Dune Grasses


Droplets splat against the windowpanes and our bare heads as we hurried to pack the rest of the vehicle. Nearly every material thing I owned was jammed in this crevice or that: from an old pair of sneakers, a faded teal sweatshirt, and plastic tubs of books and papers ad infinitum; to Chinese scrolls and souvenirs from trips abroad, a Nutcracker figurine, iron dancers, and a cherished crocheted blanket, it was quickly becoming clear that I was only an aspiring minimalist, and not one in real life.

Thoughts of ultralight backpacks and regret swirled through my mind. I could have decluttered more, should have tossed the crumpled napkins and mountain range of post-its, would have donated the bags–so many bags!–… but ultimately, didn’t. Better to let go and move on to this new stage in my life, than to dwell in the past.

I jumped in the passenger side door, scanning the horizon–the storm was approaching from the south–just as the skies opened up. Release. How appropriate! Nature and I were finally in sync again. There was something cathartic about the rain, its steady rhythm, its fluid movement, its awesome, natural power.

Torrential rains poured down on and off for the next few hours. We drove and drove, and talked and drove, and then–uncannily–the process repeated itself at our final destination: unpacking, rushing to carry box after box inside as more storm clouds welled up outside, and a barrage of tears arriving only after the SUV had been emptied of its contents.

Why was I remembering this now, eight months later? A faint pumpkin scent wafted through the air. I had forgotten about the candles.

To be continued…

The Clouds Are My Friends


Feeling carefully with my sneaker, I take another step up. Dizzying swirls of green mock me from below, but I stand resolute in my insistence not to make eye contact. Just keep going, a voice in my head directs. But whatever you do, do not look down. Looking down is not an option, absolutely non-negotiable. I stare straight ahead, eyes glued to the horizon. I am feel-climbing each stair one by one, one hand gripping the cable, one clenching the iron handrail, focused on above and beyond, and not left, right, or below. It feels like a trance. Just do it, no thinking.

I reach the sixty foot high, wooden platform faster than anticipated. And immediately burst into waterfalls of tears. This was a bad idea. My body starts shaking uncontrollably. The ascent was unnerving, for sure- but this, this physical response is unexpected. Jeff and Dev seem caught off guard with my outburst. Well, this is the real me, I think: I am slightly afraid of heights. Slightly. I will not deny it or make any more excuses. Lord knows I spent half of the holiday break thinking up excuses not to go, and the other half with positive self-talk, imagining that I would be in ‘discovery mode’ and a Lara Croft ninja-warrior superhero for a day. Now, I am staring in only one direction, mainly because I am not convinced my neck knows how to turn anymore. “The clouds are my friends.” This is my new mantra. So much for Lara Croft.

My lips continue to quiver, hands trembling, legs shaking. And my eyes, my eyes won’t stop filling with tears. Erika patiently deals with the death-grip I have on her hand. She is breathing intentionally, trying to slow down my breaths, bring me calm. The mantra is not helping, but I repeat it silently anyway: “The clouds are my friends.” They are white and puffy, punctuating gaps of deep blue. My gaze shifts slightly to a lake in the distance, rays of sun glinting off the smooth, glassy-like surface. The water brings me a sense of peace, quieting my soul.

“Your turn now.” Oh, God. His words command I do something about the fact that my feet are currently glued to the platform, held in place by a strong magnetic force. I am not certain they will move on their own. Somehow, they do, and I find myself clenching a new hand–that of the instructor’s. He is calm and patient and supportive, and has a comforting, teddy-bear type quality about him. He will not let me go until I am ready. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” he says. Words I have repeated my entire life to others–and just now realized I am not sure I believe them in action. I refuse to look down, and focus instead on the goal: the next platform. I can do this. Maybe.

I let go and am flying, really flying. A gentle breeze pushes me along as the forest below zips by, no longer mocking. I am free from its taunts. The clouds are my friends. The forest is my friend. The world is my friend–and suddenly, a tiny bit less scary.

Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately. I went to the woods to conquer my fears–and fly above them.


Music- Foreign Alphabets


Have you ever wondered what music in other languages sounds like? Have you ever been stumped by how to Google search in a language you don’t speak or look up something in an alphabet you don’t know?

When I lived in China, I heard songs everywhere–out in public, on car radios, during fountain water shows, and at my host family’s home. The lyrics were completely inaccessible, and yet touched something deep within my soul: I quickly fell in love with the music. I desperately wanted to use the internet to find these songs, but not knowing more than a handful of Chinese characters, I had no idea where to begin. One day, I stumbled onto the name of a Taiwanese pop singer, Leehom Wang–whose songs I recognized–and the YT search algorithm did the rest.

Over the years, I’ve learned plenty of hacks to search in languages I don’t speak, but as it was a long process and steep learning curve, I thought I would save you the trouble and compile some of my research here. You might not love my song choices (primarily pop genre), but the suggestions on the sidebar will be in your target language, which is a great head start, particularly when you are dealing with foreign alphabets. If you speak another language and have any favorite songs to share, feel free to comment below. Enjoy!

RESOURCES: Sounds European, Radio.Garden, LingYourLanguage, LanguageSquad. For music only in Spanish, see HERE.


  1. MANDARIN CHINESE
  2. RUSSIAN
    • Despacito Cover, Клава Кока, Russian
    • Девочка, Irina BilykRussian
  3. ICELANDIC
  4. FRENCH
    • Dadju – Reine, Roi Cween, French
    • Mon paradis secret, Vitaa, French
    • Le Sens de la Vie, TAL, French
    • A nos actes manqués, M. Pokora, French
    • La vie en rose, Edith Piaf/Luciana, French
  5. SPANISH
    • Flamenco, Zapatos de baile, Spanish
    • Hoy es domingo, Diego TorresSpanish
    • Todo mi amor eres tú, MJ, Spanish
  6. JAPANESE
    • きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ – PONPONPON, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Japanese
    • 浜崎あゆみ, Ayumi Hamasaki, Japanese
  7. KOREAN
    • 네모난 바퀴, Boa KwonKorean
    • BTS (방탄소년단) ‘DNA’, Korean
  8. ITALIAN
    • HAUSER and Señorita – Vivo per lei, Italian
  9. EUSKARA, CATALAN, & GALICIAN
    • Aldapan gora, Huntza Band, Euskara
    • ‘Go!azen’: ‘Euskararen Txantxangorria’renEuskara
  10. QUECHUA
  11. EVEN MORE!
    • Šeduikytė- NebijokJurga, Lithuanian
    • Tu to Na AaiHindi
    • Kesäyö, Laura SippolaFinnish
    • A Nossa Vez, CalemaPortuguese
    • Miremengjes, Alban Skenderaj, Albanian
    • Langt igjen å gå (ft. Lex Press), Innertier, Norwegian
    • คนตอบบ่อยู่ – เอิ้นขวัญ วรัญญา, Thai
    • Paskong Pinoy (Christmas), Tagalog
    • Hala Al TurkArabic
  12. ENGLISH- COVERS
春雨裡洗過的太陽- Mandarin
Golazen- Euskara
Þú hefur dáleitt migIcelandic
A Nossa Vez- Portuguese
A nos actes manqués- French
蔡依林- Mandarin
Almost Is Never Enough- English

Hibernation


A thick fog hangs like Spanish moss in the air. The air is cool; blurry palms stand quietly in the distance. Winter. Hibernation. Emerging from the cave–my cave–I squint as the first rays of dawn light up the horizon. How long have I been asleep? What did I dream?

We hibernate for myriad reasons. Sometimes this hiding away is a natural state: our energy slows with the seasons as we slide into a deeply restful period, refreshing and rejuvenating body and soul. Other times, we use hibernation as a means for safety or self-preservation, a sort of escapism, where–mandated or not–we become recluses to the world, avoiding and turning off a part of lives until we feel strong enough to reawaken, until we can face whatever it is we were running away from.

“Hibernation: a dormant state in which no food is taken; here, there is no need to nourish ourselves; we are already full and recognize the necessity to take time to digest thoughts, feelings, our past, present, and potential future. As animals–only occasionally rational, I would argue–hibernation is healthy; but rising from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix, remains imperative, a vital, compulsory, requisite aspect of living. So rest and recuperate, and hide away from the world- just don’t forget to come back! We return to the same place, but it is suddenly brand new, brilliantly alive and sparkling like the ocean waves on a hot summer’s day.

I stretch, and memories frozen in a past long ago begin to melt, ice sculptures suddenly visible, now vanishing: Platonic Forms. Bears are both powerful, herculean creatures and cuddly soft, a beautiful tension and delicate balance. Good morning, world.

“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot

Sparking the Imagination

LET ME BEGIN with a general (but sincere) apology for not sending out thank-you notes yet to acknowledge your incredible generosity throughout the holiday season. Below please find a detailed list of excuses for the time lapse, along with a multi-step, absurdly elaborated enumeration of thought processes of fantastical concoctions of the imagination. #TooManyPrepositionsAlready #ForYourEntertainmentOnly

PART I: Detailed Excuses

1) So I went to the store to buy new thank-you notes because the ones I had weren’t artistically sufficient, but

2) I was running late as it was and then

3) my Train of Thought took me to other places and I missed the actual exit and

4) then there weren’t any parking spaces available and I couldn’t believe my eyes when

5) I saw a Bear–a REAL BEAR–but it was only as real as the VR videogame portrayed it to be (they say HD is clearer than real life, right?) and anyway, the bear appeared out of nowhere when I started playing on my phone while I was waiting for the guy to leave his parking spot and

6) then somebody honked at me and I got all flustered and stressed out and ate a chocolate bar and remembered that I needed milk at the grocery store so I pulled away but

7) then the gas light came on and I went to the station but it only took cash and so I went to the ATM and took out a few bucks but

8) by that time it had gotten dark and I decided that it was time to get going but then out of nowhere

9) I got caught in some quantum weirdness of a wormhole–a temporary condition?–and

10) a Grammarian Cop stopped me for writing this insanely long run-on sentence and then I finally made it home but

11) for the fourteenth time since the day before yesterday, I forgot to buy thank-you notes.

PART II: Absurdly Elaborated Thought Processes

(Several weeks later, after finally purchasing a set of cards to express my deepest gratitude.)

Step 1: I sit at my desk, pen in hand, and start, quite simply, with a handwritten note. Genuine, meaningful, and from the heart:

                           Mon Cher Ami (My Dear Friend)… 

Step 2: And then think– No! I need a better idea, a fun idea, something that the students will appreciate. Yes, that’s it! A 3D (4D?) pop-up Scrabble board type thank-you note that spells out “Thank you!” in 14 different languages!

Step 3: … that is covered in glitter and Dr. Seuss zig-zag staircases…

Step 4: … and is attached to a balloon that inflates by an automated voice command control when said family receives the package in their mailbox…

Step 5: … but that has a dart included to throw so that it doesn’t float away

Step 6: with all the safety precautions in place, of course.

Step 7: And maybe a drone could live-stream their reaction!

Step 8: And we could have a contest in real time of who throws the dart the fastest to pierce the balloon that was inflated by an automated voice command control to lower the package containing a card covered in glitter and Dr. Seuss zig-zag staircases that pops up into a 3D (4D?) Scrabble board that spells out “Thank you!” in 14 different languages.

Step 9: Hmmm, I wonder if I have the necessary coding skills to program an automated voice command. [Inner voice: Absolutely not.]

Step 10: BRRRRRING!!!!! The alarm clock sounds. It is 5am. Again. 

(Loud, automated voice over the intercom system): “Attention, all Gift Givers and Genuinely Thoughtful People. There will be a significant delay in the arrival of your personalized thank-you notes. They most certainly will not arrive on time. There is a slight chance that they may not arrive at all. With a swirl of hope and pixie dust, however, they may possibly arrive in the coming decade, in the time zone of Soon-ish. Again, we are not making any promises. Have a lovely evening.”

All kidding aside, your thoughtful gifts and kind words brought me much light and love, and for that I am inexpressibly grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Virtual Hugs to All,

-Srta. M.

Southern Spain- Andalucía

The unrelenting Spanish sun beat down on me as I wiped the sweat from my forehead for the umpteenth time, wondering what in the world 44*C was in Fahrenheit. [It turned out to be 110*F.] So this is why they have the siesta, I thought. My brother and I were the only ones walking around the city streets of Granada that afternoon, foolishly searching for tapas and a place to spend the night, when everything was very clearly closed. Scholar-me knew that the siesta existed, knew that it was a part of Spanish culture, but to live it was something entirely different. The “CERRADO” (closed) signs weren’t really necessary: heavy iron doors and gates prevented anyone from even looking inside.

Continue reading “Southern Spain- Andalucía”

Black Sands

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Iceland

THE SADNESS rolls over me in waves, intermittent pulses gradually washing away the shoreline. I reach down for a handful of the volcanic black sand, and marvel at its odd grainy texture. Farther on, the sand turns pebbly—small, smooth stones pepper the ground mosaic. It is difficult to grasp how this ash was once part of a mountain: hot vapor, rock fragments, lava, and gas have transformed it into a bewitchingly beautiful landscape.

And yet, I also understand completely. It isn’t merely a matter of transportation, that of moving from one place to another—magma inside to volcanic ash outside; but rather this activity of an internal explosion, a pregnancy of creation, a fiery process turned cooled product. These constant bursts are my ultimate composition and makeup at my deepest level. They are me.

I cannot move away from or flee the sadness, for it will remain a part of me always in varying forms–memories etched into basalt columns of the heart; but I can transform the ache into something beautiful. Drowsy numbness, Keats? Begone! As the sadness cools to ash, I feel stronger. Lighter.

Nearing the shoreline, white frothy ocean spray nearly knocks me down this time; but I respond gleefully now, jumping in the waves.

The day is a cold, smoky gray, but I am warm inside. Just like the mountain.

Favorite Shirt


RAINY DAYS usually felt cozy, comforting: grayness squeezing her in a tight metaphorical hug, drops pelting the windowpane in a steady rhythm, staying inside with people she loved. But today was different. She was frustrated. Overwhelmed, perhaps. And for a seemingly nonsensical reason: her favorite shirt didn’t fit anymore. But everyone had one. You know the kind. It was the soft, stretchy, steel blue one, the one made of rayon that never wrinkled or shrunk in the dryer. It was the one that had a history all its own—one that had survived spaghetti sauce, Sharpie markers, long runs through the woods, and even a short bout with a toner cartridge that exploded when she shook it one summer afternoon (whoops). It was the one that made her feel loved, even when times got tough—one that helped her through tears from ex’s, a hypochondriac phase, and infuriating drama-filled emails and texts. And it never made her feel fat, even after she gorged herself on Chipotle and a pint of ice cream. No matter what day it was, she always felt good in it. That’s what made it her favorite shirt.

Except that now it was getting a little tight, and it itched sometimes, and even though it was her favorite, she had worn it to shreds. She needed a new one. Badly. But she didn’t want to let go. She needed to; she just didn’t want to.

The grayness squeezed her with doubts, consuming and strangling her thoughts: what if she couldn’t find a good replacement? What if the new one was only good, and not great? She had already gone shopping at several stores, but returned home exhausted and miserable. She couldn’t find what she was looking for.  Everything paled by comparison. Perhaps she didn’t know what she wanted. And yet, she knew that when she saw it, there would be no indecision, no question, simply a gut feeling and intuition that this was her new shirt. Sighing, she surrendered to the metronome-like pulse of raindrops outside, and decided to hope for the best. She would find a new favorite shirt. She had to. She would still keep the old one forever, and always remember it as her favorite shirt, but she had to go find a new one now.

My throat is parched and dry.  I thirst for adventure. مكتوب (Maktub, “It is written”).

River of Joy


She took one last, lingering look around, slipped into the canoe, and pushed off. Aside from a few light water ripples, it was quiet that morning. The birds must be tired. She was tired. A coral sunrise painted wide brush strokes over the placid waters, bringing tears to her eyes. The woman wouldn’t admit to crying, though; she preferred thinking of it as, “liquid sunshine” [rain] rolling down her cheeks. It had been a wildly memorable year thus far, with extreme emotional roller-coaster rides for even the most even-tempered of characters. The quarantine seemed to have sped up life’s timeline, urging people to make difficult decisions and pursue projects they had been delaying or procrastinating on. It was probably for the best, this urgency, albeit an odd way to push the universe forward.

As she paddled, a light breeze wafted past, clearing the thick molasses of air for a moment; this was a humidity southerners knew all too well. She was going to miss this place. But in time, she had realized that she would miss the people much more: and yet, people didn’t simply frequent a place, they became the place, and the place became them. It felt like pieces of her were simultaneously spread out all over the world and also held deep inside. She kept a piece of everyone she had ever met in her soul, and she also left a piece of herself everywhere she traveled, somehow. It was an oxymoron of sorts, a puzzle–but also a comforting thought, that she was never very far away, and neither was anyone else.

In fact, she was exactly where she needed to be, and always would be, flowing on the river of joy. The stop on the bank had been longer than expected, but now the winds were picking up; it was time to get going. But oh, what a lovely place! Blue skies, fields of green. A true gem. A diamond. A rose. She would never forget. How deep the river runs…

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” -Rumi

The Struggle


I stared at it from across the room. It stared back, refusing to blink, trying to lure me into the game, stubborn as all get-out. Why were we at odds again? The gray mist had descended a few days back: tornado skies, sucking me into the center of their dangerously calm vortices: like the penny chutes at the airports, round and round went the coins, sans control and yet perfectly controlled, under the power of centripetal force until pfff–they were spat out, minus their dignity but exiting the funnel at last. Except that I was still swirling, furious at it. Emotions rocketed through my body. I won’t. I shan’t. I can’t. I refuse.

The pen eyed me, its gel tip shining ever so slightly under the lamplight. I shifted my gaze. I could be obstinate, too. Its sleek body called out, longing to be held, for the embrace of a century: Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth; Hepburn and Peppard; Anna and Declan (Leap Year). Much like the omniscient narrator, it already knew the end of the story, knew how I would come crawling back, yelling, ranting, in a fit of rage–but returning, nevertheless.

I suppose, though, that was precisely why I came back. The story had to be told.

The pen had won. Yet again.

Those Dusty Old Tomes

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

THOSE DUSTY OLD TOMES haunt me, inspire me, enrage me, calm me: they are my best friends and my arch-nemeses. I turn the pages quickly, then slowly–slowly, then quickly–skimming the words and frequently returning, crunching on and digesting them one by one as they nourish my heart and soul.

The library is nearly silent this afternoon. A man sets down a stack of books on an adjacent table, pausing to see if he has disturbed anyone. I inhale, and a pleasant sort of mustiness enters my nostrils; history is vibrantly alive here. This cozy, massive den with towers of books in every direction, this place where echos of the past silently resound, acts as a portal to and connection with–or perhaps mural of–humanity itself. How and when did this all begin? And will it end?


An avid reader, Benjamin Franklin began the first public library in the US in 1731 because he wanted to study and share his love of learning with others. Books were quite expensive at the time, and it made sense to compile them so that all could benefit (for a small fee). Many other societies had collected and organized books and materials prior to Franklin, but determining what was, in fact, the first library, really depends on how you frame the question.

What is the oldest continuously operating library? Most scholars agree that that would be Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Mount Sinai, Egypt. It is believed that Saint Catherine’s was built to protect and enshrine the area where Moses saw the Burning Bush (Exodus 3). Others say that the Al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez, Morocco, is the oldest, although that has undergone significant reconstruction in recent years after it was discovered that there was a river running beneath the edifice–resulting in rot and mold and the like.

The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal in present-day Iraq [formerly Assyria] is considered to be the oldest royal library, and while it was destroyed, archaeologists have uncovered more than 30,000 clay tablets amidst the ruins. The tablets are covered in cuneiform script, the earliest known form of writing. Alexander the Great was inspired by The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal to build his own collection–which became the Library of Alexandria in Egypt; this is toted as one of the largest collections of the ancient world; however, it was unfortunately also destroyed.

Fast-forwarding to present day, we find that the query itself has expanded: new categories abound. It is no longer a matter of defining only the oldest or continually operative library–what about 45+ of the most majestic libraries in the world? Or those buildings housing rare documents, such as Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library? Or how about futuristic-looking libraries, like this one in Tianjin, China?

Tianjin, China–Image Source / Original photos by Ossip van Duivenbode

While Google is well on its way to organizing and documenting the history of humankind, much like a library, it is interesting to note that the library in Tianjin was labeled futuristic in multiple articles: the allure of a space in which you can get lost wandering the aisles, in which you can physically touch books and leaf through their pages–en lieu of clicking on them–would seem to remain an integral part of our future.

There are numerous reasons arguing why libraries should retain a place in society, but this article on The Digital Language Divide takes a unique angle, exploring the underrepresentation of languages and cultures in cyberspace. Technology is advancing faster than most of us can imagine and yet, it would appear that the algorithms still have a long way to go.


  • Library (English).
  • βιβλιοθήκη (Greek).
  • Biblioteca (Spanish).
  • ห้องสมุด (Thai).
  • Bókasafn (Icelandic).
  • مكتبة (Arabic).
  • Kirjasto (Finnish).
  • библиотека (Russian).
  • Maktaba (Swahili).
  • 图书馆 (Mandarin).
  • Bibliothèque (French).
  • סִפְרִיָה (Hebrew).
  • पुस्तकालय (Hindi).
  • Kütüphane (Turkish).
  • Könyvtár (Hungarian).
  • としょうかん (Japanese).
  • Bibliotheca (Latin).
  • Raamatukogu (Estonian).
  • Perpustakaan (Malay).
  • 도서관 (Korean).

I copy the beautiful letters, symbols, shapes, words, and characters from dictionaries with a pen onto paper, silently mouthing the foreign sounds. What would a library have been like a thousand years ago? My thoughts quickly boomerang back to modern life: I wonder if I could order papyrus from Amazon. It’s probably not too expensive. But Carr’s words pull me back into history:

One of the most important things to realize about reading, is that it is a fairly new invention in human history. […] One of the fascinating things about early writing, on slates, on papyrus, even on early handwritten books is, for instance, there were no spaces between the words. People just wrote in continuous script. And that’s because that’s the way we hear speech.

You know, when somebody’s talking to us, they are not carefully putting pauses between words; it all flows together. The problem with that, though, is it’s very hard to read. A lot of your mental energy goes to figuring out where does one word end and the next begin, and as a result, all reading was done in the early years aloud. There was no such thing as silent reading, because you had to read aloud in order to figure out, where is a word ending or where is a word beginning.


The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr

If people seldom read to themselves, would libraries have been noisy, cacophonous venues, everyone shouting over everyone else? Or would a main speaker have taken charge–the present day story-time librarian–inviting the throngs to partake in a community reading? Are libraries on the verge of disappearing, or will they be here for centuries to come? How will they evolve? Should they? What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below.


What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

Winter in Brussels

The flakes fell fast and heavy, quickly transforming the city skyline into an incomprehensible, wintry blur. She stood still inside the moving tram, watching silently; there were no words in her mind; she was absorbing the scene into her being.

Icelanders called this, “window-weather” (gluggaveður)—beautiful from a distance, provided the distance was indoors, adjacent to a fireplace, and within arm’s length of a hot mug of cocoa, of course. 

To be fair, none of those were really true at the moment: the tram tilted and jerked from time to time; invited cold gusts in at every stop; and failed to provide beverages of any kind to its passengers. Yet, it felt cozy somehow, this unpredictable, shifting stream of strangers, strangers passing through the Narnia-like portal of window weather, strangers brave enough to touch another world. They were traveling souls; this was the common thread—an undeniable sense of camaraderie and understanding.

Arriving at last, she stepped out into the blizzard, cold rocketing through her body, fingers numb within seconds. Wo ist das Atomium? Where is the Atomium? Someone answered, but the words froze in transit. She squinted into the flying flakes. Surely it was close by. After all, a 102-meter high structure could not hide forever.

What was she doing? Window weather demanded an observer, someone on the inside. Buying a waffle and cocoa mit slagroom/with whipped cream (Dutch), she let the wintry scene sink into her mind and body from a sensible distance. Looking through the window once more, the massive iron crystal “magnified 165 billion times its size” stared back at her.

Maybe the point of gluggaveður was just that: when you stopped to look through the window instead of blindly charging out into a snowstorm, you had a clearer, less obstructed view of the world. Perhaps it was tinted—in that you hoped palm tree temperatures accompanied the large, wet flakes—but life always took on varying shades; that was what made it interesting.

The Atomium- Brussels, Belgium

Minimalism

There has been an effort in recent years to quash inaccurate definitions of minimalism–to streamline, to declutter, to get to the heart of what exactly this movement and philosophy are all about. While extreme minimalists and ultralight packing lists may be awe-inspiring and provide shock-value, true minimalism is about one thing: getting rid of the superfluous in your life so that you can concentrate on what is most important.

Let us be clear from the beginning that this is not about owning a fixed number of possessions. Rather, it is about understanding what you value and why, from that thing underneath all that stuff that you haven’t seen in seven years and didn’t remember you had (the physical) to how you spend your time on a daily basis (values/principles). It can be delightful to rediscover an item that you haven’t thought about in forever, a buried treasure of sorts hidden behind that other thing you didn’t remember, but were you really treasuring it if it was stashed away and forgotten? The things you care about, you also care for: you take care of items if they are truly of value to you.

Minimalism, then, begins with physical decluttering: a tedious, painful, and eventually joyful process where literally everything you own is evaluated or “graded” by you, the Omnipotent Teacher. International organizational guru Marie Kondo proves your spirit guide here: “Does this spark joy?” While certain aspects of her books may be over the top for some, the focus on what to keep, as opposed to what to throw out, is refreshingly optimistic. Instead of losing yourself to a negative downward spiral of what to get rid of, focus on what you love and let go of the rest.

This letting go, this physical cleansing, allows–in feng shui terms–to begin to move the stagnate energy in your life. When you think deeply about what is important to you, you become more intentional and particular about how you are living your life. You step back to reevaluate how you are spending your days, your life. If you feel stuck, you probably are; but minimalism can help you to escape this Quagmire of Immobility–unless, of course, you are referring to immobility in the sense of not being allowed to leave your home legally. That, however, is an entirely different subject, ha!

In all seriousness, the process of minimizing everything you own is not exactly a walk in the park; it is tough work. Who you were ten years ago is not who you are today: your values and principles have changed, sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly, dependent on personal circumstances and general life experiences, as you grow older and wiser. Taking time (our most valuable asset) to sort through our lives and evaluate what is of value to us now, in this particular stage of our lives, can prove both surprising (new values) and life-affirming (old values, or reinforcing staple principles that will stay with you always). We must be judicious but also not wallow for too long in the past, as objects conjure up memory after memory in the Time Capsule called You.

When we rid ourselves of the superfluous, of the clutter clogging up our lives, we define who we are and what is important; we see more clearly: our vision suddenly comes into focus. The realization that we have not had 20/20 vision all along can be jarring but also, ultimately, a welcome reboot and reset. Focus on what is valuable to you and let the rest go.

**Let me leave you with a curated (intentional!) list of resources to peruse, should this topic interest or motivate you to begin. As always, thanks for reading.

RESOURCES

  1. The Minimalists (Twitter)
  2. The Minimalists (Blog)
  3. Decluttering Your Fantasy Self (Miss Minimalist)
  4. Courtney Carver (Blog)
  5. How to Become A Minimalist (Courtney Carver)
  6. Breaking the Sentimental Attachment to Books (Article)
  7. Minimalistamente (in Spanish)
  8. Printable Checklist for Marie Kondo (Article)
  9. Rethinking the Dream- Sentimental Clutter (Blog)
  10. Ultralight Backpacking- The Deep Dish (Article)
  11. Living With Less- Werner Van Rooyen (Article)
  12. 11 Blogs to Inspire a Life of Simplicity and Minimalism
  13. Packing for Europe: Minimalist Style
  14. Cosas que debes sacar de tu casa y de tu vida
  15. Books: The Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo; and Clear Your Clutter, by Karen Kingston.