Tuesday, December 28, 2010

my ukulele: the new love affair

so basically my brain proper has been shut off this entire break, and my entire focus has been on playing my new ukulele! that link isn't to my exact starter kit, although it's close; i think the electronic tuner is the only difference–mine is a simple pitch pipe, but it does the job. i've had my uke 3 days now and all i want to do is sit around and strum it.

i would like, of course, to learn how to approach a fractional level of the proficiency of people like jake shimabukuro, who i've only just learned about but was blown away by his incredibly beautiful performance. those who know him of course will laugh because it's much like my only just discovering luciano pavorotti now…but whatever. i'm learning. and appreciating.

so far i've been practicing chords, strumming techniques, reading about the history of the ukulele, and playing with moderate success "dream a little dream of me," "somewhere over the rainbow," "suspicious minds" and most fun so far, "the ballad of gilligan's island" (yes, this is the real title of the theme song). i've also ordered a book of beatles' uke tunes from amazon, so that should arrive by the time i get back to pittsburgh.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


the first half of my graduate program is done and all i have to think about now are visiting friends and family in pittsburgh, and doing the things around pittsburgh i never got to do, like going to phipp's conservatory, the carnegie museums, walking around downtown, and doing whatever else may come into my head. also, at some point, i must drive the cats back to brewster. that will not be fun.

it is SO nice to be free for the next couple of weeks, but it also makes me a bit sad…i can't believe i'm already halfway through my program, and then in a few short months, i'll be done completely. oh well. there's no sense in wishing for things to last longer than their proper time–i suspect that if i were in school longer, i would find some reason to complain about it. happiness is enjoying where and what you are, in the present. but that is a hard lesson, for many parts of life. not just career.

this year i am thankful for having so much good luck in my life. i have a good place to be, and i will just have to believe that the next place i'll be, will procure its own means of happiness.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

dreams beyond reach

sometimes my dreams are so intriguing that i am amazed and perplexed at the source of the creative powers of the mind that are impossible to tap into during waking hours.

how frustrating that during the day, i can only recall at best the shadow memories of what was.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

the mountain, and my little boat

the other night i dreamed that i was in a boat. i almost feel that i've had this dream before, but i'm not sure. there is something about the environment of feeling and setting that is so familiar.

the setting is mt. riga, but it's both familiar and new from the mountain that i know. there are new paths in the woods, new streams, trickling between grassy banks, which feed into the lake. i know this is a dream-conglomeration of the mt. riga of my mind, but these visions are so real that i sometimes think that i'll come across them one day on the mountain–there all along, but previously hidden from sight. these are good places, magical places, full of sunlight and content.

my boat isn't much to look at; in fact, it's little more than the size of a one-person raft. but it's a sweet, sturdy little row boat with one short paddle, and when i see it waiting for me in the shallows of the lake, i feel proud to call it mine.

part of me, i must admit, is a bit dubious about paddling around in this thing without sinking, but i'm also so pleased to be able to hop in and paddle myself about the lake. and it's so convenient, really, to have it so small–it's light enough to fit down those narrow streams, and i can easily pick it up and take it with me, so that i can virtually go anywhere.

at some point in the dream, i even take it out onto the great ocean, but there i am slightly less sure about being out there on something so tiny, so i'm not out there for long–or perhaps that was the part of the dream where i woke up.

maybe i was remembering the little toy boat from the film ponyo, that gave the two children such freedom to roam. or maybe i am remembering the dream that i had of being on a ship, in control of my own destiny.

or maybe i am remembering the journey that reepicheep took to the End of the World, the Utter East:

"they helped him lower his little coracle. then he took off his sword ("i shall need it no more," he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea. where it fell it stood upright with the hilt above the surface. then he bad them good-bye, trying to be sad for their sakes; but he was quivering with happiness… then hastily he got into his coracle and took his paddle, and the current caught it and away he went, very black against the lilies. but no lilies grew on the wave; it was a smooth green slope. the coracle went more and more quickly, and beautifully it rushed up the wave's side. for one split second they saw its shape and reepicheep's at the very top. then it vanished…"

yet these places on the mountain are curious too–what are they? what part of my mind are they, that i continuously come back to them?

Monday, November 1, 2010

happy halloween!

i am feeling surprisingly full of health and energy despite the fact that i went to bed at 5:00am this morning after partying for six hours, and then walking 1.6 miles home. i know this sounds lame, but i think the secret so far has been lots of cups of tea, and lots of sleep. so yes, i went to bed at 5:00am, but i slept today until 1:30pm.

which, ok, partially explains why i'm up writing this blog post at 12:39am when i should be a-bed, but i'll get to that in a minute. i went to a party at caitlin's house for all of the english masters students, and danced the night away to "thriller," "in the navy," "monster mash," and other favorites, with great zest, but by about 2:00am i was ready to sleep. so how did i end up leaving at about 4:00am instead?

one thing was that i became trapped up in caitlin's bedroom talking with a man who was–no, not trying to rape me–demanding to know why i had never read anything by vonnegut. and he wasn't even one of the masters students.

the other thing was that i was waiting for my friends to be ready to leave because we were all walking home together. rachael was quite ready to go when i was–we were both exhausted. but brittany is our MA event coordinator, so she had to stick around and clean up.

and michael…michael was just drunk, and having a great time, and there was no pulling him away from the fun. we tried several times, in fact, to get him to the front door, but somehow he would sneak away and you'd find him back in the kitchen looking for another beer, or at the food table stuffing pretzels in his mouth, which was actually quite comical.

so that left brittany and i to try and get michael out the door, and not appear drunk so that if anyone should approach us, it looked like we had a competent, sober man of considerable strength at our disposal. yeah, right.

it was then that brittany announced that our walk home was about 1.6 miles. beautiful. we started out into the biting night (or morning?) air, with michael lurching behind us making rude commentary. by the time we gained south negley ave., he was murmuring something about the children he was going to bear, or something, while brittany and i mostly ignored him.

then we had to stagger up the quarter-mile, forty-five degree angle incline of south negley ave. at least at this point the walk had started to make me slightly warmer. michael helped by stealing a joe sestak sign and dragging it behind him on the sidewalk.

by the time we got close to my apartment building, the story now was that michael wanted to bear his own children so that they would only have his own genes (?). i was so glad to pass him off to brittany's responsibility.

when i got home i made myself a cup of hot tea, put a hot water bottle under the blankets, and fell grately into bed…at approximately 4:48am.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

twin souls

i really like the phrase "my heart went out to _____." i know it's trite, but when you think about it, the image is really simple but really powerful.

imagine the heart as a living essence of its own, with the ability to take itself out of the body in order that it might go into another's to be with that person's heart. it is a powerful way to describe to someone what empathy would look like if it could be visualized.

or maybe i'm just being weird again, but if you ever read john donne, you might get what i mean.

here, at least, are two hearts no doubt joined as one:

twin souls

and we'll go together,
hands clasped as twin halves
of the same soul.
you, me, myself,
my own protector
keeping me through the night,
held tightly against
the onslaught of the world.

you, my soul,
my one half that is also the whole,
i hear you echo back as i say the words:
i will never leave you.

it is more a love song to myself, a gemini with two halves sometimes at odds but always compassionate with each other, but of course it is also for other twin souls.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


today was so far the busiest day of the semester: class in the morning, lunch w/ friends on walnut st, watched give us this day in the basement of the library for film adaptations class, went to the lecture "tabloid hollywood and "roaring twenties,"" sat in on 3 of the 4 hour rehearsal for a midsummer night's dream for my ethnography for 18th c. drama class, now home finally, cats give looks of betrayal and loneliness, must change into pjs, write a blog post based on earlier film i watched, then call my sister (?) and BED.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

moving beyond the "firsts"

i have to do a report on a figure in cultural studies for one of my classes, so i chose angela mcrobbie, who, it turns out, is awesome. here she is, looking witty, stylish, and fully tuned-in to the ideologies that define gender in our culture:

feminism today, is, i think, a largely unpopular word for people of my generation. unfortunately, if you say you are a feminist, aka you believe in the equal representation of women's voices, people assume that you hate men and love nascar and burning effigies of paris hilton (actually...would that be fun? let me come back to that one).

but angela mcrobbie is this voice of such good sense and clarity, like princess leia…she does not want feminism to die for this generation of young men and women because it might mean losing a language that allows women's experiences to be acknowledged. but at the same time she recognizes that if the language of feminism doesn't serve women as it originally intended to, then we need to ask ourselves, what will serve?

because the main point is that we tend to think we have "won" wars against race, gender, sexuality, etc. but just because we have made progress (and GREAT progress that we should celebrate) doesn't mean the work is done. as my good friend darryl, a great public speaker, cook, and black member of his community who was invited to speak at this year's martin luther king jr. celebration, said: "why do we celebrate hearing about the 'first black man' to do this, or the 'first woman to do that'? i want to live in a world where we're beyond hearing about 'firsts.'"

if we could also move beyond a world where "diversity" means the token black friend or the token gay friend in an otherwise all-white heterosexual cast to a feature film, that would also be nice.

the danger of living in a culture that stresses equality is that it tends to see it where it doesn't exist, and the willful blindness can become an even more invidiously oppressive system than the formal barriers that earlier movements of the 20th century sought to eradicate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

flea-eradication project (FEP): part II

today i enacted part II of the flea-eradication project, or FEP. here are some terrifying stats about fleas, according to vetmedicine.about.com:
  • "the total flea life cycle can range from a couple weeks to several months, depending on environmental conditions"
  • "the adult female flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day, 500-600 eggs over several months"
  • "flea saliva, like other biting skin parasites, contains an ingredient that softens, or "digests" the host's skin for easier penetration and feeding"
great. so today i vacuumed the whole apartment, wet-vacuumed the furniture, and tossed all of my bedding and blankets in the wash. huck, now used to his flea collar, has been complacent this whole time, watching me with mild bemusement as i run around the apartment like a madwoman. but i can't help it...i'm becoming paranoid about flea saliva.

here is my hope: neither cat has been scratching themselves at all, and in fact if i hadn't seen the little blighter crawling across huck's fur, you'd never think there was a problem. so hopefully i have caught this at the beginning and can terminate it before it escalates into an infestation. but vetmedicine.about.com doesn't make it sound very promising. sigh. pray for me.

Monday, September 27, 2010


ooooh huck has a flea. a flea. no way.

tonight, when i should have been focused on reading the way of the world, i instead looked down at my cat, who was snoozing on top of me, to see a tiny black thing moving across his furry white chest. i leaned forward and put my fingers against his fur, and yes, the little black thing jumped out of sight. definitely a flea. huck, of course, began purring happily because his mama was petting him. totally oblivious.

in that moment i realized just how much stuff huck was touching. the blanket we were wrapped up in together, the couch, the pillows on the couch, my bed which he had just been sitting on moments before. ughhhhhhh.

with a shudder i jumped up from the couch, threw on my trench coat and some flip flops, and ran down the street to, thank God almighty, the 24-hour rite aid. two flea collars later, i came back home and opened the apartment door. there, jack and huckleberry sat on laz-e-boy recliner and couch, respectively, looking trustingly up at me. oh, what they didn't realize.

luckily i was able to get the collars on them with minimal bloodshed. huck has never worn a collar, so he didn't even know what was coming, and as jack ran over to sniff it and commiserate, i quickly advanced from behind and slipped his around him. he definitely gave me a look of betrayal, but they will thank me one day.

they will thank me one day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

red trucks and old photographs

i ought to be doing my homework, but instead i must record this dream.

i was back in my childhood last night. or, not exactly my childhood, but in a state of youngness, if that makes sense. i felt younger. i was in a place that was not mt. riga, but it was like that, but only because there was a house on a lake, and it was familiar. dad and kornelya and jalom were there, so that also doesn't make sense if it was "the past."

but at any rate, dad gave me old photographs he had found, and when i looked at them, i was surprised to see they were photos of me and my childhood best friend, annalise. looking at them made me suddenly recall memories i had not thought about for a long time, and yet, when i recall the images on the dream photographs, i can't say that they were tied to any real life memories.

it was rainy in that dream, and we had a canoe that we'd dragged up out of the lake and were storing under the house. inside the house was dark, but decorated everywhere with fairy lights and various plug-in decorative kitschy items.

in another part of my dream, i'm in a black pinstripe suit and i'm back at my old job, just about to leave, but i realize that the monitor to my computer is missing from my desk, and i don't want to leave before i figure out where it went, or else the new guy coming in to replace me won't have a monitor. i hunt around to try and find it and encounter some woman who i guess is the HR person, but she isn't helpful.

i give up, and am going to go down the hall to join a meeting but i realize they don't really need me for it since i'm leaving, so i keep walking down the hall, and incidentally this building looks like the basement floor to an office park, and when i turn a corner to the left, i see that there is a huge crowd of people swelling through the hallway, trying to get down a staircase.

there is also, really and truly, a big red truck that is amongst the throng and trying to make its way down the stairs. i run over to the crowd, feeling curious, piteous, and obliged to help. i get in the truck and, "driving" try to manœver it down the stairs…but of course, it won't fit. i feel a bit frustrated, but then, what would they have me do? they thank me for trying anyway.

i feel that there were other elements to this dream, but i can't remember them. analysis?

Monday, September 20, 2010

the virtues of mental running and of stillness

i stood outside just now at the bus stop, waiting for any of the 61 buses to take me back home from campus, and as usual, i pulled out my phone to read a book on my wattpad application, since it's lighter than carrying another book in my bag. and then i realized, once again, how bad i am at just standing still, waiting, without feeling the need for my mind to run at full force, and to be constantly entertained with a book.

as a side note, if you see my apartment, or any living space i inhabit, i tend to leave a book in almost every room, including the bathroom, so that any activity that i'm doing can be supplemented with reading. in the kitchen this has become slightly hazardous, as i have a gas stove now, so the potential disaster of open flames measuring over 451 degrees farenheit near paper is…well, you do the math.

and don't blame social media and kids these days and their smart phones for this lack of concentration. as far back as i can remember, anywhere i had to wait, i would spend the time daydreaming and being in my own mind rather than observing where i was. the larger point i was coming to is that my mind is not good at being still and observing. i only seem able to do that at mt. riga, where, arguably, there are better things to observe. but why is that? the immediate answer is that standing at the bus stop is boring, but, then, why is it boring? surely the scene of the bus stop must be one of those moments which a writer ought to cherish–where one can observe the nuances of human nature in the variety of people waiting alongside you.

but i haven't the patience, nor the interest. after all, it is boring to wait at the bus stop, unless something interesting happens, like the guy next to you suddenly pulls down his pants, or sets fire to the bus shelter (which, on second thought, probably wouldn't burn well as it's metal).

but is this–this constant failure to notice, or care to notice, one's immediate physical surroundings–the factor that could impede my progress as a writer? or is the convention of the waiting at a bus stop so trite at this point anyway that there's nothing new to say about it?

one could, for instance, in the course of fabricating what is, after all, fiction anyway, impose figures and sentiments, that one picked up in any old place, on a bus stop scene. and it would probably make entertaining reading.

anyway, the only times when i think it worth sitting still in my mind are these:
  • being at mt. riga
  • reading to my little cousins
  • doing yoga
if you can think of any others, i invite you to add them to the list.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

tribute to past loves in technology

em called me yesterday to ask if it was ok for our little sister to inherit our old imac, which i primarily used throughout high school and college. thinking about it after i got off the phone with her made me suddenly reminiscent of all the old technology i grew up with and loved. is that odd? sounds like it could be a weird ethnography into the life of a childhood in the late eighties/early nineties.

but truly, you could say that technology does become a part of your identity. this imac served me faithfully for 8 years:
i wrote novella after novella on it, played the various myst games that were so amazing, and created art projects of questionable skill in adobe photoshop.

and what about other past loves in the world of technology? here are some that i still think of fondly:

the original nintendo, of course. this must come first as one of the greatest inventions of the 1980's. nintendo was not the first video game system, but it was truly the best.i still value it above all other systems, even though to get mine working now, you have to shove another game in on top of the first to keep the one you're actually intending to play, in the machine:

and then there was lite-brite, which offered endless creative possibility:

and of course, the one item i always coveted as a child but never received: power wheels.
toys 'r us had a little mermaid-themed power wheels that was amazing, but which i can't find a google image of, which just shows how rare and precious these babies were.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

rainy day, rainy day

our first rainy day in pittsburgh for some time now; oh, i love the rain! it makes me feel like christopher robin:

i just got back from class where my professor brought us dunkin' donuts "because it's raining" and we listened to arias from henry purcell's the fairy queene, including my favorite:

If Love's a Sweet Passion, why does it torment?
If a Bitter, oh tell me whence comes my content?
Since I suffer with pleasure, why should I complain,
Or grieve at my Fate, when I know 'tis in vain?
Yet so pleasing the Pain is, so soft is the Dart,
That at once it both wounds me and tickles my Heart.

I press her Hand gently, look Languishing down,
And by Passionate Silence I make my Love known.
But oh! how I'm Blest when so kind she does prove,
By some willing mistake to discover her Love.
When in striving to hide, she reveals all her Flame,
And our Eyes tell each other, what neither dares Name.

youtube an arrangement of this if you're interested; it really is the most beautiful music.

well, my goal for the rest of today is to read, read, read, and to bring back the use of the word "discover" in its original context, i.e., to reveal. i mean, i got my friend monica to start using the word "mayhap" by just saying it often enough around her, so i figure it's only a matter of time before it's the next big trend around carnegie mellon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

the namesake

i took a break from writing my prospectus (which, by the way, is now about the film the women) to eat dinner, fold laundry, and watch my latest netflix rental, agatha christie: a life in pictures.

being named after her, and being a great fan of her mysteries, i was pleased that the bbc once again has made a great film. the plot basically follows the story of her life, but tells it in an unconventional way, playing with a consciousness about cinema and performance, and playing with the convention of the mystery genre.

the film opens with agatha sitting with a pyschotherapist, who is trying to help her piece her life back together after she has gone missing for over ten days and loses her memory. the therapist is trying to help her to piece together why she went into a breakdown, and what happened to her while she was missing. the thrilling part about this is that this is a true story: agatha christie was actually presumed dead until she was finally discovered in the harrogate hotel, residing under the alias mrs. neel.

it's only natural, i suppose, that a famous mystery author should have such a mystery of her own. but it's also sad that she had such a terrible first marriage. so if you are feeling sorry for her, i will assure you that the film ends on a triumphant note, with her second marriage being to a much kinder man whom she loved until the end of her life: an archeologist, in fact, who just suited her taste for mysteries and drama, and who was able to fuel some of the inspirations behind some of her novels, like death on the nile.

the movie's use of time-stop-motion and filtered lighting is also effective both in creating the sense that, as we watch her personal narrative unfold in fragmented flashbacks, we feel we're becoming part of her psyche as she struggles to remember; and it is artistic, drawing us in by the curiosity to understand what these eyes are that we keep seeing close ups of, or what draws her mind (i.e., our cinematic image of) back to the image of the swing she played on as a girl.

the film's consciousness of its own theatrics, as i say, is also well done–not tacky, but at times heightens the unease of the memories we are witnessing. at other times it's playful, as when the film uses time-stop-motion to let agatha's second husband perform directly to the camera and pretend to be a magician by 'conjuring' up her novels as we are told by her in voiceover about her increasing success as a novelist.

so that is my evening. i must get back to writing my prospectus now, but thanks to netflix for recommending this excellent flick.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

o, my america

i can't offer anything valuable to say about you, 9-11. you know what you are. if you lost someone, i'm sorry. if you didn't lose someone, i'm still sorry.

Friday, September 10, 2010

the fact is that everyone loves times new roman best out of all the fonts. why is it not the default font on microsoft word? i do not like cambria.

Thursday, September 9, 2010



what if i write my research paper, for my film adaptations class, on adaptations of physicality in austen novels in plays and film through present day?

stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

pittsburgh-mt. riga alumni club

i had a great evening last night with what i've decided to call the pittsburgh-mt. riga alumni club, which is kind of like the pittsburgh-gettysburg college alumni club, except we don't get awarded degrees…yet.

at any rate, our branch of the mt. riga alumni club consists of frank and debbie, their friends greg and nancy, the many dogs, and, in spirit, doug and his girlfriend carrie, who were not in physical attendance but who were in our thoughts.

we met at frank and debbie's house, which is a pretty, rambling sort of place that sits at the top of a hill, on the outer bend of a curve in a the road, and looks as if parts of its architecture range from the middle of the 19th century through the 1930's. the walls, furnishings and decor are all in warm, earthy colors, and it was very cozy. parts of the house were in some need of repair, but nothing really major; their house, like them, is sort of casually elegant, pretty enough to not care about perfection. they also have a garden in similar condition, lovely and slightly wild, that falls steeply from the back of the house where they grow some veggies and the dogs like to tumble.

the evening consisted mainly of what any evening involving members of the wells family includes: copious amounts of wine. we also had some great conversation, of course, and talked extensively over family matters, the content of my courses, how nancy was liking her first taste of life outside of new york city (a "novelty" was how she put it), etc.

at some point, someone (ok, frank; these things are always brought up by frank) called us all to remember the ritz crackers-styled 'mock apple pie' that used to be advertised for years on the packaging of any box of ritz crackers. the curious thing about this pie was that it did not contain apples in its list of ingredients, and frank could not get over this, nor let the matter pass until we had dissected the origins and reasons behind such a recipe, with the final mandate that we will eat mock apple pie the next time we get together, which i deeply fear.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

impending doom?

i just looked in my closet and saw my rollerblades, and decided that i'm going to go rollerblading today for the first time in several years. as you can probably imagine, it's going to be hysterical.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

chillin in pittsburgh

i am so tired...but tired as one who's just done a bunch of yoga and eaten granola and run a couple of miles and then enjoyed a healthy apple. in short: i mean that though i am exhausted, i am exhausted with time well spent in my studies, and my brain is eating up the good, healthy challenges of prose that force it to stretch itself to build new synapses and...

well that's all a bit lofty, isn't it? i must check that or else i'll be labeled a typical graduate student. still, i can safely say i am quite happy to be just where i am, and only sigh that this program is just a year. watch–i'm sure i'll change my tune once the first huge paper is due.

on the other hand…i'm getting quite excited about choosing my research paper topic for film adaptations. here are the choices i'm debating between:
  • jane austen (duh, and i'm afraid everyone will just say this is typical)
  • star wars (it'll be like going back to a first love)
  • dr. who (tom baker years, anyone?)
  • the thursday next series by jasper fforde (all about adaptation)
  • the women (nobody can ever again be norma shearer)

so that's my internal struggle right now. not a bad life, is it? i know, i'm very lucky right now, and i know it. thank you thank you thank you Life!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

back to school

SO excited for my first day of classes tomorrow! i feel almost like i'm going into kindergarten, though, instead of a graduate program, such is my level of excitement. i even have my lunch box all ready, although i won't really be needing it until tuesday, when i have a morning class. but still, it is primed for lunch-packing.

i'm most excited about my green dinosaur-themed sandwich and soup containers (wonderfully named a "feed bowl" on the packaging, as if the contents inside are actually to be consumed in a more animalistic style than one usually meets with in civilized society). i expect i'll get quite the bit of attention from carting those around carnegie mellon!

oh, yes. i am so ready.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

please won't you be my neighbor?

well, i'm sold on pittsburgh. despite arriving here and immediately falling deathly ill to a still unnamed stomach virus, i absolutely love living here. and especially living in squirrel hill.

squirrel hill is in eastern pittsburgh, just up the hill from carnegie mellon, and is full of leafy streets and beautiful nineteenth-century brick houses and garden apartments, like the one i live in. down the street from me is an intersection with the carnegie library (where i presently sit typing on my laptop), a rite aid, an old movie theatre, grocery store, lots of shops and restaurants, and the grandest pnc bank i have quite seen (i feel like i should have a hat and gloves to go in there).

the other neighborhoods i am slowly getting to know as i get lost in the city traveling to them: east liberty, where my cousin has some friends, oakland, shady side, homestead...or homewood. something like that.

but squirrel hill is still my favorite. i'm still enjoying people-watching whenever i need to pop down the street, as the variety of people you see is somewhat greater than we had in gettysburg: tons of young people with eclectic fashion sense and heavy backpacks, who are clearly students; as part of the large jewish community here, dozens of families in (what i suppose is to be) more traditional modest clothing doing their shopping; bicyclists and people on mopeds of all sizes; and generally a wider sea of faces than i've seen in awhile. how funny to think that, for all that i've traveled, and for all of the places i've lived, this is probably the most diverse, eclectic place i've lived since living in stamford. brewster, ny and greenwich, ct certainly never came close, for opposite reasons.

i guess it's not that surprising–unless you live in a city, we are, for the most part, creatures of habit who are rarely exposed to anything outside of the narrow frame of reference which we know. and pittsburgh is not, perhaps, as diverse as many other places in the world. but i am loving it here.

did you know that mr. rogers lived in squirrel hill? i think that just about says everything you need to know.

Monday, August 2, 2010

guest books, language, and evidence of faeries

i'm back from my month of blissful stillness on the mountain. it was so good for my soul to be still. not still physically, mind you; i mean, still in my heart and in my head. i ran, swam, hiked, and played with small children and many dogs, so i exerted no small amount of energy; but for one month i was able, for the most part, to push out thoughts of the past, thoughts of the future, and to live in the day to day of mt. riga.

it's so easy to do that on the mountain, when your days consist of easy conversation and books, and when your body naturally slips into sleepiness at sunset and wants to wake with the morning light.

how do i describe what it is to be up there with my family? i love to read the guest books at various families' camps with a real tender sympathy, because everyone tries to write what they feel without sounding clichéed ("lovely time up here...a little slice of heaven...our stay far too short...") but of course it's like trying to describe the light from a star: the real thing is far more brilliant.

language is funny; we pride ourselves on possessing words that run the gamut of describing everything we know of in the universe, and yet... as soon as we begin to put into words what we experience, it's already lost something of the original luster. does that make sense? sometimes, on very rare occasion, you'll say something to someone and it just clicks, but this happens rarely, i think. when it does, i'm always struck that what was said wasn't necessarily said using the fanciest, most erudite language; rather, it was just right.

like, when you glance into someone else's eyes and you have that momentary flash of seeing right into them–most people only let you see a moment of that before they close up again and the connection's gone. but it reminds me of being a little girl and standing in the twilight in my yard, and thinking again and again that, out of the corner of my eye, i've seen faeries.

Friday, July 23, 2010

days of beautiful nothingness

i can't believe it's already getting near the end of july. i suppose that's a solid testament to the relaxing and care-free month i've been having on the mountain. i don't seem to do a whole lot, but the days slip away and i'm having a great time just reading, swimming, catching up with family, and doing not much. right now i'm down at the salisbury library with my aunt olivia and uncle dick, while we run our daily errands, and the routine of life on the mountain has been just what it ought to be: slow and rather uneventful.

examples of this are the fact that the most inane stories get repeated to everyone who already knows them, and are avidly recounted to any new person who comes up the mountain. this must be what it's like to live in iowa, except not as flat.

here is one of the stories that have no real pressing interest to anyone, but which have been widely circulated: aunt olivia has been having uncle dick turn on the generator every day so that she can blow dry her hair. somehow everyone knows about this. we went down the mountain to visit chauny and crosby, and the first thing chauny said was "so i heard you've been blow drying your hair."

i have much else to reflect on, but just as i'm not doing much this month except relaxing, i have no desire to tax my brain right now into deeper reflexion about my mt. riga time. that'll be for august, i expect.

Monday, June 28, 2010

small cat = great destruction

so everything is packed up and shipped out. i won't see my things for a month, but that's ok, so long as i didn't pack something away that i need... but for a month, i'll make do. now, to finish off work with panache, or at least without leaving some major forgotten project undone.

slightly dramatic story with my cats: they were packed up into my dad's car yesterday and went back to brewster with him and kornelya and jalom. when they got home yesterday evening, they let huckleberry out and he immediately ran to the wall and pulled open a panel they kept for getting to the water pipes, and disappeared into the wall.

anyway, i found this out today at lunch time, and, slightly apprehensive, as you can imagine, called kornelya, who said they could get the carpenter to come and pull open the panel further to get him out. slightly assured, i said ok.

by the time i got home from errands tonight, i had a voicemail from dad saying that the cat was still in the wall and to call him immediately. freaked out, i called and dad said they'd pulled apart half the kitchen wall and couldn't find him. he said there was nothing he could do and he didn't think the cat would last very long in the wall. of course i started sobbing and dad kept saying he was sorry and i couldn't help berating the fact that they have this easily accessible hole in the wall when they've had up to three cats living in their household for this potential disaster. then dad said he would try getting a panel open on the other side of the kitchen. i felt bad asking him to take more of the kitchen apart, but on the other hand, i would bulldoze my house if that's what it took to save my cat.

i got off the phone and told the story to courtney, at whose house i'm staying until the end of work. she tried to comfort me by counteracting dad's melodramatic prognostics by saying cats are clever and can survive days without food and can fit in all sorts of small spaces just fine. but of course i was panicked now and afraid i'd arrive back in brewster with my baby dead. so she distracted me with youtube videos of people dancing for oprah, and it kind of worked, and then at that point, dad called back to announce that they were able to get huckleberry out of the wall, and he was cooped up in the bathroom with the window closed.

he informed me that it was stifling in there but he wouldn't open the window in case huck tried to go out the screen. i said, why not open the window an inch or two? he was convinced huck would get through this. i was convinced that after the trauma of being forced into a cat carrier and riding in an un-air conditioned car for six hours with total strangers to an unknown destination and fate, to get stuck in a wall for over twenty-four hours, huck would end by dying of heat stroke in that bathroom with no ventilation.

finally a compromise was reached, in which the window was (slightly) opened, and the bathroom and bedroom doors were left open, with an outer hallway door to act as the actual barrier between that portion and the rest of the house. jack was stuck with huckleberry for companionship, and hopefully that is the end of it.

funny, i had thought the packing up part would be the part to give me a near-heart attack.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

the personification of my subtle anatomy

dreams of recent note–

in my most recent dream, i am riding on a train, out of philadelphia maybe, and i'm taxed by the thought of the journey ahead. the train seems to hit delays, or there's something about the ride that makes me uncomfortable. there's other people on the train, but i don't see anyone i know, no friendly faces to make me feel more comfortable about being here.

then i'm lying on one of the seats of the train, and suddenly, there's a train conductor standing beside me and looking down at me, smiling. i look at her and feel a little better, and then all of a sudden there are many women surrounding me, looking down at me, smiling and benevolent, protective. they're beautiful, and robed in greek-looking garments. or maybe they're naked? i'm not sure, but it's like they're angels or something. i just watch them, smiling at me, surrounding me in a tight circle, ethereal and luminous.

waking up and thinking about it, i wondered if they were my chakras, the personification of my Subtle Anatomy, as kundalini yoga teaches. i have been practicing meditation on the chakras lately, and so far it is my favorite yoga position, or asana (i'm trying to learn the language of yoga), next to the position where you just lie on your back with your arms outstretched and drift into a trance-like snooze.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the wide stretches of fiction and reality

"even once we consciously know something is fictional, there is a part of us that believes it's real."

isn't that a great photo up above? i found this article today speculating on why it is that the imagination is such a pleasure to us. it's the kind of question an adult would ask, after all; children, with a more instinctive wisdom, already know. paul bloom, this article's author, cites his colleague's theory of "aliefs"–or rather, instinctive beliefs that are intrinsically linked to emotional responses over objective, sensory responses to fiction versus reality. or maybe "sensory" is the wrong word, if in this context an alief is triggered by more primitive sensations. seeing a man stumble over a cliff in a scary movie makes us jump, even though we know we're just watching a stunt double hopping against a blue screen.

i wonder what mr. bloom would have to say about dreams, then. are they an extension of the imagination, both real and unreal, full of both beliefs and aliefs? i sometimes wonder. there's no saying how wide are the stretches of the capacity of the human brain, nor how much we think we sense is reality. and if dreams are, on some plane of place and time, real, then why not novels and fiction? we long for stories, but what are we creating in the telling?

Friday, May 14, 2010

wisdom teeth extraction update:

agatha = 1. wisdom teeth = 0. ha!

Monday, May 10, 2010

which way the wheel turns

in thinking about planning for my future, i can't help having flashbacks to being a much younger girl, and thinking a bit wistfully how much easier life was in many ways. one of my favorite activities, when i was younger, was to go to our massive town library and go and scavenge for ten or twelve books i wanted to read, and then to either go and find a comfortable chair in the corner in which to horde and devour, or to take them home and, with a large piece of chocolate in hand, go one by one. the library even had shelves down in the basement where the cafe was, where you could buy used books for 25 cents. if i had $5 in my pocket, i could buy a sandwich and a snapple and sit and happily read for hours. there's a certain charm to that simplicity; and yet i'm not foolish enough to forget the many hours of boredom and frustration that go with being young and feeling powerless. no real money, no freedom to go where i choose, no sense of feeling that my opinion had any importance. when you're an adult, you can choose how you want to live your life, and how you want people to treat you.

so i don't un-wish the responsibilities that i have now–they go hand in hand with the freedoms of getting older. i guess it's just that being free is both terrifying and exhilarating–if you are submitting to someone else's will, you don't have to think for yourself. i think a lot of people feel it's easier not to, actually, even when they grow up. sometimes, in a moment of mental and spiritual exhaustion, i can almost understand why–but the terror of giving up that right is so great that the feeling is quickly vanquished by the tremendous courage and confidence you get from steering your own life.

do please forgive me if i quote the same passage again and again…i trust that the (possibly) three people who actually read this blog are of such a kind friendship with me that they'll either forgive me or just skip past it. i mean, do you ever have such a revelation, that you feel is so much a cornerstone of your own faith that you can't help returning to it like a prayer wheel?

at any rate, the point is that i said, reflecting on a particularly animated dream i had, that, despite fear of the unknown, despite the crushing weight of responsibility to be something beyond myself, despite all this, i still retain a fervent gratitude "to be the one who decided which way the wheel turned."

because i am truly thankful. i've had a lot to bear in my life, but could have borne a lot more, and am only too conscious of the great blessing i have in being able to strike out my own destiny. what is fate? the apple rolling on the plate? still, i am rolling the apple.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

for a reason?

do you believe that everything happens for a reason? i actually do–or rather, even rejecting the supposition of a higher power pre-determining this reason, when actions happen, there is reason behind them, and reason to be gained in their happening (reason in the purpose sense, not the logic sense).

i can't quantify how often this thought comes back to me, but it makes my life feel fuller somehow. negative experiences still hurt, but they lose some of their bitter tinge in the thought of what i gain by them: greater perspective, understanding of human nature, understanding of what i want in my life. i know i'm being vague, but it's because i'm thinking of several experiences over the past year, not just one. and i see more and more how, as i said, every experience is an opportunity to be happy. and for me to realize what i need in my life.

isn't that the hallmark tenant of buddhism? my friend paul tells me that his favorite aspect of buddhism is the symbol of the lotus flower. have you ever seen one? they really are very beautiful:
he says it is a buddhist symbol because the lotus can blossom in most any location–a crack in the sidewalk, a pile of refuse; from bad beginnings comes something beautiful and pure.

it reminds me that there is so much room for goodness.

Friday, April 23, 2010

face to face

spring is finally, finally here. i have so longed for it, and been, i think, pretty patient in awaiting its coming. now my thoughts turn to memories of summers past, of my beautiful mountain, of quiet wood sounds and open windows.

the other day, on my walk through the battlefield, i experienced an almost zen-perfect moment of evening, as only spring can afford, when the sun was just setting and the birds were larking prettily, and the trees had that fresh greenness that is almost fluorescent in its brilliancy–you know that vivid yellow-green of new leaves, bright against the sky? yes, that. that was this one evening. i even saw (and heard) some woodpeckers. they looked so free up in the trees! i bet it is a grand view, to sit on so high a perch, and look out over the earth.

turning back over the fields, i watched the dandelions sway in the evening breeze and thought, why do these moments pass so quickly, when as a child this same second was one eternity of consciousness? when you're little, you experience everything intensely, always as if for the first time, and the impression becomes archived in your mind as nearly sacred.

i have been trying to learn the concept of meditation, but it's almost impossible to read and just experience, without intense practice. but it seems to me that a great part of meditating is to simply think as a child. and yet, children are not natural meditators–or at least, they do not naturally sit still, as much meditation requires. but there is a freshness in the mind of a child that is lost in the course to adulthood: out of necessity, naturally. but still. it is worth slightly unlearning, in order to see again–we see dimly, as in a mirror, but then we will see face to face. i will know, even as i am fully known.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

hidden messages in water

i have a new theory. or maybe it's not my original theory, i'm sure others have thought of it, but i was thinking about it myself last night. it has been shown that speaking hateful words at water causes the water crystals to form chaotic, ugly patterns; while speaking loving, happy words causes them to form beautiful, harmonious patterns. you can actually view these under a microscope: http://www.our-drinking-water.com/water-crystals.html

your body is made up of water, so speak hateful things and you are hurting yourself. speak with love and your body will be a temple of perfect order.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

music, grace

today in church we sang one of my favorite hymns: "i want to walk as a child of the light." if you don't know it, look it up on youtube, because it's truly lovely.

now, i don't call myself religious, but spiritual, yes--that i can't get enough of. i could pray to Jesus, Ganesh, Allah, or mediate on my Centered Self--it doesn't matter. but i don't know how to write about my love for God; it's easier to write about my love for the people i love, for music. it's much the same thing, i guess.

if you have any sensitivity to music, you can understand that it is one of the few things that always, always makes me feel close to God. the synthesis of the physical body's pulsing rhythm, of air moving through lungs, of fingers guiding keys, with the mind, buzzing, buzzing with activity, processing the sound and then sailing independently of the physical body, connecting the senses with the ultimate SENSE--this synthesis is my true love.

i think that's why music with another, or with a group, has so much power. making music with another binds your heart, body and mind together in a way that little else can.

it's not just for the classroom!