tsubame: (wings)
Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 05:05 pm
11 June 2012

Last night I dreamed of two people, hunters of the undead, a man and a woman . . . )

To Love Life, by Ellen Bass

The thing is
to love life
to love it even when you have no
stomach for it, when everything you've held
dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands
and your throat is filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you so heavily
it's like heat, tropical, moist
thickening the air so it's heavy like water
more fit for gills than lungs.
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief.
How long can a body withstand this? you think,
and yet you hold life like a face between your palms,
a plain face, with no charming smile
or twinkle in her eye,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you again.

Walking in London, 14 May 2012

I feel, often, a piercing loneliness, and wish that I had someone with whom to share my travels. But there is a virtue in traveling by oneself, that being mainly that there is no one you need satisfy except yourself.

The Tuesday a week past, I set out to walk. )
tsubame: (wings)
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 01:54 am
I was at Sensei's house one time, and his son, and some of his son's friends, were studying in the kitchen. Sensei asked my then-roommate and I if we would come downstairs so that the kids could try their English on us; we agreed. We went downstairs and answered their questions in our best slow, clear English-teacher voices. I don't remember most of them save the last; they asked us, "what is your favorite place in Kyoto?"

My flatmate said Kiyomizudera, a beautiful temple perched on the mountains to the east of the city. It's the obvious choice, of course: the buildings and grounds are beautiful, there's a view of the city, the temples and relics are old and significant, they illuminate the cherry blossoms in the spring and the maple trees in the autumn, there is a perpetually-flowing spring of pure water you can drink right out of the ground. The road up the mountain is through a charming old district; the shops have been catering to tourists for hundreds of years. The great stage of Kiyomizudera is a miracle of engineering, built without a single nail. It floats among the trees, and catches a refreshing breeze even in the stickiest Kyoto summer. There are fun festivals there; it even boasts credible wisteria which grow on trellises and shade benches where pilgrims can rest. There are charming eateries tucked among the groves of trees beneath the temple. Maiko and geisha regularly come to visit in full regalia, since it is the patron temple of one of Kyoto's "flower towns."

Everyone nodded when my roommate gave her answer; clearly Kiyomizudera is one of the most wonderful places in Kyoto.

Then it was my turn, and I had to think. What place in Kyoto could compare to Kiyomizudera's virtues?

"This house," I said.

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I have no skill at art whatsoever, but I doodle for fun, and thought I might as well put up a few of my slightly-more-credible scribbles. Behind a cut to protect your eyes. Primary mediums are pencil (my favorite cheap-ass Bic mechanicals) and colored pencils.

Pencil Detritus )
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: (sleepy)
Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 12:57 am

Fresco map of Italy, from the map rooms in the Vatican

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bir var mis, bir yok mis )

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tsubame: (reading)
Monday, May 9th, 2011 11:17 pm

One of the views from St. Michael’s Bridge in Ghent. You just kinda stand in the middle of the bridge and turn in a circle, and it’s amazing no matter which way you look. You can see all the major sites from right there-- castle, cathedrals, churches, bell tower, canals . . .

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30 April 2011 (continued) )

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A picture from Sensei’s concert: Kurahashi Yodo and Ronald Brautigam, 28 April 2011, De Bijloke Muziekcentrum, Ghent

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1 May 2011 )

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A cup of chocolate in a Brugges cafe.
tsubame: (reading)
Sunday, May 8th, 2011 06:03 pm

Taken in Brugges during my first afternoon walking around there. I found a great deal of gorgeously blooming wisteria on my travels-- I never knew it smelled so nice. Sensei spent some time trying to get me to say “藤” and “藤壷” correctly. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, but I had a terrible time . . .

Transcripts of my writings from my recent trip to Ghent, Brugges, and Leiden.

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26 April 2011 )

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Sonnet XXX, by William Shakespeare (painted on a wall in Leiden) )

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“But now we are all, in all places, strangers and pilgrims, travelers and sojourners . . .”

~Robert Cushman, Pilgrim Leader, 1622

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Poem 23, by e e cummings (painted on a wall in Leiden) )
tsubame: (combini)
Friday, October 15th, 2010 12:23 am
Flying with a headcold is one of the most exquisite tortures of the modern world. The only pain worse than not being able to pop your ears is a migraine-- and even then it's not by much.

But the plane flight was mercifully brief, and I slept through the bus ride to Paris, arriving in good time at my hostel. So with much of the day left, I spent my afternoon wandering the Musee d'Orsay. I don't really like Impressionism, but I figured I should go see them anyway, for the sake of my soul's enrichment. Ironically the most famous works, the Monet collection, were all out on loan to another Parisian gallery.

Well, maybe I'll just go there on Saturday. Still, there was plenty to see, and I wandered through the highlights-- my fill of Rodin, Renoir, Manet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne . . . none of whom I particularly like. But I found a small side gallery of Symbolist works which pleased me, and the models of the Opera House were fascinating, and there were many fun sculptures and whole rooms of Art Neuveau furniture to browse. So I had a grand time wandering about with my audio guide.

One of the excellent things was actually just looking out the window of the upstairs gallery. A boat tied up on the Seine was hosting an elegant black tie affair, and the Eiffel Tower glowed like a beacon over a typical Parisian roofline, and it was all so unbearably Paris that I could hardly contain my glee.

When I left the Musee I strolled across the bridge towards the Louvre, taking pictures as I went. Alone, I thought, as always, alone.

And then, watching the golden streetlights glitter off the rippling surface of the Seine, So what? I'M IN PARIS!
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?
tsubame: (yue)
Saturday, July 31st, 2010 09:23 am
One final adventure. And then, time to dream anew.

A Final Dream, Within Temptation

Lay your head down
And sleep on my shoulder
Lay your head down
And start a new dream

And for tonight the moment is over
Drift in a lullaby
Here where the stars reside
And angels are always seen

And lay your head down
The stars they have whispered
Hear what they say
And know that it means

The moon is your guide
The stars they have kissed her
As she goes gently by
Light as a baby’s sigh
Safe on a fairytale stream

And start a new dream
Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 01:18 am
This is an interesting article about being a grown-up . . . and ties in with some points of my Theory of Being a Responsible Adult, one major point of which is taking responsibility for your own well-being. I liken it to what I learned in the first aid course I took, which specifically addressed how to approach a crisis situation. When faced with a situation where a person is lying before you, injured, the first thing we were taught was to look around, checking for hazards or potential threats before we went to help the person. The reason for this was that if you rushed in without looking around, you could be hurt yourself, and then you would be adding to the problem rather than solving it. Basically, if you really want to help others, make sure that you yourself are taken care of so that you won't become someone else's burden.

And so I look out for my own mental, emotional, and physical well-being. For instance, I try to eat right and get exercise, to go out when I feel restless and stay in when I'm reaching the end of my endurance. When I start feeling sick, I stop drinking coffee and start drowning myself in orange juice. When I'm sad, I pursue those activities most likely to return to me my mental equilibrium. When I need company, I arrange a dinner or time with my friends. I do many things for the simple reason that I enjoy them.

So in keeping with my theory, as I would be unhappy if I didn't have a birthday party each year, I make it a point to arrange one. And while I take other people into account somewhat (I try not to choose anywhere too expensive, and people can come or go from the festivities according to the demands of their schedules or wallets), I always do things that I enjoy.

This year was no different, but of course. I was so excited beforehand that I was practically bursting at the seams over it. I was actually dreaming of it before the fact. And it was just as awesome as I hoped!

A very merry Be-Day to MEEEEEEEEE! )

And that was my wonderful, fabulous, exciting, fun birthday. <3
Tuesday, March 6th, 2007 11:34 am
I know, I know, more than half a year after my China trip and I still haven't posted all my photos. But give me a break, I completely filled my two-gig memory card during the course of the trip!

Standard warning of extreme image-heaviness applies.

7月27日06年 )

Photojournalism: Emei Shan )
Friday, January 19th, 2007 04:21 pm
It has been a decently awful day, so I'm letting myself recuperate from it by working on posting photos. After spending an hour immersed in the memories of my wonderful China trip, I feel a great deal more peaceful and somewhat more charitable to the world.

Standard warnings of extreme bandwidth-heaviness apply.

7月24日06年 )

7月25日06年 )

Photojournalism: Giant Panda Research Center )

Photojournalism: Chengdu )
Saturday, November 18th, 2006 11:52 pm
I am alive, in case anyone was wondering.

For some reason this fall the weather has been bad . . . on weekends. During the week, when I'm at work, it's sunny and lovely and, while not warm, certainly it is not raw and miserable. During the week, it has been an utterly ideal autumn.

On weekends, however, it's been grey, rainy, and cold. According to Accuweather they're expecting this trend to continue next weekend, as well. Perfect weather for sitting around one's apartment reading and browsing on the internet; not so good for seeing the justifiably-famous momiji of Kyoto at their spectactular autumn best.

I grabbed my umbrella, stuck A Clash of Kings in my bag, and went to Tofukuji anyway.

I'm glad that I did, because this week it looks like the leaves are at their peak. They're late this year, but then it's been a fairly warm autumn. And Tofukuji is one of the most famous places to view the leaves, with a high stage overlooking a valley full of brilliant momiji. The hordes of Japanese tourists were somewhat less than they would have been due to the threatening weather and the lateness of the hour at which I dragged myself reluctantly out the door, and so I was able to enjoy myself. The rain managed to mostly hold off until I was leaving, too.

After that I spent some time in Kyoto, shopping for Christmas presents. I was not able to resist picking up a copy of Beans Ace, though. The reason for picking up this particular magazine, of course, is also one of the reasons that I've disappeared from livejournal for a month and a half. That would be Saiunkoku Monogatari, which I will obsess about behind this cut. )

I grabbed some taiyaki before I went further into the city-proper . . . taiyaki with custard cream! The more I eat them, the more I like them. They're not as sweet as the red bean ones, and though I do like the red bean ones it is a well known fact that I'm not a big fan of sweet things. This seems to be a good weekend for deserts, though. The chocolate mushrooms that I bought yesterday turned out excellent. Apparently they're some sort of winter special. I love the fact that they have crushed macademias mixed in with their chocolate caps, it's delicious. And just the other night, for the first time in a long time, I sat down with a carton of ice cream and had as much as I wanted-- the equivalent of a full bowl! I haven't done that in . . . ages and ages.

These small mundanities are the foundation of my life.
Friday, October 6th, 2006 06:05 am
Another China photo entry!

Photojournalism: Fengdu Ghost Village )
Thursday, September 14th, 2006 11:34 am
At long last, another China journal and photo post! Man, I'm slow with these, it's only been a month since my trip . . . but then there are a ton of Japan photos I haven't managed to put up, either, so actually I'm doing better with these. Ye gods.

Staying late at school, obsessively re-watching Samurai Champloo, and falling asleep in random weird locations (shoulders and head on futon-rump on floor-legs on sofa, on my back on the "kitchen" floor, curled half on the sofa half under the table, etc. I woke up this morning from the last with both sets of fingers completely numb for lack of blood circulation, as they were rammed up against the wall under my head) doesn't really help in crossing items off my to-do list, of course. Fortunately I've taken to setting my alarm clock as soon as I get home from school.

In any case, China! And while I'm at it, here's the newly revised travel map:

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Bidding farewell to Baidi enveloped in colorful clouds
A thousand li return journey is covered in one day.
As the monkeys cry ceaselessly on both banks
The light boat speeds past ten thousand peaks

~from the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River book; translation of a poem written by Li Bai (Tang Dynasty)

7月22日06年 )

7月23日06年 )

Photojournalism: Three Gorges )
Wednesday, August 9th, 2006 04:20 pm
Lifted from Neil Gaiman's blog: Commas are way important, people! So is grammar!

I found this diary on a journalist's life in Baghdad very interesting.

Travel adds relevance to otherwise innocuous news stories. I was at the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Center a mere two weeks ago, so this article has become more than just a moment's random curiosity to me.

Separate italicized paragraphs within the cuts were written currently, not on the date marked.

7月18日06年 )

7月20日06年 )

7月21日06年 )

Photojournalism: Yangshou )
Tuesday, August 8th, 2006 12:42 pm
Ah, I feel so industrious . . . here's the first of my journal entries from when I was traveling, which I wrote about Hong Kong. For current and future reference, the date each entry is listed under is not necessarily the date I visited that particular place, but rather the date that I wrote about it. I've edited the entries somewhat, but otherwise have not updated them with information or impressions gained later in the trip (save where I've corrected mistakes or added a bit of historical background). Those sections marked "Photojournalism" are being captioned/written currently, not during the course of the trip itself.

7月17日06年 )

Photojournalism: Hong Kong )
Sunday, August 6th, 2006 06:47 pm
Back, safe, home again.
Sunday, July 30th, 2006 06:11 pm
I've gotten fairly good at dealing with livejournal info pages in different languages . . .

And I keep forgetting that I have icons now, and then I have to go back and add them. Because if you have them, you might as well use them.

On Emei Shan, because apparently that's the name of the whole mountain, not just the place I'm in. In Baguo village, just down the street from the lovely, rambling Baguo Monastary, where I'll be staying tonight. Tomorrow a swim, a stop at the supermarket, and then the overnight train to Xi'an.

I do love the internet, by the way. There's nothing like sitting in a room full of Chinese teenagers/young adults all playing online games. Now I know why I never see them kicking around on the streets. And internet cafes are gloriously, gloriously cheap. 2 yuan for an hour? I'd spend all my time in internet cafes, too.

In a strange humour today, though I'm not quite sure why. There are several possibilities, though. For one thing, time seems to have stopped for me. I can't seem to keep track of the day or the date, and continuously have to ask people whenever I want to write a journal entry. Barely a few days into my trip, my watch stopped for no good reason. No problem, thought I, I shall use my cel phone. Except apparently my cel phone is a big Japanese snob, because it refuses to accept Chinese electricity despite my fancy converter. I borrowed the tour leader's watch, because she's just been using her cel phone, and that one stopped this afternoon. I bought myself a wind-up alarm clock, but it has a tendancy to run out of winding at the most hugely inconvenient times.

Travel by it's very nature encompasses a certain sense of displacement, but this just seems a little extreme to me.

Randomly, and fascinatingly, our guide for the last two days was in his youth a Red Gaurd. He was 18 or 19 at the time, he told us today. Listening to his story was tremendously interesting. I had a thousand questions I wanted to ask, but that's a delicate thing to be asking questions about, and so I decided to hold off and eavesdrop on other people's questions instead. If I want to ask mine, I have his email. And I should review a bit of my recent Chinese history to make sure my questions aren't stupid ones. I did ask him when he learned English-- in school before the Cultural Revolution, he said, but at the time he was no good at speaking. Only in the past few years has he been studying spoken English. His speech is certainly understandable, but very fast, which seems to be characteristic of our guides so far. Listening to them switch to Chinese quickly shows you why, because it goes even faster.

I've learned to count to 99, to say hello, good bye, and ask how are you, to say I do and don't want something, and to say please and thank you and you're welcome and I'm sorry. The idea of ever being fast enough in Chinese to actually keep up with what people are saying, though, boggles my mind.

I should go find something to eat, but I don't really want anything to eat. It's too hot, and I'm too tired, and all by myself . . . maybe I'll just head back to the monastary and wander about with my camera, and write, and spend a lot of time sitting still. Sitting still is nice. And I'll take a shower, and I'll go to bed early, that would be nice, too.

I miss talking to people I know, rather. Here I exist as a singular entity, and the people I'm with have no call or need to care about me, beyond the fact that we're on this trip together. Not to say that they're bad people-- actually, I rather like them. Not a one of them is an unpleasant companion on this strange road we're wandering. They're just not mine, and I am not theirs. Sometimes I feel like a burden to the group, and there are few things that I dislike more.

My imagination is working overtime to fill in the gap in companionship and duty. I'm thankful, because it's good to have a distraction when you've spent the past four hours looking just in front of your feet for the next step, and the next step, and the next step, as sweat slides down your face like tears. I never fully understood descriptions of sweat "stinging in his/her eyes" until this trip.

I should head back to the monastary. It closes its gates quite early, and if you arrive late, you're pretty much out of luck.
Sunday, July 23rd, 2006 11:09 am
We leave Chengdu early tomorrow morning. Actually I'm a little sad about that, since I've really enjoyed this city. Well, I'll just have to come back, that's all there is to it. Since we're heading to Emei Shan, a monastary, it'll be a couple of days before I can be online again. Probably will manage it in Xi'an, but I'm not sure.

On the road again . . .