Things Unseen

So right now I am sitting in a student dorm in Edinburgh, with this lovely boy I met on the plane ride here from Dublin. This week has been full of surprising twists. So backing up to Saturday, the plan of this week was to be in Edinburgh for one day and then go to the Highlands for the week. But as soon as I arrived in Edinburgh I got an email from my mind my house host saying she is in the hospital from an asthma attack and she isn’t sure when she will be out. So I immediately begin wracking my brain for a second option my couch surfing host welcomes me to stay the rest of the week and I plan to go to Glasgow for the weekend to fill the rest of the time. I take this unexpected twist as an equally great a path to travel and spend time walking around the city and all its lovely coffee shops and windy roads.

Yesterday I found I got into the University of Edinburgh! I am so happy about it, I love this city and I being here feels right to me. Earlier today I met with the director of my program and it went great and I left and got lunch with my new friend and just felt the feeling of things being alright. We go to the library so I can attempt to blog, blogging is literally and pathetically on my to-do list every day.

I open up my Facebook to find that the girl that hosted me last month in Ireland via couch surfing had passed away. Her brother sent me a super simple message saying there was an accident and she is no longer with us and wishing me well. That was it. I had a tangerine half in my mouth and I stopped mid –chew and my friend stared at me asking what was wrong and I didn’t know what to say or how to react I just kept re-reading the message trying to figure out what to do with the tangerine in my mouth and saying I’m sorry and stuttering and I finally said it out loud and I couldn’t believe it even as I said it. I immediately go to call the girl I had couch-surfed with and we sat together on Gmail not knowing what to say and not understanding what we read.

I stayed at her house just two nights one weekend and then one night randomly the next weekend. I had just texted her on New Years Eve. I hardly knew her, but I know her, we spent time together and that means something. And now she is gone.

I haven’t experienced much death in my life, and I know that will change, death will be a part of my life as it is a part of everyone’s. This introduction was just odd. It touched upon my choices; to travel, and couch surf, and to enter into all of these people’s lives even if only for a moment. It isn’t that the more I gain the more I can lose but rather that lost can be so easily found among everything. The wider my net is cast the more I bring into me, good or bad.

So now I am sitting here in this dorm, a YouTube mix is droning in the background, my new friend is making diner and I am writing this seeking the best medium for me to work my way through this. Thinking of her brother and her family and then all the inconsequential things of my life… Another person is about to arrive and I’ll just keep moving, casting my net, and dealing with all the things that stick.

The Waste In Our Lives

In my experience living in New York garbage is as abundant as anything else; trains, delis on the corners, or the food trucks that line the streets. We don’t just buy food but we accumulate trash. Things we don’t try to use are left for the homeless person or the sanitation man or for no one, so our sidewalks are as much concrete as they are trash.

I’ve always recognized that New York is a dirty city but I never really thought about what all the trash meant. I never thought the trash really meant anything, I mean to an extent I stopped seeing trash. The trash is the train, the deli, and the sidewalk; the things that are just there, well fingers crossed the train comes before I pee my pants.

Here on the west coast of Ireland there isn’t garbage; there is only compost. I mean everything is re-used in some way. The metals, plastics, and papers are recycled in the regular way. All the food we don’t eat is given to the chickens, what they don’t eat is then put in a vegetable bed to fertilize the soil. The egg shells are dried and then smashed up and given back to chickens (makes stronger egg shells). The water that we boil eggs in has minerals that are good for plants so that goes into watering. Animal fat we don’t eat is given to Jess, the best Dalmatian in the world. If you kill a chicken (still haven’t sorted that out in my mind) the feathers can make dream catchers. Then most of it can be eaten. Then when you have the carcass you boil it to make broth. All animal poop is good poop. I just spent the morning shoveling urine and poop sodden hay to wheel up to the vegetable beds. Jars and tins are saved for the making of jams and the drying of tea. Then at another farm up the road we picked up donkey poop with our gloved hands and shoved it in bags for the compost. The same farm has a compost toilet. A little medley of animal and human poop is arriving at a garden bed near you very soon

Everything has a reason. The idea of discarding mindlessly, isn’t here. It can be burned, re-used, or reconstituted. The girl I’m wwoofing with eats everything that drops on the floors, she usually beats the dog to it. The truth is I work, play, in the dirt, animal poop, every day and I feel cleaner then when I ride the subway.

The detachment from things in the city, doesn’t exist here. In NY most things are foreign. Wraps, salads, or pizza slices are bought on the go. Meals and snack are bought frequently away from your home in small disposable packaging. Therein lies the ingredients for convenience and space. We buy nice things from nice stores that are functioned to be kept. I think in cities there is also this fear of dirt. Everything and anything can make you sick. Perhaps it is fear that prevents us from making anything ours, it is easier to keep the foreign substance out. To only keep the things with clean white corners, or the crystal clear glass of mason jars.

Here everything is made intimate. If there is a foreign honey or peanut butter jar. It is cleaned and packed away in a wooden box where it is sterilized twice and used to store jam with new hand written labels. All foreign is turned intimate. The poop from the toilet becomes synonymous with the poop of your dog and it all goes into making your flower beds, and in some cases vegetables, more plentiful and rich. There is no garbage here, perhaps because there is no fear. Nothing is seen as dirty and tossed aside before it can touch your shirt. Things are cared for.

I guess the concept of eating something covered with a little dirt from a rain forest rather than the invisible dirt from a subway floor isn’t new. But the idea of eliminating garbage from our lives, is something to think about. Anyway my three weeks here have already taught me to be less afraid of dirt. Something is dirty and kept foreign when you don’t see it as a part of you. Living here helps me to see how everything has a part in me.

The WWOOF Pack: Ireland Edition

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This is my 5th attempt to write about my wwoofing experience. Hopefully this start will stick. I read countless blogs over the summer about travelling, travelling in your 20s (because it is definitely different), wwoofing, round the word trips, packing, saving money, places to see for beauty and places to visit to party. I read so much about other people’s experiences and as I am sitting here living mine it doesn’t resemble any of the ones I read. I didn’t think it would, but I guess I thought I would be able to deliver my experience in a similar fashion.  To blog about traveling and wwoofing and bottle it into paragraphs that make sense. But every day I spend here becomes not about making sense but just sorta being here. And making bread.

When I first got here, I didn’t have the words but I knew there was a story. Arriving and being greeted by the friendliest woman who immediately made me feel as if I have found a friend. Followed by the breathtaking drive, along windy stone roads to arrive at a house surrounded by nothing but trees and chickens. I was greeted by the kindest Spanish girls with broken English but expressive faces. They took me on a walk to the lake and when we reached the lake’s edge they didn’t stop but kept going, walking straight into the lake. We got about 20 feet in before the water reached the top of our boots. It was a beautiful day with a pink, blue, and purple sunset over the gray lake and I turned to this girl I just met and asked, “Can I give you a hug?” She laughed and threw her arms around me and we swayed side to side, then turned and screamed, hurling our voices against the tree tops and hearing them drift back to us. I felt happy. That effortless, thoughtless sort of easy happiness that you don’t recognize in the moment because the moment is just that beautiful.

I have been here on Ti a Touric farm for about two weeks and I have so many of those stories that are composed of beautiful skies and people and the lovely gray coats of ponies. The indescribable moments that only nature can offer. There are a laundry list of things I’ve done that concretely illustrates what it means to wwoof in Ireland. I have fed ponies, donkeys, ducks, and chickens. I have touched the skin of a dead deer, rubbing ash from the fire into his coat to dry it out for a rug. I rode a tractor today. I have digged into the dirt countless times; weeded gardens, spread fertilizer, attempted to use a strimmer. Baked many delicious goods from scratch, bread, jams, and crust for amazing quiches and delicious pizzas that were cooked in a hand-made clay oven. I have picked vegetables from the poly tunnel and cracked eggs I’ve retrieved from the hens outside for breakfast. There has even been some rooster killings; that is a whole story of its own for another time.

That is a list of my actions, the things that the Canadian I am wwoofing with said I should blog about. But talking about all the activities doesn’t quite reach the root of the matter. Speaking of roots I spent about 6 days weeding the garden outside my host’s home and the irony was definitely not lost on me. I call my blog, my life, a series of displaced roots and I spent the majority of my time here on this farm dealing with roots. Pulling them out, cutting them, throwing them away, and saving a few to re-pot. My metaphorical roots have met literal rich, dark, dirty, and thriving roots. Roots that I am displacing and organizing and throwing away. Is it that through their separation I find my center? Or is it that the roots add to the metaphor, my displacing them mirror the same displacement I find in my life? Or is it just a lesson about the nature of roots? Removing them from the soil wasn’t easy but I think the earth here is fertile enough so that taking root will be. And once these suckers take root, it takes a 22yrs old full body weight with the help of a shovel and 10 minutes to get them out. So maybe that’s the lesson that I somehow circled around to while writing. The literal roots are teaching me about the roots of my life. To be displaced is hard and living in flux isn’t easy, but when I settle I can settle deep, sure and strong. Perhaps they are showing me a future where I’m certain a place is home.

Eating Cake in Manchester Part II

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It is very weird to return to a place you have once lived. I studied abroad in Manchester for 6 months and in those 6 months I gathered as many routes, friends, experiences, and cake eating times as those of full time students. It was nowhere near perfect, but it was great. I’m not sure if I loved being in Manchester or the idea that I was in Manchester… It was just love all the same.

Now I’m back a little under two years later, to say it’s surreal is an understatement. I’m not sure what I was expecting but perhaps a bit of déjà vu, a bit of I did this already, but honestly my experiences this time don’t mirror the ones I had last time at all. I’m different, I’m around some old friends, some are newer, but regardless they are sharing different sides of themselves with me. In many ways it’s just about learning a place all over again, but I’m not learning about a new place, it’s like I’m learning about home. I’m immediately thrown into favorite places, restaurants I still haven’t been to, and tons of familiar faces.

I guess the process of returning, whether going back to school after being abroad, or returning home after being away, or now coming back to Manchester allows me to better judge sameness and differences. I do still remember the areas of this city and this culture that got me a bit down. Even though I remember them, I suppose they don’t affect me in the same way. When I return to a place after being away for a while it’s striking how the environment reflects pieces of myself. I can see the ways I am the same, and all the ways I have changed. This place holds my memories, this place has become a mirror of my history, every time I return I continue the narrative.

Part of that narrative was eating a lot of cake.It was a large part of my Mancunian diet. And now I am searching for all the slices I missed. I had one today and it was great, a really gingery slice of dark cake with creamy white frosting from Nexxus Cafe. And after I had the worst sugar-filled stomachache and realized I’ll have to put my cake obsession on break for a bit. This time in Manchester isn’t so café/ cake-filled, and that is perfectly alright.

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On Good-byes and Other Oddities

I never think leaving will be so hard. Before leaving I always look at the action of leaving not as parting but as having the opportunity to start. I always look at my ability to leave as a blessing, as a necessity really. Then it happens and I stand there crying in an airport.

 The moments preceding my departure I’m nervous, my stomach hurts, and to ease all of these things I try to get everything on my never-ending lists done. Like one crossed off item will slowly untwist a knot. On the drive to the airport, my to-do lists are aside but there is this feeling of apprehension that curves around the car. There is this feeling that somehow this isn’t supposed to be mine.

I stand at the airport hugging my parents and I just feel this overwhelming emotion that stings my eyes. My mom pushes me away, and as her hand parts from my arm, I’m afraid that leaving isn’t the right choice after all. A part of me doesn’t want to let go of belonging there. I didn’t know I was so afraid.

As I walk through security maneuvering bulky boots and jackets I feel better. This is something I have done an odd 19 or so times before, that certainty that spurred 10 months of planning slowly comes back to me.

Two flights + one snow storm later I am in London. I feel nervous and disconnected, not that excitement I was so eager to feel. I have too much stuff in my luggage and my mind, I am weighed down. As this weight grows heavier I wonder if I am doing this all wrong, I wonder why I did this at all. I look for the point, the beacon of light that shows me the point, but the harder I search the heavier my bag feels.

Some odd hours later my beautiful friend comes bouncing in and her presence helps me to remember the point. Well, there is no one point. This is a choice, a choice which that can bring me a lot of joy and really exciting experiences and people. But will also probably bring me a bit of nerves as I make my way across parts of Europe. These few hours of doubt are the smallest fraction against the hundreds, perhaps, thousands of positive thoughts that have driven me. I think that for me working so hard for something and then actually getting it is unnerving. In an odd way it doesn’t feel right that I am actually doing this, even though for the past 10 months in my mind it was the only thing I could do.

I guess it comes down to this odd sense of fear that my good-bye gave me. Saying good-bye took my choices out of theories and put them in reality and that is scary. No matter how awesome or cool or fun, for some reason I found the power of my choice frightening before exciting. Which is strange… but on the other hand I am the type of person who stands waiting for the sky to fall.

I don’t quite understand why my good-bye caused this reaction. Either way I am glad to have sort of figured it out. And regardless, I have yet to regret a thing. 

Acting Out of Character

Acting Out of Character

There was a moment today when my brain short-circuited and I wasn’t myself. I said and did things that felt foreign to me. Then my brain cells went on high alarm as they came rushing to my lips and eyes reminding me who I am.

It is an odd circumstance when you lose yourself to aliens for a moment. But like all things the moment passes, and you forgive yourself.

Also start learning martial arts to keep the aliens away.