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.

Inside: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Self rarely sits at this table. Not even during dinner. It’s strictly grab-and-go here. She either brings her food to son’s room aka her office and eats while typing something on her computer or checks her e-mail, and The Man eats in front of the TV.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Our house faces directly on to a very busy avenue.  Thankfully, no one seems much interested in peering through our windows.

The View From the Picture Window in the Living Room

The View From the Picture Window in the Living Room

A Glimpse of the Bedroom.  The headboard was made to order in Manila and shipped over via container cargo.  Ying drew a picture of entwined atis leaves, and an artist in Manila executed her drawing.

A Glimpse of the Bedroom. The headboard was made to order in Manila and shipped over via container cargo. Ying drew a picture of entwined atis leaves, and an artist in Manila executed her drawing. (Atis is a native fruit with a juicy white flesh and numerous black seeds)

Homes really are our most evocative and revealing places.  At home, one drops the mask.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.



Buddha Mind

This afternoon is self’s Vinyasa Flow class.

It is soooo relaxing.

Self has been pondering taking a course on Buddhism.

For, as Japanese sage Hakuin Ekaku (1685 – 1768) once said:

To study Buddhism is to study yourself.  To study yourself is to forget yourself in each moment.  Then everything will come and help you.  Everything will ensure your enlightenment.

—  Nakahara Nantenbo (1839 – 1925)

She did actually ponder learning more about Buddhism, but there are so many things going on in her life at the moment.

Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying was a Buddhist, and a gentler soul never lived.  When she died in Tel Aviv, in 2008, self was heartbroken.  Her ashes are in the family crypt in Manila, but some are in a temple in Bangkok, per her instructions.

Ying!  She was so proud of self that she would carry around a copy of self’s books, and when people would ask what she was reading, she would show them.

Now that self is contemplating the Buddhism thing, she also remembers hearing about Shari Epstein, a former classmate at Stanford, who was said to have founded a city on the northern California coast.  A Buddhist, peaceful city.  What was its name?  Drat self and her horrible memory.  The City of 10,000 Buddhas?  Something like that?  In Ukiah?

She recalls, too, a teacher named David Nivison (whose books are all available on Amazon) who taught a class called Zen and Nothingness.  Can you believe actually taking a class like that?  Self recalls the first day:  there we were, Chinese Studies and Asian Languages students, scattered around the small classroom.  The professor enters:  a very very tall and a very very skinny man.  Without preamble, he opens his mouth and begins the lecture.

We students look at each other in dismay.  The teacher’s mouth is moving, but no one can hear anything.  Slowly — and as surreptitiously as possible — a few students begin moving closer to the front of the classroom.  By the end of that quarter, this is how the chairs were arranged:  Prof. Nivison seated at his desk facing the class, and all our chairs circled around his desk, some even touching the desk, and everyone straining their darndest to make sense out of this Zen and Nothingness which — don’t ask self to explain the concept, it’s something like the sound of one hand clapping.  She knows there was a midterm and a final, and she passed both. But she has no idea what she wrote, what she filled her Blue Book with. Her grade, she recalls, was a B.  Which was extremely kind of Prof. Nivison.

Back to the Buddha Mind!

When we are trying to be active and special and to accomplish something, we cannot express ourselves.  Small self will be expressed, but big self will not appear from the emptiness.  From the emptiness only great self appears.

Now synapses are firing like crazy in self’s brain, for she remembers the Abnegation faction in Divergent, which she made yet another attempt to read last night, before giving up and going back to re-reading Mockingjay.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Creaking Chairs,” a story by Igal Mossinsohn (from 50 STORIES FROM ISRAEL: AN ANTHOLOGY, Edited by Zisel Stavi)

Self bought the anthology when she was in Tel Aviv.  She found it in a bookstore only a few minutes’ walk from the apartment on Rupin Street.  It was 2008.  Beloved Sister-in-law Ying was being treated in Ichilov Hospital; she would live a few more months.

The story self began reading this morning is by Igal Mossinsohn (1917-1994), translated from the Yiddish by Sara Friedman.  The main character is Gabriel Malin, an aging actor who, one day, is unexpectedly approached by a young girl from the kibbutz.  The girl dreams of joining the theater and has come to Malin for guidance.

The scene has the girl telling Malin:

“I didn’t think it would be as smooth as olive oil all the way.  Difficulties?  Obviously.  But the question is, can one study, improve?  Will they give me a chance to try my hand at it?”

Gabriel Malin walked over to her, laid his hands on her narrow shoulders, felt her hair lightly brushing them.  She saw faded eyes, lashless lids.  The smell of cognac drifted from his mouth mixed with that of tobacco and shaving soap.

“You have a life to live,” he said.  “Listen, my girl, it’s no life at all, don’t you understand?”

She understood nothing.  For a moment she thought he was reciting a part.  Theatricals, she thought, should more properly be confined to the stage, while in life it was preferable to speak simply and not dig unfamiliar fingers into her shoulders, not to fix lashless eyes into her own.

“Old people shuffle around onstage,” he added.  “Old!  If they had trained a younger generation to learn from their experience, had encouraged them, well then . . .  But . . .  A man onstage must be credible, convincing!  The stage offers an illusion — but when a fifty-year-old actor plays a youth — and plays him badly, what would you call that?  Still, the audience keeps coming.  Thanks to whom, may I ask?  Thanks to a few sublime actors.  There you are.  For it is art!  It is sacred! No one has the power to drag Gabriel Malin off the stage, because Gabriel Malin loves the artificial lights, the costumes, the dusty floorboards, the audience, even if, possibly, he is inept.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Infinite 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

From The Daily Post:

    Capture “moments of wonder . . . when the infinite catches us by surprise. We stumble upon it in things both big and small: on the beach, staring into the horizon; in the depth of a loved one’s eyes; or even drowning in the emptiness of a Berlin subway car.”

Self thinks faith has a lot to do with experiencing the infinite:

Self dredged up the courage to ring the bell, too (though she couldn't ask anyone to take her picture while doing it)

The Shiva Temple at Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh:  After watching a dozen devotees reach up to ring the bell, self dredged up the courage to ring the bell, too (though she couldn’t ask anyone to take her picture while doing it)

Mountains, like these self saw in Dharamsala, which she visited in January 2012, are infinite:

Another view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

A view from the Buddhist Temple in Dharamsala

And this last picture is of a bazaar in the city of Jerusalem.  Self visited in April 2008, because Beloved Sister-in-Law Ying was receiving treatment for her leukemia in Tel Aviv.  Of all the pictures she took there, she loves this one the most.  Because a bazaar is as integral to a city’s life as churches are, and springs from impulses as ancient as faith.

In a bazaar in Jerusalem, April 2008

In a bazaar in Jerusalem, April 2008

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

You Asked For It, You Got It!

More answers for the “Next Big Thing” Meme (Apologies for being two days late!)

Question # 7:  How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Self has two current book projects:  a short story collection called Magellan’s Mirror, and a novel (her first!) called The Vanquished.

The title story of the short story collection Magellan’s Mirror —  self began that story sometime in 2009 (A handful go as far back as 2006).  The other stories are mostly since that period.  The draft will never be finished.  Until the manuscript gets accepted by a publisher, self will just keep working and adding and revising.  So, let’s say the collection gets picked up in 2015, and self gets to answer this question again:  At that point, she can say, “Six years.” But until then, who knows?

As for The Vanquished —  she started the book with the events that are now in Chapter 2.  That was sometime 2009 as well.  Whoa!  That was truly a watershed year for self, writing-wise!  2009 was also the year Anvil brought out The Lost Language.  It was a year after self’s sister-in-law, Ying, passed away.  Whenever someone in self’s family dies, it just lights a fire under self.  It’s how she “deals” —  with anything hurtful.  By writing.  So, bring on the hurt, World!

About Ying:  She was so proud of self’s writing.  Self got a lot of inspiration from her.  Self wrote a story called “The Peacock,” about a trip she and Ying took to Angkor Wat.  It’s so far not published, but that story is largely about the time she and Ying were in Siem Reap.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Kindness of Strangers

It is raining, this morning, in Bir.  The rain began last night.  Self had a big bowl of soup and two servings of pudding for lunch, so she thought she might just do with soup for dinner.  But the minute she emerged from her room, her hosts did, too, and before she knew it, she was seated with them in the dining room and eating a full dinner of lamb curry, lentils, salad, chapatis, and so forth.  After a few minutes, we were joined by a young Frenchwoman, who comes once a week to teach French to the Colonel’s wife.

The Frenchwoman, whose name was Marion, was also teaching French to the monks in the nearby temples.  “What is it like?” I asked her.  “It is like teaching little children,” she said.  The woman had been a psychotherapist before.  Self found out only afterwards, when dinner was over and everyone was getting up to go.

Tomorrow self bids adieu to Bir; her hosts are driving her to Amritsar.  Self thinks how lucky she is:  everywhere in India, she has encountered only nice people, especially in Dharamsala and Bir.  And now she is going to get to see the Golden Temple, which self knows only from the bloody stand-off between Sikhs and the Indian Army, decades ago.

When self was flying over from the States, her seatmate happened to be an Austrian woman who was on her way to an ashram in Amritsar.  At that time, self’s plans were to meet up with Mrinalini and go with her to Bikaner and Udaipur.  Self was curious about Amritsar, and her seatmate told her that this was her fourth trip to the temple.  She returns every year, and always stays about a month.  Now, as it turns out, self, like the Austrian woman, is going to Amritsar after all.  Strange symmetry!

Self is so glad that she got to cool her heels in Bir.  The Colonel’s Resort is lovely —  a working farm, where they grow almost everything that is served to their guests.  And the food is so delicious.

Lucky self.  Lucky, lucky, lucky!

This morning she skyped with the husband, for the first time during this trip.  He got take-out from Lobster Shack and was plannng to see a movie tomorrow, maybe even another one on Sunday (before or after the Superbowl).  We ran through the list of movies showing, and he asked which ones self wanted to see.  Self knew already because she’d looked at Eric Snider’s blog last night.  She ticked off her top three:  “The Grey,” “Haywire,” or “The Iron Lady.”  She doesn’t like to see scary movies, so she told the husband that he might want to see “Chronicle” (This movie only earned a B- from Mr. Snider, but even then, it ranked better than the Daniel Radcliffe I-am-no-longer-Harry-Potter-see-my-range movie, “The Woman in Black.”)  He said he’d probably end up seeing “Underworld.”

The husband also told self that he had looked up Amritsar on the web.  He said it looked simply amazing.  “It’s a very holy place to the Sikhs,” he said.  Something like Mecca is to Moslems.

So now, self too goes on the web and calls forth pictures.  Wow!  It really is golden, the temple. Not only that, she had no idea how huge it was.  (But everything in India strikes self as simply tremendous: from the Himalayan mountains to the deep valleys to the monasteries and temples.  The roads and highways, in sharp contrast, are exceedingly narrow.  And when one considers that this is a very large country, with so many people, self wonders why they don’t consider widening the highways — most of the time, self traversed highways that were only one lane in either direction)

Here, self is constantly thinking of Ying, with whom she saw Angkor Wat.  Ying’s mother was Indian, and she told self that their next trip together should be to India.  Now, whenever self sees a temple, she goes inside and converses silently to Ying.  See this, Ying?  I did it, I really did it!  And you are with me, now, in India, in spirit.

Somewhere she read that the Governator was in Delhi for a Sustainable Development Summit.  Now she reads a headline:  “Arnold did not get to see the Taj Mahal.”  How absolutely hilarious!  That’s you and self, Ahr-nuld.  That’s you and self.

But, this will not be self’s last trip to India, she is sure.  In fact, she wants to bring the family here, as early as next year.

Stay tuned.

August, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Why?  Who knows why?  Ying passed away three years ago.  Self misses her terribly.

This evening, self is thinking of the time she and Ying went to Siem Reap.  We went in August.

Oh, did anyone ever tell you that August is the hottest time of the year in Southeast Asia?  The heat in August in Cambodia is something else.  It’s alive, actually, a python wrapping itself around one’s body.

Our first day at the ruins of Angkor Wat, we arrived mid-morning and by noon both of us were limp and sun-blinded.

So, the next day, we decided to wake up at 4 a.m. and get to the ruins in time to watch the sunrise.

You approach Angkor Wat over an ancient causeway built across a broad plain.  Here and there on the plain are pools of standing water (Angkor Wat was built over a vast underground reservoir of water).  Oh, we were so thrilled to be there so early in the morning!  But, alas, so were at least a hundred other people!  And all of them had their cameras pointed directly at the ruins, waiting with bated breath for the time when the sun rose behind the temples.  Everyone was reverential, worshipful.  It was the strangest scene.

Another time, Ying grew very excited:  we had just encountered a stooped old monk, and Ying said, pointing to the cover of her Lonely Planet guidebook:  “It’s the same monk!  He’s the one on the cover of the Lonely Planet guidebook!”

We approached the Rock Star/ Monk, greeted him reverently, and held up the book:  “You/us/picture?  You are famous!”

The monk grinned, held up two fingers.  What?  What was that?  What kind of gesture was that?

The monk had to spell it out for us:  “No picture without pay!  Two dollars!”

Another thing about Siem Reap was that it was littered with internet cafés.  And these cafés had some of the fastest connections self had ever experienced, faster even than the internet café son found in a teensy-tiny house in Boracay.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Remembering: David Lehman’s “12/19/02”


by David Lehman

published in Tin House, Vol. 17 (Fall 2003)

It seemed nothing would ever be the same
This feeling lasted for months
Not a day passed without a dozen mentions
of the devastation and the grief
Then life came back
it returned like sap to the tree
shooting new life into the veins
of parched leaves turning them green
and the old irritations came back,
they were life, too,
crowds pushing, taxis honking, the envies, the anger,
the woman who could not escape her misery
as she stood between two mirrored walls
couldn’t sleep, took a pill, heard the noises of neighbors
the dogs barking, the pigeons in the alley yipping weirdly
and the phone that rang at eight twenty with the news
of Lucy’s overdose we just saw her last Friday evening
at Jay’s on Jane Street she’d been dead for a day or so
when they found her and there was no note
the autopsy’s today the wake day after tomorrow
and then I knew that life had resumed, ordinary bitching life
had come back

* * * * *

Self’s sister died 10 years before the day; she never knew what was going to happen. That day her husband was at work early, as usual. He walked 40 blocks from his office on Wall Street before he was able to hail a cab to take him the rest of the way home.

Ying’s birthday was September 11. After that, it was strange for her: the world became strange on that day. And she died, 37 years old, seven years after, also on September 11.

Sean Maher Tights/ Marketman Makes an Omelette

It is just before 11 p.m.  Self is so happy because the San Francisco Giants finally won! (Thank you, Aubrey Huff and Chris Stewart, for hitting homers tonight!  Thank you, too, San Francisco Giants fans, for getting into the spirit of “Jerry Garcia Tribute Night” and wearing very convincing Jerry Garcia wigs!)

Self checks the blog just before she turns in for the night, and finds that views have spiked, mostly because of this search term:

Sean Maher tights


Self is completely befuddled until she remembers that last year, she watched an episode of “Warehouse 13” which featured Sean Maher (of Joss Whedon’s short-lived “Serenity” TV series and the movie “Firefly”) as a superhero who wore purple tights.

Next, self turns for relaxation to her Bookmarks, and reads all about Marketman’s adventures in the Cebu restaurant trade (This was Dear Sister-in-law Ying’s favorite blog.  In fact, she was the one who first brought Marketman to self’s attention.  For a while after Ying passed away, self avoided Marketman like the plague.  A year ago, however, self began reading it again, and now she finds it so ridiculously addictive).

A few posts down, she sees something about Marketman making an “Open Face” omelette and —  quelle coincidence!  This evening, self undertook to make a torta!  With ground beef and all the almost-mush tomatoes in her fridge!  After laboring over this magnificent dish, self was more than a little peeved when dear hubby pronounced the meat “off.”  (Really, if all someone does is sit and wait to be served, then they are not entitled to complain!)  Anyhoo, self had planned to skip dinner (in the interests of restraining her rapidly burgeoning belly), but ended up eating a few bites of the torta, in order to see for herself whether the meat really was off, and she found the torta so delicious that she ended up eating more.  And more.  And more.  And, somehow, she can’t help thinking that hubby knew she would do exactly what she ended up doing:  tasting the torta, in spite of her avowed intention to skip dinner (except for one polvoron).  The man is so sneaky.  He’s like a German U-boat.  Or a shark.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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