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A-Musings: Positive Polarization

An occasional post on things I find amusing

I seem to be into oxymorons these days. “Oxymoron” is a wonderful word, although it doesn’t quite mean what it looks like it should mean. Simply put, it’s when one puts two words together (or several for that matter), that have opposite meanings, such as “deafening silence,” “awfully good” or “pretty ugly.” One of my favorites is: “That’s a definite possibility.”

Then my mind pondered polarization — a similar sort of word as oxymoron, describing the division into two sharply-contrasting groups. No, I wasn’t thinking about the terrible amount of political polarization going on in our country; that’s way too negative a topic. I was thinking about random, or day-to-day polarization, I guess I’ll term it, when seemingly opposite aspects of life come together.

I thought of a better term: Positive polarization. That’s an oxymoron — at least for many people, who view polarization as a dark and negative term.

Why all this philosophical meandering? I simply was recalling my personal experiences in the last month and became amused, as I often do. It started with a visit to the northern woods of Michigan followed by a trip to the southern beaches of Florida. This certainly fits the description of sharply-contrasting groups, and possibly concepts with opposite meanings as well.

Northern Michigan was bitterly cold. That was before a storm dumped a half inch of ice on top of the snow cover. Outside experiences were short and sweet, involving the most sturdy of mittens and alpaca socks. But it had its joys. Turkeys marched by in a straight line, out to forage in the mid-day sun. I had the opportunity to feed hungry chickadees right out of my hands. They flitted in and out for sunflower seeds, taking their prizes back to the safe tree until gathering up the courage to fly back for more. The sheer amazement at these tiny happy birds, doing their winter thing, was motivating to say the least. I actually forgot that my feet were freezing in my great big muck boots. In front of a roaring fire each night, I lost myself in my writing, a tremendous gift. Simply sitting in front of the window and watching big chunks of ice float down the river was meditative and delightful.

And yet, even with the bliss of a cabin in the woods, I yearned for our upcoming trip to the south and the chance to feel balmy breezes.

Southern Florida was beautifully warm. That was before the fog cleared out and it got even warmer. The alpaca socks came off in a hurry, and I sighed happy sighs when toes wiggled in toasty sand. Gathering up a solid dose of Vitamin D was divine. The critter sightings were amazing. A young heron strolled up to check on an angler’s progress, ever-hopeful for a snack. An egret perched on the roof of a car as if posing for a picture, and I guess that’s true as my husband got a beautiful shot of him strutting his stuff. Just now, my husband furiously waved me over to the window to see a giant turtle meander down the pathway. And of course one cannot leave out the human dimension — the never-ending parade of warm-weather wanderers dressed for action on the beach, all baring their diverse personalities. Simply sitting in front of the window and watching four dolphins rhythmically flow by was meditative and delightful.

And yet, even with all of this glorious richness, I find myself yearning to head home.

So many polar opposites, excuse the pun, yet similarities as well. So many positive experiences. Thus, positive polarization: The fine art of being able to find the good in all sorts of different circumstances. To revel in the sharp contrasts in life. To appreciate the ironies of the human condition. That’s a start in defining this new-found term. I suspect I’ll find all sorts of examples going forward that lead to a better definition. That will certainly require significant research — and adventure.

Positive polarization: That’s an oxymoron indeed!



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Betsy Hayhow Hemming

Betsy Hayhow Hemming is an author and leadership coach. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction. www.betsyhemming.com.