Everywhere & Here

I've moved!

The doctor has left the building.

Please find me at: Call Me Watson

Be my Sherlock, will ya?


To twenty fourteen, to twenty fifteen

So 2014 has ended, and 2015 begins, a year anew.

I’ve overheard several people already, yesterday and today, proclaim that they ‘don't care too much for New Year’s.” (Perhaps the New Years past have held too many overpriced parties, too many days of hungover regret?) 

I for one love the idea of celebrating the New Year: the chance to start again. 
Even if I may fail again.
(I might succeed). 

I get the same feeling every year when September rolls around; it's been years since I've been a schoolgirl, and yet I can't help that rush of clarity in the heart, the new breath that blows in with the chill of the fall. How many second chances does one get? 

And yet, every new year we live, we are given this set point in time in which we may press reset, and try again.

Sure, we could probably choose any point in time to wipe the slate clean. We all do it every day, in different ways. But there's nothing like a full year - all three hundred and sixty-five days, fifty two weeks, thirty-one and a half million seconds - to give us some perspective on time passed, and the time to begin. 

So Happy New Year: 

  • to resolutions not achieved, to resolutions that were; 
  • to new friendships made, to old friendships renewed; 
  • to running forth between the highest of highs, the lowest of lows; 
  • to shame now to be forgotten, to the joys to be treasured;
  • to the raptures, and to the despairs;

and to an astonishing and wondrous year ready to be lived.


Shorts: (Christmas) Tradition! Tradition!

For the next few months, things are going to be a bit mad. So to keep up my writing and this site, I'm going to do in blogging what Radiolab occasionally does in podcasts and affectionately call 'shorts'. No, not the abbreviated pants, but abbreviated posts.

So today, let's catalogue my family's odd Christmas traditions:

  • - a empty space where a tree should be 
    • More accurately, a bunch of boxes and a treadmill. My parents are constantly reshuffling the house, and I think they hate the to-do associated with setting up and taking down the tree. Christmas, unlike nature, apparently doesn't abhor a vacuum, but I do! - the sight of a pretty, lighted Christmas tree is sorely missed.
  • - poorly wrapped presents
    • My parents are the worst gift givers. As noted in a previous post, if they could just give me a plain, unvarnished stack of dollar bills they would. But they know that their daughter finds the idea of money gifts thoughtless and rather insulting, and so they try (I'm a spoiled only child, I know). 
    • But the idea of wrapping gifts in beautiful bows and carefully coordinated, pleated paper: that's completely beyond them. If something is stuffed in a paper grocery bag or still in its original shipping box, in their minds, that is gift-wrapping enough. So in the process of opening presents, I've had the pleasure of using box cutters and scissors to hack them open, the adventure of wading through pools of packing peanuts and endless bubble wrap to reveal the prizes inside. 
    • (Though, at one point in time, they somehow obtained a roll of Dragon Ball wrapping paper, and all my presents, birthday or holiday, for the next few years were surrounded by truly embarrassing reams of Gokus and Gohans. Embarrasing, but kind of sweet.)
  • - Chinese food
    • I'm slowly transitioning them to traditional dinners of some sort of roasted meat and side dishes - what can I say? I'm a twinkie. But inevitably, we will, over the course of the holiday, consume something harking back to our Asian heritage: stir-fries and lamb casserole at the local hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant where my parents know every waiters' name; an incongruent plate of steamed bok choy with oyster sauce placed next to the centerpiece of a tender, burnished prime rib roast; dim sum for Boxing Day breakfast. I used to hate it, but I've learned to compromise: this year, we're making dumplings for Boxing Day.
  • - movies on Christmas Day
    • Basically, we'd be Jewish, if we weren't Christian.
  • - watching a Doctor Who marathon in preparation for the Christmas special
    • Yeah, yeah, I know. I'm a nerd, and I'm one of those. It's a fairly new tradition, given that I just got sucked up into the Time Vortex that is Doctor Who, but now during some holiday in the year, I sit my parents on the couch and force them to watch the most recent season. In fact, last year during Thanksgiving, while I cooked, I made them watch a crash course of the best episodes from various seasons with various Doctors in an attempt to help them make some sense of the 50th anniversary special, which I made them watch with dessert. And then last Christmas, I proceeded to make them watch the Christmas special (also known as Matt Smith's last episode), where they have to put up with my teary eyes and stifled sobs as I mourned the loss of Chinboy. 
    • (I won over my dad, at least - my mom, not so much). 
  • - singing Christmas songs on Christmas Eve
    • When I was really young, my parents used to make me preach a little message on Christmas Eve; I made a truly fiery and compelling preacher, with my Precious Moments peach colored bible, my school-ruled paper and penciled notes, and high-pitched voice. Needless to say, we don't do that any more (Thank God), but every year on Christmas Eve, we will gather around the piano and sing through the liturgy of traditional Christmas hymns before opening presents. It's rather lovely, touching, and a true tradition for us in every sense of the word.

    • Throughout the rest of the holidays, though, you'll hear a strain of one holiday song or another drifting through the house. I can hear my mom singing "Winter Wonderland," as I type, except that she doesn't know any of the words besides "snowman," and is humming everything else in between. We define Christmas songs very loosely, so currently, besides the traditional and contemporary classics, our repertoire consists of:
      • - all the songs from Les Miserables ('In My Life' is a particular favorite of mine, with classic holiday lines like, "Every word that he says/is like a dagger in me.")
      • - all songs from Frozen, which my parents watched yesterday for the first time (my dad: "I really liked the music. I could understand every word they were saying without the subtitles.")
      • - the Canadian national anthem (you know, winter? cold?)
      • - the soundtrack from the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (truly underrated, fantastic instrumentals)
      • - this one, which I heard IRL for the first time this year as a cover by a Southern boy with a twang at a local Philadelphia bar, and heard about on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour in a great holiday episode (don't miss the epic rant about Heat Miser and Snow Miser)
      • - since we're watching Into The Woods on Christmas Day, I'm thinking that'll be added to the playlist next year as well...
      • - I'd like to submit this as a new holiday favorite, soon to be a classic. And this (yay The Killers!):

Do you have any crazy family traditions of your own?

Merry Christmas Eve, Happy last day of Chanukah, happy holidays, and may you have many more new and wacky traditions in the years to come!


In which I realize that, yes, I AM in my late twenties

I used to always be the youngest one. The Canadian education system sends children off on their pursuit of knowledge at the age of 4. I was also an October baby, putting me at the younger end of my kindergarten class. Then, I was a nerd and skipped a grade. When I finally started high school, I was eleven.  I’m not sure that I was ever aware how young I was, unencumbered in my early years by any self-consciousness in appearance or personality, but now that I think back on it, the difference must have been glaring: I was round and apple-cheeked, snub-nosed, four-eyed, bright-eyed, naïve - and as a pre-teen, considerably dwarfed in height as a freshman amongst my senior classmates. 

[It might also explain the relative lack of any romantic interest or attachment thrown my way during those formative years - well, that, and:
  • - my parents’ unyielding rules on dating
  • - my relative cluelessness and distractedness
  • - and my utter disregard for any fashion
  • might have played a major part in that as well. 

(I may have spent senior year living in loose black drawstring pants and a white tee affixed with an anime-style karate girl in pink on it, often bizarrely and hilariously accompanied by a fitted navy-and-black track jacket gilded across the front with the name of a university to which I wouldn’t be going.)

My high school unofficial uniform: a shirt like this, without words, and somehow worse source 
I'm not proud, okay?

It continued on into college, med school, residency. It was a little inconvenient to experience that delayed discomfiting teenage insecurity catching up with me at a stage of life when the reckless egoism and beauty of youth should be at its fullest bloom. But though age difference lessened in importance with each step in life - and though I never brought up my age unless directly asked - secretly, innately, I nevertheless took a very palpable delight in my relative youth. 

That's no longer true.

There are plenty of articles and online quizzes that can assess if you’re no longer of the culture-making, culture-breaking category know as 'the youth' (hint: you’ve probably operated a cassette, VCR, and slap bracelet once or twice in your lifetime).  
But truthfully, it’s real life, not looking at the numbers on a page or a driver’s license, that has forced me to reckon with on the truth: I am solidly in my late twenties. 

For instance:
  • - I am now one of the oldest persons amongst my group of friends (and when I found out three weeks ago, it was a bit of a shock).
  • - Incoming residents are now younger than me.
  • - It takes much longer to recover from early days at work, or late nights out.
  • - Occasionally, I don't get carded at alcohol stores and restaurants (and yes, I’m moderately offended every single time).
  • - Music from the early 2000s are not only considered pure vintage now by the young’uns, but now remembered not with eye rolls and snark, but with fondness and even enthusiasm (they are the foundation of my repertoire of most well-received karaoke songs). 
Oh, you KNOW you love when Nick Carter makes that epic key change. Speaking of which, wherefore art Nick Carter?
  • - I had no idea what ‘ratchet’ or ‘basic’ meant until it was uncool to use them, and I use ‘awesome’ and ‘props’ far too often to be cool.
  • - And, yes, I’ll even admit to three instances where I shaved a year, or two (and once, even three) off of my age simply because it didn’t seem right in the circumstance. 
  • (e.g., he’s tall, he’s English, and it’s not obvious that he’s twenty-one until he tells you mid-flirting; or, say, when you’re staying at a youth hostel because, even at 27, you’re still not being paid well enough to consider staying at an AirBNB, much less a hotel). 

Let me further offer up this theory (in the manner of the record of our time, Buzzfeed).

You know if you're in your late twenties if your behavior now consists of:

1) Being on time. At the James Vincent Mcmorrow concert that I teasingly referred to earlier this year, and promptly never discussed again, I was punctual for once - early even. It is most certainly a sign that you don’t have cool, fun young-people-things to distract you from getting to places on time. 

In fact, I was amongst the first 30 people to enter Union Transfer, and believe me, walking into a mostly empty hall for what is supposed to be an exciting concert is both daunting and anti-climactic. So, I resorted to the trick used by every early attendant at the awkward start of every party ever: I made a beeline for the bar. 

THAT, I think, is the true advantage of no longer being in the teens, my friend. 

(What is the saying? One gin and tonic in hand is worth being 2 [or 8] years over the age of 20? Yeah.)

2) Prioritizing comfort over being in the middle of the action. 

No mosh pit for me, no siree.  What they don’t tell you when you’re young is that yes, you could potentially push your way through 

to the front of the stage, in order see the sweat dripping off and spit spraying from the face of your favorite musician, and sway intimately in time to the rhythm of your favorite song deafeningly amplified through the speakers (by which I mean, being pushed around to the beat by the neighbors pressed up around you like a straitjacket).

Well, that would work. source
OR (and guys, this is such a beautiful ‘or’)

There are these sections, unbeknownst to me until earlier this year at the JVM concert, where only people over 21 can reside. (Did you know this before?!) 

Goodbye, smelly, tall, loud, selfie-taking youths. 
Hello, platform on the side of the room, extending right to the stage, raised and railed for protection from the unseemly hordes. 

I was basically effin’ Marie-Antoinette there, with unimpeded access to the stage of my kingdom, and a glass of champagne in one hand to prove it. (Just don’t let me lose my head) 

These exclusive places are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. At the Kills concert a week ago, at the fabulous Trocadero, it was instead a gorgeous balcony for the over twenty-ones only. 

Man, it was comfortable, all leather-cushioned, terraced platforms. There was a bathroom around the corner. There were no tall people constantly blocking my short self’s line of sight - a perfect view at every seat, because we old ones were all sitting down. It was wondrous, particularly for my feet.

And yes, there was a bar - but not simply a bar: a bar with a sign that proclaimed that - along with beers, liquors, and the usual poisons - White Castle was sold here.

It was like
Full M-A, Sofia Coppola style.  Oh sole mio, I will live on that balcony and eat White Castle and perfect my royal wave, and never go back to my peasant life again.

Full disclosure: I did go down to the mosh pit of a floor when the Kills performed, and it did really stink in comparison, in both the olfactory and visual sense.


And really, if you’re not dancing while listening to Jamie Hince cooly whaling on an electric guitar (and showing the world just how he snagged Kate Moss) and watching Alison Mosshart (my role model!) twirl on stage, alternately croon and snarl in the mic, and altogether magnetize the audience, all while rocking heels, you don’t have two ears and a heart, and you are probably dead.

3) Complaining about the youths. 

Have you ever talked with a parent or a grandparent that didn’t at some point in time start their sentence with, “When we were young, we would never have…” or “When I was your age”? No. It’s expected and automatically excused. Age basically gives you carte blanche to grumble at the world around you. If you’re young, and you complain, you’re treated as though you are simply ignorant, you know nothing of the world, you haven’t experienced enough of life to earn the right to complain. You will not be let off the hook. But when you’re old, the world is your oyster for the nagging: the weather, the temperature of the soup, the height of shoes and the length of skirts these days, the ungratefulness of children. Anything goes.

So it’s really not unexpected that while crowded all together on that wonderful side-platform at the JVM concert, a bunch of folks in their late twenties and early thirties would start to practice the art of lamenting the degeneration of ‘the youths these days’. 
I was particularly tickled pink (I’m really getting into this old-timey thing) to hear a girl behind me say to her boyfriend, “I can’t believe they are wearing shorts and crop tops in this weather. And that girl’s skirt is so short.  Aren’t they cold? They should at least be wearing tights.” This was upon seeing an impromptu fashion shoot consisting of a bunch of high school girls in rather weather-incongruent clothing, attempting to take non-blurry selfies and blinding the room with their constantly strobing flash. 

This is absolutely something my mother would say. And my grandmother. 

And you know what? They're all correct. 

(Also, there’s something to be said about everyone turning into their mothers…yeesh.)

In conclusion: your concert-going behavior reflects your age-related behavior in life. 

But really, becoming older isn't as bad as I thought. If the worse thing that happens is that your feet won’t hurt because you didn’t spend the entire concert on your feet, but instead, responsibly sat on your rear and had a great view from in the old-people section, then so be it.

 If you start thinking about your future, and dutifully exercising and watching what you spend instead of thoughtlessly eating whatever you want and throwing around money on a good time, then good on ya. 

If you’re out dancing at Silk City, but you go home at midnight like your transportation will turn back into squash and mice, in order to be well-rested the next day, well, power to you (even if the DJ was great and even if I did want to dance a little more - well, you know who you are. But thanks for being responsible anyway, and dragging me with you.) 

Better yet, as someone who has always considered herself an old soul, I now have an excuse to act like a old soul - curl up with a knitted afghan on my couch, complain that Philadelphia is too cold/too warm depending on the season, watch Downton Abbey instead of going out, listen to Nina wailing the blues on my record player, eat pudding, drink hot cocoa - because now I AM an old soul. BUAHAH.

Liz Lemon, my soul animal via
So props to that. Here’s to the late twenties, and God willing, a great year ahead.

Happy things // [heard around town]

Good Wednesday!

This is one of those composite, short posts, one of those mind dumps of pleasant things to jot down in virtual memory -- a compost if you will. [cue the groans]

Like one of those benign, only mildly creepy individuals who like to retire from the forefront of the world, and simply watch the world from behind the heavy velvet curtain - a group often known as writers, of which I'd like to someday be a part - I like to people-watch, and even more so, to people-listen.

Not in a creepy, sit-so-close-that-I'm-right-on-top-of-you, purposely snooping way, of course. And not like eavesdropping, with its negative connotations. Mostly, it's about filtering the ambient noises coming from my neighbors in coffee shops and public places, and maybe turning down the music on my ever-present headphones. (In my opinion, if you're talking so loudly that everyone can hear you, it's basically public property)

Occasionally, it's disturbing. Often, it's TMI. Occasionally, it yields wonderful little ditties like this, heard while waiting in line at the register at an store.

You know those kids on the street corner, the ones carrying shoeboxes of candy bars and fruit snacks, with a plastic jar for donations for their basketball teams stuffed beside? You know, the ones you sneak by guiltily, because you

  • 1) don't have cash, 
  • 2) really don't need to have any chocolate or excess sugar lying around
  • 3) their adorable, accusing eyes just weigh on your soul?


Or those bent little ladies, pushing their granny carts down the clattering metal boxes known as the MTA subways, wrinkled paper signs proclaiming "$2" in thick black Sharpie, taped to rumpled cardboard pallets of what must be Costco-style bulk chocolates, or worse, slightly off-putting self-packaged (?) Twizzlers or soft candies or nuts in opaque sandwich bags?

They should have learned a lesson from this woman, who according this cashier girl, apparently wandered into Philadelphia clothing store in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, hawking her sugary goods.  Maybe not the best place or time to try to sell her goods.

But her business plan?

"Chocolate baa-aars, I'm selling cho-co-late ba-aars!" (just imagine this in a rich, brassy gospel voice, fabulous vocal runs included.)

"We were totally mocking her the whole day," says the cashier girl, while plonking away at the keys of her register, "like, 'Fold those clo-othes, Jess-i-ca pu-leeease!'"

"Yeah," says the teen customer with wildly grown-out crimson streaks in her hair, but who, despite her youth and misguided hair, speaks for us all, "but did you buy anything? Because that's hilarious - I would!"

"I would have!" replies the shopgirl, "But she was asking for two dollars for a chocolate bar, and why would I do that? The Rite Aid down the street sells them for a dollar." 

(Common sense and fiscal responsibility: nice to hear from the mouths of the babes of America, and from salespeople at that.)

But that doesn't deter this spunky street treat-seller.

"Yeah, they might cheaper, but," says this sharp, shark-eyed vendor of snacks, "will they twerk for you?"

Yeah, kind of obsessed with this song via
No -- no they won't.  Someone put this woman on The Apprentice already!

Moral of the story: If you want to make a sale, always offer a little something extra on the side-- particularly if it's a dance move. (It's worth at least a dollar more!)

Other things making me happy this week [watch out for random links below!]:

a. This wonderful, lovely interview with David Mitchell, the British author whose elegiac and widely differing books should be on everyone's reading list, by Kathryn Schulz, whose every article should be on everyone's reading list, too. (She finds ties in his books with Madeleine L'Engle's Chronos & Kairos series - an amazing observation!)

b. This gorgeous short film with Roberto Bolle & Polina Semionova (give it a chance even if you're not a fan of ballet - this could change your mind. I'll twerk for you if you watch!)

c. This hilarious interview of our favorite, curiously work-unimpeded OB-GYN Mindy Kaling, by it-girl/observer of our generation Lena Dunham, and these golden quotes:

  • Dunham: “I love seeing women stand up for things they believe in, teach their daughters how to do the same, prepare meals out of whatever they have in their fridges, wear helmets when they ride their bikes, call BS when they see it, and accept that feminism comes in a lotta different forms.”

  • Kaling: “I love women who are bosses and who don’t constantly worry about what their employees think of them. I love women who don’t ask, ‘Is that OK?’ after everything they say. I love when women are courageous in the face of unthinkable circumstances, like my mother when she was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Or like Gabrielle Giffords writing editorials for the New York Times about the cowardice of Congress regarding gun laws and using phrases like ‘mark my words’ like she is Clint Eastwood. How many women say stuff like that? I love mothers who teach their children that listening is often better than talking. I love obedient daughters who absorb everything — being perceptive can be more important than being expressive."

d. This cover of "All About That Bass" - the original song offends me musically and lyrically, a little bit, but the existence of this fabulous cover by the fabulously husky voiced Emily Davis covers a multitude of the original song's sins, and makes it so much better.

e. A little good news in troubling times: so glad to see something being done - finally - about the Ebola outbreak, and so proud that someone I know is involved in this cause!

à bientôt, mes chéris! /c

Motivation: Seasonal, Internal, and Lack Thereof, or What I Did This Summer

It’s been an unusually full and fulfilling summer, and it shows in the utter absence of entries in this blog. 

Have you found that the more intriguing or engaging your external life is, the more other things and people act upon you, the less time you have for your internal life (ruminating, reflecting, daydreaming)? I’ve recently noticed this pattern in my own life.

Always good advice. via

In the winter, confined by lack of sunlight and utter inertia to the four corners of my room, I live almost entirely in my head (and under the covers in my bed). There’s no one and no where for external distraction or filtering, so all random thoughts, snarky complaints, and sarcasms rapidly build up until it finds release in the only readily available space: the limitless pixelated expanse of my computer screen.

Winter is my time for hibernation, daydreaming, and voracious reading under mounds of warm blankets. It’s also when, in a less romantic and much less admirable fashion, my bandwidth usage increases exponentially, because either Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime is on almost every waking minute in an effort to improve upon dreariness of everyday life by either:
  • 1) sheer fantasy 
    • -A hospital in which male OBGYNs outnumber females, and are somehow all incredibly attractive! 
    • -A world where cute-meets at a photo booth in a Parisian metro station is possible, and stealing someone's personal property and making him go through a city-wide scavenger hunt to get it back comes across as charming, ends up well, and is not extremely creepy/dangerous!

Pretty sure this only works when 1) you're Audrey Tautou, and 2) in movies. via
  • OR
  • 2) by comparison 
    • -A pre-plumbing world where all your favorite characters get killed off with excessive gore and violence! 
    • -A turn-of-the-20th century hospital where suction and surgical gloves have yet to be invented, and every surgeon is racist, addicted to cocaine, maniacally egotistical, or all of the above! (well, that last part - still potentially true).

Egotistical, but funny. via
Scrubbing isn't what it used to be. via

This can still potentially happen these days... via

Entrails, on the nails. No glove, but surgical love. via

Likewise, in the winter of my discontent, a.k.a. When Life is Positively Sucking, I’ve also found myself unable to rouse for anything but wallowing in a cesspool of pictures of perfectly arranged baked goods, inspirational quotes, and perfect lives; descriptions of vacations in far-away places; and ink on pages depicting imaginary heroines, fictional worlds, endless reiterations of Mr Darcy - basically living in vitro in novels, glossy magazines, and that infinite and delusional rabbit hole known as Tumblr/Pinterest/blogs/the Internet as a whole.


But then! - arrives the spring, summer, and fall, when the world comes out to play, and the sun is bright, and every other open green space in the city holds some sort of beer garden, or free movie night, or DJ Deejay dance party, or former celebrity now in a poorly named band - ah! Life!

This is not a time for moody and quiet contemplations, typing of snarky comments on websites, or sedate flipping through pages of books. This is a time for gleeful frolicking, outdoor city exploring, spastic white-girl dancing without care to mind-numbingly STUPID summer hits incessantly stuck in your head. 

A really good summer song! Some really bad dancing... via

All thoughts simply dissipate from the brain - partly from overwhelming heat and dehydration, partly from delight - and creative inspiration is but a dream you won’t be having because you've stayed out until 4 am. 

But the earth turns, time is a flat circle, and winter is coming. And so, as days become shorter, and all thought processes, serious motivation, sarcastic observations, music obsessing, online trawling, and new episodes of TV shows once again return, so follows the explosive mental overflow known as my blog posts, for better or for worse.  

In other words, welcome back!


Post-Canadian Reflections

When I first started this blog, it was meant to be a remembrance of days past, since time seemed to seep all those childhood memories away. It kind of veered off into a tangent - life in the present and World Cup will do that to you - but the city and its heat wave has been so downright repressive I've been forced to retreat into my memories. Hence, memories of childhood springs in Winnipeg, below.  I hope you enjoy my random thoughts and highly bipolar styles of writing displayed in this blog.

The first thing I remember are fields.  Field after field after field, grassy expanses separated by lonely cement roads at distant and irregular intervals. Nothing disturbed the horizon, not really. The patches of trees, the lone barns and isolated islands of communities were swallowed up by the immense scale of the scene: ground stretched flat, flat, from east to west, as far as the eye could strain, the sky filling the space above, so uniform that it seemed to reach above infinitely. On the prairie, all houses become little.

If there were ever a place that truly and regularly contained four seasons, Winnipeg would be it. The essence - the extremes - of all four seasons, in one locale. In the summer, long waves of grass and growing green things beating in the wing; in the fall, golden sheafs shorn irregularly to the ground, charcoal columns of smoke billowing into the sky; in the winter, a tableau in shades of white, sky and air and ground alike, all filled densely with snow.

And spring.

The flower of Manitoba - a province named for the lakes and straits of the Great Spirit of the Algonquians - is the crocus. A phonetically harsh name for a such a delicate flower - petals arranged in an elongated cup, tapered on both ends, with a petite stem, often lilac, with a bright saffron center - but perhaps appropriate; it’s one of the first flowers to push its way up out of the frost in rocky and wild landscapes. It was always a great surprise to see life sticking out from tiny indents of melted snow, at a time when feet were still stuck in heavy insulated boots and thick nylon pants that crunched with every bend of the limbs - they were always in the most obscure and random of places. Maybe they were a providential reward for surviving yet another humanity-challenging winter, a heavenly placeholder for the life that would begin anew. 

But whatever their meaning in the universe, for me, the sight of them is always associated with hope. Last summer, I saw tiny plastic pots of delicate crocuses at the Union Square farmer’s market, swaying lightly in the exhausting, humidity-laden wind; and my heart lightened instantly at the sight of those white and purple bobbing heads. As usual: in the most random of places, and never where you would think. Hope for life, in the deadening climax of either winter or summer.

(But it was a little sad, too; crocuses, like animals, should stay wild and free, roaming the soil of fallow fields, the rocky grounds - not a clod of sorry sod in a flimsy plastic carton.)

With the presence of fields and melting snow came the soil and mud. Everywhere. Black, loamy stuff - fresh earth, nothing like the stink of mulch that lines the base of city trees and flowerbeds in parks. Some of it, dried out by the wan but strengthening sun, could be lifted in clumps and crumbled into fine particles between the fingers, deconstructed, back to the ground: black peat, old thin roots, tiny stones. Some of it, made watery by the constant spring rains, ran between and over the slabs of the sidewalks, or were held in stasis in puddles deep as the shaft of our rubber boots. Inevitably, after every shower, the rain washed out - not the 'incy wincy spiders' of childhood rhyme - but legions of squirming pink earthworms.

They were moist and round, finely segmented and pink - and oh, so very long. Some of those prairie earthworms - I’ve never seen anything like it since. Tens of centimeters at a time, stretched out over the cement. Definitely the type that would make the perfect bait for the fat walleyes, whitefish, and pikes that dwelled in our rivers’ muddy waters.

I’d hop over them as best as I could, jumping from one empty expanse of pavement to another. There wasn’t much space. Everywhere were piles of flattened pink carcasses of the damned, little mushy mass graves of those tragic Annelida whom tiny children’s feet could not entirely avoid - or sadistically chose not to avoid. I, for one, tried my best to jump over them, but not entirely for their sake: mostly for the inevitable residue that would cling to the grooves of the soles, and the squelch that I imagined hearing each time my shoes accidentally fell on an unfortunate creature.

When the sun dried out all the rain, they would struggle across vast expanses of pavement onto which they’d been washed out, back to the cool comforts of the prairie earth. It was a race against time. I would watch in utter, appalled fascination as they inched their way blindly back to the scent of moist soil, silently goading them onward with the sheer force of my own will - if not for their sakes, for the sake of an unobstructed and unsoiled walk. If I had been braver, or less disgusted, I would have scooped them up, helped them back to the earth. 

As it was, some made it; others did not. For at least a week afterwards, their dried carcasses would be laid out, almost unrecognizable in death, so drained of moisture and color and life, lining the roads like a Roman warning to all who dared to leave their proper place in the fields: your lives shall be forfeit. 

Out of a reluctant and revolted respect, I avoided stepping on those, too. 

A week later they were gone, either washed off by more rain, eaten by birds, or disintegrated to dust by light and wind back to the earth.

“In like a lion, out like a lamb. In like a lamb, out like a lion.”

The phrase that would ring out, insistent and recurrent as a tolling bell, as March and April rolled around. In school, we made masks out of paper plates, bits of construction paper, and lengths of elastic string as weather predictions of the coming spring. Mine was a lion, of course: holes cut out for the eyes, rounded triangle nose, red marker mouth, brown and yellow paper triangles stuck along the rim for an unruly mane. Even at the age, the seeds of cynicism had already planted, perhaps; or the deeply instinctive impression that bad news should come first, and the good, after. 

Or perhaps, in sympathizing with the feline species, I was merely taping into my true nature as a child of the year of the tiger. 

In any case, I was most often right: spring on the prairies almost always blows across the plains with untamed ferocity, windy and watery and wild. As it should. 

“April showers bring May flowers.” 

And the rain was indeed abundant, as if the heavens had been upturned and emptied out; and irregular, always unexpected. If there is anything that the denizens of the heart of the country learn better than anyone else, it is forbearance of the unforeseen, and the patience to wait in hope: from inside frost-etched windows, for winter to thaw; through waves of heat and fronds of green, for the harvest to come; from under the eaves, peering upwards for a break in the clouds, for the rain to stop. 

But it was beautiful, that rain: clean and cold and good. It’s not what I’ve found rain in the cities to be: lukewarm mop water wrung from a cruel blank sky, fruitlessly attempting to wash off centuries of compressed layers of silt and grease and sweat of the city’s bones, pooling dark and stale and unlovely at the base of concrete buildings and branches of streets. 

Rain in the country feels natural: unhindered by the cold bulk of buildings and high-rises, untainted by the industrial grime of cities, making its melody through the clatter of branches and rustle of leaves, tapping brightly on the rocky and sodden ground. Often you can see, above the low-hanging clouds, a hint of the sun above. In no other place but the Interior Plains would these clouds be, rather than a harbinger of gloom, a reminder of life: the skies open, beautifully, and then the prairies respond in turn, with plains bursting into green and fields blooming into colors seemingly overnight.

Those are the things I hold dear in my heart these days, when I’m held at bay in a city bus shelter by the heavy sheets of coal-grey rain and the sloppily man-made waves of dirty pooling water. Those are the things I recall in my bones, when the eastern summer air, oppressively thick with humidity and heat, resists the movement of limbs and breath. Those are the things that remind me that, in spite of it all, I was formed from that hardy provincial spirit: resilient, hopeful, and capable of being reborn.

I may be shaped by the city around me these days, but I will always have that prairie child’s heart. 

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