Sadness

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Sated? Weary? Enough? Strange meanings for such a short word… and my heart is not in it anyway. The modern (if you call middle English modern) meaning is more than enough (there’s that word again) to carry wearily… ok, that’s it! I am giving up on linguistics for now, before I start agreeing with the definition. I am not in the mood to be cajoled out of what I actually feel, which is sadness.

You see, a friend is moving away for a while. That while is not forever and it is not even a very long time as these things go… what’s a season when time goes so fast I can barely recall where this year is up to?

So one puts on a brave face and talks about this and that because there is always so much to say and never enough time to actually say it and make the connections and explore your own ideas and find common ground and share oddments and tweaks. And one laughs and smiles and generally pays attention because, yes, that’s what this is all about, being present, with your friend and never mind that there are another million things you should be seen as doing.

But then the time is up.

And that while mentioned above is actually starting and it will continue to exist, encompassed in this lifetime, and you can’t really avoid it anymore.

Have you noticed how difficult it continues to be to cry? People might even ask what’s wrong and do you need a counsellor with your fries? No, no, no, better wait until you’re at home…. what? Cry in the bathroom under the shower? How very quaint! Let’s be adult about it, though, and defer all this emotional “stuff” until another time… an appropriate time for sadness… that’s sad, isn’t it?

And then, if you please, one realizes that sadness just is and won’t just go away and saving face by appearing brave serves no one. So one says “I’ll miss you” because really, why not? With whom should I banter over memories of a country I have not actually seen?

I will wait and keep busy and be an adult and all that. Distraction does work and so does social media and email and pictures. I will, as the saying goes, “deal with it” and I will not even need a counsellor.

But, my friend, there are so many things still unsaid… the strangely squat mists over the low lying fields that looked as if a faerie sea is slowly advancing towards you, and then driving through it the car lights make alien circles of pale rainbows and cattle appear like spectres out of the clearly delineated layers of earth, fog, clouds and blue sky… then there’s the realization that cloudy skies are always more interesting than the clear ones, and because of the humidity there’s a much better chance of actually finding that precise shade of blue eyes have… and then there’s that song, Piazzolla’s Oblivion, a saxophone solo you would have enjoyed…

I will need a good memory, to last me a season…

Links

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My friend sent me this video by Pentatonix to watch. So I did and it will come as no surprise that I liked it 🙂

And as usual it got me thinking – because I can’t really help it! There are so many links in this world that throw webs of fragile threads around us, until it feels as if we have only to pull on one and the entire world would change direction! I shall attempt to explain.

The song my friend sent was PTX’s cover of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – and there is a reason why many thought it funny that Bob Dylan should have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature when there IS Leonard Cohen. But poetry taste aside, and because and despite Hallelujah is a mysterious wonder, of course my mind jumped to the actual Leonard Cohen concert I saw a couple of years ago. Standing or kneeling, surrounded by vocalists and instrumentalists that are stars in their own right, the man himself delivered a performance that had the audience crying not because the songs are sentimental but because of an overload of beauty that twisted the heart into joy apparent.

And that has happened to me only once before, when an impressionable 20-something year old saw Tarkovski’s movies and understood that everything has been said by them and there is no other point to cinema. I changed my mind, of course, but even now at the back of my mind the memory of that certainty remains, setting the standard.

But back to the video, a capella singing is a favourite of mine, and especially when there are only a few people in the group so I can actually distinguish the voices and hear what it is they are trying to meld. So I heard this note, a low, resonant one, so I had to check it out which led me to learn of such things as basso profondo and oktavists. Which meant another trip on YouTube for Russian choral music (no organs in an Orthodox church, therefore voices will have to suffice, and my goodness they do!). But hearing those low, low, low notes had me remember throat singing (or overtone) which is such an eerie thing to listen to, on a warm autumn night, closing your eyes so that you can really hear this tiny Inuit woman who decided that WOMAD needed to know that the human throat is a wonderful thing… and if you live in a world where WOMAD exists, than it well behooves you to attend, you know? 🙂

And if I am listening to Hallelujah then I should also pay attention to the biblical hints in it (Thomas the unbeliever, Delilah etc.) and so that will also remind me of my favourite Corinthians quote (dissected somewhere else in this blog) and a choral rendition of it at the end of a movie that Tarkovski would have liked I believe, Kieslowski’s Blue from the Colours trilogy. Which of course brings me to Juliette Binoche who…

I will stop here. I have tried to count the “and”s I have used in this article because the links are just that. No buts or ifs, ands. With memory in charge not only of division, but the bringing together of people and times and knowledge.

How else would I live, if such things are possible?

Music

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I was listening to the gale outside and felt my heart beat faster. There is something so inherently wild about wind that adrenaline spikes even if all you can do about it is cover your ears with the duvet and remind yourself that your house has stood up during the last storm as well.

Then cicadas screeching in summer and certain birds calling for their mates, thunder and rushing water over stones, waves crashing against each other… and I haven’t even started with man-made sounds 🙂

The word itself is Greek, art of the Muses even though said nine godesses did not stop at beautiful sounds. As music is taste dependent we shall not discuss particular groups etc. This is just an inventory of sorts, before I pull that duvet firmly down on my ears.

Stress and worry mean music without words in any language that I can understand. If I am very stressed then no words at all, but if I am still in control I will accept classical language and foreign words in the melody. These are also the songs I will listen if I am playing number puzzles, for some reason or another my brain still counts in my native language, so any other language just confuses me and slows me down.

Feisty means latin and dancing, too, not just listening. 🙂

Sadness means music about time, to remind me that there is no other cure. The period really doesn’t matter, but I won’t listen to classical, because that is usually too detached and I am still a child of my age.

Particular people have particular songs attached, and I find it easier to wait for them by choosing carefully the songs that remind me of them. Something to do, I guess, while waiting… The best music is the one that they recommend though, memories already formed and the main way for me to expand my taste.

Songs in my native language are again carefully chosen for the memories, especially good ones, with turns of phrase that make me want to write some more. They are mostly poetry put to music, or folk and sometimes both. Occasionally it is folklore, just to remind me that you can be direct and tactful at the same time 🙂

Several instruments deserve pride of place: classical guitar, the piano, marimba and saxophone. If I read about a piece of music or an instrument in a book, I will check it out later.

All of the music above I have on computer and cds. I have tried playlists but was badly jarred and gave them up. I guess it was the fact that my songs have those memories attached, and one memory will lead me to another… which belongs to another person, another song, another genre, and I can’t possibly know all this at the beginning of the listening.

So I would rather choose each song, remember, then move on…

Time

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No, it’s not Latin, at least not directly. It is Old Germanic and related to tide, much as it helps us, as we cannot actually define time without running around in circles biting our tails (Ouroboros or a frisky dog, depending how seriously you want to take the notion). We can devise tools, sometimes very precise ones, to measure it, but as to what it is, well, no one really knows for sure. Is it finite or infinite? Does it flow, jump, stay or renew itself? Is the future coming to you or are you moving towards the future? Is the past unchangeable? Can time be traveled other than in memory?

We know we try to manipulate the time continuum (is it a continuum all by itself or does space gather there as well?). St Augustine thought that we have all the tools we need for time: we simultaneously grasp the past in memory, the present by attention, and the future by expectation.

Remember that old Greek myth of Khronos (personification of time) eating his children and them remaining alive and unharmed (gods, therefore immortal, and bound by prophecy – which is therefore stronger than time?) in the vastness of their father’s reach. We seem to be in time, but are we time as well? Is time sequential or, like we can in memory, escape into possibility?

Time can also struggle along even if we seem to have lost a limb of it. An amnesiac still has a present and a future, someone with short memory loss will remember his childhood and can plan for the future, an infant seems to live in an eternal past-present, with nary a thought for the future.

So many questions, for something we take so much for granted and that seems such a simple concept.

A few things seem to be outside of time. An example would be the strong feelings humans can experience. We feel those, they relate to an extant object (person, country etc.), and yet they transcend time. It is as if that relationship makes and marks its own time, limited and yet wider than the usual continuum. When we feel strongly we can work, dream, eat, raise children and follow our pathway in our time, and yet a small part of us counts a different set of seconds, one that is not ours but belongs to that object and that connects us to that object when distance alone might not make it.

And should that clock falter, our very essence is at risk.

Language

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Disclaimer: languages come easy for me. I like them and they like me 🙂 It comes, I guess, from being sure of who I am. I have never been in a position where my native language put me at a disadvantage, so I did not have to cleave to it as a defence. That, and opportunity plus whatever natural ability I had made languages easy. Attitude also plays a part. I love playing with language and can retain a sort of fascination for years to come if a language allows play. Say, for example, English (no, really? 😛 ). I still remember the first time it struck me as beautiful: it was my first year learning it, with a teacher whose first language was mine and whose second language was not English 🙂 But she used appropriately the phrases and one of them stuck in my mind: to learn something by heart. Far from the common meaning of memorising, I remember being amazed at a language where memory is associated with the heart, with feelings and ultimately, with love. So it pleased me to learn it, and I did.

If that sounds just a tad idealistic, well, it is 🙂 It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Pronouncing English is a minefield (my stumbling block was “comfortable” – hint: a “table” was involved), I still count better and faster in my language, as for spelling, writing is good, saying it not so much.

My language is Latin where it needs to be, Russian where it had to be, French where it wants to be and English where people were too busy to invent another word or adapt an existing one. This explains the trouble with spelling – my language doesn’t even have the word, it doesn’t need it as it’s phonetic, so what you hear is what you write. And yet if I had to choose a favourite it would be Victorian English with its extravagantly direct compliments and barbed subtle insults.

The way language evolves, how it borrows words from other languages and adapts them over time… this can keep me occupied for days! For example, you might want to check the difference between “to sack” and “to fire”. We use them almost as synonyms but as you may suspect, originally they were very, very different.

I even describe my profession as translating bureaucratese into common language… and a lot of the time it is!

Yet for all that I don’t like jargon and big words. I do use them, and try to use them appropriately, but they make me uneasy so I tend to avoid them when I can. I go all anti-snob and deliberately try to dumb them down (mostly) in my head and sometimes the results are hilarious, sometimes the perceived problem goes away when you put it like that and sometimes they just roll off my tongue with an ease that gets me even more determined to rein them in 🙂

For language is a world of its own, and people have spent time, nerves, money and occasionally sacrificed lives to get to the bottom of it all (try to look for perfect language/original language experiments when you have some time). Gods and first-made people are said to have created the things and life around them (in what language, one wonders?) by making words to name them and saying certain names has always been dangerous to life, soul and country.

And still, with dictionaries bulging at the seams, with new words accepted every year and very few becoming obsolete, still we play…

Anyone for charades? 🙂

Connection

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For reasons fair, a relationship of mine had to…end. I do not like the word, nor is it true, so I thought I will explore the “connection” theme.

But first, a metaphor: running water. More precisely, a fast flowing mountain stream. Magic sources state that running water, especially that going in a certain direction (does that still apply in the Southern hemisphere or is it inverted? Must find out – most of my magic sources are Northern hemisphere born) is a bigger barrier than suspected. So let’s assume that the two persons in the relationship sit on the opposite banks of the river and, for both magical and practical reasons, cannot cross.

Sharing of sorts is possible, of course. They can see each other. They can hear each other (imperfectly, the water is loud). Occasionally they have to shelter from inclement weather.

Every time they share something though, a small thread is thrown across the water. Thin and fragile, insignificant you might say. Over a couple of years, many threads have been thrown over the waters, they have twisted around each other, finding similarities. The connection is now a rope they both hold. And then one of them decides to loosen its grip onto the rope. The decision could have been made to leave. Or unkind words would have tried to sever the connection.

Does it matter? Of course it matters at a personal level, but does it matter at the connection level? Can that brave person who leaves actually let go of the rope? Can that rope be cut?

It seems unlikely to me. The rope (and the connection it signifies) will loose strength over time, it is true, otherwise grief would be absolute and eternal. But that rope is strong enough to survive at the beginning. And so it happens: people you meet on the street have the same first or second name of the other person. You suddenly see so many similar cars, someone may have their coffee the same way, you smell the same perfume, you listen to songs on the radio that have associations, you see something in a shop and you start to buy it before you realize that you don’t have to. Sometimes you end up buying it anyway. Mostly books and music. You turn your head and start talking before you realize that there is an empty space. A life turns on its axis, trying to find a new centre of gravity.

So how is that the end? You may want it to be so, it is occasionally healthier. It will, as I said, fade in time. But if our memory is triggered by emotions, then I could say in all honesty that years from now, threads of that rope will still be crossing that river, waiting for a particular hand to pick them up.

And would that I could cross, and find you…

Sleep

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Two strikes against me: I am lazy and it looks like I might die before I “should”. And all because of nature, it’s all her fault! 🙂

The particular state that apparently contributes to the moral judgement and potential demise described above is sleep. Yes, that brother of Death, but different from coma, anesthesia or hybernation. Sleep itself is poorly understood (we know it’s essential but that’s pretty much it), subject of much research (so that we might have an idea as to why it’s essential), a huge source of money and suffering and, of course, the best place for dreams.

The laziness comes from a mere accident of history. The civilized world we live in has been set up by and for the benefit of early risers, which I am so NOT! Which meant that I spent almost a lifetime being sleep deprived. I will assume that I slept enough as a child and on school holidays/weekends. I definitely tried! 🙂 But in our world of 8 am starts which means a 6.30 to 7 wake up time so that you can have breakfast and walk to whereever you need to be, I accummulated a lot of sleep debt. And, of course, I am considered lazy as you cannot get much sense out of me before 9 or 10 am.

But wait, there’s more! I also tend to sleep longer than the 7-9 hours considered normal for a healthy adult. If allowed I average 10-12 hours. Lazy, much? I could be told so, if someone could actually stop me during my awake period 🙂 Apparently this longer sleeping preference could increase the chances that I die earlier… although we mostly don’t know why and no studies that I know of have managed to account for such factors as depression, cancer and other fatigue-inducing illnesses. So I will ignore this until such time as we know more.

I love to sleep. I love getting tired knowing that I can then sleep. I anticipate lying down and having a bit of time to just think and create. I used to also indulge in staying as late as I could (sometimes all night) for the sheer pleasure of falling asleep.

It hasn’t always been easy. As a teen my mind used to be so busy I would have trouble falling asleep. I was lucky in that I was reading some combination of fiction – self help books and I found out about meditation, visualization and the rest. I practiced religiously, even when I could see no results, and I would go as far as saying that it saved my life. I use this to sleep to this day, especially when stressed.

Then I had a baby and thought my life was going to be over. You know how you are told of the lack of sleep and how to manage it? Well, I tried to prepare for it, by using meditation and visualization to “command” myself to wake up when needed and fall asleep as soon as I was not needed. It worked, and I am lucky in that I don’t have an early riser 🙂 But having a baby means less time for myself – music, reading, people etc. So, stubborn and self-indulgent person that I am, I tried to push the boundaries: with falling asleep and getting up sorted, I started staying up later and later, with the expected results: fatigue, short attention span, worse memory (it’s merely very good now, down from great) and less creativity. All in all, a big and rapidly increasing sleep debt, with nothing else to give…. but stubbornness and self-indulgence 🙂

So I have given myself a stern talk-to and I started looking forward to stretching out on my bed again… to think, to dream and, who knows, maybe to create.

Night-night!