Chestnuts roasting over an open memory

I don’t have a lot of rituals. I have a few patterns, like my morning routine, but they aren’t filled with any meaning. They are functional patterns, designed to take me from initial State A to End State B with an efficient number of steps, established through many years of practice and slow, gradual, mostly subconscious modification.

But tonight I picked up chestnuts. Honest-to-God, 100% edible, roastable-just-like-the-song chestnuts. And I will roast them, probably Thursday night, and I will eat them. And it will be ritual, a welcoming sign of the Christmas season approaching.

It’s a minor ritual, really, and it’s not packed with the deepest of meaning, but it at least has meaning, as opposed to the pattern of tooth-brushing and pill-taking that the morning is filled with.

The purchasing of chestnuts reminds me of one winter I spent with my aunt and uncle in Toronto. It was a long time ago, probably when I was working or in university the first time. It may have been 1994, when I spent 8 months working in Ottawa. Yeah, I think that’s it..

Memory has always been a bit fluid for me, at least when it comes to personal experiences. I don’t know why that is, but it means that the memories aren’t linear, and I have to do some associative and investigative work to dredge them up in any details. That winter, I remember having chestnuts for the first time, and they were even roasted over an open fire (in a hearth).

The Christmas song never made any sense to me until that point: “Chestnuts roasting over an open fire”. It was an alien experience to me. I don’t know if the stores even stocked chestnuts, but we never bought them if they did. I understand that there are vendors on the street who sell them in larger cities, but everything about larger cities was alien and unbelievably fast when I was a child growing up in a town of 200 people, where the largest “city” was 45 minutes away and probably had 10,000 people.

I never thought of myself as remote, until I went to a larger city. Going to Toronto exposed me to the idea that there were so many more things out there. Living in Ottawa meant I got used to the idea of a bigger city (800,000 people), but I never lived in a place like New York City. I can’t even imagine it, to this day. I’ve visited cities now, but still hold them in a form of awe, see them as alien landscapes with strange, dangerous people and wonders like a vendor selling hot chestnuts on the street.

I wonder, sometimes, if I will ever live anywhere else other than where I do now, whether I will have another life, another career, another social sphere, another family. I doubt it, really — I’m somewhat settled in all of those things, now, not in the most preferred way for all of them, but the possibility of change seems remote.

Getting to France in 2010 was a great chance to live like someone else for a while. There was plenty of anxiety attached to it, of course, as I was on a limited and low budget without any income, paying bills in two cities and trying to sort out several years of research into a coherent whole.

But it was also very worth it, despite the physical isolation and small amount of culture shock. I did it, and it proves that I can do it, and I think that’s important to prove to yourself once and a while, in case you have doubts.

I often joke about what I would do if I won the lottery, as do most people who don’t see a steady and increasing financial future. It’s a dream, of course, of freedom from the economic staleness, a lifting out of the stagnant, tepid water of a job with little to no chance of advancement. For most, it’s worse than what I have, because while I don’t make the wages I really need to make, I do at least love my job.

But I feel bound, sometimes. I want a little taste of freedom again, to move somewhere for a while and see what it’s like. I only have to look around the room at my accumulated books and realize how unlikely that is to happen, unless I win my million on the lotto.

I have to laugh whenever I hear people proclaim the virtues of financial planning for your future. I’m not sure exactly how I can stow away things for the future when doing so inhibits my ability to even live in the present..

But rather than continue on this “woe is me, I is working poor” thread, let’s follow a different one: Formal Tuesdays.

Formal Tuesdays continue. I’ve added a tie to the regular dress shirt, slacks and vest that I wear, dressing formally on Tuesdays. With the coming of colder weather, I can even where the darker jackets and leather gloves in addition to the fedora, and it all comes together.

Formal Tuesday has become a regular ritual for me, an opportunity to step into a character which is an aspect of who I am, yet is also who I wouldn’t mind being. It’s a chance, perhaps, to show off a bit, to show that I can be more than the somewhat grungy and simply-dressed person I normally am.

The beard is now reaching a noticeable stage. I’ve kept the classic long sided mustache, am leaving a carved out section for wicked ancient sideburns, but also shaved out a soul patch and a… well.. I’m not sure what the name is for the chin field developing, but it feels good. Necessary, almost. It’s funny how much I noticed the lack of beard before, whenever I needed to think about something; the subconscious need to stroke my beard was immediate, and the return of my beard makes the gesture more useful. If I were to suggest any reasoning for it, I might say that the complex and spiky beard hair acts like a complex texture to tease out complex thoughts.

It could also be the similarity between petting a cat and stroking the beard..

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