There’s Only One Way to Find Out

I contend that one of the chief pleasures of life is reading in the sun. For me, it is a joy and satisfaction that few activities can achieve. A uniquely gratifying way to pass time, and an occupation which I treasure long after it is finished.

I know I’ve talked about it before but somehow I’m startled over and over again. There is a true contentment that settles deeply in my inmost parts when I am reading in the sun. A park, a bench, some shade, some breeze… It’s almost more happiness than I feel a right to. Profoundly pleasurable.

It has taken longer than it should have, but this week spring finally got itself together enough to allow that and I am all over it. I was so all over it on Tuesday, in fact, that I got pretty sunburned. Which isn’t ideal. But it was a cost incurred in the course of a supremely good pursuit, so I’m dealing just fine.

I do not know what I am doing with my life. Pretty much everything about my future is currently up in the air. But then I have a day like Tuesday, when I spend most of my hours engaged in what some might describe as frittering but I would describe as necessary. Yes, there were more productive (essentially so) things that I could have done. Should have, even.

But I will not apologizing for frittering away my time in such a fashion, even though I am in a bit of a press.

Putting in the effort is necessary. Things generally haven’t just happened to me, I’ve had to go out and see what there is to see, and I expect that trend to continue since I would like to have another job (sooner rather than later). However.

Some opportunities should not be missed. A Tuesday afternoon getting sunburned while reading. A Wednesday evening baking cinnamon raisin quick bread. A Thursday morning publishing an obscure blog. Without these things, even in the midst of the urgent press of ‘what I’m doing with my life,’ I think the uncertainty of it would all be a little too much to bear.

It’s true that I have no clue what is coming down the track at me, a few short weeks away. But, as I am often fond of saying, there’s only one way to find out. Stride into the future and live it.

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Carpe archa, seize the box.

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.

Water

When last I visited my friends in California, it was mid-August and mid-drought. Things were, for lack of a more descriptive word, dry. This time around, things have exhibited quite a bit more life. Driving down to the Sacramento area, I passed over actual, visible rivers and lakes. Then, driving toward the East Bay (a term I wasn’t familiar with until I went there), I drove along the Delta (another recently-learned placename) to see an abundance of green things and water.

I think I’ve said this about myself before, but I am most assuredly a salt water person. It hardly counts as swimming if you don’t dry with that half-delectable, half-awful feeling of saltiness in your everywhere. As one of the books I taught this past year puts it, “There are saltwater people, and freshwater people. Then there are some who don’t even know enough to fall in love with the water.” I suppose you’re entitled to enjoying your own form of water whether it be lakes, rivers, pools, or the sea. As long as you love it.

The drive was absolutely wonderful. I took the scenic route through Oregon, driving down along the Cascades and seeing all the peaks. I entered California and drive like all the way around Mt Shasta before rejoining I-5.

Anyway. It was an absolute pleasure to catch up with friends. Long talks that were as much about catching up as just existing in proximity for a sec. Some conversations that were weighty. But all good things.

The weather, of course, was still much too hot. Because it doesn’t take much for hot to become too hot in my book. Even so, it’s hard not to enjoy sun. And there was some downtime that involved reading in the sun which is possibly one of the most important ways yet invented in which to pass the time.

This morning, early, I’m off home again. One advantage to having nothing but time is being able to jet off to visit old friends. It’s something I’m trying to appreciate in the midst of the general stress of being aimless and income-less. As a friend said, you don’t often have times in your life when you have nothing to do, so enjoy it while it lasts. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back down here again before too long.

I’m very grateful for the generosity of my friends in letting me come down. And I’m very grateful for having friends like these. It is a boon that, even if we’re not the best communicators, they know me. They have seen me in vulnerable times. And they still like me.

Without any ado whatsoever, this week’s musical offerings, from my ears to yours.

  1. Victor – Prinze George
  2. Solo Dance – Martin Jensen
  3. Break a Little – Kirstin
  4. Gorgeous – Taylor Swift
  5. Take Yours, I’ll Take Mine – Matthew Mole
  6. Stars Across the Sky – Bien
  7. Океанами стали – Alekseev
  8. Beautiful Mess – Kristian Kostov
  9. Can’t Fight It – Rayvon Owen
  10. Eyes Shut – Years and Years

Sun

It’s weird to be writing this post while complaining that my apartment is way too hot for 10:30 at night, but it is what it is.

I love the sun. As with anything, there are consequences to overindulgence (and privation). But what a marvelous, extravagant gift. I understand why ancient peoples worshiped it, and I praise the God who graciously offers it to us afresh each morning. Every day offers fresh tableaux of sun, sky, and land, even when clouds or haze dilute the vibrancy of the light.

That was just my major thought for the week. Well, I guess major is a bit much, but it was a thought that I had. I complain about being too hot fairly often, I have a low sun threshold. I love it anyway and I don’t want to take it for granted.

In terms of school, this week has not been nearly so crazy as I anticipated. The first time teaching any class–and the first time meeting new students–is definitely scary, but I’m already feeling pretty good about the term. There are some challenges, obviously, but I’m moving forward with a lot more confidence than I had at this point last term. I may even be getting my expectations too high. Only time will tell.

This term, one of the books I am teaching is Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Every time I remember it, I remember how much I love it–flashback to Mrs. Tweten’s eighth grade primetime class. Every time I read it (including last Saturday) I am reminded of how sad it makes me. I wonder what opportunities I’ve squandered by thinking more about who I wish I could be than who I am. Chances that, once missed, can never be taken again. I wonder if I’ve ever met a star person, and been to afraid to allow myself to see them. I wonder if I’ve ever heard a moa, and if I’d notice if I had.

And then I think, maybe it’s all beside the point. In the dedication, Spinelli writes, “And to Loren Eiseley who taught us that even as we are. we are becoming.” I remind myself how firmly I believe in justice and black bean burritos for all. I pray a quick prayer of thanks that the sun shines on the good and the bad. And I feel stronger for it.

I can’t tell everyone to enjoy the sun (though I can and do, actually) since who knows what the weather’s like when and where you’re reading this. But I guess just revel in small things. The old line about taking nothing for granted. Savor the newspaper-filler minutiae of your life (and the lives of others). Celebrate the little things, the big things, and all the things in between.

There is a Ray Bradbury poem, and you’ll forgive me if I misquote it, having been unable to find it on the interwebs. I don’t even remember exactly what he’s talking about, the sun, stars, maybe just life in general. Regardless, he says that there is a light in the universe that is “saying Yes and Yes and again Yes to the great, dark, silent No.”

May our lives be a Yes in the face of that utter No.

No News is Good News

This week has been pretty mundane. I have loads more reading to do for my dissertation, surprise, and other than that not much has happened. I did finally watch Django Unchained on Netflix, would recommend. There are lots of other movies, both recent and classic, that I’ve been meaning to watch but haven’t. I’m generally more into shows than movies because there’s just more to them, you know? Not that I don’t like movies. Anyway.

The great Irish heatwave of 2016 was, in the event, two days of gorgeous weather followed by several days which were, while still warm, overcast and rainy and just generally sort of gloomy. Now the forecast calls for more sun and pleasant temperatures this weekend, so here’s hoping. Dublin, much like Gig Harbor, doesn’t have loads and loads of nice days, but I’ll take a nice day here (or there) over one in D.C. no question. There’s something about it. And, of course, they’re all the more precious for being irregular. The sun shines somehow clearer after it’s been long hidden. The air feels warmer after the true, damp chill of a Dublin winter.

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Bubba wants to come visit. For the sun, I’m sure.

Congratulations are in order for all my friends who have been graduating recently. You’re so cool, yay for you!! I have some pretty cool friends and I know that they’re going to be doing some pretty incredible things in the coming years (I know since they’ve been doing incredible things already). Anyway, have fun with that adult thing, I think I’m going to give it a miss.

Some of you may be aware of the significance (or, rather, insignificance) of  18 April, 1930. On that day, the BBC’s evening news report was as follows: “There is no news.” The rest of the broadcast was simply piano music. I read a little article this week that highlighted the importance of sometimes just listening to that piano music. The world is covered in news, now perhaps even more so than in 1930–or at least, we have better access to it. But at some point, we have to admit that a great deal of the news we consume doesn’t matter much. And, even when it does matter, a constant stream of endlessly depressing stories about the depravity of human nature is trying to the soul. Sometimes, we just need to play out the evening with something other than earthshattering events.

This week, I don’t have much news for you. And perhaps that’s for the best. Of course, it’s no good to totally tune out the news. As much as the ostrich might see with its head in the sand, it’s probably better to be up and looking around. But by the same token, we need to allow ourselves a little break in keeping up with things in order to keep up with ourselves. So I hope you give yourself a break, a few moments of peace, some time to pause thoughtfully. Sometimes, I’ve found, taking a step back is the best way to move forward.

I didn’t get loads of feedback on my playlist last week (I didn’t mean that to sound so passive aggressive but…), but I’m really enjoying coming up with these. And I’m listening to loads of new music. So I’m going to keep doing them. Also, I do try to put them in order, one way or another, so you could listen to it like an on-purpose playlist. Maybe this week, I can provide a little piano music for your evening news (though perhaps not to the taste of the 1930 BBC). Anyway. Here’s the second installment.

  1. Never Be Alone – Shawn Mendes
  2. My Gospel – Charlie Puth
  3. Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
  4. This is Your Life – Switchfoot
  5. Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips
  6. Dark Blue – Jack’s Mannequin
  7. Sevgilim – Kıraç
  8. Us – Regina Spektor
  9. ILYSB – LANY
  10. Without You – Oh Wonder