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


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.



Sunday, February 6, 2011


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.