rosemary for remembrance

These days I find myself constantly conscious of the brevity of our lives, the fragility of our very selves.

Ninety years or so of life on this planet — and what does that mean to the rest of time? Ninety years ago, we still hesitated to use electricity and automobiles.

I don’t write this to be pessimistic. I don’t find this cognizance of frailty and infinity disheartening. Quite the contrary: I find this perspective rather inspiring. These realizations force me to think more carefully about who I am, what I do, and where I want to go in my life.

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Not, you know, that I have any particular idea where I’m headed.

Continue reading “rosemary for remembrance”

endings

“I hate this,” she mutters, swaying a bit. We’re towards the front end of a lengthy queue waiting to board an airplane for Dublin. I glance at her.

“Hate what?”

“Going home. The fun part’s over and now it’s just all this blasted waiting.”

I shrug, feeling a familiar smile tug the corners of my mind. “I love the endings. They’re conclusions, really: the end of a trip, the move back to the ordinary.”

“I hate conclusions. They’re pointless. You’ve already said what you needed to say — why do you need to summarize it?”

“Conclusions are necessary!” I bristle at the attack. I might not always like writing them, but I know their merit. “They don’t just summarize, they help us analyze and synthesize what we’ve done. They bring understanding.”

“They are completely redundant and useless.” She continues on, discussing the worthless conclusions of scientific papers. I listen with one ear, my eyes glued to the pages of my book as I trek through another murder mystery. I stand by what I said. Conclusions are necessary — just as necessary as introductions and body paragraphs.

She hates endings. I can understand that to a certain point. As for me? Well.

I wrote once that I collect them. I certainly haven’t stopped.

The last page of a book, the quiet tears that come with the end of Return of the King and Frodo going to the Grey Havens, the laughter at the end of a joke or the dazed feeling that always comes after watching an especially well done theatre production — the journey home.

Home. Without endings, I think, when could we be home? We cannot live in constant motion, exhausting ourselves as we move on, step after step after weary, weary step. If this trip abroad has taught me anything, it has taught me to breathe: the necessity of stopping, of thinking, of processing, of accepting. The importance of understanding where you are, where you’ve been, and what exactly that has made of you.

Endings bring understanding, and without that — why, without that, we’d all be Gatsbys, wouldn’t we? Or even like the Doctor. Either stuck in the past or bolting into the future. Never paying any mind to the idea of ordinary and sticking only to adventure, never noticing the impacts of our words and actions — never remembering to stop to breathe. Living far too recklessly, forgetting the present, and slowly turning into the last words of that particular Fitzgerald novel:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

thanksgiving

“In my family, for Thanksgiving — we all have to go around and say something we’re thankful for.” I jam my plastic fork into the maple-pecan tart that Hanna and I bought to stave off homesickness. The lights here are warm against the calming blue walls, and if I close my eyes I can almost smell my favorite Thanksgiving dishes: squash rolls, casseroles, corn pudding, cranberry jello salad. I blink, flicker my eyes to the chocolate-hazelnut tart on Hanna’s plate, avoiding her gaze.

“Do you want to do that here?” she asks, all kindness and empathy. I frown, considering.

“Yes, I think so. Why not?” Hanna just nods. I clear my throat, bordering on nervous now that I’m on the spot. “Well, I’m thankful for this. For studying abroad, for new friends, and for traveling… everywhere.” My fork hits the bottom of the plate, and I finagle another piece of almost-but-not-quite-the-same-as pecan pie onto it.

“I second that. All of it.” She snags a piece of the chocolate-hazelnut. “I’m thankful for… Irish food. And tea. Lots and lots of tea. And the Janet, and the Paul –” My family usually stops around here — once around, maybe twice, then stop and pray or eat or talk. Hanna and I keep going, listing everything that pops into our brains.

” — and basically the whole of the anthropology department, no? I’m thankful for… community. And cheesy cop shows.”

“Oh, television. I’m thankful for good television.”

“And movies — good movies.”

“If we’re going with the obvious, I’m thankful for the boy.”

I laugh. “Well, I’m thankful for you, and your crazy hair and your excellent company.”

“I’m thankful for coffee, for getting me out of bed every morning so I can hang out with you.”

“Aw, shucks. That’s sweet.”

Hanna laughs. “And for tarts! Delicious, wonderful tarts. And potatoes.”

“Food. All the food. Desserts and everything else,” I counter.

“Oh, you like food? Wow, I’m shocked.” I ignore her and continue listing.

“Ireland. All of Ireland. Thanksgiving in Ireland!”

“Books. And family. I’m thankful for family. I’m so, so thankful for my family.”

“Me, too,” I say. We quiet, staring at the torn remains of our tarts. “I’m thankful for my ridiculous siblings and parents.” I stab at the pecan one again, sigh. “I miss them.”

The listing continues, this never-ending stream of words and sentences that forces us to think long and hard and sometimes makes us laugh. 

“Julie Andrews, and Dame Maggie Smith… and J.K. Rowling for writing such a marvelous book series with such awesome characters as Minerva McGonagall.”

“Lord of the Rings!”

“Ian McKellan! and Zachary Levi.”

“Actors who genuinely love and try to interact with their fans. Conventions. John –”

“… John Barrowman –”

“Doctor Who! and watching it live.”

“Snapchats from everyone, but especially our sisters.”

“Ferries to Dublin!”

“The Irish Sea, on which the ferries sail! Hell, at this point I’m thankful we missed our flight.”

“Me, too. And for marvelous authors, and Tamora Pierce for making such badass lady characters that we can aspire to be like. And for Christmas.”

“You said that already.”

“Well, you said potatoes twice. I’m thankful for… Harry Potter studio tours.”

“And Hogwarts. And fangirling. And Dublin. I’m thankful for every single memory I have of my dad, because they’re all ridiculous, and for the fact that our legs work well enough to actually see London in three days flat.”

I smile at my purple-headed friend. “Yes! And for sleep. Sleep is good.”

The list goes on, skipping from trivial things — I’m thankful for my new shoes — to heartfelt — I’m thankful for the way these experiences are shaping me. The tarts dwindle to crumbs as we slowly eat our unconventional Thanksgiving desserts. When the last bites disappear into our mashed-potato-stuffed bellies, we stand and slip back onto Dame Street. The city sounds welcome us: cars whooshing by, double decker buses kneeling to accept more passengers, people talking in different accents and languages. We cross the road towards Trinity and I look down towards O’Connell Street, wondering where the street musician we heard on our way out has disappeared to. Bagpipes.

However short our time here, the two of us consider it home. Yes, I think. That, too. I’m thankful for that — whether that’s there or here or, perhaps, somewhere else — I’m thankful for home.