Here we are, at October 1. I’ve still got the bedroom windows open a bit, but it’s frosty at night. We’ve lit a couple of fires in the fireplace now and I’ve even worn a winter coat. I have three glowing orange pumpkins still in the garden, waiting to be cut from their vines a little closer to Halloween.
Autumn has come.
We found this old pottery water bottle up in the attic during our most recent clean-out. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time! There are no shortage of rubber or plastic water bottles for sale here in Ireland – the winter nights get pretty frigid, and some houses still lack central heating – but I’ve never seen an old one like this. Even the stopper is stone pottery with a sturdy cork on the end. It reminds me of the old clay jugs my grandma used to collect to display around her house. I don’t really know the age of this thing, but it’s a tank, and I can’t wait to fill it some night soon and put it at the foot of our bed.
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I’m just over 30 weeks pregnant now, and for the first time am starting to crave a few things. Nothing crazy, just cereal and ice cream mostly. And it has to be said, though, that the range of choices this side of the pond is somewhat lacking. I’ve cleared out most stores of their Cocoa Krispies and I’ve contented myself with Almond Magnum bars, but sometimes I just pine a bit for any flavour of Captain Crunch, Trix or any cereal with marshmallows in it, or I wistfully imagine a trip to Baskin Robbins or the Pickle Barrel in Bozeman for a large cone of Moose Tracks or Pralines & Cream or Wilcoxin’s Coffee Fudge Ripple (or maybe a scoop of each…).
Most American ex-pats living in Ireland will tell you the same – out of the various pros and cons of being here, there are noticeably fewer choices in many areas. Food, entertainment, toiletries, yoga classes, social clubs, etc. Of course this is not the case across the board – consult the Argos catalogue and you will find 20 pages of different kettles and nearly as many for toasters. There are at least 4 pages for kettle/toaster combos. The freedom of choice is ever apparent when it comes to tea and toast. 🙂
Maybe the smaller range is there because someone already tried – maybe “different” doesn’t sell. For though you’ll find 10 different brands of cheddar cheese and only one of parmesan, the cheddar cheese here is uncommonly good. Why buy anything but? We are also living on a small island – the thought of crowding it up with Wal-Marts is a crime, no matter how broad the potential selection could be. Massive Super-Super Markets like Meijer and Target are uniquely American, and as much as we miss them (even if you say you don’t, come on, you do!), they are part of the wide-open-spaces mystique that makes the USA memorable to foreigners. Why else do people fly to New York just to do their Christmas shopping?
The harder side of minimal choices, for me at least, are most apparent when I seek out important needs, like friendships, social groups or churches. The latter has really opened my eyes to how lucky (and lazy) we are in America.
Say you want to go to church in the USA – easiest thing in the world! You can start by choosing a denomination, or maybe you just want something easy-going or close to home. Done! If you live in any mid-sized town in the States, you can find a church that will cater to your every desire.
No more 9 am only services – you can sleep in and go to a 12 pm service, or even 5 or 6 pm. You might even get a church with a Saturday night service. No more dressing up – wear what you like, jeans, miniskirts, it’s all good. Music could be a determinant – choose traditional (organs and hymns), non-traditional (choruses), rock bands, jazz bands, bell-ringers, orchestras or acapella services. Christmas and Easter offer the best free concerts you can imagine – you just have to get there early to find a seat. Or celebrity churches! Who wouldn’t want to rub elbows with Mark Whalberg at Mass? Technology can steer your decision – you can go somewhere with big screens and 5,000 members, or you can meet in an art gallery basement with 10 people holding candles. Food options – many American churches now have coffee bars or, at the very least, donuts and java. Some older churches (think the Deep South) still have potlucks where you can sample dinner from everyone’s house in the neighborhood. Some churches support social causes, send missionaries or speak out in public. Other churches maintain a low profile and operate as insular communes. Then, of course, there is the message, duh, which maybe should have been first. If you don’t like what the preacher or priest says to you, there’s always another place down the road. It is very easy to find somewhere that tells you just what you want to hear. So all that said… who wouldn’t want to go to church?
I know I’m being glib… and I don’t mean to be overly critical or say that choices in church-going are bad. I have merely realized how comfortable and easy it was for me to find a church home when I lived in Indianapolis, and how, conversely, difficult it has been for me to find what I feel I “need” here. In this town of 25,000 people, there are at least 6 Catholic churches, 1 Church of Ireland, and a handful of other Christian churches scattered around. The Presbyterian church I attend is good, but not “ideal,” and I often catch myself grumbling about what I wish it was. So in essence, it’s actually work, sometimes, for me to make myself go. Yet, I still think it’s the place I’m meant to be right now. Maybe faith and worship aren’t always supposed to be easy? Maybe humbling myself and opening my heart to something that’s not my first choice is actually preparing me for… what? God only knows. 🙂
Mmm, I could really go for a Root Beer float right about now…