minnesota

Motivation

Zero degrees F this morning. But nice and sunny. Winter. 

I’m still trying to get Medicare squared away. Two days left in January. Fingers crossed. Everybody you speak to tells you something different. Seems like that happens a lot these days.

I watched the The Banshees of Inisherin the other night. It is nominated for Best Picture this year. That doesn’t always mean it is all that great. But I liked it. It was a little strange and a little sad. Just sad. Not depressing. I visited the island a few years ago. The movie portrays life on the island as I had imagined it. Just a few people with not much to do. Isolated. My impression: “On the island we wandered around the ruins, the farmland, the town, the coast. It was beautiful in a kind of eerie way. I saw more farm animals than people.”

Martin O’Direain was an Irish poet from the Aran Islands. He moved to Galway when he was 18, and eventually ended up in Dublin.

The Late Spring
by Máirtín Ó Direáin

A man cleaning the clay
From the tread of a spade
In the subtle quiet
of the sultry days
 Melodious the sound
 In the late Spring
 
A man bearing
A creel-basket on account of,
The red seaweed
Shining
In the sun’s brightness
On the stony beach
  Lustrous vista
  In the late Spring
 
Women in the lake
In the lowest tide
their coats drawn up
reflections down below them
  peaceful restful vision
  In the late Spring
 
weak, hollow beating
of the oars
currach full of fish
coming to the quay
over the golden sea
       at the end of the day
       in the late Spring,

The book I’m reading this week is The Tin Man by Sarah Winman. It is about love, friendship and things that might have been. It jumps from past to present to past and is sparse on punctuation. It tells the story from two different perspectives. It is engaging.

This is the week of getting things done. Car oil change, taxes, dusting. Going to the gym. Re-booting myself. Going shopping. Buying art supplies. Getting paint to brighten up my kitchen cabinets. Sorting out my closet and bookcases. Projects projects project. Motivation!

But first I must finish my book…..

Friday in the Snow

I retired, had a great retirement party, and immediately came down with a cold. Fortunately not Covid. I hadn’t been sick in a couple of years. At the beginning of Covid I bought tons of cold remedies so I would be prepared but I never got sick. When I did get sick, they had all expired. 

Now ten days later, I feel human again. Battling the system. I have yet another Social Security meeting next week. Medicare eludes me. Now the country has run out of money, by the time I get my Medicare sorted it will probably be defunded.

On the brighter side… we got another six inches of snow and I haven’t seen the sun in a while. Next winter I’m going to have to go to South America for the duration. My brother took off for New Zealand the other day. Lucky him.

Retirement. I have so many things on my to do list, I am actually feeling overwhelmed. Where to start? What to do first? Maybe it is an excuse to do nothing. I’ve been sick. I need to just take some time off and do nothing, right? Domestic chores continue to mount up. When you retire, you still have to do laundry and dishes and clean the bathroom. Really? Doesn’t seem right.

I was gifted this book called The Catch Me If You Can by Jessica Nabongo. She is the first recorded Black Woman to visit all 195 countries in the world. She did most of them in about two years. In the book she takes about 100 countries and writes a page or two about them. It gives you a snapshot, a quick anecdote, a favorite moment. She is an entrepreneur. She invented herself. Blog, travel, travel agency, promotion, London School of Economics, jobs in Japan and Benin, Ted Talk, writer. She also sells home goods, jewelry, travel accessories through a website called The Catch (although they seem to be not taking orders at the moment). One of those people who does it all and makes it look easy and seamless. The book is beautiful with lots of great photos. I don’t think I’m going to Catch her, I have like 150 countries to go.

My cousin’s husband just started a blog about his travels around the USA, either by motorcycle or camper, and all the people he meets along the way. He calls it America is a beautiful thing .   

Here are a couple of snapshots a la Catch Me If You Can…

Argentina five years ago:

As we flew into Ushuaia airport I could tell the pilot was having to do some maneuvering swooping down in-between the mountains and dealing with the heavy winds. A province of Argentina, Tierra del Fuego is an island that sits at the southernmost tip of South America. Ushuaia, its capital, is on the Beagle Channel about half-way between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, 620 miles from Antarctica. The meeting of the two oceans along with the mountainous terrain creates a strange weather pattern. It was usually very windy and could rain, be sunny, be stormy, windy raining, all within the same hour. It never rained for long and usually not very heavily. We could be out walking in the rain and never feel wet. 

Once we hit the ground, I started to cry. It had taken me more than thirty years to get there but I was finally there. It was an amazing feeling. And the beauty of it did not disappoint, it was even more beautiful than I had imagined. The light and color was like nothing I had seen before. The area was dominated by snow covered mountains all around. Before arriving I had been worried that the excursions I had reserved would be cancelled because the weather forecast called for rain every day. I soon realized, rain meant nothing in Ushuaia. Life went on no matter what the weather was. One of our tour guides said the only people carrying umbrellas in Ushuaia were tourists. Because of the winds, umbrellas were useless.

Egypt one year ago: Valley of the Kings

Then we wound up the hill into the valley where the tombs were hidden. One reason they picked this area is the mountain is naturally shaped like a pyramid. Only twelve of the 63 discovered tombs are open to the public at any given time and they are alternated as they are worked on and restored. We saw four of them. The whole area was still being actively excavated. Some tombs were in better shape than others. King Tutankhamun’s tomb was the only one that still had a mummy in it and it will be moved soon. It is hard to describe the experience, it was beyond beautiful so amazing to think how old they are. 

I read all the Amelia Peabody books by Egyptologist Barbara Mertz aka Elizabeth Peters that span the time from 1884-1923. She wrote 20 books based in Egypt mostly about archeologists digging around and solving mysteries. As I read them, I kept trying to imagine what the Valley of the Kings actually looked like back then, or even now. All I could imagine was a vast desert with nothing much else. Well, now I know.

Have a great week!

It is Official

Skyway Art. Walking through the Skyway this week I noticed these new window murals. They are kind of cool.

It’s official. I’m retired. Day three of retirement. The countdown is over. Now I can get to all those projects I’ve been putting off for my retirement. 

You might want to check out postcardbuzz.com this week. I came across some postcards from the turn of the century (1900’s). Apparently it was all the rage to send photographs as postcards. Here is one that was appropriate for the season. 

Speaking of the season. We have had over 40 inches of snow this winter so far. We are running out of places to put it. 

The US House of Representatives are the butt of all jokes at the moment. Specifically Kevin McCarthy. What an idiot. They have voted 10 times so far and he still can’t get elected speaker of the house. Where is Nancy when you need her?

I started reading the Raj Quartet, first one is The Jewel in the Crown. I saw the dramatization on PBS years ago. So far I am enjoying the book.

Obviously not much floating around in my head this week….

Holiday Mail Friday

It’s that time of year… the holiday card, the holiday letter. It always includes travel, family, achievements, mostly positive stuff but sometimes includes losses as well. It’s the holidays, time to be upbeat and happy. Mine went something like this.

Happy Holidays!

We started the year off with an amazing trip to Egypt! I am still processing all the beautiful things we saw. Cairo, Abu Simbel, Aswan, and the boat up the Nile to Luxor. We highly recommend it.

In the spring I flew to San Francisco and had a lot of fun hanging out with old college friends. Golden Gate, Point Reyes, and Sonoma wine country.

I took a trip to Duluth and Lake Superior with my family. It is nice to be able to travel again. I also spent a long weekend in Washington DC with more old friends.

But the really big news is happening in January. I am retiring. Can’t wait. I have a million projects waiting for me. And Travel. Stay tuned.

Joy and Happiness to all in 2023

Nothing earth shattering but full of action and positive vibes.

I read today that a Radisson Hotel in Berlin boasted having the world’s largest Aquarium in their lobby. It had 1,500 tropical fish in it. And it broke, exploded, kaput. All the dead fish on the sidewalk. There is something just wrong about that. Is that entertainment? Looking at jailed fish on your way to your room? Ugh.

I watched the second half of the Harry and Meghan series as I’m sure many of you did too. I came away with some questions. What do they actually live on? So I looked it up. Apparently Harry’s father cut them off so they had to fend for themselves. They cut a deal with Netflix for $100 million. Harry got millions for his new book, Spare. Harry inherited some money from his mother and possibly from the Queen. So what they live on is their Name. They are selling their Name. Coming away from the show, I couldn’t help but think about the Duke of Windsor. I felt like they were both treated similarly. Is that a word? Anyway, way too much about that.

I watched a delightful film about Bhutan – Lulana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019). It is about a young man who is a teacher as part of his State service and he has a year of teaching left on his contract. He wants to go to Australia and be a singer and has no interest in teaching but they send him to the remotest part of Bhutan to teach. The experience changes him. I saw it on Netflix. A nice “holidays” film.

Good advice from Charles Bukowski….  

Roll the Dice
  by Charles Bukowski

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
mockery,
isolation.
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
that.
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
fire.

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, its
the only good fight
there is.

Now that is upbeat and holiday-sie, right?
Have a good week.

The day after Friday

My sense of time has been all messed up this week. All day Thursday I thought it was Wednesday. And my weekend plans were looking like a distant future. Yet, here we are. The day after Friday. Dark and snowing. I’m looking forward to December 21, when it starts getting light again. 

The Winter Solstice. I am reminded of my trip to Ireland a few years back. We visited New Grange, a Neolithic period World Heritage Site. At New Grange there is one large mound built built 5,000 years ago, before the Pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge in England. It is an incredible display of engineering, not to mention beautiful and kind of eerie. Everybody who visits is required to join a tour. We were led into the mound for a demonstration of how the Winter Solstice lights up the cave-like structure. It is something I would like to see for real sometime. It was very cool. I am not a fan of small tight spaces and almost didn’t go in but luckily we weren’t in there very long so I didn’t have time to panic.

I decided I was not going to watch Harry and Meghan on Netflix. But I gave in and watched it. I can’t resist some good gossip. Only the first three episodes are available. The rest come out next week. Such a tease. It hasn’t changed my opinion of them but it was well done. They spend a lot of time going into English history and the Commonwealth and the slave trade and diversity and unconscious bias and mixed race. And of course the relationship the Royal family have with the press. Rather dysfunctional. Bottom line really is “who cares” but interesting none the less. Rich people’s problems….

Years ago I read the Nero Wolfe mystery series by Rex Stout. Nero Wolfe is a private detective who lives in a brownstone in Manhattan. He has a greenhouse on the roof where he grows orchids. He drinks beer and has a private gourmet chef. He is very fat. His assistant Archie Goodwin does all the legwork for him. Nero mostly drinks beer and thinks. The meals Fritz, the chef, prepares are described in detail and in 1973, the Nero Wolfe Cookbook was published. Rex Stout wrote 33 Nero Wolfe novels. After his death in 1975, Robert Goldsborough continued the series and published as recently as 2021. Apparently Rene Magritte was a fan of Nero Wolfe and titled several of his paintings after the books. When the League of Frightened Men was published in French it became Les Compagnons de al Peur (the companions of fear). Magritte painted the Companions of Fear in response to the Nazi occupation of Brussels (1940). It is a very different painting than what I normally think of when I am thinking about Magritte.

Les Compagnons de la Peur, Renee Magritte, 1942

So the whole point of this long explanation is, I just started reading the first novel in the series again, The League of Frightened Men. It holds up surprisingly well. 

The Promenades of Euclid, Renee Magritte, 1955 (one of my favorites)

In an Opinion piece in the New York Times this week the phrase “it is what it is” is described as: “It relieves you of coming to a conclusion, forming an opinion, developing an action plan — and even worse, tries to be cute about it.” “It marks an intellectual and moral surrender”. The writer loathes the expression even as he continues to use it. I, on the other hand, like the expression. For me it feels like something a good buddhist would say. Let it be. You can’t do anything about it. It is what it is. Let it go. Why do you need to form an opinion or develop an action plan about everything? Calm the f*** down!

Have a great week!