Friday, December 17, 2010

let the world spin madly on



I don't think I could to add to this. To work out some recent thoughts, however, I will pitch in a cent or two.

We've all danced alone. We've watched friends and lovers leave when all we've wanted is their company. We've lived in the warm fabrication of our dreams when stark reality offered little logic. We've fought to let go of it all.

There have been times that I lived only for my imagination, the sole place I had the power to concoct the world that should have been. But the world is what it is, and it continues to spin in its madness.

This song, this dance, gives me an odd sense of anticipation. It causes me to both look forward and look back. There is a deal of heartache behind, and there is sure to be heartache ahead. ButhonestlyI wouldn't have it any other way. Heartache is dynamic, it moves is a way love can only imitate. It takes up your body, your mind, your soul. It pushes you to hell. But in short spans between the fits of denial, the rants, the tear stains, the loosing of appetites and subsequent comfort binges, the picture burnings, the nights of demobilizing pain, the avoidance of reality, the bitter love song screamings, the retreats to imagined but fantastical reconciliations with the one who you irretrievably lostbetween it all comes glimpses of refined clarity. You come to know yourself in hell. And then you pull yourself out.

I believe in love, of course, I have to. I have to believe that it is worth all it is built up to be, to believe it is worth having some day. But I've never had to convince myself of heartache. Heartache is real. Heartache is cathartic. It may sound utterly naive, but I am anticipating my next brush with it, to know myself in it. Let the world spin madly on, and I will wait for heartache to touch me again. With the familiarity of an old friend.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

sometimes bulimia is the healthiest option

I am regretting the night's activities. Harmless movie followed by harmful consumption.

Fast food always seems like such a good idea at the time, but regret almost always follows. (Why do I forget that regret almost always follows?) Poor decisions put me in a slightly urgent state of moral dilemma: Do I complacently allow my body digest the large side of cow and harvest of potatoes I was too foolish to deny--resulting in a drastically reduced lifespan filled with obesity, heart disease, and self-loathing? Or do I just have up with it all?

It's an interesting evening when you realize that developing an eating disorder may be a strategic advancement up the rungs of the health ladder.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

planning the metaphorical winter of my life.

Periodically, I feel old. Really old. This, as I am fully aware, is utter lunacy. I am young. I have not lived a quarter of a century. (I am youngish. I have lived almost a quarter of a century.)

Today, however, I found the perfect combatant to prematurely inappropriate thoughts of age. Courtesy of Sigur Ros.



I don't have a five-year plan. I don't have a ten-year plan. My one-year plan is terrifyingly vague. But rest assured my 45-year plan is solid, complete with firecrackers, dirt clods, and a wooden sword.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Not Crazy

Sometimes I think I need to clarify my current standing in the world. Despite several suggestions to the contrary, I am deeming myself sane.

It was a close call, though. I'm not going to pretend the jury had an easy go of it. Of late, I have been a bit neurotic, insecure, and, well, some other things which just are not me. Characteristically. Tonight, though, was a good night. I snapped out of my delirium (or at least a large portion of. No one wants to be completely free of delirium). Verdict in: not crazy.

Congratulate me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ice Dance

Escape, if only temporarily.

This weekend, I went with a group to tidy a local cemetery. Rake leaves, enjoy the weather, that sort of scenario. We worked for a productive couple hours, and by the end produced clear headstones and taunting leave piles as proof of our efforts. As we were concluding our part and preparing to return home, however, we were met with the surreal: a gust of wind. Like technicolored snowflakes, leaves simultaneously leapt from the surrounding trees and poured from sky to ground. Any indication that we had spent the previous hours clearing the grounds instantly disappeared. It was delicious irony.

The moment the winds began, I could hear the insulted complaints of those around me. To them, the wind had no sense of propriety, no consideration.

To me, the wind was a perfect conclusion.

I looked above--saw the leaves gather and fall--and danced.

I may sound comically juvenile, but my mind instantly played a piece from Edward Scissorhands. I heard the music, I saw the snow, and though I was surrounded by falling leaves, I danced in it.





Perhaps it's the impending pressure of my future career. Perhaps it's the threat of adult responsibilities looming over the rising months. Perhaps it's dealing with the aftermath of death. Perhaps it's simply the stress that comes from living each day and finding the energy to maintain steady breaths. No matter the need for the moment, it came. The escape was transitory, it was temporary, but it was perfect.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

Let four captains
Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have proved most royal; and, for his passage,
The soldiers' music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

Halmet, Act V, Scene II

In time, I will write much about the past week. But not today, not tonight. My mind can't make sense of what it insists on seeing.

I feel the coarse flag under my fingertips, hear the military commands, the rifles. I keep seeing the same white ranks filing past row after row after row after row. White over rolling hills. Pristine lines. Always called to attention. It's the white, I suppose, which denies my sleep.

But not yours. Sleep well, Phillip. Your brothers shot for you.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

semper fi











The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.


Today, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.


Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.


Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears:


Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.


So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.


And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl's.


To an Athlete Dying Young

A. E. Housman


Saturday, October 2, 2010

the time was neither wrong nor right


I have always enjoyed night. The softer sounds, the uncluttered smells, the paradoxical melding of lethargy and excitement. Everything seems to be either buzzing or sleeping. (I like to believe I am the former.)

I used to use the night. I used to walk dark streets. I used to spy dark skies. I used to touch the grass blades recovering from a day's solar beating.

Tonight, I remember what I miss. I remember a poem which makes me miss all the more.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain--and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Undone.

I love the paradoxical nature of humanity. I love the rare find of a man or a woman who--in one life--can represent such excruciatingly conflicting natures of the human race. A soul which has sung with the choirs as well as danced with the covens. A soul which understands the heights--and the depths--to which humanity can aspire.

I recently became reacquainted with one such soul

from seventeenth-century England.

John Donne wrote everything from sex to God. He lived, he loved, he lost, he questioned, he cried, he taught, he lusted, he prayed, he pleaded, he taunted, he crafted, he dove, he climbed.

He felt.

I have the ability to be moved by literature, but rarely do I sob shamelessly at words on a page. Sunday evening was one such rare occasion, courtesy of John Donne.



Some know him as "Doctor"; others prefer the wicked musings of "Jack." To me, it's all John.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Formosa

Alone in her native Denmark, an aged woman speaks to her memory. "I had a farm in Africa," she begins. "I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got high up; near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold." Karen Blixen gives three hours of memories. Her time in Kenya, her love for the people, her love for the culture, the land, the scents, the flowers, the rains, the wildlife. Her love for Africa. This is Out of Africa. This is one of my favorite films.

Eight months ago, I returned from Taiwan; for the sixteen months prior, I lived on the island to China's east as a missionary. I spent those months learning a language which will take my entire life to master, comprehending a culture so drastically different from that in which I was raised, and eating elements of animals which would induce a gag reflux to any healthy Westerner. I loved every moment.

I remember seeing my home for the first time. On August 4, 2008, I flew into Kaohsiung International Airport. I watched the colored, mismatched tin roofs of the cramped industrial city and knew I was home. (This feeling of home was confirmed with the first gust of humidity.) I spent my time first in Fengshan 鳯山, then Pingtung 屏東, Tainan 台南, and finally Taiping 太平. On December 12, 2009, I boarded another plane. This time in Taipei. This time crying. This time leaving.

I miss Taiwan. Some days I miss it more than others. I miss it today, to say the least. I miss the humid mornings, the humid afternoons, and the humid evenings. I miss nodding a polite 早安 zao an to my neighbors as I go for a morning run. I miss the fish markets in the middle of the street, displaying fresh fish corpses across giant slabs of ice. I miss their smell. I miss the smell of stinky tofu. The first time I smelled it, I nearly vomited and only later did I learn to drink it in. I want to drink it in now. I miss the mangoes, I miss the lychee. I want to cry just thinking about the mangoes. I miss being stared at by old grandmothers and grandfathers. I miss them speaking to me in Taiwanese, which I can't understand and haven't a prayer to ever learn. I miss the incense always burning the air. I miss the temples. Buddhist temples. Taoist temples. Confucian temples. Any temples. The chimes, the gongs, the ceremonial chants and sacrifices. I miss them. I miss the old men doing tai chi in the morning. I miss the music others dance to. I miss the wild dogs who roam the streets and sometimes try to eat me. I miss people staring at me because I don't fit in, blue eyes among a sea of dark almonds, blonde hair among black. I miss the pollution which conceals the mountains, and my surprise at discovering them on clear mornings. I miss the buzz of vespas that usurp the streets. I miss the masks of the vespa riders. I miss that the masks are worn long after the vespas stop as a protective measure against cancer, virus, the plague, and other destructive bodily ills. I miss the mosquitoes. They loved to drink me and wake me and make me itch. I do not miss the mosquitoes. I miss the initial shock on people's faces when I speak Chinese. They always look surprised. I miss talking to them about their families, finding out what matters most to them, hearing of their love for their parents, their grandparents, their children, their hopes for the future, their honor of the past.

I miss Taiwan.

It's nights like these that I find my mind turning to Karen. I lived a time in Taiwan, to the east of the China Sea. I have returned to America, and on nights where I feel it most, I relive the moments I had on my island. I like to think of it as my island. It helps it feel real again.

Perhaps that is why my mind returns again and again to Karen. She wanted it to feel real. After she had left, after Africa was no more to her than a memory, she needed whatever clarity she could claim: "If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?"

I hope that I left some print on my island. It has left mark upon mark on me. It changed me and it taught me. It altered me beyond repair and I will always thank it for that. I will lay awake a bit longer tonight and search for the marks which still remain. Time fades many things, but some marks refuse to wear. I hope Taiwan refuses to wear.

Tomorrow will be spent in America, but tonight I will stay in Formosa.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Understanding nothing, Feeling everything else

I've acquired a taste for French music. No, I do not speak French.


I was raised with a father who was famous for his liberal selection of music. I would climb into the car to be greeted by Native American wooden flutes, traditional Chinese folk melodies, Scottish bagpipes, Italian opera--any branch of music from any region of earth. I loved it. I loved the places the music would take me. I loved the sense of adventure my ignorance seemed to excite. I would listen to the music unaware of literal meaning; I did not comprehend the lyrics but counted it as no great loss.


I am finding myself in the same boat as a matter of personal choice. It began with Carla Bruni and "Quelqu'un M'a Dit." Innocently, I listened again and again and again to the easiness of the guitar, the whispering quality of the voice, the almost conversation-like exchange between the two. The lyrics are purely French and convey absolutely no meaning to me whatsoever. But that's what I love about it. No literary message; no boxed-in meaning; no complacent, categorical, stereotypical forum from whence a calculated measure of opinion finds voice. No solid meaning for me whatsoever. The song becomes what I want it to be; the song adapts with me. Everything becomes less fixed, less determined. With fluidity, it holds my fickle flavors in a day: hope, melancholy, reminiscence, acceptance, easiness, excitement, anticipation, unease, determination . . . .


Sometimes words seem to only get in the way. More French music it is.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

ah, look at all the lonely people





All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Eleanor Rigby, Beatles






Tonight I came home in an interesting mood. I usually am not one for online chatting and all that business, but tonight was different; I had some indescribable desire to talk to anyone. Loneliness? Not so much, just a desire to reach out, I suppose. I turned to my computer and started powering up all the modes we beings have found to communicate. I was not online for more than a minute before a friend found me and strung up a conversation with: allison, why does life suck sometimes? and yes i know this is weird. sorry. I responded to this friend of mine, started a entirely unexpected conversation. Fate was tempted, I can hardly blame her.

From across the country, he started talking. Mostly confused over a girl, he was looking for a listener, I suppose, and found me. I listened, and offered what few suggestions I had, honest compliments I hoped could help. Throughout this exchange, however, I was only frustrated by a single thought: I do not remember him at all. He had said in passing that we hadn't spoken since 7th grade, an easy lifetime in dog years, but I couldn't place him. Pictures looked faintly familiar, but jogged no memories. I spent the next hour talking to a man I have no recollection of, as he opened up the contents of his soul.

It's easier, somehow, to turn to someone completely disconnected from the issues wearing you, who can offer new perspective, new light, or can just as easily remain in the dark entirely. Loneliness can invite day-long friendships, simple friendships which can sometimes offer the simplest moments of peace. Why is it that sometimes all we want, all we really need, is a stranger?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Seeing Avatar

I originally saw the film Avatar in theaters months ago. January, I believe. 3-D, excellent effects, but not a story to write home about. Predictable story lines happen to be an issue for personal soap-box agenda, so my ability to accurately predict the film in its entirety left me rather unimpressed, to say the least. I walked out of the theater willing to praise its effects and directing, but the film on the whole? Good thing I'm not a formal critic.

Without going into the whole story of it, I saw it again this evening. For myself, it was practically a dare. I sat and watched and dared the film to dazzle me as it has so many others. I was terrifically skeptical, but decided to play fair; I conceded my qualms with predictability and looked beyond the plot.

I lost my own dare. I could write pages on what I saw.

There is only one thought that I want to record: the contrast of life and death. I am very visually-oriented; I feel meaning through my eyes. In visual orientation alone the cultural interpretations on life and death were presented in a beautiful contrast. First, 'civilized man.' Kept in a manufactured world of steel and guns, he sees change as death. Those individuals who adopt Avatars, who undergo transformation, who face change must do so in a coffin. Look a the device they lay in, entomb their bodies in. No warmth, no life. Only a steel box.

The 'natives' do not build steel worlds. Instead of living under ego, they live under deity. This difference proves colossal. In the briefest of moments, the camera pans over a funeral scene. No steel boxes. Only a small, round hole in the soft dirt. Inside, the body curled as a fetus in a new womb. There lies the difference. Change is not death, even death is not death. It is life.

It reminds me of the title of a book I once read: The Birth That We Call Death. I think I've started to understand.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fasten Your Seat Belts. I Mean It.


I am a seat belt advocate. I sit in a car, and by compulsion, strap in immediately. I get nervous when others around me don't do so. I suppose it's slightly obsessive--the wearing of seat belts has become agenda for my personal soapbox-- but I can imagine worse things to obsess over. It's such a tiny device that has the capacity to save so much life. I stumbled across this commercial, and, of course, instantly loved it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Out of Africa


I am a great fan of movies. I love analyzing the camera shots which give perspective, the words which give voice, and the music which delivers the soul of the film. My favorite films, however, are the ones which can take you from yourself, to pull you from the commonplace, the tread patterns of your day of existence and give you new eyes.

I rewatched a favorite of mine this past week: Out of Africa. I've found not many people have heard of it, which I think is quite a loss. It is a film which robs you of your monotony. You are transposed into Africa, you tread the red dirt, you absorb the natives' songs in the next village, you soak yourself with the rain's arrival.

My favorite element of this film, however, is its memory. In essence, the entire film runs not on a cohesive plot, but a stream of memories. It's quite evident to anyone who has seen the film. There is a easy pace. Sometimes, catastrophes fall, as they do in any life. Sometimes, there are no catastrophes to greet, so one goes on regardless. The film is mere memories. No blatant attempt to manipulate the feelings of the viewer, just a fair portrayal of a woman's life.

It makes me think a bit about lives flashing before the eyes. It's an old cliche, of course, but this idea still resounds in the consciousness of nearly anything with two legs. What will I make of my life? What have I made of it already? I love watching the memories because it helps me remember what I want to flash before my eyes. Life is an exciting race. I like to hope I'm not afraid to chase down the exotic and extraordinary opportunities which hide from common view. There is great excitement in the race. I suppose I better start running.

Walking

I went for a walk today. A night walk, my favorites. I have always felt an odd sort of attraction to the night. Shops close, street lights flicker into importance, cars and pedestrians thin and sometimes disappear altogether. The world seems different. Intimate, in a sense.

During the day there is a sense of errand. The sun shines and with every degree reminds its worshippers of the passing moments, hours. Feet trickle in and out of shops, banks, gas stations. Used coins and bills exchange hands, plastic cards swish and swipe in such determined rhythm. Daytime is for errands.

The sun retires, though. He is tired. He has rushed man along, he has earned his rest after his day of errands. The moon is less rushed. He simply peruses the town. Not so much to buy, the shops are closed. Not many to rush, as most are resting comfortably in their own beds. Except for me and few others.

There is a serene comfort in the night. Walking the resting streets, peering in the darkened windows. Nodding with familiar recognition to the few strangers who share your path. This intimacy has always sung to me. The world in its purest element. Resting.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Out of a Forest



Beautiful. Stop motion.


Midnight

Why is there a secret allure to staying awake? I may have nothing to do, or thousands of undone things to do, but the moments of quite night alone in my apartment seem paramount to everything. Every minute past midnight is a contraband item. I know I shouldn't have it, but I take them all the same with my greedy hands and hoard them with every melodious tick. The longer I hold out for, the more contraband minutes I collect, the greater the struggle necessary to coax me into a release. It's time for bed, it's time to let go of today.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Perspective


Sometimes all you need is an empty space. The days pass, they always do, and if you don't take a moment to record a thought, impression, a story, a memory, a picture that stood out in some way, or anything at all that changes your perception of the world in even its most minuscule amounts, then what is the point of it all? I don't profess to break patterns. I am not one who writes for praise. I am just looking for that bit of space where I can be the philosopher, the scientist, the impressor, the magician, the weaver, the impressee, the author, the observer, the reader, the creator. In this bit of space, I record what my eyes see. They may not be your eyes, but they're all I have.