Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life is like a river

"However any attempt to select out the special moments of our life may be a grave mistake. It may be that life can only be judged as a whole, in extenso, and not by its separate parts, not by taking one day and rejecting another, not by separating out the years like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, in order to conclude that this bit was very good and this bit was very bad. The fact is that everything that lives is like a river, with no shortcuts and no halts along the way." -from Obabakoak by Bernardo Atzaga

Friday, February 18, 2011

Age-related focus dysfunction

How is this better than presbyopia? Someone decided that presbyopia was too difficult for people to say, spell, understand, and whatnot, and decided that they should rename it, dumb it down. Now would you rather say that you have Age-Related Focus Dysfunction or Presbyopia? I am going with presbyopia. Coming from an eye doctor with ten years under her belt, you should heed this. Learn presbyopia. Stand up with me against age-related focus dysfunction.
Presbyopia (prez-bee-ope-ee-u): The loss of focusing ability of the eyes that comes with age. Due to loss of lens flexibility and/or loss of zonular function (the strings that attach to the side of the lens which pull on it to change the shape of the lens, thereby changing focus). Starts around age 40, and changes regularly (worsens) until about age 55. Why everyone has to get reading glasses, unless they die first. Which seems like an extreme measure to avoid reading glasses aka "cheaters."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The road is fuzzy

I woke up and wondered what I was going to do with the stack of emails that are sitting next to my bed. So filled with hope. Now dead. What comes at the end of a relationship. Is not the same at the end of life. I wish tears washed out feelings. And left me clean anew. Only they don't. And everything is the same. At the start again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Being older than my dad

Today is the day I am older than my dad. I was thinking about it for a while. How it would feel to be older than him. It's been a long time since he died, and still I remember small milestones. Yesterday would've been the last day of my life if I were him. Ok so that's kind of crazy to think about, but I can't help it sometimes.

(From left: my dad Keith, Grandma Hazel, Brian, Grandpa Lavern, Kent)

Monday, February 14, 2011

What is love? Grandma Hazel.

On Valentine's day, I remember my Grandma Hazel, who showed us love in so many ways: hugs and kisses, generosity, creative gifts, acceptance of all, and rarely a unkind word against anyone. She wrote beautiful letters, in beautiful script for as long as I can remember. Always telling us she loved us. Never asking for anything in return.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

All the Joys of My Life

All the joys of my life are in the cherry tree, in the shaking of a single yellow leaf,
In the clouds from the south that come scudding along on the open air,
In hydrangea blooms that the sun shies on:
It is the slight sheen on the water in the channel,
The opulent scent of the muck heap in spring,
The sing-song calling of the Brent geese on the mudflats.

But it is also mother's carefree youth as they skate along the waterway together in the moonlight,
It is father's joy when the verses of one of the poets gladden his heart.
It is the fragile happiness of grandpa and grandma as, hand in hand, they welcome spring.

Oh, and perhaps it is partly the dream of the devout one
When he sees the angels open wide their white wings.

-Obe Postma

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On knowing who you are, from Vaclav Havel

"Peace, solidarity and cooperation are only conceivable among people and nations who know who they are. If I don't know who I am, who I want to be, what I want to achieve, where I begin and where I end, then my relations with the people around me and the world at large will be inevitably be tense, suspicious and burdened by an inferiority complex that may go hidden behind puffed-up bravura." -Vaclav Havel, 10th Czech President, essayist and writer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%A1clav_Havel

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's getting more mainstream.

"Progress not perfection," states Kathy Freston in a Vanity Fair interview this month regarding transitioning away from animal products. She changed from a southern fried-chicken girl, to a vegan. She recalled, "Once I missed a tunafish sandwich with mayo on toasted wheat bread more than anything. Six months after I went vegan, I snuck into a deli and took one home. And, of course it wasn't nearly as good as I fantasized. It tasted well, fishy." I've had similar experiences.

Vegan was formerly a dirty word, bringing to mind extreme outliers who eschewed all animal products, but lately, I've seen it popping up in more and more places. It's slowing seeping into society as a practical way to honor life. I am not personally strict vegan, but I am mostly vegan, and if I can chose for not harming animals, that is the choice I try to make. The author sums it up at the end by saying, "It seems to me now that the case for eating meat is about as convincing as the old arguments in favor of smoking." He stopped eating meat after the interview and reading The China Study.

Full article: The Vegan Monologues by John Heilpern
The China Study

Saturday, February 5, 2011

On change

"Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, no one would ever move forward to become the person they're meant to be." - anonymous
I woke up this morning and the snow was gone. Like someone died. Not quite. But it was surprising. Brown grass, dirt-strewn sidewalks. Just a few days before, it was a blinding whiteness. This is to be expected with temperatures of +6.5C. I guess I'll scrap the plans for cross-country skiing this weekend. It is a little sad. But I must admit, I don't mind the warmer air. Years of living in mild climates will do that to you.
Change is something I generally like. New sights, ideas, learning. The unknown. I'm in the final seven months of my contract here. I don't know what's next. An extension? A move? Travel? Unemployment? All this unknown makes me feel a little like I'm holding my breath. I'll eventually hear whether I'm being extended in Germany for another 6 months or a year, and if so, I'll go through the process again. If not, then I'll move on to whatever is next. 
As much as I love change, being on the edge of it makes me understand why people love stability. It is easier. Less thinking. Less wondering. More just living. But I doubt I'll ever be content with that. It's not my nature. I always have one too many projects, one too many dreams for this life. It's not the sense of urgency or waste, it's just the way I am.
Pema Chodron says: "Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears." I try daily to embrace the uncertainty, even if it is hard, for it is a good part of what makes life worth living.

Friday, February 4, 2011

How I travel

If you were wondering what the connections are among the apparent random places I visit and the ensuing thoughts and photos, here I recap my thoughts on travel:
The urge to travel hits me frequently, and I like to get out of town 1-2 times a month, if I can. By car or train or plane. It matters not. It's important to get out of my usual space, to keep my eyes open about life and people, and my mind swirling with new ideas. And I figure the more places I see for myself, the less prejudices I'll have, since mostly everyone I've met along the way was helpful and kind.
I will go anywhere. I used to say I'd try anywhere (or anything) once, but I think twice is more accurate. I choose based on affordability and nearness. I prefer grittiness to grandeur, and quirks to smooth sailing. I like places that don't speak English- it's more interesting, and also because there's an aspect of peace which I experience in this sort of solitude, not listening to others' conversations. Also why I really enjoy living in Germany.
I prefer solo travel. Because I like walking through an unknown place in a dreamlike state, and it increases my engagement with the locals and the community in general. I'm also a bit greedy in liking the experience of arrival in a place by myself, seeing it though my own eyes for the first time, with those memories cementing into my head.
I talk to locals anywhere, anytime, and I am not afraid to ask directions-- it's a good way to get a feel for a city's residents. I think it's a bit of a loss with all the people using GPS to find things- it takes away from interactions which may have occurred otherwise. Not surprisingly, I prefer paper maps and no guidebooks. Rather, I enjoy arriving and figuring it out as I go.
My pre-planning consists of plane and hostel reservations. Yes, I prefer hostels, for the companionship and the savings and the simplicity. I've never liked being catered to. It's just the way I am. I usually scout out a couple art museums on arrival, perusing their websites to see which ones would interest me most. 
Mostly I travel very lightly. One small carry-on. Usually a tiny travel computer, small pocket camera, iPod, journal, book, a couple shirts, pjs, and maybe an extra pair of pants. I check a bag about once every year or two.
The main thing I do in a city is walk. Anywhere and everywhere. Without agenda mostly, but sometimes I choose landmarks to walk to just to give myself a destination, though it's usually more about the walk. Coffee shops are my best friends, where locals hang out, and I can write and let my mind wander. I enjoy navigating public transport, and the interactions with locals that result. I have on more than one occasion gotten rides from locals. If there's time, I try to go to a small town outside of the bigger city that I'm in. Often they create totally different feelings. My favorite time of day is a weekday morning, when locals are rushing off to work, and I can see people in their everyday lives. This brings me more joy than I can describe. I'd guess it's the feeling of camaraderie among the masses, how we are all doing the same things everywhere in this world.
I've been very lucky in that travel has been a priority in my life forever. From my parents loading up the car taking road trips to Canada, Chicago, the Black Hills, to my Aunt Dee's invitations to visit the east coast and England and Europe with their family, to a boyfriend who was a fearless traveler in my twenties... all directions led to more travel, and unsurprisingly, eventually a life abroad. My travel has been fully self-funded since I was 18, and I've managed to visit 49 countries and take a year off to wander. It's been a joy and it's not been expensive. But it is a priority.
I never would've dreamed that I'd be here, now, living this life. It is pretty good. The way it happened was: I had dreams and I acted on them. I followed my heart, and it led me around the world. And now the whole world is my home.