Memorial Day Musings (stream of consciousness)

When I was younger, Memorial Day was often a gray-green, sleepy day—a little chilly. It was not a holiday we “celebrated,” at least not with cookouts or get-togethers. With some rhododendrons or other flowers from our garden, we’d drive up to the distant cemetery where my great-grandparents were buried under a range of shady trees. An easy place to get lost. I only remember my great-grandpa; I used to bring him toddler-drawn pictures when we visited him in the nursing home.

It was war—or rather, the jobs that came from WW2—which brought the family to the Seattle area originally, where the navy and airline industries boosted the economy before big tech. My grandpa was drafted into the Korean War. He was a conscientious objector who served as a medic in Europe. It was a case of God using a negative situation for good, because he’d often warmly recollect his times there and the people he met. It was the one big adventure of his life.

It seems odd that we (millennials, primarily) spend so much of our lives looking for the next thing, or trying to realize some self that can never manifest fully. Cynically we might say that people of times past, like my grandpa, just didn’t have many choices in life, driven in particular directions by the economy and social or family obligations. (To some extent, this is still the case.) But it might also be said that, for better or worse, they were always part of something bigger. He was always part of his church, part of his community. I wonder what that would look like today. Something selfless and servant-like, that transcends mere “culture wars”…

Everyone is legendary when they are gone. It is hard to show people appreciation when they are alive, and maybe we focus too much on their flaws. As the quote from Gatsby goes:

Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.

Even the shady criminal who states this to Nick knows that much.

As someone who views most wars as unjust, I see Memorial Day as a particularly bittersweet holiday. One wishes vainly some lessons might be learned so there would be fewer people to mourn in the future, so that these solemn observances might carry some more resonance and change of (national) heart. Wishful thinking.

I am not in the Seattle area anymore, at least not in persona… I recently moved to another place, which I prefer to keep private for now. It is a nicer place, objectively speaking—but home is home, you know? However, over the last several months, the concept of impermanence (most famously found in Buddhism but also very present in Christianity) has been a solace. To be comfortable with impermanence and “pilgrimage” feels like a step forward, spiritually. I’m not there yet, but I would like to be. It helps to lighten the weight of grief and mute worries about the future.

Reading… I finished Feng Shui Modern (2022) by Cliff Tan, a book on feng shui, interior design, and design psychology. It was a 5-star read, highly useful and enjoyable. I still have Pastor Gavin Ortlund’s book to finish (Why God Makes Sense in a World That Doesn’t, 2021) and finally have the mental space to do so. I’m also reading The Last Gift (2011) by Abdulrazak Gurnah, a story about an immigrant family in England, and rereading Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Memories is a whim of a reread… in a particularly bleak mood, I scanned my shelves the other day and settled on 1920s Soviet surrealism. But I am getting a lot more out of it this time, thanks to becoming a better reader via the Reading the World challenge which gets me out of my comfort zone often.

The first story in Memories (it is a collection of short stories) is called “Quadraturin.” It is about a man who lives in a cramped studio apartment. A door-to-door salesman brings him a potion which, if applied correctly, will expand his room beyond its meager, permitted confines. Intrigued, the protagonist sets to work, although with the growing anxiety that his landlady will find out. Alas, as with many fairytales, the solution to his problem becomes a double-edged sword…

A naive (obvious) interpretation would suggest that Quadraturin represents individual freedom pushing against the social structure. I am not sure, however, this was the author’s intention, given that events take a downward turn in and of themselves. I was struck by the idea that escape itself may, if untested, prove to be more deadly than the situation one is trying to escape from. Grasping at anything that comes your way is hardly a way out. It is like Humphrey in The Sea Wolf or Edward in The Island of Dr. Moreau… being adrift at sea might be preferable to being rescued by a pirate. Perhaps I am just projecting my own feelings upon the story, though. I highly recommend it either way.

This feels great. I want to write more often again…

My blog is no longer about classic literature mainly, but I will keep for now, since it has decent SEO and the trouble of changing it is hardly worthwhile. I still love classics, after all. I want to read East of Eden this year, if I can possibly find the time to start something so long.

My own writing has fallen by the wayside. I occasionally eek out a poem or two. I have a great, rambling novel in mind but am lacking the mental wherewithal to actually start it. It’s ok; if it’s good enough, it can wait.

Till next time…


  1. grllopez Avatar

    Glad you shared your thoughts. I love the idea of reading the world, which is what reading feels like generally bc reading permits you to experience other lives, places, and times. But I agree that escaping is not always positive or helpful. I don’t like to call my obsession of mentally traveling –> escapism. I think of it as walking in someone’s else’s shoes — a way to practice empathy.

    I think you’ll enjoy the writing style of E of E, once you get to it. There are a lot of biblical undertones to it, too.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Cyberkitten Avatar

    I did a quick survey (of my Blog reviews) recently and found that I’ve only read novels based in 26 countries (out of 194) over the last 10 years which is pretty bad! That’s not authors from those countries – just where the story is based. If I only went on foreign authors my list would be VERY low! I should add 3 more countries this year and will try to add 3 more (at least) each year going forward – I DO like goals I can exceed.

    My aim is also to read 6 classics this year. I’ve managed 2 so far (so am lagging a bit) but have a few more in the pipeline.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marian Avatar

      That’s understandable! Even on this reading project, my friend and I have been centered in Europe a lot, so we’re consciously trying to branch out with titles from South America and now Africa. A few countries are hard to find books for, but, as I like to joke, by the time we make it to those countries, maybe there will be a translation. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cyberkitten Avatar

        The VAST (actually very VAST if there *is* such a phrase!) majority of my fictional travels are in the UK or US with an additional *thin* scattering across the world. I should be adding South Africa, Cuba and Ukraine to the list this year. I am looking for authors (translated or not) outside the ‘West’ too so look forward to any reviews you produce to get me interested in a new ‘foreign’ author.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Marian Avatar

          Glancing over my “read” list, I would say An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie (of Togo) was extremely interesting, even riveting. Granted, it has some problematic content – even what I would consider to be abuse – but it is nonfiction and quite an eye-opener, as well as being overall a great adventure tale.

          I also really liked The Gate by Natsume Sōseki, although you kind of have to be in the mood for it (it is a “plotless,” day-in-the-life kind of novel).

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Cleo @ Classical Carousel Avatar
    Cleo @ Classical Carousel

    Aw, since we lived relatively close by (well, within driving-travelling distance) I hoped we’d meet one day. But it sounds like you’re not too far away. Perhaps one day ……. I do hope the change gives you life and that you have more time for reading and writing.

    I’ve been feeling unusually solitary lately. And I feel very sad about Mudpuddle who I think is no longer with us but in a better place. His dear soul was so gracious and funny that its absence has left a void.

    In any case, I’m still around and wanted to say hi! 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marian Avatar

      Hey Cleo! Yes, I still live in the Pacific Northwest. 🙂 I am going to try to get my passport renewed this year. Not sure yet if travel restrictions have been lifted, but I would love to visit BC again and meet you!

      Oh, I hope that’s not the case about Mudpuddle. 😦 I emailed him a while ago and he left a comment here, in April:
      Haven’t heard anything since…

      If you’d ever like to chat (email? Zoom call?) my email address is Moving has left me a little blue as well and I’ve been out of the loop on so many things. :/


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