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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The Flower that Blooms in Adversity

I had predicted, before arriving, that I would hate Avenue Road in Toronto, just conceptually. I was correct, of course, because how are you meant to like a place with a name like that? Disgraceful.

But otherwise, I quite enjoyed my time in Toronto. Allow me to backtrack for a moment.

We finished parent conferences last Friday and, after a weekend of relaxing and hanging out, I headed south to Canada. The temperature was technically, though not noticably, warmer than Glen Arbor but I did note a distinct lack of snow on the ground–not just in the cities but in general, which was refreshing.

My first stop was in Waterloo, a bit outside Toronto, to visit a friend. We had some dinner, played some games, watched some Queer Eye. Very satisfying indeed. Having friends you see in person is pretty cool, I guess. (Plus also, the Airbnb in Waterloo had a cat and so that was a big positive).

The next morning, I drove onward to Toronto, approximately tied for most populous city that I have personally driven in. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great. It does make me happy to drive a Prius but still sad that I have a car at all. It seemed much busier than any of the driving I’ve done in Chicago but I think I’ve just been miraculously blessed whenever I’ve driven there.

I spent most of the remainder of the day in the Royal Ontario Museum, which was delightful. Great collection of historical doodahs, dinosaur bones, and colorful crystals of various chemical makeups. I love a good geology exhibit. Ancient Egypt, of course, is always a joy to stroll through. Then I had dinner in a converted mansion, kind of a Sherlock Holmes/pub vibe which was neat.

Yesterday, I spent a great deal of time just wandering around. Saw some beautiful historical buildings around the University of Toronto, Ontario’s legislative building, some cool old churches, as one does. I also visited a public greenhouse and conservatory which was superb. I just hung out there for a while and read because it was warm and I was cold but it was also beautiful. Filled with gorgeous flowers heavily perfuming the air, a riot of color and scent and wonder. They were my first flowers of the season and so what if they were in a greenhouse.

I also saw the CN Tower but did not explore because why. And my third Great Lake, Ontario, which was great to see. Though the little islands right off the city kind of preclude good lake views, at least from what I saw along the waterfront. For lunch, I had a peameal bacon sandwich, and subsequently learned what peameal bacon is (I’m not telling, look it up yourself, apparently it’s a Toronto thing).

After a brief respite back at the Airbnb, I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario because they have free Wednesday nights! I got a discounted tickets to the special impressionist exhibition and had a good wander. I really appreciated their use of indigenous languages when taking about indigenous art and artists. I really enjoyed the Canadian artist Lawren Harris, just as an aside.

Tomorrow, it’s on to Ottawa, then Montreal, then Rochester, and back. I love this two week spring break: one week to go and do, and one week to stay and not do. It’s a great combination.

I have no big thoughts for you, other than that vacation is great and more vacation is even greater, this week. In particular, this vacation was really needed and so gratefully received.  I think my overall opinion, you know how I do, is that I wouldn’t live in Toronto. I mean, of the opportunity arose, I would be here in a heartbeat. But it doesn’t strike me as much as other places have. Perhaps another of my stops this week will. Perhaps not. The road, I am always hearing, goes ever on and on.

Any Unsaved Progress Will Be Lost

Update on what it’s like to live in northern Michigan: More snow. Still cold but substantially warmer. Really a great deal of ice. That’s been my Michigan February experience and I have to say, I’m not taken with it. But this past week, I’ve really felt the extended daylight, so that’s a plus. Spring is coming. Eventually. Daffodils I need you.

Not much excitement to speak of this week (as per usual, I know). I wanted to tone things down a bit from the serious level of last week’s post and it’s pretty easy since I don’t have anything to say. Kinda making it up as I go along which, surprise, is often the case here. We’ll take a brief cat intermission because that’s always a good idea.

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Aren’t they just so cute. My sister was telling me that she’s been taking fewer pictures of them because they’re just constantly so cute and I get that. But of course she does still take some pictures because look at them. You can’t not.

Not feeling particularly nostalgic this week but for once the title came first and I wanted to write a post that fit. Maybe it’s just a bit of a late-ish winter vibe (what is the line between late winter and ‘spring is late’ anyway). Maybe it’s a bit of a low-key ache for companionship. Maybe I ate something that didn’t agree with me (that’s a joke, food always agrees with me, I just don’t always agree with it). Maybe it’s just your friendly neighborhood ennui. Anyway.

Life in some respects mimics video games. The endless pursuit of mostly meaningless coins; repeated and often fruitless efforts to save a prince(ess); overt level-ups at 16, 18, and 21. And plenty of other things. But a big disappointment (is it really disappointment if I never expected it?) is the lack of saves. You can’t save the game. (Also, no magic.)

I don’t mean that in the old-people sense of ‘I want to go back and try again now that I know all this stuff’ nor in the sense of ‘I have a new strategy that I think would give me a higher score’ nor even in the sense of ‘I have regrets.’ I mean it mostly in the sense that, if I may mix my metaphors, saving the game acts like a bookmark so that you can close the book for a sec and see how far you’ve come and how far you’ve yet to go. A major strike against ebooks.

In that vein, sort of, I have this blog. It is at once a real-time ticker of things happening in my life, and a record of my previous weekly save points. Reviewing those saves is often pretty cringey (I mean, do you remember that time I literally titled a post A Dark and Stormy Night and it wasn’t really ironic). But I also love looking back and remembering my trip to Amsterdam, or the unimaginable victory of turning in my dissertation, or stepping into North Korea, or all the people and places I’ve said goodbye to, even at this fairly young age.

Also, it’s always a delight seeing the languages I’ve had in my titles. Let’s take a second to count: English (169), Irish (4), Russian (4), French (1), Norwegian (1), Welsh (1), Navajo (Diné) (1), Korean (3), Latin (1), and most recently, Croatian (1). Hope to see that diversity continue to grow. Probably will need a Dutch one when I go back to Amsterdam and a Portuguese one when I get to Portugal. Because those trips will hopefully happen eventually.

Some little nuggets of memory are almost silly while also being cool. That two day trip to Oslo, amirite. Wild. The blessings of the doughnut gods of Tesco, sending me gifts beyond my worth. That’s really a big one. When a pipe burst and the floor below my apartment flooded and froze. Yech.

Anyway. Saving…

 

 

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.

Fast Away

I hope you all have enjoyed your Christmases, if that’s your thing. I certainly did. Plenty of running around and about but also plenty of time together and hope and joy and love. Obviously, lots of singing of Good King Wenceslas, especially yesterday. It is just the end all, be all of awesomeness that God is with us. How neat is that? Yay Christmas.

Important gifts received include several books that I’m very excited for, you know how I do. One of them is the final installation of a trilogy, so I obviously have to reread the previous books and so it’s really like a gift of three books in one. Yay books. But also, of course, the love language I like to receive is quality time so that was the most precious gift to have.

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The Princess on the Feast of Stephen

Being home has been really nice. First, just to get away from Michigan and work for a sec. Green. My home is green. Second, to relax in a place that I just know. There’s a certain level of know that comes from just being in a place for years and years and, for right now, Gig Harbor is the only place I have that with. I can remember the turns to a house I haven’t visited in ages with a spare moment’s thought–even with my disastrous memory. I can sit on the couch and exist in a place that I’ve existed in for a long time before.

It hasn’t even been that long since I was pining for a way–any way–to get out of here. And Michigan is not that far away. Even so. There’s a special joy in leaving but there’s also a special joy in coming back. Even back to places you don’t want to stay.

But New Year’s, wow, 2018, am I right. This year has dragged on for ages, let me tell you, but the end of it has snuck up on me rather abruptly. A lot going on in the world but let me have a sec to make it all about me. It is hard to recall that I was in Korea, went to the Olympics, went to Australia and New Zealand, spent a long time living at home, then moved to Michigan all in the first eight months. That’s wild. My year-in-review thoughts are honestly all over the place. But I guess I don’t really need a year in review at this juncture. This time is ending.

The old year passes. Greet the new.

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And Bubba all curled up

I’m not sure what to expect for the coming year. I’ll be in Michigan to June, at the very least. So that’s about six months settled. But after that, it’s all fairly uncertain. Again. It’s a state that I’m kind of uncomfortable with–generalized uncertainty–but also at home with.

I’ve done a lot of relatively short stints in fairly diverse places since high school. And I just don’t really mind it, as much as I’d like to find a place I love and put down roots. It’s mostly been routes thus far. I may be staying in Michigan for another year. I may be elsewhere in the US. The dream, of course, would be another intercontinental move. Europe, maybe Oceania. Hard to say.

In the midst of uncertainty, the few things that are sure increase in value. And those things, for me, are the things I’ve been celebrating all week. Friends and family who love me and whom I love. The comfort and position that I have been blessed with. The consequential, profoundly true knowledge of an unconditional, boundless love from a perfect, omnipotent deity.

Some people live lives that are more predictable than mine but, in the end, precious little is truly certain. So I’m greeting the new year in a spirit of adventure, as every day should be met, because possibilities are endless when every moment is a moment that has never come before.

Anyway. Happy New Year. Fa la la la la la la la la.

His Law is Love

Although I’ve been anticipating Christmas for some time, it has once again kind of caught me off guard. Snuck up on me. How is it so soon? In Korea, I could understand, but how am I not prepared? I mean, I am prepared in the most direct sense but I feel like I need another couple weeks to really be adequately mindful of it. Alas, I guess.

Anyway, I will be flying home for break which is very nice. This week here has seen almost all the snow melt away so I don’t think I’ll be missing out on a white Christmas. Importantly, the Christmas party that I could not hold last year has been reinstated. So that’s a yay.

I have some thoughts below and they may be a little scatterbrained but, like Thanksgiving, I feel like I ought to say important things to indicate how important Christmas is to be. So I try. That’s all that can be asked. I hope you have had and will continue to face a lovely holiday season.


Phrase that I heard this week which moved me: participate in love. I’m not sure why it struck me so, it’s not an unfamiliar concept to me. But here I am, deeply reminded. Love takes work. To take part in loving is to exert effort to make that love blossom. Doesn’t matter if it’s romantic, platonic, familial, neighborly. It’s not enough to refrain from roughness, one must be tender. It’s not enough to allow relationship, one must pursue it.

I think I’ve mentioned before that my favorite carol is O Holy Night and my favorite part is the title of this post. Lately, I’ve been pondering theology a bit. Not reading and researching but more just evaluating where I’ve come from and where I think I might be going. How important is it to me that other people believe exactly as I believe.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that the only thing that matters is love. Christmas brings to my mind the immediacy of love–the whole premise of Immanuel, it seems to me, is giving us as much evidence of God’s unconditional and incomprehensible love as we humans can handle. Jesus fulfilled the law. The time of the black/white, yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad dualism is over. This is not to say that moral relativism is the point of Jesus. I retain a moral and ethical framework that I have developed and am still developing in response to faith.

However. We tried a system of ‘rules first, love second’ and I don’t think it worked well. Let’s try love first and see where that gets us. Because honestly, I can’t conceive of the desperately irreligious nature of casting out your own children because they’re gay (or whatever the case may be).

And let’s be mindful of participation in love. Love cannot be expressed passively. One must do in order to love. It does not always have to be big–loving cats does not generally require a great deal–but sometimes it does. Sometimes loving requires enormous sacrifices, sacrifices of time or of money or of vulnerability. Love asks much.

But one of my favorite things about being a disciple of love is that it is patient, it is kind, it forgives. In the end, love actually requires nothing. It may ask but mostly it gives, and gives generously.

When I say the law is love, I do not mean to imply that there are criminal proceedings and punishments when we do not succeed in loving well. I mean more that love is the color of the universe and to grow close to its creator is to paint with that color as beautiful a picture as we are able.

To participate in love takes work. But Love is not a demanding god. It is not laborious drudgery but a work of joy, peace, hope, and faith.

I’m really wandering now but I hope you get the gist. Love is just so important to me. And if God really is love, then I will always believe in the power of the love that came down at Christmas.

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:

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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.

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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.

The Difference between Chicago and a Space Colony

Most important update first, of course. This Airbnb has a cat, goes by California. Is super cute. We snuggled a great deal over the past couple days

I drove into Chicago on the early evening on October 8th and it was 87°F which, I’ll be honest with you, wasn’t great. Too hot in general, definitely too hot for the middle of October. Anyway.

I got an early start on Tuesday morning and, without much forethought, walked from where I was staying in Uptown to the Art Institute. Which is a long walk, FYI, especially when it’s hot. I worried about sunburns since I followed the shore directly south for approximately three hours. Luckily, I think I mostly escaped unscathed. Just felt kinda sticky and salty–not from the ocean breeze (would that it were so) but from sweat.

The Art Institute presented, of course, a large selection of Very Beautiful Things. I am no art critic but I do enjoy a good walk-through of art museums. Romantic landscapes, that’s the thing for me. Got to see several famous works in person, always cool. After the Institute, I walked along most of the Magnificent Mile because it seemed like the thing to do. There is some truly wonderful architecture in this city. Later, as I was staying in a very Vietnamese neighborhood, I had to go for Vietnamese for dinner.

On Wednesday, I got a much needed later start (though it wasn’t really that much later). Pastries for breakfast from the patisserie down the street, then onward to Navy Pier. Had a personal deep dish at Giordano’s, it was fine. Poked around Museum Campus and actually went through the planetarium because it was starting to rain. I went to Cheesie’s for dinner. They serve only different kinds of grilled cheese. Please go, it will be good.

I’m headed back to Michigan this morning. Back to fall, too. Trying to think of a big idea to take back from the trip and to share with you.

Overall, mostly positive Chicago experience. The fountain was drained and empty, my car was towed but only to a nearby park, the Art Institute store had a teensy postcard selection. But overall, plenty good. One little story for you as an applicable takeaway.

In the planetarium–which is more of a space science center, really, I didn’t even go into the original planetarium part. Very rainy outside. Extending my stay to avoid the rain. That’s the scene.

I found myself ushered into an open talk with one of the institution’s astronomers. A professional astronomer, how neat is that. She talked about some stuff, answered loads of questions. One question was along the lines of: should we colonize the moon or Mars? Her answer was terrific. I’ll summarize her main points because I liked them and they tie into things, you’ll see.

First, there’s feasibility. She suggested some starter stuff on the moon to prepare for a long-term and large-scale settlement on Mars. But her primary caution was not about the science, it was the ethics. Looking at the example of indigenous peoples and pristine environments here on Earth–and our abuses thereof– she insisted that any space colonization must first avoid the huge problems that we’ve created for ourselves here. She also said that systems of power, where the powerful get more powerful and the have-nots get even less needs to be righted in any theoretical space colony.

It doesn’t matter in the slightest what you’re doing with your life, justice is the cause of everyone. Even astronomers can forward the cause of justice. In my mind, I’m returning to that Mandela quote; let us live free and enhance the freedom of others.

Chicago has a history deeply marred by injustice and inequality. Space colonies don’t have to. You’ve heard it before but that’s just because it’s true: be the change.

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Smoke

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So I woke up this morning in Banff, Alberta because why not. My route on the way to Michigan is this: Gig Harbor, Kamloops, Banff, Regina, Grand Forks, Milwaukee, Traverse City. So far, the drive has been plagued with lots of smoke from wildfires (I’m very thankful I’ve never been threatened by a fire). Even so, it’s been beautiful.

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The thing is, it’s hard to (try to) look at all this beauty and reconcile the gross things people do. Obviously, forest fires happen naturally and are sometimes necessary for the ecosystem. But also humans have clearly changed the calculus. And when I see people smoking while looking out over an incredible landscape, truly just the tip of the melting iceberg, I really can’t stand it.

I know that people can be so good, so loving, so caring, so compassionate and considerate and conscientious. But, especially coming on the heels of my Alaska trip, I also know that people are trash. With everything going on in the world at large of late, it’s easy to feel like the trash part is the only part (this also comes from self-awareness, it’s not like I’m immune).

I’ve been thinking of late about how to balance these two ways of looking at the world and I’ve come up with, I think, an apt and succinct summarization. Three things that I believe to be true. I don’t think it’s quite a syllogism but it’s a something.

Assertion 1: humans are trash.
Assertion 2: I am worthy of love and I have good inside me.
Assertion 3: humans are trash but are worthy of love and have good inside them.

In practice, this means two things. First, I expect people to be the worst and am not surprised by how horrible we can be. Second, I go through this world seeking the good in others and loving freely, even when I don’t find it. Or, at least, that’s the goal and you’ll pardon me if I’m not always excellent at achieving it.

So, driving through this fabulous land and preparing to be an Adult Someone to a bunch of high schoolers, that’s what I’m trying. Humans can be just as beautiful as the Coquihalla Canyon and Mt Rundle. Even if it’s all obscured by smoke, the beauty’s there. Very metaphor, I know, but whatever it takes right?

I don’t really know what I’m driving toward. I have a job, I know the basic description of suture, I’ve looked up the area approximately one zillion times. But mostly, it still feels unknown (I guess this is a trend with me, moving far away without knowing what I’m doing). I’ve been battling a relentless negative attitude but it all comes down to the fact that I’m going, I’m willing, and–to paraphrase Bill Widener–I’m going to do my best with what I have where I am. In other words, bloom where you’re planted.

Bloom, it might be said, not only for yourself, but for others. Maybe even others first. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: love first, there isn’t really a second.