So near, so far, so in between

September has been a busy month. I have only read a single book in the past two weeks, and it has been a re-read of Through the Looking Glass. If there has been an appropriate time in my life to read it, it is now.

I am glad to bid goodbye to the summer. It is finally sinking into me that I have left the debris of the past few years behind, that I am here, now, so near, so far, and so in between the past and the future.

I had disliked writing here during the past two years, since so many of my beliefs had been in flux, though I had done it anyway, fulfilling a promise I had made myself when I had first arrived in this country.  More than only the pure and the pleasurable must be documented, for me to see and know how much has passed, when I look back years later.

I had felt crippled, unable to write, unable to find pleasure in old joys. Music had only saddened me, had only left me drained. It was not an easy period. It ended when I finally gave in to the truth, about how unfairly cruel all of it had been, about how I had exercised stupidity and patience to great extents, about how I had chained myself to a life that was not working for me, to a life where I had felt so emotionally repressed that even words and music had left me. When I accepted, when it ended, when I picked up the pen and my words flowed once more, when I listened to Mendelssohn and felt more joy than sadness, I was wretchedly grateful for time and the balm that had not been easy to find in Gilead.

I have been called vain for my preoccupation with myself, but is it vanity when I have always been motivated by myself, when the strongest grounding I have found is when looking deep inside? No external source has sufficed. I no longer wonder why. Most of us have to go through life, trying to find a faith that makes sense to them, trying to find a voice that calls to their soul. I had been lucky and stupid both; lucky in that my grounding has been within me, has worked for me all my life; stupid in that I had thought that it was incomplete, that there was something more outside, in faith or family or love.

I have been drastic about cutting ties to the past, to what was only grief and incompleteness. I know what I am looking for now, in myself, and in the world. Knowing eases me, leaves me determined to say no to offers imbalanced and people less than whole in themselves. I don’t want a state of fine, not anymore, not when I know there is a great deal beyond that.

I feel awake, after a long time, and there is more than only music and words in my heart after many years. Love had been heavy, as far as I can remember, more a duty than a pleasure, more an expectation placed upon me than something that came freely, and I had felt more shackled than empowered by it. It had bettered me, I believe, in many ways. It had also been a long, long fall, with little reprieve, and I had been emotionally exhausted.  It had not come without a cost, and very little about it had been unconditional. I had felt used. It is a peril of the game, I suppose, particularly given my sensitivity. Sensitivity serves me when I write, it serves me when I play an instrument, and it serves me not when interacting with the world. It has taken me all my life to learn to detach.

I played today for an audience for the first time in a while, since last year. Granted, it was only someone who knows me well, but it is progress. I did not feel flayed by emotion when I played Schubert. I feel stronger, in being able to express emotion once again, in a manner I love to, through words written and through chords played. It is good to be slowly rid of the fears that had settled in after one too many instances of being taken advantage of, of being used as a pawn in someone’s power-games.

Not everything has fallen into place, but not everything is out of place now.

It has been difficult at times, and it has taken longer than I had expected, but this wholeness of my own is more beloved to me than anyone else has been. I feel more prepared now to do what I have always wanted to do; to accept the company of a partner, an equal who will match me in heart and will. I feel more prepared to build a life, a love, and a legacy together.

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Hineni

Elisabeth is as formidable as always, sharp in assessing my conditions, sharp in knowing my heart before I dare speak. I ran late for our dinner, held back by work, and I arrived to find that mushroom risotto, just as I like it, was being brought out. The staff at the restaurant were perfect, coming to assist us without interrupting us, perfect just as everything Elisabeth organizes tends to be. We speak awkwardly about my work, and the conversation tapers off, because my work these days is an awkward subject.

Rachel is on the verge of womanhood. I was taken aback today by her changed body, the changes in her manner of walking and speaking, the distinctions now drawn in the manner of interacting with men and women. She had been a little girl sitting on my lap, programming in LOGO with me. She had been a little girl laughing when Sibelius had chased her around the magnolia trees. It will take me some time to recalibrate, to get used to the changes, to learn to speak with and love the woman she is growing up into. I had been discussing with her grandmother, about my neck pain caused by bad sleeping habits, and Elisabeth had suggested body pillows. Then her grandchild had stepped into the conversation, with tinkling laughter, commenting that I might prefer a man as a pillow. The sudden and unexpected comment had thrown us all off for a few moments.

I can’t wait to see her on the other side of puberty. I can’t wait to befriend and love the woman she becomes. Yet, I am sad too. She had been young and safe in her family’s bosom, beloved and cared for. Now she will see the world, be discriminated against, and any of her achievements will be spoken of in terms meaningless (a woman architect, a woman surgeon – the gender will become the focus of attention whenever people speak of what she chooses to do).  She is very tender-hearted, open in expressing her love and emotions. What will it do to her when someone less open, less expressive, less honest crosses her path? Outside the safety of the known, of her family, there are men and women broken and deceitful, mistrusting, emotionally imbalanced, and willing to hurt rather than to risk being hurt. There can be only two outcomes: you either become one of them, or you walk  about softly sad for the rest of your days, carrying in you a profound grief that some flatter by calling it wisdom or maturity.

Leonard Cohen has a new song, for a love that never came. Sibelius and I discuss it briefly today, and the phone connection fades for a moment as he crosses the Charles River, and I ask him if he was still there, to which he replies Hineni.

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A billion Buddhas

I was at the Asian American museum today. It was my first visit there. There were Buddhas on every floor. There were fat Buddhas and thin Buddhas, crowned ones and uncrowned ones, and Buddhas from different countries.

There was a jade gallery that I liked. Jade is difficult to work with. I learned more about how craftsmen make beauty out of stone today. From the very first time I had seen jade, a little carved jade trinket that my father had brought from his travels, I have liked the colour and feel of nephrite.

I discovered today that the Shiva lingam was a phallic symbol. I hadn’t known that. I tend to not pay too much attention to religious symbols and practices, particularly when I don’t come across them regularly. While Shiva had been always written about in different stories of my childhood as a virile sort of chap, I’d never made the connection with the lingam.

Also learned about Indian geography, a subject at which I’d never been good at, and my knowledge is sketchy north of Bangalore.

Impressed my companion with my navigational prowess in San Francisco, and I am quite chuffed about that today. I do adore it when someone notices my ability to manage reasonably without a GPS.

I did a survey, and got in exchange a pen and some postcards. The pen is not functional. The postcards will make their way to recipients next week.

I heard some negative news from my previous employment situation. It is good to be more detached from all of that, though it has taken me time. Detaching takes me more time than it seems to take many others.

Today, I witnessed a few policemen on bicycles coming to handcuff and arrest a man who had been lolling about on the green before the Civic Center. I did not understand the situation. I tried to put it out of my mind. The city is beautiful and I like venturing there, but I am yet to come to terms with the segments of poverty and displacement, of drugs and violence. It takes me a few days to recover from the sights.

I am trying to plan a trip home for Christmas.

I am in the process of writing my annual Make-a-wish story, for a young man from Bolivia. It is a story inspired by Mendelssohn’s Opus 81. It is flowing well so far, but I do have a tendency to get stuck in the penultimate chapters.

Yesterday was about making wine. I learned how to pluck the right grapes and how to know how to mix them to craft a Zinfandel. We were drunk silly on Verve Cliquot, and there was cheese and hummus to round it off. It must have been the intoxication which made us book tickets for Lauryn Hill.

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Yael Naim

The Jewish Center membership finally came in handy. We were at Yael Naim’s concert held there earlier this week. She sang Hebrew metal. We hadn’t expected that. Her songs on records had been melodious and soft, with pop arrangements. She sang in French and English. She stomped about and made us sing with her. It was the liveliest I had felt in a long while. Her voice and passion held me willingly tethered to reality after many, many draining months of drudgery. Life has not been facile. She was a breath of fresh air.

 

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Florence

Sibelius sent me Florence and the Machine’s Lungs. I remember their music from the Eclipse soundtrack. My former room-mate had been a fan of that film franchise. I am surprised my teeth hasn’t fallen off to the rotting sweetness of the love triangle there. It was all Eat me, Drink me, if I remember correctly, with a dash of bed-breaking thrown in for rounding off.

One of my interns graduated and I went with him to help him purchase a car. It was just as tedious as you could expect. I had initially planned to help him find a place to stay too, but I begged off, too tired from the car dealer interactions.

I have a new cafe that I haunt. Thanks to corporate housing taking up their abode near my usual cafe, I have been forced to switch. Hopefully no more run-ins with Monday-Friday only folks.

I have flowers blooming in the garden, and I sit here overwhelmed, watching over them. I hadn’t expected them to not shrivel and die. I wonder why. They must be sturdy plants. And I have managed to acquire a green thumb.

A friend returned this week from a long vacation in Florence. I wonder how long it will take him to slip back into his Silicon Valley mode from his earthy Italian ways.

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reign o’er me

I haven’t been out and about in a while. I got the chance to break the streak, when a lovely woman decided to take me to one of her favourite places.

The restaurant is cosy. The wallpaper is fleur-de-lis, in muted gold over pale rose. There are flowers everywhere and the smell of lavender makes a lovely accompaniment to the complete silence.

It was a house once and some of the rooms have been turned into private dining chambers. There is old-world here in the thick walls and I am told stories of the Gold rush.  My companion is happy to be here, delighted to introduce me to one of her favourite haunts. Their clams are the best I have had in ages. The fois gois, prepared with black truffles,  is heavenly. We share the Grand Marnier souffle. There is decadent port too.

There is coffee at the end. I found it necessary to give me the energy to stir myself from that long four-course meal. The proprietor gave us roses as we prepared to leave, for the road.

We went to a tea house afterwards. Pearls unfurled into leaves of tea as we spoke of life and other petty matters. She was beautiful in her blue dress, at home amid the delicate china and the fragrant jasmine. If it was a portrait, it was a portrait with not a chord in dissonance.

Some of us belong somewhere. Maybe all of us belong somewhere and only some of us are lucky to find our home within our lifetime.

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Squid tales

I discovered a seafood market through a Japanese friend. They have wild squid.

I am vegetarian on most days, but there is the occasional seafood deviation once or twice a year for my mother’s prawn fry or for the crab curry served at a lovely restaurant in the city.

I was feeling daring this weekend, so I purchased some of the squid. This is my first experience with preparing a seafood dish from scratch. I finished cleaning the squid and can’t get their eyes out of my head. In retrospect, I lacked the stomach for this. I like my happy place of denial, and would just prefer to see everything fried and covered in spices, and on a plate.

My Moma membership is standing me in good stead this summer. It was inexpensive, relatively. It has already come in handy multiple times, what with the free entry pass for a guest on each trip. While modern art is not my preferred genre,I have learned so much about it (and I am sure I have only barely scratched the surface).

I have also found a new cafe thereabouts that I like. They serve Austrian dishes. I can’t keep the names in my head and they must think me uncivilized as I stand there and ask for the ‘red and purple one’. I can’t get enough of the rhubarb pastry.

I have made a great deal of progress in the past nine months with my writing projects. While life has been jumbled in parts, this particular side of it has been fortunate for me recently and I am grateful for that. Perhaps the fortune is strongly related to the group I was lucky to fall into. I do well in small groups, and with a great deal of constructive feedback. I have been lucky to get both in the last few months.

Coming out of a tumultuous set of situations that ended in the spring of 2015, I had been in a stage of stasis, trying to coming to terms with all that had transpired. It took me longer than it might have taken someone else. I hadn’t known how to get back to the path that was mine, from the wilderness I had wound up in. Writing helped a great deal to find me again. Looking inside was what I had been once very good at, and somehow I had forgotten how. It took me a pen and paper, and many thousands of words, before I remembered again.

 

Work has kept me busy this month. Hopefully, it will ease in the coming weeks.

I am off to a Marilyn Manson concert soon, with my faithful concert partner who likes to sleep while I drive. We are hopefully over his Bernie Sanders phase, but I am worried since he seems to be extolling the virtues of Trump’s daughter these days. I can’t quite see the bridge from Sanders to Ivanka, but what do I know?

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