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I am a fucking child of snow.

I flew into Detroit the day before Christmas eve and saw the blanket of white covering our bit of Earth. Veins of streets that had already been plowed and salted and driven over fearlessly. Strong winter people.

I had a window seat and as we landed I watched the world tilt and wrote poems in my head about the lines and the white and the snowy trees; “Thin but sturdy mother fuckers who hold their weight in frost every year.”

No wonder we are better at living our lives than those sunny Californians. Not living through seasons seems like the equivalent of being an only child.

I would like to tell him to stop listening to the songs I sent him. I would like to tell him to forget me. I would like to pretend none of it ever happened. Cover it with snow and let it melt away in the sun a few weeks from now.

I am a strong person. And weak. I am a snow-covered tree.

Seasons are reliable. Unreliable weather is reliable. My memory is bad. My sight is getting worse. I am old and still have no idea where I’m going and it’s getting harder to see.

I love you but it is cold and California is far away.

In our hectic, ever-changing, let-me-check-my-calendar lives, it’s easy to forget what’s around us. Literally around us. Like, the tree next to your driveway, or the elementary school in your neighborhood, or the cat across the street that always watches you when you go to check your mail. And it’s no surprise that we do this. Everyday things don’t matter so much when they’re always there, and you’re always running around them trying to get those calendar tasks completed — swerving your car to miss hitting the cat, stopping for those pesky elementary school busses, etc. Slowing down is not usually in our schedules. But today, it was in mine.

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Today I went somewhere in my city that I’ve never been before. You could call it exploration, and maybe it was, but this was different. As part of a community design workshop, I was told to go observe. To sit, quietly, and listen, and watch. To look at a place of my own choosing and think deeply about it. To really look at it. To examine my surroundings.

I was at a local park, one that is mostly abandoned and overgrown. The spot I chose was close to a former golf course, near the club house. I sat down near the building on a cement staircase, put away my cell phone, and took out a scrap of paper. I listened. I heard, first, the sound the branches of a nearby tree made in the wind. I heard birds chirping, and cars passing by on a nearby road. I looked at the shadows the trees made, and compared those to the shadows made by the handrails of the staircase.

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DSCN3541I watched the journey of an ant across the step I was sitting on, and drew an ant on my scrap of paper. I looked at the boarded up building and thought about how I, sitting on this staircase built into the side of a hill, was looking at a small example of humanity. I could hear the buzz from one of the still-functioning security lights on the building, and when I walked over for a closer look, the sound from the light drowned out everything else.

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I then made my way to the golf course itself, tramping through long tangled grass and pits of dandelions. Observing was different while moving, I found, but wandering through such a strange place and really looking at it still made quite an impact.

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I also remember looking at the trees — how they had been, many years before, placed with golfers in mind. Today, they stand awkwardly apart; the maples and the cherry trees natural decorations of the past.

The last thing I spotted before heading back to the workshop group was a sign, placed far out into the wild, overgrown, dandelion plantation. Plodding out past the decorative trees, I came to the sign for hole 2. The painted map, faded and peeling from the weather, showed what the space use to look like.

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Stumbling over more dandelions, I made my way out of the golf course, past the buzzing security light, and up the cement stairs. Only it wasn’t just an overgrown golf course anymore. It wasn’t just another park. It was different. I understood it a little bit better than I had before. I had given 30 minutes to this place and had taken away a greater understanding of not only that ant on the step, or that annoying light, but also about interaction with space in general, and how people tend to move through their lives without really looking.

Waking up in Vegas…

Did that Katy Perry song pop into your head just then? It was in mine at the time as I woke up, as they say, in Vegas.

Without the glitter.

Las Vegas is an interesting place. Or, more like, it’s an interesting strip of road. That’s most of it – a least, that’s where most people hang out. (Downtown Vegas is just as cool and interesting, in my opinion, but not as popular.)

So, let’s be honest – Vegas is a strip of road. With really fancy, expensive, glitzy hotels. And lots of people. All sorts.

“Vegas is the perfect location to host your mid-life crisis” – Me, via Twitter

Did I just quote myself? Anyway.

After the whole waking up in Vegas thing, I checked out of my hotel (the Tropicana!) and then stayed at my hotel.

Why? Why, you ask? Because outside of my hotel was 110 degrees (F) and Nicole and I were not about to set back into that at 11 in the morning. Some things you have to slowly ease in to.

Like a pool.

Like the hotel’s pool! Did you like that transition?

When in the middle of the desert, one searches for water. Luckily, the Tropicana has a rather large amount of water that they allow their guests to swim in.

Unfortunately for me, I had just become a non-guest of the hotel minutes before attempting to swim in their guest-only pool.

This caused a problem when I tried to get a couple of towels – from the people working in what can only be called the “towel tent”.

Me: Could I have two towels?

Girl: Sure. *hands me two towels*

Me: Thank you!

Girl: Sure. Do you happen to have your room key on you?

Me: Umm… no….

Girl: Could you go get it?

Me: Umm… I don’t have one…

Girl: Are you staying with someone who has one?

Me: Umm… no…

Girl: Are you staying at the hotel?

Me: Umm.. well, we stayed last night, and we wanted to check out the pool…

Girl: Oh, so you’re already checked out?

Me: *assuming police were going to jump out of the nearby bushes and arrest me* Mmhmm…

Girl: Oh, ok. That’s fine.

Me: ok. ….. bye.

Ok, maybe it’s hard to show the tenseness that was happening in that conversation. Awkward silences are hard to capture in text form. Just picture a situation you’ve been in where you got caught doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing and were confronted and you attempted to tell the truth without telling truth…. simple, really!

After swimming and using the towels (illegally), I lounged on a pool-side lounge chair and read some dirk gently’s holistic detective agency by my dear friend Douglas Adams. As good as that book is and was, I discovered that I am very bad at lounging.

I just wanted to do something! It was so frustrating just sitting there, because I knew that I had to sit there (because we had something like 5 hours until we could head to the airport), and because I wanted to go do something (even though it really was impossible to go do something else, because – uh, it was hot! – so walking around outside was a no-no. And what else is there to do in Vegas? Gamble?! Nah.)

I’m an explorer. I don’t sit! It was outrageous! But, I sat. And, I read. And, I kept checking the time.

Finally, finally, finally, enough time passed so that we could go do our next planned activity – froyo!

froooooyooooo.

I love me some frozen yogurt. I really do. And self-serve is where it’s at! None of that girl-behind-the-counter-makes-it-for-you crap!

Strawberries, kiwis, mochi, little bit of oreo crumbles, and some gummy bears on top! Mmmm…

Anyway, enough of that. (Even though after I had finished my cup I wanted more! It was good, ok? Don’t judge!)

We managed to spend about an hour nom-ing on our deserts… and then we still had hours and hours to wait.

(Note to self and others: late-night flights kind of suck! And if you’re in Las Vegas in July with nothing to do…  you may as well book another night at a cheap hotel and stay inside and watch TV in air-conditioned comfort until it’s time to go to the airport! Ah, the lessons you learn.)

So, I will ask the question once more: “What does one do with hours to go until their flight home?”

You, with a knowing look in your eye, “Go to the movies!”

Me: “That’s right!!”

Yes, I went to the movies. Again. For the second day in a row. Whatever.

We saw Brave, which was actually really good (I love her hair!), although I wrote a better ending to the movie in my head. Tell me if you think it’s better than the actual. (And if you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to skip to the next paragraph! I’ll meet back up with you there.) Ok – so, you know that giant bear that everyone and their father wanted to kill? Ok. And you know how the girl’s mother wanted her to get married to one of the sons from the different Kingdoms? Ok. And you know how that witchy lady said that that bear was actually a guy that had wanted to escape from his life or something? Ok. Umm, hello, Pixar! Do I need to spell it out for you? My ending wouldn’t even have violence! What kind of Pixar movie kills off someone/something?! Here’s how you do it properly: Have Brave (is that the girl’s name? I forget.) get the witchy lady to turn the biggo bear back into that super-attractive guy that we all know he must have been! And then: ta-da! Brave has got her a husband, and the bear is gone (with no squishing), and they all live happily ever after! You’re welcome, Pixar. Feel free to contact me for any plot assistance in the future. Love, Jenni.

After the movie ended, we once again found ourselves in the oven-like heat that was Las Vegas. No, not again! We then ran back to our hotel that wasn’t actually our hotel anymore. Home sweet home! Nicole tried her luck at a blackjack table, which was pretty cool to watch. We even had the dealer teach us how to play – because neither of us had any idea how to play blackjack. Then Nicole lost $5. Then we left our hotel (so long!) for the very, very last time.

It was time, finally, to go home.

Home.

Before that, we had to take back our car. (No, we did not put that scratch there! Thank you very much, mr. rental car guy!) I snapped a picture of our silver Ford Taurus baby as we walked away from it and towards the shuttle bus that would take us to the airport. Fun Fact: Our trip mileage counter read 1,500. 1,500 miles! In a week and one day. What a week it was.

At the airport, I almost got through security without them stopping/patting/arresting me. But when they called “Who’s bag is this?” while pointing to my little red luggage, I claimed it quickly and without surprise. Now what? Apparently their machine only took a picture of half of it, so they had to run the bag through again. Or something. I just nodded and clutched my shoes while many of the people who had been in line behind me streamed past. Then I grabbed my luggage and (trying to be very non-suspicious)  strolled along to my gate.

Home.

Before that, we had to fly to Phoenix. Again, the flight seemed to take only a few minutes. Well, apart from the very nice (talkative) lady who wanted to tell us all about her 7-month stay in Hawaii, and how she had already been on a plane for 5 hours that day, and how it was going to take her another 4 hours to get home, and how a gallon of milk costs way too much in Hawaii, and etc.

Here I’d like to mention how much I love flying. Every part of it. Even, and especially, the people.

Then, home. After an hour layover, we boarded our flight to Detroit, MI. Home. It was 11:15PM as we found our seats and settled in on the plane. It was 6:20AM as we got off the plane and found ourselves, finally, unfortunately, thankfully, wonderfully, terribly: home.

After one week and one day, we had returned. To the land of trees, it seemed to me. Trees and lots of green. Michigan. After a week and one day of exploration. After the first trip west.

Californiacation.

I don’t know how to sum up my trip; If I should, or if it’s even possible. When people ask me about it, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to explain.

I went. I saw.

You should too.

what are we doing? seriously, have you taken a moment recently to look around? look at what we’ve done. look at all the things we’ve built. look at all the animals we’ve made extinct, all the animals we’ve brought back from extinction by taking some old DNA and putting it into a goat. look at all the people we’ve killed. look at all the people we’ve buried in tightly-sealed boxes. look at all the people who want to be buried in tightly-sealed boxes. look at us, pretending we’ll never die, and, at the same time, pretending to live. pretending to live here. what are we doing? why are we doing this? do we even have a four-year plan? where are we going? where are we headed? the future seems vague and never-ending. it seems infinite. it seems like we’ll always be here, building, tearing down, killing, loving, searching, putting dead people in boxes so they can hide from the worms.

So…

Where did all that come from, you might ask? Are you a little bit afraid of me now? Is it not normal to carry on lengthy conversations about burial procedures?
I’ll answer that first question, and we’ll avoid the other two. Ok? Ok.

Today, at my wonderful University (that takes all of my money), … well, ok, I don’t know. These things just come up. If you’re a college student (or ever have been), I’m sure you’ll understand. Getting off-topic is my favorite, because you get to talking about things that people actually want to talk about. (Ok, I’ll admit some of my fellow classmates looked a bit faint-y during the 15 minutes we discussed coffins, cremations, etc… but, still.) Getting off-topic gets to the guts of the conversation. You get to the topics that everyone desperately wants to talk about with each other. You get to the reasons why people want to go to college in the first place (at least, that’s how it seems to me). Connection, right? Understanding. To learn more than you ever could in high school: Not just FACTS, but, KNOWLEDGE.

Once, I heard tell (from somewhere) about these cemetery-type things in Sweden. I heard that they just sort of take you (you, being dead, and all), bundle you up a bit (think: shroud/cloth of Ancient Greece), and plop you in a hole in the ground (Have I made this seem properly romantic?). But, here’s the best part yet (which I’m sort of foggy on): They either plant a tree on top of (you) your burial spot, or they place (not plop! what horrible word usage on my behalf…) you next to a tree, sort of like an additional fertilizer. (Ahh, so romantic! I love it! Yeah?)

Or, if you’d prefer, there’s always the nice option of the tightly-sealed coffin. Personally, I don’t get it. I’d really love for someone (pro-coffin) to explain this to my poor, confused, brain.

Also, here’s another point to argue my point (another point being that I’m not quite sure what point I’m trying to make, here). Actually, I think this fits rather nicely into this flow of consciousness because I learned this at college, too! (See, Mom??!)

I’m pretty sure it was in Sociology class, b.t.w., so there’s that. It must have been one of those off-topic conversations… (And, if you know me, or you’ve just read this far [hi!], you know I love those!)

“Conservation of Energy” Ok, I don’t really remember exactly what that is (It’s been like five semesters since that class, ok?), but I’m pretty sure it’s something like: “There’s a certain amount of energy in the Universe, and the form that the energy takes can change, but the amount of energy in the Universe always stays the same.” (Don’t quote me in any important research papers. Or, do!)

So, your body (look down at it. Do you see it?) has a whole lot of energy in it. No, not that slice of pizza you had for dinner (or, not only that…. pepperoni, was it?), but the total amount of energy that you consist of. (Not your aura, either. This is not that kind of blog.) Like, your cells and everything. Your hair. (You have hair, right? Probably? If not, feel free to use any of the following: your nose, your left big toe, both elbows, your right hip bone…)

You are a mass of energy! Look at you! You can do anything! (Oh, wait, we’re not doing inspirational this time.)

Even after you die (slash pass away, drift off, etc.), you are energy. You’re part of the total amount of energy in the Universe! (whoops. Too inspirational-y? I can’t stop!)

Finally, we get to my point! If we bury people (and their energy) away in the ground, seal ’em up tight, what happens? There must be a huge amount of something just buried away in the ground – sealed up. Hell, maybe that’s what’s causing global warming! (I can have my own theory, right? Also, was that a pun?)

It just seems wrong to me.

Newsflash: You are going to die some day! (In one way or another; whatever you’re beliefs are…. yatta yatta)

Are we somehow less dead if the worms can’t get to us? If the energy from our bodies can stay locked up in some cement box?

Here, let’s go full circle. Follow me, now:

What are we doing? 

That’s a broad question, right? Yeah, I know. It may be one of those questions we go to college to try and answer. Maybe we can’t answer it. Maybe we won’t ever know. Maybe we will!

In any case, shouldn’t we strive for the things that we do to be logical?

If not, Why are we even doing the things that we do?