7 Years of This Here

During the first half-year after I created my blog, I wrote a total of 67 posts. 67! Book reviews, Classical Pieces of the Week, random reflections… I truly put most of my wandering mind, on the Internet. As such, creating an Internet identity is the closest I’ve felt to a pioneer in the Western sense (without the physical hardships, and hopefully, cruelty): journeying through the “unconquered” land of newly-discovered sites like Goodreads and Blogger, forging connections with those forging similar paths, the excitement and uncertainty, the awe with every new acquiring (blog awards, new buttons)! I look back to the post I made for my first “blogoversary” and reminisce fondly about the growing community that surrounded me. The Internet is not the world, but it was a beautiful world to me then… and beautiful now in its nostalgia.

My pioneering of the Internet occurred synchronously with my pioneering of my own mind. And this former pioneering was both a cause and an effect of the latter one. Perhaps the paradox of delving more and more consciously into yourself and the world is that while your vision of them expand, your actions tighten because of this very expansion. At least, that’s how I feel like growing up has applied to me. I’ve become a lot more self-conscious and selective of what I choose to publish on my blog, I’ve privatized my Instagram, and I’m leaving much of my writing in private notebooks. Of course, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. 67 (much of them rambling) posts would not be healthy for you or me. But the issue I take with myself is that I don’t think I’m spending less time on the Internet than I was before. This tightening of action has prompted in me habits of both conformism and non-conformism that (though I’m reluctant to admit) have resulted in all the same thing: obsessively liking and retweeting, sharing with a dismissed haste, an occasional dialogue, circular existentialism. Whatever drama these statements evoke is probably due less from exaggeration, and more from what this era has self-defined as normal. Continue reading “7 Years of This Here”

On Visiting Deep Springs College

This past February, during the tense winter of second semester, I found myself at the airport on a blizzard evening, boarding a plane to Las Vegas. There, I would join my parents, and we would briefly sleep in a smoke-chocked resort before setting off, by car, to the ultimate destination: Deep Springs College. Deep Springs College, for those who might not know (likely most of you), is a two-year liberal arts college tucked in the Deep Springs Valley of California, by the Nevada border. Founded by L.L. Nunn in 1917, the college serves to “prepare young people for a life of service to humanity,” and functions on three fundamental pillars: academics, labour, and self-governance. It is perhaps, the cult-classic of academia: DS has historically received a gaze of fascination from media and dedicated students, because of the tiny student body (around 26 students total, between two years), the deeply isolating conditions of its location, the academic rigour and submergence, the extent of the self-governance, and of course, the cowboy dreamscape. As well (and this is hard to overstate), DS only started accepting girls to its program in 2017.

I myself was going to Deep Springs for an interview. I did not know what to make of it. I wrote the first-round essays in a last-day frenzy, ultimately more drawn to the grandiose ideals of DS than any specific matters. As such, my sentiments were rooted in excitement and deep unpreparedness – yet, I thought that if I could simply demonstrate my charismatic self, I could win the students of DS over. (Yes, this is seriously what I thought). My parents, meanwhile, showed interest and support, but also a continued reluctance regarding the two years Deep Springs would elongate my undergraduate degree by, should I go. I did not know what to make of that, either. 

To reach Deep Springs, we decided to travel through Death Valley. I remember the sights of our journey as monumental and emotional. Leaving Las Vegas, snow covered the ground and the skies shone gray. As we drove West, the snow receded and the sun illuminated the earthy colours of the desert. Ever since I read Holes by Louis Sachar many, many years ago, part of me has always been fascinated by the elusive Americana desert. This was the foreign land of my dreams, the one Steinbeck weaved his grand narratives across, the sepia-toned memories of open spaces in a flooding of noon-sun, moon’s orb, lonely farms and secretive towns. On the day of our travels, the weather was first brisk than comfortably mild. The mountains carved itself with colours, the air impossibly fresh. We glided through Death Valley and admired the sky’s horizon and the glaciers in the distance. Mountains were passed slowly and carefully; abyss lay right beside the railing. By the time we reached Big Pine and turned onto California’s 168 towards Deep Springs Valley, evening had fallen. As we climbed up a new mountain, snow started falling again, the roads lined with red volcanic ash. At one point, our car got stuck as it pressed uphill, and panicking, I told my parents we should just turn around, continue the journey the morning after. But we continued, tiny fear gnawing in my stomach, a complete darkness; signs indicated that we would arrive at Deep Springs any moment, now. And after a stretch of forever, arrive we did, to the sight of brilliance, a big tent of light, an oasis. I was ecstatic: Deep Springs was real, Deep Springs was real. Continue reading “On Visiting Deep Springs College”

Un sueño

How easy it is to attain a Caribbean dream. As I stepped out of the plane and walked through the open-air design of the Punta Cana airport, I heard birds chirping and saw a cat curled on a seat. Perhaps it was impossible not to dream; the heat’s philosophy invited you with an unconditional hand. This hand was soft to me, and I could only count that as luck.

This morning, the rooster wakes me and the sun rises behind clouds. By the beach, the workers are raking into large mounds the seaweed washed onto shore overnight. They are thrown into a rusted metal cart that is pulled away by a tractor. The clouds darken and I see little punctures in the sand – one short shower. Jerome from Club Lookéa tells me that the rain never lasts for more than 10 minutes; the wettest month is May and even then, it only rains two to three times a week. I ask him if he is from France – he tells me he lives in a town only 30 minutes away. Perhaps, his family knew this land before it became a resort hub in 1969. Walking further along the beach, I start to understand what the untamed jungle must have looked like.

For breakfast, I pour myself a glass of fresh banana juice and melon juice. My plate teems with mangú de platano, longaniza, cooked vegetables, scrambled eggs and halved passionfruit. I finish by savouring a bowl of hot chocolate with cinnamon. Peter from the beach, who lived in the United-States until he married his second wife, tells us that the drive to Santo Domingo will take one hour and a half. It takes in reality closer to two hours and a half in a van with broken air-conditioning. Twenty minutes away from the city, our driver stops by the highway and our tour guide Anthony jumps in casually in his jeans and t-shirt with a frayed leather pocket. Without even taking a breath he launches into his greetings. Continue reading “Un sueño”

(re)october2018

IMG_6486Mitski at Danforth

(1) FAVOURITE…

Songs
I Tried to Wear the World by The Weather Station, ft. Jennifer Castle (2018)
There is a simple spontaneity in this song. No complicated chords, a steady finger snap, two women singing in unison – all wrapped up by words that surprisingly cut, in the most tender manner. “Why can’t you want me for the way I cannot handle it. / Don’t turn me around / I’m already on the ground.” Despite the sad fatigue expressed through the lyrics, I don’t think this song is a plea or resignation, because the music’s minimalism prevents any melodrama from sprouting. The song is rather something more powerful: un-restrained, clear-minded vulnerability – ending on an unresolved chord and one last finger snap. “I tried to wear each word that you have ever said to me. / Even as careless as it turns out you have been to me. / Still reach out to hold / Everything that I am told.” 
Strawberry Blonde by Mitski (2013)
“Strawberry Blonde” is one of those special songs that is as much a piece of music, as it is a piece of cinema or art. The joyous guitar and ukulele strums, the winds and strings, and the full choir create an incredibly rich atmosphere, bringing alive the fields of bumblebees described so fondly in the song. It is only at the end, when Mitski tumbles through the name “Isaiah“, that we can truly remember the sheer pain of heartache that this song expresses. But even so, it’s hard to ever shake off the exhilarating, compassionate beauty that “Strawberry Blonde” has painted because (and despite) of love.

Instrumental Piece
Melody Four by Alan Gogoll (2018)
I don’t much about Alan Gogoll, but Spotify tells me he is from Tasmania and one of the world’s finest acoustic guitarists. I love “Melody Four” because it is summer in its full glory. That is, our romanticized, perfect version of summer, which rides high on precious nostalgia and uplifting thoughts. It is a piece fuelled by the kind of reassuring momentum you feel on the highway, at the beginning of a road trip. It’s hard to describe; I understand how this piece could just be a typical guitar instrumental to some, but for me, there is a bit of magic.

Poem
“Little Miracle” by Molly Peacock
I recently acquired Everyman’s book of Villanelles at the Trinity College Book Sale, and it has been truly a delight discovering new poems with each reading. I adore this one by Molly Peacock, for its sweetness and comfort. Sure, poems (let alone one poem) are not enough to save you for your entire life, but certainly, it can save you for at least a little moment, and that is sufficient. With the approaching exam season, it is nice (vital!) to remind ourselves: no use getting hysterical at our hummingbird-hearted schedules.

No use getting hysterical.
The important part is: we’re here.
Our lives are a little miracle.
My hummingbird-hearted schedule
beats its shiny frenzy, day into year.
No use getting hysterical –
it’s always like that. The oracle
a human voice could be is shrunk by fear.
Our lives are a little miracle
– we must remind ourselves – whimsical,
and lyrical, large and slow and clear.
(So no use getting hysterical!)
All words other than I love you are clerical,
dispensable, and replaceable, my dear.
Our inner lives are a miracle.
They beat their essence in the coracle
our ribs provide, the watertight boat we steer
through others’ acid, hysterical demands.
Ours is the miracle: we’re here.

Continue reading “(re)october2018”

(re)september2018

  1. Joker’s Hill, Koffler Research Reserves
  2. Balfour Books, College Street
  3. House Warming Party!
  4. The Weather Station, Mod Club Theatre

(1) FAVOURITE…

Song 
A Pearl by Mitski (2018)
Mitski was more my Summer anthem than September’s, but I would feel wrong to not include her in a post. I don’t even know where to begin, because Mitski was everywhere for me: at home, in the park, every transitional period. As a lyricist, she is acute; as a musician, manifold; as an artist, tactical; as a person, colourfully secret. In “A Pearl”, Mitski’s voice doesn’t sound as intensely plaintive as her electric guitar, but rather it wails in a slumber-like state, providing this emotional duality of active and tired frustration. The end is perfect: a soft unlacing of tension – tender or resigned?
Honourable mention: No Exit by Tennis (2017)
Toronto in September proved to be scorching, sticky, sudden. When I listen to “No Exit”, I think of the city’s nighttime, which was slightly cooler, more clear-spirited, and therefore less emotionally forgiving. Thoughts would still be chaotic and misunderstood, but they felt like they had to be danced to a beat, acknowledged to existence. “Apocalyptic, my own mystic / I’m moving right into the end / Under a shadow wherever we go / Our features again and again.”

Instrumental Piece
Landscape in Portrait by Marihiko Hara (album, 2017)
Marihiko Hara is a composer residing in Kyoto, Japan. His biography describes “Landscape in Portrait” as an album “mixing melodic piano and electric abstract sounds.” A concise description which gives no justice to this collection of music, one which elevates silence and dissonance into something bewildering and unifying. The album starts in a musically familiar manner, a forlorn piano piece tinged with the sound of streaming water, but with every following piece the music diversifies, a transcendent sound builds. The dark sweeps of “Nuage”, the stringed chant of “Papyrus”, the muting surprises of “Fountain”, the foggy ballad of “Vita” that sings the album to dream.

Poem
“Star Turn” by Graham Foust
This little poem makes my head spin. Even if you read it without thinking it is striking. “Deepest wound”, “pain”, “no longer love in” – all within five lines. If you read it more carefully, it hurts more, but it also reassures. The speaker is closer than we think (“we”), self-consolement hasn’t been abandoned (“with what feels like good reason”) … it injures but we (I) don’t injure alone.

That the deepest wound is the least unique
surprises nobody but the living.
Secretly, and with what feels like good reason,
we’re the pain the people we love
put the people they no longer love in.

Continue reading “(re)september2018”

poem: Every Summer

The very middle of summer means
turning the calendar and being delighted
by a new painting but pained by
an equal loss.

It is opening the fridge and discovering
half of a watermelon.

If you knew you had half your life left
you might cry, then breathe – realizing
that is so much to live – then cry again
for only infinity would be too long.

On this day I made a mindfulness list,
which is, from what I have understood:
all things you’ve done which have kept you
sane at melting point.

For me and maybe you it was
biking with the wind,
worshiping a new song,
realizing this argument reached the bottom,
installing a bug net and opening the window as wide
as the hinges would allow.

The list was important to me this day,
because I spent the other hours
working and not thinking
thinking and not working
so ravaged by all the time lost sulking on my bed
cursing the world which outstretched its arms to me.

The list grew and became a bounty of words
that made me feel large. Made me stop
counting for symmetry.
Sure, the feeling was more of an enforcement.
But I think I was happy by morning,
wondering if I could ever just live one day
like it was the only life I would receive.

St. John’s, Newfoundland

This May long weekend my family and I travelled to St John’s, Newfoundland, for my brother’s sixth Canadian Chess Challenge. To prepare for this trip, I sought out novels and poetry written about this Easterly-most province. Ultimately, I brought with me E.J. Pratt’s Collected Poems and Sweetland by Michael Crummey. It was my first time pairing my trip with regionally-connected literary works, and perhaps it said something about the way I wanted to understand Newfoundland – in an authentic but also imaginative way. This four-day trip would allow me to slip out of my routine world, and into one where I could actively suspend my disbelief.

As I walked from Memorial University to downtown during my first morning, I was mesmerized by the hills running through this city. They seemed to provide a rugged mirror effect to the land – people’s lives directly and remotely facing each other. Then, when I spotted the colourful fishermen’s row houses, I was delighted and surprised. Somehow, from all the information I searched about Newfoundland, these iconic houses did not come across my results.

IMG_6888

Like the houses and the hills, the quietness of the city calmly stunned me. Maybe it was because it was a Sunday on a long weekend, the peacefulness carrying to even the heart of downtown. There were cars and there were some people, but the overall sound didn’t seem to amplify or echo. It was as if the ocean, which bordered so closely, provided a semi-vacuum for sound not to vanish, but exist quietly with us. Continue reading “St. John’s, Newfoundland”

(re)april2018

1. Royal Ontario Museum with Sana
2. Trinity Review 130 Launch at 187 Augusta
3. Painting in ES1015
4. Allan Conservatory Gardens with Emily

(1) FAVOURITE…

Song 
Kept It All to Myself by The Weather Station (2017)
The Weather Station is the music project of Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman, and for the month of April her songs have gifted me a private understanding that has helped me move through my days with more assurance and spirit. “Kept It All to Myself” sparks with insight and moves sharply, swiftly, like in its own perfected orbit: “There were days when the luminescence of the skies or the deep brown grasses struck me so hard in the early evening—I can hardly take it, that light feeling.” Her songs exist with such a strong companionship between the words, phrasing, rhythm and melody that they resemble as much of a natural phenomenon as a creative achievement.
Honourable mention: I Mined by The Weather Station (2015)
I swear I did listen to other artists in April, but I couldn’t just pick one The Weather Station song. “I Mined” is from her third album, Loyalty, which is generally a lot softer than her latest album (which “Kept It All to Myself” is pulled from). My favourite part is the humming motif that provides a unifying tenderness to the song.

Instagram Account
@pentagramdesign
If you have any interest in aestheticism you will love Pentagram, the “world’s largest independently-owned design studio”¹. I was first drawn to their account after reading about their re-design of The University of Sussex’s visual identity, whose success led to a “25% increase in undergraduates coming to Sussex”². The act of the transformation is often more satisfying than the result, and Pentagram consistently offers transparent explanations of their reasoning in all re-desings.

Poem
“Honeydew” by Jonah Yano (2018)
This year I was an assistant editor for The Trinity Review and so I wanted to share a poem from our spring issue that spoke to me immediately. What I love about this poem is the tiny expansion that we feel in the second stanza, as the attention shifts from just “you” to also “anyone”. There is a quiet confusion that somehow still contains a clarity for detail (white leather suitcases, heads of trophies, etc) – and in this way we feel closer to the speaker’s genuineness.

this will be the first time i write about
you for the second time
and i’m not really sure what moves you
but there are many instances of your reminder
like white leather suitcases and
the heads of trophies and
xylophones and tragedy

tragedy because i can’t quite sort what it is
about you or anyone that makes me
consider anything at all
while all the while still standing still
and smiling
when you make me

Continue reading “(re)april2018”

poem for liability (i)

I am currently trudging through an unfortunate situation whose emotional weight will dissipate sooner or later. As I move forward, I would like to both honour the intensity I felt in the present moment while realizing that the solution lies in creating a more mature storyline from diluted feelings (time is the strongest water).

This post is to necessitate me to write a follow-up post, at a hopeful time where I will have reasonably resolved the inner and outwards tensions that have made up this conflict. I don’t know if doing this on a public platform is the most honourable method to try to navigate my feelings and morals (although honestly, how many people even read my blog) but presently it is what feels right and what feels could be the most emotionally stable/constructive way.

And so, here is part i… Continue reading “poem for liability (i)”

(re)march2018

IMG_6054IMG_6181

  1. Grange Park
  2. Sabrina Bilic, Self Portrait Bust (2017)

(1) FAVOURITE…

Song 
Atop a Cake by Alvvays (2014)
Recently, Selena Gomez posted a video on Instagram of her vacationing in Australia; all was well except for the fact that she used Alvvays’ music WITHOUT GIVING THEM CREDIT. This month I am determined to give Alvvays the credit it deserves: Atop a Cake‘s fresh and whimsical vibe plays so wonderfully with the lyrics reflecting a post-modern glaze to the idea of marriage. “How could I lose control if you’re driving from the backseat?” The song builds in layers, and maintains this sweet balance between musical hilarity and seriousness. 
Honourable mention: One April Day by Stephen Merritt (2003)
Should I have saved this for April’s recap? Probably, but it’s hard to delay my enthusiasm for good music. This song was written for the film “Pieces of April”, which I have yet to view. The brevity of the lyrics leaves a sweet and longing taste, a bite of poetry in a sea of tender music. 

Classical music piece
Adagio from Violin Sonata No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach (~1720)
Bach’s music is not only pure, but it purifies. The Adagio movement from the first Violin Sonata is as heavy as it is light – the stream of the mind meeting the well of the world. Here I link to you Henryk Szeryng’s rendition – awe ensues.

Poem
To Spring by Roger Greenwald (2012)
“To Spring” flows off the tongue with such unapologetic eloquence and I want to engrave these lines on my metaphorical skin because through its sadness is it overwhelmingly beautiful (have I officially hit my emo phase?). I love the use of repeated words, such as “gone”, and “light”, as it brings a soft, tapping rhythm to the stanza, as if the speaker is flickering between past and present. There is a careful trade-off between concrete and negating imagery (“tulips breaking out of their bulbs” vs. “absence stronger than flowers”) which caps the concluding idea brilliantly: “[spring’s] touch / too much and not enough.”

Dreaded season when light’s too long too soon,
winter turns to you before its work is done.
Along with snowdrops, forsythia, anemone,
along with tulips breaking out of their bulbs,
comes the long memory of the fatal spring
when I was thirty-three and my love wasn’t there,
had gone without waiting and said she’d return,
but winter’s work done, was still gone.
Absence stronger than flowers, steaming in sun,
poisoned the season, buried morbid winter
and filled imagined summer with vapors. Light,
light spring drifts in like a feather
used for torture, its touch
too much and not enough.

Continue reading “(re)march2018”