratefully accept a trip to visit Yakutsk because how interesting).

Anyway. I’ve not been up to much this week. Reading, of course. I was reading a book and it got to an emotional moment that was not a good kind and I needed to not continue for a while, so I started another book that I had just gotten off hold from the library–and that book very quickly gave me an emotional moment of a gross kind so that I needed a break from that one too. Frustrating. Not even the good, heartstrings bits that thrill me even as they tear me up inside. Just gross, hurtful, sad times that weren’t even morosely fulfilling. Ugh.

So I didn’t do a whole lot of reading yesterday, maybe today I’ll be in a place to pick them up again. We’ll see. If they were cooler emotional moments, I might tell you about them but mostly they’re just lame. Alas.

The plus side of all of the weather, if I may backtrack for a sec, is that I’ve seen some lovely winter sights. Snow-laced trees and ice-crusted stream and whatnot. This campus does have its moments.

I have spent a great deal of time inside, as one might imagine, but rest assured that I have enjoyed the snow in person as well. It is very beautiful, even if the very cold weather is not my strong suit. The snow lends an element of happiness/peace/something good that the bitter cold I had in Seoul last winter lacked most of the time.

Just a quick thought for you here at the end. Kind of totally unrelated but also kind of very relevant.

You may know, in a three way tie for my favorite poet is Edna St. Vincent Millay. She wrote a poem, [Still will I harvest beauty where it grows], that I’ve been thinking about this week. The thrust is mainly, I think, that beauty can come from anywhere–including places others may find gross. Very Ratatouille; not everyone can be a great chef but a great chef can come from anywhere kind of vibe. But tonight, writing this, I find myself thinking about the first word, primarily.

Still. In the midst of all that is going on. Though there is so much ugliness in the world. Despite the general state of things, as I see it. Even so. Still will I harvest beauty. Nothing will dissuade me from finding what is beautiful, even when others tell me there is no beauty to be found. The world may be hurting but it is still beautiful.

He Was My North

Once again, Tuesday proved to be my adventure day. Adventure in the relative sense, of course. I went into Traverse City and wandered around the “Commons” which appeared to be a really cool insane asylum repurposed as a hip shopping center. Anyway, I went to a brunch place and had red velvet pancakes, which are Important. Cream cheese in addition to whipped cream. Very Important. Obviously tremendously delicious.

After wandering around for a bit, nosing through the shops, I found out that it was, in fact, an asylum! The location was a state hospital and everything, very creepy. It didn’t close until 1989. Still, it’s a cool place now. Lots of interesting shops, chic hipster kind of vibe. Yes, I did have to look up how to spell chic again, I still think chiq or chique are better options. Anyway.

On my way driving back, I decided to just meaner around because I figured it was the likely last day of warm, sunny, pleasant weather until spring. I ended up going the opposite direction of Empire to Leland and the little historic district of Fishtown. Basically little shacks on the water, very destitute-fishermen-turned-touristy. Then I had the best sandwich of my life from the Village Cheese Shanty. Which, obviously, was Even More Important. I mean, a place called the Cheese Shanty. We were destined to find each other.

Just to be clear, the sandwich was the day’s special: turkey, cherry goat cheese, kream mustard, sunflower seeds, cucumber,  and lettuce on homemade pretzel bread (different from pretzel buns which I’m not wild into). Life changing. Such. A. Sandwich.

Moving right along. On Wednesday, I took a sec to do nothing (as per usual) and watch a couple movies that I’d been meaning to check off my list. Namely, Trolls and Moana. The first was alright, pretty nice. The second was marvelous. Moana in particular I enjoyed. The whole wandering over the horizon just to see what’s on the other side thing. That’s kind of my scene.

There’s really not much else to report for this week, just work and life and stuff. I like having thoughtful thoughts to think for you, but I feel kinda like I’m fresh out. I did really have a pleasant day on Tuesday. And Wednesday was plenty nice as well.

I was just thinking how I didn’t really have any existential angst nor contemplative philosophizing for you this week. I’m feeling pretty good, which is nice. But, as I was wandering through the internet as I wrote this, I encountered afresh the wonderful poem by W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues. Which is also a lovely jazz number and also an amusing satire on dictatorship–at least, according to the play that he originally wrote it for. So I’ll leave you with that thought. Tyranny is satire, doves can’t wear mourning, and compasses aren’t attracted to human beings.

Finale of Seem

There is a poem by Wallace Stevens, The Emperor of Ice-Cream, that I memorized during a poetry course at university. The message of the poem, in general, borders on hedonistic with its encouragement to enjoy life while one can. I wouldn’t consider myself a hedonist in really any sense so the poem sits a little awkwardly with me though I thoroughly enjoy it.

There is one line that came to me as precisely appropriate for this week. The narrator commands us: “Let be be finale of seem.” We are urged to let reality shine through illusion; to truly be who we are and relinquish, as much as we are able, the seem in our lives.

In preparation for Seattle Pride on Sunday, I finally got around to binging Queer Eye on Netflix. I knew, through the grapevine, that I had to get through at least the whole first season and the first episode of season two so that was what I did last Saturday (I have since finished season 2). And I was not disappointed.

The show is not at all my style. Though I have no qualms about watching awful television, my tastes strictly exclude reality TV of any sort. But I thought I’d make an exception for this, seeing as I still haven’t seen any Drag Race (my gay culture now is a strong desire for Antoni). The show is indeed worth a watch and I’m glad I got around to it.

Though not every episode made me tear up, it is consistently not about superficiality or selfishness or vanity (though it’s hard to avoid them altogether). It is about learning to love yourself, to value yourself, and let that then pour out of you into others.

Anyway. I did go to Pride and let me tell you, I was not adequately prepared by the Korean Queer Culture Festival last year. I brought my Korean/French rainbow fan from last year (it being the only rainbow thing I own) and met up with a friend who lives in Seattle. I also happened to run into a couple other friends by chance, which was fun.

Here’s the thing: I am no longer in the closet; I have no problem reconciling my faith and sexuality. Even so, there are plenty of moments of fear and anxiety. Times when I’m not sure how someone will react to something I’ve done (for example, getting a manicure and having rainbow nails) or something just feels awkward and you let it slide (for example, if someone asks whether I have a girlfriend, I typically answer ‘no’ instead of ‘I’m gay’).

Pride is what gives a time of freedom from that. Some people use that freedom to bicycle naked in a parade, which… you do you. For me, I just stand there, sometimes smiling wildly, feeling all fluttery when I see people holding hands.

Honestly, the parade wasn’t that interesting. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to be that interested in a parade of any kind. But the pride, the Pride, was what I came for and what I felt. What I feel. It’s less about what happens and more that it happens. Less an event and more a feeling. A collective sloughing off of seeming, if you will.

Someone put it this way, loosely: sometimes, pride is the opposite of humility but sometimes, it’s the opposite of shame. And that latter is worth celebrating.

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Really About the Same

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breathe the Free Air

Introductory thoughts for the week:

I was reading a little article about the recent ‘velvet’ revolution in Armenia whereby the premier was removed from power and the whole political system upset by popular demonstrations ect. They reference the actions of youth, commonly known there as the ‘independence generation’.

I’m real into generation things, I think it’s an interesting way to think about history and contemporary life. I like being a millennial, generally. But think about this: in lots and lots of places, I would be in a different generation–the first generation born and raised in a new country.

The early nineties were a crazy time in much of the world. And the resulting waves of independence meant that there’s a whole slew of young people around the world who are literally building their countries. They are deciding what they want their countries to look like. Not just by voting or consuming culture or whatever options are available to people just generally. But by actually being the first people born ever in, for example, the Republic of Armenia.

It’s something that I really can’t imagine, being very far removed from US independence. Certainly, there are traditions to build on, history and precedent. But think about Kyrgyzstan, for example, which went from progressive invasions across the steppes to the Russian Empire then the Soviet Union. Before independence in 1991, there had never been any kind of Kyrgyz state in history, the people of that area traditionally having been loosely organized nomads (historians please feel free to instruct me if I’m mistaken, I like learning).

In other news, I climbed a mountain with my friend on Tuesday. We debated both ‘climb’ and ‘mountain’ but in the final estimation, decided both were appropriate. We went to Mount Townsend, right at the northeast corner of the Olympics. It was eight-ish miles round trip, increasing about 3,000′ in elevation. Having reached the top, we definitely determined that it was a climb not a hike, and definitively a mountain mountain. The views were spectacular.

 

We had some lovely conversation, some lovely chicken salad sandwiches, and some companionable silence (huffing of breath excluded, of course). One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was the air.

It was fragrant almost beyond belief with pine and alpine freshness. It’s a smell I’m familiar with but can never have enough. Something about being up a mountain, seeing verdant green and bright snow and elegant peaks… it’s beyond special.

In places like that, I often try to envision the first people to come to those places. The first human eyes to see those mountains, those valleys, those rivers. To have all your senses alive with a totally new experience–scenting the pine, hearing the birds, warmed by the sun, seeing the peaks, tasting your chicken salad sandwiches.

What an incredible gift it is. I was trying to think of a way to connect my initial musings with the hike and I stuck upon that moment from Lord of the Rings when Théoden is freed from Saruman’s enchantment and Gandalf says, “Breathe the free air again, my friend.” (As an aside, yes pretty much everything can be connected to a Lord of the Rings quotation).

Sometimes, a protest and political revolution is required to breathe free. Sometimes, all that is required is a lungful of pine and a vast, open sky. In the words of E.E. Cummings, “i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky…”

I awkwardly forgot about my music list so I’m adding it now. Too late for some of you, alas.

  1. Praying – Kesha
  2. Pray – Sam Smith
  3. In the Name of Love – Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha
  4. Say You Love Me – Steve Grand
  5. Issues – Julia Michaels
  6. Cameo – Sam Tsui
  7. Silence – Marshmello ft. Khalid
  8. All Our Love – Gentlemen Hall
  9. Paris in the Rain – Lauv
  10. Settin’ the Woods on Fire – Hank Williams

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.

 🕯️