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Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Would the world be a better place if we added the words “I’m afraid that…” to many of our negative thoughts? As in, “I’m afraid that the vaccine is untested and will hurt me.” Or, “I’m afraid that my neighbor with the weird tattoo hates me because I’m different,” or “I’m afraid that Anders in accounting is undermining my promotion case,” or “I’m afraid that the people in charge don’t care about me.”

Adding those three words adds flexibility. It highlights worry but also makes room for the possibility that you may not be right about the danger. It isn’t fact, but possibility.

Anders may indeed have it out for you, but your neighbor probably doesn’t think about you at all.

I’m not unaware that there are real problems in the world, and many of them can be very personal. I was raised around a mix of people, some of whom were sweet hometown souls and some for whom intolerance was their bread and butter. It is true that some people are not good. And not all tattoos are harmless.

Still. This quote also rings true for me:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

― Yoda, Jedi Master

* * *

Growing up as I did, an adopted, mixed-race but not obviously so child in a mostly rural mostly white area, gave me a certain perspective onto the good and the not so much.

My brother looks Black, he got the brunt of the in-your-face not good. I don’t, as much, so I got to see what lay behind the masks. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always interesting.

What makes people tick? In my experience, the answer is often fear. We’re all scared of something.

Understanding that, about others and ourselves, can open a fascinating window into motivation, behavior, and connection.

* * *

Years ago, I went on vacation with a group. I didn’t necessarily agree with the politics of all present, but that’s fine. We were there for a good time, and most days, a good time was had.

The weather was warm but it rained on and off, and strong winds blew through even on the best afternoons. On snorkeling day, the boat that took us out was on the small side and the water was choppy with a chance of jellyfish.

The captain took us out into deeper water, pointing to a box of snorkels and masks as we slipped farther from shore. The woman next to me didn’t say much but when she spoke, her voice sounded thin and strained. 

The boat dropped anchor and most of the group immediately swam away. My seat-mate stayed near the ladder, tension visible in her short, choppy strokes and the way her breathing wasn’t quite level.

In that moment, our differences didn’t matter. The water was deep. Jellyfish swarmed nearby, and the boat cast an absurdly small shadow on a vast ocean. 

I reached out a hand and asked if she would swim with me. She laughed, half disbelief, half desperation. 

Then she reached back. 

* * *

It was years ago, but I remember that day every time I am tempted to fall into a knee-jerk reaction about someone. 

I’m half white, half Black, half American, half Canadian, half Star Wars, half Star Trek, half duck confit, half pork and sauerkraut. I’m Exhibit J for the argument that differences don’t have to mean disaster. 

I know that reaching out doesn’t always work. I’ve experienced the alternatives. (And thanks to the joys of social media and increasing polarization, it’s impossible to miss the bonfire of bad so often happening around us.) But I keep trying.

* * *

Like most people, I am best at remembering the foolish things I’ve done, the comments I wish I could take back, or the times I wish I’d done more.

But I also remember that moment in the water, when I was able to reach past our fears and help someone. I doubt she remembers, and that’s fine. In a fundamentally useful way, that moment humanized us both. We do not always see eye to eye, but we like each other far better than any algorithm says we should. 

I can still see the wide blue waters flowing around me, hear the slap of waves against the side of the boat. And feel the warmth of another’s hand looking for help and hope, and giving both back to me in return.

* * *

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

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Considering a weekend getaway? Check out travel posters for these new destinations, courtesy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Kepler Space Telescope.

NASA made travel posters for real exoplanets, and they’re superb
keplertravel

I love the WPA-style presentation and terrific design sense. Want high-resolution versions to call your own? Check out the linked images in the engadget article or go to the NASA PlanetQuest Exoplanet Travel Series and click away.

Kepler-16b, here I come! (Now, where did I put my spacesuit?)

… the ways by which men arrive at knowledge of the celestial things are hardly less wonderful than the nature of these things themselves.

— Johannes Kepler

 

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Dear Air New Zealand and Australia.com,

Please stop showing me perky web ads with weather maps of your fair region. I know that it is summer there when it is winter here, but you don’t have to rub my face in it. I know that my −24C is your +24C, but thinking about it makes me want to cry. I also know how lovely it is Down Under, how full of stunning vistas and sumptuous wines and delectable foodstuffs, and sigh as I peer over the wind-swept mounds of snow outside my window.

DownUnder

So please, please, Air New Zealand and Australia.com, stop rubbing it in. Have pity on a poor Northern Hemisphere-ite, and let me freeze in peace.

Yours in winter,

J.R. Johnson

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[written from The Bush, as they say]
Greetings from Northern Ontario, where I sit at a table in a cottage overlooking a broad grey lake. Most mornings the lake sits still and calm, its surface and the encircling hills a chalice in which to hold mist. Like so many others in this region, this lake is surrounded by birch and pine, underpinned by the heavy, flat bedrock of the Canadian Shield. A small grassy lawn surrounds the house, illuminated by daisies and orange hawkweed.

It’s beautiful here, in the stark, almost frantic way of northern climes in summer. The sky warms around five o’clock in the morning and doesn’t fade until almost ten at night. Local wildlife takes full advantage of the long days, and I try to do the same.

Speaking of local wildlife, in addition to the usual chipmunks, rabbits, hawks, etc. I have seen the following in northern Ontario:

  • tortoises (tortii?)
  • loons
  • beaver
  • elk (ok, just tracks, but still)
  • hummingbirds (brave little adventurers from the southern reaches of the continent)
  • wolves (including one gorgeous specimen with russet fur)
  • deer, a.k.a. walking wolf lunchies
  • moose, female or juvenile male, large (hey, it’s a moose)
  • mosquitoes (forget cicadas, these monsters should be the next major food group)
  • It’s raining now, providing me with the perfect reason to stay in and keep working. But even work is better in the woods!

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