Saturday, December 17, 2016

In the Heart of the Winter, This Night is Not The End

"In the heart of the winter, you can see through the trees, 
and the frozen ground waiting, is the feel of your dreams. 
Life used to be simple, the world used to be sane
There's something that's missing, I want it put back again."

A year ago...

...Was the second year anniversary of my mother's death...

...I filed for divorce...

...I attended my work holiday dinner with a hollow smile nailed to my face and watched my energetic colleagues receive (well-deserved) awards and dance with their love interests...

...I drove home, and got on Facebook, to see that my soon-to-be-ex had thrown himself a birthday party, and was surrounded by many of our mutual friends...

...And I sat in my bed and cried. And then had a lengthy phone conversation with a totally inappropriate person, and drank a lot of vodka, and eventually fell asleep, not knowing if or when anything would change.

And now, today. A year later. Everything is different, in all the best ways imaginable. I'm removed from that life, that environment, and most of those people. I'm safe, and busy, and I have the only thing that I knew I wanted. I'm home, and I'm trying to re-build a life that I never should have left.

Fittingly, tonight--on a cold, sleety night, just before the start of winter-- I attended a concert performance at the UU Church here in town called "Made in Indiana", featuring one of my favorite musicians, Tim Grimm. He, and another musician, and two authors, all shared their reflections and stories of life in Indiana, and Tim sang a song about the winter solstice, that dark time of the year...basically, where I was this time last year. Then I was struggling, reaching out for any sort of hope, reassurance, validation, no matter the source. Now I am in a quiet place in my life, laying fallow, perhaps. My soul is regenerating, I suppose you could say. I imagine that in a while, I shall be ready for more hope, more experiences, more possibilities, more risk. 

For now, it's enough that I am here, and that everything is different. 

"No, we are not alone, this night is not the end...
Brothers and sisters, all around, 
a new day is ready to begin..."

Monday, December 12, 2016

I lost a month of my life.

I mean, I knew exactly where it got to, but still, it's lost. Gone.

On October 30, after a long night of some pretty hard partying, I woke up tired and achey with a sore throat. Thus began the WORST headcold of my life--which lingered throughout all of November and into December, and in fact turned into a sinus infection and bronchitis, and possibly walking pneumonia. (I'm waiting to see on that last one.) This wretched epizoodie from hell was still going strong on November 8, when my friends and I gathered together and threw back drinks called "Nasty Woman" and "Putin's Puppet" and "The Bad Hombre" and prepared for the election results. We were trying not to jinx anything, but I would be lying if I said we weren't looking at each other with hope, and excitement, and glee. 

As the night went on, the mood went downhill. A lot of our friends are LGBTQA+, and they started making weak, grim jokes about the internment camps. Anna sat on Michael's lap and began to cry. My friend John saw the expression on my face and silently switched over to making me gin and tonics. 

I cried myself to sleep that night. 

The next morning, I woke up with a crying hangover, probably an actual hangover, and my sickness still wreaking havoc on my body. Like so many of the folks in my country, I was decimated, devastated, disgusted, and frightened. I still was, 10 days later, when I flew down to Florida for an extended Thanksgiving holiday. 

And so, I lost a month. An autumn month, at that. And then when I emerged (still coughing) into the cold, grey morning of December 1, I noticed three things: 

1. It got cold, at some point. Goodbye, fall, I barely knew ye.
2. I somehow managed to inexplicably sprain my toe.
3. The upstairs toilet flooded. 

The following days haven't been nearly as bad, but I am still kind of bewildered about how I lost a whole month. Only in the last ten days have I really felt like I've opened my eyes again to my surroundings and hopes and plans. The days are long, but the years are short, and when you've lost a month of your year, it gets even shorter.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

October Road Trip #1

It's been a busy autumn, so far. Not as chilly or gloomy as I would like, but hey, at least it's not ball-drippingly hot outside. A vast improvement from That Place.

The other day, I talked a couple of friends into doing a road trip. This is one of my favorite things to do now that I am back home--drive out to maybe one place that I want to see, and take my time getting to and from there, and just being open to seeing whatever beauty and quirky thing I might happen upon in the meantime.

Brian and Ryder were my partners in crime for this particular jaunt. They are good fellas, capable of intelligent conversation and not being total douche-kebabs, and they are willing to humor me when I wax enthusiastic about the unparalleled beauty of Hoosierland. Brian in particular is a helpful sort of person, as he travels through the countryside for his job, and can direct us to interesting little hidden places like this gem:

We eventually got to where we were planning to go...

There are a lot of places throughout Indiana that offer various fall-themed shenanigans. Since this was a rather hastily-planned outing, we settled on Chandler's Farm. First, we hopped aboard a rather muddy tractor, which hauled us out to a rather more muddy field, and we selected our punkins. (I should disclose: I've yet to do anything with this punkin. I fully expect it to sit on my front porch for the next month, in its original punkin state, until the neighbors complain.) Then on to the corn maze!

I've never been in a corn maze, so this was of course high on my Indiana bucket list. It was about as hokey as I expected it to be, yet still fun. That's what I've been learning about, in most of my junkets and jaunts around the state: it's all about the company you keep. 

(Angel, one of the dogs at the orchard, was not too impressed with the company he kept.)

After spending far too much time and money in the general store, we continued on our meandering road trip. And we really did meander. The early clouds and mist cleared up and gave way to a golden afternoon, and we detoured through Morgan Monroe State Forest for a bit. 

I have no idea how old these trees are. I'm sure they have not been here since when my own ancestors came through these parts, but I do like to think of them seeing these same kinds of scenes of these lands.

And although I love these journeys around the state, sometimes, the best sights are ones very close to home, as we were reminded as we were approached home that evening:

I've seen plenty of deer in our neighborhood, and Slumlord refers to them as pests, nuisances, rodents with long legs, but I never get tired of seeing the deer. And this was the first time I saw a buck! I've not yet gotten tired of seeing these magnificent creatures. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I'm sitting in the Staff Lounge at the Library, killing time before I meet some friends for dinner. Nestled in the armchair that I'm always coveting if someone else is sitting in it, I'm trying to read some of Season of the Witch, but I keep getting distracted by the autumn afternoon visible from the big bank of windows in front of me. Late afternoon sunlight catches in the brilliant orange of the leaves of one of the trees which has turned. Cars putter their way through the Library parking lot, their drivers on the lookout for one an empty parking spot (those things are scarcer than hen's teeth) and lots of students walk to and fro on the sidewalks surrounding the building.

It's a perfect fall day, golden and a little chilly and everything I could ever ask for. But despite the beauty and bustle before me, I'm ill at ease. Because as lovely as the scene is, it belies the currents of angst and tension and fear and anger that are tugging and flowing beneath the surface of this placid tableaux. Things are golden on the surface, but peel back the outermost layer and you'll see about 365 million American people who are seething as we approach November 8.

Election Day.

Welcome to the autumn of our discontent.

I was here for Election 2004, when Kerry ran against Bush and all us liberals knew we didn't have a hope in hell of getting Bush out of the White House. We were disappointed, sure, and we were scared, but things seemed less--angry, and fraught. Whereas, 12 years later, we're in the middle of an election in which racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have been given a safe haven in which they can rear their heads; and which was accurate summed up by a meme which states, "America's like an old couch and this election is like a black light being shined upon it."

Here in our little blue island of Bloomington, it's easy to forget how very, very red most of the rest of Indiana is. But I only need to venture a little bit out of town, out into the small hamlets and townships, to see the Trump/Pence signs, and to know that I am very much in the minority. I love small-town Indiana, I love the anonymity and "nobody-ness" of Middle America, but sometimes, when I am strolling through a fair or festival in one of those little towns, and looking into the friendly faces of my fellow Hoosier, and making pleasant small talk with them, I have to remind myself, "If you were just a little bit more different, you might be experiencing these folks quite a bit differently."

Or not. Who knows? This is the same country that elected President Obama for two terms. Despite the dumbass shit being posted on Facebook and Twitter, despite the crowds thronging to Trump so that they can go back to the good ol' days of being white, I'd like to think that most of us are pretty decent folk.

It's not like Indiana sold me a false bill of goods--I knew, going into it, that I was moving to a very conservative, insular state. And I chose to come here anyway, to be one of the few who can fight the progressive good fight (although for me, "fighting the good fight" was really just banging the ears of my guests with my political opinions while they looked at the pancakes I was making with equal parts hunger and anxiety) in this state. And it's why I will stay in this country--if shit goes south (in more ways than one) in this election, I'll stay here and do what I can to help the decent folk in this country to keep alive our vision of a stronger America, a better America, a safer America, a more accepting America--the America that can always, always still come to be.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Summer in the Midwest is a season filled with lazy, hazy days, punctuated by gloriously golden evenings, where the sun sinks down towards the horizon and illuminates the cloudless skies with light that lingers long after many have gone to bed.

And apparently, that's what's happening with Autumn in the Midwest, too.

The first few days of fall here in Southern and Central Indiana have been...well..."ball-drippingly hot", as I put it today. It's been frickin warm, with temps in the high 80s and all sorts of air-quality alerts. It's funny, because, on the one hand, I'm SO ready for fall. Ready for hot drinks and cold nights and breath in the air and fashionable boots and not sweating my makeup off, and cozy evenings indoors and tasty soups and...well, all the other fall things. But on the other hand, I am apprehensive about walking on icy sidewalks and starting my car on frigid mornings and lord, do I remember the feeling of hopelessness that rolls around in mid-February when it feels like winter is never gonna end. So as much as I hate sweating my way through these freakishly warm days, I still try to get outdoors and enjoy the last few moments of a summer that overstayed its welcome.

Yesterday, I jaunted up to Indy for the day--the Broad Ripple Home Tour, followed by an evening up in the suburbs of Noblesville, with my friends from my IU days. I always love spending time with Danielle and Robbie--I've known them since my grad school days, and even then, I envied them more than a little. They grew up here in the Midwest, and were high school sweethearts who stayed together all through college and got engaged and got married after Danielle graduated with her Master's. They got a house a year later, and started having kids a couple of years after that, and their best friends from high school live just a few short miles away. They're working hard, and raising two darling boys, and manage to somehow be kind and loving to each other. It's the kind of life that I wish I could live--in an alternative universe, maybe. It's too late for me to do a lot of those things.

But I can bask in the glory of a warm autumn evening, and watch them play catch with their boys, and feel damned lucky to even be a witness to it.
6 months.

Half a year.

We all know how quickly time slips past, particularly as we progress in age. It doesn't make it any less weird or poignant (which adjective applies depends entirely on our moods and how much alcohol we consume). So when I realize that I've been Back Home for half a year now, I feel both amazed and unsurprised.

In June of 2008, I realized that I had lived in California longer than I had lived in Indiana. That was hard to take in--particularly since California still felt so foreign to me. And continued to do so, year after year. For just about 10 years, in fact. Even through marriage and a solid work environment and slowly resigning myself to the fact that I would live and die out there, it still never felt like home. When my husband and I bought our house in March of 2012, I went into a deep depression. There were a lot of reasons for it, but even then I knew that one of the reasons was because I was tied to California more firmly than ever, and owning a property in California was yet another indication that I'd never be able to return home.

Thank goodness, that turned out to not be the case. It took sacrifice and ugliness and even something a little bit close to sawing off my own leg, caught in a bear-trap, but I managed to escape. And so, on March 22 of this year, when I rolled into my new-old home of Bloomington, Indiana, I knew that California never felt like home because it never was home. I tried and I tried, but never fully. And I always resented it there.

I've been home for 6 months--basically, what, about 5% of the time I lived in California? I have 9.5 years to go before I exceed the time I spent in exile out in That Place. But I've been more happy here in these six months than I ever was in that California decade.

Unfortunately, I've also been rather silent on here about those 6 happy months. And so there are 6 months of my experiences with rainstorms (I squee every time there's rain in the forecast), my work (summary: I buy stuff) and my new work environment (big, pleasant, different) and my colleagues (so many people), my social life (God bless Meetup; I've met all sorts of socially awkward geeks and am starting to get a wee bit into gaming), my home (I rent a room from someone and it's a wonderful set-up financially) that I haven't really delved into. I'll try to be a bit better about that. Enough with this profound shit--when I am 60 or 70 or 80 and reading over these posts, I am not going to care about the deep revelations (and let's be honest, I'll be rolling my eyes over them anyway); I am going to want to know what I was seeing and doing and experiencing and so on.

So in my next 6 months, I'll try harder to document the process of Being Home. Let's see how that goes!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

So I Guess You Call This Autumn (2016 Version)

If I listen to the crickets and cicadas, screaming their songs into the balmy night, I can believe it's summer. And then I realize that their cacophony is quieter than it was, even a week ago.

If I glare up at the sun, blazing in a cloudless blue sky, I have no problems at all believing it's summer. And then I realize that this is probably just an unwelcome late-season heat wave, and will soon pass.

If I catch a whiff of freshly-mown grass, I know it's summer, and that someone, somewhere, is tired from the work of mowing. And then I think of the green lawns that will soon transform into grey, brown ground.

The farmer's market is still showcasing the fresh produce. The students are still wearing shorts and flip-flops. The air-conditioning is still running. The children are still running through the parks, screeching and laughing and playing. But the winter merchandise is out, and people talk excitedly of all the punkin spice everything, and their Christmas plans--even as they think beyond the holidays and contemplate the bleakness of the long, cold winter.

Even though it should still be hot for a good few days after today, this is the last day of summer. This heat wave will pass, and the land will know to do what it has always done--cycle into the dormant time of the year. Retreat, hibernate, hunker down. And very, very soon, autumn will begin in earnest. I welcome this change, as I hope I will welcome every seasonal change. But autumn, especially, I relish. The beginning is always the best--the beginning of a relationship, a vacation, a new home, or, in this case, the season of celebration and unpredictable weather. And so I love autumn the best. And it is almost here.

Good-bye, summer. It's been a long time since I enjoyed you. It's been a long time since I eagerly anticipated you. I loved you, and I will miss you, and I will welcome you again, in the fullness of time. But for now, I believe it is time to welcome my long-lost, much-beloved autumn. I am ready for it--the misty mornings and stormy nights, the brilliant foliage that's here one day and gone the next, the punkin spice lattes and Halloween decorations, the crisp air, the boots and peacoats, the soups and grilled cheese, the traditions. For the first time in 11 years, I get the privilege of experiencing fall. Its life will be brief, and its death will be sudden, but perhaps it's all the sweeter for it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

How I Fared at the Fair (and the Fair Fare Upon Which I Fared)

"When they pulled into the Fair Grounds, they could hear music and see the Ferris wheel turning in the sky. They could smell the dust of the race track where the sprinkling cart had moistened it, and they could smell hamburgers frying and see balloons aloft..."  
-E.B. White, from Charlotte's Web

Recently I duped cajoled persuaded one of my new friends--a particularly amiable chap named Jeremy, who is always up for hijinks and shenanigans involving this humble state of ours--into not only accompanying me to the State Fair, but also into going along with the 12 hour schedule of events I planned out for us.

This is not a typo: 12 hours. 

If you think there's not 12 hours of things to do at a State Fair, then you clearly haven't had the privilege to come to a Midwestern State Fair. And also you're probably a bit of an idiot. I don't know what other state fairs are like--hell, I don't know if the Indiana State Fair is always like this, but it being the Bicentennial and all, good golly, there was so much to do and see (and, uh, eat) that 12 hours simply wasn't nearly enough.

We went on a Saturday, after a week of gorgeously sunny, warm weather. As we drove up to Indy, the clouds were gathering in, heavy and close and grey, and--no joke--as soon as we turned on 38th Street and joined the line of cars waiting to enter the Fairgrounds, the skies opened up and the rains came down. It was an annoyance, but not a game-changer--on and off throughout the day, the rain continued. It was never a gully-washer--but it was enough to keep the crowds down a bit, and give us an excuse to spend some time at the Beer, Wine, and Spirits Exhibition Hall (more on that later.)

In the past, when I thought about county and state fairs, I thought about only a few things: food, and the Midway rides, and the carnies and hawkers. But in researching and planning this year's adventure, I got a chance to really think about the backbone of the fair: the farmers, and the creators. Early on, we spent a fair amount of time in the Purdue Science Agriculture/Horticulture Extension Building (and not just because it was air-conditioned!), and I'm glad we did, because it helped put so much into perspective. It was here that Jeremy spun a gourd (this is not an innuendo), and where we ogled the longest gourd (not the same one that Jeremy spun) and where I got to see ALL THE CORN and where we pondered the ethics of keeping a punkin that was on life support...

And where we saw beautiful displays of prize-winning vegetables, and a scarecrow that was legit scary and also won a prize (what the eff is wrong with Hoosiers?!?)

The thing that I found the best about this part of the fair was seeing the pride that people were taking in their produce and livestock, and the ways that they try to do outreach and inform people of the incredibly important work that they do. In a sense, County and State Fairs are like professional conferences for farmers, but open to the public. It's kind of silly--I think there's such a conception of farmers in America being backwards, or hicks, or bumpkins, but they do work that is critical to the survival of our human race. Like, the work that you and I do? It's important to some, but not in the same way that farmers are essential. It's fantastic to see them gathered at the State Fair and celebrating what they do, and the difference they make.

Now, let's talk about the Bicentennial Experience.

As I've mentioned, oh, 2 or 3 or 200 times, it's Indiana's Bicentennial this year, and they sure as hell did a fantastic job of celebrating it at the Fair. They had an entire exhibition hall dedicated to Indiana history, commerce, and culture. I was in hog heaven...

My favorite part was the LEGO display of creations that depicted Indiana life and culture. 

(College rivalries and covered bridges; it's what we are known for)

(And corn, too. We are totally known for corn. I about died when I saw this LEGO 
creation of a Hoosier family farm, complete with corn and soy fields and a basketball 
goal. It was hard to tear myself away from this display.)

Because of the weather (it alternated between "Oh look! More rain!" to literally ten minutes later: "UGH the sun is out and it's so humid!") we ducked in and out of many climate-controlled buildings, most of them filled with either displays related to farms and farming, or Indiana And Why We Are Awesome, or...

Replicas of Indiana farmhouses!
I honestly have no clue. Something needle-pointy? I love it. 
Quilts! Because Indiana. 
Collections of Antiques

Scrapbooking layouts. There is actually an award
 category for this, I think. Again, because Indiana. 
Bug collections. I'm not even kidding.
 There were SO MANY BUGS.

Bunnies who moon you.
It's as if, as my fellow adventurer pointed out, everyone in the state who is motivated enough comes together in Indy for the State Fair to say, "Hi! So this is what I've been up to this past year."

Now. Let's talk about what REALLY matters at a fair...

...the food. ALL THE FOOD.

This is merely one of about 1,816 food venues at the fair. 
About 1814.5 of them feature some sort of variation on deep fried victuals.

This is what the vendor called the "I'm Single Special"--a sampler of deep fried death. AKA Deep Fried Oreo, Birthday Cake, Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, and Cookie Dough.

Deep fried cheese...

 A bacon cheese burger between two donuts. (To be fair, it could have been worse; 
you could have gotten mac'n'cheese on it. Also, I didn't get this; my friend did. So, a win?) 

Funnel cake. SO MUCH funnel cake.  Regular funnel cake, Cookies and Cream Funnel Cake, Red Velvet Funnel Cake...BIRTHDAY CAKE FUNNEL CAKE! (Now, let's be clear: I didn't eat all those different funnel cakes. I'm just saying, there was a variety.) I ended up having a birthday cake funnel cake in celebration of Indiana's 200th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY INDIANA! I ate that 
funnel cake all for you. It was too sweet.

And my favorite (and possibly the healthiest) things I ate: pig on a stick (AKA a wonderfully marinated pork chop on a skewer) and sweet corn on the cob. Both were indescribably delicious--and perfectly Indiana, too. I'll be dreaming of these yummies until next year's fair. 

After a cloudy yet golden dusk gave way to a humid, drizzly night, after a full 12 hours spent surrounded by folks from all over the state, after we spent all of our money and consumed two weeks' worth of calories, after we celebrated Hoosier history and culture, we trudged back to our car, parked in the vast center of the Fairgrounds. To the west, the Midway lights still twinkled; to the south, the Farmers Coliseum--built during the Depression as a WPA project--stood sentinel over the whole Fairgrounds. We were tired, over-full, but justifiably proud: we had done and seen and eaten just about everything we had planned for. We did right by the Fair, during this special Bicentennial Year. Because of those Bicentennial celebrations and exhibits, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And while I know I will return to the Fair many times in the years and decades ahead, none of them will ever be like this Fair experience, during my first year Back Home. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

In so many parts of the country, highways and roads were no doubt choked with traffic, backed up with holiday weekenders driving back from beaches, lakes, mountains, friends's houses. In a way, I was one of those people--driving back from a friend's place, where I had spent my Labor Day bobbing about on a lake, in a pontoon boat. But on the roads I took to return home late last night, I encountered few other cars. That's one of the blessings of where I was staying--it's in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana, and so the drive to and from Nowhere is really pretty laid-back. As I drove home to Bloomington, my eyes bounced back and forth from this old barn to that pretty farmhouse to all the cornfields. The high point came at sunset, when the sun turned a perfect orb of molten gold, framed with pink, and slowly sank down behind the cornfields. Unobscured by any clouds, the sun gave its rays until the last possible moment, as though eager to share every second of its warmth and light, knowing its time is running down. 

After that, the twilight deepened, and the shadows became almost indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside. Every now and then, a late-season firefly gave a feeble wink--weaker than the sun's strength, but still holding on to whatever life was left in it. The fields, so recently tinged with the sun, became obscured with eerie fingers of mist. 

Thus ends my first Labor Day back home here in Indiana, and I guess, given that I am now in a four-season climate, this means that summer is over. Sure, it was 90 degrees out yesterday, and will be again tomorrow. Sure, summer lasts for another few weeks. But I think we are approaching the descent into the cold months of the year, and I loved that I book-ended my summer with time spent sunning myself in the cold waters of a lake, surrounded by laughter and the sheer joy of being out-of-doors. 

Without meaning to, I totally had "The Summer of Mel." Picnics and cookouts in parks; new friendships made and old ones strengthened; evenings spent on my back patio blowing bubbles and drinking beer and listening to the dull roar of dozens of A/C units close by; more than one night spent dancing the night away at the neighborhood gay bar. It has been the best summer of my life, despite--or perhaps because of--the lack of an Epic Summer Romance. (Actually, now that I think about it, that's probably why it was the best summer ever!)

The roadside stands are still selling sweet corn--but pumpkins are appearing, too. Folks around town have already decorated their front lawns for Halloween. Some of us are ready for the next season, the death of the year, just as by next February or March, we'll be ready for sunlight and warmth again. 

Good-bye, summer. Thank you for...being you, which is hot and humid but not horrible and suicide-inducing. Thank you for reminding me of the proper magic of your months. I can't wait to meet up with you again. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bloomington/Indiana Thoughts, Part 1

It's now August, and we're in the dog days of summer. The mostly warm-to-hot days of June and July have given way to day after day of muggy, cloying warmth, interspersed with thunderstorms to liven things up now and then. Somehow, the last two months have passed, filled with work and little adventures and time spent with loving family and friendly acquaintances and supportive friends. And so, time has sped by, to this point.

There are only a few fireflies, here and there, lighting up the twilight, and that, more than anything, is a silent, sobering reminder that time does march on, and despite the seeming perfection of life, it dwindles and sputters and dies.


Speaking of time passing, and the rhythm of seasons, and the ebb and flow of time passing...

...The students are returning.

You live in Bloomington long enough that, come May, when the spring storms are receding and the green foliage is at its most vivid, you rejoice, for the students retreat. They go back from whence they came, and you enjoy the reduced amount of traffic, the briefer wait times at restaurants, the shorter lines at the grocery stores, the fewer dude-bros hanging out around Kilroys on Friday and Saturday nights. But then you become one of the people that go to ground during certain times, usually around the middle of August, and then again during the Little 500.

We really cannot complain too much, because the existence of Indiana University, and thus the students, is what makes Bloomington Bloomington. We're a significant little city in this state. Without the university, we'd be another Solsberry or Hindustan or Danville or Paoli or Elwood. It is the students--their presence, their money, their diverse cultures, both national and international--who  make us who and what we are.

So they are returning, (or arriving for the first time) and the poor little shits are having to practically have to row their way here, because...


The last few days, we've been completely deluged with rain. Not, like, "Anchors Aweigh!" or "Louisiana drowning" rain, but several hours of steady rain, on and off, which can lead to some real gully-washing. Tonight, when wandering back to my car after a lovely outing with a couple of new friends, I noticed the rain-washed streets, reflecting a gleam from yellow streetlights. As I gazed into the murky gold muddling the asphalt, I thought about a younger me, 12 years younger, looking at a similar rain-washed street, in the same damned city. Then, I was a new arrival, just starting grad school, on the cusp of what I once thought was THE relationship of my life. I was 24 and bright and clueless and yet felt like I knew everything. Probably just like the students who look at those rain-washed streets tonight, for the first time.

It would be a goddamned privilege to live here for the rest of whatever years I have left to me, watching the generations of students come in and out, keeping this a town forever young. And yet...

On a slightly more sinister note...Lauren Spierer. Several years ago, I saw this poor duck and the circumstances of her disappearance showing up on my newsfeed. Being an Indiana news-junkie, even then, I was disturbed and saddened. And now, having moved back here, I can see that her presence is as strong as ever through her absence. One of my companions tonight remarked that we were driving past the place where Ms. Spierer disappeared--and as it turned out, it wasn't that far from where I had lived, just a few years prior. Like, just seven blocks away.

All safety is an illusion, even in a quiet little liberal college town.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Thoughts on Two Marriages

Last month on Facebook (the most reliable source for all breaking news) I came across a little article announcing that the author Elizabeth Gilbert and her partner were separating.

If you're not familiar with this storyline, never fear--I can sum it up for you pretty quickly: Talented author realizes that she is miserable in her marriage. Author divorces husband and decides to travel around the world to a lot of countries that begin with the letter "I" to eat pasta and find herself. Instead, she found herself another fella, fell in love, and wrote a memoir about the whole experience, making a boatload of money in the process, and getting a movie deal too. I can't say for certain, but I think there's a strong possibility that the book and movie inspired a good few women of a certain seconomic and educational strata to leave their partners and chase after their inner Julia Roberts.

(Not me. I didn't take a months-long trip to Italy or Indonesia or India, although I DID take a 17-day vacation to Indiana.)

I wanted her to have a happy ending. (I mean, what curmudgeonly troglodyte asshole DOESN'T want someone to be happy?) We all wanted her to have a happy ending because we want to know that we will have happy endings. But here's the truth: there's never a totally happy ending. Perhaps a happy pause between storylines.

Regardless, I did feel a slight see of connection with Elizabeth Gilbert, as one is supposed to do when reading the work of a talented memoirist. And then, she decided to marry her fella, for complicated reasons...but before she did, she wrote a book facing down her ambivalence about the institution of marriage. Ironically, or perhaps coincidentally, I read it right before I got married.

We have nothing really in common, Ms. Gilbert and myself. She has achieved a great deal of worldly success and is much farther along than I am in her skills as a writer. But yet, here we both are, both of us separated and terminating our relationships with the partners that we once thought we would be with until the end of this life. I got married, and couldn't make it work. She wrote a book on marriage, and got married, and couldn't make it work. And there are no doubt a lot of people that have plenty of thoughts on that matter.

Last weekend, I came across a blog post about Elizabeth Gilbert's announcement, and the world's more-than-slightly-stupid reaction to it. I agreed quite strongly with her statement that "to suggest that readers are (or should be) somehow 'disillusioned' with the news of their separation is to hold Gilbert to a ridiculous standard--one nobody can uphold." She also takes the pretty generous, but not inaccurate, view that "marriage does not need to last forever to be a success." That all sorts of amazing things can come out of marriages that don't last. Children, and happy memories, and positive impacts, and lasting friendships can make marriages--even ones that end in divorce--a success.

Here is, at least for now, where Ms. Gilbert's and my story differ most drastically. I feel like--and I say this with no bitterness--my marriage was anything but a success. We didn't have children, we are not coming away with a lasting friendship, and just about all of my recollections of our six years together are tinged with vague emotions of contempt, boredom, disgust with both of us, homesickness, bitterness, disillusionment, and distrust. I know I shouldn't indulge in those kinds of emotions, and I want to move past them, move past this travesty of a marriage and all my flawed thinking that got me into that mess to begin with.

Maybe it's time to eat, pray, and love my way through Indiana. I've got the eating part down.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Another Indiana

It's a funny thing...back when I lived in That Place, and I expressed to folks my desire to move home to Indiana, they would give me A Look. Specifically, the look that said, "Girl, I know your politics. What the hell are you thinking, wanting to move to Indiana?" At which point, I would sheepishly acknowledge their point, and then rush to say, "Yeah, but not that Indiana!"

And now that I live here, whenever I remark on something being odd for where we live, I have lots of people helpfully pointing out, "yeah, but we're not Southern Indiana. We're Bloomington."

We're a diversity-lovin', recyclin', hippie-dippie, activist, academic kind of community, it's true. And so I didn't feel any hesitation or compunction at all, attending a Black Lives Matter rally this last Saturday.

Black lives have mattered to me for a very long time now, whether or not I actually knew to put the words to it. But regardless, for a long time I have been grinding my teeth over the blithe arrogance of people (read: white people) who don't see things wrong with things the way they are. I have a huge respect for folks who devote their lives to law enforcement, but I see that there are major issues with the way we handle the presence of minorities in this country, and I also see the disgusting racism that takes place, and I don't want people to think that All White People don't care. I am an ally. Even if all I do is show up to a rally, and hold a sign, and look my fellow country(wo)men in the eye and try to convey that yes, I acknowledge your struggle and I am here if you need me and I won't stand silently by. Even if all I do is that, I want to do it. 

So I did it. 

Funny thing to note: in the Midwest (even Bloomington) a #BlackLivesMatter rally is still very white. 

I came, I chanted, I rallied, I embraced the spirit of democracy that protects us all in America (in ideal America, anyway). But I learned something, early on. I commented to the person with whom I was attending, "Of all the places in America for this rally to take place, I cannot imagine a less relevant place than Bloomington." Bloomington, the hippy-dippy, diversity-lovin', academic oasis of Indiana--what police brutality or prejudice or inequality could we possibly have here?

Right away, I caught myself--spoken like a Caucasian middle class female who has never had to experience life as a person of color.

Even as an ally, I have so much to learn. But I want to turn up to the lessons. And while that might not be like a lot of Indiana--well, it's still my Indiana.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Departure and Farewell

A few days ago--much, much sooner than I was ready--I returned to California.

It didn't matter that I was only there for, like, 62 hours, or that I was no where near the horrible place where I lived before. It didn't matter that I was surrounded by people whom, for the most part, have no idea of the emotional shitstorm that went on in my life last year. It doesn't matter that it was a trip to bring closure to one of the few remaining things that tied me to California. I just didn't want to go. 

For the weeks leading up to this trip, I've been dreading it. There were times when I was about 10% convinced I should just bail. It was a trip in which I would be flying (ugh) to California (ugh) surrounded by some of the best librarians in the state of California, some of the most ambitious and accomplished current and emerging library leaders in the state, and would have to give a five minute presentation (ugh) about a project that essentially I sucked at. At least in my Crazy Aunt Mel brain.

But leaders don't quit, or something, and I felt like I owed it to the cohort to stick it through. After all, last year we vowed to ourselves and each other that "We are Eurekans, and we are in!" (and if that doesn't sound like a cult, then I clearly didn't live in California long enough) so I bought the damned plane ticket and slapped together a powerpoint presentation and memorized my talk and packed my bag and hauled myself up to Indy at ass-o'clock in the morning and flew out to the Land of Sun and Bullshit.

And I lived to tell the tale. In fact, almost immediately I was pretty happy that I went. I'd made some friends through the program, so everything else aside, I got to reconnect with them. In an over-air-conditioned conference room, I watched my closest friend in the cohort give an effing flawless presentation (while wearing my heels!) and knew that it was worth it for me to come, just to see that. In that same room, my mentors presented me with a pin and told me about how they could see how much I had struggled during the program, and came out stronger. In that same room, I stood before 50 people and talked about my project and somehow managed to acquit myself pretty damned well. Oddly, no one else thought the project was a failure--but then, according to one of my mentors, if I use my smile right, I light up a room and can sell ice to an Eskimo. And then, a very few hours later, I boarded a plane and came home.

After all of that, I am still not sure what professional leadership looks like for me, or whether it's something that I will ever really be ready for (shit, I can't even keep myself from crying at work), but after those 62 hours, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that while it was one of the sources of stress for me during the Year of Suck, it was also one of the sources of strength that I found myself equipped with when it came time to make my decision to move home.  It helped me leave California so that I could fly away from Indiana and then come back, as my home. It helped me to become the leader in my own life.

I don't know when I'll be back in California. I have neither an immediate reason nor a pressing desire to go back there. So when I flew away from there, it was both departure and farewell. And it was with a sense of closure, and a happy one, which we don't always have the luxury of experiencing, that I came home.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Talking About Music is Like Dancing About Poetry: A Review of Tim Grimm

In my efforts to go native (and, also, because it's my job), I've begun to research local musicians that are from these hills and hollers. Pretty immediately, I came across the music of Tim Grimm, and oh, what a wonderful soundtrack to the montage of my first couple of months here.

There's something so lovely about discovering a poet, or a writer, or a musician who creates works that resonate with you. It's like they've given voice to thoughts and feelings you didn't know you had, and have expressed them so beautifully that you feel that if only you could meet them, you would be BFFs or at the very least, kindred spirits. In his album Farm Songs, I feel like I've not only met a kindred spirit, but in fact possibly a secret twin brother that perhaps my Dearly Departed Dead Mom spirited away at birth. 

This hunch grew when I heard the first lyrics from his song "Too Hard Drivin'":

"I just pulled in, three days on the road
a road trip with my three year old
between the land of hearts and the city of angels
so may angels have fallen down
they walk around with broken crowns
they stumble on the trembling ground
and have trouble breathing..."

Hell, he pretty much narrated my life over the last couple of months. And continues to do so through the whole song, as he reflects on the pointlessness of a Hollywood life and the joy of settling down on an Indiana farm. SRSLY WHAT IS THIS EVEN. It's like he's in my head!!!! 

The rest of the album is just as exquisite; it's a solemn, dignified contemplation of folks and family, their commitment to each other and the land, the hard work and love and loss that goes in and comes out of the soil with each season. 

"Heart of the Winter" does touch, delicately, on the seasons (one of my favorite aspects of this beautiful home of mine), but the focus on winter here seems to reveal a pretty solid vein of angst running through the song, which seems to be a result of modern day anxieties conflicting with the more traditional ebb and flow of a farming life. 

"Just like my father and his father before
Who oftentimes told me you reap what you sow
I wish someone would tell me why life feels like a race
I know my granddaddy just cared for this place
He lived with a purpose, he lived by his hands
In this world that keeps changing, tell me what makes a man?"

"People's Highway": Lest you think that these songs only relate to us Hoosier-folk, I beg you, listen to this piece. It's a tribute to The Grapes of Wrath, I think, and who can't have a visceral reaction the heartbreak of displaced farmers, torn from their homes, wanting no charity, only dignity, respect, and a bit of land

"We don't want your handouts mister
We don't want no charity
We want work and stay together
Pick the fruit...Land of the free..."

In "80 Acres", he practically goes through the entire 150-year-history of his family's farm, from its founding to its enduring of the Great Depression to its current owners, and rather than being a boring so-and-so begat this and inherited that recitation, it's a sweet tale about a family who have names and take pride in their work and how the farm endures from one generation to the other.

"And I don't pretend to own it, but this paper says it's mine
And this farm is a long memory of walking back in time
and through the generations whose hopes were not in vain
to live a life in harmony well I hope to do the same.
With history in our favor, we've set out on a course
the ghost of Bailey Needham is a gentle guiding force
Although what we do and how we live 
might seem against the grain
freedom is finding beauty in the simple and the plain."

If I had to compare Grimm to anyone, I'd say that he tells stories through his songs as beautifully as Dar Williams. There's honesty in these songs, and sentimentality that somehow manages not to be treacly. There's imagery, and quiet pride, and I think I may have made Tim Grimm the Poet Laureate of Indiana. Is there such a thing? There is now. At least in this virtual Indiana space.

Completely apart from his beautiful music, Grimm has given me something else: words to explain why I abandoned my home, my job, and my marriage in California. Apparently Grimm lived out in Hollywood for many years, working on various tv shows, and then, finally, recovered his good sense and moved home to Indiana to pursue "a life of significance rather than success." Significance rather than success--it's the first time I've really been able to put my Indiana life into words. 

Yup. Long-lost twin brother. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Summer Lovin'

For ten years, summer has been a source of dread for me. Memorial Day, a holiday of unhappiness. While people in other parts of the country were having cookouts, celebrating the beginning of the season of summer and cookouts and outdoor living and winter being very far away, I was hiding out, trying to pretend that I wasn't about to commence the Season of Hell. 115+ temperatures. (It's a dry heat, my foot. After 105 degrees, it doesn't make a difference. And at least when you get humidity, you get storms.)  Days of relentless sunshine. 

 No more. 

This first Memorial Day back home, I got a pleasant reminder of how summer could be. I strolled down the block of an Indianapolis suburb with friends and their two toddling boys.  I watched them blow bubbles; I watched the sun illuminate brilliant blossoms that would already be struggling to survive in the desert. 

I did a totally traditional thing and went to a friend's house for a delicious cookout. (Mmmmm, cheesy brats...)

And I did something totally different, but that I think can and does happen quite a lot here in the Heartland...I went out on a pontoon boat and spent an afternoon bobbing about on Heritage Lake, swimming and drinking beers and watching kids frolic and being hauled around in a tube...

And watching thunderheads gather, and dissipate...

It was a good day, and it actually left me somewhat happily anticipating the months ahead. 

So, no more summers in hell. Lazy evenings spent watching fireflies; blowing bubbles; bobbing about on lakes; cookouts with all the meat; road trips down country roads; Icees and lemonade and margaritas and adventures. I'm ready to leave hell and love summer. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Indiana @ 200

There are many, many things that please me about being home again--first, that I am home now, just about 10 years after I left; what a nice, round number!--but second and most of all, that I've returned home at the Bicentennial time, a celebration of my state being a state for 200 years.

There are a lot of BFD events going on this year--we have a license plate commemorating the bicentennial, and we are doing a torch relay through every county and ending on the State House lawn; but there are a lot of modest events and projects, reflecting the equally modest towns and cities and townships and hamlets from which they originate. All of them, though, share the common thread of fierce pride in our home, and the history of it.

I've always been a bit of a history nut. I would beg my grandparents to tell me about "The Olden Days" growing up on their Indiana farms. I majored in history in college. I devour historical fiction and have a freakish recall for dates and love poring over old photographs. And I love learning about the history and the quirks and the houses and the everything around Indiana, for here's the thing: my grandparents grew up in Tipton County, one of those seemingly insignificant counties, and hundreds of thousands of folks' grandparents grew up in 91 other counties of insignificance in this state, and perhaps millions of grandchildren and great grandchildren and so on will never know everything about their families. The composition of Indiana is more than just its people; it is a million stories, untold, never known, forgotten, modified, buried, preserved, pondered.

And celebrating the Bicentennial is, in a way, celebrating each of the long-passed, long-forgotten, anonymous folks that have populated our state and its history. The weathered farmers, the steel workers, the housewives who were never just housewives, the politicians who steered us to where we are now (for better or for worse), the earnest civil servants, the freemen who fled the South, the Klansmen who persecuted them and brought shame to our doorstep, the hundreds and thousands who have lived and died in this state without making the Hoosier Hall of Fame. We are all part of the history of this plucky, overlooked, defensive state, and we are celebrating our own anonymous spot in the ongoing history. Maybe, just maybe, acknowledging that is my own Bicentennial Project.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Oh Hell, She's Cookin' Now!


I love the sound of that word--the rhythm of the consonants, the way the word just kind of rolls along. It's one of the words that sounds like what it conveys; it not only sounds edible but actually rather delicious.

So many of my memories of my grandmother--my Mawga--involve her in the kitchen. I suppose it's not such a remarkable thing; she was a product of Midcentury America, after all. By the I was a little girl in the 1980s attending elementary school, being told I could be a President or an astronaut by female teachers who were probably once told that was all they could hope to become, my grandmother was still at home, cooking.

The sizzle of smelly salmon patties. The warning hiss of the pressure cooker. The clatter and rattle of the cast iron skillet against the stove as she popped popcorn in preparation for our Saturday night tradition of popcorn and The Golden Girls. My hands, squelching through the raw meat and bread crumbs as we rolled meatballs. Her hands, as she rolled and cut egg noodles, as she spread pink icing over my birthday cake. Her voice, reflecting that she might make Sue's chicken that night. (Who the hell was Sue, anyway?) My grandfather,  making cameo appearances as he mashed the potatoes vigorously every Thanksgiving (to this day, mashed potatoes, no matter how fancy or locally-sourced or foodie-ish, don't taste the same; they lack the quiet, stubborn strength and loyalty that came through my grandfather's potato masher) and grilled hamburgers and hotdogs every Memorial Day, every Fourth of July, every Labor Day.

Yet for all the cooking she did, she didn't do much to teach me how to cook. The one cooking lesson my Mawga gave me was pretty terse: "If you can read, you can cook." I can't say that I ever sought out her tutelage, as Eldest Sister did--I remember, as both Mawga and Eldest progressed in age, Mawga ceded more and more culinary power and responsibility to Eldest. Over the years, I've made a few pretty half-hearted efforts at cookery, and in recent years, less and less. Scoots Magoo was usually condescending at best, slightly mocking at worst, when I attempted to cook, and as our home life disintegrated in other ways, it was less and less of a pleasure to cook.

Well, f**k that noise. I'm home. And I can read. So I can cook.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Not in, California...anymore.

Tornados and I have a longstanding relationship.

The summer I was 10, I began to have nightmares about them. Chaotic funnels emerging vindictively from black skies while I watched and worried, Am I safe? What about my family? What about my blue blanket? Sure, I was 10 years old, so OF COURSE I was worried about my security blanket. (Still am, to this day, in all fairness.) But I was 10 years old and worried about my family and having dreams of something that basically represents uncontrolled chaos. If that's not a telling indication of my neuroses to come...

The summer I was 16, I watched Twister. Who didn't?

I still love that movie. Who doesn't?

February of 1998, I was in my first (and so far, only) tornado. It was an EF2, and it came at us very quickly. There wasn't time to be terrified--there was barely enough time to charge to my grandparents' bedroom and wake them up and take shelter in the closet. Down in Florida, we didn't have the benefit of basements or tornado sirens. Ugh.

When I came to Indiana (Round One) I knew there would be weather--accompanied by the weird warbling wail of tornado sirens, piercing the heavy, humid spring and fall air. And there was, and I grew used to it. And then, when I came back to Indiana (Round Two) I was stupidly eager for the wild weather.

Last night, I got my wish. The weather was stormy all evening, but at one point, I heard the faint sound of the tornado sirens, and so I started to hustle. I grabbed Indiana, threw him in the downstairs bathroom, and hunted down Austen. I threw Austen in the downstairs bathroom, but as I did, out popped Indiana, who led me on a merry chase while I not-so-silently cursed him. No sooner did I catch him and throw him back in the bathroom, did Austen dart out. 

So, five minutes later (plenty of time for a death storm of doom to bring an abrupt end to my Indiana fairytale), the three of us were finally all stowed away in the downstairs bathroom, 

...Indiana, making safety his utmost priority,

And Austen, not so much. 

20 minutes later, after a lot of rain and not much else, we emerged and carried on with our evening. Turned out a tornado had touched down about 25 miles to the west of damage reported. But honestly, after the tornado of chaos my life was for the last several years...this is pretty darned preferable.

Just so long as the tornado doesn't pick up my house and deposit it in California. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

And just like that, a month has passed. And what a month it has been--filled with all of the things that I've missed about Indiana. The food, the people, the weather, the land. The strangest thing is allowing myself to adjust to the fact that I don't need to get everything done in a certain amount of time. Always before, I was vacationing here, and had to cram in this event, that sightseeing, those friends in a limited period of time, and if I didn't get a chance, well, I'd have to wait for the next time.

Now, of course, there is no end point (other than death, but let's not focus too much on that just now), because I am never ever ever moving away from Indiana again, so there's more time--all the time, actually--to see and do and experience and taste and explore. Of course, I thought that before, when I lived here for grad school, and put off many things, to my detriment. So it's a tricky balance, permitting myself to do things at my leisure, and yet not putting them off. And it's made all the trickier by working 5 days a week, and still trying to get settled in. Turns out moving cross-country is no mean feat.

Not a day goes by that I don't pause and remind myself that I am so frickin blessed to be here. I keep waiting for the reality to settle in (perhaps it will with my first paycheck), keep waiting for the blues, for loneliness, for regret. But so far, there is none. None at all. There's only me, and this day here in Hoosierville, and my determination to enjoy every minute, hour, day, week, month, and year of it. I will live and die here, and I want to make sure that there's a lot of life in the living part of it.

No more wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else.

Just me, here, now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The first two weeks

It's hard to believe that I am coming up on the end of my second week at home. Some days, the routine and quotidian demands and ongoing annoyances of a cross-country move keep me from really pondering on the profundity of all that's happened. And then there are some moments when reality slams into me and it's oh holy cow, how did I manage to make this my life again?

I reckon I spent so long being unhappy and missing it here, I forced myself to think that it would never be different.

Anyway. Here are a few highlights...

The Homecoming:
I rolled into town around rush hour--ha, "rush hour"--and immediately made tracks for the place where I'm now living. Within two hours, I was vegging out on the couch with my friend/slumlord, eating pizza, watching Archer, and trying to coax the kitties out of the various improbable hidey-holes they managed to winkle themselves into.

The Home: 
I love where I am living. Slowly (slower still because of the dickhole jerkface movers) I am nesting and trying to light the home fires.  Like the last place I lived, this is the perfect set-up. My friend/slumlord travels quite a bit, so I have been rattling about the townhouse on my own. My window overlooks the front of the house and the surrounding homes, and it's pretty much idyllic. The cats are settling in, and so am I. 

The Family and Friends:
I left Indiana right around the time that MySpace, and not long after that, Facebook, became The Thing. And say what you want about the pervasiveness of technology, the shallowness of social media, etc.--Facebook has been an absolute godsend to me. I've kept my Indiana ties strong in part because of it, was able to see lots of folks and keep in touch and easily make plans on my vacations. (And, ahem, maybe send the occasional very tipsily honest late-night Facebook message.) And so when I came home, it wasn't long before folks came calling, and they have all been sources of warmth, laughter, relieved smiles, and good-humored agreements to my various crackpot plans.

One especially fun evening, my friends Michael and Anna (Manna!) 
came over to help me assemble various pieces of crappy furniture...which basically
 meant that Michael assembled the furniture while Anna and I drank cider and heckled him. 

Right after I landed, it was Easter, so I headed over to Manna's to spend the evening with them. In my long-proclaimed but little-exercised status as Crazy Aunt Mel, I helped their son, Wesley, and their friends' daughter Lucy, dye Easter eggs, and I quickly learned a valuable lesson: when parents are presented with a remotely responsible adult to help out with the children, the parents do have a way of mysteriously disappearing. Can't say as I blame them--it's a chance for them to have adult quiet time!

Wesley is demonstrating how we could decorate our eggs. "This is just an egg-sample," 
he says helpfully, and of course his pun-loving dad heartily approved.

After our Easter dinner (homemade focaccia pizza) we noticed that the weather was turning stormy, so I took off after that pretty sharpish. Which brings us to...

The Weather:

Not five minutes after leaving, the storm whooshed in--storms here move so quickly--and I was startled by a loud bang on the car roof. Hail! I can't remember ever having driven through a hail storm--and it was harder than driving through any rain or fog. Visibility was awful, and I was terrified that some baseball-sized chunk of frozen death would crack my windshield.

Both myself and my beleaguered car finally made it home unscathed, and we were welcomed back by a hearty layer of the hail, all over the block.

Since then, we've had wind, rain, freezing nights, and beautiful spring days. My favorites, of course, are the ominous storms that come up so quickly and leave you breathless with equal parts dread and excitement.


AUUUUURGH, the food! As one of my Indy friends put it, "there's no reason NOT to eat locally-grown things." She's right, of course, given all of the farms around here. I don't know that I can taste a difference, Philistine that I am, but it seems like there are so many restaurants that are local affairs, that take pride in pretentiously delicious dishes. Most memorable food so far: strawberry shortcake from Louie's Wine Dive, and the fried green tomato BLT from Sweetgrass.

Except...I'm trying to a bit of cooking myself, and made a "lightened up" broccoli-cheese soup that was absolutely delicious! It's lovely to live in a chilly place where I can cook and eat comfort foods like this.

There are so many other things that I could wax ecstatic upon--the seasons, the architecture, my new job, the plans that I'm hatching for the life ahead of me. But for now, I think I shall heat up the last of that delicious soup and contemplate the rainy day that is supposed to come along tomorrow.

This is what blessed, peaceful bliss feels like.