Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Things that are making me happy

my sister's basil

Getting back in the habit of going to the gym. So good to use one's muscles and really feel the lungs working. Also, dance classes which kick my butt.

Having a tripod.

Springtime. Crocuses and snowdrops and going barefoot. The miracle of flowers pushing up through the dry cracked earth, no matter how over-photographed they are.

Catching up on sleep.

Lots and lots of books of poetry from the library.

God's Silence, by Franz Wright. It makes my heart sing.

Plans for picnics and fort-making.

Zen Habits and :mnmlist.

The prospect of a dorm room all to myself next year! It's in the dorm in the center of campus, where I am now, so only about two minutes to class and the dining hall (such a relief in the dead of winter or when you oversleep!). It's on the top floor, with a dormer window, and it's WEST-FACING which means it gets the best most gorgeous afternoon light! Ah!

Peaceful dreams to counteract a sad night.

My invention of American fairy bread i.e. fairy bread, except made with peanut butter instead of butter.

A certain pregnant lady.

Bridget Jones.

Significant scheming and dreaming in regards to future content and direction for Eating a Tangerine.

Sweet potato fries.

Worshipping barefoot.

Calling myself an artist.

Email correspondents.

You, my wonderful fellow bloggers, my commenters, my quiet readers.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bird with a pretty mouth, bird with songs to shout

I sobbed four sobs and stopped; lying in the dry fountain I prayed the prayer of a zombie girl. A corpse but with headphones, but resurrection, again and again; we are all named Redemption.

At present: water drips from my lips, copper settles around my wrists. I take off my shoes and sing with my great cloud of witnesses. I wouldn't take back any of it.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The myth of the creative depressive

This passage was so gratifying for me to read because it expresses an idea that's been percolating in the back of my mind for a while. I think Elizabeth Wurtzel says it just right.

"Madness is too glamorous a term to convey what happens to most people who are losing their minds. That word is too exciting, too literary, too interesting in its connotations, to convey the boredom, the slowness, the dreariness, the dampness of depression....The word madness allows its users to celebrate the pain of its sufferers, to forget that underneath all the acting-out and quests for fabulousness and fine poetry, there is a person in huge amounts of dull, ugly agony...

"Why must every literary examination of Robert Lowell, of John Berryman, of Anne Sexton, of Jean Stafford, of so many writers and artists, keep perpetuating the notion that their individual pieces of genius were the result of madness? While it may be true that a great deal of art finds its inspirational wellspring in sorrow, let's not kid ourselves about how much time each of those people wasted and lost by being mired in misery. So many productive hours slipped by as paralyzing despair took over. None of these people wrote during depressive episodes. If they were manic-depressives, they worked during hypomania, the productive precursor to a manic phase which allows a peak of creative energy to flow; if they were garden-variety, unipolar depressives, they created during their periods of reprieve. This is not to say that we should deny sadness its rightful place among the muses of poetry and of all art forms, but let's stop calling it madness, let's stop pretending that the feeling itself is interesting....Depression is such an uncharismatic disease, so much the opposite of the lively vibrance that one associates with madness.

"Forget about the scant hours in her brief life when Sylvia Plath was able to produce the works in Ariel. Forget about that tiny bit of time and just remember the days that spanned into years when she could not move, couldn't think straight, could only lie in wait in a hospital bed, hoping for the relief that electroconvulsive therapy would bring. Don't think of the striking on-screen picture, the mental movie you create of the pretty young woman being wheeled on the gurney to get her shock treatments....Think, instead, of the girl herself, of the way she must have felt right then, of the way no amount of great poetry and fascination and fame could make the pain she felt at that moment worth suffering. Remember that when you're at the point at which you're doing something as desperate and violent as sticking your head in an oven, it is only because the life that preceded this act felt even worse. Think about living in depression from moment to moment, and know it is not worth any of the great art that comes as its by-product."

- Elizabeth Wurtzel
   in Prozac Nation

This rings very true to my own experiences with depression, first- and secondhand. I think for some forms of mental illness, de-romanticization is the necessary companion to destigmatization.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010


Night is undoing,
and I pluck bobby pins and stars from my hair like seeds to sow
across the carpeted floor of my bedroom

I roll the pads of my fingers across a rat scratch on my neck
for a moment pause and
listen to that traffic you could only not quite mistake for the sound of the tide

Thinking about the nights I walked
in the comfort of the darkness
(and how close it is).
but ask
who is out driving now,
who is out walking now?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Go ahead. Be needy.

When it comes to talk about being yourself and accepting yourself, the world has enough to last us until the apocalypse.

How about this, though — not just accepting ourselves as individuals, but accepting ourselves as humans?

With being human come certain inevitabilities that our culture doesn't always incline us to look fondly upon.

For example, humans are meant to:
  • get tired and sleep
  • get hungry and eat
  • have fat on their bodies
  • be sad, angry, and joyful in turn
  • depend on other humans
  • go outside regularly
  • have down time
  • make mistakes (And I don't mean, "It happens that we make mistakes and I guess that's okay, though once we better ourselves sufficiently we won't anymore." Making mistakes is a part of being, and if it's unavoidable, it must be all right.)
Just as with accepting one's personality, coming to terms with the implications of being human, acknowledging and owning them, is a prerequisite for doing awesome things.

So many of our fellow persons have spent so much time and energy figuring out for themselves that these inescapable facts of human-being are, in fact, truly inescapable. And we have their permission to go ahead and build off this knowledge. To live lives that accommodate our human needs, because then we can find the simple beauty in these needs — in nourishing ourselves, in trusting our friends with an honest answer about how we are doing, in putting the textbooks away to get a restful night of sleep —and then, when we are not consumed with trying to fight and deny our neediness, we are free to do truly great things.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Read in February 2010

1. Salome, by Beatrice Gormley
 Did you ever read those historical diary novels in elementary or middle school? This book reminds me of the Royal Diaries series, which is a nice thing. Salome (you know, the one from the Bible who danced and a king beheaded a prophet for her) narrates this story. I enjoyed it, especially as the setting hasn't received excessive amounts of attention in YA literature.

2. The Republic, by Plato
Read this for political philosophy. I'm struggling to think of something substantial to say about it. Obviously it's a foundational work of western thought. From a non-academic standpoint, I guess it was worth reading, though my personal curiousity would have been satisfied with excerpts. What a grueling way to build an imaginary city.

3. Anne of Windy Poplars, by L.M. Montgomery
Will I ever not like an Anne book? No, of course not. A little didactic, a lot delightful.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Hello my dears,

Day is lovely; I just got out of a dance class in which I accidentally leapt into the sound system cabinet and we did contact improv, which is so weird and cool -- it means improvising with another dancer while always keeping at least one point of contact with their body. Our teacher said, Don't be timid with each other! Reckless abandonment! You are creations creating together!

I have been wanting to share some pictures of one of my favorite places in San Francisco. You'll recognize it; you've been seeing it in my header since last June, if not longer. It's the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, a Victorian palace of a greenhouse. If you come to San Francisco, I will take you there.



^ That is a tangerine blossom! The room was full of its beautiful scent.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Portrait of a neighborhood

My neighborhood lies on the western side of San Francisco, just south of Golden Gate Park. We have the most beautiful sunsets in the whole city.

It's a residential neighborhood, though we have our busy streets to be sure. It's heavily Asian—I describe it to people as a mix of Chinatown and a sleepy old beach town. It gets insanely foggy, especially during the summer, which for us can be colder and bleaker than our winter.

Gray sky, gray sea, brilliant sunsets (when we can see the sun), green meeting pavement and plain little brightly-colored houses, the rumble and ringing bell of streetcars...

But most of all, the sea. Every wide east-west street opening onto it, filling up with breeze which may or may not smell of salt, depending on how imaginative you are, and the whole neighborhood a long lovely slope down to our beach. (As a bike ride, it's one of the best things I know in the whole world.)

Mind, our beach is not the kind of place people think of when you say "beach" and "California." It's cold and wild and melancholy-colored a lot of the time. You wouldn't go swimming there, except maybe on the one day a year that San Francisco is actually truly hot. But a visit home for me is never complete until I set foot on its sand and get my feet into the Pacific.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Back in Illinois after a brief but wonderful stay in the deep South with my blogger friend and pen pal PinkAppleCore. I'm very very broke (but in an okay way), finishing up a choreography project for my dance class, hoping to overnight myself this weekend to DC with a group from my college to join the march for immigration reform.

The snow is completely gone, and I haven't worn my coat since I got back. Days are as stressful as ever, but full of delight. The following poem, from a beautiful anthology of modern Chinese poetry that I'm reading right now, seems fitting. Soak it in.

Let the Wind Recite

If I could write you
A poem of summer, when reeds
Spread vigorously, when sunshine
Swirls around your waist and
Surges toward your feet
Standing asunder, when a new drum
Cracks in the heat; if I,

Rocking gently in a skiff
Immersed to the twelfth notch,
Could write you a poem of autumn,
When sorrow crouches on the riverbed
Like a golden dragon, letting torrents and rapids
Rush and splash and swirl upward
From wounded eyes; if I could write you

A poem of winter
To finally bear witness to the ice and snow,
The shrunken lake,
The midnight caller
Who interrupts a hurried dream,
In which you are taken to a distant province,
Given a lantern, and told to
Sit quietly and wait,
No tears allowed;

If they would not allow you
To mourn for spring
Or allow you to knit,
If they said,
Sit down quietly
And wait --
A thousand years later,
After spring
Summer would still be
Your name—They would bring you
Back, take away
Your ring
And your clothes,
Cut your hair short,
And abandon you
By the edge of the persevering lake—
Then you would belong to me at last.

You would belong to me at last.
I would bathe you
And give you a little wine,
A few mint candies,
And some new clothes.
Your hair would
Grow again, back to the way it was
Before. Summer would still be your name.

Then I would write you
A poem of spring, when everything
Begins anew.
So young and shy,
You would glimpse a reflection of the mature you. I would let you shed tears freely;
I would design new clothe and make a candle for your wedding night.

Then you would let me write
A poem of spring on your bosom
In the rhythm of a heartbeat, the melody of blood,
With the image of the breasts and the metaphor of a birthmark;
I would lay you on the warm surface of the lake
And let the wind recite.

- Yang Mu
trans. Michelle Yeh

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"He was so excessive, so creative, and so every day was a work of art"


Roll of film which yielded no pictures at all because...(I have no clue). Whatever. That's the thing about analog, the act of pressing the shutter button and advancing the film presses the moment a little more firmly into your brain even if you don't end up with a photograph.

Monday, March 8, 2010



I love this one so.

Lessee, what can I say about her?

It's wonderful to be living in the same building as her again—
There's not much she doesn't know about me—
She has these fabulous little cackle-chuckle laughs which always make me laugh apart from the original source of merriment—
She was born of psychologists, and it shows (harhar)—
She loves Jonathan Safran Foer—
And she is, in most respects, the closest thing to a hobbit that I have met yet.

Saturday, March 6, 2010




Odessa and I both turn into idiots when surrounded by glittering Japanese cuteness. (What's that you're saying? You thought we were both adults? Hush.)

I put on this ring and said YOU BUY ONE TOO THEY CAN BE OUR SF BLOGGER FRIENDSHIP RINGS. She did. Awesome.

Also, real photobooths are not as easy as you would think.

Being back (itemization)

My own bed--


Sushi with my pater--


All my favorite neighborhoods--


Driving under a big sky, seeing the ocean and feeling full of air and surrounded by clean free space.


Thursday, March 4, 2010


(Spring break.)

I can breathe again.

Words boil.

P.S. On Wednesday I turned in a two-weeks-late paper with an exclamation mark in it. Typing the sentence made me laugh. Maybe the professor will laugh too.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ask again

A slow realization I've been having:

There's actually nothing inherently wrong with doing what you feel like. But there is a silly way and a wise way to do this.

Example: Say I am overloaded with homework, tired, and feeling down on myself. What I feel like doing is crawling  into bed — never mind the time of day — and passing out for a few hours to excuse myself from life and thinking and productivity.*

I will sometimes do just that. But then my sleep schedule gets messed up and I wake up more stressed, because I have less time, and I feel more frustrated with myself for procrastinating.

The NEW way (feelings are the new black!) involves asking myself once more, What do you really feel like doing?

("...Whatever I FEEL like. GOSH.")

So yes, I prod my brain a second time, and it responds with the real answer behind the desire to sleep and procrastinate and shut things out: What I really feel like doing is not being stressed and not hating myself for procrastinating. I want to feel calmer and happier, so that I don't feel the need to pull the covers over my head.

And then I figure out what would make me feel calmer and happier — e.g., laying out a plan of productivity for the rest of the day and making some green tea before attacking it — and I am free to do whatever that is.


*note: for me, taking a nap is rarely a good idea, but of course naps can be just the right thing sometimes/for some people. just to be clear that I would never badmouth napping in general.