Still More Structure: Seeing Carefully

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is STRUCTURE. All week, self has been finding inspiration for that theme, poking around her house in Redwood City.

The first two pics are from self’s garden. The third is a postcard featuring a painting by Reuven Rubin, whose work she discovered in Tel Aviv, 2008. She flew to Tel Aviv to visit Dear Departed Ying, her sister-in-law and loyal friend. Ying passed away a few months later. On her last day in Tel Aviv, she met Yosef Halper at his bookstore in the Novo Tzedek district. She’s always wanted to go back. Maybe next year.

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This leaf of a giant algave plant she bought just three years ago

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Pot of Lime Thyme

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She just found this postcard, inserted in a magazine she’d saved — from 2011. The painting is by Reuven Rubin.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Bureaucrat Ivan Ilyich Learns He Must Die

Ivan Ilyich was a man who derived the greatest pleasure in life from routine: the routine of work, mostly.

He didn’t know he was dying until his colleagues began to have strange expressions on their faces as they interacted with him. Some of them looked shocked, some of them looked pitying.

One day, he closeted himself in his bathroom, looked at himself in the mirror, and could deny it no longer: he did indeed have the look of a man who was suffering from a grave illness. In fact, he was dying.

p. 71 of the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage)

  • Lately Ivan Ilyich had spent most of his time in these attempts to restore the former ways of feeling that had screened him from death. He would say to himself: “I’ll busy myself with work — why, I used to live by it.” And he would go to court, driving away all doubts; he would get into conversation with colleagues and sit down, by old habit absentmindedly, pensively glancing around at the crowd and placing his two emaciated arms on the armrests of the oaken chair, leaning over as usual to a colleague, drawing a brief towards him, exchanging whispers, and then, suddenly raising his eyes and sitting up straight, would pronounce certain words and begin the proceedings. But suddenly in the midst of it the pain in his side, paying no attention to the stage the proceedings, would begin its own gnawing work.

And reading this reminds self all over again about Ying, who died in 2008, less than a year after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

She was worried because one of her maids — the nursemaid of Ying’s newborn daughter, Anita — had a persistent cough. Ying decided to have her tested for tuberculosis. Since her maid was being tested, Ying thought she might as well have herself tested, too. And that’s how they found she had leukemia.

Ying died in Tel Aviv on her 37th birthday. And never ever did self hear a word of complaint from her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Today, Pondering Joan Didion

Mulling over a list of attitudes that can be considered “magical thinking.”

Remember the book that Joan Didion wrote, several years back, called The Year of Magical Thinking? Ying was reading it in the apartment in Tel Aviv when self visited her, just a few months before she succumbed, at 37, to leukemia. Ying told self it was a very good book.

Honestly, self does not know how Ying managed to read a book like that when she herself was struggling for her life. But that’s how Ying was. She was compassionate and loving, but also remarkably clear-eyed and unsentimental. She was brave. The last thing Ying told self, shortly before she left Tel Aviv was, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

Today, self flipped open one of her journals and the first thing her eyes landed on was this list:

EXAMPLES OF MAGICAL THINKING:

  • My “stuff” will save me.
  • My writing will save me.
  • Being good will save me.
  • My degrees will save me.
  • My 260-thread-count bed linens will save me.
  • Other people will save me.

Denial is the most dangerous form of coping mechanism.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Jerusalem, Bethlehem: 2008

Self is looking through her humongous archive of photographs from past trips when she comes across these pictures she took during a brief trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 2008. She’d flown to Tel Aviv because Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying was sick and being treated in Ichilov Hospital. Self left after two weeks, but Ying herself never got to return home. She passed away in Tel Aviv, Sept. 11, 2008.

Ying and self shared many adventures: in Bangkok, in Angkor Wat, in Bohol. She was the best traveling companion. Self remembers Ying telling her, before a trip to Angkor Wat: “You are far more adventurous than any of your brothers.” To which the only appropriate response was the ironic, evil laugh: BWAH. HA. HA!

During her time in Tel Aviv, self signed up for a day tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. These are her pictures from that day:

A Church in Bethlehem, Not Sure of the Name

A Church in Bethlehem, Not Sure of the Name

Another Church Whose Name Self Doesn't Remember

Another Church Whose Name Self Doesn’t Remember

Bazaar, Jerusalem

Bazaar, Jerusalem

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Christmas Eve 2014: Remembering That Time Self Went to Tonle Sap Lake

Self is looking at all the books she acquired in 2014 (Quite a lot, even though she’s got hardly any bookshelf space left). One of them is Colin Poole’s Tonle Sap.

“Tonle Sap” means The Heart of the World. That’s a very fitting name for this large lake, bordered by four countries: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The reason self brings this up now is: She was there, 10 years ago, with Ying.

Ying, who died in 2008, in Tel Aviv.

She remembers Ying telling one of her dear bros that the trip was “girls only.”

So it ended up just being the two of us: Bangkok first, then Siem Reap. In Siem Reap, we hired a car and driver and he took us to Tonle Sap.

Self remembers Ying telling her: “You are far more adventurous than any of your brothers.”

Self thought that trip to Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap would only be the first of many, many trips. But Ying got leukemia. She didn’t even last a year from the date of her diagnosis.

Life just isn’t fair.

Gone But Not Forgotten 2: This Week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

For this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, we’re asked to commemorate what’s “gone but not forgotten.”

Straw Angels: They were a present from Ying, who passed away Sept. 11, 2008.

Straw Angels: They were a present from Ying, who passed away Sept. 11, 2008.

Self has a lot of doggie tree ornaments. Once upon a time, she had two beagles.

Self has a lot of doggie tree ornaments. That’s because, once upon a time, she had two beagles.

This last photo shows a bench next to Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. Self has passed that particular bench so many times. She only noticed the sign on the bench a month or so ago.

Memorial Bench, Stowe Lake, Golden Gate Park

Memorial Bench, Stowe Lake, Golden Gate Park

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Foolish Things

  • As a result of dropping by the Robert Frank exhibit at the Cantor Art Center on the Stanford Campus yesterday, self got it into her head that she would very much like to own a Leica.
  • After leaving the Robert Frank exhibit, self fully intended to go to Aquarius in Palo Alto and watch Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam.” But she did not.  Instead, after filling up with gas, she went home.  And today — alas! — that film is no longer showing.
  • Self hasn’t looked at her story “The Peacock.”  Not once.  Not since it was workshopped at Squaw. She has no idea what to do with that story. It just sits there, like a lump on a log. Taking up space in her computer. In her store of unfulfilled projects. She wanted it to be a memoir about her and Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying. She wanted it to be desperate and lonely, the voice of a soul lost in the Cambodian wilderness after failing to connect with the splendor that is Angkor Wat (Dear blog readers, do you know that there’s a RAFFLES HOTEL IN SIEM REAP???)
  • Self has wanted to replace the desert of the front lawn with trees — perhaps olive trees — to screen her house from the busy street. But she’s remained staring at that patch of bare, weed-choked dirt for 10 years. It sounds really lame to keep bringing up the drought.

Ugh, ugh, girl. Why can’t you just do? Why must you always be re-hashing the old, or rehearsing for the future? To what end?

How quickly you forget: just yesterday, you got word from Witness that a piece you sent them eight months ago is going to be in their Translation issue.

As for somehow missing “Last Days in Vietnam,” “Gone, Girl” is showing in the Redwood City Century 20 and she heard from a friend who read the book that it’s actually pretty good. Self is not a Ben Affleck fan — seems he is pretty much a control freak with his wife, and no doubt he took care to present himself in the best possible light in this new role — but what the heck? Maybe she just wasn’t in the mood for another hard-hitting documentary yesterday, maybe she should just try and ignite a new respect for Ben Affleck? She did like “Argo” a lot. He’s not a bad director.

And if she’d managed to watch “Last Days in Vietnam” yesterday, she would have missed seeing the San Francisco Giants’ nail-biting victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. She would have missed seeing the way the two teams went head to head all the way to the 9th inning. She would have missed that sweet, game-ending homer.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Linked Today, 4th Monday of September (2014)

Self decided to add a few new bookmarks, one of which is the home page of Red Hen Press.

Another add is Curbside Splendor E-zine. Self doesn’t know how she stumbled upon Curbside Splendor, but she finds herself reading all the way to the end of the featured essay, by Joey Pizzolato. This is a mighty rare occurrence, as self’s brain is usually darting in four directions at once.

She just wrote a Facebook post on Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying, which could be why she reads Pizzolato’s post (on what love is, or what it looks like) with great attention:

As writers and readers, we are drawn to love because we cannot precisely define it. Because, like the soul, or consciousness, we cannot pick it up or turn it over in our hand.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia: “The Heart of the World”

The cover of Colin Poole's TONLE SAP, The Heart of Cambodia's Natural Heritage (Thailand:  River Books, 2005)

The cover of Colin Poole’s TONLE SAP, The Heart of Cambodia’s Natural Heritage (Thailand: River Books, 2005)

In 2004, self and her sister-in-law, Ying, took a trip to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. We stayed in a house ($10/day for a room, including meals) and hired a driver.

The monument was crawling with tourists. One morning, desperate, self and Ying awoke at 4 a.m. and had the driver bring us to the temples. Across the giant causeway, which was barely light, we saw at least a hundred photographers, cameras pointed at the horizon, waiting for the first rays of the sun to appear. It was very dispiriting.

The thing self remembers most from the trip is not the temples. It was Tonle Sap Lake. Self and Ying hired a boat and threaded our way through the floating villages.

In 2008, Ying passed away in Tel Aviv. Self saw her for the last time a couple of months before. Her eyes were so sad.

Self’s story, “The Peacock,” is about that trip to Cambodia. She’s never been able to get it published, but she keeps trying.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Inside 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Help, someone!  Anyone!  It’s too much!  Self can’t seem to stop posting on this week’s Photo Challenge: INSIDE!  She’s obviously in some kind of zone . . .

Speaking of zone: What. Ever. Happened. to. That. Malaysian. Plane???

Don’t get her started!

Anyhoo, here’s the part of The Daily Post prompt that self is trying to focus on today:  Finding images of a thing inside something else.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino:  Self was there as part of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

An umbrella suspended from the ceiling of a bookstore in Mendocino: Self was there to participate in the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference.

Inside a church in Bethlehem.  Self was there in 2008.

Inside a church in Bethlehem. Self was there in 2008.

A friend of Dearest Mum’s had let us stay in his apartment while Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying was being treated for leukemia at Ichilov Hospital.  This was in 2008, which turned out to be a watershed year for self, in so many different ways.  Self will never forget Tel Aviv.  Never, ever, ever.

painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv

Painting in the apartment on Ruppin Street, Tel Aviv:  Is that a gun inside the bird’s mouth?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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