Very January

There are many things I love about snow. Some are specific to western Washington, some are not, some are listed below.

  1. Pine and cedar branches, all droopy and elegant, laden with their crystal burden
  2. Knocking snow off such laden branches, which is an almost unparalleled joy
  3. Watching snow fall,  a thousand miracles dancing on each breath of air
  4. Ferns
  5. The unseen dusk last night that cast an opalescent orange-purple hue to the very air when reflected on all the white
  6. Dancing, frolicking, or at least stepping out in the snow (bonus points if you’re barefoot) and watching your steps fill in again
  7. The muffling quiet stillness it lends

When I was in Michigan, the snow was a lot. Sometimes inconvenient, sometimes scary. By the end, it was too much. But throughout that, it was still beautiful. Even if I was ready for the snowdrifts to melt and spring to actually start, I still appreciated the snow for what it was. Is. Whatever.

I love the snow. It is beautiful.

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And so we’re another week deeper into the year. Things for me are really quite the same and it continues to be discouraging but at least there was some snow to give me a little life. It seems kind of like every time I’ve been on the brink of true resignation, something comes along to give me the slightest infusion of hope which then strings me along for a while until the next brink and infusion. I’m very read for that cycle to end, one way or another.

Until then, I’ve been passing the time for better or for worse: reading, playing Civilization, watching Netflix; applying to jobs, getting some exercise, working just a little bit (that’s better and worse, respectively). There are worse ways to while away days. And at least I’m blessed to have the company of a couple very lovely cats. Not to mention the cute ones that my sister is very regular about sending me pictures of.

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It feels altogether too early in the year for a very short post but I don’t know what to tell you. Sometimes that’s just the way it is. I’ve said before that I love winter up until New Year’s and that is so very true. I am very appreciative of the snow and everything but in general this is simply not my scene. Feeling very January this week, I guess.

Before I go, though, I want to say that I am grateful for the beauty of creation.

Nacotchtank

In Australia, it is becoming a relatively common practice to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where important meetings and government functions take place. They recognize the people who occupied the land they are on and sometimes are given a little bit of relevant history by a representative of the tribe. Australia has a VERY VERY shaky history with indigenous people, in ways similar to and distinct from the US, but that is evidence that at least some effort toward peace and justice is being made.

I had never heard of the Nacotchtank until yesterday, when I decided what I wanted to write my Independence Day blog post about. They are a tribe that is no more, one of the countless victims of White People in History. Facing encroaching violent settlers and dwindling numbers, they departed their homeland and became absorbed by larger tribes in the area.

They lived throughout what is now the District of Columbia, including on Capital Hill itself. Archaeological relics, including pottery and bones, have been found under and around the Supreme Court, White House, and Bolling Air Force Base. We owe them at very least the name Anacostia, some weird Latinization of Nacotchtank. In case you haven’t heard of it, the Anacostia is the river that flows into the Potomac in the southeast part of the District.

The National Museum of the American Indian (which, yikes, not even going to talk about that) has said that they only briefly mention the tribe because it essentially ceased to exist in the early eighteenth century, instead preferring to speak with the living tribes in the area–which they do, so that’s good. I’m not convinced we need to go back and find all the historical groups, especially on the East Coast, that’s just not really possible.

However. On some level, we need to remember. Not only were other people here first, people were here first and we deliberately exterminated them.

To be clear, I think America is a good idea. I appreciate the thought, and in many ways the reality, of the United States. But there’s a lot of very dark history that we consistently, as a nation, refuse to reckon with. I think that’s a big reason why there’s a lot of very dark present times. Because people who are not indigenous feel no compunction about railing against ‘illegal’ immigration.

ALL WHITE PEOPLE EXIST IN THIS COUNTRY BECAUSE OF COLONIALISM ie theft, murder, and genocide.

In a practical sense, yes, we are here and we have set up a government and that government should function appropriately. But in a sort of macro sense, we are still an occupying force hostile toward the local population. In a practical sense, immigration policy needs reform of course but is itself, in principle, a valid thing. In a larger way, though, borders are arbitrary and imaginary so why not let any and all people live anywhere they wish. Reality is a thing that we have to deal with, definitely, but so is morality so…

I do not imagine or expect this country to be perfect. And as a citizen, I am certainly not exerting every possible effort to effect the change that I wish to see. Even so, I think it is important that we, collectively, at least are trying to work toward justice and peace in a meaningful way. And we aren’t. Instead, we’re setting up concentration camps and killing innocents, then dehumanizing them by calling them illegals.

This is a pretty good place to live. A good place to be born. Especially but not exclusively for white men. But most of the ‘American idea’ stuff also exists in other countries and a lot of them do it better. Now more than ever, I just don’t feel much like celebrating. I don’t know exactly what should be done, Australia is an example of some bare minimum effort but isn’t necessarily the template to follow. And I think that I, as a white guy, probably shouldn’t be the one figuring it out. At least not on my own.

But here and now I want to apologize for my complicity in the oppression of indigenous peoples here and abroad. And I want to continue to do better.


I apologize, I’m too upset thinking about all this to include cats. I don’t want to subject them to this level of negative emotion.

Leaving tomorrow morning for a brief stop in St Louis. Wish me luck, it’s a long drive.

Coast; Thoughts

I thought about making this post a Jeff Bezos rant, and just rich people in general (wealth is immoral, ask me about how I feel and I’ll tell you) but I couldn’t quite manage it. I have lots of rants stored up, and some of them aren’t even that bad, but I just wasn’t feeling it for this week, I guess.

On Monday, I did go on a bit of an adventure to fulfill some Washington things that I’d been meaning to do for ages. We drove out to La Push and Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point in the state (and the contiguous US). The weather here had been surpassing hot and I just had to get out.

First, La Push. It’s in this strange, stringy little arm of Olympic National Park out on the coast-coast. We went partially to escape the heat and indeed, instead of 93°F, the temperature fell as we approached the water, some places more along the way to the tune of 60°F though the beach itself was more like 70°F, very pleasant.

The other weather thing, though, we discovered on the short 20-minute trail from where we parked down to the beach. The last five minutes or so were blanketed in a sudden and dense fog bank. So thick, in fact, that is almost seemed like it was raining as the moisture condensed on needles and leaves and fell on us. Very spooky. The beach was no different, a mysterious and arcane view greeted us when we finally came out of the trees. Sandy beach, lots of driftwood, seaward boulders, all opaque and obscured and opalescent.

 

We walked along the beach some way, then returned before the rising tide stranded us on some rocks in the middle of nowhere. After a bit of lunch, we drove up the coast toward the Cape.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with sunny weather, no mysterious fog banks, and a gorgeous sight. The view on offer included a number of rocky islets, formed by the slow (or maybe not so slow, actually) erosion of the underlying bedrock. We stood, in fact, on top of a number of sea caves and that land would soon collapse and form more rocky promontories. We also could see a good chunk of Vancouver Island which seemed not at all distant and very beautiful.

 

All in all, 10/10 would recommend both destinations if you’re in the area. We were very blessed by great weather, the Washington coast spends most of its time gloomy, chilly, and just very, very rainy.

I didn’t want to do a ranty post this week, as I’ve said, but I do want to include a little something here at the end. I’ve continued to call this blog Journeyman because, MPhil or not, I’m still not a master at life but I continue to work on myself. In humility, I submit to you this: let us question our lives deeply, examine ourselves honestly, and put in the work, be it ever so laborious, to make ourselves–and the world–a better place. We may never do enough, but are we even doing at all?

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, so I’d like to conclude with a few of his words. About apartheid and about how we live our lives.

The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.

Breathe the Free Air

Introductory thoughts for the week:

I was reading a little article about the recent ‘velvet’ revolution in Armenia whereby the premier was removed from power and the whole political system upset by popular demonstrations ect. They reference the actions of youth, commonly known there as the ‘independence generation’.

I’m real into generation things, I think it’s an interesting way to think about history and contemporary life. I like being a millennial, generally. But think about this: in lots and lots of places, I would be in a different generation–the first generation born and raised in a new country.

The early nineties were a crazy time in much of the world. And the resulting waves of independence meant that there’s a whole slew of young people around the world who are literally building their countries. They are deciding what they want their countries to look like. Not just by voting or consuming culture or whatever options are available to people just generally. But by actually being the first people born ever in, for example, the Republic of Armenia.

It’s something that I really can’t imagine, being very far removed from US independence. Certainly, there are traditions to build on, history and precedent. But think about Kyrgyzstan, for example, which went from progressive invasions across the steppes to the Russian Empire then the Soviet Union. Before independence in 1991, there had never been any kind of Kyrgyz state in history, the people of that area traditionally having been loosely organized nomads (historians please feel free to instruct me if I’m mistaken, I like learning).

In other news, I climbed a mountain with my friend on Tuesday. We debated both ‘climb’ and ‘mountain’ but in the final estimation, decided both were appropriate. We went to Mount Townsend, right at the northeast corner of the Olympics. It was eight-ish miles round trip, increasing about 3,000′ in elevation. Having reached the top, we definitely determined that it was a climb not a hike, and definitively a mountain mountain. The views were spectacular.

 

We had some lovely conversation, some lovely chicken salad sandwiches, and some companionable silence (huffing of breath excluded, of course). One of my favorite parts of the whole experience was the air.

It was fragrant almost beyond belief with pine and alpine freshness. It’s a smell I’m familiar with but can never have enough. Something about being up a mountain, seeing verdant green and bright snow and elegant peaks… it’s beyond special.

In places like that, I often try to envision the first people to come to those places. The first human eyes to see those mountains, those valleys, those rivers. To have all your senses alive with a totally new experience–scenting the pine, hearing the birds, warmed by the sun, seeing the peaks, tasting your chicken salad sandwiches.

What an incredible gift it is. I was trying to think of a way to connect my initial musings with the hike and I stuck upon that moment from Lord of the Rings when Théoden is freed from Saruman’s enchantment and Gandalf says, “Breathe the free air again, my friend.” (As an aside, yes pretty much everything can be connected to a Lord of the Rings quotation).

Sometimes, a protest and political revolution is required to breathe free. Sometimes, all that is required is a lungful of pine and a vast, open sky. In the words of E.E. Cummings, “i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky…”

I awkwardly forgot about my music list so I’m adding it now. Too late for some of you, alas.

  1. Praying – Kesha
  2. Pray – Sam Smith
  3. In the Name of Love – Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha
  4. Say You Love Me – Steve Grand
  5. Issues – Julia Michaels
  6. Cameo – Sam Tsui
  7. Silence – Marshmello ft. Khalid
  8. All Our Love – Gentlemen Hall
  9. Paris in the Rain – Lauv
  10. Settin’ the Woods on Fire – Hank Williams

Time at Leisure

Random thought to start us off this week. I was asked which Hogwarts House I’m in, not for the first time. But suddenly I was like, ‘I’d like to think, at my best, it’s because I value people more than the traits they possess.’ And then I was like, whoa. I am definitely a Hufflepuff (not a recent development). And that is what the House is about, I think. So there you go, take a second to feel good about yourself if you’re a Hufflepuff.

Anyway.

On Sunday, for Mother’s Day, we ventured a little down the road to a lovely little park that led to the beach. We were greeted with an excellent view of Mt Rainier, it being an exceptionally lovely and clear day. We spent some time beach combing and just generally enjoying ourselves before heading home. Kudos to all the feminine parental figures in my life, and two in particular. Don’t want to be gushy but they’re pretty grand.

The following day, I returned to the secret park I first visited a couple weeks ago and was rewarded for my fidelity by a stunning view of the Olympics range in its entirety.

 

 

So I spent a while reading on the beach, occasionally looking over the top of the pages to marvel at those mountains. As usual, the pictures hardly do anything justice. I am by no means a photographer of anything approaching skill. Rest assured, it was an incredible scene and a day of pretty total contentment.

The remainder of this week hasn’t held much else. My downtime continues unabated and I’m still trying to enjoy it as fully as possible, even with the sort of background dread of joblessness ever near. I was happy to receive a formal rejection email this week. It was a let down because seeing the email I got all excited only for my hopes to be dashed. But happy because most places don’t ever bother with the three seconds it takes to send that message. I could almost certainly count on one hand all the rejections that I’ve gotten in my life, out of all the many many jobs I’ve applied to.

It’s really something that makes me very angry but I don’t think I really want to rail about it at this juncture.

Instead, I’ll just move on to music. This week’s list is pretty eclectic. I mentioned that I put all my selections into a randomizer and then just broke it into groups of ten so the genres and time periods are whatever my randomizer thought sounded good together. Have fun, give one or two new ones a listen.

  1. Just Give Me a Reason – Pink feat. Nate Ruess
  2. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales – Car Seat Headrest
  3. Ultralife – Oh Wonder
  4. Faithfully – Journey
  5. Heaven – Troye Sivan
  6. The Way Old Friends Do – Abba
  7. Tidal Wave – Hedley
  8. My Friends – Oh Wonder
  9. Honey – Kehlani
  10. Carry You Home – Ward Thomas

 

I am Very Blessed by Having Lagoons in My Life

On Tuesday, I had an unexpected and delightful adventure. A friend invited me on a picnic (though it wasn’t particularly picnicy weather, it wasn’t supposed to rain and that’s good enough). She told me where to meet, about ten minutes from my house along a random stretch of road. We parked in a little gravel patch on the side of the road and I followed her–and the snacks–into this sketchy little trail next to a power pole.

Surprise, there was this whole park place there. It was just a single trail, plenty of nature about, but it was a real thing. Not sketchy. A few minutes in, we encountered a fairly new-looking State Parks sign telling us not to leave trash. Huh. We kept going, following a teensy little stream toward the water. And surprise again, it was the beach! We saw a few little ruins among the trees (research after returning home revealed that this land was purchased for a state park a while ago but that it hasn’t actually been developed as a park yet–it doesn’t even have a name!). It was quite a place.

My friend and I had our little picnic–which is to say, we ate some snacks sitting on a blanketed driftwood log. Then we just wandered around the beach and lagoon for a while. The sun tried valiantly to shine, so it oscillated between a little chilly and relatively pleasant. I got a little wet trying to hop around the lagoon but it was worth it.

We spent quite a while designing, on a whim, our own Hogwarts-style school for the Pacific Northwest. We settled on a migratory island, very outdoorsy, very environmental, very involved with muggles (or no-majs or whatever). Instead of Ollivanders, prospective students simply walk along a beach until their driftwood wand catches their eye. We came up with all sorts of details, 10/10 would attend. Would definitely write that series if ever I became an actual author and I wasn’t infringing on intellectual property. All in all, a very pleasant day.

Suffice to say that I am very grateful for this place in which I was raised. The trees, the sun, the water, the rain, the mountains, the moss. The lagoons, even when I get wet without wanting to be.

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Unrelatedly this week, I was thinking again for a sec about potential. I’ve said before that I don’t really like the idea of potential, it doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t think that it offers a great way to look at life. For me, at least. But I wasn’t sure exactly what I thought did. Saturday morning shower thoughts–it came to me in a snappy little phrase, which is always helpful. Not potential but fulfillment.

I have the potential to learn Arabic but not learning Arabic doesn’t mean I’m wasting my life. When I was at Target, it wasn’t that I was squandering potential but that I was unhappy. I felt undervalued and underutilized and generally underwhelmed by life. But if, for example, I was working in a podunk little bookstore in the middle of nowhere, making hardly any money, some might say that I was wasting my potential. But if it made me happy, if I felt valuable and fulfilled, then that’s all that really matters, yeah?

Not a monumental breakthrough, lots of people talk about fulfillment. It’s just a useful thing for me. Now I can put a name to something (embarrassing that it took me this long to come up with ‘fulfillment’) instead of just saying potential is a dumb concept. And, granted, this is how my brain works. You think about whatever works for you.

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Anyway, this month we’re back with random musical recommendations from Keegan. For now, I’ll return to contemporary, non-choral music. You probably have heard at least a couple of these. Selections range from old classics to top 40 to Eurovision entries (say what you will about that). I actually put my full list into a randomizer so I have nothing to do with the order, it’s a surprise. Give one or two a listen–especially if it’s not one you’re familiar with. Without further ado.

  1. Running on Air – Nathan Trent
  2. Boys – Charli XCX
  3. Hold Each Other – A Great Big World
  4. River – Charlie Puth
  5. Never Apart – Benny
  6. Пьяное солнце – Alekseev
  7. North – Sleeping at Last
  8. I Was Wrong – The Oh Hellos
  9. The Cure – Lady Gaga
  10. There for You – Martin Garrix & Troye Sivan

Washington, My Home

Oddly, states have their own state song. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Washington, My Home and I don’t think I’d really like to. But one way or another, Washington is my home. I’m trying to do some more exploring while I’m here in anticipation of leaving again (as vain as that hope may be). So yesterday I went on a lovely hike with a friend and it was very Washington, much home.

We decided on Lena Lake in the eastern Olympics, a relatively short drive and a relatively easy hike. It was the first forecast rainy day in a while, but the drive over was dry, as was the start of the hike. Cloudy, of course, but dry. As we continued, the rain picked up but it remained a tolerable rain not an absolute downpour. We had coats. We lived.

And my goodness was it gorgeous. Similar to New Zealand, actually, with ferns and moss and water and mist. Also fjords and rainforests. But in a distinctly different way. Sword ferns, for one, and cedars and pines for another. And it just felt good to wander through a solid Washington forest and marvel.

Lena Lake Trail

As always, pictures hardly to it justice, but suffice to say it was definitely a worthwhile trip. There was still some snow on the ground, too, which was a little surprising and fun. It was all-around an enjoyable experience for the company and the scenery.

Other than that, my week has been pretty low-key. I’ve had a couple good catch-ups with people and those have been really nice. My list of friends still around the Harbor has grown shorter in the past few years, but it’s always good to see them.

My days consist of a great deal of nothing. Reading, playing Civilization, doing Duolingo. I did plant a couple plants, rosemary and lemon balm (or BAHM if you can’t read the letter l) and that’ll be nice. I’m continuing to apply to places, mostly in the US so far, but nothing has come of it yet. Who knows. It would be much easier to enjoy doing nothing if I had something to look forward to, but once again I’m confronted with an apparently endless abyss of nothingness so that’s not super fun. I’ll live.

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Also, here’s an update on the yin-yang kitties

So that’s my week. Mostly boring but an acceptable level of activity. Some good catching up and some intense Washington ambiance. See you next week.

С Новым Годом!

I felt bad having Irish post titles and no Russian, so here’s a good one. I hesitate to give you a pronunciation, preferring to leave non-Russian readers floundering with fun Cyrillic letters, but maybe I ought to. Anyway, it means “Happy New Year!”, New Year’s being a major celebration in Russia, even more than Christmas I hear.

Fine, it’s S NO-vym GO-dom.

Anyway, I had a lovely Christmas and I hope the same for you. I’m actually writing this post on Wednesday because I will be spending all of Thursday (from early morning until late night) at the Hoh Rainforest. If you’re unfamiliar with the forest, you should familiarize yourself because it’s amazing. Since I have zero idea when next I’ll be in this country, much less in this state, I wanted to do something really Washingtony. And nothing says Washington like the rainiest place in the continental US (not sure if that’s a verified claim, but probs close if not number one).

It is a really strange feeling, having a one-way ticket back to Dublin and zero idea what my life will look like come September. I find myself looking forward once again to November, hopefully having written my dissertation and gotten a job of some description, settling into ‘real life’ (not that I’m actually looking forward to being an adult but…). I don’t know, it’s a whole thing. I’ll manage somehow, I suppose, a gazillion people do every year. But that’s not really what I like to think about, I’d rather imagine that no one else has ever become an adult and I’m blazing a trail into the vast unknown where monsters lurk around every corner and the chances of survival look grim. Leave me to my little devices, they make me feel better.

Sorry for that little tangent. Sometimes I have these little oh-poor-me moments. It’s easy to get into that sort of vein around New Year’s. I’ve never been much one for resolutions, partially because I (like a gazillion others) forget them so quickly and partially because I’d rather just try every day to live better. I know goals and things are important, and I do have them if the circumstances are right, but for things like New Year’s resolutions I just don’t usually go in for it. There’s a great line from a great poem (ugh, he’s back to poetry) that sort of sums it up. Longfellow, in A Psalm of Life says, “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,/ Is our destined end or way;/ But to act, that each to-morrow/ Find us farther than to-day.” So there’s my resolution, I guess, every year. Not really to do anything different in particular but to find myself farther along, somehow improved, in a better place, this time next year. This time next month, next week, tomorrow. To always be moving in a better direction.

The horror! A math metaphor just occurred to me and I’ll share because it’s super accurate but I’m hereby registering how uncomfortable I am with math metaphors (and math, generally). Sometimes, y will oscillate up and down, but I always want to be moving in the positive x direction.

Ugh, math.

Also, I lied, let’s have a New Year’s resolution: in 2016 let’s make NCIS: Bremerton a thing. #NCISBremerton

On a totally unrelated note, when I said at the beginning of this blog that I have always failed to keep a journal, that wasn’t quite true. In fact, I do have a journal that I do continue to write in. I’ve had it since New Year’s Day 1997, in fact. The thing is, I typically write in it once a year, sometimes twice and sometimes not at all, and write only a page at most. For example, I gave the years 2007, 2009, and 2012 a miss but wrote three times in 2005. It’s actually super awesome to see the different things I talk about and how I write, not to mention the development of my handwriting (and spelling). A quote from one of my favorite entries, dated 4 January, 2001: “I Maeb Snowflaks with Krista anb Xanbra it WaS Fun!! We Maeb aBunch The Ent” How precious. If ever I become famous, my biographers will definitely have to reference it. Quicky fact check, though, her name is Xandra, I have never met anyone named Xanbra.

Anyway, here’s to the new year. However you celebrate, wherever you are, and wherever you’re going, I wish you all happiness. In words not entirely suited to virtual communication but expressing a wonderful sentiment nonetheless, I leave you with one of my favorite little blessings:

May the roof above us never fall in,

And we friends gathered below never fall out.

Happy New Year!