Spring Morning

I see before me a river valley,
Framed by cloud-piercing mountains.
I stand just above the tree-line,
Breathing cold, thin air.
With snow that never melts,
underneath my feet ~
I gaze down at spring,
in full bloom.
Yet just as a smile is about to find me,
I open my eyes.
Groggy, I stare… into the ceiling,
And curse my shitty curtains.

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Only With Time

Some say that time heals.

But in truth,

Pain is the is the cleanser.

Fear of this purging flame, 

Is not quite accurate.

Fear of the fire itself,

Or fear of being scorched ~

Pain is not scary, not even a little.

Only with time does it become truly terrifying.

Be it ache, wounds, or trauma,

It is not pain,

But pain without end ~

We should fear.

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Not Just Me

I used to dream of the wind. I welcomed her cold touch, no matter the season. I have always known, however, who is hiding in my shadow.I have dreamed of you as well.

It has been quite some time, since we spoke. Longer yet since I dreamed.I suppose I have hidden myself away a little too well. Escaped into my cave. But what use is trying, when your hiding from your own shadow?

Not quite true. A lie, if a brief one. It would be more accurate to say that I have hidden within my shadow. I like wearing it, it fits me like a nice coat.

I have what I need. A place to sleep, but nothing soft. My back cannot stand too soft. A blanket too, just the one. Then there are candles. Gentle, discrete, considerate candles.

Allow me a sigh as I speak, just the one is enough. It is high time we spoke. I want it back, you see. My ability to dream. I would not waste them on the wind. No, this time I would dream for two. Not just me.

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The Sounds of Very Old Things

When I think of China or Chinese culture, my mind inevitably goes to music. While there are a couple of ancient instruments, my favourite has to be the Erhu. Few things sound as haunting and beautiful as the Erhu in the hands of a master practitioner.

The sound of the Erhu is also something that sounds unmistakably Chinese, even to someone who does not know that an Erhu is a two-stringed, bowed musical instrument. For this reason, if I have to choose an item that to me represents the China’s ancient culture – I would have chosen something that represents the Erhu. Alas, I could not find such an object in the short timeframe I had at my disposal. I did however find this!

Zither_Blog2_Picture

This is earthenware depicts a kneeling musician playing the Se (瑟), a very old form of Chinese zither – or Guzheng (古箏). Not to be confused with the Guqin(古琴)! The kneeling figure was part of a set, representing a troupe of musicians along with two dancers. They were found in the grave of a prince, presumably so that they could perform for him in the afterlife. The excavation occurred in 1989-1990, from Prince Chu’s(楚王) tomb at Tuolanshan(驮篮山), Xuzhou(徐州市), Jiangsu(江苏省). Music was a big part of court rituals, and the number of performers made available depended on a noble person’s rank. The earthenware itself dates from ca. 206 B.C. to 9 A.D. Western Han Dynasty.

The Se is sometimes said to be an older and larger version of the Guzheng, but what is the difference between the Guzheng and the Guqin? Well, for a start, the Guqin is smaller, has fewer strings and a deeper sound. The Guqin has also been considered a favourite of scholars and have been connected to persons such as Zhuge Liang (Kongming), and Confucius. Below is a dramatization of a moment out of the screen adaption of Romance of the Three Kingdoms from 2010. Here, Zhuge Liang performs his empty fort stratagem with the aid of a Guqin.

Now, if we were to listen to a performance of a Guzheng, we can both see and hear the differences in sound. Yet they both have the same unmistakably chinese feeling the Erhu has. Historically, the Guzheng is not, however, a female only instrument – or a “girly” instrument. Those notions are probably derived from current day popular culture i.e. Wuxia and fictional historical palace dramas.

One of the reasons I chose this earthenware figure, which was seen on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is because I have seen it so many times in popular media and fiction. For me, it represents not only what once was, but also something very modern. That it is beautiful to listen to does not hurt either! To me it is not strange that this instrument has been around in one form or another since the warring states period, and I do not think it is going to disappear anytime soon.

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Talk to the Historical Hand

When we think of what of the past of what is modern day Israel, it is not without reason we tend to think of it as the cradle of the Abrahamic religions. After all, all three consider or have considered the place a holy land – albeit be it for different reasons. But this is not a post about religious doctrines. No, this is a post about hands. Yes, hands!

IvoryHandBlog1

This is an ivory hand on display at the British Museum. It is from 1200 to 1400 BC, and found at the site of Lachish.  It was part of a composite statue, the majority of which would have probably been in wood but with the important features carved in ivory. Other than the hand, in this particular instance an eye was indeed found in conjunction. The people inhabiting the region at the time, the Canaanites, revered a pantheon of deities such as Ell, Baal, and Astarte. It is not known which deity the hand and eye could be meant to represent, though.

What strikes me as curious is the fact that they took such care and expended so much effort on the hands of this statue. My thoughts immediately jump to the plethora of rude gestures of various modern day cultures. But even insults aside, we humans seem to get very passionate when it comes to our hands and there is a tradition of certain body parts being more important extending even into the Islamic period. The Hamsa (seen below), or the hand of Fatima as it is also known, is used even today as a popular talisman for protection throughout the Middle East.

HamsaBlog1

Here is where the creative writer in me wants to run off into the fictitious past of my imagination. Either that or my inner two-year old is feeling exceptionally mischievous today. I wonder, I really do, what kind of gestures the Canaanites would have found offensive. How would they react to a thumbs up as they venerated their dead relatives? What if a person could get flogged for not giving the gods the middle finger while presenting them with offerings?

I better stop right there, before my imagination takes me all the way down this particular rabbit hole…

Lastly, the truly fascinating thing about this item – this ivory hand – is the longevity of what it could have symbolised. What I mean by that is the cultural significance of the hand and that we can still see faint traces of the ancient among the living. This is why history is so fascinating! It lives and it breathes!

 

About: I have intentionally written this post a little tongue-in-cheek because I am still in a rough place emotionally – and using humour was the easiest way to cope and finish the assignment this post was intended for.  Thank you for reading.

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Words to Unburden a Heavy Heart

Sleep is a curious thing, especially when insistent thoughts won’t let you close your eyes. It takes a bit of time for the mind to catch up with the heart, especially when it feels this heavy. You mean so much to so many of us, you always will, death does not change that. I have been trying to put into words what you mean to me – but no matter how my thoughts churn and my heart insists, it is too hard.

This has always been my way, awake, lingering until everyone else is asleep (as they are now). I need the quiet in order to hear my emotions. It has not sunken in yet, but I feel a heavy weight pressing down on my ribcage. There is also intermittent sorrow, but it comes over me in waves that pass too quickly for me to latch onto them – to process.

I try to remember, I try to summon the many memories I have, but something will not let me. Instead, the memories come to me as I sleep. When sleep finally finds me it is deep and heavy. I have nightmares,  but they are unrelated and without connection to my memories of you. I see you between them, as if you’re reminding me to breathe.

Sometimes I barely notice when the words find their way onto the blank pages in front of me. Other times I have to force each one out. Tonight, they do not come easy. There is a part of me that wants to cry, even scream.

I think of everyone whose lives all began with you or were touched by yours. I think of my brothers, and my father, and his brothers, and my cousins. I think of my mother too, and my maternal grandparents. But most of all I think of my grandfather, your husband, my dad’s dad.

I am choosing to see all of the sorrow I am picking up as the true measure of how loved you are. It is difficult for me, to be around everyone. I get so overwhelmed. Yet I imagine we all find sleep with warm tears, heart in throat, and insistent thoughts.

We love you, Farmor, always.

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When we were kids in the car (while dad drove and mom slept)

Could it be? Has it truly been twenty years? The memories seem to match the feeling. Some things are different, but that’s how these things usually go. Youngest brother is driving, dad is sitting here in the back (on my left) listening to an audio book while resting his eyes. Middle brother is carrying the conversation, all the while setting the mood with dulcet tunes and handpicked songs. 

I imagine we must look a little comical, father and three sons – all of us just a little too tall to sit comfortably in any car. Mom had to pass this time, but i am sure she would have loved to come.And so would we! (Even though she would undoubtedly snore <3).

We remember the same things, but tell our story in different ways. We share the laughs, and the nostalgia too. 

The world beyond the car is sound asleep. The hour creeps toward 02:00. We are all awake, eager to reminisce perhaps. Remembering the many trips to our grandparents’ house – always arriving late at night after many hours in the car. Middle brother mentions the clock in one of dad’s old cars, and the memory of our grandparents’ driveway returns. The image and sounds come with surprising lucidity.

Much have happened in twenty years, and some things have indeed changed. In many ways, so have we. No matter how different we might be, though, we still share the same love – and joy.

I know we count ourselves among the fortunate few – and if you happened to sit in the car with us…

We would count you in too.

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