Monday, January 9, 2017

Liberté in Yesterday

Regret. Not a fun topic! It's on my mind today. Perhaps the frigid wind shocked me into the present moment, stabbing its silvery swords at me this morning, saying "past, move over for my icy unrelenting breath into your bones!" Regret is a part of being human. The tendency to hold on to what has been, is woven in to the very fabric of our humanness. I've done it, but I don't want to live with a cloud of mistakes hanging over my head. As I jogged today through patches of sun and shade in the bitter spurt of cold, finally living proof of wintertime in Louisiana, I desired to create something beautiful from the memories of a few disappointments of mine.

These thoughts intertwined with an article entitled "Prisoners of their Heritage," in which Ronald C. Rosbottom describes Jonathan Fenby's book "France: A Modern History from the Revolution to the War on Terror," which discusses France as a country that has become imprisoned in its past. It is chained by its yearning to uphold tradition while passing laws, which he believes to be hypocritical of those exact traditional principles. Although Rosbottom agrees with Fenby on this, he thinks the book is a rather pessimistic historical account of France, and he'd like to see more mentions of the positives France has achieved in its cultural history, such as in the arts, music, literature and film.

The two main take-away's from this article are the importance for a country to learn from its own history and how critical a "happy historical memory" is to its identity as a nation. In order to maintain a most positive trajectory for itself and for its future as a major power in Europe, France must know its identity, but first, it must reflect on its positive aspects in history. On an individual human level, I'm going to take away these two points for myself, but also add a third point: create something artful from my disappointing experiences and unfulfilled dreams so to better understand who I am in the present.

Instead of dwelling on events that are far beyond my ability to influence, I will create something beautiful. Perhaps this means writing a song, singing, painting a mural (nope!), writing a story, or writing a blog (yes!). Whatever method I choose, I believe my present circumstances can benefit from creating something from the past to help move on from it.

France holds on to its principles born from the Revolution, such as equality and secularism, yet simultaneously sets regulations that conflict with those exact principles. Rosbottom says this is the reason the country lingers in a cloud he describes as "morosité," or gloom. Along with Germany, France holds the largest Muslim population in the European Union, as well as one of the top Jewish populations. However, by law from the National Assembly, collecting race or ethnicity data for census or other purposes is illegal, and the words "race" and "racial" were removed from the French penal code. Part of the argument here is whether or not this "color-blind" method of public policy causes less or more discrimination in the multicultural country.

For France experienced a rather rough upbringing, in which it experienced much bloodshed over its 10-year Revolution, leading to Napoleon's reign and then political instability following. Although I cannot say the same as an individual and am blessed to not have had that kind of strife, I will take it as an example to remember my accomplishments and successes, to reflect objectively on my past the best I can so to not repeat the same mistakes, and as an inspiration to see if I can't come up with something beautiful! Cheers to yesterday!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New Orleans Rain

Today was quite an eventful day - was it ever! If ever a day could take unexpected twists and turns, today was the day! Guess what happened. I indeed took Magazine Street home today, rode all the way down Magazine Street to River Road. But, instead of my car driving, a maroon taxi drove me all the way home tonight. My ETA was around 8:45 p.m. and rolled up to my front porch right at about then. You ask, why? What lead to this strange way of leaving a location to reach a destination, of transiting from point A to point B? Well, it all started with the floods. Yes, the floods. The usually quiet, sometimes bustling, yet quaint street, lined with shops and restaurants, was unusually swallowed in rain around 3 p.m. today. The motion of the water drew our attention to gaze out of the windows of our office, and there we saw it. A steady rising stream, currents flitting and deflecting each other all in one unified mass of water hungrily devouring its dinner - Magazine Street. The water kept pounding down and drowning all in its path - an orange traffic cone, a large trash can - and, the cars lined up against the curbs. To the water, my car was not a mere left-over chicken wing from Tuesday night, but rather, as a nice juicy Filet Mignon to enjoy for its nightly meal.I swam to my car and there inside were floating pairs of shoes, bags and CD cases. I found a few dry bags and I used them to salvage all of my CDs and a few other items from its loins. The trunk was an option, but I decided against storing the items there, in case the river would rise that high. So, with bags in hand, I plowed through the rapids and back to the office island of safety. We kept the doors closed so that water wouldn't pour inside, and when trucks forged down the disappeared streets, the lake would tease the cracks under our door. I was inside and knew what I had to do - call Allstate, my insurance company. Tow trucks were on their way, for water in engines is more than just a precautionary matter to consider, it's one of urgency and must be attended to with immediacy, that is, if traveling home is to be an action of due course. It was, indeed, to me, an action of due course, although the immediacy and fervor in attempt to coordinate this effort was tried in entirety, was not satisfied until very tardy past the darkness and into the evening. The 3 hour wait in a soggy-bottomed car was endurable, for I have endured worse, but the concern for the life of my cell phone while waiting for the eternally-just-arriving tow truck was somewhat unpleasant. I am home now, spaghetti-filled and ready to start a new day tomorrow! A car won't be in the picture, but I will sift through other means, possibly a morning streetcar adventure. I would bike if the tube wasn't flat, but there will be a way!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Strength shall not be taken for granted, and the power of nature shall not be undermined.

I am a different girl, with a new prize in my bag. My physical appearance remains the same (besides a few more muscles in my legs), and one would probably not notice any difference simply by looking at me. My face has not changed, but if it were possible to peer in to my mind and travel to that one spot that took the brunt of the climb, one could see the beginning layer of a callous forming over the once soft-spot. A new page from my little brown book is full, which documents our hike up A'Ghlas-bheinn, the friendly munro of the Scottish Kintail Mountains. She's a rough one at first, but in the end she softens up and becomes a friend. It's a tough-love kind of relationship. She doesn't befriend just any one, only the ones who can make it over her rocky hills and up her snowy sides. Sometimes she'll throw a curveball and hide a wide stream below her thick layer of fresh snow, shooting legs down and into the caves of her side. At times, her Creator added to our task, sending sharp headwinds and snow pushing against our climb. He listened to our cries and kept us safe, but she would not hear them, keeping us on our toes the whole time.

The six mountaineers began in the wee hours of the morning. Still dark, we could hear the stream by our bunkhouse, but could not see the mountains that lay ahead of us. We walked at a quick pace with our backpacks, which contained only our sustenance and absolute necessities for the day. Extra weight is not good, and especially on the feet! As the walking progressed, each step began to feel more and more like walking on hard stone (the soles of my boots), while lifting heavy weights (my boots themselves). Despite this, my mind and body were still fresh, and I was thinking positive, exciting thoughts. The feeling was still so new, and I was excited to be so small staring up at the monsters surrounding me. The sights were beautiful and are now burned in my mind forever. These brown and rocky, massive giants were real and before me, ones that had only appeared in my dreams before. The morning was rather grey, and the mist covered the top of the snowy mountain tops in the distance.

I am conditioned for the flat-land walking from my home state Louisiana, and about an hour into the hike, my body was understanding the stark contrast of terrains. The meaning of the word "uphill" took on a new meaning for me as my feet slugged along. I wouldn't allow the discomfort to affect me, although I did have concerns of what was to come. Curving up the hairpin turns into the lairs of A'Ghlas-bheinn, we began to see signs of crispy snow on the ground. As I realize now, safe inside my flat, those thin layers of snow were minute signs of the blizzard that would surround us later on in the hike. Still enthusiastic and ready for anything, we began walking in thick snow. I began to fall behind the gang, but luckily, my trusty mountain buddy, Shinto, was at my side. He kept me laughing as we chanted words from a Robert Frost poem, "The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep."

The snow under our feet began to thicken (at least to 10 inches), and the temperature began to drop. After adding a top layer of clothes on my body, my instincts told me the real hiking had begun. My legs were beginning to feel burning sensations, and my breathing was becoming short. I could feel pain on the inside, but I tried with all my might not to display it on my face. I knew that if I did, my feelings inside would only begin to feed off of my expressions on the outside. I am not sure which climb was the hardest, but I hoped the first snowy climb would be. It would not be, however, as I realized we had only covered the first of four half-summits (smaller mountains) that lay ahead. We made it to the top of the first and took pictures of the amazing view. It was breath-taking, and I was happy to be so tall staring out at mountains covered in snow. One slip, and I could be gone forever! After a short break, we were off again. The pros were trekking ahead of us, and the sight of four bodies and backpacks became a familiar sight for Shinto and me. Caroline, Jana, Orel and Joe displayed a comforting sight as they lead us, and I felt safe with them. However, my mind was starting to wander around my painful thoughts, but I kept steady. In the rare case our voices be heard over the loud winds, one would have heard prayers or yelling spouts of grief to one another. Even though it was tempting to think about the enormity of the mountain, I learned to concentrate on each step, one at a time. When even each step was too much to think about, I allowed myself to cry a little to sooth the pain. Well, I say, "allowed myself." What I should say is- "I couldn't hold back my tears any longer!"

THE SUMMIT. My first summit! We were there, and we had arrived all in one piece. We had conquered the highest point- 918 meters! A'Ghlas-bheinn crowned us mighty troopers at this point, but I still had the feeling that she did not consider us friends. After a short celebration and pictures (gritting my teeth in fake smiles), we put on our crampons (metal spikes that strap on boots for the icy declines). If not for Joe's help, this would have been an impossible task for me because my hands were completely numb from the freezing wet gloves. With ice axes in hand, we dug our heels into the sides of the mountain for the decent.

I was thankful to be going down, this time with gravity on our side. Caroline taught us to dig the sides of our ice axes into the snow in case of a slip. Sometimes I felt like my backpack would cause me to topple over the side of the mountain, but I wasn't scared. At this point, any thing was better than uphill! To change it up a little, Shinto and I would sit and slide some of the way down, making sure we were clear of any rocks poking out. We landed safely and after eating a short lunch, we were off again.

A question had come up, and I faced a crucial decision. We were to either take one path which led to the beautiful waterfall, or we could go the opposite direction which would lead us home. The Falls of Glomach, or home? The path to the waterfall would add at least two hours to the trip and would require us to hike down a hill and then all the way back up. It was critical to do this in a timely manner, as dark would fall soon. I thought out loud and was a little hesitant, but when Orel described the waterfall as "the most impressive" waterfall, my mind was made up. In retrospect, I made the right choice by spending the extra two hours! However, I did experience my second cry of the day as I plopped down on a rock at the top. I was less conscious this time, and I didn't care about hiding my tears. "This is the hardest day of my life," I said aloud to myself.

The rest of the way home consisted of a two-hour downward/easy-descending walk, filled with casual, sporadic chats among one another. The bunk house was so close, even though it seemed like a lifetime away. The day was darkening, and we passed by the little white spots of sheep grazing on the side of the trail. I sometimes stopped and looked back at the mad mountains behind me. They appeared to be moving, almost resembling a liquid sloshing around in a glass. This was the first time I felt a calm gesture from A'Ghlas-bheinn. She was saying good-bye, and she was my friend. She had been there with me the whole time as I struggled up her sides, and she was proud of me, an amateur hiker, for completing her challenging task.  

HOME! Our little white bunkhouse was a gleaming sight for our sore eyes. We left our distant cries in the wild, and inside we dined on wine and spaghetti, next to a mighty fire in the hearth! I felt so loved by God, and I felt so thankful for everything. I loved life, I loved my hot shower, I loved my pajamas, and I loved my friends! The day was worth it.

A stronger girl, a journey long. Never giving up, a lesson learned. Searching for the tallest mountain..

Hello, Ben Nevis, here I come!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wish me luck...

Status Update:

Destination: The Glen Shiel Mountains, Northwest Highlands
ETD: 6:00 p.m.
ETA: 10 p.m.
Altitude: 929 m
Freezing level: 550 m
Winds: up to 70 mph
Temp.: -3 Celsius
Heavy snow turning to hard rain, unbroken whiteout conditions


I'm following the pros in the Mountaineer Club. However, we are all a pack. We will stick together. Due to severe conditions, we will most likely stay on the lower trails of the mountain. At night we lodge at a cozy bunkhouse, Kintail Outdoor Centre. We'll have two days of hiking and return on Sunday.

Hope I survive to see the Super Bowl on Sunday... Goooo Steelers!!!

Check out the 5 sisters:

Linden, the mountain lady

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Diving in

E'llooo from across the pond! Scotland, I have arrived! If I sound confident, it's because I've had a few days to venture out into the city and have gotten somewhat of a chance to acclimate to this fridgid climate. The deathly-cold Glaswegian weather is quite a change from the drabby-cold Lafayette winter weather. Us Cajuns back home don't even know this kind of cold!! Though, I am loving walking down the streets, bundled up, with my icy breath blowing right out in front of me. Oh, and not to mention the fog. Literally, I have dived head-first into a FOG! The Necropolis cemetery on a hill outside of my hotel greeted me from my window when I arrived on Thursday. After waking from a ten-minute nap, the gravestones' silhouettes were completely invisible, covered by a dense white fog!! Sounds mystical, right? Well, Glasgow dates back to the 10th century, so you can imagine what kind of ancient mysteries and secrets this place holds. Especially in that cemetery.. I was expecting a visit from Casper during my stay at the tower-of-terror-style hotel, but he never came..

I woke up on Thursday when I woke up. My only means of an alarm (my watch) broke, so my goal of the day was to buy a phone. As I was walking out of my hotel, the magnificent Glasgow Cathedral lured me in for a visit. Really, 'magnificent' is the only word to describe the 12th-century cathedral. The enormity of its structure is striking and the beauty of its insides will take your breath away! Stairs lead down to the ancient tomb of St. Mungo. The basement certainly did not lack beauty, and little ornate chapels fill the lower level of the church. After gawking for a while, I walked outside into the chilled, icy weather and onto the church grounds, being careful not to step on the flat, tombstones. Grass grew over some making it tricky to see any names. As I walked, I thought, "who knows, maybe an ancestor of mine is buried beneath my feet.." Possibly even my old cousin, Robert the Bruce?? :)

So, after a long day of navigating the swarming streets of the downtown area, I found myself at a traditional Irish pub called Molly Malones. I ate Haggis for the first time!! It was absolutely delicious! Taking full advantage of my legal age of 20, I couldn't help but order a nice half-pint of Tennent's Scottish beer. (That is not big, by the way..) I soaked in the atmosphere while listening to the drone of Scottish conversations and bursts of laughter, around me. It didn't take me long to realize that I had forgotten to pay as I was walking down the street, so I walked all the way back. My new surroundings were getting the best of me! haha.. On may way home, I heard it. Bagpipes! I followed the sound and came to the large steps of the Royal Concert Hall, where a group of male bagpipers in their kilts were blowing away. I actually asked if I could play my penny whistle with them.. Just kidding! haha..   

After enjoying my first full Scottish breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, a scone and black pudding, my day couldn't have begun in a better way. I hiked 5 minutes up the road and attended my first Scottish mass at the beautiful little church of St. Mungo!! The congregation greeted the priest as they sang a traditional Scottish hymn in A Capella. I must admit, I found myself trying to match their Scottish accents as we recited prayers. haha.. The fact that one can experience something so familiar, yet be in a place so far away, is so cool. Very comforting, in fact:) Believe it or not, I actually felt a bit of nostalgia today leaving my cosy little Cathedral House Hotel room. I said goodbye to a couple of my new worker friends, whom I met at the little downstairs pub one night:( It's literally one block away from my flat, so I'm sure I'll be back!

I could write and write all day, but it's 8:45 and I think drinks are starting up in this little cafe.. The Scots start early!! School starts tomorrow, so better get back home toniiiight!!

Thanks for reading y'aaaaall! And until next time, peace :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

24 hours until...

...the Day! Yes, the hour of my departure approaches at a lively pace now. I must enjoy my last 24 hours in my house and in my sweet town of Lafayette. Even though it might be tricky, while jetting around like a jackrabbit, grabbing last-minute items, and stuffing my cases to the brim, taking moments to breathe in the scents of Louisiana are important, as my smelling glands will later bring me comfort during the times when I miss my state. The light music of Taylor Swift will be an appropriate memory of home for me as well, and I have welcomed her voice pouring into my opened suitcases. Time was good to me today, and productivity was on my side. Most of my packing is complete, leaving me safely with one day of breathing room. Before today, (two days before the Day) I have spent many hours "packing" in my head. Such a trip requires much mental preparation.

You may have asked, "and where will the Day be taking her?" And that is, all the way across the rather large pond, to a different land called- Scotland. The city of Glasgow, to be exact. The books call it an "edgy, modish and downright ballsy place." I am looking forward to hearing the word "posh" used in a sentence, and I'm ready to taste the famous Irn Bru, an orange energy drink created for the iron workers back in the day. I can almost taste the lamb heart, liver and lungs combo, called haggis. Oh yes, I am goin' all the way. Hey, it's only called boudin in Cajun land.

Here it goes. I don't really know much of what to expect, but one thing I hope is that the voice with the clipped brogue talking in my head for the past month has only been preparing me for the real thing:)

I'm American, so I say.. Peace.