Monday, May 31, 2021

The approximate quality of our conversations

"What's your passion?" How I hate that question. Passionately. 

It's a phrase that gained traction over the last couple decades or so. (Is Oprah to blame?) We used to talk about hobbies and interests. Now I feel inadequate for not having a driving force that is my singular focus. I am not passionate about reading, or sculpting, or the environment. I care deeply about them, but they do not stir a fire in my belly. (Perhaps I believe my passions should be sexual.)

I've been thinking a lot lately about love and passion, and the words we use to express them, and how words often get in the way. It's one of the great paradoxes of our modern life that we value open and honest communication, and we rely on words to do the heavy lifting, yet we so rarely use them the same way. We are each one of us a giant, fragile talking egg. 

It is a great personal paradox that I make my living by manipulating words; I am regularly paralyzed by their inadequacy.

The fact that he was a foreigner made it all the more difficult to understand his behaviour, moulded by a culture that I knew only through folklore and clichés for tourists. At first, I was discouraged by the obvious limitations of our exchanges, which were reinforced by the fact that, although he spoke fairly good French, I could not express myself in his language. Later I realized that this situation spared me the illusion that we shared a perfect relationship, or even formed a whole. Because his French strayed slightly from standard use and because I occasionally had doubts about the meaning he gave to words, I was able to appreciate the approximate quality of our conversations. From the very beginning, and throughout the whole of our affair, I had the privilege of knowing what we all find out in the end: the man we love is a complete stranger.

"Passion," to me, has always evoked volatility. A grand romantic passion is doomed to tragedy and forces beyond our control. (Is this why I'm so wary of passion?) My own psychology feeds this definition. And etymologically, passion is linked to suffering. If passion is not those things, then how is it different from love? (Is it?) (Where is the joy?)

Simple Passion, by Annie Ernaux, is a memoir recounting her state of mind in the aftermath of an affair with a married man. It is not about the man or their relationship. It is about her experience of them. 

The book opens on her memory of seeing a porn movie for the first time. The writing is graphic but detached, leading me to feel the absurdity and mundanity of the scene on screen. She remarks on how it normalizes that which was once shocking and shameful.

It occurred to me that writing should aim to do the same, to replicate the feeling of witnessing sexual intercourse, that feeling of anxiety and stupefaction, a suspension of moral judgment. 

Surprisingly then, the rest of the book is devoid of sexual content. It is, however, painfully honest.

Indeed, it has helped me normalize what I can only call temporary insanity, the obsession I feel for a man I'm sleeping with, not just any man, certainly I don't feel this way about every man I've slept with, but there's been a man or two in the course of my life who's gotten under my skin. The single-mindedness, that everything relates to him or anticipates him, is in service of his being, not like I exist solely to serve him, not that nothing exists outside of him, not that I'm some vapid thing who has no sense of self outside of her man, who forgets her friends and family and obligations for him, but suddenly he is important, and his presence (or absence) shines light or casts a shadow on everything else. And when he is gone, he remains important.

When I was reading, the sentences that gave me pause were those concerning a relationship between a man and a woman. They seemed to teach me something about A. and lent credibility to the things I wished to believe.

I too stand the words on the page beside my relationship, looking for points of intersection to cross-reference my experience. (I gloat inwardly when she misses a screening of Oshima's Realm of the Senses, which she was convinced encapsulated her story; I had the pleasure of enjoying it in the company of my lover.) 

Was that love? Simple passion? Just sex? (When is passion simple? Is it, in fact, always so simple?)

Whether or not he was "worth it" is of no consequence. And the fact that all this is gradually slipping away from me, as if it concerned another woman, does not change this one truth: thanks to him, I was able to approach the frontier separating me from others, to the extent of actually believing that I could sometimes cross over it.

I measured time differently, with all my body.

I discovered what people are capable of, in other words, anything: sublime or deadly desires, lack of dignity, attitudes and beliefs I had found absurd in others until I myself turned to them. Without knowing, it, he brought me closer to the world.

None of it is overwrought. None of it is pathetic or apologetic. It's quite simple really. (Love happens inside one's own head.)

Passion is also patient (for its own resolution?), deep and abiding, despite any of my efforts to tame it a little or deny it entirely.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Holding the universe together

Guided meditation this week reminds me: Your heart is devoted to your existence.

Today, after five months, curfew is lifted. Tonight I think I'll take a midnight walk.

It's been 450 straight days of German lessons.

My hanging strawberry plant, purchased prematurely enough to have had to suffer a few too many too cold nights, has yielded one perfect strawberry, which some creature or other helped themself to.

Between other things, I've been reading J.D. Salinger's Early Stories (1940-1948). There's a line I've loved forever, which appears in "A Girl I Knew."

The apartment below mine had the only balcony of the house. I saw a girl standing on it, completely submerged in the pool of autumn twilight. She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together. The way the profile of her face and body refracted in the soupy twilight made me feel a little drunk. When a few seconds had throbbed by, I said hello to her. 

I've always wanted to be that girl, the girl who could breezily hold the universe together such that one poetic soul might actually notice it. 

Today I had my chakras cleared by a Reiki master. Psychotherapy has helped release me, somewhat, from my emotions, yet I still feel blocked, like I have a permanent lump in my throat. Maybe I need spiritual release. What could Reiki hurt?

Research this for too long, and you start to sound vaguely stoned. Is Reiki real? Does it matter whether Reiki is real? And whose definition of real are we working with: Is it real according to the presiding scientific and medical framework, which tells us that phenomena need to be measurable to be taken seriously, or is it real in the looser, unquantifiable way of spiritual practice?

I felt my hands get extremely hot and heavy. I felt paralyzed. I felt like I was breathing without breathing. I had an image flash across my mind, the strangeness and violence of which jolted me out of and into myself.

A friend directed me to an episode of the Invisibilia podcast, The Great Narrative Escape. Storytelling is as old as time, but clearly individuals, for various reasons, are drawn to different types of stories.

This episode resonates with me for a million reasons. I've always been anti-narrative. It shows in the books I choose to read, the movies I prefer to watch, even the people I listen to. I've always felt there's more to "story" than plot twists and character development.

[Perhaps marketers actually get this, as it's surely a stretch to call what they do "story." It's only in the last decade or so that "storytelling" has become the dominant terminology to describe the m.o. of marketing departments everywhere. The decade before that it was about shaping a "narrative." (Remember when marketing was about selling things?) I've witnessed the evolution of marketing's jargon to disguise its own purpose in an attempt to legitimize it. The goal is to make marketing entirely invisible.]

The podcast preamble mentions how people weaponize narrative to advance political agendas. People feel defenseless against narrative. So, does a "boring" story have any power, and where does it come from? 

This episode is primarily about low-narrativity Slow TV. It gives people agency to decide for themselves what's boring, what's interesting. It puts you inside yourself.

It's not actually "slow" — it's real time. What is it that makes us believe that reality is too slow? Why would anyone want to speed up time?

Things I am doing slowly
Writing thoughtful secret things. 
Practicing my penmanship with a fountain pen.
Sanding a sculpture, for about an hour nightly, with no noticeable progress (with the intention of painting it soon).
Healing my heart.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Everyone is like a bombed-out city

It is not difficult to fall in love. First her eyes staring at him last night, her youth and that faint impudence — nothing vulgar, just enough to pique his curiosity. Then there is the way she carries herself, the urge to stroke her back, to press his lips against her inner thighs; there is the tone of her voice, the mischievous gleam when she talks to him, something just a little rushed about her delivery — but not enough to get on his nerves. And that unconscious ease that comes of being so young — still oblivious to the blows that will destroy parts of her. Past the age of forty, everyone is like a bombed-out city. He falls in love when she bursts out laughing — desire mingled with a promise of happiness, a utopia of perfectly matched tranquilities — she only has to turn her face to his, to let him kiss her, and he will enter a different world. Vernon knows the difference: arousal is a pulsating in the groin, love is a weakening in the knees. A part of his soul falls away — and the floating sensation is both delicious and disquieting: if the other person refuses to catch the body tumbling toward it, the fall will be all the more painful, since he is no longer a young man. With age we suffer more and more, as though our emotional skin, more delicate, more fragile, can longer bear the slightest blow.

— from Vernon Subutex 1, by Virginie Despentes.

Monday, May 24, 2021

We are our own virus

"The human being is the cause of all evil in this world. We are our own virus."

Tender. One who tends. Legal tender. My heart is tender (loving, affectionate, but possibly compassionate, young, impressionable, delicate, frail, weak, soft, also sensitive and fragile). My tender feelings for you. Tender is the night. An open sore is tender. Is it a physical state, or an emotional one?

When we tenderize meat, we break it down. It becomes soft and pliable. 

"Have you ever eaten something that's alive?"

"I haven't."

"There's a vibration, a subtle and fragile heat, that makes a living being particularly delicious. You're extracting life by the mouthful. It's the pleasure of knowing that because of your intent, your actions, this being has ceased to exist. It's the feeling of a complex and precious organism expiring little by little, and also becoming part of you. For always. I find this miracle fascinating. This possibility of an indissoluble union." 

Tender Is the Flesh, by Agustina Bazterrica, is about cannibalism and factory farming. Kind of. It's clearly a dystopia, although that label didn't occur to me while reading it; I was too involved with the personal drama of one man grappling to reset his moral compass to examine the societal implications. 

I bought into the premise immediately. This book was horrifically unsettling and pageturningly weird (the lovechild of Samanta Schweblin's Fever Dream and Roberto Bolano's 2666).

Animals, globally, have fallen prey to a virus — many have been eradicated, those that remain are deadly. Humankind, with its taste for meat, turns to cannibalism. Rather than abolish the practice, governments regulate it, converting existing facilities and supporting economic forces to produce "special meat," sourced initially from marginalized populations and then bred in captivity.

He always asks himself what it would be like to spend most of the day storing human hearts in a box. What do the workers think about? Are they aware that what they hold in their hands was beating just moments ago? Do they care? Then he thinks about the fact that he actually spends most of his life supervising a group of people who, following his orders, slit throats, gut, and cut up women and men as if doing so were completely natural. One can get used to almost anything, except the death of a child.

Marcos remembers the times before the Transition, but the before and after of his life are marked more significantly by the tragic death of his child and the dissolution of his marriage. He is floundering in the aftermath, and it's only when he is gifted a female specimen — for his personal consumption, or resale, or potentially for breeding with the right permits — and he has to deal with its inconveniences that he appears to be roused from his moral stupor. It's not an epiphany of consciousness so much as a confrontation with logistics.

The novel's Spanish title, Cadáver exquisito, may be more evocative of the surreal and erotic elements that simmer beneath the surface.

She offers him a cigarette and lights it for him. While they smoke, she says, "I don't get why a person's smile is considered attractive. When someone smiles, they're showing their skeleton." He realizes he's never seen her smile, not even when she took hold of the hooks, raised her face, and cried out in pleasure. It was a single cry, a cry both brutal and dark. [...]

Spanel has an arrested beauty about her. It disturbs him that there's something feminine beneath the brutal aura she takes great care to give off. There's something admirable in her artificial indifference.

There's something about her he'd like to break.

Spanel is the butcher he occasionally fucks. Somehow, Marcos' relationship to her is not at all surprising amid the spectrum of women with whom he has contact — his sister, the administrator at his father's nursing home, the scientist at the lab, his estranged wife, and not least the specimen he tied up in the barn.

In fact, the argument could (should) be made that Tender Is the Flesh is a deeply feminist novel, beyond the typical feminist–vegetarian links, from how the processing farms treat pregnant specimens to how Marcos in one way or another commodifies the women in his life.

What he wants is for her to scream, for her skin to cease being a still and empty sea, for her words to crack open, dissolve. [...]

When she stops writhing, he runs his hand along her skin, and he kisses her and continues to move slowly. It's then that Spanel screams, she screams as if the world didn't exist, she screams as if words had split in two and lost all meaning, she screams as if beneath this hell there was another hell, one from which she didn't want to escape.

Specimens have their vocal cords removed. They are silenced. Euphemisms abound throughout the society so as not to utter the truth.

This novel was ousted from the 2021 Tournament of Books in the first round, but the commentariat has a lot of insight into dehumanization, sermonization, and the horror genre. Interestingly, the discussion revolved more around this book than the novel that beat it out.

Marcos is also tender, broken down by life and still naïve. How is it that what one feels can be so at odds with what is

One day he saw his parents dancing to the rhythm of Armstrong's trumpet. They moved in the half-light and he stood there for a long time, watching them in silence. His father stroked his mother's cheek and, still a young child, he felt that this was love. He couldn't put it into words, not at the time, but he knew it in his body, in the way one feels that something is true.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The first lump of clay: Peter

Trust your hands. Your fingers know things. You have touched faces. You have touched children and lovers. Your fingers remember.

That was the first lesson. The first lesson is always one of trust.

After that came geometry. Twenty pounds of grey were divided to became a sphere on a slab.

Wet, smooth, messy. Returning to childhood, to earth. Primal, satisfying.

We entered a Stone Age and learned to use tools.

Anatomy. Musculature. Proportion.

(Ears are like fingerprints, and they're a bitch to sculpt.)

Think of who they are, where they come from, what their purpose is.

That was the second lesson. Every object has a story.

Peter. He's German, 50-ish, works a soul-killing administrative job. Failed poet. When he was young he fell out of a tree and broke his nose. Every poem he's ever written has been about that tree.

One woman wanted to craft a bust of an African woman basking in the sun. Another was using a photo as her guide, her boyfriend when he was little. Ah. Backstory. 

The writer in me had given this way too much thought, but my sculptor self is grateful for the detail. Character is born of detail.

Peter was abandoned at the arts centre when lockdown was first decreed over a year ago, still wanting a touch up of epoxy, and a coat of matte to reduce the shine. I was finally able to retrieve him, and another work in progress, by special appointment. 

He sits now, at home, in this eternal state of near completion, witnessing my poetic failings, my struggles with trust and love.

My living space has given way to art studio. Art is solace and meditation. Clay is the vessel, my fingers are god. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The distance of art

I considered the possibility that art — not just L's art but the whole notion of art — might itself be a serpent, whispering in our ears, sapping away all our satisfaction and our belief in the things of this world with the idea that there was something higher and better within us which could be equalled by what was right in front of us. The distance of art suddenly felt like nothing but the distance in myself, the coldest, loneliest distance in the world from true love and belonging.

Second Place, by  Rachel Cusk, is a book I like more now in hindsight than I did while reading it. The story is uncomfortable and frustrating, with unlikeable characters and unclear motivations. Too much like real life, perhaps, for me to see its artfulness up close.

Some people write simply because they don't know how to live in the moment, I said, and have to reconstruct it and live in it afterwards.

[This describes my relationship to living, and moments, and writing and reading, quite accurately.]

The narrator, M, a writer of books that no one seems to have much regard for, hosts something like an artist's retreat, wherein the artist is obliged for her hospitality and she can leech off their creativity. M's voice is very much like Faye's, the writer in the Outline Trilogy, but here's the thing: I don't much like M. I get the feeling nobody does. Faye, however, wasn't much more than an outline, given shape by the stories of the people surrounding her. M has more solidity — filled in, but with dark unpleasantness.

So M invites this artist, L, to stay; she's in love with L, or his art, or both, it's hard to tell. After a long while L finally agrees to come, but he brings a woman with him, which M clearly didn't bargain for, and there's less artistic inspiration about the visit than financial desperation — L is out of style and down on his luck.

What interested him was his suspicion not that he might have missed out on something, but that he had failed entirely to see something else, something that had ultimately to do with reality and with a definition of reality as a place where he himself did not exist.

M is genuine in her regard for L's art and her wish to commune with him, to understand his vision and and process.

It took L's painting to make me really see it. I saw, in other words, that I was alone, and saw the gift and the burden of that state, which had never truly been revealed to me before.

She feels failed, and frustrated, and aging. (But maybe I'm projecting.) She doesn't feel valued, as an artist or a patron. (But maybe I'm projecting.) She believes that the truth is an absolute thing that exists outside of us, and it is art's purpose to capture it.

I am interested in the existence of things before our knowledge of them — partly because I have trouble believing that they do exist! If you have always been criticised, from before you can remember, it becomes more or less impossible to locate yourself in the time or space before the criticism was made: to believe, in other words, that you yourself exist. The criticism is more real than you are: it seems, in fact, to have created you. I believe a lot of people walk around with this problem in their heads, and it leads to all kinds of trouble – in my case, it led to my body and my mind getting divorced from each other right at the start, when I was only a few years old. But my point is that there’s something that paintings and other created objects can do to give you some relief. They give you a location, a place to be, when the rest of the time the space has been taken up because the criticism got there first. I don’t include things created out of words, though: at least for me they don’t have the same effect, because they have to pass through my mind to get to me. My appreciation of words has to be mental. 

She rages at L's dismissal of her. She's clearly had to struggle to be a mother and an artist, simply to be a woman in a body and with an aspiration. L, of course, embodies male white privilege.

Things go wrong, and then they go wrong again, and again, and somewhere in the middle of it art happens and we're somewhat in awe of it even though it bites, it's terrifying, maybe this is some kind of truth. And most of us come out of it as better people.

There's a certain point in life at which you realise it's no longer interesting that time goes forward — or rather, that its forward-going-ness has been the central plank of life's illusion, and that while you were waiting to see what was going to happen next, you were steadily being robbed of all you had. Language is the only thing capable of stopping the flow of time, because it exists in time, is made of time, yet it is eternal — or can be.

[The whole story is addressed to someone named Jeffers. This is a reference to a 1930s memoir of an arts patron who wrote about DH Lawrence's stay at her colony. If you don't know the story, then the construct of Jeffers doesn't make sense — it's unnecessary and an unfortunate distraction.]

The human capacity for receptivity is a kind of birthright, an asset given to us in the moment of our creation by which we are intended to regulate the currency of our souls. Unless we give back to life as much as we take from it, this faculty will fail us sooner or later. My difficulty, I saw then, had always lain in finding a way to give back all the impressions I had received, to render an account to a god who had never come and never come, despite my desire to surrender everything that was inside me. Yet even so my receptive faculty had not, for some reason, failed me: I had remained a devourer while yearning to become a creator.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Something meant to live in Air

Do trees exist?
entry for the nineteenth day of the fifth month in the year the albatross came the the south-western halls

Many things are unknown. Once — it was about six or seven months ago — I saw a bright yellow speck floating on a gentle Tide beneath the Fourth Western Hall. Not understanding what it could be, I waded out into the Waters and caught it. It was a leaf, very beautiful, with two sides curving to a point at each end. Of course it is possible that it was part of a type of sea vegetation that I have never seen, but I am doubtful. The texture seemed wrong. Its surface repelled Water, like something meant to live in Air.

— from Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke.

Here was a clue that he knew about the trees. But it is a relearning. Knowledge through observation through the senses. What really exists? How can I understand it?

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

"Yes, I have loved."

We humans are, in the end, stupid creatures who cannot help desiring that someone know us as we are. 

Our first night together, we made love for endless hours. The hallways creaked with other people's stories, but Room 205 was a haven from the early December cold. The city was in another phase of lockdown, so we'd packed a picnic supper; I don't remember eating. We inhaled each other. 

We stepped out into the night for a cigarette and a stroll, only to encounter hordes of homeless looking for Covid-free shelter. It felt apocalyptic, and possibly we were desperate to lose ourselves. Back inside, he drew us a bath and we washed away the sins of the world.

Finally I was tired and closed my eyes, and he read to me, in French, from one of his favourite novels. I drifted off to hazy images of a solitary man with a gun in early winter who is a hunter but not a hunter, in a muddle of what words mean and who people really are.

It's only now, five months to the day, that I remark how odd it was, that he should have brought with him this treasured book, to commune with me, essentially a stranger then, in a hired bed during such strange times. 

The Hunting Gun, by Yasushi Inoue, is a tragedy told by three players — the lover, her daughter, and the neglected wife — who revolve around a man with a hunting gun, once inadvertently captured in a prose poem. He is a symbol of solitude yet a gravitational force. (This 1949 epistolary novella tells of a love affair that began in 1934 Japan; the translation reads like a smooth and timeless classic.) All three letter writers yield confessions of a sort, acknowledging secrets and shame as the love affair is exposed from each perspective.

A man's lies can sometimes elevate a woman, you know, to the very level of the divine.

Everyone has a snake living inside them, the hunter believes, an idea that haunts his lover:

What are these snakes we carry inside us? Egotism, jealousy, destiny... the sum of all these things, I guess, a sort of karma too strong for us to fight. I regret that I will never have the occasion to learn what you meant. At any rate, these snakes  inside us are pitiful creatures. I remember coming across the phrase "the sadness of living", or something close to that, in a book; as I write these words, I feel my heart brushing up against a similar emotion, irredeemably sad and cold. Oh, what is this thing we carry inside us — intolerably unpleasant, yet at the same time unbearably sad!

The snakes are simultaneously sins and sin-eaters, I think. (The snake inside me eats all my words.)


To love, to be loved — how sad such human doings are. I remember once, in my second or third year at girls' school, we had a series of questions in an English exam about the active and passive forms of verbs. To hit, to be hit, to see, to be seen... and there among the other words on that list were two that sparkled brilliantly: to love, to be loved. As we were all peering down at the questions, licking our pencils, some joker, I never knew who, quietly sent a slip of paper around the room. Two options were there, each in a different style of handwriting: Is it, maiden, your desire to love? Or do you rather desire to be loved? Many circles had been drawn in blue and red ink, or in pencil, under the phrase "to be loved", but not one girl had been moved to place her mark below "to love". I was not different from the rest, of course, and I drew my own small circle underneath "to be loved". I guess even at the tender age of sixteen or seventeen, before we know much about what it means to love or be loved, our noses are still able to sniff out, instinctively, the joy of being loved.

When the girl in the seat next to mine took the paper from me, however, she glanced down at it for a moment and then, with hardly any hesitation, pencilled a big circle into the blank area beneath the words "to love". I desire to love. I've always remembered very clearly how I felt when I saw her do it — provoked by her intransigence, but also caught off guard, uncertain what to think. This girl was not one of the better students in our class, and she had a sort of gloomy, unremarkable air. Her hair had a reddish-brown tinge; she was always by herself. I have no way of knowing what became of her when she grew up, but now, as I write these words twenty years later, I find myself recalling, for some reason, again and again, her forlorn face.

When, at the end of her life, a woman lies quietly in bed with her face turned to the wall of death, does God allow her to feel at peace if she has tasted to the full the joy of being loved, or if she is able to declare without any trepidation that, while she may not have been very happy, she loved? I wonder, though — can any woman in this world say with real conviction, before God, that she has truly loved? No, no — I'm sure there are women like that. Maybe that thin-haired girl was among the chosen few when she grew up. A woman like that, I'm sure, would walk around with her hair in a wild tangle, her body scarred all over, her clothing ripped to shreds, and yet she would proudly lift her face and say, "Yes, I have loved." And then, having spoken those words, she would die.

Oh, it's unbearable — I wish I could escape it. But as hard as I try to chase the vision of that girl's face away, I can't do it, it keeps coming back. What is this intolerable unease that clings to me as I sit here, hours before I am to die? I suppose I am simply reaping the punishment I am due as a woman incapable of enduring the pain of loving, who wanted for herself only the joy of being loved.

I was the dying woman, but now I'm the thin-haired girl, with the forlorn face, always by myself. I needed so badly to be seen, I didn't know what it was I was seeing with my own eyes, my own heart, until now. I say with conviction, before God, that I have truly loved. "Yes, I have loved." Poorly and recognized too late, but I understand now that I loved him.

I know you as you are, V., and you are loved. Thank you for teaching me this.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Better for it to exist than for it to be perfect and only in your mind

Accuracy above all things. You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune, by Nghi Vo, is a beautiful piece of storytelling as old woman Rabbit reveals incidents from her lived past as companion to the empress. Her fairytale-like anecdotes fall on the ears of Chih, a cleric, who is traveling to the Dragon Court of the new Empress of Wheat and Flood, but she stops at the site of the former empress's exile to catalogue whatever knowledge lingers there.

Chih, whose abbey is an archive, has with her Almost Brilliant, a neixin, a talking bird-like creature who commits to memory what she cannot manage to document on paper.

"The abbey at Singing Hills would say that if a record cannot be perfect, it should at least be present. Better for it to exist than for it to be perfect and only in your mind."  

It's a deceptively gentle and intimate story even while set against a backdrop of warring factions and empirical goings-on, depicting a world where women are property, vessels, with daily struggles as epic in scope as any insurrection. "Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves."

"Do you understand?" grandmother asks Chih after every tale, as there is secret knowledge, lessons to be learned.


I write this as I'm reeling from a gutted heart. It's not broken, but it's been ripped open, rubbed raw, laid bare. I know now more clearly than ever the importance of present over perfect. Finally, I begin to understand some things. I have so much more still to learn. I must remember the small to remember the great.