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.

 

Advertisements

Kind

This week of vacation has been very pleasant for me. Mostly, I have done nothing, or nothing of note. I did take a quick trip to Cheboygan–or, let me rephrase, I drove three hours to Cheboygan, spent maybe forty-five minutes there, then drove three hours back through a bit of a snowstorm. Not much to see or do in Cheboygan, MI but I did get to look at Lake Huron which was the point.

Yesterday, had a lovely time seeing Ralph Breaks the Internet with friends, going to an Asian buffet (apparently the best in Traverse City, which is a tough time), and then eating the pumpkin pies I made and chatting the evening away. Very well enjoyed.

I don’t expect much in the way of happenings today, other than calling up relatives, as one does on Thanksgiving. I’m sure the video chat will be passed willy-nilly around and I won’t get dizzy at all. It’s cold outside (last night had a low of 14°F) and there’s plenty of snow on the ground so I’ll be tucked away inside all day and I’m perfectly content with that.

Anyway, a few quick thoughts on today that almost led me to title this post The Walk but I did not because while seeing another movie this week, this song was playing on repeat in my head and very nearly bringing me to tears.


The thing about me posting my blog on Thursdays is that I always post on Thanksgiving. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Trying to have good words for you on a holiday that I very much care about. Trying to think of things that feel as weighty as the premise of a holiday dedicated to giving thanks.

Words, however powerful, are only words. I do believe, strongly, in the strength of words. Actions, though, are the very substance of life. So on this day, and more frequently hereafter, may we not only give lip service to gratitude but may we allow our words of thanks to change us. May we not only say “Peace on earth” but also act as peacemakers. May we not only say “Love your neighbor” but also act in kindness to people different from ourselves. May we live out the things we say, and behave as though we believed in our own ideals.

This kind of sentiment is expressed well in the words of John F. Kennedy in his  Thanksgiving proclamation of 1963. I don’t really hold with the quasi-deification of the founding fathers, but I appreciate that it emphasizes the ideals toward which, in our best moments, we can strive.

Today we give our thanks, most of all, for the ideals of honor and faith we inherit from our forefathers —  for the decency of purpose, steadfastness of resolve and strength of will, for the courage and the humility, which they possessed and which we must seek every day to emulate. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.

Decency of purpose. Why do we do what we do? Why are we who we are? I’m not sure, but I am thankful that each day is another chance to figure it out.

Reading and contemplating these sentiments, I am mindful of a line from 1 John: “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” In other words, may we not talk the talk but walk the walk.


Also this week, I went to see the movie Boy Erased. I have no eloquent words for it. It made me sad. It made me hurt. It was important.

It made me grateful for all I have, for the world that has changed around me, and for a knowledge of self and of God that leaves only room for love.

I am thankful that I am happy and whole. I am thankful that my God is kind. I am thankful that I am myself. In this time, I pray that you feel–beyond any doubt or fear or hurt or guilt–loved.

My Cup with Blessings Overflows

Attitude of gratitude is a very annoying and trite hinkety-pinkety and even so, I have started this post with it. Because it matters, though saying it aloud makes me want to cringe into nothingness.

My last couple posts haven’t been particularly uplifting. And that’s okay, it’s not my job to be uplifting. But it is tiresome to be always serious and sad. This post will be neither serious nor sad. To prove it, I will share this with you:

BeegashiiLucy2018-11-11

Such cuties.

Anyway. Winter is well under way here in chilly Michigan. We received around six inches of snow early Sunday morning which would have had me prancing with glee had I not had to drive to Traverse City–the first one off campus, little Pádraig doing his best to get us through and over and around. He performed admirably, no major mishaps  though the roads, even where I wasn’t the first driver on them, were having a tough time.

Putting the couple touchy moments aside, the snow has been lovely. No falls for me thus far, no spills, no outtakes of any kind. I’ve got my equipment and I’m ready to take it all on.

And I’ve got to tell you that, while Michigan nature isn’t my usual, it can still really do it for me.

img_20181111_120507985_burst0012

Cozy inside, snowy outside, contented all around. Or at least doing alright.

Tonight is The Feast, which I expect will be nice. Everyone at school wears their fancy dress, we have a meal together, and then there’s an cooperative arts performance. Should be good fun, hopefully.

And then, get this: I have a week off! I just had a week off in October! And I’ll have more in December and January! So much vacation! I don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face but after Korea, it feels so nice to have actual, for real time off!

I think I might take a day trip to Cheboygan because a) it’s very fun to say b) it’s on Lake Huron which I haven’t seen yet and c) variety is the spice of life. If you are a Michigan person, feel free to advise me on other places to visit. At some point, I’ll go up the the Upper Peninsula again so I can see Lake Superior. Not sure where else in Michigan I’ll end up seeing.

All this to say, as appropriate for this time of year: things are nice and I’m feeling very blessed just in my general existence. Not sure exactly what Thanksgiving plans will be but there have been rumors of a few other house parents sticking around and we might do something all together. I’d be all about that. Making friends and stuff, I guess.

Also. I’ve found a super-simple recipe for pumpkin pie (yes, even more simple than usual) and I’m excited to give it a go. Frozen pie crusts because let’s not get carried away (and also I don’t have a counter to roll out dough) but the filling will be all me. There’s maple syrup in it, so that’s fun. Yay baking!

Whether or not it’s Thanksgiving time for you, whether or not you’re feeling happy and blessed, I’m wishing you all sorts of good things because things just seem to be pretty alright for me.

Michigan is Happening

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

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

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

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

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

img_20181023_184505495_hdr

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

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

 

Then the Traveller in the Dark

I woke up early on Tuesday morning absolutely convinced that it was Saturday. The week continued downhill from there. Things haven’t been that bad, I’m managing just fine. It’s more the idea, the concept, of doing work that has become so dreadful. In the event, it doesn’t bother me as much, but the anticipation (and everything else around it) is draining.

It snowed (yay!) on Tuesday afternoon but while the forecast predicted one to two inches, it ended up being the faintest dusting. I was, however, braced for that disappointment because life is disappointing. I was hoping to have a somewhat lighter schedule on Wednesday but instead my three hour intensive was immediately followed by four hours of phone classes. Not the worst–and, importantly, it’s balanced by only having my intensive next Wednesday–but a bit disappointing all the same.

In other news, it’s also very cold. You may have heard about the super freezing weather in the US and we’re apparently getting some of that too. I woke up this morning and it was 6 F and the low tonight is forecast to be 3. Which is very cold. There are no blizzard force winds but it is a step or two above breezy which isn’t helping either. I enjoy the cold in terms of staying in and doing nothing but being warm. However, when I do have to go someplace, for example, work, it makes my fairly short walk pretty unpleasant.

We also got together to finish the second half of Two Towers on Wednesday night, having watched disk one last Saturday. Absolutely tremendous, as always. And some of us painted our nails, I was going for ‘something dark and wintry but that could not be mistaken for black’ and we ended up with this gorgeous color between forest green and mint that is exactly right. Of course, I did a terrible job actually painting them (this being my third time) but it still looks okay. Though it’s already chipping.

I was going to title this post something about being unfortunate, or disappointing, or just generally meh. But I went with a line from the lesser-known third verse of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (there are five). Because it doesn’t take much to keep hope alive and, though there are no stars in Seoul, sometimes a single snowflake on the tongue is all the sustenance that it requires.

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

Celestial Songs

  1. The Spheres from the Sunrise Mass – Ola Gjeilo
  2. Young Galileo – Mark Gresham
  3. Astronaut Anthem – Meredith Monk
  4. Underneath the Stars – Kate Rusby, arr. Jim Clements
  5. Stars – Ēriks Ešenvalds
  6. A Breathing Peace – Daniel Elder
  7. Northern Lights – Ola Gjeilo
  8. Madrigals for the Space Age – Lalo Schifrin
  9. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – Daniel Elder
  10. Choose Something Like a Star – Randall Thompson

In Our Grasp

I almost wanted to start by saying that this week has been crazy, but it hasn’t actually been anything of the sort. It’s been a pretty normal week–and I mean that in the worst way. How could the week before Christmas be any kind of normal? But it has also been a nice week, and I’m grateful for the positive things that have happened. I’m also feeling a little contemplative now that my first Christmas in circumstances like this is finally here.

On Monday morning, it snowed quite a bit–our largest accumulation this year, I think, though it was probably only about an inch. The main thing is that it did not all melt immediately. Some of it did, but it’s been pretty cold even through the snow so a lot of it has stuck around all week. On Wednesday afternoon, we were graced with a further dusting of fairy-light snow which I was fortunate enough to be able to dance in for a few moments at work.

Tuesday night was our once-a-term staff dinner (on the company) and we did a little secret Santa exchange, which was precious. It’s nice that, as much as I don’t like working there, it does have its moments. And certainly it is better than it could be, so there’s that.

Monday night has become a routine movie night at the Kelsey abode (married coworkers of mine) for many of our teachers and though it’s normally too late for me to commit, we’ve been doing Christmas movies in December so I’ve been every week. This week was Scrooged and, no offense intended, but it wasn’t my thing. But I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent together. Also, I watched Arrival last weekend, quite a movie. I haven’t bumped it into my top-five-in-no-particular-order ( at least not yet), but it was good. My main, topical take-away from it was just listening. There should probably be more listening in the world.

Okay, as this is my last post before Christmas, I have some Christmas thoughts to share. This is, as I’ve said before, my first Christmas without any family or anything around and  it’s been an interesting time. I have friends here, but it’s different. I was working last year, but it’s different. It’s just a thing. And honestly, I have been swinging wildly between loads of Christmas spirit (especially when there’s snow and/or singing involved) and totally forgetting that Christmas is coming at all.

Let nothing that follows indicate that I have anything but the highest regard for the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas movie. Because it truly is a wonder. I have been singing the Who Christmas song on and off since I made my classes watch it during the snack party at the end of last term.

However.

“Christmas Day is in our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp.”

“Christmas Day will always be just so long as we have we.”

Such admirable and timely sentiments. Truly. And so heartwarming and seasonal and cozy and nice. When I was younger, I considered them some of the loveliest statements of Christmas feelings. But if I’ve learned anything this first Christmas apart, it’s that those sentiments are false.

There are no qualifications for Christmas. There are no conditions. Christmas Day is in our grasp. Christmas Day will always be. Christmas doesn’t come from a store–it does, in fact, mean a little bit more. But its meaning does not stem from loving each other, as good and right and lovely as that is. It comes from being loved.

If Christmas were about us–us loving, being joyful, coming together, lifting each other up–it would be a pleasant but ultimately weak holiday. Because we are, at best, imperfect lovers. The strength of Christmas is that, together or apart, we are all loved perfectly.

I hope you all have a merry and happy Christmas; cherishing time together, the weather, the food, the presents, the decorations, the all-around atmosphere. And if or when you feel the imperfection of it all becoming a little too much, remember that there is perfection in Christmas and we don’t have to do a thing to receive it.

God loves us.

Go to Sleep and Dream of Snow

This past Saturday, I went with some friends back to Bukhansan National Park. This time, we went around the back way to climb up one of the lesser peaks. The weather was surprisingly mild, though in this case that meant it was around 5 C/40 F. There was plenty of snow, but only in the shade. All in all, it was a lovely hike.

It started out relatively calm but, as per usual with Korean mountains, it quickly became quite steep. The last slog up icy rock faces with only a rickety railing was less than ideal, not least because I am just not athletic to begin with. But we got to the top and, though it was a hazy day, the views were still gorgeous. We hiked up Jaunbong Peak (740m) and had a wonderful, if strenuous, time doing so.

IMG_20171209_141325550_HDR.jpg

Baegundae Peak, my last trip to the park, in the distance

On Sunday morning, I awoke to a lovely blanket of snow. It was cold enough to stick even to the roads, for once, and I relished the chance to walk to church through snow. Of course, it was also raining and so I took the bus, but the walk to the bus stop was positively delightful. After church the rain had stopped and all but a scattered remnant of packed snow had gone the way of glaciers in the time of global warming. Nevertheless, I was well pleased with the weather all around.

After everything was sufficiently melted, the temperature, naturally, dropped significantly. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday had highs around -6 C and lows of -12 C (that’s ~24-10 F). Which is very cold. Much bundling was necessary even though I only live about an eight minute walk from work. The skies have been crystal clear and the wind has been pretty biting. I definitely complain about the cold but I would like to state once more, for the record, that I will ten times out of ten take too cold over too hot. You can always put on more clothes but there’s only so much you can take off.

There’s really not much else to report this week. I can say that I’m very excited to be nearing the end of my contract. I’m very excited about my upcoming trip upon the expiration of said contract. I’m very excited for Christmas. I’m very excited to finish the series I’ve been reading for the past while, though it will, of course, be sad when I actually do finish.

Feel free to send me details and/or pictures of your Christmas preparations because. Bonus points will be awarded for Christmas trees and baked goods, but all submissions will be thoroughly appreciated.