Nov 20 2014

Lazing or resting

A reclining lady with a fan by Eleuterio Pagliani (1826-1903)

“A Reclining Lady with a Fan” by Eleuterio Pagliani

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Sun rises and I pad out from bedroom to loveseat in pajamas, curl up with a thick blanket, let my feet dangle over the seat’s arm. The TV clicks on with an electric beep, noise pours out, full of automated laughter flipping through to reality celebrities bitching flipping to the laser fire of epic space battles. During commercials, the TV falls to mute, and I read, shifting to a more comfortable position. Afternoon light lines the room through the window blinds. Stomach rumbles, bladder complains. I get up, go pee, fix a sandwich, grab an entire bag of chips, return to my perch on the loveseat. Settle in. Words, channels, social media scanning on my phone. I don’t notice the light fading from the sky until I can no longer read the words on the page.

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I sometimes give myself permission to have such lazy empty days. After a particularly stressful week it feels good to regress into the cave of my apartment and disconnect from the outside world.

But it’s easy to overdo it. Too many laze days in row or over the course of a month, and I begin to feel heavy. The emptiness weighs on me. The inner gnat starts nagging me about all I’ve failed to do — writing, laundry, cleaning, writing, running, writing.

Laying in one position watching hours and hours of television can be draining, sucking the life out of the day. It empties the mind but doesn’t necessarily make me feel good in the long run, sometimes making me feel more tired than when I started the day.

A completely lazy day is never as restful as I imagine it to be. Even one act of movement from the couch — a good run, lunch with a friend, a walk to the coffee shop across the street — opens the day up to a greater feeling of restfulness. I find that being active and taking part in fun (though not hectic) activities brings a greater inner stillness than sitting on the couch all day doing nothing.

What do you find most restful? Lazy days doing nothing at home? Or getting out and doing things?


Nov 19 2014

Pining the Map

When I was growing up, I saw a movie in which a girl pushes a pin into a map on her wall for every city she’d visited. I don’t remember the name of that movie or TV show, but I remember the longing for my own map and the desire to have so many travels that the map would be stuck so full of pushpins that you could hardly see the lines and designations underneath.

My travel dreams have always been of the large variety — a cross country road trip to visit ever state in the continental United States, trekking from China to India over the Himalayas, flying to the tip of South America and and making my way back up to the U.S. by car, train, bike, boat, or foot alone.

None of these dream trips have manifested as of yet. Life is full of obligations and I have not been good about planning ahead in terms of saving up funds for such a trip, but that has not stopped me from dreaming.

I must also admit that I have immensely lucky and grateful to have landed a job that has allowed me to travel on a smaller scale, such as with my recent trip to London. I may only be able to touch down into some places for a day or two, but it’s a gift to just be there for even that amount of time. I’ve had some beautiful experiences.

Though travel sometimes exhausts me and I always fun myself grateful for the comfort and peace of home, my wanderlust is never doused. Often the act of travel stoked my longing for more worldly wandering. The world is just so full of so many places to see and people to meet.

Where have you traveled and where do you long to go?


Nov 18 2014

Words

As I was avoiding getting ready for work early this morning, I noticed a theme of posts about “words” showing up on my feed. I always find it fascinating when my reading naturally falls into themes without purposefully meaning to.

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The Oxford Dictionaries have named “vape” 2014’s word of the year, explaining that “As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become much more common, so vape has grown significantly in popularity. You are thirty times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.”

In response to this news, John Kelly wrote and excellent post about the etymology of the word.

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Hel Gurney writes, “ALL WORDS ARE MADE-UP WORDS,” explaining how it’s silly for modern writers to complain that the younger generation is ruining the English language:

If English had never changed then we’d all be reading Beowulf without a translation; and yet there’s always someone who seems to think that English-as-it-is-right-now is the pure, immutable, “correct” form and everything after this arbitrary cut-off point is Wrong. All it takes to see the absurdity is to imagine people tutting over Shakespeare for all the words he “made up”.

Gurney also discusses how the creation of new words and terminology can be empowering to marginalized groups by reshaping what is defined as “real.”

“A word after a word after a word is power,” wrote Margaret Atwood (Happy Birthday!) and there is truth to this. Words have power and the way language shifts and changes over time to some degree mirrors some of the power shifts in society.

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These coincidental commingling discussions of words lead me to discover Pet Words by Brad Leithauser in the New Yorker. Leithauser writes:

The word “sweet” appears eight hundred and forty times in your complete Shakespeare. Or nearly a thousand times, if you accept close variants (“out-sweeten’d,” “true-sweet,” “sweetheart”). . . . Every poet, every novelist has his or her pet words. Which words these may be dawns on you gradually as you enter the world of a new writer. . . . Either way, you’ll likely discover that your author’s personal dictionary contains an abundance of amiable acquaintances, but a select few intimate friends.

I’ve learned over time that I have my own pet words, which cycle through depending on my mood. The word that most insistently comes to mind is “tether,” which has appeared again and again in several poems. (You can find an example in my poem “Miscalculation“, published on Train Write.) I love “tether” for the way it feels on my tongue, a soft feathery feeling. Something tethered seems to be bound in such a fragile and gentle way, like a boat taping lighting against the dock or a spider web strung between two poles. It’s a word I can’t help but return to, always there waiting for the right moment to slip quietly into the text.

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What are your thoughts on words this fine day?


Nov 17 2014

Tis a Pity — My last night in London

My favorite moment in London came my last night before flying home, when I went to see Tis a Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

The playhouse alone is fantastic. Associated with the Shakespeare’s Globe replica, it has been built according to the plans for a 17th century style indoor theater. The theater is small and the stage performances are candlelit, making it feel intimate.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Interior of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as pictured in the program.

In addition to the amazing setting, Tis a Pity She’s a Whore was one of the best performed plays I’ve ever seen. The play, which I read in college as part of a Shakespeare’s contemporaries class, is about a young man who falls in love with his sister. When he comes to her to confess his love, begging her to kill him or love him, she matches his love and the two begin an incestuous affair.

Meanwhile, the sister is being courted by three different suitors. As the tale unfolds and the desires of each of the characters overlaps and conflicts, several plot lines of revenge evolve and unfold into bloodshed.

The play was funnier than I remember it being in college, as dry reading on the page bears less life than what was brought to the stage with these amazing actors and well planned direction. The result felt like a 17th century version of a campy horror flick with plenty of well punctuated humor and pools of blood puddling onto the stage. Though no campy horror flick could have featured the resonance and complexity of this story, which presents an even handed look at the brother and sister’s relationship. Although, I found the concept disturbing, I also found myself wanting the brother and sister to be protected from the doom coming for them.

The candle lit atmosphere fit the story perfectly. The playhouse had candelabras that could be raised and lowered during the performance, allowing changes of setting to be indicated and at one point for the candle light to be doused entirely to present a night scene, at which point the actors lit themselves with handheld candles.

Though the play was three hours long, it never once dragged. I left the playhouse feeling elated, having seen an amazing performance.

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Tis a Pity She’s a Whore featured a scene with nudity.

The program was also the best put together booklet I’ve seen, providing not just a synopsis of the play and a list of the actors, but also a look at the influences of the play when it was written, a biography on John Ford, a critical analysis of the storyline, and a historical look at house incest was perceived in the 17th century compared to today. It also provides information on the historical style of the playhouse and how the modern replica was built. The program was worth every penny of the four pounds I played for it.

I would almost travel back to London just to see another performance at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse — it was that good.


Nov 17 2014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas – Poppies at the Tower of London

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During my trip to London, I was fortunate to be able to visit the Tower while the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation of ceramic poppies was on display. Each of the 888,246 poppies that fills the moat represented a British military fatality during the WWI.

The view of the poppies pouring out of one of the Tower windows and filling the moat with bright red is inspiring, whether you know the meaning or not. It’s an installation to make passersby stop and take pause, and it’s no wonder that every walkway surrounding the Tower was thick with people doing just that.

The moat has since been emptied of the poppies and I am grateful for the lucky timing that allowed me to witness this spectacular remembrance of fallen soldiers.

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