Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eden by Ina Rousseau

Somewhere in Eden, after all this time,
does there still stand, abandoned, like
a ruined city, gates sealed with grisly nails,
the luckless garden?

Is sultry day still followed there
by sultry dusk, sultry night,
where on the branches sallow and purple
the fruit hangs rotting?

Is there still, underground,
spreading like lace among the rocks
a network of unexploited lodes,
onyx and gold?

Through the lush greenery
their wash echoing afar
do there still flow the four glassy streams
of which no mortal drinks?

Somewhere in Eden, after all this time,
does there still stand, like a city in ruins,
forsaken, doomed to slow decay,
the failed garden?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Qixue





All together now ... awwwwwwwwww.

*

Train stuff

Are people being to harsh on SMRT? There are problems but the train system is now 24 years old and honestly, some kind of accident was bound to happen sometime. Nobody died, people just had to eat dinner late or do their christmas shopping another day.
Not fun but not a disaster either.

what I do find unforgivable is that when a young thai girl fell on the tracks earlier this year and had to have both legs amputated, SMRT only offered her S$5000.00.... so disgusting that it beggars belief.

c'mon guys. If you just made a decent offer she wouldn't have had to take you to court. Plus since it's reached trial already, I'll bet your lawyer would have charged you 50 times of that by now. You could've just saved on your legal fees and paid her a bit more.

*

Last weekend was sort of a washout. I got up at 7 and then promptly realised that I just wasn't going to make it out of the house. After breakfast, I went straight back to bed and stayed there for a time.

After lunch, a worried Mr Grey took me to see my 89 year old chinese sinseh. He looked at my tongue, felt my pulse - both wrists - and told me that I lacked qixue - blood and .....energy.

I'm still so tired. I honestly could roll into bed at any time and just sleep for 10 hours straight.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

mood music



*

Love this album and the folk rock rendition of familiar christmas hymns.

*

My christmas present ... actually more like my bonus present to myself arrived! I have a weakness - a bad one - of falling for impractical but interesting dresses. Especially if the dress seems to refer to something.

In this case, the dress was all dreamy water colour pastels and looked like it was cut from a print of Monet's water lily paintings.

I saw it months ago and never thought i'd be able to afford it - its from some designer or other and hideously expensive. But hooray for sales! Specifically 85% discounts! That's how discounted the dress had to be before I could even consider it :( and even so, it's an awfully large amount of money for one very frivolous thing.

*

ALSO, the present i ordered a month ago for... some people, arrived too! good week for postage and dhl eh?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Aural happiness

Mr Grey had a brain wave and refurbished a pair of extremely awesome sennheiser headphones for me and i've been glued to them ever since. I was so dubious about using gigantic headphones at first ... and then he dragged me to this geeky audio-phile type shop in the Adelphi (where else?) and made me sit down and audition a bunch of awesome headphones.

So now I have extremely awesome earphones that make me feel as though i'm standing in between the double bass and piano when listening to Norah Jones and Krall. You have no idea how happy this makes me; most nights when i get home, i have no energy for anything more than lying around and listening to music.

this started in medias res - the background to this is that I was once a $10-earphones-from-mustaffa-are-good-enough type of girl.

Hideously large and expensive earphones were... *ahem* unheard of in my world.

*

Related but not quite.

Lately I've been listening to Mozart's Piano Sonata in E flat (with the aforementioned awesome head phones)and loving how shaded and mellow it is. Somehow I associate that kind of mellow lyricism with Schubert more than Mozart; Mozart is usually so cheery and skippy.

But this has been a Mozart year - ups and downs but with this general underlying thread of happiness - and I am so grateful.

Earlier in the year, I used to lie in my room listening sleepily while Mr Grey played Mozart's Piano Sonata in B Flat in the living hall.

Somehow, hearing mozart and chopin in the house again has helped connect up all the left over unhappy bits ... and I feel as though music has finally - and truly - re-entered my home again.

I make my living with words but at these times and with these things ... there are no words. I can only listen to the music over and over again, knowing that the notes express exactly and precisely how it is ...

*

the only bit I really liked of Murakami's Norwegian Wood was where he talked about how the beatles song plugged the protagonist directly into the past.

I am unable to be objective about music in the same way. When it connects directly into a memory or feeling from the past, I can't tell you if it is good or bad music - only that it dredges up a whole well of meaning and history....

*

Monday, November 14, 2011

Room with a view



....

Actually, it doesn't have to have a view. It just has to be less cluttered.

People, have you ever watched one of those reality TV shows where they go to someone's house and do a house makeover?

I am so in need of one. There is 20 years worth of JUNK in my room. It's so bad that it's both funny and kinda hazardous at the same time. Poor Mr Grey, he keeps sneezing because of the accumulated dust:(

A couple of months ago, I finally cleared ONE SHELF and found - to my horror - that I had somehow squirrelled away my primary school notes and test papers. Not all (!!!) but there was a sizable stack of them.

I shook my head and thought to myself that - by hook or by crook, I need to declutter. The trouble is... how? when?

I cleared out two drawers this weekend. Yes TWO drawers and it was this massive exercise in which Mr Grey had to intervene and make me throw things out. He'd pull something out, thrust it at me and ask "Do you want to keep this? What is this? WHAT, its from secondary ONE?"

And if I showed any hesitation at all about saying "Yes, let's keep it" - it went into the dustbin.

*sigh*

We found - among other things -

2 hair dryers - both of which I never use since I don't blow dry my hair
2 digital clocks
Multiple chargers for mobile phones I no longer use / own
3 pitch pipes
3 photo frames - all unused because I have no space FOR displaying photos...
A polaroid from my fifth birthday party (I kept this obviously)
A stack of name cards...
A tangle of connecting wires and things .... and I no longer know what they are!

..........

I need help :(

That picture at the top is what I wish my room looked like. Not what it is by a long long shot.

I.WILL.CLEAN.MY.ROOM..... SOMEHOW.

*

UPDATE: Mr Grey and I made a trip to the Salvation army and successfully dumped bags and bags of old clothes / books / electronic devices (used but all in good working condition).

The room is still far from neat or uncluttered but hey, baby steps right?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

paper moon



*

"Say, its only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me
"

Found myself singing that a couple of weeks ago. I love that song so much .... and i found myself missing lindy and dancing in general.

it would be so nice to have time for it all - piano, books, dance, work, Mr Grey, friends, church...

but there isn't! So i'll make do with kicking dance off the menu for now - but here's a promise - I will be back!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Greek ruins and blue sea





*

Back from Italy; it was an amazing trip.

Was talking to Miss Shell last night about tours and trips. I am so glad my family stopped going on packaged tours - every family trip until I was in my late teens was the same tedious compendium of ridiculous early morning wake up calls, 10 minutes of photo time at the "sights", Chinese food at every stop (usually bad Chinese food too) and being driven to like 8 stops per day.

I mean, how can you say you've been to any country when you've had a grand total of THREE actually local meals over 10 days? Or when all you've seen of it are industrial towns flashing past you on the bus and the inside of the obligatory bad chinese tour group restaurant?

Gah.

this trip was not like that in the least. It was leisurely, all meals were local - we were often the only out of towners in the place - and we had so much time to just wander.

*

how I like to get to know a place: First, eat what they eat. Second, wander about and woolgather. Third, check out the local markets and chat with locals (if language permits). Fourth, sit in cafe (or whatever drinking/eating spot there is) and write stuff down in notebook. Fifth, go off season.

*

The second picture up there - the model in the picture is the little sister. The girl is 3 inches taller than me and therefore looks all model-esque and gorgeous in shots like these. I just look mildly like a stump.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tram No 8 goes to Toorak Road



*

If you read this blog frequently, you'll find that I talk about Melbourne a fair bit. And I think I make it sound like this blissful place, this place of sunshine, good food and wonder.

Partly, I was a student there and there was just so much more freedom. Partly, the food really IS better there. And partly, it's a less insecure place. It's a city grown comfortable with itself, its immigrant quarters and its Victorian past.

Three years in Singapore is also three years away from the city that I grew to love. It's odd because even when I was lonely and heartsick there, I still loved the city. On the wet and cold nights, staring out of the tram windows, I felt that the city shrugged itself around me, mourned with me and sent its angels to make me smile.

Here's something I wrote when I was still living there - a different girl in a different time -

10 May 2006:

".... I think I must have finally hit that stage where one gets mad obsessions about pop stars with floppy hair and nonsensical crushes on random boys.

.....

Today on my way home from school(actually it was the supermarket but school sounds less aunty) this dark haired medium tall guy got on and sat across me and started gabbing on his mobile in french.

And I swear, he had the most adorable smile I had ever seen in my life. He was on the phone chatting volubly and amiably with his friend and occasionally smiling at a joke and I swear that the charm and general good naturedness contained in that smile made the stars dance.

He had these impishly crooked teeth, you know, the kind that only serve to make a smile ever more boyish and full of mischief and dimples that flashed and winked every time he moved his lips.

It made my day, it really did. I mean, all those glum looking city slickers around me and you get this guy in a grey coat and green scarf who smiles like the world is this great wonderful place and I just wanted to beam back at him in return. As it was, I sat there with my lips twitching in an effort not to start grinning like a mad stalker person and only let myself smile when I got off at my stop.

Whereupon he sailed off on tram 8, still on his phone saying unintelligible things in french,still smiling his adorable smile and probably never to be seen again.

Isn't it mad? And isn't it so 15 years old and feeling faint because the boy you liked breathed in your direction today?
"

*

Ah well. Singapore, you have got to work on increasing your incidence of cute, dimpled french speaking boys with angelic smiles! :)



DISCLAIMER: Ahem. French boy on tram really existed. But I never saw him again. It was fun writing about him though.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

3rd Year

"It is possible at a distance to maintain the fiction of former happiness - childhood or school days - and then your return to an early setting and the years fall away and you see how bitterly unhappy you were. I had felt trapped in Singapore; I had felt as if I were being destroyed by the noise - the hammering, the traffic, the radios, the yelling......."

-- Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar

I had meant to write this post earlier but work, life and an accident got in the way. I came back here in June 2008 - it has been three years since I came back to Singapore.

It gets unbearable at times, living here in the cramped conditions, the noise, the lack of space, the snaking lines and construction sites everywhere. There is money to be made in this place - otherwise all the foreigners I see on the train wouldn't be here - but there is no peace, no quiet, no space.

Walking to the station from my office a few weeks ago, a drill started up nearby and it filled the air with its poisonous insistent "Ba Ba Ba Bam!"over and over again - and I completely lost it. I all but screamed at Mr Grey - "I HATE THIS COUNTRY, I HATE THE NOISE, GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

I don't hate Singapore but I am utterly sick of it. I am sick of the noise and crowds and having to smell people on the train every single day.

I am not sick of its people but I am so sick of being pressed up against them on the train and having to know - in intimate detail - if someone has had a shower that morning and the types of soap/shampoo used.

*

And yet if you ask me if I would move back to Australia - I would hesitate. Time and visits back have confirmed that while I was happy and felt free there, I had also been enormously lonely in a way that a person is lonely when you live among a people not your own.

Living elsewhere would be exchanging one set of problems for another set - the only question is - which set can I live with?

*

Happy 3rd anniversary Singapore. I'm sorry to be so grumpy - you're not a bad place in your way but your people have GOT to stop rebuilding and tearing down every third building all of the time. It's exhausting and I'm not really sure it improves things in any concrete (pun totally intended) way.

But still. It's been three years and when I find time, I'll have a glass of wine in honour of that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mozart chocolates



*

So in Vienna (and all over Austria) they sell chocolates covered with gold foil and stamped with Mozart's portrait. I was fortunate enough to be given a bag full of them and they turned out to be delicious - layers of chocolate, marzipan and some caramel :)

Mr Grey and I were just sitting around munching some ...

Mr Grey : So what do you think makes these chocolates so nice?

Me: maybe having Mozart's picture on them makes it taste nicer on a psychological level.

Mr Grey: No no! It's nicer because in the factory where they make this chocolate, they pipe in Mozart's music all day long and the essence of Mozart's genius soaks into the chocolates! That's why they taste so nice!

Me:........ er ....

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kerferd Road Pier



One of my friends posted this.

What would I give to be there right now. I'm homesick for the smell of spring, gelati and that ineffable sense of well being that rises from the St Kilda sidewalks on warm spring days.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On friendship



*

This sermon led to so much thinking and reflection. It's such a basic issue: who are your friends? what does it mean to be a friend?

It's the kind of sermon I wish I'd listened to at age 18, before I made so many mistakes. Friend mistakes, bad friend mistakes, boyfriend mistakes....

I wish I'd recognized toxicity earlier - before the damage set in. But then this is the kind of toxin you don't realize is in your system until your legs get numb. (Of course, for me, my fingers turned black and gangrene had almost set in before I realized what was happening....)

This sermon made me realize how few friends i have - but so grateful that I have any at all and also so grateful that the ones I have are so wholesomely good.

In fact, thinking of the friends i DO have, I realize that I'm so rich in friendship which is the best kind of rich there is.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Against all sound judgment

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.

Proverbs 18:1

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 12:15

*

Reading through Proverbs this year.

Wisdom takes a lifetime. It is amazing how rich and full of meaning even a few verses can be.

I'm meditating on Proverbs 18:1 this week and all other attendant verses on seeking good counsel, keeping the company of wise friends and seeking the Lord.

There are so many applicable areas and so many myriad ways in which Prov 18:1 is true but here are a couple of thoughts that stand out:

1. This is one of the chief reasons for church (Rom 12:5) - so that we may form one body and guard each other.

2. God did not ever intend for man to be alone. Later in Proverbs 18, this little verse jumped out - (He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD). Hundreds of other verses in the bible of which Proverbs 12:5 is one, about seeking wise counsel, keeping good company, fleeing bad company also jumped to mind.

3.ultimately, the company we need to keep .... the person to stay close to is God. (Gen 1:27) and in Him alone can we find rest.

4. Drawing close to God is only possible through Christ. (Matt 11:27, John 3:35 - 36)

*

There is so much more to unpack. But mainly I think on reading that verse, anyone who is even a little bit honest with himself or herself must immediately think - how true!

When alone or isolated, we will only seek to gratify ourselves, think our own selfish thoughts and fall into a cycle of loneliness and selfishness.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rambling walks and things

During the Sunday evening walk with Mr Grey, it came to me today that life is starting to feel good again. The gladness of living and breathing and being is coming back. And it also occurred to me that sometimes, trying to tough things out and not admit grief or sadness or loneliness is the worst possible way of dealing with things.

Somewhere around the time 2009 ticked over to 2010, a bunch of things changed and I didn't cope very well with the changes. People moved away from here, I moved away from my old church, I met Mr Grey and for awhile in 2010, I went back to school. So life was just kind of crazy I guess. Filled with the strain of change, of what had been and no longer was, worry of what was to come, of what could come...

It's now 2011 and life is finally achieving a kind of peaceful equilibrium. It's not perfect but at least I'm no longer grieving as much...

The walks helped. Mr Grey helped lots and lots and God was and is very patient and forgiving. So in all, I'm very grateful.

In a very random way, the sermon today about Ephesians and the church brought a kind of clarity. The visiting pastor told an anecdote (as they do) about a grieving widower who attended church one easter sunday and was unable to rejoice in hymn and song with the rest of the congregation. As he sat there grieving silently, it came to him that even while he could not rejoice and sing, his congregation rejoiced for him and sang for him and would go on rejoicing for him until he could join them once more.

I realized that during the time I could not rejoice fully and sing, people in church rejoiced for me, served in church and sang for me. And it came to me also that while I grouchily sat in a corner nursing my wounds, the other people in church had gone on serving, doing things that helped and overall tugging everyone else along.

The thought of that really helped and I thought of lots of people in church who quietly do their bit and was just thankful for them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Neat

Tree at my Window

Tree at my window, window tree,
My sash is lowered when night comes on;
But let there never be curtain drawn
Between you and me.

Vague dream-head lifted out of the ground,
And thing next most diffuse to cloud,
Not all your light tongues talking aloud
Could be profound.

But tree, I have seen you taken and tossed,
And if you have seen me when I slept,
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost.

That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
Your head so much concerned with outer,
Mine with inner, weather.

-- Robert Frost

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

the books that make men

From here, the reading list that shaped Obama:

* The Bible
* “Parting the Waters,” Taylor Branch
* “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson
* Gandhi’s autobiography
* “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin
* “The Golden Notebook,” Doris Lessing
* Lincoln’s collected writings
* “Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville
* “Song of Solomon,” Toni Morrison
* Works of Reinhold Niebuhr
* “Gilead,” Marilynne Robinson
* Shakespeare’s tragedies


George Yeo's reading list from his FB page:-

Dao De Jing by Lao Zi
A Study of History by Arnold Toynbee
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
The Art of War by Sun Zi
The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong

*

In one of my favourite books (Busman's Honeymoon - read it, it has everything), there's this police inspector character who doesn't seem like the especially educated type.

Nonetheless, he astounds the protagonists with his confident familiarity with the 'greats' of the western canon of literature - Milton, Bacon, Shakespeare, Donne etc. They spend a great part of the rest of the book trading quotes but not before the police inspector is asked why - why read these books? Books irrelevant to his daily life and definitely irrelevant to his job.

I'll never forget his answer, he said in effect - that ihe found it important at the end of terrible or mundane days at work, to put his mind in contact with 'great minds'.

Not that Obama is a police inspector but I found this observation to be accurate of him and of people whose lives have been shaped by books:

"Mr. Obama’s first book, “Dreams From My Father” (which surely stands as the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president), suggests that throughout his life he has turned to books as a way of acquiring insights and information from others — as a means of breaking out of the bubble of self-hood and, more recently, the bubble of power and fame."

From here,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thank you



and love and hugs and kisses to everyone who called, texted, sent cards, emailed, messaged, facebooked and found some way to send me birthday wishes :)

I had an awesome and restful weekend which was exactly what I longed for.

Special THANK YOU (in caps!) to the following:

-the sister who sent me a MONSTER PINK AND FURRY birthday card - who wouldn't love that? it filled a hole in my life I didn't even know existed. I mean, there was this pink furry monster birthday card hole in my life and I AM SO GRATEFUL IT IS FILLED :)

- Yv who dedicated a whole post! to wishing me happy birthday!*shocked and touched*

- the family - just for being them

- Eilonwy - for remembering me at HER birthday party :)and for throwing a really fun birthday party every year.

- Hf - because she listened to me freaking out about a very important growing up process and then had enough sense to make me go to bed and get some rest and sleep on it.

- Mr Grey - just for being him :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our Year

Still, there is hope this fading year
that next year will be our year

for a winter hike to the island quarry.
After the holidays, I'd propose.

In January, when dormant hardwoods
clatter in the wind and only a stray spruce

or cardinal lives for color. At such times
the quarry sleeps ice-locked

beneath sifting skins of snow. If it's safe
and thick enough, I'll take you out

across the ice to that spot
we swam those summers ago.

We'll walk again on water, solid now
beneath our feet. And I'll scrape clean

a snow-window for staring down
the frozen mirror of the deep.

Maybe only sealed off fissures.
Or rising bubbles captured in blue.

At least we'll see two bundled faces
looking back. And even so close to longest

night, surely some remnant sun will flash
above the trees and find us there—

parchment-lit, in the open—and stir us
in a winter way we've never known.

Then let the sun flash on across our quarry.
Love, let it glitter in the quarry stone.

Charles Douthat

Monday, July 25, 2011

From Maj. Sullivan Ballou to his wife



July the 14th, 1861

Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

Sullivan


From here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Extract from The Anatomy of a Miracle

Just because it was such fun to read:

"It is obvious that no one will set soaring records in an airliner without power, but experience shows that a total loss of thrust is not necessarily catastrophic. There was the 1982 case, for instance, of a British Airways Boeing 747 that flew through a volcanic plume one night over Indonesia and suffered compressor stalls, surges, and the loss of all four engines at 37,000 feet. The ensuing glide (with engines harmlessly belching fire) was written up afterward as a “near-death” experience for the passengers, during which the airplane “plummeted.” But “near death” is a relative concept, and in fact the crew had more than 20 minutes of available gliding time, during which they figured they could reach a certain airport about 100 miles distant. The pilots were hardly relaxed. They were issuing Mayday calls to Jakarta Control, flying the airplane, handling the depressurization of the cabin, and struggling with procedures to re-start the engines. Nonetheless, in the midst of the glide, and with appropriate British aplomb, the captain announced to the cabin, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are all doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.” The captain’s name was Eric Moody, to give credit where it is due. A few people were indeed in distress, but perhaps because this was a flight from England to New Zealand, most of the passengers seem to have matched the captain’s calm. One, an aging British woman traveling with her aged mother, turned back to a Jane Austen novel at the first sign of trouble. Apparently, she just was not going to stand for this nonsense. And sure enough, as the airplane descended below 12,000 feet, the crew was able to re-start the engines."

From here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Birthday month



*

Warning: There isn't going to be any coherence in this post.

There are only 6-7 girls in the bible study group but 5 of us are born in July - amazing eh? My birthday isn't till next week but this week was a nice half way point so we celebrated five of our birthdays with a lovely cake baked by the 6th girl.

Went to see Hf and her two lovely girls last Friday night - good gracious - you really don't have to teach children how to be manipulative. The two year old tried to con me of my iPhone by distracting me with her dad's HTC! Hf is going to have her hands full when this one enters the teen years....

This year seems full of visiting people with new babies and it's interesting how being pregnant and having hormones flood your system can really bring out the worst in you. But it's been a relief to see that all of the girls went back to their normal selves a couple of months after birth otherwise some of the husbands involved might collapse. Patience is finite after all.

*

Bone deep tired from work and injury and working during injury and etc.But unfortunately, sometime in June, a bunch of co-workers up and left. It's common in my industry but it means that taking a break is going to be very difficult to arrange.

So for friends who seem to have been left out cold - sorry! Weekends - I've been hunkered down in bed or at home working and weekdays I'm so tired at the end of the day I don't even reply text messages or read, I just listen to some music and loll about.

Having said that I've started reading two books and I'm frustrated that I can't seem to find the time to keep reading. Fortunately one of them is a biography composed of snippets and memories from the author's life so it's easy to pick up where I left off as it doesn't follow a definite narrative; I've all but given on books that have a distinct narrative arc. By the time I find time to get to the next chapter, I'd have forgotten what went on before!

The last book I read was the Bill Bryson book on Shakespeare - it was nice but it led me to picking up Othello which is the second book. I've faithfully read at least one Shakespearean play every year (sometimes more) for the last 5 years and I hope this year won't be the exception :(

On the subject of reading, I scanned through this interview with Chen Show Mao and was very pleased to see that the man seems to read widely.

(Rats. I think I missed the Shakespeare for last year; I can't seem to recall reading any play!)

But I have managed to read my way through several articles by William Langewiesche - even though I still don't know how to pronounce his name. I like the writing style. it's so different from my own and so masculine in a Hemingway-esque manner. I started with this one and then googled up more. Now I want to get my hands on his books too. The one on aviation and also the one on the outlaw sea.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What you don't know

There are people and then there are people with secrets.

In her book "Slow Motion", Dani Shapiro wrote about hers - the descent into alcohol and drug addiction, the affair with a married man, her spiral into destruction. Only now, encased in a book, they were no longer secrets, except from her son.

Abraham fathered two children, Cain murdered Abel, David murdered Bathsheba's hapless husband and this was after he slept and impregnated her and failed to get her to sleep with her husband.

Don't tell me everyone has secrets.

There are secrets and then there are secrets.

There is the secret guilt of mothers when they leave their children to go back to work. There is the ordinary workday secret feeling of inadequacy when faced with the unknown. There is the stirring of attraction when you meet a sweet new guy at work or the catch a glimpse of the secretary's legs.

Then there are secrets that involve drug addiction, affairs and death. Secrets that involve living for years with only a hazy sense of being and control. Secrets that give you pause when you answer routine questionnaires about your life.

The dirty secret about secrets is that they aren't.

Somebody always knows. You'll always want to share - if only so that you won't be so alone. There are always scars: the smell of sadness, the keloids on your elbow, the nervous tick, the disappearances.

To hell with honesty. There are some things you just don't tell your children.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

the undoing

Last week had such emotional highs and lows and so many headaches. As in real throbbing there are lights flashing around my brain type headaches. I was eating painkillers like some children eat sweets and even so it was barely enough to get through the week.

There's a current shortage of people in the workplace so I'm here there and everywhere and mainly very tired. The back is better, yes, for which I'm grateful because I could not survive this with an achy back. It would be - cue weak laughter - the proverbial straw that.... yes yes. Hardy harharhar.

Some people need sleep and rest like plants need water. What is it like to have boundless energy and to be able to work on 3-4 hours sleep? What is like to have that kind of adrenaline, the kind that keeps you going? I really don't know. All I know is that I end up facing this wall and then there are no more 'doings' until rest is had.

After sleep, one feels exactly like a plant from one of those videos of the desert after rain, when this dried up shrivelled husk of a thing that can't possibly be alive suddenly goes all green and succulent and puts out leaves! And flowers! and there're bees and things buzzing about in happiness.

All this verbiage to say, Monday to Saturday - run run run about. Sunday - total collapse until evening time when sad to say, more work had to get done.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Winning

I've read somewhere that in terms of history, the US considers WWII to be a 'good' war. They didn't start it, they were attacked first, they were fighting against a definitely evil dictator so no moral ambiguity, they won ...

Anyway, we won yesterday. What did we win? Sorry, that's not going up here. But suffice it to say that it was a good fight and we won well and cleanly so I'm very proud and thrilled and writing it down here and in my personal diary so that I'll always remember this moment.

I helped. And justice was served :)

It feels good.

And now, back to work.

Monday, July 4, 2011

only when the moon is blue

One of my friends, the Jester, once said that all his blogposts seem maudlin and glum - obviously because he only blogged when he needed to vent about something.

I'm not sure it's a bad thing exactly. The Jester and I have been friends for quite sometime now and glum as his blogposts sometimes can be, they've helped me to keep track of his state of mind and heart. Besides, once in a blue moon, he does write something cheerier :)

Anyway, Monday was crummy, the week looks to be crummy and I'm in need of prayer and hand holding and very possibly many packets of tissues. Good gracious I didn't know I was so fragile until I encountered a rude and obnoxious client yesterday. Almost wound up in a puddle of tears and self recrimination in the most absurd manner. Almost!

On a brighter note, Mr D played the Grieg Nocturne again last night and it was even lovelier than the first time; he was too nervous that time and it showed. I'm sure it's going to be beautiful at the wedding.

He really ought to play it at the Catholic ceremony and not the banquet though. At the banquet I'm sure some folks who don't care for music are just going to eat and chat through it, clanking the cutlery and all :(

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yali Jubilee



*

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 1 thess 3:12-13

*


I don't think i fully understood Paul's heart until I watched this video of the Yali people celebrating the 50th anniversary of the day the first missionaries arrived in their villages.

the celebration involved spears and chanting and dance and was not at all the typical 'western' notion of christianity. But I was so moved to see them celebrate in such a big way. Where they live is so remote and cut off that the first missionaries had to hike over mountains to reach them ... and when I think how many lives were saved because of that....

They know that too. You can see it.

the bible says over and over again that the word of God is living water that will give eternal life. But too often I take it for granted. the multiple copies of the bible scattered around and forget that if it hadn't been for similarly intrepid men who came to Singapore, I would never have heard the gospel too.

I hope when the Day arrives, I'll get to celebrate alongside these people. And those two missionaries who hiked all the way to find them ... I hope they get to meet all the people they helped spread the Word to.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grieg Nocturne



*

The piano teacher's getting married and he's going to perform this for his wedding dinner. I got the sneak preview on Monday night :) He actually asked my permission to play it in front of me so that he could get used to playing it in front of people and I could hardly believe my good fortune.

I hope the people at the wedding dinner appreciate how sylvan and graceful it is. Thought of forests and mountains all through even though Mr D was so nervous he stumbled a few times.

Played here by Gilels - I love his touch. There's another video on Youtube where he plays Rachmaninov's Vocalises....it's one of my favourites on a bad day.

So ashamed of my own lack of knowledge about music sometimes. Can you believe the only other Grieg piece I've ever listened to is Peer Gynt? It's so overplayed now that people mostly think of it as elevator music but I remember loving it when I was really small, maybe age 9?

Forgetfulness - Billy Collins




The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Monday, June 13, 2011

a long lost friend

Last week, one of my friends brought over a book to keep me occupied while I was stuck at home. I'd told her before that I loved this series of vet/animal stories by James Herriot and she kept saying that I'd love 'Doctor in the house' by Richard Gordon. So during her recent visit home to Australia, she grabbed it off her bookshelves and brought it to Singapore for me.

Well, I finally got around to reading last night and I did love it. But the best part was when I got to the end of the book where the protagonist, a medical student, is describing his final year exams - an episode in a clinic where the patient he was treating knew so much about her own illness that he was able to pass off her accurate diagnosis as his own and passed with flying colours.

I read that through with a feeling of incredulity - it could not be... but then it was! The chapter ends with a memorable anecdote of one of the medical students flunking out his practical exam with a flourish. The poor chap was told to deliver a baby from a papier mache model of a pregnant woman and in his urgency to get the baby out, he flung the "mother" and the "baby" over his head. The furious examiner then picks up the "baby", hands it over to the student and says: "Here, hit the father with this and you'd have killed the whole damn family..."

The entire passage about the medical exam - with that fantastic anecdote - was used for one of my English comprehension questions in school. I'm sure of it; I remember enjoying the story so much, I wished I could have read the whole book - and now I have!

I can't believe I recognized the story (hey it must have been 15 years ago!) and I am amazed at the way the book eventually found its way into my hands :)

Perhaps no one else the world gets this feeling but recognizing a story that way is lovely - very much like stepping into a party and recognizing the face of a dear friend in the crowd, one that you haven't met in a long time but would love to catch up with.

Or better yet, meeting a new friend who is such a kindred spirit that it's almost as though you "recognize" her/him even though you've only just met.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Working from home

I always thought that if I worked from home, I'd never get anything done.

But here I am diligently beavering away. The upside of course is that I get to lie down when my back starts complaining - which is more often than I'd like.

Update - turns out it was the sacrum and not the coccyx that fractured. The ortho says so and given the sheer number of x-rays he took, I'm inclined to believe him. It all boils down to the same thing though; rest is the only cure and bones take 6 weeks or so to knit.

GAH. Miss Canada told me stories of how her friend's fracture widened because she didn't keep her weight off it and now I'm thoroughly frightened. I WANT TO GET BETTER DARNIT.

Reminder to self - if the doctor gives you THAT many days of MC, he probably means business. DO NOT GO OUT. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT WORK AND KILL YOURSELF. DO NOT MOVE.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

it takes a fall

to teach you that

... good health is very important

... when in pain, reading and writing are pretty much out

... sleeping through pain is an excellent excellent idea

... God is good for so very many reasons, the chief of which is that you didn't injure yourself even more

... when you are rolling around in pain, you can somehow STILL feel embarrassed

... the humour of the situation is only available in retrospect

... when people remember you and ask after you or visit (you guys know who you are), no matter how much you want alone time to lick your wounds, it's still really really lovely and gives you all kinds of warm fuzzies.

... music brings pain relief.

*

Took a minor tumble last week and landed on my butt and it turns out I've gone and cracked my coccyx. What's that you say? It's the tailbone, less nicely put, the butt bone.

It was horribly embarrassing and even more horribly painful. I didn't hit my head at all and I saw stars - which I think means that I almost blacked out from pain. Not fun.

But I'm very grateful for people who texted/emailed/left messages for me/came to see me :) Thanks guys!

Feeling very loved is definitely a pre-requisite for getting better methinks - how else to explain the speedy recovery? Lots and lots better now but won't be able to actually do anything above slo--o--ow motion walking (I practically fell asleep on the way to the loo) and lying around for awhile.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

no electric sheep

Finally sort of emerging from my den - a little. The last two weeks have been a horrible blur. A fortnight ago, I caught the flu and the meds have completely messed with my sleep and ability to think. (For two weeks? Yes. Such is the delicacy of the wires that string my system together)

I reach for thoughts that aren't there, books fail to keep my attention for more than 15 minutes (I wonder how I managed to get through 2 whole books anyway?) and writing? Writing is a forgotten dream. A faraway dream of a dream I may have once had.

You know, I'd really like to watch a movie or a TV show - a good one,not a mindless summer blockbuster. Something hideously literary or epic.

Oh heck. Just some time off to wander around and have tea with friends would be nice.

In the meantime....

*

Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer

We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done -- the unpacking, the mail
and papers; the grass needed mowing ...
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.

And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass:
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.

-- Jane Kenyon

*

Just as a post script. I fully realize that no one likes to find that they have been drinking water in which a dead body has been floating. Really I do. I would be sickened too. (The rhyme is unintentional)

But does NO ONE have any sympathy for the poor girl? Maybe I'm missing the reports of residents expressing their horror over the wanton killing of a poor girl but all I've been reading about is how disgusting it is and how to prevent access to the rooftop etc

Have a heart guys. I know she's a maid and not exactly some high flyer but still.... I hope they find out her identity and can send her home to Indonesia soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

M. Uchida plays Schubert Piano Sonata in B-flat, D.960





*

“It sometimes seems to me as if I did not belong to this world at all.”
- Schubert

*

"I find it hard to account for the intensity of the spiritual response that the slow movements of late Beethoven and late Schubert produce in me. Why is it so much greater than that aroused by overtly religious music? That’s just me, I suppose. (After all, while I’m quite often exposed to the sublime works of these masters in the concert hall, my chances of hearing great music in church, especially a Catholic church, are pretty slim.)

But here’s a interesting question. Do the religious convictions of musicians add an extra dimension to masterpieces? Ronan O’Hora is a committed Catholic. I’m sure no one listening to him play D960 would be able to work that out, yet knowing it somehow elevated my experience of the performance.

Then there’s the case of the Japanese baroque conductor Masaaki Suzuki, whose still incomplete cycle of the Bach cantatas is strongly influenced by his own conviction, as a Protestant Christian, that he shares in the divinely mandated mission of JS Bach to spread the Gospel through music. And here I’m certain that you can tell the difference: Koopman and Gardiner are equally fine musicians, but it is the audible reverence of Suzuki’s cycle that lends it true authenticity.

Anyway, these are just disorganised musings written late at night after a tremendous recital. Any thoughts?
"

From here.

*

So lovely it made me cry a little. This is Heathcliff music, Emily Bronte music. Music to listen to when sitting in a chapel out in the hillside, alone with God.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the gentle light that strays and vanishes

"Try To Praise The Mutilated World"

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rose wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

--Adam Zagajewski
Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bluebells




I have never seen bluebells in a wood in Spring but what I find myself longing for
is not just the sight of bluebells in a wood but poems about bluebells, drifting lines about their hazy blue scent and the humming that rises from a wood lined with the green of Spring.

Friday, May 6, 2011

the dream



*

In a book I read recently, the grandfather of the protagonist told his mother that he'd give her a dream as a wedding gift.

Name something you'd like to dream, he said.

A garden, she said. I'd like a garden

And from that day on, she dreamt the same dream of a garden with irises, roses in the summer and sweet peas. She had a garden even when living in a apartment as a single mother with three little boys.


*

I had a dream too. It's kinda sorta in the past tense because I don't run to it as often anymore. Which is a good thing.

But as far as I can recall, I always had this dream cottage by the sea. A low wall with roses, cats, a small car so I could buy groceries and books, a dog and a piano. A cottage with so much silence and peace built into its walls.

It only ever existed in my mind and the oddest thing is I've never seen any cottage like it in real life. Not for the want of trying too; I used to love poring over magazines devoted to impossibly beautiful homes and gardens.

This picture I saw today got me all excited because this, this is the closest thing to the dream cottage that I've ever seen. It's almost there and it's so real. There are places in the world that wonderfully lonely and filled with blue sea and sky.

The only other thing I've ever seen that's quite like this, is the fishing village depicted in Ponyo - yes, that house that the family lived in!

So I mean, I guess I'm just blogging this because I want to be able to remember this place and to look at the picture every so often. I know there's nothing really actually extra special about it; I'm not so far gone in my own world that I can't see that.

But well, here it is. The hiding place, the metaphysical bolt hole, my personal version of a castle in the air, only its a cottage :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jewel of a day



Photo from here.

Began the year with 5 very pregnant friends and today, the 4th little baby joins us! Baby Jewel was born a couple of hours ago and because it's now the year 2011, I found out through Facebook/Twitter when in the last it would have been a phonecall or a text.

Down with flu and feeling too awful to write anything intelligent so here are a couple of funny little anecdotes from the last couple of weeks.

Plus - oh! a new photo blog find! - Ricor is a Taiwanese photographer who takes only film photography and his shots (like the one above) are so so dreamy.

Perfect for a coughing girl on a rainy day.

*

V(after surveying my room): Wah you have a lot of obsolete technologies here ah!

Me: Huh, I do?

V: Yeah you actually have books and CDs and even a TV.

Me: Well... er *suppresses a giggle* yes I suppose I do have a lot of "obsolete technologies".

*

At Sunday School class:

Teacher: So we don't know for sure what the second coming will be like or the resurrection but we do have glimpses of that life to come. Like we know that Jesus said that there will be no marriage ....

Student: Yah so those who want to get married better get married in this life!

Rest of class collectively goes into fits of laughter.

*

At lunch one day the American Civil War gets fought all over again:

J (American dude): So you like tomatoes too?

G: No J, she likes to-MAH-toes. Not to-MAY-toes.....

J: yeah but you don't say po-TAH-toes do you?

Friday, April 29, 2011

it has its seasons

The Ivy Crown

by William Carlos Williams

The whole process is a lie,
unless,
crowned by excess,
It break forcefully,
one way or another,
from its confinement—
or find a deeper well.
Antony and Cleopatra
were right;
they have shown
the way. I love you
or I do not live
at all.

Daffodil time
is past. This is
summer, summer!
the heart says,
and not even the full of it.
No doubts
are permitted—
though they will come
and may
before our time
overwhelm us.
We are only mortal
but being mortal
can defy our fate.
We may
by an outside chance
even win! We do not
look to see
jonquils and violets
come again
but there are,
still,
the roses!

Romance has no part in it.
The business of love is
cruelty which,
by our wills,
we transform
to live together.
It has its seasons,
for and against,
whatever the heart
fumbles in the dark
to assert
toward the end of May.
Just as the nature of briars
is to tear flesh,
I have proceeded
through them.
Keep
the briars out,
they say.
You cannot live
and keep free of
briars.

Children pick flowers.
Let them.
Though having them
in hand
they have no further use for them
but leave them crumpled
at the curb’s edge.

At our age the imagination
across the sorry facts
lifts us
to make roses
stand before thorns.
Sure
love is cruel
and selfish
and totally obtuse—
at least, blinded by the light,
young love is.
But we are older,
I to love
and you to be loved,
we have,
no matter how,
by our wills survived
to keep
the jeweled prize
always
at our finger tips.
We will it so
and so it is
past all accident.

*

I had to post this one.

Until now, I thought only Neruda or ee cummings could make me feel so heady and giddy and caught up in the moment.

WCW was good for refridgerator poems - so I thought. But this is is a different league altogether.

Oh I am such a romantic fool. But I can't help it. My life's just brimful of roses at the moment :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

GE

All of Singapore's caught up in election fever.

Odd but most of the FB crowd seem to support the opposition. I guess the last election I experienced first hand was so long ago that I sort of thought that everyone was still more or less in the ruling party's camp.

I'm sceptical of all political parties and rhetoric (especially campaign promises) so I tend not to get as caught up. It's only in the last day or two - when I realized that I'd probably get to, no make that have to(!) vote -that I started following the news a little more closely.

When I did I realized several things:

1 - I actually know some of the candidates. This is a first and I'm more than a little taken aback. While I do like current affairs and keeping abreast of general socio-economic issues, I'm not terribly political and my roster of friends tend to reflect these leanings.

2 - The resentment that people feel toward immigrants seems to have reached sky high levels. Is this justified? Very possibly.

3 - The opposition has upped their game considerably. This is a good development, partly because it'll keep the ruling party on its toes and mostly because a rational and well reasoned alternative view point is always useful.

4 - Social media is going to be pretty critical.

Main question though:

I've never had to vote before and the main thing that concerns me is how to vote as a Christian.

I already know from 1 Tim 2 that I should pray for the future leaders and very probably for the electorate as well - that they may choose wisely.

But then what else? What should one consider? And why?

Well reasoned/written and moderate view points here and here.

The truth is that not so very long ago, I'd have said: Pick the ruling party - the opposition just isn't credible.

But the people at the top have been fumbling up so badly and in so many ways that I just cannot maintain any kind of sympathy or support for them.Add to that the fact that morally, I believe they have lost their compass. I could not and still cannot believe they let in the casinos knowing that so many ethnic chinese singaporeans already had gambling problems.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April showers







*

I do like the world of the internet but sometimes it's lovely just to take a break from it and go out into the real world.

April's been busy! In no particular order there's been

- a lovely trip to Universal Studios with Mr Grey

- a huuuuge dinner with my lovely fluffy aunts (all 6 of them in the same room! That hasn't happened for ages and ages)

- MG got baptized on Easter Sunday; my heart almost burst I was so joyful and then after that went out for scrumptious Jap lunch so my stomach almost did burst :)

- Little Miss E had a baby shower. It's so exciting to see how big she's got and to think that baby Faith will be here in another 4 weeks

- And finally there was a gorgeous brunch at the Plains with Mr Grey and a very relaxing walk at the Southern Ridges finished off with a bak kut teh dinner at Alexandra. (I am SO happy that the stall I like is baaaack! Was so afraid it would disappear when the food centre was renovated but it came BACK ~greedy smile~)

Oh and I've borrowed some books from the church and NLB and polished off almost the whole lot. April, I love you so - if only all months could have two long weekends in a row. I've so needed this time off.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

detail orientation

Today is a really bad day.

Sometimes I feel so terrible about being a careless person - being careless with your own stuff is one thing - but being careless and slack at work is terrible.

I make this resolution ALL the time. Be more careful. Be more meticulous.

But when i get tired, its hard to care about the minor details. Sometimes I just want a job where the details don't matter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

joy of man's desiring




The most elegant advert EVER. Gorgeous.

And of course. It had to be Bach :)

*



*

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Movement



The Sartorialist always takes beautiful shots but this one is especially lovely - those birds captured mid-flight - just arresting.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones

'Only thin, weak thinkers despise fairy stories. Each one has a true, strange fact hidden in it, which you can find if you look.” - Fire and Hemlock

Diana Wynne Jones died on 26 March 2011.

I would be poorer without her books and to this day, they're my favourite rainy day read. (Actually, they're among my favourite reads in any kind of weather.)

The best authors are like friends. I read Howl's Moving castle when I was 18 and laughed non-stop. I marvelled at how some English lady knew all puzzles and insecurities of being an eldest sister - until I found out she was - like me - the eldest of three.

After Howl's, I bought everything I could of hers. I got through Dogsbody which I loved, all of the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark Quartet... almost everything. And I loved almost all of it. They were funny, wise, sharp as nails, rich with mythology and replete with common sense. She wrote the kind of books I had always longed to read. Plus, her first book came out in 1981, a good 2 years before Pratchett's first so really, she was the original funny British fantasy writer. AND not to mention she was taught by Tolkien and CS Lewis - with a pedigree like that - how could she be anything but fantastic? (pardon the pun)

I don't know what else to say except that she was my favourite author - bar none - and the reading public won't be seeing the likes of her again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

two fears

The first is the fear of having anyone read my writing. I have an intense dislike of my own writing - once it's done, i re-read it and hate it so much I want to hit delete straightaway.

The second is having to critique someone's writing.

All this is because I'm glad someone I know didn't ask me to look through / edit her writing before it was published. It's now out and I'm heart glad that I didn't have anything to do with it.

*

The Soul Bone by Susan Wood

Once I said I didn't have a spiritual bone
in my body and meant by that
I didn't want to think of death,
as though any bone in us
could escape it. Maybe
I was afraid of what I couldn't know
for certain, a thud like the slamming
of a coffin lid, as final and inexplicable
as that. What was the soul anyway,
I wondered, but a homonym for loneliness?
Now, in late middle age, or more, I like to imagine it,
the spirit, the soul bone, as though it were hidden
somewhere inside my body, white as a tooth
that falls from a child's mouth, a dove,
the cloud it can fly through. Like bones,
it persists. Little knot of self, stubborn
as wildflowers in a Chilmark field in autumn,
the white ones they call boneset, for healing,
or the others, pearly everlasting.
The rabbis of the Midrash believed in the bone
and called it the luz, just like the Spanish word
for light, the size of a chickpea or an almond,
depending on which rabbi was telling the story,
found, they said, at the top of the spine or the base,
depending. No one's ever seen it, of course,
but sometimes at night I imagine I can feel it,
shining its light through my body, the bone
luminous, glowing in the dark. Sometimes,
if you listen, you might even hear that light
deep inside me, humming its brave little song.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

playing catch up



Coffee on Friday with Soaps. Saturday lunch with Mr Grey - such good pasta! Girls bible study group on Saturday. Sunday school gathering on Saturday night with much curry and laughter. Sunday school outing to ... the Great World City food court(!) on Sunday morning.

Good times.

I haven't been writing for awhile now, must find an empty evening and fill up on books books books soon.

Reading David Wells at the moment and feeling immeasurably sad and worried about the church in general.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunshine on a cloudy day

A little baby was found amongst the ruins of Ishinomaki in Japan. Unbelievable. Whole houses and cars are completely destroyed but this little baby survives.

It reminds me so much of this story.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quotes

I have been Jean Valjean, and I have been Javert, but I wish to be Bishop Myriel. - Burk Parsons

In the end, our opinion does not really matter. We will not die and stand before a mirror to give an account. - Mark Driscoll

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Many waters

Talking to a friend on Sunday who'd served as a missionary in Japan, I was stunned when she said: "even those who survive the disaster might commit suicide because they've just lost everything and everyone...".

I cannot watch any more videos of the disaster or watch the news anymore. This is what I know of Japan - from various news articles and from reports of missionaries who've been there. Japanese society is deeply secular and emotionally fragile. It is a society that has been fraying at the seams for some time; their traditional values and way of life eroded by modernism and their own lack of a clear moral code.

There are very very few believers in Japan. The Japanese pride themselves on their technological advancements and economic strength. But in the last few decades, as those fell away, the emptiness inside the facade of strength has shown itself.

And now they need prayer and help like never before.

Let us pray.

This is Piper's prayer for them and I'm re-posting it here because I have no words that can adequately convey how I feel.

"Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

if the fit isn't right

Did you ever have people in your life who were just wrong for you? Not necessarily boyfriends, friends too.

I used to.

Looking back, what on earth was all that stuff for? I will never understand how I let myself go through all that.

But anyway, I saw these pictures from a friend's engagement, taken in CA, at the Bay Area. They were lovely and I expected the familiar heartache to hit again - it did but it was different.

I know now that it was wrong and it didn't fit. It would never have fit. But it's different now because then, everything else didn't fit too. Not my life, not work not God, not anything.

It's been a couple of years since and I've watched in amazement - almost from the sidelines - as things fell into place. All this time, I've just been a bit player in the drama unfolding, as though I stood off at a corner and just watched Providence at work.

The heartache is because I wish I could have been here sooner and not later. But that would be doubting Providence and God's timing.

I will go to the Bay Area one day - God willing - and it will be different.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Landscape and soul



Though we should not speak about the soul,
that is, about things we don’t know,
I’m sure mine sleeps the day long,
waiting to be jolted, even jilted awake,
preferably by joy, but sadness also comes
by surprise, and the soul sings its songs.

And because no one landscape compels me,
except the one that’s always out of reach
(toward which, nightly, I go), I find myself
conjuring Breugel-like peasants cavorting
under a Magritte-like sky – a landscape
the soul, if fully awake, could love as its own.

But the soul is rumored to desire a room,
a chamber, really, in some far away outpost
of the heart. Landscape can be lonely and cold.
Be sweet to me, world.

–Stephen Dunn

*

Last week I walked out of my office looking for dinner, looking to take a short walk before going back to work.

Around me people were rushing home and the evening light was beautiful. In the city the light of the sunset floods the canyons of skyscrapers and you're bathed in light from a thousand sunsets reflected on a thousand windows.

*

Still. My soul yearns for quiet waters and greenery. Someone at work got dozens of roses and bouquets for valentine's turning her desk into this veritable bower of sweet ferns and fragrant roses. I looked at them and suddenly wanted a moment alone to bury my nose into the heart of the bouquet and breathe life and sweetness back into myself.

*

Do souls need a room? Studying Psalm 23 this week and am so heartened by the promise of still waters and green pastures. Yes yes I do realize they're metaphorical :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

telok ayer street



*

One of the things I love doing on a break is surfing around photography websites. Sites like Shutter Sisters, The Sartorialist and Today Melbourne inspire me. I love The Sartorialist's eye; the way his portraits of people on the street exude individuality and diversity in every shot.

But more often than not, the blog I linger over the most would be Today Melbourne - the photographer has an eye for the perfect shots of the city I love. Thunderstorms approaching Port Melbourne, boatmen on the Yarra, people lying around the Fitzroy Gardens, street graffitti, trams trundling their way through the rain.

My breath catches and I'm back.

It's summer 2006 and I'm walking around the city in a tank top and sandals with a coffee in my hands heading for the art house cinema on Lygon Street.

Or winter 2007 when I hurried through the city wrapped in a warm coat, heading for the tiny hole in the wall firm where I had a temp job. I used to walk through the entire city on my way home, loving the street scenes and the lights on the Yarra.

All this has nothing to do with telok ayer street except that I guess the one thing I wish I'd done was to take more photos of my walks. I ran out of my building to grab a drink a few days ago and snapped this on a whim. It came out better than I expected and I think I'll try for more shots along the way.

It was a hot afternoon and there were these men sitting at a coffee shop playing chess(or checkers?). As I snapped the shot, one of them picked up his chess piece and moved it with urgency and the air of producing a flourish. Checkmate?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Music feeds



*



*

Different style but beautiful playing. Heartache from just listening.

Monday, February 14, 2011

no mood for love



Bad news in the family has overshadowed the valentine's happiness - praying and trusting in God but this is hard for me and I feel a sense of fear.

In times like these when I'm afraid and seeking, I'm thankful for the discipline of bible study. It's good to call up verses and remember God's promises.

*

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever
Psalm 136:1

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

every garden dreams of being eden


Pastoral

Every garden dreams
of being Eden: rosebushes
or wildflowers, it hardly matters
as long as the hum of bees
remains peaceable and the door
to the grave stays hidden
beneath a swath of grass.
In the cooling afternoon
each flower relaxes
on its pedestal of stem,
and the gardener too dreams,
under a tree weighted
each fall with apples.

*

Q and A

I thought I couldn't be surprised:
"Do you write on a computer?" someone
asks, and "Who are your favorite poets?"
and "How much do you revise?"

But when the very young woman
in the fourth row lifted her hand
and without irony inquired:
"Did you write

your Emily Dickinson poem
because you like her work,
or did you know her personally?"
I entered another territory.

"Do I really look that old?"
I wanted to reply, or "Don't
they teach you anything?"
or "What did you just say?"

The laughter that engulfed
the room was partly nervous,
partly simple hilarity.
I won't forget

that little school, tucked
in a lovely pocket of the South,
or that girl whose face
was slowly reddening.

Surprise, like love, can catch
our better selves unawares.
"I've visited her house," I said.
"I may have met her in my dreams."

Linda Pastan

From here

*

Dear big wide world of internet,

How's your week going? I'm brimming with love and excitement this week: there's a gorgeous weekend to look forward to and - oh I loved this find so much! - there's this collection of top 100 quitessential jazz tracks up on the NPR website. Listen to it here.

I'm such a newcomer to jazz - it was my first time listening to Vince Guaraldi's Cast you Fate to the Wind and I loved it so much. I'd love to get my hands on the soundtrack to a Charlie Brown Christmas :)

These poems are full of lines I wish I'd written. "Every garden dreams of being eden" - what a perfect poetic line. Brimful of meaning but simple and clean.

PLUS another lovely postcard from the sister - from Madrid with a little koala drawn on the back with a speech bubble saying 'ola!' :)

It's Tuesday and the weekend is a long way off but mid week delights like these make the work day just swim past.

Love

Di

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gems

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

*

Came across this Psalm today and it amazed me. Of all the books in the bible, I think the psalms read most like diary entries: cries for help, shouts of joy and delight and the sounds of God's people returning to him in penitence, acknowledging the need for His grace. Psalm 131 is a gem, a tiny 9 liner in the middle of the book of spawned the sprawling psalm 119 and the beautiful psalm 23.

When I first read it, I thought it was a spoof. Are you kidding me? David the man of God writing that his heart 'is not lifted up'? That he hasn't been thinking of great and marvelous things of God? I looked it up and people, it was for reals. This psalm is really and truly from the bible and written by King David, father of Solomon.

I have a confession to make. In the last few weeks, I've been horrendously distracted from my bible study and regular sleep by an iPhone game and I'm roundly ashamed. It's only now that I'm returning to my regular programme of disciplined study, work, exercise and sleep but even so, all in I've lost a few weeks of my life.

So when I read this, I thought, yeah me too. I haven't been raising my eyes to God or lifting up my heart. But like an errant child, I returned to hope in God, glad that he neither slumbers nor sleeps.

It also reminded me of this CS Lewis quote:

" Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."(The Weight of Glory, 26)

Piano Lessons by Billy Collins

1.
My teacher lies on the floor with a bad back
off to the side of the piano.
I sit up straight on the stool.
He begins by telling me that every key
is like a different room
and I am a blind man who must learn
to walk through all twelve of them
without hitting the furniture.
I feel myself reach for the first doorknob.

2.
He tells me that every scale has a shape
and I have to learn how to hold
each one in my hands.
At home I practice with my eyes closed.
C is an open book.
D is a vase with two handles.
G flat is a black boot.
E has the legs of a bird.

3.
He says the scale is the mother of the chords.
I can see her pacing the bedroom floor
waiting for her children to come home.
They are out at nightclubs shading and lighting
all the songs while couples dance slowly
or stare at one another across tables.
This is the way it must be. After all,
just the right chord can bring you to tears
but no one listens to the scales,
no one listens to their mother.

4.
I am doing my scales,
the familiar anthems of childhood.
My fingers climb the ladder of notes
and come back down without turning around.
Anyone walking under this open window
would picture a girl of about ten
sitting at the keyboard with perfect posture,
not me slumped over in my bathrobe, disheveled,
like a white Horace Silver.

5.
I am learning to play
“It Might As Well Be Spring”
but my left hand would rather be jingling
the change in the darkness of my pocket
or taking a nap on an armrest.
I have to drag him in to the music
like a difficult and neglected child.
This is the revenge of the one who never gets
to hold the pen or wave good-bye,
and now, who never gets to play the melody.

6.
Even when I am not playing, I think about the piano.
It is the largest, heaviest,
and most beautiful object in this house.
I pause in the doorway just to take it all in.
And late at night I picture it downstairs,
this hallucination standing on three legs,
this curious beast with its enormous moonlit smile.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tuesday cat


The rainy weather makes it so hard to get out of bed.

Did a little bit of writing today - it's been a long time since I've written anything. There are times I wonder if it dries up (like a raisin in the sun?).

Good extracts from J I Packer (Knowing God and A Quest for Godliness):

"Christians are independent folks for they use the word of God as a touchstone by which to test the various views that are put to them and they will not touch anything which they are not sure that Scripture sanctions"

*

"Whereas to the Puritans communion with God was a great thing, to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing.

The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way that we are not.

The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it.

When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.

Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God. Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour.

We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters.

Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us.

But how different were the Puritans! The whole aim of their ‘practical and experimental’ preaching and writing was to explore the reaches of the doctrine and practice of man’s communion with God."