Letting go of letting go

I spent the evening organizing. Cleaning out old files, trying to figure out what I need to keep, and what needs shredding. I found some old postcards – created by a well-known local artist – ones that were bought five years ago to become an art piece, celebrating Oregon, in my kitchen. Maybe I’ll make it someday, to replace a painting that I’m not too fond of, but hangs there anyway. I also uncovered my file of old recipes, the things I used to cook before I left to travel the world. Maybe I’ll make some of those dishes again. Lots of stews and soups, just in time for winter. Two thank you cards were buried in a pile of health records. I was going to throw them away, but something stopped me. I’ll probably put them in a box, along with other assorted memories. Overall, I did a poor job of letting go of things today. Something I’ve struggled with my whole life, but am slowly getting better at. Better at understanding when it’s time to let go of things, a hobby, a relationship, an idea. There are things and people from the past that are worth holding onto for sure: I’m just not so sure that the kitchen painting or the replacement postcards fit the bill.  Nor is this thought process really worth holding onto. I recognize that this blog post is half-baked, ill-formed, and pretty non-sensical. So, it’s time to let go of this. At least I let go of something today.

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Today I pretty much chose the latter

Together

We made chicken soup from homemade stock — added carrots, cabbage, and green onions. At the bottom of four bowls, we placed a generous scoop of mashed potatoes before ladling in the soup. Two of the servings went to the cooks, one was given to a friend studying hard, and the other to a friend who has a cold. she didn’t leave the couch all weekend. The mashed potatoes dissolved into the soup to create a thick, creamy broth. We sat together and ate, telling funny stories.

It tasted like healing

Franz Joseph

Franz Joseph, South Island, New Zeland

 

We are Pilgrims

A friend from Oman calls on Facebook messenger to chat with Dave. He lives in Spain now, back in his flat in his homeland, after growing tired of the college we worked at and the Middle East in general. I love the fact that technology allows for face-to-face time. So immediate, and in some ways, authentic. We get to see each other as we are right now; me without makeup, he winding down his day, getting ready for a typical European late dinner (10pm!). Sharing the ordinary is simply extraordinary.

We get a tour of his flat, full of mementos of the lands he has traveled. One wall, decorated with masks from across Asia, serves as his background while we Skype. A continual reminder of lands and cultures he has experienced. I am making an effort these days to place more artifacts of my times across the globe – to turn my home into a better reflection of who I am and where I’ve been. Before I left, my home was pretty depersonalized; possibly because I shared it with someone who was more private. Possibly because, in an attempt to create a true shared space that represented both of us, the compromise resulted in a reflection of neither and no one. But now, four continents worth of memories are in my living room (for some reason, I didn’t grab anything from Australia); states across the US are represented as well. Textiles, artwork, and pottery: even a twenty-year-old pack of cigarettes and two bowling pins are all displayed to recall the past, enjoy today, and anticipate future journeys.

Our friend from Spain reflects on what’s next for him. “After a year, it will be time to move on. Things just get old after a while. I like different. We are pilgrims, where it is always time to try something new. To see new things. One year is a good time to rest, then something else. Life is interesting.”

I write this while sipping tea out of a mug depicting Snoopy exploring Canada; I bought it in Korea. While I know that sitting in the present is something that benefits me, I also know that I don’t want to become so wrapped up in what’s in front of me that I lose future goals. Goals of continued exploration, learning, and experiencing different.

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My Korean mug

Holiday anticipation

The heater kicks on signifying that we’ve officially moved into the cold, rainy season. A little more than a month left of days getting shorter. Less than two weeks until Thanksgiving and the onset of a holiday season that I am looking forward to. Not sure why, or what I will do to make it special, but the anticipation of random parties and gatherings fills me with warmth and joy. I am going to get a  Christmas tree because I love the way they smell and dimly light up a room. Is it too early to think about this? Possibly, but it’s fun to look forward to it.

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Christmas in my neighborhood a few years ago.

I am good with the idea of holidays with no set plans, but lots of possibility. OK, part of that isn’t completely true; Thanksgiving is partially figured out. As has been family tradition, for me Thanksgiving is about spending time with friends—the family not related by blood, but bond. Private karaoke will kick off the week (a first time for one friend!), then some workdays, all flowing lazily into cooking Ethiopian food and drinking bubbly – after all, that’s what we do. Then the rest of the weekend will just be like any other – or will it? That’s where the openness comes into play. Maybe I will be able to convince some to go on a walk, or random drive. A trip to mini Stonehenge perhaps? A wander around the city to look for murals? Shall we fulfill our mission to drive to Paisley, Oregon adorned in plaid and polka dots? Or maybe we will lose ourselves in a film or two. However we do it, I hope that exploration is part of the game plan. Not knowing what will happen is part of the fun.

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At mini Stonehenge, summer 2012.

Ode to orange

Looking around my newly-decorated living room, I am appreciative of all the orange. Coupled with the gold and browns, it really looks like autumn in here. The leaves I have tread in from outside on my walks from the bus add to the hominess and seasonal vibe. I used to hate orange – the color of the itchy polyester uniforms we had to wear in high school to signal we had a game that day. I was a proud athlete, but remember feeling insecure because I looked horrible in bright pumpkin (though who among us white kids looked good in it?), and nothing really matched on the bottom. I hated to go to class feeling ugly, but I did all in the name of school pride.

My generalized aversion to orange that arose from seeing it only as a wardrobe color continued for decades, until a few years ago it welcomed me as a fine choice for a publication on Youth Empowerment and Participation in Mental Health Care I was responsible for in my last job. Actually, I wasn’t the one who suggested the palette; instead it was a braver colleague who I admired and had deep affection for who showed a genuine enthusiasm for the color. Her design genius brought forth the beauty of orange.

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The publication that changed my mind about orange

Slowly, orange won my favor as I realized how much it could change and adapt in its warmth. I prefer the reddish and more burnt varieties, reminiscent of fire and Gerber daisies. My carpet, a throw pillow from Vietnam depicting a lotus in full bloom (the symbol of enlightenment), and a painting by a friend all show off its strengths in my home. So does the bright stripe hand-woven down the center of a brown Omani area rug that leads into the kitchen. Even a wilting tiger lily on the dining table brightens up the room. I just realized, as I was posting this, that the rich sunset picture of my blog fits the theme. I shall do my best to welcome the season of darkness with the support of orange, welcoming the blues and greens back when the sky and gardens are ready to return again.

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A Buddhist monk, originally from New Zealand, wears a traditional orange robe in his new home in Cambodia.