disconnected histories from somewhere or elsewhere…

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I’ve been there before… or have I?

Leaving Massachusetts, travelling through New Hampshire and up into Vermont the other day, we passed some familiar places. Familiar in another land, found in an unfamiliar sequence here. Winchester, Reading, Andover, Londonderry, Manchester, Grantham, Lebanon…

So what’s in a name I wonder?

If you are from Andover in Hampshire in the UK, I guess that particular Andover might have meaning, history, personality even. We didn’t stop, but I imagine the Andover in Massachusetts might be  very different. As indeed might the Andover we saw a sign for in New Hampshire. Andovers, born in many places, descended from one perhaps?

And if we say, “I’m from Andover,” what does that really mean? Especially if the Andover in New Hampshire was once born from the Andover in Hampshire?

Many of us get names given to us which are that of a grandparent, or great grandparent. Family names handed down.

But names are not only a throw back to the past, to a previous generation, and a remembering of someone long lost. They are also a means of handing down history to a future generation. An acknowledgement and a gift for safe keeping. A way to continue existence on into the future.

I wonder if the residents of Andover NH are even aware of the British town? Just like many of us given an old family name from a generation past; never met, never known.

History is weird like that. Gone, but desperately remembered. We somehow need the roots of a past, even when it is a past never experienced or indeed long lost to us.

It’s as if we need to be reassured we came from somewhere. And when we know what that somewhere was called, we call ourselves, today, now, the same thing. Thereby connected, thereby grounded, thereby real. We exist.

just lie down here and the pain will go away

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Why do we push ourselves even when we want to give up?

There appears to be an inner battle at play. That part feeling the pain, wanting to concede and that part that doesn’t want to be beaten, wanting to succeed.

I rode a bike yesterday, for the first time in fifteen years. Around Montreal. I guess if you’re going to start again after fifteen years there are worse places to begin. The ride took us along the Lanchine canal, followed the north bank of the St Lawrence river for six kilometres, then cut across in land, via a cute little cafe with Italian Ciabatta to die for. Once replete, we headed back along the remainder of the canal before heading to the island of Parc Jean-Drapeau where we rode our bikes around the Gilles Villeneuve F1 track before returning to our starting point. Around 50 kilometres or 30 miles.

From the moment we began the ride out to the Parc and F1 track, I knew my body had had enough. My thighs screamed stop. The sun burned down on my face and neck as we crossed the Pont de la Concorde. I was done. But the lure of saying I’d ridden around a Formula 1 race circuit kept me going.

The return journey though was another matter. My prize had been won and that part of me feeling the pain was now winning too. I dawdled back across the bridge. The slight incline up really proving hard, as my legs screamed out with every turn of the pedals. My hands were now numb too, from over gripping the handle bars as my legs struggled – somehow holding on for dear life appeased my lower limbs. The final kilometre saw me stop several times and push the bike. Even walking proved hard as my legs were like jelly and walking in a straight line seemed beyond me. My arm had developed an uncontrollable twitch and my thumb, without my say so, wriggled about like a worm in the sunshine, seeking the solace of damp and dark. But I had to return the hire bike, so the part driving me on kept going. I was also with my daughter and couldn’t let her down, so I kept going.

The battle between these parts of me was a fight to the end. “Just lie down on the grass and the pain will ease.” versus “You can’t give up now you’ve come this far. Think how good you will feel having cycled 50 kilometres on your first bike ride for fifteen years.”

And I did.

Feel good.

But tomorrow is another day… Ouch.

madness

driving to Montreal

Do you see things in clouds?

What do you see in this snap from last evening?

I see a dog, on its back, head resting on a baby rhinoceros, playing with the puppy laying on its stomach.

But now you’ve read that, maybe that’s all you can see now too?

Imagination is mad sometimes. And sometimes it is killed by a story.

‘aim long,’ she said

Minke whale feeding off Boston MA

Whale watching off Stellwagon Bank, near Boston, today.

One mammal watching another.

There was a four to five foot swell at times, and our hostess on the boat had warned us of motion sickness before we set off. ‘Aim long,’ she suggested. ‘Your fellow passengers will approve.’ A couple did indeed succumb, although I can offer no testimony to reach.

I wonder what the whales thought?

Three boats homed in on the feeding ground, each boat laden with humans, eager to see these beautiful, majestic sea beasts. Around a dozen Humpback and Minke whales homed in on the boats, eager to see the ridiculous humans, clicking their cameras, pointing in excitement and wretching into their feeding grounds.

The sea birds, flocking around the open jawed whales, hoping to snatch a fish, seemed not to be interested in watching either mammal. Both just a food source.

We watch each other too. Mammal to mammal. Human to Human.

Sometimes overtly, sometimes surreptitiously, out of the corner of an eye. Sometimes in the flesh, sometimes online. We check out looks, clothes, what’s being said. We watch family behaviour and eating habits too. And all the time we judge. Sometimes consciously, often without realising it.

I wonder if the whales judge us?

Part of me hopes they do.

the personality of language, with added chocolate chips

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“How are you today?” seems to be the standard opening gambit here in the USA. Whether it be the local shopkeeper, Alvin at Starbucks, or the unnamed lady in magenta trying to sell me tour tickets.

I have already learned the expected response. It is, “I’m good thank you, how are you?” The ‘good’ in “I’m good…” is presumably a veiled message to Father Christmas, should he be hiding in the bushes? An overly keen attempt to get on to the right list; the list that provides a full stocking, not a sparsely filled alternative in just a few months time?

I, of course, have much to learn colloquially. I have made the apparent mistake of responding, “Cheers!” when given my purchases. I did it to the lady who served me cinnamon scone for breakfast and she looked a little bewildered. I’m told that “cheers” isn’t used in that way here.

Some words have raised importance. Some reduced. I hadn’t expected, for example, my ‘Peachy Pistachio Greek Yogurt’ to contain chocolate chips. But it does. More chocolate chips in fact than peachiness. Sure enough though, a browse of the ingredient list confirms their right to be. Odd not to mention them?

Thankfully, I am yet to be offered a “have a nice day…” as a departing command. Surely, after all, it’s my choice if I wish my day to be nice or not?

I don’t wish to knock America. Merely to point out how language use is very local. The patterns and rituals of language are different. The same words mean different things. Some words are common, some important, some tossed away like chocolate chips at a yogurt factory.

This isn’t just about geography though. Each of us has our own dialect. Favourite words or phrases for us. Words and phrases which cause a shudder, or recoil, when used freely by someone else. Or, words which draw us in, because they resonate with our own sense making and thereby connect us.

Language has personality. It takes on the persona of unique individuals. The persona of family histories. The persona of local dialects. The persona of nation states. The persona of tribes, of cultures, of religions.

We speak who we are.

destination unknown, journey blind…

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When I join a motorway, board a train, get on a bus, I don’t notice where it ends, where it terminates. I merely check if it’s going to my stop. Perhaps you do the same?

Some days, I get a bus from the train station in London to work. I know which buses go there. I have made this journey for several years. I pay scant attention to where the bus is headed though, beyond my disembarking point. It trundles off, my use of it complete. My journey is bounded by what I know. By start and end. By familiarity.

Earlier this week I was working elsewhere for a few days and discovered the same bus went there; I just needed to stay on it for another twenty minutes.

Now my normal journey has more context  I can imagine the onward journey in my mind. I still don’t know where the final destination of my bus is, but more is known to me and so strangely the bus has more life, more character, more relevance. I am somehow more connected.

Life is like that.

We know where our next port of call is. We become familiar with the small repeat journeys we make. But we find it hard to see beyond; to see the context of the whole journey, to see where we are headed. To know a destination.

I am travelling abroad now for seven weeks. I have a planned route and know where I will end up. Yet I don’t know where I’m going still; in that the terrain is all new, the environment totally strange to me, everything is to be discovered on route. Nothing is familiar. Nothing on repeat.

Sometimes life is like that too.

priority boarding

Illuminateddandelion.com

Waiting to board an aircraft. Sitting at the gate and priority boarding has been called. First class, business class and ‘members’.

Much of our human world prioritises wealth. Money buys you privilege.

The chosen ones look at us as we sit waiting to be called. We, the less fortunate, gaze on as the priority few pass through.

We judge them. They judge us. The world over.

Whereas goodness, kindness, compassion. These things curry no favour, yet are worth more perhaps?

time to print a new set?

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For the last few days I have been working south of the river in London, returning north of the Thames to catch a train home. The journey is typically about 35 minutes on a bus.

On the return journey in the evening, twice I have been inspired to get off the bus and walk, because the bus has been stationary for some time; gridlocked. I have walked the bus route passing buses. Buses going to my destination. Four yesterday. Walking trumps bus.

My train has been delayed travelling home on one day. Over an hour’s delay. So much so, that I possibly could have ridden a bike home faster.

Now I am on a train and, whilst I have a seat, hundreds are standing. Standing still, to travel tens of miles towards their homes. Standing and yet moving at maybe 90mph.

It seems in our ‘modern’, ‘advanced’ world that much is turning upside down. I wonder what else will do so over the next decade? Not just travel… but what we do, who we care for, what we pay attention to, who we communicate with and how, what we appreciate, what society is, what community is, what rewards us, where we find joy, where we find peace…

Maybe a new set of top trump cards is called for?

where does it all lead?

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The early morning sky today reveals the past. Journeys taken by airplanes, one after another, thrusting their way to a common destination. The trails remain, for a while, then dissipate, lost into the passage of time.

I wonder if we have trails too? Human trails of being? Invisible to others, often invisible to us. Trails which reflect a path we have journeyed; a choice we made, a decision we took, a thought we encountered.

Maybe the paths, like airplane trails, fade quickly? So quickly we don’t see them overlaid, repeated. We lose sight of the flight paths previously flown. The recurring patterns of thought, behaviour, choice… The fact that they might follow a similar route, that they might point to a common destination, is lost to us. But if they did linger, maybe we could see their purpose? Their intent? Their focus?

Maybe then we would know what silent beacon calls them?

These human trails of being.