The Sound of City Silence


Tonight, the weather was nice enough for me to open up my windows to take advantage of the evening breeze and air out my apartment. It’s one of my favorite things to do when the weather starts turning, opening windows; I get it from my mother, I think. It always seemed that as soon as the temperature touched around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so, the windows in our house would be open, even if only a few inches, to welcome the fresh air in. It didn’t matter if there was still snow on the ground outside; that first day of opening the windows after a long winter of keeping them shut brought in new life to our house.

(It also usually brought in the unique Montana scent of thaw—wet earth, mouldering hay, and the underlying aroma of cow manure. But that’s to be expected when you live on a farm; odd as it sounds, it’s a comforting scent now, because whenever I smell it, it’s another sign that I’m home.)

The luxury of having open windows was something I never fully appreciated until I moved to more humid places—Chicago, for a time, and now Washington, D.C. (which is much worse). In Montana, we almost always left our windows open all day; no air conditioning means we welcome any breeze we get, and the desert-like temperature shifts mean that even if the day was miserably hot, the night will be better and will cool off the air in the house. In D.C., there is no cooling off at night in the summer. Last year, we had several days where the low never dropped below 80 degrees. I don’t do well in humidity or in temperatures over 85, so you know I was miserable.

All of that is to say that when the weather is right, I take full advantage of the opportunity to open my windows and savor the breeze that comes in. So tonight, I did just that; I opened the window next to my sofa and sat down on the couch to write for awhile. Normally, my writing routine involves me listening to different genres of music, depending on the genre of what I’m writing. But after awhile, I decided to turn off the music and contemplate on the sounds I could hear from my window.

One of the things I love about having windows open in the summer in Montana is the sounds—specifically, the sprinklers. Living amidst fields, summer evenings often mean we can hear sprinklers running over the hay fields; it’s a steady sound, hard to describe in writing. The nearest I can come up with is a quiet shhtock-shhtock-shhtock, like a sort of clock. In any case, that sound combined with the smell of fresh-cut hay and the vibrant colors of a Montana sunset is, I’m convinced, a little glimpse of heaven. I’ve spent most of my life convinced that that the silence (or nearly silent, if sprinklers are running) found in country summer evenings will always beat evenings in the city.

After all, sounds floating in from open windows in this neighborhood in D.C. are very different.

Disclaimer here: I currently live in a quiet, residential, affluent neighborhood on Capitol Hill. This is the fourth placed I’ve lived in just over three years, so I have been around enough to know that not every neighborhood is like this neighborhood. Which is one of the reasons that, for all the things that stress me out about this kind of life, I do enjoy being in the city. But most neighborhoods are not going to sound like mine.

Back to the (not at all regularly scheduled) post: Some of the sounds I’ve heard are what you might expect. Bits of conversation from people walking by; traffic on the street; the breeze rustling the trees on the corner. I live on a fairly busy street just up the road from a fire station, so there’s also a fair share of sirens as various responders go by en route to the latest call. There’s also a couple of bus routes on that street, so I’ve heard the sound of doors opening and a pleasant-but-robotic voice announcing the bus’s route and final destination.

But sitting with my window open made me realize just how much I don’t pay attention to my city’s sounds sometimes. If I walk alone, I’m often wearing headphones; if I’m with others, I’m caught up in conversation or lost in thought, pondering something that was just said. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with any of that, but you miss out on a lot when you do.

So far tonight, I’ve heard:

  • Several joggers running by at a good pace; one was a man doing a half-gasp-half-hum of “Single Ladies” to keep pace.
  • Someone walking by and whistling merrily (that person turned out to be one of the students living in my building; he whistled all the way up to the third floor).
  • The sound of busses downshifting that I swear is the same sound they use for the transformation sound effects in the Transformers movies.
  • The strains of someone practicing their violin near an open window.
  • Church bells ringing in the distance.
  • Someone playing love ballads loudly on their car stereo.

And this is a “quiet” street. Having walked the streets of D.C. a few times in the early morning hours, I’m pretty sure this is actually as quiet as D.C. streets ever get. But more and more I realize that, even though I miss my quiet summer evenings at home in Montana something fierce, this is also a good kind of “silence.”

I’ve been in a fairly reminiscent mood lately, so perhaps that is why this experience is striking me so profoundly. But there’s something uniquely humbling when you realize how much life is going on outside your window without your knowing—and then realizing that, as Christians, we worship a Creator God who knows the entirety of every snippet of conversation we overhear; He knows the destination of every passenger on those busses and in those cars; He cares for every person those responders are going to see; He knows everything about every single person in this city and loves them regardless.

And it’s thoughts like that that make city “silence” so compelling, and not any better or worse than country silence; just different. In any case, it’s why I’ll open my windows, even to the sounds of traffic outside (that is, until the humidity kicks in again and I hide myself away forever from it).


Book Recap: A Grief Observed

(Pretend there was a long post before this one that was all philosophical and slightly apologetic and gave an overview of what happened in the long dormancy of this blog, and a new and excited commitment to blog about books I’m reading, things I’m watching, etc. Because I’m too lazy to write it down now, and also, most of y’all reading this are people who know me and know all about my life in the interim, anyway, and can see right through my crap. I just didn’t write. It happens. These are not the droids you’re looking for; move along.)

So at some point in late 2014/early 2015, I came to be the owner of the C.S. Lewis Signature Box Set, which contains six books: Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, and The Screwtape Letters. Shockingly (well, to everyone but me – I’m not actually as well-read as everyone would think), I had only read two of the books (and seen a performance of The Screwtape Letters), so it was the perfect set for me. I reread Mere Christianity first and loved it. Time to tackle the other five, I thought as I stuck the first book back into the box.

Then I didn’t read any of them.

This is a common problem for me – I buy books and then they sit on my shelf for months – sometimes years – before I actually read them. I don’t have the pressure of deadlines, I guess, so there’s nothing that forces me to check them out right away other than my own willpower, which is apparently easily distracted by other books I see on the shelves.

Anyway, fast-forward to this fall, when I joined an Inklings small group through NCC. This semester, we read The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed.

True confessions: I still need to finish reading the first one. October got crazy for me, and I missed about 6 weeks of the group. But when I got word we were shifting to the next book, I jumped right back in.

And boy, am I glad I did. Because it was really powerful reading a Lewis book that wasn’t… really Lewis.

Backstory: A Grief Observed was written in the aftermath of the death of Lewis’ wife, Joy (referred to as “H.” in the book). It was originally published under a pseudonym, and it dives down deep into Lewis’ raw emotions – a rare thing to see, since Lewis was notably not an emotional man.

So in many ways, this book is not your typical Lewis – it was written as a journal so there are literally lines where he writes something from a place of deep pain and then in the next paragraph writes (and I quote), “I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought. Let me try it over again.” (30) There are moments he expresses deep, deep doubt in God and his goodness (which is fascinating when juxtaposed against The Problem of Pain, which was written many years earlier when Lewis was notably not suffering from physical ailments or the loss of his wife). (Edit 12/11/2016: As my Uncle Dave has helpfully noted below in his comment, Lewis was not without suffering before the loss of his wife – he lost his mother at a young age, saw much death and was himself wounded in WWI, and had other family/friend troubles. So I suppose that is further evidence of the depth of his love and the power of his loss at his wife in this book!)  

But that very not-Lewis-like writing is what makes the ending of the book – when Lewis is still grieving but has moved into a different stage that isn’t quite so raw and new – even that much more remarkably and powerfully Lewisian. By that, I’m referring to the way that Lewis, using beautiful phrases and spot-on analogies, can just hit you over the head with a truth about faith that is so simple and yet so profound.

The main example I’m thinking of (though there are many) comes in Chapter 3, when Lewis is talking about the idea of God sending things to try us. He writes: “But of course one must take ‘sent to try us’ the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t.” (52)

Somehow, in my more-than-two-decades of faith, this idea had never really crossed my mind before. Which seems silly, in retrospect, because it would be given, if I truly believe God as omniscient and eternal. Yet I never really thought about the fact that me enduring trials and such was meant (at least in part) to show to me the quality of my commitment. I underlined that, put a bunch of stars by it, and then just sat and reread that line about six times the first time.

Similarly, this section in Chapter 4 was underlined and starred (and I bolded the section that was extra underlined in my book):

Am I, for instance, just sidling back to God because I know that if there’s any road to H., it runs through Him? But then of course I know perfectly well that He can’t be used as a road. If you’re approaching Him not as the goal but as a road, not as the end but as a means, you’re not really approaching Him at all. (68)

Just… oomph. Nothing like a slight shift of your lens to change everything about how you look at yourself and your faith.

There are so many other lines and moments in this tiny little book that struck me, but that would fill up pages and pages – we spent over an hour discussing each chapter in my book club, and that easily could have been extended.

I will say this, though: At one point last year, when I was deep in the midst of grief over the sudden death of my aunt, I saw this book sitting on my shelf and contemplated reading it. I’m glad I didn’t. Though I saw similarities in some of the reactions that Lewis had compared to my own reactions to grief, it is, as the introduction notes, “a” grief observed, and not certainly a prescription to anyone on what grief should look like. I think if I had read this at this time of the year last year, I might have regarded it as such, and that would have been false. But I suppose there is no really knowing for sure.

In any case, I certainly appreciated the chance to read it now (and especially to discuss it in a small group setting). I would highly recommend this book to anyone – short, powerful, and thought-provoking. Plus, it has what has to be one of my fave quotes of anything ever: “‘She is in God’s hands.’ That gains a new energy when I think of her as a sword.” (63)

To Build A Church

The lovely folks over at Rock & Sling have published an essay I wrote entitled “To Build a Church,” a reflection of my church experiences here in DC. An excerpt:

When you tear down your church every week, it makes you re-examine your view of your Church.

For more than twenty years, this, to me, was church: rows of wooden pews in a sanctuary with thin, worn cushions on the seats, never very comfortable; at the front, a wooden pulpit, often with a cross carved into it; behind the pulpit, a pastor, typically in a suit, sometimes with a tie, and always male; behind the pastor, an organ, with pipes soaring to a vaulted ceiling, belting out the four parts of a song from the Psalter Hymnal as the congregation followed the organist’s lead.

Lately, though, I find myself spending some Sunday mornings alongside other volunteers in building our church and then tearing it down again.

To clarify: I attend National Community Church, which meets in seven different movie theaters throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia (aka the DMV; this is the home of the government and all its acronyms, after all). For a few hours each week, we convert some theater lobbies and screens into places of worship, complete with spaces for Sunday school, nursery, prayer, and fellowship. Then, after the end of every service, the praise bands pack up their instruments, the various items used to build church go back into their storage containers, which are then wheeled into closets, and church is disassembled until the next week — usually in a bit of a rush, so that moviegoers can head in with their buckets of popcorn to catch a Sunday matinee.

You can read the rest here.

On Remembering

There are a lot of posts and articles today about 9/11, I’m sure, but given the fact that today is now often regarded as a day of remembrance, I want to add my two cents.

I was in middle school in 2001. I was also in Montana, about as far away from the East Coast as you could get. The sky was clear; it was a gorgeous morning. By the time I got to school that morning, the planes had all gone down; before the end of my first class, so had both towers.

We didn’t have TVs on in school that day; I don’t remember if our TVs even had access to outside channels at that point, or if they were merely for watching VHS tapes. In any case, I was aware that we were under attack, but I didn’t know what that meant until I got home and turned on the TV… and proceeded to watch the news footage replaying over and over again for hours.

I don’t remember much else about that day; I know I cried a lot. I think my mom got a little mad at me at one point; my brain remembers it as her getting mad at me because I had been watching TV for so long without having done my homework, but I’m not sure if that’s something that actually happened. All I really remember from that night are those images replaying over and over again; those, I think I’ll remember until my dying day.

When I was a senior in high school, our choir travelled to New York City to sing The Messiah at Carnegie Hall. Though that experience was powerful in and of itself (I will forever love The Messiah), one of the most powerful moments came when we visited the World Trade Center site. This was Thanksgiving 2006; at that point, the site was just a giant hole in the ground, with makeshift memorials outside the fences. Our choir sang an a capella rendition of Jeffrey L. Ames’ “In Remembrance” while we stood nearby. It still gives me shivers to think about it: the song is powerful, anyway (and has some other emotional memories tied to it from tragedies closer to home), and then, to be at a place of such grief… the day was crisp and the sky was clear blue; there were sirens as a cop car went by. It was a powerful moment; I know I wasn’t the only one crying.

Over the years, I’ve always marked this day, along with every other American, but now that I actually live in D.C., everything takes on a new meaning. A few weeks ago, I trekked down to the Pentagon memorial. It was another sobering moment to weave my way through that memorial as I thought about a part of 9/11 that wasn’t shown on TV as much but was no less tragic than what happened in New York. It was again a sunny day with a clear blue sky when I visited; this time, though, it was warm. I was sweating a little as I walked, as I had been walking for awhile. Again, I cried.

I’ve not yet been to the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania, though I expect I will one day. Perhaps the sky will be blue; perhaps not. I’m sure I’ll cry once more.

I’ve always been fascinated by what brings people together, and it seems there are few things as unifying as a tragedy, especially one on this scale. I was a small-town kid who made it through most of 9/11 without knowing what was happening, but it didn’t take me long to join in on the mourning process.

Today comes as I’ve started doing some reading for the new Old Testament Bible study I’ve recently joined, and coincidentally (or, more likely, through God’s unique sense of timing) I started reading Job today. I’m always struck by the end of chapter 2; for all of their faults (and really horrible advice), Job’s friends started out right:

When they saw [Job] from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:12-13)

Job’s friends weren’t there when he was losing his property, his health, or every single one of his children, but it didn’t take them long to join him in the mourning process. Sometimes, that’s all you can do, and that’s all that’s needed.

Though, whenever this day rolls around, I can’t also help but think of my friends and family members who have birthdays on this day (and there are several). Those are reasons to celebrate; there are always reasons to celebrate. Though the grief of 9/11 and other tragedies is strong and lingers on in some form forever, there is always the knowledge that life does continue on. For better or worse, life continues on. As Ames pens in his song:

My tears linger at night, but joy comes in the morning light.

Things that Made Me Happy Today

Between being sick and creating a bit of a situation for myself at work, it’s been a crazy few days. But tonight I was struck by a few things that really made me happy in spite of everything. One of my pastors has talked about doing a gratitude journal, and I figured today was as good of a day as any to at least make one blog entry about it.

So, in no particular order, things that made me happy today:

– Working at a place where we sing the Doxology after every staff meeting.
– Cool, lower humidity days.
– Good background music.
– The afternoon light reflecting through hundreds of bubbles blown by a man on an H Street corner.
– Cute new shoes.
– The smell of warm garlic bread.
– Realizing I have people who have my back, even with all my faults.
– Making people laugh.
– People who make me laugh.
– Moonlight breaking through patchy clouds.
– Texts from my mama.
– Oven-fresh brownies.
– Gathering at a house with random strangers from a variety of backgrounds who all share the common interest of studying the Old Testament for a few months.
– An autumn breeze in my hair after several hours spent inside.
– Medjool dates.
– A purring cat giving me an affectionate headbutt.
– A comfy bed.
– You. ❤

I hope you had some happy moments today, too. They're everywhere, even when you're not looking that hard.

Thoughts on Hair

I now have an entire social circle that has only known me with short hair.

This is admittedly an odd thought to have, but it’s been on my mind a lot over the last couple of weeks. It’s yet another sign that I have, in fact, moved to D.C. and that I’ve not been dreaming the last eight months (because there are definitely days when I wake up still half-convinced this will all have been a dream).

I’ve had my hair in a pixie cut of some kind for just over a year now, and I love it. Yes, I have to get a cut once a month or so, but I can style it with my fingers after I get out of the shower. That’s huge for someone who hated to even go through the effort to put up a ponytail.

But before I made the final cut, so to speak, I wavered back and forth on getting a pixie cut for years. What if my face wasn’t suited for such a short cut? Plus, I already knew from experience that the shorter my hair is, the curlier it gets without all that weight to hold it straight — what if having it so short made it absolutely unruly?

A selfie taken just a couple weeks before the Final Cut.

A selfie taken just a couple weeks before the Final Cut.

I still remember sitting in the chair when it was first cut short; half of my hair had already been cut when I had one of those moments of finger-curling, stomach-turning panic. What the hell was I thinking? I’m never going to be able to pull off this cut! My jawline isn’t defined enough, it’s gonna make my head and neck look like one gigantic blob, it’s going to shoot out in all directions like an anime character, what if I have a bald spot that was hidden before…

Eventually, I closed my eyes and listened as my hairstylist continued to reassure me that it was going to be a great cut (and also commented on just how much hair was piling up on the floor; even though my hair was only shoulder-length at that point, it’s thick, so there was a lot of it).

And I’ve never regretted my decision to cut it.

Taken on a Montana mountaintop in July 2014.

Taken on a Montana mountaintop in July 2014.

After I made the cut, I got a lot of comments from friends, family, and acquaintances about how great my hair looked, how well the cut suited me, and so on and so forth. They all sounded just as surprised and excited as I felt every time I looked in the mirror: I have short hair. And it looks good!

Fast-forward through a career change and location change to a few weeks ago. I was sitting with a few friends for dinner, generally having a good time, when the conversation shifted to driver’s license photos. My photo is from back when I was twenty, at a point in my hairstyle-timeline where I had a lot of layers in my hair; I would often use my straightener to flip out the ends. Needless to say, in my tiny photo, there’s a lot of hair.

One of my friends saw it and commented, “I just can’t imagine you with long hair!”

Now, she’s not the only one who’s said that to me since I’ve moved here, but it really struck me at the time. All of my friends and acquaintances here literally have never known me with longer hair.

And it’s strange, because I had always recognized at some level that my hair was a part of my identity — why else would I be freaking out so much about cutting it off, especially when it grows back? — but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized just how deep in my identity that ran. I am, in some sense, defined by the look of my hair.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s a part of my identity I embrace (especially because I know that people who know me recognize there’s more to me than a haircut). I had someone at Walmart the other day randomly comment on how great my hair looked. And, as everyone knows, it’s always nice to get genuine compliments on your appearance (not to be confused with catcalling, but that’s another post), so it’s nice to know that my haircut still works for me.

Though I have discovered that I do, upon occasion, indeed have anime-style hair.

Though I have discovered that I do, upon occasion, indeed have anime-style hair.

But, as I mentioned earlier, I think that moment was also a reaffirmation that I do, indeed, live in a completely new area of the country where almost no one here knew me before January. For a small-town Montana girl, that’s a pretty strange idea to wrap my head around. But I’m getting used to it, and I have to say, I really like it. (Even with its horribly humid days.)

I’m Waiting for a Jet Plane

What’s a girl to do when her second flight of the day has been delayed for more than an hour (after a day of nothing but travel delays, it seems)?

Blog about travel. What else?

(Fair warning, I’ve been up for far too long today dealing with various travel issues, so this may wander a bit. But it’s a travel post, so I suppose that’s appropriate.)

On my (mostly mental) bucket list, “Visit 6 Continents” is pretty much at the top. (I’d make it seven, but I’m not quite sure how I’d be able to get to Antarctica, so that’s listed as a “+100 XP” bonus.) So far, I’ve hit two: North America (natch) and Asia (thanks, college Thailand trip!).

Recently, though, I’ve been thinking that it might be better to make it a goal to visit a certain number of countries. Because quite frankly, even though I’ve been to two continents, I’ve only been to three countries and one U.S. territory: U.S. (again, natch), Thailand, South Korea, and Puerto Rico.

Yeah, that’s right; I’ve never been to Canada. For someone from Montana who went to school in Washington state, this is apparently kind of unusual. (As a Montana native, however, I still never visited Glacier National Park until I was in my 20s, so in that light, not going to Canada is probably less surprising. Though I’ve been to Yellowstone a couple dozen times now.)

But the point is, it’s one thing to step foot on every continent; it’s another to visit a wide swath of the countries on those continents. And really, that’s more what I’m interested in. I’d rather knock out a list of countries and fill up my passport and hit all the continents as a result of that list.

There’s more than just being stranded at an airport to account for this. Every now and again, I see this craft pop up on Pinterest where you essentially create a scratch-off map; once you visit a country, you scratch it off as a way to visualize how many places you’ve gone. Other takes on that idea include pasting pictures you took in those countries onto their respective places on the map.

Now, I’m not that crafty. So even if I visited every country in the world, I don’t think that would end up on my wall (though a collage of all the photos might). But I do really like that idea. And with our current travel technology, it seems like it should be easier than ever to achieve that goal.

But, as with most things in life, the financial cost comes into play — big time. So what are some tips and tricks y’all would offer to someone who’s wanting to go on an adventure at some point down the road?

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here at the Denver airport, eating some food from Panda Express (I told you it’s here, Marie!) and waiting for my flight that feels like it might never leave while watching people load up for a trip to Heathrow. (Incidentally, London is definitely on my to-visit list.)


So You Want to Buy a Book

When I was a freshman in college, I read Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler for my Modern World Lit class. Recently, I decided I wanted to reread it because even though I don’t remember a ton from the class discussion on it (I mostly remember being frustrated that it isn’t actually a novel in the “traditional” sense), I have this feeling that I will like it much more now than I did back then. So expect a recap soon.

The point of this post is the fact that I started reading it tonight on the metro ride home, and can now recall just why I liked the first chapter: It’s all about the struggles of being a reader (the fight to get your new book without buying the entire store! which position is the best position for reading? how do you keep yourself from getting distracted?), and I connect with it now just as much as I did back in 2007, if not more so. I’m reading it on my Kindle, not the print copy I used back then (though I do have that copy somewhere…), but after I read this chapter, I distinctly recalled writing “FINALLY SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS AND PUT IT INTO WORDS” in all caps (and most likely underlined) in the margins.

So I want to share a small excerpt — just a paragraph about the journey into a book store, but it’s enough to illustrate my point. Perhaps you, too, will want to read this book (or at least the post I’ll write when I’m done reading it). In the very least, those of you who are book lovers may find yourselves nodding along at this passage — that’s certainly the goal, anyway (and to share some beautiful prose, which is an equally excellent goal, IMO):

In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered*. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too.

*This is the point where I remember underlining and writing in the margins back in college, and I highlighted it once more in my Kindle.

On Updating My Driver’s License

I don’t want to update my driver’s license.

I’ve always been under the impression that one of the major indicators you’ve successfully moved to a new location and have planted roots is getting a new license. I’m sure there are laws about it, too, but to be quite frank, I haven’t really looked into the requirements for changing your license since I moved to the greater DC area for a handful of reasons:

  • I don’t have a car here, and my current license doesn’t expire until 2018, so it hasn’t felt like a pressing need.
  • I’m very likely going to be moving again to get a little closer to DC itself, so it seems pointless to get a Virginia license when I could very well be living in DC or Maryland before the next 12 months are up.
  • Who has time? The fact that I live in an area dubbed the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia, for those outside the alphabet soup that is DC) is as close to any DMV experience I want to deal with anytime soon; I wait long enough to get from place to place on the Metro during weekend track work. Spend time in an actual DMV? I don’t think so.

    At the DMV without an appointment.

  • The double takes I get when people check my ID at various places are hilarious.

That last point is part of the main reason why I don’t want to update my license: If I update my license, I’m no longer a Montanan. Legally, anyway.

Let’s be real, I’m a Montanan born and bred, and once a Montanan, always a Montanan. In all my years of interacting with U.S. citizens from various states, the only ones I’ve met who can give Montanans a run for their money when it comes to pride in their origins are Texans and Portlandians (though Coloradans are not far behind).

Photo by Morgan C. Feddes

And with a view like this, can you blame us? It’s hard to go wrong with mountains.

Most of me recognizes that changing my license doesn’t change me as a person. I suppose it’s a bit like bringing a wild animal to a zoo; you can say a tiger in a cage is a resident of that zoo, but it doesn’t change the fact that the tiger is really something that belongs in the wild. (I suppose the metaphor could also be extended to talk about how tigers adapt to zoos and can no longer survive in the wild and what does that mean for identity and origin, but, frankly, I don’t want to dwell on that at the moment. Maybe sometime down the road when the quarter-life crisis hits or something.)

I also recognize that for me to have the social opportunities and job options that I want, it’s not very practical for me to stay in Montana — it is, after all, a very small state, population-wise, especially give its land mass. Outside a few select career fields, there’s not a ton of room for advancement — or, as is my case, options for variety. And even though I’m not always a fan of the weather here, I do love living in the DC area and the opportunities it creates, and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon.

But still, there is something in me that absolutely rebels at the idea of changing my license. Part of it is the continuity; since 2010, I’ve lived in five different cities for various lengths of time, and I’ve always had my Montana license. It’s provided a constant source of conversation — usually starting with variations of, “I visited there once — it’s beautiful,” or “Manhattan, huh?” or my personal favorite: “I’ve never actually met anyone from Montana before.” To which I always respond, “Well, there’s really not that many of us.”

Which is true — we were just over the 1 million mark in 2012 (which I did not know, actually — I always went off the 2010 numbers, which had us at a little over 989,000, so that shows you how much it’s grown in a couple years), and I would imagine the number of people actually born in Montana would be smaller (though I have no way to verify that and could very easily be wrong, as I often am about these things).

So there’s always been something of a point of pride for me to show my license and say, “Yes, I am from Montana,” and be able to remark on how gorgeous my home state is, and that’s something I’ll lose when it finally comes time for me to no longer have my childhood address listed on my license.

And yes, I recognize that a significant factor in me not wanting to give up my license is to acknowledge that yes, I am an adult, and yes, I have moved away from my home and family; even though 98 percent of the time I’m very pleased with that fact, there are still those little moments where I think I’m still in college and that I’ll be returning to that old address eventually. (Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, that’s not happening again anytime soon. Well, other than the vacation I have planned for later this week. But you know what I mean.)

I suppose I’ll have to suck it up and do it sooner rather than later, especially as I would like to be able to do such things as vote and say, “Yes, that is my current address on there” when I’m showing it for various things.

But that means posing for a new picture. And as we all know, that is the worst part of getting a new license.

Just a Mountain Girl Living in a Humid World

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the things that’s always easy to talk about with completely random strangers is the weather — it’s not religion or politics, so it’s as safe and neutral of a discussion topic as you can find these days, and when the weather’s been as crazy as it’s been this year, everyone has something to say about it, for good or ill.

So, yes. I’m going to talk about the weather.

Let’s begin with a short story that is very sad on multiple levels: When I left my apartment this morning at 5:30 a.m., the RealFeel temperature was already pushing 81.

81. At 5:30 a.m. This does not work for me.

You see, prior to my arrival in Washington, D.C. this past January, I had been living up in the mountains of Montana (which is, in fact, a U.S. state and ought not to be confused with a Canadian province that it doesn’t even touch. Yes, people I’ve met have done this).

In fact, I have spent the majority of my life in the mountains of Montana. Let me tell you what these mountains of Montana have (including, but not limited to):

  • Plants.
  • Animals.
  • Fossils.
  • Skiers.
  • Snow.
  • Rocks.
  • Skiers who ski when there are more rocks than snow.
  • An assortment of other outdoor enthusiasts who hike, bike, backpack, trail blaze, camp in tents, and do other various activities straight from a Subaru commercial.
  • Streams, rivers, and lakes with a temperature just above that of the Arctic Sea, thanks to snow runoff.
Photo by Morgan C. Feddes

Also, we have dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaurs. With snow, even!

Let me tell you what these mountains do not have:

  • Humidity.

Okay, yes, there are plenty of other things these mountains of Montana do not have, but let’s be real: for a new transplant to D.C., the humidity is a biggy. Having survived multiple winters where the highs sometimes don’t get above -5 degrees Fahrenheit and more than one summer where there was a snowstorm in June, I’ve had to adapt to living in cold weather. This means enjoying bundling up, having lots of blankets on my bed even in the summer time (because lows can still drop down into the 40s and 50s, which is chilly when you’re in a basement room), and basically having every excuse to bust out the tank tops and shorts when the thermometer hits 65 degrees, and hiding away if it gets anywhere close to 90 degrees.

This? This means my blood does not translate to D.C. well.

This was not even the high for today. I am doomed when August rolls around.

This was not even the final high for today (7/2). I am doomed when August rolls around. (This is also what prompted this post.)

I suppose I should have prefaced this by saying that I love living in D.C. I love history; I love architecture; I love food; I love people-watching. D.C. is a great place for all of these.

What I do not love is breaking out into a sweat just for making the mistake of stepping out past the threshold of a building into the sunlight. This is compounded by the fact that I do not have a car, and thus have to commute an hour in the morning and another hour in the evening via my legs and the Metro (which does not always have the best A/C).  I’ve taken to packing along an extra change of clothes every day, and sometimes just waiting to shower until I get to work and then using facilities there because showering before my commute is an absolute waste of time.

And let’s not even get started on what it’s like to run in these temperatures; I’m dying at 7 in the morning, and I don’t understand how anyone can do it in the afternoon, but they do. Because they’re crazy.

The culprit behind these shenanigans. I thought about putting in a picture of a melted snowman but have decided to refrain from making “Frozen” references for as long as I possibly can.

The worst part is that it’s barely July; I’m told August is absolutely hellacious, and I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to survive. Most likely, one day I won’t show up for work, and when they go out looking for me, all they’ll find is a big puddle and an abandoned backpack full of clothes and my lunch somewhere near Capitol Street.

But in the very least, I won’t be sweating any more.