Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quote

My friend the Molly Llama just sent me the following, which I love:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

--Fredrick Buechner


Melange

This last weekend was, I realised, a surreal mix of my whole life. Well, minus the Latin American part, I guess, although the cute young restaurant host was Latino. It's not really the same context, though . . .

There I was, being reminded (accurately or not) of London all over the place, what with shopping and multiculturalism and the wedding reception of the couple whom Christy of DryBonesDance calls, "the fabulous Kathy . . . and Adam." Adam is British, and so, naturally, is his family, and so, naturally, are their accents. Plus there were photos of their wedding in London . . .

Christy of DryBonesDance was actually at this reception, too. So was MarciaMarciaMarcia. And Kathy and I don't know each other by virtue of London. We know each other because she was my roommate once and my suitemate before that. All of these are friends from college. And some of us have the connexion of the same missionary organisation in our pasts or present. Christy keeps turning up delightfully at random points in my life. She probably doesn't remember all the times, but I think I've run into her every time my life changes course, except for the brief time I lived in Denver. I wonder if seeing her over the weekend is to make up for not seeing her during that transition, or if I should be keeping my eyes open for a new one.

That night I stayed at Starbucks-Stephanie's, who recently moved with to Santa Barbara with her boyfriend Mathias, and the next day Starbucks-Jerry and Starbucks-Kristin (who also moved out west within the last year) picked me up and brought me back to LA.

The whole thing left me feeling somewhat dizzy. My worlds do not normally converge in quite this way. Although I guess if they were going to, Southern California is as good a place as any. Even when it rains, which it did for two days. Kathy's father said that with guests coming in from the Pacific Northwest, Chicago, and London, we didn't really have a chance. He's right, I'd say.

But in any case, I enjoyed myself, and I would like to take this opportunity to say--thanks, guys (as in, all you people I've mentioned over the past four posts or so)! It was a fun weekend.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Shopping Beyond the Windows

Keep in mind my definition of a shopping spree is buying more than one item without going home and thinking about it first. On Friday, after stating I was going for a walk, I did, indeed, go for a walk . . . to the Century City Mall, which continued to remind me of London because of the high fashion stores from which one could, if one had lots of money or didn't mind running up a huge credit card bill, buy really expensive clothing.

I don't like spending money, but I have to confess to a weakness for clothing. Even if (even though, most of the time) my shopping is confined to the window variety, I can't say that browsing in stores like those at the Century City Mall doesn't contribute in some way to my fashion lust. Part of me thinks that high fashion is completely ludicrous--but that's part of the appeal. One time I made a dress out of a curtain. It is hideous. And very chic. If it were sewn better, a movie star could wear it to the Oscars or something. Really.

Anyway, I wasn't planning on buying anything that day. But I stepped into Mango, which I haven't done since I lived in London, and there was a tremendous sale going on, as there sometimes is. That store does have great sales. And there was this cute brown coat that looked great, and my purple coat is falling apart and I've had it for years and there were only two of this brown coat and only one in my size and it was not expensive for a coat and so . . . I bought it. This was pretty daring of me, because I usually only buy things if I can return them after I bring them home and have a second, third, and fourth thought about them. But there was no money back on this item. Then I bought a pair of black pants, to make matters even more extreme.

I wore both items while eating at a Persian restaurant and walking around in Hollywood that night, so that I would be less likely to suffer shopper's remorse. And it's pretty much working.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Question

Would someone please tell me why I neglected to bring sunglasses on this trip?

(Now there's something to distinguish LA from London!)
A Tale of Two Cities

Or I could just move to LA, I suppose.

One of my friends, who recently married a Brit in London (wait--that was supposed to be my story), is having a second wedding reception in Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, three of my friends from Starbucks store 7862 have moved to LA or Santa Barbara themselves. Meanwhile, it's January and winter finally hit my state, so yesterday I fled the cold (I don't mind missing the cold as long as I know we're getting some), and here I am, in a city I have never visited before.

I spent yesterday evening at a restaurant getting mildly and not unpleasantly hit on by the much-younger-than-I-am restaurant-host for the evening, and then reading almost an entire Nick Hornby book at Borders.

My body was three hours ahead of LA's clocks, so I will admit to being rather over-fatigued last night, but for the duration of my read in Borders, I had to keep reminding myself that I was in a large American city and not in London. This sensation of being in London hasn't really left me this morning, either, probably because I haven't been outside yet today, to be confronted by palm trees. But I have been spending large blocks of time pondering what it is that makes me think this North American West Coast city is remotely like the capital of England.

I daresay part of it is due to the fact that I had been writing here about London, and also due to the fact that I used to spend numerous days off in Borders when I lived there, reading books I had no intention of purchasing. (Is this ethically unsound? And if it is, do I plan on stopping, now that I have rediscovered how wonderful it is?)

Also, I kept hearing people speaking with British accents. Mostly southern British accents. London is in southern England. (In case anyone is an active member of the appalling-US-ignorance-of-geography statistic. I am, but less in regard to some places than others.)

Also, Hostess-Extraordinaire-Elizabeth's apartment, while more open than many London flats I encountered, has that same artistic-chic feel that I came to know and love on the other side of the Pond. Simple lines, appealing and well-matched colours, lots of books and interesting artwork, really classy. I always thought that the East Coast was more similar to England in culture and self-expression than the West Coast would be. And I think in some ways it really is. But I'm beginning to see some glimpses of why Beth-the-London-Roommate-from-Oregon adapted to the urban cultural life of London rather more quickly than I did. Or maybe it's just a temperament thing. But so are the Coasts, I'll bet.

Also, like London, LA is very ethnically diverse, I find. I freaked myself out last night when I realised I was having racist cringes walking around the shopping area where I was hanging out. I wanted to call them "thoughts of racial differentiation" because I was the one having them, and I was hoping it would make it sound like I was not being racist--but I was. I noticed that I was a little afraid walking around outside and seeing people of colour hanging around, but that when I went into the restaurant, or Borders, or Starbucks, where there were just as many people of colour hanging around (like me), I felt fine. This kind of thinking--happening in my own head--really bothers me. There were neighbourhoods in London where I didn't feel safe either, but the not-safe feeling had nothing to do with the local ethnicities (it sort of couldn't, because neighbourhoods there are much more mixed, if not actually integrated). It makes me want to move back into a major city where I have to interact with people from everywhere, so I stop thinking polarising thoughts like that.

This afternoon I shall take a walk, and maybe by then LA won't remind me of London at all. But I have to give it a shot.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

January 16

Last Tuesday was my half-birthday. I don't really know why I'm so conscious of half-birthdays, except maybe because my parents were born on each others', and also, when you're a little kid and you're born in the summer and all your friends get to bring cupcakes to school on their birthdays but you're on vacation during yours, it was sometimes a big deal if your teacher let you bring cupcakes to school on your half-birthday instead.

I won't tell you what birthday last Tuesday was six months away from, but I will tell you it ends in a "5." And the first part is not "20."

On my half-birthday, I realised that it was ten years from the day that I moved to London. I could be a British citizen by now. I might finally have started to pick up an accent. I would not have forgotten all the charming slang I adopted. I would regularly interact with more than five people a week who have a largely different ethnic heritage to me. I might even be married to a Brit by now. (Or a Czech, or a Persian, or a Kenyan, or a Ghanaian, or a Turk.) Nah . . . probably not.

Sometimes I wish all those things were true, but there was this time in 2002 when it seemed like God was yanking me out of there by the hair, and I was kicking and screaming as usual, but I knew He was right. I still haven't figured out why, but I still feel He was right--and that for once in my life I actually heard Him properly. The last time I visited East London, instead of its feeling like home, the way it had the visit before that, it felt like a place I had never been before but knew exactly what to expect from. And I knew that that place was not where I was meant to be anymore, even though it had been.

But it really, really had been. I've done a lot of growing since I left London, but I still feel that London was where I really and first grew up. It was where I found my feet and where I learned to do things for myself and where I began to learn to love people. (I'm still learning that, I think.) I lived in my house with the yellow door, and I ate curry more than anything else, and I drank tea with refugees and walked around the sketchy parts of the city (i.e. my neighbourhood) ostensibly by myself and at midnight. I found out that I wasn't going to Hell (or even going to get drunk) if I drank wine within reason with the Eastern European au pairs. I found out that I wasn't going to go looney if I wept and prayed and worshipped with people who spoke in tongues. (And that I still belong to Jesus even though I don't speak in tongues.) I loved London and its people there.

I guess I still do.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Orthodoxy?

On Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I was called “liberal.” (Or at least something I said was.) I can only think of two occasions where I have felt more flattered (and I can only actually remember one of those).

This label is somewhat startling for a number of reasons, which include the following:
  1. The people calling me such were not evangelical or fundamentalist Christians.
  2. I had, just moments before, given a defense for the tendency of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians to share and try to propagate their (I guess I mean “our”) faith (while acknowledging that the methods employed are not always the most helpful), and furthermore asserted that I believe in Hell.

I guess I spun both topics slightly differently than the young couple with whom I was dining and chatting had heard before. Also, I followed up the Hell thing with something about God’s love. Something in response to the husband’s complaints about the guilt and fear he felt had been foisted on him in his religious upbringing. Something about how I believe God is worthy of our respect—and even our fear—because we all have, in some way or other, disappointed Him. But also something about how we can be pretty sure that, if the Bible’s right and Jesus really is God’s Son, God doesn’t actually want us to go to Hell. He wouldn’t have come down here and gone through all that if He did.

That was when the husband said, “That’s really liberal, you know.”

He meant it as a compliment, and it pleased me, and it also made me want to laugh.

And it also makes me want to cry.

God’s love is surprising in the lengths He went to in order to show it. But if its surprisingness is so rare among certain manifestations of His people that other people don’t imagine they could find it there—shame on us. Shame on me. It’s one thing to talk pretty. I don’t know that I usually love in that startling way.

Monday, January 22, 2007

BlogFast is Over

It would seem that there was some misunderstanding surrounding the nature of the self-imposed break I took last week. Even God was a little unclear about it, according to Luis. I wasn’t pausing to decide whether to stop blogging altogether. It was more an attempt to step back and figure out just how deeply I wanted to entrench myself in the ranks of the bloggerati.

I don’t know that you will notice any discernable difference here—at least not at first. Partly that’s because I don’t feel like I “heard” anything about blogging last week. Not from God anyway. Unless, of course, those emails Luis “forwarded” were actually something . . .

Maybe I didn’t pray enough.

I do know, though, that as soon as I forbade myself to write anything here, I suddenly had heaps of things to say. And I’m back.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Decision-Making

In spite of my brother's wholehearted endorsement, and in spite of the fact that I'm probably making a big deal out of nothing (something I do fairly regularly, and which might explain my deep desire to blog about my city), I've decided that I need a little more time to decide about this blogging thing.

I actually believe that God does somehow communicate what He wants to people who want to know, although I'm less sure these days that I know how He does it or even when He's doing it. But it seems to me that even if my hopes for greater blogdom come to naught, it might be a good idea for me to spend some time asking Him how He feels about my trying. And I have a hard time listening--well, I have a hard time listening regardless, but I have an even harder time listening when I'm wrapped up in whatever it is I'm trying to get some clarity about.

So this week I'm going to take a break. Starting tomorrow, all the way through next Sunday, you will not see me here. I will not be blogging. I will not be reading anybody's blogs (sorry, beloved fellow-bloggers). I'll just be thinking and praying about it and trying to spend a little extra time actually focusing on God. I realised I needed this when it dawned on me that while writing my most recent journal entries (journalling is how I talk with God the best, I think), I was semi-consciously writing them with the great cloud of blog readers in mind. I also noticed that a lot of times recently, I've wanted to encourage certain of my friends, like, say, Philosopher-Journalist-John, to start a blog so we can comment on each others. Which might be a good idea, but not if it precludes actually talking to people.

So anyway. Have a good week. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. (That "Jr." thing really messes up the flow of the name of the holiday. But I feel like I'm being inaccurate if I leave it off.) Don't forget that it is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

I will still be answering emails.

See you here in just over a week.

Friday, January 12, 2007

$$ Blog $$

This week (more or less), I learned that, at least theoretically, one can earn some money blogging. I never really have been that up on pop culture. It wasn't until the last year or so that I finally got into 80's music, which is what everybody else was listening to--well, in the 80's funnily enough, which is when I was in high school. (Please nobody make fun of me for liking 80's music. I'm having a hard enough time being a late bloomer.)

Being funded by a blog seems ideal, since the last idea I had for a novel was actually an attempt to get over a guy I had fancied (pre-Brian). But I'm over that guy now and have nothing else to say in it, and no other writing projects except blogposts.

I could, it appears, put ads on my blog. This, however, is like putting billboards on the highway; it might help with finances, but it does nothing for the view. (It does something to the view, however.) I'm still idealistic (and solvent) enough not to want to go this route--at least not yet.

Alternatively, I could apply for a blogging position, apparently. For example, there is a "prelaunched" (whatever that means) blog network that is all people blogging about their cities. My city is the kind people love to hate, and since I'm partial to underdogs, I would relish blogging about it. But this site will likely not hire me unless my current blog has some decent traffic and feedback going on. I could increase this by signing up with other blogsites and social tagging sites (which I just learned about yesterday and am not even sure I understand--or am calling the right thing).

But honestly, how available to I really want to be on this here internet? It's a little scary thinking of signing up in that many places. How do I know what kind of sketchy person is going to find my information? The same thing, could, of course, be said about on-line dating, however, which I've been doing (or trying to do) for three years. That experience has been both less successful and less dangerous than it is often touted as being. So who knows? I might just give it a shot.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Prompts

This morning I woke up some time around 4 a.m. This isn't that surprising, given that the last two days I have had to wake up at 3.45 in order to get to work for my opening shifts on time. Today I did not have to, but my body usually tries to get me on a schedule, though I (or more accurately, Starbucks) refuse to let it. As I was lying there, somewhat puzzled as to who I was and why I was there and why I was awake and why I evidently hadn't been just a moment before, I heard a sound.

The sound was sort of muffled, but it sounded like somebody whispering in my ear. Actually, it sounded like Daddy when he used to knock on my door in the mornings, "Time to get up, okay?" (Only he never whispered it right in my ear--he always said it softly through the crack between the door and the jamb.)

This puzzled me even more, though it also made me a little more alert. Although most supernatural events in my life come to pass through more or less natural means, I do believe in the supernatural. I was now awake enough to realise that I could very well have simply heard my own congested breathing and, in my somewhat stupified state, thought it sounded like a whisper from somebody else. On the other hand, I didn't want to take for granted the fact that my groggy brain had thought it had heard my dad. It's all about perception again. And even if I hadn't actually heard my dad, maybe it wasn't random that I thought I had. But it couldn't hurt to pray for him and Mom, who are, naturally speaking, inaudible to me at the moment, living as they are on the other side of an ocean. In any case, it must be said that I am a dismal failure at praying for people, even my immediate family, so any prompts in this direction are probably a good idea, given that God likes us to pray for some reason, according to Himself in the Bible.

So I prayed for them for a little while, and then fell back to sleep.

Later in the morning (which was more like afternoon for them), I called to make sure they were all right. They sounded very bright and chipper, and not as if they had had any near escapes from certain calamity or anything. That was a relief. But I do wonder about these prayer-promptings I get.

They come every so often. You know. You hear stories about people who get this sense of deep concern for somebody they know, so they pray for them and find out later that at that very moment, the person was about to get mugged in a dark alley, but something made the muggers run away. Actually, it happened to my great aunt or grandmother or somebody when their brother was fighting in the War. He's the one sibling of my grandmother's who is still alive.

I get feelings like that--about people's personal safety, or about their marriages or whatever, and I pray really hard, and then I find out that at that exact moment, things were just absolutely fantastic. The most recent and glaring (and I do mean glaring) instance of this personal phenomenon is that one morning back in October, I woke up at 4 a.m. again (for probably similar reasons to today) and suddenly felt compelled to pray for Brian. I prayed and prayed and prayed--and at the end of the week I found out that he had spent that very and entire day with the woman he is now courting, deciding that he wanted to pursue her in earnest. This is the kind of thing that makes me feel like one of the bumbling side-characters in the Movie we were talking about last week, who gets to be the comic brunt of dramatic irony--and everybody thinks it's funny except said character. Said character's usual reaction is a skeptical and mistrust-laden view of God and His designs for said character. This is probably another instance of broken-world-itis, but it feels too coincidental for me to believe Somebody didn't orchestrate it.

I don't get why I am prompted to pray for insanely happy people, but my attempt to get it leads me to one of three conclusions:

  1. These prompts are God's way of getting me to pray pre-emptively and my prayers are so "powerful and effective" (see James 5.16) that the subjects of these prayers aren't even aware that they were in any danger.
  2. I'm such a bad pray-er that only a sense of alarm foisted on me by supernatural beings is enough to get me to request or say anything worthwhile to God about people I care about.
  3. I'm totally out of touch with reality.

Given my misperception of my friend's "Jennwith2ns" comment, I'm leaning toward the last one. On the other hand, the misperception generated some pretty good analysis of myself and my relationship to God over the weekend, so maybe even delusional prayers are worth something. On the other hand, maybe I only think it was a pretty good analysis . . .

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Puns and Other Linguistic Shenanigans

I have a cold. This is cold number three of Cold-Season, which doesn't seem to be taking a break in spite of the fact that Winter is apparently vacationing in Aspen this year. It's not a bad cold this time--as in, it's an actual cold, limited to sniffling, sneezing, and not being able to breathe properly, as opposed to a multitasking cold which takes on the responsibilities of the flu and bronchitis, too.

This morning, after a violent sneeze (which I issued into my shoulder and not, since you were probably wondering, into anyone's drinks), I announced to Starbucks Erika and the morning customers who were present, that today we would not be calling our staple beverage "coffee," but "sneezy." (You might have to say that out loud to yourself to get the joke.) Please somebody laugh at that. At least a chuckle? Or a derisive snort? (Be careful with that last one, though, if you have a cold, too.)

Here is another word-game I was playing with myself this afternoon while driving home:

Why do we say, "infinity" and "finiteness"? Is "finiteness" even right? Did some late-twentieth century North American make that up and, like "orientated," it stuck? On the other hand, I'm pretty sure the word has never been "finity," though it seems like it should be (in spite of the fact that it looks sort of like "finicky."). "Finitude" would be okay. It sounds smarter than "finiteness." Who decided on the endings for all these latinate words anyway? And why did they decide what they did? We could talk about finitude and infinitude and it would be a lot more consistent. And attitude, for the matter of that.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Setting the Record Straight

Perspective is perplexing. As long as one is subject to the time space continuum, nobody can have exactly the same one. I can never see exactly what you see, because my eyeballs can't be in exactly the same place as yours at exactly the same time. (If they were, it might just be hard to see anything. Who knows?) This, of course, applies not just to vision, but experience. I believe wholeheartedly in absolute truth, and I believe we can know some of it, but I don't think that any of us can know all of it. 'Cause we just can't see everything. And then sometimes we make stuff up.

Like the other day. I accused one of my friends of accusing my blog of being self-centred. But actually, as I learned after making this information available to cyberspace, the word "blog" never left this fellow's lips. He was simply using "Jennwith2ns" as a hypothetical movie title, as an example and context for what he was talking about. Apparently my barely submerged fears-and-other-things-I'm-dealing-with-right-now made me hear "like Jennwith2ns' blog." Oops. I hate putting misinformation on here (although I'm sure I do it with great regularity).

It was a good thing, though. Maybe sometimes skewed perspective can get you ricocheting off in the right direction once in a while. I got a lot of thinking done this weekend.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Epiphany

Hey! It's Epiphany! By which I mean 6 January, the day of the Feast (or whatever) of Epiphany in the liturgical calendar. It's one of my favourite festivals that Baptists don't know about. (I can say this, being, more or less, a Baptist.) My own epiphany for the day was that it is Epiphany. I almost forgot about it--kind of like all the holidays recently.

Anyway, this is my favourite minor-ish festival I think because it celebrates the fact that Gentiles, as well as Jews, are allowed into the Kingdom of God because of Jesus. It's a good reminder to myself not to take that for granted. I think sometimes, in spite of my best efforts at not being racist, sectarian, etc., I semiconsciously imagine that American (Northern or Southern Hemisphere doesn't matter--I'm that open-minded) Evangelicals are the Chosen People. Epiphany reminds me that I didn't do anything (not even be born into a particular race) to get me in--it was an act of God, an act of His grace. Furthermore, it reminds me of the wise men.

The story of the magi is the quintessential clue at the birth of Jesus that He came for everybody and not just the particular ethnic group into which He was born. But there's also this side-detail, which is that not only were they Gentiles, but it's highly likely they hailed either from Iran or Iraq.

I don't really want to get all political here, but I do want to say that I think it's pretty easy for American-Evangelicals-who-feel-like-the-Chosen-People to forget that non-Jewish people from the Middle East, including from countries we have a little trouble trusting, can be chosen, too. This festival reminds me of my Persian and Iraqi friends in London with whom I've lost touch, but who had visions and dreams--epiphanies--of Jesus. It reminds me to keep praying that they find the stable--and the Cross.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Movie Star

Last night one of my friends who is getting to know Jesus called to talk about some of his more recent insights, as he does. It's always very intense and fascinating. Anyway, he was telling me about how he went to this talk connected to his alma mater and it turned out it was about Ignatian spirituality. One aspect thereof which intrigued him, I guess, was the concept of life with God as the main character of the story/play/movie we're all in, and the rest of us as equal characters in it. As an aside and a contrast, he said, "Instead of thinking of ourselves as the star of the movie, like jennwith2ns' blog, for example."

He wasn't being mean. He's talked about himself as the star of his own movie before. Still, it cut me to the quick, probably because it's true. In the world of my intellectual beliefs, I know and assert that God is the main character of life, but in my head, I would say that more often than not, I am. I would like to think I am not alone in this self-centeredness (I only want to be alone in my movie-stardom, probably). But it doesn't really matter whether I am the only person who is the star of their own show or not, because the fact that I am the star of my own show at all is the actual problem.

The comment has had the equal and opposite effects of motivating me to get refocused on the One who actually is the star of this here show, and also of making me more self-conscious than ever about this blog. I think it stung so much because, as I confessed at the beginning of the making of this public self-narration, I realise what a self-absorbed medium this is. At least for me. (See? Self-absorbed. The irony is, of course, that I'm processing how convicted I feel of my own selfishness by blogging about it.)

I think I was hoping it would start to become more God-centered than it apparently has. And, to cut myself some slack, one is often told to write about the things one knows, and the things I know best are the ones in my head and my heart. But I do wish the ultimate result here was that people who read it would see God as the main character, and not as the catalyst to help me be one.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Un-Deck the Halls

It doesn’t really feel like it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations.

Yesterday at work I spent the first two-thirds of my shift taking down the holiday decorations and putting up kitsch for Valentine’s Day. I have a day off on Friday and I expect I will spend it defrocking the Christmas tree and putting away the ornaments until next year. Maybe on Sunday night at Bible study we can ceremonially chuck the tree off the deck. Roommate-Sarah and I have a thing for lobbing biodegradable holiday d├ęcor off the back porch and (ideally—though sometimes we miss) into the woods. The fact that we keep the tree (like the piano, which we won’t be tossing anywhere) in the dining room is particularly convenient right now, because it’s right next to the deck door, which is also particularly convenient because we had to buy a pre-cut and therefore pre-dead tree this time, and it’s dropping needles like crazy.
But it still doesn’t feel like the right sort of activity to be engaging in right now.
When I was driving to work on the first, I had a thought-process which went roughly as follows:

“When Dave and Lu come for Christmas, I’ll have to remember to ask him . . . oh, wait.”

Not only had I already forgotten to ask him, but apparently I had also forgotten that Christmas had come and gone and so had Dave and Lu. I blame this forgetfulness on the weather. Last Saturday we had the closest thing to a snowstorm that we’ve had all season—and it wasn’t. It was basically a dusting which stuck around for a little while, the grass poking up ironically all over the place. This morning at 4.30 when I left for work, there was frost on my car windows, and New-Manager-Hillarie had frozen door locks, but when I got home at one, it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and I went for a walk. The walk was an hour and fifteen minutes long, sunny and very beautiful. The water at the end of Tucker Road was gurgling enthusiastically over the rocks and through the drainage pipe, and I’m pretty sure I saw some wild strawberry plants poking through the dead oak leaves. There was almost the sense of anticipation that spring brings . . . except it’s January 3, for goodness’ sake!

Here we live in a part of the country which requires hard freezes. I have realised this winter that although I have less inclination to tolerate cold the older I get, and although every time in snows my Corolla and I have to coax each other along and try not to engage in vehicular ice-skating (that happened last year, but that’s another story), and although I hate having to get up even earlier for an opening shift just to warm up and clear off my car, as long as I live in this part of the world, I need an actual winter. Starbucks-Ben observed the other night that for people who live here, there’s something sort of comforting about a couple of snowstorms. He’s right. The anticipation of spring is all well and good, but it feels a little excessive and maybe even downright sinister if there isn’t an element of relief at surviving winter in it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Belated (?) Happy New Year

It would have been nice if I had marked the beginning of what Journalist-Philosopher-John calls the year "007" by actually writing a blogpost. At least I might have written one for New Year's Eve. But I didn't. Alas. I guess we'll all get over it.

This leads me to wonder, though, how long I am permitted to wish people a Happy New Year. When does a year stop being new? It almost seems like we should get six months. I kind of like having something to say to customers ("Happy New Year!" or "What'd you do for New Year's?") other than, "Have a good one!" This expression has always seemed like a cop-out to me, and I avoided using it like the plague for about a year and a half, but it's hard to keep track of what time of day it is when your schedule is never the same from one day to the next. Eventually, in order to avoid saying things like, "Have a good night!" at five thirty in the morning, I have succumbed to the catch-all line.

On the other hand, if I say, "What'd you do for New Year's?" until June, that might get a little, um, well--old. Not to mention that some people don't remember what they did for New Year's Eve as early as New Year's Day, so the chances of anybody remembering anything about it by Midsummer is a little unlikely.

This year most people have been answering that question, "Not much. It was just quiet." Hardly anybody sounds disappointed by this, surprisingly. My own New Year's Eve was likewise quiet, and I was likewise content. I returned to Nannyland, where my visits are shockingly few and far between in spite of still having friends down there, and celebrated with Anne, Pam, and Lori. We ate dinner on Anne's grandmother's fine china, and then rang in the new year by listening to Clarence-the-Angel get his wings. By the time 2006 ended, Lori had gone home, Anne was half-asleep, and I had a migraine. I only stayed up out of sheer stubbornness. Therefore, in spite of Anne's downstairs neighbours' unusual request to hear loud and raucous hailing of 2007, we only each managed to muster one sleepy "Happy New Year" each.

The next day I had to drive back home through a rainstorm which I was grateful for, for the sole reason that it wasn't the ice storm that had been predicted earlier. I got back in time to throw some lunch and dinner together and then get to work. Work was very, very quiet. Apparently nobody feels the need for specialty coffee on New Year's Day night. After about two months of lines out the door this was both nice and really really weird.

I've had happy new years turn into bad years, and bad new years turn into happy years, but I don't know what to make of quiet new years, really.

What'd you do for New Year's?
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