tsubame: (wings)
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 02:46 am
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra has a delightful series of 1-hour concerts on occasional weekday evenings, from 6 to 7, called Cl@six. The idea being that you go after work, listen to beautiful music for an hour, and then head home relaxed and content having neatly missed the rush hour.

At 5 I stood up from the day's work, changed into my jogging clothes, and ran to St. Cuthbert's as my much-needed exercise for the day. It was not a particularly pleasant one, grey and gloomy from start to finish. St. Cuthbert's is pleasant enough outside, though somewhat spooky and gloomy-- the facade is blackened with age, and it's down in the basin overshadowed by the high cliff of the castle. Adding to the general sense of oppression are the shadowing trees that grow in the churchyard, and the dark, perpetually damp stone tombstones scattered higgledy-piggledy like broken teeth. It's a pleasant enough place in the sunlight, full of dappled shadows over verdantly green moss, but the least bit of atmospheric gloom and it becomes spooky and foreboding. And this being Scotland, atmospheric gloom is considered the default weather setting.

I had never been inside the church, and was surprised to find it a cheerful contrast to the somewhat gloomy exterior. It could be described as ornate, but not in an overcrowded gothic way-- more Romanesque, decorated with marble panels, a marble frieze of the Last Supper which was probably well-intentioned, and solid art-deco frescoes. There were straight clear lines for the balcony, and light expanses of white and teal-turquoise walls which contributed to a feeling of cleanliness, of light and airy space at odds with my initial impression of the church.

And there was music-- oh there was music.

The surprise ending made me smile:

I just closed my eyes for the whole thing. Truly sublime:

I . . . seriously thought, listening, that they were playing Mozart. It was actually Schubert. Apparently he was infatuated with Mozart when he wrote this symphony:

I let myself pause outside the churchyard to look around. In the belfry came the constant pealing of bells, restlessly refusing to harmonize; perhaps a lesson in bell-ringing. Someone had dug rows of flowerbeds among the tombstones, and planted them with sweet-smelling daffodils; I resolved to come back and see them in the sunlight at my next opportunity. The church was illuminated with spotlights, as was the castle above; I could see in the distance the dark spire of the Scott Monument, and beyond it the illuminated clock tower of the Balmoral glowing like a jewel in the night.
tsubame: (wings)
Saturday, November 26th, 2011 06:43 pm
I woke up to a blue sky this morning, and sat for a while in a short-lived pool of golden light. The night before I had wondered, briefly, just what it was that I was going to get up for, today. The hours stretched before me without plan or design.

You knew, once, I reminded myself. How to be lonely. How to be alone.

About time you learned again.

I had a lovely spicy paella for lunch, and then a square of mingled dark and light chocolate, and then a cup of Earl Grey, and the flavors blended one into the next with utter perfection. I listened to 'Here and Heaven' on repeat.

Joy in small pleasures, in things done solely to please yourself.

I contemplated whether or not to go to the gym-- the gym to which I've been ten thousand times, always the same route (however pleasant), always the same boring gym. Then thought of the nature trail I'd passed so many times, but never explored.

Late November, I thought, it won't exactly be at its best.

But surely every season has its own charms-- I knew that, too, once. My exercise clothes are getting worn, but these days everything I own is becoming endowed with private significance. The jogging trousers I bought in Japan for sports day. The socks from Uniqlo, too expensive for me these days but worth it. The t-shirt that my father brought back for me from his trip to Memphis. The sneakers, a second-hand gift from a friend. The black hoodie bought at a charity shop that somehow kept me warm through last year's biting Scottish autumn. The over-long scarf my friend knitted me from Japanese wool, in its wonderful muted fall colors.

I jogged out past the school fields. There was some sort of sporting event on, and I envied the schoolkids their colors and their easy smiles. Their tendency to take up the entire sidewalk was less endearing. Before I had fully passed them it was starting to rain, and the wind had gotten stronger-- there's Scotland for you, and the perversity of the weather gods; it's a lovely day until I make it out the door.

The nature trail was all over with mud, but not so much as to divert me. The trees were bare, and what leaves still clung stubbornly to the branches were bright yellow against the grey bark. But the holly throughout the wood was green and lush, as were the climbing vines, not yet stripped of color.

I walked through the woods, and began to climb. A feathered pine reminded me of Japan. A stone wall meandered through the woods, another path branching through the gap. Abruptly the sheltering woods fell away into gorse bushes, their darkness leavened by yellow flowers. They seemed low, but still their branches topped my own height. In between, close green grass. I climbed carefully to the crown of the hill, scoured bald by the relentless wind-- the very same trying to push me off the top in abrupt gusts. My scarf flying, my hair whipping and twisting into elf-locks, I watched the clouds rush across the sky, the curtains of pale rain that drew and then parted once more, so rapidly. Birds rose from the abrupt hills around me, dark and rapid and fluttering like leaves as they battled the wind. The long hardy grasses lay flat; small rodent holes and rabbit fewmets scattered amongst the moss. Far away and below, the Firth of Forth was whipped to whitecaps. Between us, the spires of many churches-- I identified the lopsided crook of St. Michael's, the three tall cones of St. Mary's, the strange domes of the abandoned hospital.

I passed a tree strangled by mistletoe on the way back down, and in it perched seven magpies.
tsubame: (wings)
Friday, October 21st, 2011 01:35 am
The train brought me back to the far north in darkness. I emerged from the cave of Waverly Station to see the castle and the old town illuminated starkly white and unreal above, and the streets glittering wetly under the lamps. I nodded to the man begging outside the station. The shadows along George's Street held accumulated grime and cigarette butts. I caught the last bus, bumping people as I tried to navigate the narrow aisles with too many bags. I tried to find inside me some feeling of happiness, of homecoming--

--exhaustion. Emptiness.

A desolate ache, pulling me downwards, questioning: why, why am I always so far from those I love most in the world. Those whom I value and esteem above all others. Who are so wonderful, and to me, even though I am . . . me.

No one makes me go so far from them. Only me.

Only, ever, me.

I know that there are reasons.

An unbalanced scale. A dream-house of empty rooms that will never be filled. A barren moor under a grey sky. An ever-broken heart. My unicorn.

Once I rear-ended a van with a car. The van was fine; the car had a small wrinkle in the hood. Just that, a small wrinkle. It looked fine, really. But for some reason, it couldn't be fixed.

There are reasons. There are things that can't be fixed.

tsubame: (aqua)
Sunday, June 26th, 2011 10:58 pm
During last week’s game, we got to the stage where we were making plans. Well, Jonathan was making plans as his character, who Lázár has nicknamed “Ponce.” And as he was making plans, he was looking at me for advice and approval.

Which of course Lázár, my current character, is completely unsuited to give: he’s not a planner or a deep thinker. No; it was simply a holdover from last game, when Jonathan played a character named Niccolo and I played Tokugawa-- who was a planner, a rationalist, a strategist.

And who is not entirely gone from my mind, so I felt her surge of satisfaction/triumph. You see, she said to me, you see what I have made.

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I took a walk down to the bank. There were some climbing roses and they smelled the way roses are meant to. There were trees-- so many-- whispering endlessly. There were houses for sale, and I populated their empty windows with my doubts.

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I learned something, long ago: I cannot ask my family to do anything.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I can ask them for certain things. As long as they’re small, and they cause very little inconvenience, and aren’t too expensive. As long as they don’t require anyone to sacrifice on my behalf.

Nor can I call to complain about anything, and expect to be soothed, comforted, cheered up. Nor can I ever expect to be spoiled or coddled, taken care of. All of these things are my job-- just as it’s my job to be okay, no matter what.

But every once and a while I forget that certain things are not allowed. I make a request, something that ought to be simple.

And then I learn, once again.

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I really shouldn’t try my hand at humor when depressed, it makes me far too cynical:

Blankman: ‎KB is sorry she causes cancer.
Me: Only in lab rats, but EVERYTHING causes cancer in lab rats.
KB: Why must I cause such suffering and despair?
Me: Lab rats are born for suffering and despair. Human souls gotta go somewhere on their next round of incarnation. The karmatic burden would be unmanageable otherwise.

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There’s a one-pound coin that I carry around in my wallet, I call it my lucky pound. Because it shares a birth year with me. And because it’s scratched and worn and dirty, kicked around, all its innocent shine worn away. It’s a coin that has traveled far and seen some hard use.

Kind of like me.

And even so, despite all that, it’s a pound. Legal tender. Not worth quite as much as it once was, to be sure, but still worth something.

I hope that’s like me, too. That’s why it’s my lucky pound.

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Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car, by Dan Pagis )
Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car, by Dan Pagis

here in this carload
i am eve
with abel my son
if you see my other son
cain son of man
tell him that i

~translated from the Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell
tsubame: (wings)
Friday, June 10th, 2011 02:45 pm
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

~Antoine de Saint-Exupery


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I was discussing the concept of “good” vampires with Lázár. The group encountered a family of vampires who were living a life in which they didn’t harm humans-- instead they sponsored a blood bank and lived fairly normal lives. That they were killed meant that all the other vampires would see little point in being “good,” since they would be targets anyway.

His answer surprised me: “If they were just doing it to avoid getting iced, they still f--ing deserve to get iced.”

What he meant was that the vampires would only be behaving themselves to avoid the chance of being killed. If that threat was removed, they would go back to less wholesome habits. And there was no guarantee that the threat would always be there. External motivation wouldn’t be enough; the behavior cannot be trusted without internal motivation.

Tokugawa is still at the front of my head, since her game ended only recently, and she spoke up: “The threat is like a poised hammer; you worry what might happen if the hammer is removed. Bring the hammer down a few times. After that it will not matter if the hammer is actually there or not; it will remain always in their minds.”

What she meant was that if there are a few demonstrative punishments, people will fear the punishment and remember it, and behave themselves to avoid it. Once that is in effect you will no longer have to punish people.

. . . they both scare me.

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Variations on the Word Sleep, by Margaret Atwood )
tsubame: (wings)
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 02:30 am
A fascinating link regarding a great editor.

Crowd-sourced publishing. An interesting idea, though we’ll have to wait and see how it goes.

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Edinburgh bears the unfortunate label of “not Japan” in my head, and so I tend to give the place short shrift, and easily forget just how lucky I am to be here. Since the culture and language are much closer to that of my native place, I don’t experience the same degree of foreign-ness, and so I don’t appreciate the city as much as I should.

So it’s good for me to go by North Bridge every once and a while, because out of all the places in the city somehow the view from their reminds me of just how lucky I am. And it reminds me that Edinburgh is an incredible place, a vision in buff stone, a place of history and wonders and mysteries if only I dig beneath the everyday to find them.

And it figures that I don’t have any particularly great photos of the view from there. It’s rather difficult to capture such a grand view on a 2D camera-- half the magnificence is the wonders receding further back into space. Carlton Hill with its whimsical structures falling away to the sky and the far-off waters of the ocean, seagulls wheeling in the wind, the impressive sweep of the bridge over the great ravine that holds the train station, the height of the hills on either side, the ornate stone buildings decorated with mythic beasts and reclining gods . . .


Here’s the one shot I do have of Carlton Hill. They hold the Samhain and Beltain celebrations up there-- both of which I missed, alas. But if I were going to pick a likely spot for magic in Edinburgh this’d be it, with the eclectic buildings, the observatory dome, the obelisk, the tower. It would be a great location for a school of wizardry, a part of the town and yet separate, a lofty place between land and sea, sky and rock, looking over both the cultured city and the barren wildness of Arthur’s Seat.

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I wanted to put up more writing for [livejournal.com profile] saiun_challenge’s birthday celebration, but alas it seems this is all I’m going to manage. And I still have one more bit to write before it’s really complete! ::sobs:: Oh, and I haven’t edited it yet, so it’s probably so terrible as to be embarrassing. But I’m too tired to look it over now, and the deadline will be past if I wait to do so until I’ve had some sleep.

This AU makes me nostalgic for high school. How weird.

Dark Jewels Saiunkoku

Roseford's Queen: Part 1
Roseford's Queen: Part 2
Roseford’s Queen: Part 3

Roseford’s Queen: Part 4 )
tsubame: (hey!)
Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 12:38 am

There is a rather remarkable propensity towards flowers in Scotland; hard to believe in a country so far north and yet true. Summer, for instance, is nothing but endless green and gold where I grew up in the States, but here there were more flowering things than I could name. The roses, too, grow splendidly, and last well into fall.

I never did find that camera cord; I ended up replacing it.

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The birds outside our window are dinosaurs. WE NOW HAVE THE BEST FACT.


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while reading the Mauritius Command:

Oh, Stephen. Jack was up all night worrying about you and you come back with an albatross egg and a parrot that speaks French.

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geekery and fanfic in an email today:

I have a crazy Ryuuki, a three-eyed demon Ryuuki, an assassin Ryuuki, a chichi-ue Ryuuki, a Ryuuki hooked up to computers, a ridiculously cute Ryuuki, a Ryuuki with piercings, a courtesan Ryuuki, a dragon Ryuuki . . .

::is beginning to suspect that she's deeply insane::

You know what I don't have? A one-eyed warrior Ryuuki!

::glowing cheerfully at the thought::

::fairly certain that she is quite insane, actually::
tsubame: (yue)
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 01:14 am

This is a picture I took in Lyon in France. I decided to go to the city quite randomly because I had heard their food praised especially highly. Lyon is a fairly small city, but I enjoyed it (even though we did end up doing a lot of random stuff while we were there, so that we could be indoors. The weather during our stay was, unfortunately, awful). This horse was in the Museum of Miniatures (and also random movie paraphernalia). It's not really a miniature, exactly, nor is it from a movie, but it is pretty darn cool. Below is a photo of the information card that accompanied it.


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A perfect night, the cool air nipping at my face, the lamplight glittering gold off the wet pavement, the dark holes of puddles interupted by the ripples of occasional raindrops. The slate roofs shine pewter. The night sky a patchwork of indigo, the clouds a luminous grey-blue. A dark tree grows in the center of the park; directly above the white pearl of the moon bears a cavorting rabbit. The still canal reflects all, the darkness and the light; a houseboat is moored, green-black and gilded by the lamps. Hyde's voice in my ears, and I am alone this night, my heart is still and peaceful.

Would that I could take this beautiful moment, this perfect feeling, and wrap it in a box and give it to you.

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 12:54 am

Last spring I was able to go to a huge roller coaster park in Japan with some of my friends. Among the ten coasters in the park they also happen to have the world's largest wooden one; this is a view of it from the nearby Ferris wheel. I rode it once, but found that it gave me a pounding headache. Looks like I've gotten too old for wooden roller coasters. I did fine on the modern ones, though.

I might also have been more prone to headaches at the time, seeing as my parents were visiting. When my parents visited me in Japan I was usually in a state of high stress and constant sleep deprivation/exhaustion.

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Wednesdays are going to be my busy days; biweekly that means class from 9 AM to 9:30 PM, with an hour's break for lunch and dinner/transport each. And then walking 40 minutes home. Today was the first of them, and actually I found myself enjoying it. I like being busy; it makes me feel useful. Which explains why I so mercilessly over-scheduled myself while I lived in Japan; I did in fact enjoy it.

I've actually been rather lazy since coming to Scotland. I think I need to take further steps to remedy this.

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Over the vacation I had a chance for some long talks with my various family members, some of which were quite interesting.

Regarding a conversation with my little brother with attendant thoughts which cover socialism in Sweden, the causes of the American Civil War, rappers, and lottery tickets. )

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I had half an hour during my busiest busy day in which to procure dinner. I wanted to go to the Black Medicine coffee house, because its name is so cool, but I ended up wandering the wrong way. I was thinking thoughts of going into the KFC-- I was running out of time-- it would be easy to order there-- but at the last second I gave in to the terrible yellow plastic beacon of a down-at-the-heels middle eastern place with cheap battered tables and faded posters of deserts on the walls.

And glad I was to have done so. Their baba ganoush was LOVELY. And I found out that the "sh" sound at the end has a bit of a hard "g" sound in it. I am enlightened!

. . . okay, nowhere near. But I get a little closer every day!

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I found some fun and interesting things on the internet recently. Let me share them with you!

A friend who is obsessed with a cartoon show called Phineas and Ferb linked me to this episode which makes reference to Carmell Dansen. At which point I told her that about two years ago Japan discovered this song in its original Swedish. And before long ALL OF JAPAN WAS INFECTED. It caught on so hugely that every anime currently on the air (and many who just have extremely obsessive fans) was making their own version of it (Jack Sparrow's at 2.16, fyi).

The same friend taught me a new French phrase!

déjà moo - the distinct feeling that you've heard this bull before

My stock of French phrases is growing once again! I can now add this gem of wisdom to my recently-acquired "tes moeurs crapuleuses" ("your sordid morals") and "tu cherches à corrompre mon paresseux" ("you are trying to corrupt my sloth"). Thankee, Patrick O'Brian!

This picture is my current desktop walllpaper. About which I said . . . )

To which my adorable sister replied... )

She's so cute! <3

This comic is quite adorable.

Reading through Pandora Hearts led to this string of (mostly) non-spoiler comments on Facebook:

Comments Ahoy! )
Friday, November 19th, 2010 04:40 pm
This morning the walk to campus was accomplished in a sleep-tinged fog. Rounding the corner, the leaves still clinging to the branches of the white birch trees glinted metallic in the slanted light, a waterfall of golden coins, frozen in motion.

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The campus where most of my classes are located is at the top of a steep hill, south of the city center in Edinburgh. The library has the best view; from that high vantage point Edinburgh Castle’s perch on the Mound is clearly visible, and the bulk of Arthur’s Seat to the right, and in between a half-hundred spires, and the slate-tile rooflines. Beyond that lies the water. On a clear day you can see further, beyond, to a flat plain with a single peak rising.

Today was not a clear day, but it still felt like you could see beyond. It was merely clouds, merely the angle of the sun creating colors and shadows out of the white-- but it spun out ridgelines, a mountain, a deep gorge cutting through-- fields and farms, a great patchwork-- a long stretch of beach fading into the sea . . .

If I went down to the Waters of Leithe today, would I find a boat there, waiting for me? Could I sail that boat down to the sea, across the Firth of Forth, and light upon that distant shore?
tsubame: (yue)
Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 12:38 pm
Hail, bright Lady of the night.

I am seeking something. In all this wide world, always looking, searching. I don't know what it is, only that it is always beyond my reach.

I have called it my unicorn.

What is it that I am seeking in this strange place?

Edinburgh is a city of spires, Of buff and tear-stained stone. Of hidden places, of broad parks. Of hills and scattered clouds. Of small shops, of curved lines.

Of unicorns.

They are everywhere, but it is so easy not to see them. They sit sentinel over the park, on tall mossy plinths, lost among the leaves. They stand rampant and glaring in reliefs, supporting crests and shields. They crouch in the shadowed corners of buildings, watching the unknowing people pass below.

If you are not the last--

My steps led me, footfall upon footfall, down the narrow roads. I meant to go west, but my feet took me south, down the tree-lined road to the Meadows.

They spread wide and flat and green below the twisted medieval closes of the old city. As if the two are different worlds that bleed together at the edges-- the road is the conduit between them, greenery making inroads to the city, a sparse scattering of buildings giving way to the trees. Shady lanes cross the open space, paths of light beneath the stately branches.

I crossed the compass rose, found the distinctive church spire that marked the beginning of Morningside, and let them guide me south and west. Looked south and east, across the Meadows--

Hello, Luna.

A gibbous moon, nearly full, rising. The clouds passing over, pearlescent. The sky, deep navy and bottomless.

I sank down on a bench and watched, and let my head fill with moon-thoughts. So bright, the moon. We only ever see one face of the moon. What is your hidden face, Lady? What do you see when you look away from us? What secrets do you keep?

The leaves rustled. In the distance, a siren, unreal, a sound from a different world.

Silhousetted against the golden light of the path, a bike glided across the short grass, silent as a shadow, only a shadow. Stopped, and the man riding let it fall, let drop his backpack. And spun there, in the moonlight, danced silent in the meadow. Whirled slowly, kicked a leg high, swung down to touch the earth, then up. Silent, musicless. Here lost in the shadows, there again, against the golden light. Danced beneath the moon.

I watched, silent and still. Should I run to him? But I sat, I could not move.

A final turn, and the slim figure stooped, swung up his bag, mounted his bike again. And swiftly, silently, he slipped back into the night, and I lost him into the lanes.

Dancer on the green. Shadow, shade. Free spirit of the night, the dark sky given form. Graceful, turning, gliding. Do you know me? Do you know I'm here?

Who are you?

The moon filled me, and I walked. South and west, towards the spire, carrying the moon inside of me. I could feel it, cool and bright, leaking out my eyes. Could those passing by see it? Did they not know? How could they not? I moved among them, but they could not touch me. Could they not see it, glowing in my eyes?

Traveller. Journey-woman. Seeker. Watcher in the dark-- not the story but only the one who tells it. Touched, but not chosen.

Who are you?


Who are you?