Monday, August 31, 2009

Scenes: only in the rain

I: The Garden

The gardens were lush around us and entranced by the possibilities in the day, in each other, we didn’t notice the mugginess. Or the clouds gathering slyly above the hibiscus hedges.

Then suddenly, sleeting against our faces, the rains came.

We ran through the gardens in the rain - your umbrella blue, mine red - bumping into each other in our frantic hunt for shelter.

Then, finally, a pavilion! Breathless , shaking with laughter, we settled comfortably onto the ground.

Then you told me what you had to say and I lost my breath all over again.

II: A case of you

The first time you kissed me, it poured.

Another frantic search for shelter,running madly about streets lined with shophouses, painted in pastels and all streaked with rain. But this time, just the one umbrella.

Your arm comfortably around my shoulders and the sudden knowledge of where this might go.

I was wearing your t shirt, green with stripes and smiling, my hair wet when you reached for my face.

III: Still

The rains receded as we nursed the growing child of unease, breeding closely and quietly in our bellies.

The end was quiet, a relief - no thunder or lightning – just our voices in a candle lit room, echoing off the walls.

When you walked me out, I looked up and noted – through the pain – that the skies flaunted white stars, a moon.

That it was bone dry.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Music. Mathematics.Chess

"There may be only three human activities in which miraculous accomplishment is possible before adulthood: mathematics, music and chess. These are abstract, almost invented realms, closed systems bounded by rules of custom or principle. Here, the child learns, is how elements combine and transform; here are the laws that govern their interactions; and here are the possibilities that emerge as you play with signs, symbols, sounds or pieces. Nothing else need be known or understood — at least at first."

Link to full NYT article here.

I can't do any of the three - and I shall always wonder what that means.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No Shadow of Turning

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

James 1:17

The week started strangely - with a memorial service. E, one of my dearest and oldest friends, posted on FB of her grandmother's death on Saturday. Thanks to my being incredibly busy on both Saturday and Sunday, I didn't find out until Monday. I honestly thank God for whatever it was that made me log into fb on Monday morning and scroll through everything. No, I don't usually do that; my normal habit is to check my messages and then scoot offline.

E looked small, and so young as she got up to speak at the service and I was suddenly overwhelmed. Not by grief, but with love for her. The winding course of a long friendship, I realized, is not unlike that of a marriage. As I looked at E , I felt a confidence that whatever life brought: job changes, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, life changes - we'd be there for each other and we'd get through it together. Sometimes, I'll wait in patience for her around the turn and sometimes, she'll wait for me - but always, I want to run this race with her.

Workwise, it's been busy and about to get busier so this blog might fall silent for a bit -still writing little bits here and there - on pieces of paper, my notebook, random scribbles. In the main, these last few weeks, I've taken some time out to just sit, rest, think, meet with a mentor and pray.

The rest was good and there is less a sense of strain. That throbbing, thumping - I must do everything/get everything done - string of evil thoughts is in abeyance and I am so grateful. There is and will be a time to do. But for now - a time to rest and study and just be held.


The girl re-emerges

I always promise a whole girl-y post about shoes and shopping - and so far that has yet to happen. But yes - boys and girls - there was some shopping done in the last couple of weeks. Not enormous amounts, but I do believe a lovely satin-y skirt with a rose (!) and cute shoes were ogled and then purchased *pleased smile*

Next up on the shopping front:

*my first cheongsam (!)
*red shoes/bag


Book front

Finished The Children's Book - ever so layered and rich- but too many characters, less focus than Possession, mildly too didactic on the historical information front. I don't think Byatt will or should get the Booker for this one but a rich rich read all the same. Lends itself well to a Freudian interpretation.

Finished Persepolis - more on that later. Never quite realized Iranian history was SO convoluted and upside down. Just strengthens my desire to go travel and explore the Middle East though.

2/3 of the way through Discovering the God Who Is by RC Sproul. Taking my time with this one - so insightful and interesting. Also so close to my heart so I want to take the time to let it sink it, be absorbed. Re-reading some chapters even while reading it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A rhumba of rattlesnakes

New post up at the other blog on collective nouns but I thought I'd extract my favourites here:

The most biblical:

A plague of locusts

The descriptive:

A sneak of weasels
A bloat of hippopotami
A charm of goldfinches
A glint of goldfish
A cowardice of curs

The funny:

A rhumba of rattlesnakes(!) (Note: How funny is this one? My imagination just goes nuts. Why a "rhumba"? Just for the alliteration?)
A romp of otters (You know, because that's ALL otters do. They romp.)
An implausibility of gnu (Note:A comment on God's handiwork? The gnu is such a weird word and a odd animal too; but then I'd have thought the echidna or its related monotreme, the platypus would be more 'implausible' than the gnu.)
A mischief of mice
An intrusion of cockroaches (This one is just SO appropriate)

The poetic:

An ascension or exultation/exaltation of larks
A watch of nightingales
An aerie of hawks
A wake of buzzards
A convocation of eagles
A murmuration of starlings

The political:

A parliament of owls
A congress of baboons

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do not disturb

The book queue, it just keeps growing! I've been saying for months that I want to place an order with - I think it's finally time. I have so many books I want and absolutely no time to go digging in assorted bookstores.

FYI - I fail to understand why Christian bookstores are located in such out of the way places. Shalom is in some industrial park, the Baptist bookstore is (thankfully) at Goldhill Plaza (but has terribly inconvenient opening hours), Life bookshop is everywhere but has more greeting cards than books and ditto for Mount Zion. I don't know where SKS is but I do know that the bookstore in Bras Basah complex doesn't seem to have all that much either.

The Safra Bay run (also known as the army half marathon) was last Sunday and recovering from the run was just really exhausting. I know I'm tired when I'm too tired to even read - which is why I've been catching up on The West Wing and Battlestar Galactica instead. I blame my TV watching on over-generous friends, Eilonwy lent me all 7 seasons of The West Wing and the Dude provided me with BSG. Oh and Mr F, for ruthlessly promoting BSG to me by sending me this blogpost - explorations of religion in science fiction? Right up my alley and calculated to pique my interest.

This long-winded post is really just to say: folks, I'm tired from the run last week and I need some time out for comfort reads and naps(!). I especially want this book, just because it sounds fun but one way or another, I'll be trying to take some time out to stay home either read this book or finish this one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

a blue true dream of sky

"To watch the image of a young girl burbling with laughter as she runs atop cresting waves in “Ponyo” is to be reminded of how infrequently the movies seem to express joy now, how rarely they sweep us up in ecstatic reverie. It’s a giddy, touchingly resonant image of freedom — the animated girl is as liberated from shoes as from the laws of nature — one that the director Hayao Miyazaki lingers on only as long as it takes your eyes and mind to hold it close, love it deeply and immediately regret its impermanence."


Ponyo was one of the most fun movies I watched last year and the NYT's review is spot on. So few movies these days are as filled with joy - not even the children's animated films. Ponyo, running across the waves encapsulates exactly how I feel when I'm being whirled around a dance floor, moving in time with the music and laughing. It's those moments where liberation, love of music and life fuse together and bubble up within that keeps me coming back to the dance floor again, and again.

There are times I stop and think reverentially: thank you God. For all this, this love of life, this existence, this joy.

Thank You.


i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e cummings


Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things--
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


Note: I originally posted this with just the ee cummings poem and not the Hopkins but I came across the Hopkins poem later in the day and just could not resist. I don't care if I'm going to be accused of being twee or Pollyanna-ish but there is just so much beauty around us. People, friends, I exhort you. Stop and look.

In the last month, I have seen:

a strangely vermilion sun hanging neatly in the grey sky
the silhouette of tree branches backlit by the sunrise
towering giraffe cranes quietly stalking amongst our city woods
a chattering brown squirrel, who accused me of disturbing his peace

friends around a table, tasting laughter and cheese,
eating joy with chocolate dipped strawberries

Mediate revelation indeed. He does show Himself - only we have scales and logs and things and need them peeled back, removed.


I pray for:
humility so that I may learn
the peace that surpasses all understanding,
truth that will make us wise for salvation,
so that I may have
strength to do the good works prepared in advance for us to do
endurance, to run this race set before us.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Water water everywhere

One of the most beautiful and moving prophecies of Isaiah, touching on the coming of Christ:

A man will be as a hiding place from the wind,
And a cover from the tempest,

As rivers of water in a dry place,

As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

The eyes of those who see will not be dim,
And the ears of those who hear will listen.

Shade and water -the desert people know just how precious and merciful the two are. I read this today and thought: of Dune, the Aiel in the Wheel of Time series, the Sahara and how it grows - year on year, drought stricken Australia.

This is how desperately we needed Him. At christmas, we talk of tidings of joy and peace as though He were some affable Santa bringing sweet thoughts and presents for children.

This is not some cute optional present.

This is shade and water. This is life.

This is shelter from the harsh elements.

This is sight and hearing - surely the most needed for survival amongst all the 5 senses.

This is beauty.

The verses spelling it out, line after line. Spelling out the desperation, the critical need in language we can understand.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

There but for the grace of God

Reading an old issue of Time magazine in the gym while on the stationary bike, I came across an interview with Michelle Obama where she talked about growing up in Chicago,knowing many bright people who didn't make it and she said:

"you slowly see people slipping through the cracks, you know that there but for the grace of God."

...go I.

In the middle of my sunny gym, I felt the hot sting of tears in my eyes.

Staring through the haze of tears at the article, I thought - she knows. She's seen people fall, people who were friends, classmates, neighbours, campus mates. They slip up somewhere and are whirled away into a vortex of despair, self destruction and aimlessness. I've written about this before and it becomes ever clearer to me, every day, just what I've been rescued from and what I could have become.

Earlier this year, when I was dealing with some issues, MA and I took a walk down by a lake(or reservoir?) and I said the same thing to her

- I look at the past and people around me. I look at what I could have become, where I am now and I know.

There but for the grace of God, go I -

In case I ever forget, then let me put this up here and out there. I may whine about the small irritations of life- the crowds, rude pushy people etc, but I am utterly, out-of-my-mind grateful and happy for where I am right now. An upset tummy makes me grumpy, crowds make me tired. But in the deeping hush of the heart, there is a spinning joy, a centred eye of peace that has never ceased and God willing, will only grow.

The road is long and oh, this dying to self business is so hard. But.

I hang my life, my hope for a future, in these and much much more:

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He brings the princes to nothing;
He makes the judges of the earth useless.

He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Isa 40:21-23, 26, 28-31

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:27

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Christus invictus.

Soli deo gloria.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bits and bobs

Dinner last night with A, one of my closer friends from law school. She's moving to Tallahassee, Florida, for postgraduate studies.

Fun conversation topics over milo at Ya Kun: sweet vs savoury foods, how we could totally eat jam and bread everyday (ok, for me it was PB & J sandwiches too!), comfort food and growing out of eating sickly sweet/greasy concoctions, grad school requirements, australian and US school systems, travel, crazy people.

A's fun; I often credit her with helping me get through law school. No, she didn't write my essays for me! But she's such a positive, energetic hands on, lets get things done type personality that without even realizing, she pushed me in that direction too.

She's not coming back here, not to live anyway and I'm going to miss her.


Happy times over the weekend:

+ Reduced Shakespeare Company's version of Hamlet on speed and in reverse! The sister and I laughed non-stop the whole way. Oh and plus we got the location wrong, so we ran at full tilt all the way from the Esplanade to the National Library in less than 10 minutes which for some reason, only added to the laughter and memorable factor of the evening.

+ Swing dancing at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre to a live band, they played The Lady is a Tramp - such a Sinatra classic - great lead singer, people sitting around eating chicken wings in between sets, shim sham-ing, what a way to end the weekend.

Tempted by:

+invite to the KL Swing event in August

+Invite to Urban Christianity conference on 25 September

+Invite to 3M conference in HK

+Trip plans: Turkey (!), Greece and Israel were all mentioned in the same conversation :)

La vie c'est si bon!