Roots, Routes, and Sunflower Shoots

For the record, I am neither here nor there on the pronunciation of routes; sometimes I say roots and sometimes I say raw-oots (I have no idea how to phoneticize that). Obviously, for the purposes of this post, I’m going with the former.

I have dark tidings: I am writing this on Wednesday night and the weather forecast is calling for some pretty strong snow possibilities in the coming wee hours. This must not be. I will not give you an update in the morning because I fear that the worst will come to pass, I will just hope and pray that better plans prevail.

Also, some actually exciting news before we go too much further. One of my good friends has recently adopted a new friend and his name is Jackson and I was instantly in love. Hope to meet him in person some day soon.

Whether or not the weather actually agrees, it is spring. We may or may not get a little more snow this month but I don’t care. Immediately after returning from Canada, I planted some dwarf sunflower seeds and they have sprouted and they have given me hope (even if they don’t live much longer, I don’t have a green bone in my body). I saw my first flowers of the season on campus this week as well, all three of them.

There are still a few lingering snow bits tucked away in corners or where ploughs made great big heaps. But mostly, the ground is free and clear and soft and lovely. My DC friends were sending me all kinds of gorgeous pictures of cherry trees and though I have yet to see a single blossom here (land of the Cherry Capital Airport), I know that they are coming. Spring marches on, following ever after winter. There is hope, after all.

And coming back from break, we now have nothing between us and the end of the school year. It’s one straight shot. Racing down the track at us. And, though we still have two months, I’m already starting to get that my-departure-is-immanent anxiety. Job applications, of course, thinking about packing and finding a new place to live and all that.

I do not recall when I first heard the phrase ‘roots and routes.’ I feel like it may have been a book discussed at Trinity. But I don’t recall and I’m too lazy to look it up. But what a catchy saying, am I right? And it so elegantly captures a huge element of the human story. I, for one, am one always on the move and always longing to stretch my roots deep into home soil.

It is far too early to be thinking about my time here concluding (but I just couldn’t not use this title when I saw my seedlings and thought of it). Even so, I think I might make a few observations in the general sense.

Unless you are a very new reader, it should come as no surprise to you that social is very difficult for me. I have a deep hunger for intimate friendship but I am also very introverted. So when I’m moving frequently and have to social all over again with new people in a new place, I sometimes despair of that deep relationship. But at the same time, everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been blessed with people who I have been able to social with and become at least some modicum closer to. Though my living arrangements the past several years have been relatively fleeting, I feel like I have been able to grow some roots eventually in each place. And I think I’m getting better at it.

On the flip side, I love traveling. I love not just traveling but coming to live in a new place. Even when those places have sometimes been places I didn’t particularly want to go, I have found such a joy simply in the act of going. Yes, I long for roots. Desperately. But I must not let that ache blind me to the bright spring feeling of arriving. The routes that I have taken, sometimes unexpected and undesired, that have taken me literally across the globe.

Roots and routes. And as for the shoots, as I’m so very fond of saying: bloom where you’re planted.

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Ottawa Airbnb cat. So affectionate.

Lest ye imagine that my trip to Canada in late March was a vernal dream and that I walked about with perambulatory ease, allow me to set you aright. I woke up my last morning in Ottawa to snow, still descending, which decayed into freezing rain as I drove to Montréal. Upon reaching that municipality, rain and ice unabated, I proceeded to wander a while upon Mont Royal, the landmark which furnished the city with its name, and cover myself in ice while seeing only fog-obscured views and getting a little lost along poorly labeled paths. My last morning in Montreal preceded in line with that, a dusting of snow once more. And, about an hour out from home, more snow. And waking up the next morning, first morning back in Glen Arbor, just a teensy bit more.

So you know, spring.

People have talked about the great variability of spring in this region but I have not seen it. I have seen only more winter with slightly warmer temperatures. As my dear Edna St Vincent Millay put it, “Time does not bring relief; you all have lied”.

Anyway. I thought instead of a play-by-play of the rest of my trip, I would offer just a few summarized points and then move on. I had a lovely time, truly, but I have to say that I wasn’t overly impressed on the whole. In Canada, as in the US, it seems the west coast really is the best coast. But it was not all in vain.

[As a general aside, I’m confident that all this was very colored by my experience of the weather. If I were to visit for the first time maybe in May or something, my review might have sounded quite different. I tried to enjoy regardless, and mostly succeeded, but snow in April simply isn’t my scene.]

Ottawa was kind of an odd city. I told a friend it gave me a feeling that somehow combined Dublin, IE and Anchorage, AK and Burlington, VT. None of those are ringing endorsements (though I do love Burlington). I really appreciated the way indigenous art was presented, included, and described (in indigenous languages) in the National Gallery of Canada. And the buildings of Parliament Hill (and a few others) were absolutely exceptional, loved them a lot.

My experience of Montréal was, I think, the most hampered by inclement weather. I just didn’t want to go see much. I did hit my few highlights, so that was nice. I appreciated some nice architecture, and was pleased to walk through the Gay Village which was right near by Airbnb. But it was the end of my trip, it was cold, it was rainy, I stayed inside and read a good deal. The book wasn’t even that great so.

Finally, I arrived in Rochester, NY, for a visit with an old friend and her fiancé. It was very rejuvenating, just chatting and catching up and hanging out. Relaxing with someone who knows me well. Saw a bit of the city, which seemed nice enough, but mostly enjoyed a quiet finale to the journey.


My host in Montréal, interestingly, was French. From Brittany, which proved especially interesting when I learned (and told him, because he hadn’t known) that the much-celebrated Jacques Cartier, essentially the European who first got what became Canada going, was also born in Brittany. In fact, he was not even born in France. The Duchy of Brittany formally became part of France by an edict in (its status was super complicated so assigning a single year is iffy but) 1532 when the explorer was middle-aged.

I do not know a whole lot of Jacques’s biography other than a perusal of his Wikipedia page. I do not know his native tongue. But I do know that Wikipedia lists his name first as Jacques Cartier and second, suggestively, as Jakez Karter. Did he speak Breton?

I noted this to my host, and rather ham-handedly compared it to Québec in terms of linguistic imperialism. He replied that that was of an earlier age, that it was the time of colonization, whereas Québec was not. We moved the conversation on from there and it was all good but I have to tell you, I disagree strongly.

First, let it be said that a) yes, the whole Québec thing is an entirely different question than Brittany, that wasn’t really a good comparison, and b) I love minority languages and cultures and all that, preserve preserve preserve! But. You’re white Canadians mad about people barging into where your ancestors lived and foisting their culture and language on you? Tell me more.

I don’t want to get super political on a topic about which I am very poorly informed. So I will only say this: the people with the best claim to Québec–and all of Canada and really the Americas– speak, historically, neither French nor English.

Like I said, I really know nothing about this. But it seems to me that Canada seems to be trying, for French-speakers and indigenous peoples alike. Not doing super well all the time, but trying. And that’s more than I can say for my current country of residence. My two cents, at least.

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Snowdrifts and How Not to Be One

Here we are, the first full day of spring, following the equinox yesterday evening. Welcome, my friends. I am very much looking forward to the coming months. Though, even before those coming months, we have spring break beginning this weekend! And this school, being a fancy private sort of school, has two weeks off. Going to be great, can confirm. Even if it’s not great, it’ll be great.

The weather back home has had its moments of sun as well this week. The parentals sent this picture:

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Obviously, some furniture had to be moved in order to accommodate their needs for sun exposure. And sun napping, which I desperately wish I were able to participate in. I do so miss those kitties.

Don’t even get me started dreaming about reading in the sun. Oh Sun of Spring, warm us!

There remains some snow/slush/freezing temperatures in our forecast here in northwestern Michigan but, having officially started spring  yesterday, I feel confident that we are all on the up and up. Highs consistently topping 40°F. A great deal of melting has already occurred, revealing roadways and pathways and even some just plain ground. With the equinox solidly under our belt, true spring is only a matter of time. We’ve gotten some nice rain (you know I love a good rainy day) and some spectacularly comprehensive fog.

The thing is, there are still plenty of snowdrifts. Whether caused by ploughs or wind or who knows how else, the big piles of snow remain largely intact. Slightly smaller, from the sunny days we’ve had this week, but still pretty immobile. And they are dumb.

In the depths of winter, snowdrifts are still dumb, but they fit. Everything is snowy, some things are more snowy than others. It makes sense. It’s horrible when you’re walking along and suddenly the snow is two feet higher than the rest of the path but hey, che sera sera. The landscapes that they build make sense in a grand scheme. Some of these views of rolling farmland, antique farmhouses, barren trees all covered in a thick and glittering blanket of snow–it’s a strong yes from me.

But now we’re in spring. The ground is reemerging. Your snow is not wanted any longer. Get out. Go away. Get with the times.

If you’ll allow me a bit of personal unpacking for a moment. I’m a little contradictory on this front of change. I at once hate it and embrace it. If Facebook changes even one little thing, it’ll drive me up the wall. I wore essentially the same style shoe from maybe second grade until earlier this year. But I also didn’t really have any problem moving to a different continent twice, not knowing a single person.

Change as a concept aside, let’s talk about growth because this is definitely the season for it. I’m trying to be more conscious about how I want to be growing as a person. Not necessarily changing but taking who I am and refining and strengthening and committing. Most of the time, I’d rather just be an out-of-season snowdrift. But I’m working on it. And I’m telling you because working on yourself in secret makes it easy to just not.

I mostly eat decently, but I really want to commit to it. I’ve started exercising some but I really want to increase it. I’m trying to spend my time in more deliberate ways–not cutting down reading or Netflix or anything, but committing to a series, for example, and following through instead of just watching for a second when I’m bored. These are just a few examples of snowdrifts I’m trying to melt (I don’t care that I’m abusing that metaphor, it’s a metaphor and it can’t feel it).

All this to say: snow is beautiful, in its time, but when the air warms and the clouds part, let the sun shine in.

The Infrequency of Words

The important news this week is also, unfortunately, weather related. Unfortunate because it means that my life is incredibly boring, not because it’s unfortunate news. The news is, actually, fabulous: today’s high is approximately 50°F! I cannot describe to you the amount of slush and puddles that have entered into my life this week but I will bear any burden to see spring arrive in full force.

I think, having made it this far, I can say with some confidence that I could manage just fine living my life in a snowy place. I have yet to live in a deserty place, so that’s up in the air, but I’ve covered a lot of ground in between. Growing up in Washington, then Ireland was basically the same, DC was definitely doable climate-wise, Korea as well. I don’t particularly want to test my mettle against a perpetually hot environment but that’s really the major one that’s missing.

Before I go any further, here’s a quick update on Bubba in the form of a picture where you can actually see him! A feat indeed. What a cutie.

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Camaro was not available for comment or, apparently, a picture.

I know that I’ve mentioned Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay on here before but I feel like I’ve neglected the third poet who is tied for my favorite: Emily Dickinson. I was reading a bit about her this week, both biographical and poetical information. I just really love her work and she seems like a pretty interesting person as well.

There are a lot of misconceptions about her and a lot of unsubstantiated theorizing. As far as I know, extant sources do not really elaborate on anything that may or may not have been a love affair so speculation on that area is just that–speculation. The idea that she was a recluse does stem from the actual state of things but it seems to be a bit of an unfair characterization. She did limit visitors and didn’t get out really but a lot of this seems (and there is text evidence from her letters to support this) that she was mostly trying to avoid the stereotypical women’s work that, for her position, involved a lot of formal ‘calling’ in the Jane Austin mode. She didn’t really like calling or being called on, she had other things to occupy her time.

She wasn’t anti-social, just differently social, as many people in the age of the internet are. I’m not an expert on this so don’t take my word as indisputable fact but still, interesting things to consider.

Anyway, it was lovely to learn a bit more about her. Her poetry is often just straight up weird, especially considering her time and that she was pretty much a respectable middle class New Englander but wrote in really kind of odd ways. So many dashes. (There were loads of edits when her poems were first published in a volume posthumously). Talking about science and religion (while herself decidedly uncommitted to organized religion). Talking about death and nature and ‘wild nights.’ Seems like a pretty cool lady to me.

I don’t have any particular thoughts about her this week, just wanted to share some more poetry love. I know it’s not for everyone but for me, it can say things so beautifully and so obliquely and so just mysteriously. I wanted to include one of hers here, especially because many of them are quite short, and it took a long time to decide. There are so many excellent options.

I settled on this one because it seems uniquely appropriate for a blog where I rarely have much to say.

Your thoughts don’t have words every day
They come a single time
Like signal esoteric sips
Of the communion Wine
Which while you taste so native seems
So easy so to be
You cannot comprehend its price
Nor its infrequency

 

Lion

This week I guess is mostly just a weather update, not a whole lots of thoughts to share. People always say that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb and I’m just like really looking forward to that lamb. Such lion right now.

We’ve gotten quite a bit more snow this week and the high on Monday was 8°F–and that was with a substantial cloud layer (because it was snowing). It just keeps snowing. And while it continues to be super beautiful, I’m just kinda over it. Put another way: my appreciation of the snow has not decreased but my desire for spring has dramatically increased.

I will say that Pádraig has been performing most admirably in all this snow. For such a little guy, he’s had minimal slippage. He’s just been wearing all weather tires, new as of August, which are good but not super well suited to these often mediocre-ly cleared roads. Even so, he’s done so well with all the icy, snowy, sandy, gross bits. Though he’s in desperate need of a wash which won’t come until we’re well past snow. We’ll muddle through.

Here is a little kitty update, since they’re the cutest twinsies. Also, if you want your cat featured, give me the pics because I love all the cats as I think I have intimated here before.

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There’s truly not much else going on this week. I have planned out the accommodations for my spring break trip, so that’s excellent. Not planning activities too thoroughly, preferring instead to just kind of go with it. Probably no spire-chasing, since I’ll still be in North America, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. We have a sec before that, don’t want to be getting too far ahead of myself.

I said I didn’t have any thoughts for this week, and I don’t really, but yesterday was Ash Wednesday and I was thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know). Recalling this time of year back when I was in Ireland. Being there for the anniversary of the Easter Rising. How the reminders of death were so potent and repeated, the names and faces on huge banners across the city. But then to remember that the ashes imposed yesterday are not a morbid dwelling on death, but a call to life–the birth of a republic or perhaps something a little more personal. I’m not here to give a Lenten homily but. There’s something.

I’ll conclude with a few lines that seem relevant to all sorts of things this week: the weather, Ash Wednesday, muddling through, and lions. I’m talking, of course, about Aslan (which, as an aside, is Turkish for lion). It is said of him,

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

Let us then take this time to observe a memento mori, to take a turn in the danse macabre, and then turn away from the dark of winter toward the life of spring that the Lion ushers in.

Dobrodošli u Veljaču

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

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

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

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

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

ANYWAY

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

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

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

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

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

У природы нет плохой погоды

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

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

So much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kitty intermission

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

 

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.