Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Soli deo gloria

How is it that one day life is orderly and you are content, a little cynical perhaps but on the whole just so, and then without warning you find the solid floor is a trapdoor and you are now in another place whose geography is uncertain and whose customs are strange?

-- Jeanette Winterson

It's impossible to explain to people what 2009 was like. Life isn't like a book; it can't be neatly summed up in a 5 line blurb at the back with extracts from glowing reviews from various newspapers. There are a hundred thousand blogposts up about what people did for the year, the best movies they watched and their favourite moments. I could list all of the movies I've watched, the books I've read and it still would not come close to describing the shifting of the tectonic plates that undergird my inner landscape.

A bildungsroman would have characterized this as the defining year, a year in which paths, values, worldviews, passions became clearer - the year in which you find yourself. I could have written this as my journey of self discovery and growth - and I nearly did. But it wouldn't fit. It was all wrong.

Yes there were epiphanies, revelations. Moments when truth blinded my eyes to all else, when the unveiled aurora of light and colour drove me to my knees.Yes, this was a year in which there was so much growing up, the pain of it coloured every moment, every scene.

But this isn't a bildungsroman. There was no self discovery, no revelation of who I was and where I was going that I did not already know. This was not the year I found myself; to find yourself is to reinvent - in different colours - the same solipsistic nightmare that we call life. To write about my year as though I engendered the changes, as though I could ever have re-ordered my life in this way on my own would be to create an egregious lie.

No. This was not the year I found myself.

Remember that song? The one you've heard so many times; you don't even hear the words anymore. That one. The one that goes:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

I was found.


And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).


Christus invictus.
Tempus adest gratiæ


冬至 is the Chinese celebration of the winter solstice - the shortest day and longest night of the year. My family used to be fairly traditional in celebrating it, we'd head to my grandad's house for dinner and there would be 汤圆 on the table - the pink and white ones.

Food, language and family are so closely interwoven - the memories of family are often closely tied to the meals shared, the language spoken and the many golden moments laughing about nothing and everything.

What do we have - memories, knowledge, values - that we did not first receive? Our families are the conduits of culture, language, values and history; they help build our hearts. Break the family unit down and we have latchkey children wandering around shiny glassy cities without the strength of heart or depth of mind.

The parents were away this year and I completely forgot about the festival until I saw various dessert stalls in the food centre selling 汤圆 and felt a pang. It's been ten years but once in a while, I still have dreams wherein I speak perfect, lyrical Teochew to him and wander the hallways of his art filled, incense smelling house.

But spending the evening with HF and baby Amelie cheered me up to no end - it's really hard to be wistful around a gurgling little baby who looks at you like you're a tentacled creature from Mars and wonders if fingers can be eaten or not.




Friday, December 25, 2009

Let the wind have its way

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.

Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.

Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.

Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.

Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

-- Louise Erdrich

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yuletide bliss

... is getting a two day MC due to a gum infection - yes, the wisdom teeth are coming out - and staying home to watch the West Wing. It baffles me though why does a lowly gum infection warrant two kinds of antibiotics?

I am rather taken aback by how exhausted I am. Granted, it's been something of a hectic year but still...

Yesterday, lack of brain power and randomness led me back to a blog I used to read - back when I was an inveterate blog trawler - these days, I only read what I call 'special interest' blogs, blogs dedicated to a specific subject matter/purpose. These usually fall into various categories: food, poetry, writing, theology etc.

Anyway, Tym is the writer of the article 'Once Bonded' which drew much much attention earlier this year. I did think when I read the article that the writing style was familiar and I also remember thinking that the writer must have been an eng lit major and it turns out I was right on both counts.

What interested me when randomly clicking through her blog was how her writing style changed through the years. You could literally see, between and betwixt the lines, how she changed and matured over the years. Less gushy, more sharply and concisely worded and also more cynical. It made me wonder - what will my writing be like in 3 years hence?

If I find the time/energy, I might try to do a 2009 roundup of all the books I've read but otherwise, its back to the West Wing and my comfy bed.


Blessed Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Some friends are full of drama and hyperbole - endearments and loving words drip off their tongue and into online chat forms as easily.

But for other, more reticent friends, even one extra word of praise or affection from them is a treasure.

Whatever the style though, I still love and appreciate the thought behind the word(s). But personally,I tend to mirror people - giving back to them what they give me. For the drama queens in my life, I'm lavish with my affection, playful with my words. The quieter friends receive quiet thoughtful attention and fewer, more carefully chosen words.

Words aside though, my favourite forms of communication are non verbal; a hug is still one of the best ways to show compassion, love and empathy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

grant me this day, my daily bread

It's been a year of thousand changes and the changes and challenges have kept coming, even now, in these last days of the dying year.

Too weary to even articulate the most simple thoughts but here's a poem about the here and now, about this moment.



Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you
spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life -

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

William Stafford


I think I've met you before
somewhere in my dreams
but i dare not say
it may evaporate
the way the dew does on

this is for you, the unknowable
indefinable you.

in case we ever meet in
the white hot light of day
this is for you. so you know
i'm here
that i missed you and
that i have been
all this time.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses

The brother got married in September, J.Eio from church got married last Saturday and this coming Saturday, the little and cute Miss E will be marrying her one and only true love.

So yes, weddings on the brain. White lace, roses, pastels and cake. Laughter, sunlight, ang pows, tea and lots and lots of chinese double Joy characters etched on the wall.

Yup, in case you're wondering, I AM that kind of girl. The sappy starry eyed kind. I teared during the first 15 minutes of the movie Up, LOVED Wall-E (yes! robots can fall in love!) and get all misty eyed at weddings. There are things people lose along the way but this sense of hope and wonder shouldn't be one of them.

This is a post for the brother, Miss E, J.Eio and my cousins in Hongkong who're getting married, one after another in January. There is nothing more life changing than meeting and marrying the person you can laugh with (and sometimes at...), fight over the last slice of pizza(or cake!) and grow old with.

Oh, I can't help but speak in cliches here - but you've all only just begun and I want roses without thorns for you, laughter without tears and sunshine without shadow. And if all of that isn't possible, then I'd want someone to share the sunshine and shadow, laughter and tears and to fight the thorns with you.

Some indie rock, dante and a madly illogically beautiful poem by ee cummings.


in that book which is
my memory...
on the first page
that is the chapter when
i first met you
appear the words...
here begins a new life

-dante alighieri


somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look will easily unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The City by the Bay

Grey rainy days call for the musical equivalent of a steaming mug of hot chocolate which has to be Tony Bennett's 'I left my heart in in San Francisco'. Bennett is the goods every time - the way his voice just grasps hold of the melody, firmly wrapping around and around the chords is marvelous.

Now if only I could be in bed with a steaming mug of hot chocolate, a cat curled up nearby and maybe several deliciously thick story books to devour. Comfort food for the soul, the spirit and the body.



+the sister sent me a postcard! Isn't she a lovely? Cards in the mail are like surprise hugs - someone coming up behind you and engulfing you with sudden warmth and affection.

+Lil Miss E gets married! Next week! This deserves all the exclamation marks I can muster :)

+Conversations online and off: about courtship v dating, free market capitalism, theology, cats and careers.

+Lunch with Mr Gray then ginger tea at my new favourite coffee/tea stall on Amoy Street - so much fun in discovering new haunts and havens then showing them to people. O you denizens of CBD cubicles! Walk around the city more! The sun isn't all that bad and it beats sitting at your desk all the day long.


Tony Bennett with Doris Day and Judy Garland. He sings better in the Judy Garland video, but Day has a cleaner lighter voice than Garland, a better counterpoint to Bennett's richness. Enjoy!