Friday, July 6, 2007

into the moonlight

I discovered last night. A reviewer on the Hype Machine described it as dangerously addictive and I can see that she's right. Chime has a great user-friendliness and browsability that made me loiter around the edges for longer than was optically or psychologically healthy.

In my travels, I find a song by Karen Ann called Lay Your Head Down.

In fact, last night was the night of the WorldwideWonderWeb. Whatever you're into, check these out:

For the photographers: John McPherson's Museum of Rubbish

For the artists:

Edgar Allan Poe/lar Bear by FrenchToast Girl, Elena Nazarro

For the music lovers: Yeti Don't Dance

For the film lovers, the creatives and the animal angels: Ashes and Snow

And for the heart...

Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear

anything, I can't see anything --
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

From West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver. Published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. Copyright 1997 by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by permission.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Waterbird without her mask would sing a happier song

Waterbird by Joaquin Alejandro Newman
You can find more of his work at Forrealism

FYI: My absence was a birthday break and by no means constitutes a failure of service on my part.

My birthday was wonderful: drunken, social and even the hangover was a pleasure (in the end). Admittedly being sent home from work (already two hours late in) because I, as Miss Sally put it, "stink of gin" was a simultaneous highlight (anecdotally) and lowdark (experientially).

"Ok, everyone!" called Miss Sally in her usual chirpy tones, "No one is to strike a match anywhere near Sarah, her breath is seriously combustible!"

Then she sent me home. Or rather to the Peace Cafe, the list of benefits to which I add the label 'Perfect Hangover Cure.'

So today, I worked like a crazy thing to make up for it with the Chief. I think he's just about forgiven me, as he sent me a great clip all about the masks we wear, this afternoon. I can't embed it on the blog for some reason, so you'll have to travel a little to watch it - here.

Thanks Chief.

I know some of my own masks already (but not all, I suspect - my capacity to deceive with illusion, especially myself, equals Houdini's), which include:
  • false confidence as compensation for insecurity
  • shrinking or retreating so that I'm not afraid
  • insincerity to avoid confrontation or the telling of an uncomfortable truth
  • hiding my love for others for fear of not being loved in return (don't even get me started on the desire for reciprocity - another mask in itself).
What would I be like without my mask?
  • Scared
  • Vulnerable
  • Challenged
  • I think, happier
The thought of taking off the mask is especially frightening to me here, in a life that is so familiar. It's not just me relying on the damn thing for a start. Other people have grown, like Henry Higgins, accustomed to my mask. They have investments in it.

Taking the mask off would mean asking everyone to reconsider a different person. It seems easier, in my mind at least, to think about leaving my life here and taking off the mask somewhere else. This is similar to my experience of going to University, where the fact that no one knew me meant that I could be confident trying new masks, shedding old ones.

I'm not sure I have been entirely without a mask on since I was a child.

As I write this I think of a conversation with TeaBarMan James' mum in the Cafe yesterday. We were talking about age.

"It never used to bother me," she said, "But in the last few years it's really started to. As if I can't believe that so much time has gone by."

I agree with her. "I used to think that when I turned 18, I would just become an adult," I tell her, "And I thought I would feel utterly different, transformed into a grown up. I find it encouraging that actually, inside, I feel younger now than I did then."

And maybe that's the trick. Maybe it's the child in me I should trust the most. Maybe it's the child in me that I should allow to shine more often.

She's the one without the mask, after all.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Dizzy Heights

My birthday card from my sister, Amy, which she insisted I open in advance.
I don't know where she gets such a terrible impression of my behaviour, but it made me think sadly about the forthcoming teaching on abstinence from alcohol and from sexual misconduct this weekend (the teaching is this weekend, I mean, I think the abstinence is meant to be a longer commitment).
I almost feel like a bride-to-be, as though I need to cram in my last hurrah of drunken sexual misconduct this weekend, before the chance disappears forever into a calm of mindfulness.

The eve of my official anniversary of existence on Earth, more commonly known to other mortals as my birthday. I spend the day working on a survey project for a not-for-profit in London. For something that falls into the category 'work' this is a surprisingly fulfilling endeavour, and made me start thinking again about the need to build more freelancing work in the future. Time for a leap......?

The Heights received their first visit from representatives of our new letting agents (as of July 1st), Garner Wood, today. We gathered in the foyer to receive them with our departing landlady. I think they were rather uncertain what to make of us all. Until they have received all the details about how the building is currently managed, including what rents we pay (that will prove heart-stopping enough to the sturdiest of property developers' minds in itself as we all pay way, way WAY below the market value), they cannot implement any changes, so we have, at least, a temporary reprieve.

"The main priority for us," said The LandMan (names changed to protect the morally immune), gulping slightly as he glanced around at our unsmiling faces, "Is, er, the smooth transition for you residents and the, er, best income for our clients."

"And the main priority for US," retorted one of the residents, "Is the protection of the family unit we've grown here! We've all been here years!"

There was a short silence.

"Quite," said LandMan, "Of course. Er, are there any questions?"

"Actually," said a voice from the back of the assembled crowd, "What about maintenance and emergencies? Will there be 24 hour cover?"

"Er, not usually, no," said LandMan, looking confident at last, "I don't suppose you have that now!"

"Yes we do!" everyone chimed in unison, and our landlady continued, "Yes, they can ring me any time and I send someone round, usually straight away."

"I see," slumped LandMan, "Well, I'll discuss that with my client and get back to you."

There was a group 'Tsk.'

"Ah, I have a question, actually" said Landman, "Do you all have your tenancy agreements available?"

To his confusion we all start to laugh. The Landlady smiled at him with gentle pity, in the way that only elderly ladies can do perfectly enough to make you feel silly when you're actually making a valid point.

"They don't have tenancy agreements, dear. And they didn't pay deposits, or rent in advance, either, before you ask."

The Landman paused and then reached down to scoop up his jaw as the Landlady continued, "We've always run the place on trust, you see. It's never failed. Most of my tenants have been with me for a dozen years."

"I've been here for 21 years," pipes a voice from the back, triumphantly.

I think the Landman has had a very bad day.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Changing the Heart

This stunning image and loads more from the amazing FrenchToastGirl, Elena Nazarro.
Please, please, please check out her beautiful art blog immediately!

I dedicate my Sunday, traditionally enough, to matters of the spirit, albeit in my own rather special way. Glenn meets me in the Peace Cafe for a latte and arrives just in time to share the delights ofa cherry cake that really can't be legal. Sated, we head back to the Heights for a matinee viewing of What the Bleep Do We Know? which Glenn hasn't seen before. It's as good the second time as it was the first, and we have little to say between us when the film ends. I'm looking forward to seeing him next time though!

After a bit of quantum spirituality, I head back to the Peace Cafe for the Sunday night Buddhist teaching. These are short films running every week on a Wednesday and Sunday night, a series of talks given over a weekend by Ani Tenzin Palmo on the Six Buddhist Paramitas or Six Perfections, which are:

  1. Dana - Generosity, giving.
  2. Sila - Virtue, morality, proper conduct.
  3. Khanti (Sanskrit: kṣanti) - Patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance.
  4. Viriya (Sanskrit: virya) - Energy, diligence, vigour, effort.
  5. Dhyāna (Sanskrit: dhyāna) - One-pointed concentration, contemplation.
  6. Prajna (Sanskrit: prajña) - Wisdom, insight.
This week we looked at the first, giving, and part of the second, moral conduct. Next week we'll complete moral conduct, which includes abstaining from sexual misconduct and mind-altering substances - which means I'll be looking out for some new hobbies sometime soon.

If you don't know anything about Ani Tenzin Palmo, who is an extraordinary woman, then you can find our more about her here or race down to Central Library, where, the last time I checked (30 seconds ago), her amazing biography Cave in the Snow is patiently sitting on the shelf waiting for you. Am I good to you, or what?

I've decided to celebrate my birthday on Saturday with an all day drop in gathering at the Heights, so if I haven't invited you yet, it just means I haven't got round to you (or that I hate you and don't want you in my house, but you should instinctively know the difference).

As ever, I've left organising anything until the last minute, but give me a text or a phone call if you can make it or just show up on the day! I'm glad that the teaching on sexual misconduct and mind altering substances comes after the party, as it means I can have one last crazy drunken shabang before having to give it all up (I'm thinking more of the drinking than the sexual misconduct, but I never know my luck...).

And finally, here's 1234 from Feist.

If anyone's stuck on a birthday present (it's Tuesday you forgetful sods), The Reminder by Feist or Laurie Anderson's Big Science would earn you a big kiss and my stereo's undying gratitude.....