Care about People

As a quick follow-up to last week’s post, I encountered a quotation recently which was super relevant but I forgot to include. No commentary, just a line from the writer James Baldwin who said, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

What a beautiful thing unconditional love is.

Anyway, we’re in this week now so we’ll move on. This week has held… not a whole lot for me. Surprise. I have fallen once more into the unemployed, unmotivated bleh of nothingness that has become a bit of an annual affair for me. Still applying and things but it’s a big yikes. Whatever.

I have also been reading in the sun, one of my favorite things in the world, as you know. I have been trying to have friends, as you know, and trying to balance being honest about my needs with listening and honoring their needs. It’s hard to do both simultaneously, work in progress.


Because nothing is happening in my life, I would like to talk for a moment about the world and the people in it.

I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it on here before, but I have been to Russia. Twice, in fact, in the same summer. First, I went on tour with my university choir and then, only a couple weeks after our return, I went to study in St. Petersburg for six weeks. It was such an experience.

It is not my place to give you a rundown on recent Russian political history, current events in Russia, or the geopolitical dynamics involving Russia. Though, if you’re interested, I would encourage even a cursory look into those topics (as long as you remain humble about it; a cursory look isn’t going to make you any kind of expert). But those things are on my mind because things are happening and they matter to me because I’m interested but they also should matter at least a little to you because you’re a part of this world.

I do keep up on world news, because I find it interesting and I have some higher-level background on the subject than others may. And I like to pay special attention to a few places that have grabbed my heart in often random but definitely meaningful ways (see: Croatia).  But I bring up Russia as a place to start because I have several memories, specific and vivid (at least relative to my memory) memories, that speak so loudly to the kind of international understanding and across-boundaries/through-barriers camaraderie that is possible among people who are so very different and whose countries are not, shall we say, supposed to be particularly friendly.

Two fictional moments that I ponder often:

  • in The Phantom Tollbooth when one of the princesses says “Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in the pond; and whenever you’re sad, no one anywhere can be really happy.”
  • in The Two Towers when the ents refuse to act and Pippin says “But you’re a part of this world! Aren’t you?”

We cannot all be responsible for keeping track of all that is going on in the world. And we should not be condemned to perpetual sadness because people somewhere are sad. That is not what I am advocating here. We have to live our lives, as they’re the only ones we’re able to live.

Acknowledging that, however, I think we do bear two responsibilities when it comes to thinking about issues in the world on a global level. First, though we don’t need to keep up with every single thing that is going on (as much as I am an advocate for reading world news), we ought to be aware that things are tough in the world. That we are blessed. That problems exist in other places, for other people, and those problems matter.

Second, as obvious and ridiculous as it may sound, we need to remember that the world is populated by human beings. Some would try to tell us that certain people–from a certain neighborhood/region/country, with a different sexual orientation or gender identity, who speak a different language, who are differently abled, who are otherwise overtly different–are distinct on some fundamental level and that they are not like you. This is a lie. Our differences matter but they are not fundamental. We are we.

I read yesterday that Americans are much more supportive of dropping nuclear bombs on people than I thought. When asked why, many respond that it is a quick, painless death and a sure way to achieve the desired results. But when people are given information about the actual effects are–the horrific, grueling, gruesome effects that nuclear weapons have on the human body–support drops dramatically.

So please. I know that you have to live your lives, that we are all inevitably trapped in a sphere that, on some level, we cannot make any larger. We simply don’t have the capacity. But please, please, care for your fellow people. They are facing problems, too, and they are, deep in their core, exactly like you.  Refuse to believe that any human being is less worthy of love, safety, provision, or life.

Loving your neighbor isn’t about who your neighbor is. It’s about who you are.

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Song

Since 14 June, I have driven almost 5,000 miles, stayed in ten cities, and been physically present in nineteen states plus the District of Columbia. Since 1 August of last year, you could add five more states and five Canadian provinces to that list. And now I am in Seattle. So close to being right back where I started.


Today’s my birthday but I don’t have any good birthday musings–or any musings at all, really. And because it’s my birthday, I don’t really feel like wringing any ideas out of my mind. I’m okay with a brief entry today.


Langston Hughes wrote that, “Song is a strong thing,” and I think about that a lot.

Conscription

This summer has been pretty cool. I’m grateful to have the means and opportunity to have this big trip. Mostly, I’m doing well. But a little bit, I’m not.

I read a short reflection about loneliness a while ago. The writer spoke of how we find ourselves in lonely places in several ways. Rarely a choice, it might have been a conspiracy of circumstance or Divine Providence. Most of the time, he said, we experience solitude by conscription.

To be sure, there are voluntary alonenesses. As an avowed introvert, I am well acquainted with many of them. But these that he was talking about are of a different sort. Being a conscript in the legions of the solitary does not restore, as being alone so often restores me.

I have spoken of this before on this blog, and many indicated that they had felt something similar. Some kind of mash mixing loneliness, homesickness, fear of missing out, fear that we are better friends with others than they are with us–just general ennui. Sometimes, I feel very needy for companionship. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “My friends are my ‘estate.’ Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them.”

Throughout my travels this summer, I have been so deeply blessed to have People to See along the way. Just yesterday morning, I left my sister’s after an extended stay which they were gracious to host me for. And before that, new friends in St Louis, old friends in DC, a friend in Pittsburgh and friends in Michigan… Lots of friends.

But at the same time, seeing them all has been so temporary. My life currently is so transient, so liminal, so ephemeral (though I’m not sure such a fairy-magical word feels all that appropriate). It’s a little frustrating not to be living around friends that I keep up with in person on a regular basis. I like my friends. I would like to see them.

Instead, I remain unmoored and adrift, awaiting the time when I can exit this enforced loneliness. A time when I can once again Be in a Place and Do Things with People. Or, at least, begin making inroads toward doing so, since we all know that I am not a fast friends-maker or overly-aggressive doer. One must remain hopeful.

I have become more aware of my neediness in this area. Neediness not necessarily in a bad way, though I guess that’s not really for me to say. I struggle with the idea of burden–surely my friends will not be burdened if I bother them a little but I am equally sure that at some point it just becomes annoying. I just don’t know what that point is, and I would be loathe to conscript another into something that they didn’t sign up for. That’s kind of my whole issue to begin with.

On that note though, quick plug, if you are my friend, please always feel free to send me a message or arrange a little video chat. Literally always. I’m all about that communication life. (See? V Needy)

Part of the problem, of course, is that I am unemployed and have just a lot of time on my hands. There’s only so many job applications, so much Netflix, exercise, gaming, or reading that I can do at a time. So I have plenty of time to sit and stare at walls, which I literally do, trying to stop myself from messaging all my friends a million times because, you know, they’re actually doing stuff and it’ll take a sec for them to get back to me. Not an awesome way to spend my time, I’m working on it. But here we are.

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An Arizona sunset

Someone inadvertently reminded me of one of my favorite life sayings recently. They said “Belong where you are,” and I immediately thought “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Here’s the thing about flowers: sometimes, they’re grown in greenhouses. Naturally, they belong in the ground somewhere. But they are perfectly capable of being stored indoors for the winter or when they’re young or whatever the case may be.

So I guess that’s what I’m going for at this juncture. I may not be in the ground I wish to be in or even in any ground at all, really. But I can–and may we all–bloom anyway.

 

Meet Me

I once had a fortune cookie that said “You will step on the soil of many countries.” I really liked it and kept it, it’s still pinned to the bulletin board in my childhood bedroom. I haven’t left the country this week but boy have I been many places.

Since last we spoke, I have passed through twelve states. From Maryland to Missouri via West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. From there to Oklahoma via Arkansas. And from there to Arizona via Texas and New Mexico. It’s been a lot. But there have definitely been some wonderful bits along the way.

When I went to St Louis, I drove across the Mississippi River and saw the Arch from the bridge… and that was sufficient for me. The arch was pretty much the only thing I was aware of for the city, and it wasn’t really a landmark that I was committed to seeing more than, you know, just seeing. I’d much more recommend Forest Park, the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, as an attraction to see in the city. I was only there for one full day and I saw the park and the botanical gardens and was more than satisfied. Love a good botanical gardens.

Of course, the main thing was to have friends to see there, they made the stop delightful rather than just pleasant. Knowing people and building community with them– even if it’s only for the briefest of visits– it just felt validating to make new friends. Maybe validating isn’t quite the right word but anyway. Definitely want to visit again. Compare: Oklahoma City, where I saw no one and did nothing other than sleep and was meh about the whole thing.

The beautiful drives, though. For the most part, I actually avoided a lot of the really boring bits (Oklahoma through north Texas and Ohio through Illinois notwithstanding). I always set my navigation to avoid tolls on principle (though the principle is to not pay tolls, rather than tolls are necessarily bad). What that means is that I often enjoy some routes that are a little more endearing than the major interstates. Driving through the tip of the Appalachians and across pretty much all of the Ozarks, for example, was pretty superb. And I did play spectator (as best I could while paying attention to the road) to some incredible lightning the night I drove into Oklahoma City.

And now here I am, back in Arizona at my sister’s. Obviously, a major highlight is seeing her precious kits in person again.

 

They really are twenty times cuter in person, as hard to believe as that is. I just really love cats and I’m so happy that I know people with cats that I can visit. Cats have definitely been one of the highlights of the summer so far.

I have no musings and no further updates for this week. Job applications continue to be sent out and continue to be rejected (though I remain grateful for a formal rejection instead of institutional ghosting). It’s kinda looking grim. But hey, I made cool new friends this week and I think that will buoy me for a good long while.

Still aimless, jobless, and technically homeless but what are you going to do. Here’s hoping progress on those fronts comes sooner rather than later.

Glitter

I have been staying in the DMV (not to be confused with the DMZ, or even the Department of Motor Vehicles) this week. In case you’re unaware, that would be the colloquial name for the national capital region–District, Maryland, Virginia. Mostly in Maryland, but hey.

I have a number of connections in the area and it’s been good to catch up with a number of them. I was here only last spring but wasn’t able to see all the people I’d have liked to see but now, being here for a bit longer, I have been enjoying reconnecting a bit. Met some people, will meet some more this coming week. It’s been very restful and restorative.

Plus, you know, the anxiety of still not having a job. Moving on.

Next up, I need to have another little cat gallery. I have been very grateful to stay with one of my friends here and she is the lovely mother of the lovely Jackson! So a special feature on him this week because I finally met him in person. He is absolutely adorable and is one of the few cats I’ve ever met who does the little ‘chirp’ thing that I sometimes read in novels. He does it a lot but it isn’t really annoying, mostly it just continues to be cute (and cat mom, who hears it all the time, agrees).

He especially likes shoulder and hip rubs, in case you ever meet him.

Though I have heretofore seen precious little of fireflies in their peak season, I have been blessed to see some truly dazzling displays this week. Sitting in the dark on a park bench, watching a hot and humid night unfurl its shadowed glories, seeing a sparkling landscape echo the slowly emerging stars overhead. Sara Teasdale said, in reference to the stars and applicable to fireflies as well, “I know that I/ Am honored to be/ Witness/ Of so much majesty.”

Some of you may yet be unaware, but people like me don’t actually die. Instead, when our time comes, we either dissolve into a shimmering cloud of glitter or dissipate in a cloud of noxious fume, depending on how we lived our lives. Fun fact.

There is so much hurting in the world right now. It is a world filled with troubles of various kinds but in particular, I feel outraged and helpless about the horrible situation around immigration right now: raids, concentration camps, deprivation, fear. It is not right. I do not know what to do.

When faced with stuff like that, I don’t know how to be. There are some things, like contacting your congressional representatives and donating (in any way) to organizations like these (and as I’ve said before, even better if you’re able to support them long-term). I don’t know if that stuff really makes a difference, you know? How can I live my life in a way that is moving toward glitter in such circumstances?

I have not read Middlemarch by George Eliot but a friend recently drew to my attention a section toward the end. Regarding the main character, she writes:

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I do not think that there is anything inherently noble in living in obscurity. I wonder though, there must surely be some kind of valor in a life humbled, either in spirit or by circumstance, where one remains firmly committed to goodness. The kind of life with sufficient glitter in the metaphysical sense but not a whole lot of external, visible glitter.

Clearly, I have no idea what I’m saying at this point. Something about trying to help, something about being good and humble and selfless. Take from this mess of a post what you will. I hope our actions makes the world better.

Needable

Before we do anything this week, to avoid my sister’s ire, here are cats. Because cats are very needable.

 

This week, I’ve been in Pittsburgh visiting a friend. It’s been a lovely visit and I’m exceedingly grateful for the hospitality. It’s definitely a city, not sure that it’s really my scene. Some really cool architecture in some neighborhoods. Loved the botanical gardens and I’ll be going to museum-ville today so that should be good. You know I love a good museum day.

All in all, other than getting lost in Cleveland (which only worsened an already not-great opinion of the city and Ohio in general), a decent start to my current stint of unemployed nothingness. Been fairly productive with a few things that have required productivity. I was a little lax my final week or two in Glen Arbor but I’ve mostly made up for that, I hope. Still waiting to hear if I’ve gotten a second interview…. prospects are looking dimmer every day but who knows. It would be an amazing opportunity if I got the job.

A few thoughts for today. It’s not entirely accurate to say that all of my worldly possessions are currently crammed into my little Prius C, but it’s not entirely inaccurate either. Yes, I have plenty of things at my parents’ houses, but everything that I actually live with is coming with me on all my adventures this summer. It’s an odd feeling.

My mother has frequently ribbed me, more or less playfully, for being a minimalist. And while it is true to some extent, I also feel like it’s largely been a product of my circumstances. I’ve lived, for at least a year, on three different continents in the past three or four years. Having many possessions simply isn’t that feasible. It still feels weird to own some actual furniture, such as it is, because it almost feels superfluous to my needs. It isn’t, not by a long shot, but it sometimes feels like overkill to own, you know, a single chair or a laundry drying rack or mattress. Though, let me be very clear, I really love my mattress.

I’m not a wildly evangelical supporter of minimalism–at least, I wouldn’t consider myself such. I long to settle somewhere long-term where I can nest a little. But there is definitely something to be said for owning only things that are directly useful or have been individually and thoughtfully considered as necessary components to take up space in my very limited car. Even having only been in Michigan for a number of months, the vagaries of packing and the inevitable few purchases ensured that when I left, I had to make some decisions about what I actually wanted to take with me.

Perhaps it’s worth a moment of contemplation. Not that you should get rid of all your other things, but what would you take if you could only travel with what fit in a car? What are your necessary things, whether practical or emotional?

An illustrative example: I’m one of those people who never really intends to own media or media accoutrements, preferring to stick with streaming and a laptop for the time being, at least. However, there are a few essentials that I need to be certain are always accessible so I bring the DVDs with me. The Harry Potter movies, the Lord of the Rings extended movies, and Anastasia. Those are some things that are guaranteed space in my car because they’re necessary even if I don’t need them, per se.

I guess that’s really the question here. Not about the top things that you’d bring with you, but the things that aren’t exactly essential but are distinctly need-able. Your Anastasia DVD, Gudetama mouse pad, or refrigerator magnet from Milford Sound. Your several extra sets of chopsticks, in case you ever have guests and you make East Asian food. Your cool wooden beard comb, in case you ever grow a long beard again.

In research, it’s a thing to say that something is a necessary but not sufficient condition for something to occur. Food, water, shelter–these are necessary for life. But they aren’t quite sufficient, either. We all should have something that isn’t strictly necessary but is essential all the same. I’m glad I have mine, and I’m glad they all fit!

Keep Us Star Gazing

We have come to it. There are a number of things that I have in my head to say for this, my final blog post in Michigan (at least, for the foreseeable future). But I’m not sure exactly how to say them. So I’ll just say some random stuff, quote the Muppets, and call it quits.

First and foremost, thank you to all my Michigan friends. This would have been a difficult year indeed without people as interested in Malta, as disgusted by delicious food, as committed to board games, as open-minded, as talented and compassionate, and as concerned with God’s voice (and so on and so forth) as you lot.

As my year in Korea came to a close, I said that sometimes the most important journeys are the ones that you didn’t mean to take. And, departing this apartment tomorrow, I think that continues to hold true. Glen Arbor, Michigan, was not a place I ever would have imagined myself calling home but here we are.

I have learned so much this year. From students, coworkers, friends, church, the place itself. Living in Michigan afforded me the opportunity to go to the Q Christian Conference in January, to road trip through three major Canadian cities, to see three Great Lakes and an overwhelming myriad of mediocre ones. Though unexpected, this journey has been rewarding indeed.

Before we get any further, I want to take a sec to have a little Pride moment. Because of my traveling and things this summer, I won’t be able to take part in any formal Pride celebrations but the month itself retains a special importance and I think this is a good day to reflect for a moment.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the Pulse shooting which was unutterably devastating. It is so important to remember. And if I may deign to say anything at all about it, it is this: to those who contend that the queer community is a force of harm and destruction, come and see, the harm is done to us not by us. Please stop harming us by your actions and beliefs, your words hurt more than you can know.

Now hold onto your socks because we’re going to get real cheesy here.

In the midst of darkness, there is a mysterious light. After rain, rainbows. Hope is the thing that keeps me going, the thing that makes me look at the stars and dream. Sometimes, that dreaming comes at such a cost but still we look to the sky because we have caught glimpses that hearten us when we are downcast.

Whether along the unseen path of my own life or the course of nations and the hearts of peoples across the globe, I can envision a future that is brighter (and more colorful) than today. A future wherein love is love, and most everything else is love as well. A future in which none will grow weary of seeking good for one another because we recognize that the connection of our shared humanity is more important than any difference. A future of knowing others, being fully known, and loving all even so. I hope and pray that we strive for that future, together, without ceasing, neither forgetting the darkness nor fearing its unknown, radiant light.

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Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

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.