The Sun Also Rises (in California, at least)

Anyone who says time travel is impossible has just never flown from East to West.

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So I’m back in California! Getting on a plane on a very very dark Danish morning, and getting off that plane to 25˚C (78˚F) blistering sunshine and characteristic Riverside smog, definitely felt like legitimate teleportation. It is very strange to be back.

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Contemplative bro

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Every year on Dec 24-25, Buttons magically becomes elf-dog

One of the first things I did when back in CA was to climb as many hills and mountains and things as possible. There hasn’t been a single cloudy day since I got back!

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Sycamore Canyon in Riverside

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Morning walks. So good to see a sunrise again

From the top of Box Springs with Nick and Gaby

From the top of Box Springs with Nick and Gaby

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“Hiking” up to the Hollywood sign with the cousins

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There are lots of feels that come along with packing up and moving across ocean and continent, leaving so many things and people behind and not knowing if or when you’ll ever see them again. But, the literal “bright” side is that I’m coming home to such a beautiful place!


Times They Are a-Changin’

I’m leaving Denmark on Monday, and my physical life is now in boxes. It’s a weird middle ground—neither here nor there, a transition. I have to choose what to take and what to leave behind. Of course there are some things that I can’t help but take — like memories and experiences and the way I’ve permanently changed because of this wonderful place with its wonderful people. But each of these internal mementos can also map to the material. The age of digital pictures has made it easy to take around some of life’s reminders on a laptop, but what about all the things that are only physically tangible, things you just cannot take? There’s my guitar. It was cheap but it got me through long days, and I’ve become a better musician because of it. But I have to sell it. There’s this random Danish lotion I got from the supermarket. I wore it all summer, and if the Copenhagen sunshine ever had a distinctive smell, it’s of that lotion. But I don’t have room to pack it. Then there are permanent fixtures about Denmark itself that I of course can’t bring — Kaffenhavn, my favorite coffee shop; the park near Christianshavn, the clean air, the 150S bus. Perhaps I’m anthropomorphizing too much, but I’ve ascribed personal importance to everyday things, and I’m going to miss all of it.

But, I know this will happen countless times in life. We simply can’t hold on to everything.

Change is a constant presence. I’ve had to come to terms with this in the last five months. I guess this is what scares me about any future prospects of living outside of safe little Southern California for extended periods of time — I’m leaving a piece of myself in every place I go, and what if I just become Voldemort with a bunch of horcruxes scattered throughout the world (except Voldemort was an idiot and only hid his in Great Britain… greatest dark wizard ever YEAH RIGHT). And this prospect of wandering is simultaneously frightening and exhilarating.

But I guess that’s one of the fascinating philosophical aspects about studying planets and the universe (you knew I would make this post about space, didn’t you). The world is carved up with geographical and cultural divides, but every human being shares the same last line on their addresses: Earth. It sounds damn cheesy, but it’s comforting to know that we all, in a sense, have the same home. So no matter where I go, I guess I’m always at home. 🙂

A photo of Earth from Voyager I in 1990, 6 billion km away

“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” — Carl Sagan

Thoughts on Home

I’m really big on associations. I associate certain music, weather, food, and feelings with specific time periods, or locations, or events. And I guess for some reason right now, everything is reminding me of California.

I don’t intend for this post to be self-indulgent, or complaining. But when I need catharsis, I write. So here’s the way I honestly feel right now, thinking about California while sitting on my bed in Denmark.

I miss the intense September heat that makes you sit in your car for a few extra minutes, reluctant to leave the luxury of air-conditioning. As much as I think the Danish clouds are fascinating (both for reasons of atmospheric dynamics and of creative inspiration), there’s that born-and-raised part of me that loves the blistering sunshine of this time of year, when everyone is starting school again and cross-country practices are pushed to the evening because running in 104 degrees is just a bad idea.

In my gmail inbox this morning was an email from Starbucks heralding the advent of the glorified *~PuMpKiN sPiCe LaTtE~* season: what was once a nice treat in October, marking the beginning of autumn, has now expanded its sticky cinnamony reaches to span September through December. I guess my feelings about it are influenced by the fact that Southern California doesn’t experience “autumn” until like, early November when you maaaybe should start thinking about wearing a sweater, so I just think it’s hilarious. The latte itself is definitely overly-sweet and a little nauseating if you get anything larger than a Tall (12 oz, for you who do not speak Starbucks), especially because when you open the lid you notice how unhealthily orange-colored it is. BUT, I drink them every year. It’s just a tradition; you just do it. It’s like taking a shot of Gammel Dansk on your birthday. You just do it because you always have and you always will. (okay fine, that’s a terrible philosophy for doing anything, but the aliens from Slaughterhouse Five said so! And trust me, with the PSL, you drink first and ask questions later.) So, all of that goes to say that I miss ridiculous SoCal traditions. And on the note of coffee, I miss the Riverside Starbucks and Pasadena Peet’s where the baristas know my name.

Like I mentioned earlier, I create really strong associations between music and nouns (people / places / things). This is a little inconvenient, because no matter what I throw on on iTunes, it manages to give me a bit of nostalgia. And I love nostalgia, but it’s not so helpful when I’m trying to work or write and every five seconds I’m interrupted by my brain going, “Oh hey! This song is from that one time when _____! Wasn’t that great?” And I’m like, “No, brain, BE HERE NOW” (which just so happens to be an As Tall As Lions song… great.) So listening to Brand New makes me remember the road trip to San Francisco with Mike, and listening to Ratatat or anything instrumental makes me remember working at The Planetary Society and doing research in Cahill with the Exolab. Listening to Rocky Votolato and The Shins reminds me of Ruddock House and ski trip, and listening to Look Mexico reminds me of running in high school. The list could go on forever.

There is honestly so much more that I could say, but I don’t know if I want to write my first novel on WordPress. Of course, don’t get me wrong—I am incredibly lucky to be having adventures in Denmark. I love it here. Plus, a lot of this homesickness is definitely fueled by the fact that classes haven’t started yet and I’ve been twiddling my thumbs a bit. I am sure that once I have projects to work on and problems to solve, I’ll be more focused on being here in this wonderful country. But I’ll always be a Californian first. 🙂