When spring stays


It snowed today. We’ve had such a mild winter that we thought we might be in the clear after those last few inches in February. Then it warmed up and the sun came out and melted the huge piles of gray slush in the parking lots, so we really thought it was gone.

Winter’s still hanging on for dear life. It’s singing its sad, desperate ballads about unrequited love, and we are thrusting it away with angry shovels that we thought we could put away for good a month ago.

Let me just say, the shovels are never put far away in Minnesota.

How do you know when it’s spring? When it comes and stays? Or could it really be spring now, only winter is just paying a short visit but will be leaving soon (if only we could boot it out the door).

That’s something I’m wondering. The arbitrary season change dates never seem to mark the real event of any new season, so I don’t know when to call it spring.

For longer than we’ve had winter weather in Minnesota (much longer, if anything could be longer than Minnesota winters) I’ve been on a journey of forgiveness, and I say journey because some days it still snows anger or frustration and I have to get out the shovel and figure out what’s underneath that.

How do you now when you’ve forgiven someone? Is it when you speak of them and realize you feel whole and holy when you do? Is it when you can look forward to a future where they are present? I’m not sure. There are some markers on the path, like the first time I realized I needed to forgive and each subsequent time after that when I’ve felt prodded to continue forgiving.

How do you know when you’re in the free and clear? I imagine it looks different in every situation. Each season and type of hurt requires different healing and reconciliation, so perhaps there are no indicators across all scenarios.

But I do think of those days when I really know winter has gone, when the ground is dry and feels warmer and the sun shines and there’s a breeze instead of a wind. And I imagine there are similar days when you’ve forgiven someone.

I’m looking for warmth in a couple ways. Come soon, spring, and stay.

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On airplanes and coffee


After a whirlwind week that was pseudo-named “spring break” I boarded a Southwest plane this morning and sat by the window, intently watching as we rose up, farther away from home.

I’m leaving you, my homeland. You, with your brown patches surrounding your frozen lakes. You are dead and icy, but when I come back you will be green and coming back to life.

I’m sure I will be, too. The last two months of this semester are asking much of me, which can make a girl feel less alive, but deep breaths from the new air in town will help.

I don’t like airplane turbulence. The shaking, the threat of falling out of the sky. It makes me think that man is not welcome in the skies, and the clouds are trying to shake him down. We weren’t meant to soar, but it makes it faster to get back to school.

Something crazy has been happening this year. I haven’t had to buy coffee once. Not-a-once. My friend Kristin brought me Austrian coffee back from Europe, and my professor gave me Puerto Rican coffee because she knows writers need coffee (and I was trying to conserve by going down to one cup a day). Then my parents brought me coffee beans back from the vacation they took without me to San Diego that I’m not bitter about. It’s good coffee, too. And my friend, Harold and Dawn sent a bag home with my parents to give to me, just because they’re kind.

I like having friends who support my habit… and my sanity.

It’s like God knew that I would see having extra supplies of caffeine as having extra troops. There may be many a box to check off that list, but we are so stocked with java that we can take anything down.

And so, into the next half of the semester we go, coffee cups in hand and a prayer at the ready.

Spring plus muffins


Today I wore my yellow t-shirt with the giant record on it that says “Jon Foreman” on it. I’m not sure, but I think it might have been akin to waving a giant flag that says, “I’m an American, FYI.”

Maybe not. Either way, I’m okay with it.

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I swam through allergens on my way to school since spring is in such full blossom here. I can hardly believe it – April 2nd and I already have a teeny tiny bit of a tan. It’s like real spring, the kind we don’t usually get til May in Minnesota, and I’ve already had almost a month of it. The allergens make my eyes water and made the guy in the library sniff every two seconds (we put in ear plugs and headphones… and when that didn’t make it better, we moved), but the flowers are blooming and the grass is green. We can put up with the little annoyances.

Tomorrow holds my very first excursion outside of Graz for the semester. My friends and I are going to Hallstatt, a beautiful town west of Graz surrounded by mountains and on the shore of a beautiful lake. Weather.com promised sunshine and good temperatures, so we’re hopping on the train at 7:45 am (not counting the earlier tram ride to the train station) and heading out for the day.

I made muffins because my mom taught me well. When you’re leaving for a trip early in the morning, your first concern is where you will eat breakfast. Will you get up extra early to eat before you leave and risk being late? No. You’ll bake blueberry muffins the night before, accidentally melting the butter instead of softening it, adding lemon zest and juice, and ending up with 6 more than the recipe said it would make. All in all, they’re tasty, and you are happy to have something to offer your friends tomorrow.IMG_20140402_185503

These eggs are way better than at home. I’m telling you, the yolk is ORANGE.IMG_20140402_185528

Just a little zesting action.IMG_20140402_185743

Figured I’d be original since I bet no one’s ever taken a selfie with a bald lemon before.IMG_20140402_190616Ah, fresh blueberries – heidelbeeren in German. See, I’m learning!

 

Questions and flowers.


Sometimes the inter-webs disappoint me. I clicked “publish” a few minutes ago on a lovely post about waffeln and walking, and I got an error message.

Oh, WordPress, why do you do this to me? Why didn’t you save my lovely post? In it, I justified my excessive sugar intake for today with my many kilometers of walking and explained that I did so much walking because I’m afraid of wiping out on the tram tracks, in which my tires have a tendency to get caught. I have not had said wipe out yet, and I’m unwilling to have it.

As lovely as it was to write that post once, I’m not inclined to do it again. Let’s try something new.

The season of blooming is officially in Graz. Green keeps popping up everywhere, and I keep finding new bits in me. Do you ever look at yourself and see something totally new? Or do you ever see the same weeds you thought you already pulled cropping up again? Does the whiff of a flower that used to be familiar but hasn’t been around for a while ever come back around?

Then you have to step back and look at the whole garden all over again. Are there more weeds? Did that one invite friends? Where does this flower fit in the grand scheme of things? Do I need to move it to make my garden as beautiful as it can be? How did that even get here?

Do you ever have more questions than answers?

Green and blessing


Green has been calling me for quite some time. The emeralds and limes and olives, the natural hues and the natural hues woven into garments. My closet is turning green, and the world is turning green again.

Spring is a time to revel in the green that we’ve found again after such a long time apart. I sat on the chilly ground outside the main building on campus yesterday for as long as I had time. The ground isn’t thawed out yet, and it was hard and cold under me, but the sun poured warmth down onto my arms and face, so cold ground wasn’t a big deal.

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We all sat there, every one who had the time. No one seemed concerned with having grass stains or dirt on their behinds when they stood. No, they were content to sit and soak and lean against their backpack or tree or friend.

I felt pretty foreign as I sat there, hearing “Ja” and “Danke” and all the longer phrases to which those responded. But the sunshine was a unifier. We all sat or lay there as long as we could, waiting for class or dusk or a hand up or an invitation to dinner.

Then today I flew to campus on the rusty bike, feeling the wind on my face and that burn in my legs (I’m telling you, if I don’t come back to the US with the most toned legs I’ve ever had, then I will have no explanation for all this soreness). I felt like the most picturesque faux-European in my black peasant dress and long, dusty rose sweater. To be perfect, the picture only needs a basket on the front full of fresh flowers and a bell that actually works.

Completely here and completely wishing to have all that is familiar with the foreign. Amazing how you can want both. I suppose this is one of those times that people would say, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

Or in my case, “You can’t stay home and leave at the same time.”

So duh. So true.

Either way, no matter how much I miss my people and not having to ration my American peanut butter and speaking in English and my church, I’m so happy to be here. Yesterday, Jesus and I were walking home from class, and I felt like I needed to tell him that I was disappointed with something. I felt him reply, But look at this and this and this… I know that was disappointing, but what about that? Yeah? Didn’t I do good with that one? and that one? 

And I had to give Him credit and praise, because it’s wonderful, and I am so blessed.

Content with spring


Today was just beautiful. Oh, can I just say how happy I am to have escaped at least a couple months of Midwestern winter?

IMG_20140308_145311 IMG_20140308_145322My favorite street: Sporgasse, shining in the sunlight. Don’t let that guy’s down vest fool you; it was a gorgeous day. 57 degrees with nothing cumulus, cirrus, or stratus in sight.

Oh. That was my word today. I just kept saying it to myself. Oh. oh. Oh, happy day.

I had my windows open all day, letting sunlight and fresh, spring air float in. I keep saying that Austria is the best place to be homesick from, and today was a good example of that. I always miss my family, and I see things all the time that I wish I could share with all the people who aren’t here. But there’s sunshine and good food to try and sunny, cobblestone streets calling my name.

I went “downton” with the intent to find deodorant at Bipa (I know, about as exciting as it gets) and ended up finding great souvenirs, some for my family and friends, some for me. Gift giving is part of the way I love people best, so I almost felt like I was with the people I bought something for. I’m starting a shelf in my closet for souvenirs. I may have to leave half of my wardrobe here in order to take them home, but that’s okay. I work in retail. I can replace my clothes.

Also, in case you’re wondering, I did find that deodorant, too. No worries.

Spring is such a beautiful thing. We have beautiful days and don’t have to sigh that they’re going to leave soon. There’s the promise of more to come, even better ones. Emerson was so right in saying that nature reflects the human soul. It’s spring for us, too.

 

Cloudy and 55.


 

A photographer once told me that you get the best outdoor pictures on cloudy days.
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Now, I’m no photographer, and maybe she was wrong, but I got some pretty good ones out of this cloudy day.
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Something about the little hints of color in a world that’s trying to re-paint itself captivate me.DSCN5405And the freshness of green grass, not washed out or overshadowed by a bright ball of fire in the sky.

DSCN5380I don’t mind cloudy days, even though my mood prefers the sun. On cloudy days, beauty can be less obvious. No vitamin D, no warm skin, no glittering water. It’s a treasure hunt where you aren’t totally sure what the treasure will be.

Cloudy days ask for attentiveness. To see the beauty, you might have to look closer, widen your eyes.

Often, it’s the tiny details that strike a match in my mind: the wrinkles in the river like it’s crumpled up paper, a rejected story or letter weaving its way through the city. Or a tree version of peach fuzz, little bits of green moss on the bark. Or the way the trees curve up from the river to frame the path alongside it.

I’m turning 20 on Monday. The Weather Channel suggests 55 degrees and partly cloudy skies, which creates a nice metaphor where I am: headed into spring. Newness, freshness, sunshine, rain. Warmer air, brighter days, growth, color. 55 degrees and partly cloudy asks for a light jacket, only to protect from light breezes and raindrops, and sunglasses, to protect your sight from the brightness ahead.

Into light. Into life. Into my twenty-first year of life. Funny that we don’t get to claim the year in our age until we’ve already lived it. I’m on to earn another tally mark, another candle.

With partly cloudy skies and 55 degrees.

 

 

spring beauty


Some days are almost too beautiful for words.  Not that words aren’t beautiful or don’t convey beauty well, but they just don’t seem to suffice sometimes.

Like today.  Today the Windy City has more of a gentle breeze.  The sun barely hides behind the clouds at all, and you can feel its heat on your skin.  Our campus has come out of hibernation today, to play frisbee, soccer and to lay in the sun.  Then there are those poor orchestra kids who have to rehearse their oratorio… inside.

It’s beautiful all right.

So many things about today just scream beauty.  It’s yet another reminder of the creator of beauty, the one with the imagination and power that brings about days like these.

It kind of leaves me at a loss for words.  All I can say is, “so beautiful…”  again and again.

Ah, spring.  Thank you for being here today.

Four weeks.


I’d like to overdramatize my tax mailing process for a minute if I could.

I had carefully paper clipped all three of the form sets together, made sure that I’d only used staples where they allow you to, written the addresses on a sticky note for each separate place, and grabbed my stamps.  I carried them carefully down to the post office to mail them off, bought three 8.5” x 11” envelopes, labelled them, and carefully placed the stamps on the proper amounts.

Then I THREW THEM in the mail slot and NEVER LOOKED BACK!

Until next year, taxes.  Until next year.

One of the wisest things my mother has ever said to me is, “Don’t wish time away.”

That’s just about the most ridiculous thing to say to a college student nearing finals.  (Granted, she hasn’t said that this year, but I can hear it echoing in the back of my mind as I head down the home stretch of my freshman year.)

But it holds so true.  Where am I right now?  Right now, I’m sitting on my bed in my dorm room, listening to the afternoon traffic start outside my window on Foster Ave.  I’m eating strawberries and contemplating the homework that needs to be completed for tomorrow.  I have work tonight, and the weather is pretty warm.

I’m here.  Even though a significant portion of my brain would like to go to a place without stressors and hecticness, I’m here for four more weeks.  I’m here.

I’m here.

I’m here.

I’m content to be here, happy even.

I won’t wish the time away.  You can probably tell that I have to convince myself… maybe you have to do the same.

These four weeks are valuable; I don’t want to miss them.

 

Captivating rain.


There are few sensations that make me as giddy as sunshine on my shoulders.  Just like John Denver, it makes me happy. Sometimes I dance around a little or skip or just smile as widely as my cheeks will allow.

It seems as though winter has finally bid us all adieu.  Remember this post?  It’s the one where I tried to come up with ways that winter could be a good thing.  Though I’m sold most solidly on the idea that it only exists to make us more grateful for 50 degree and up weather, I suppose it could also be just so that we toughen up, become more resilient.

Regardless of why it came, it’s gone now.  Rainy April has come officially today and polka-dotted the sidewalks.

Rain makes me sentimental, along with the fading daylight of a beautiful Saturday.  There’s a feeling in the air when it rains that takes me back to Minnesota, to our three-season porch/one-season freezer.  I’m sitting in the papasan chair with a book while the rain pounds on the roof and the thunder crashes.

The rain is more audible in here, something about a thinner ceiling or more windows.  The cool air finds its way in somehow, even though the windows are shut.  The rain would provide a lovely background for a night of reading, but she isn’t satisfied to be anything but the center of my attention tonight.

So I sit with an open book limply in my hand, ingesting no words, simply being captivated by the rain.

Daisy, give yourself away.  Look up at the rain, a beautiful display of power and surrender.

(Daisy, Switchfoot)

Simultaneous power and surrender, something the world doesn’t seem to understand but displayed in the simplicity of the water cycle regularly.

Ah, the rain.