Beauty

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You know that assumption you are making when you have a little knowledge and it seems like a lot of knowledge and you don’t know what/that you don’t know?

No? Let me elucidate

I was browsing in an op shop, as you do I saw this painting, of a girl looking into the distance from a window, over a body of water. It caught my eye because of the simplicity and the beautiful lines and the colour (blue). So I picked it up and got the shock of the day when I saw the signature: Salvador Dali. No, I didn’t think I got an original, it was just that as a young teenager I read his autobiography and saw some of his more famous works, and there was not much of what I would call ordinary in either Which meant that I thought a mad genius could only possibly create the same type of work over an entire career. Presumptuous, much?

So I bought the painting; it will join the growing body of paintings and prints and art books that start to clutter my house. And I started considering beauty.

I make this difference between natural and human made beauty. A quirk, I am sure, but one that sees me in rapture seeing mountains but indifferent to paintings of the same. Or loving the description of Yorkshire moors in “The secret garden” but unsure whether I would like them if I actually saw them… I plan to put this to the test one day!

It’s difficult when you can’t describe beauty. Words come easy for paintings and books and people and nature. Music though… I just can’t find them. And I can’t get into theatre, although I have watched several plays on TV that have changed my life… to see the play on the stage with other people around feels embarrassing – another quirk 🙂

I pay attention to beauty. It has never occurred to me not to, probably because I started young. I had help, of course. My house growing up had art books and stamps and china and crystal. No, we didn’t have that much and not luxury items as such, but enough to look through a porcelain plate to the translucent world beyond. Enough to listen to the sound of crystal. Enough to figure out I really like figurative art. And then again, I lived in a country that had both natural and human made beauty galore (ugliness, too, just for comparison). So it wasn’t difficult to admire fields of wheat with poppies, corn flowers and corn cockle. Or a crisp winter’s day with hoar frost sparkling under a bewilderingly blinding sky. Or cathedrals with avenues of scented roses, perfect for a best perfume competition. Or paintings that would move one to inspiration. The first blooming tree in spring, the lime green new foliage of oaks, magnolias in the inner courtyard of the university, night near the sea and people when you get to know them… and still so much more to see, so much more beauty to experience!

A story I once read said that that elves were immortal because they fed on beauty…

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Hobby

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Interesting to note the link with horses and names… why am I so fascinated by the root and original meaning of words we use nowadays? Is it the connection with the past I am looking for? Is it just curiosity?

Let’s talk frequency here though.

Connecting with people, reading and thinking are activities that I perform every day, both at work, before and after it too Isn’t it strange that work (in the sense of “job”) relegates everything else in second place? Isn’t it sad that, while I chuckle at the absurdity of doing my job without that triad, there are way too many people who have to? Is this why we have been given life and minds and souls and spirits?

But I digress.

Second tier are the activities that, with short interruptions, are part of my life. Listening to music, being outside in the garden/bush/forest, writing. Sometimes I stop these because I am stressed out – I am reliably told that’s unusual because they are supposed to help with de-stressing; it’s just that for me they are my normality, and stress is taking me out of it. The only other time when I stop these activities is when I am involved in one of the third tier activities.

These last are varied, short lived, intense and cyclical. I get interested, I start researching and accumulating materials, I get very involved very quickly in performing that activity… and then it passes just as quickly, only to reappear in a couple of seasons or years’ time… which means that I tend to stock up equipment. Let’s see: loom weaving, sewing, mosaic, crochet, dancing (oh, wait, that might have to go up to second tier… I don’t do it because I don’t have time or a partner), de-cluttering, jigsaw puzzles, food experimenting, preparing natural skin products and medicine, looking at architecture and house decorating, learning to play an instrument etc.

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I tend to become fascinated by activities with very much visible potential results, whereas my usual activities tend the other way. I am also very much aware of the short and cyclical nature of them. I am starting to use this to my own advantage – shameless opportunist that I am! For example, I am currently in a decluttering phase (my husband thanks you, Marie Kondo! 😛 ) so I am pushing myself every minute I can spare as I know it won’t last long and I want to get as much done as possible. But there is this pink cotton tape that might just become a very pretty dress for the little one just as soon as I can get my hands on a crochet hook that thick. And there is that keyboard piano I saw going cheap… and those old decorative tiles I hid under the bookshelves…

Did you know that at least one course assessment is due this week?

Mayhap I am just procrastinating?

Unreasonable

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I want to find that one person who understands me at each and any moment in my life. Never mind that I sometimes need years to understand myself. Never mind that I have so many people who understand a part of me, because, after all, we are not living each moment to its fullest and when we need to talk we usually limit ourselves to one part of who we are. Nevertheless, yes, unreasonable of me, I want to find that person.

I want to listen to your words and know who you are. Never mind that I see your actions and they speak true. Never mind that I have enough understanding to know that your words can be a lot harsher than your thoughts ever are and as far away from your actions as it’s humanly possible. I know, unreasonable of me!

I want to see your beauty in all its difficult glory. Never mind that you think yourself ugly, silly, dumb and difficult. Never mind that you travel to exquisite places and the beauty doesn’t lift you because you feel it is so far beyond your reach. I will get impatient and tell you off for hiding under conventional standards because yes, unreasonable of me, I want to see your beauty!

I want to feel everything. Never mind that I am out of practice, never mind that there are some things I cannot feel for various reasons. I am made to feel, I am made to experience the retreat of reality under the weight of feelings. Never mind that in the routine of life feeling like this is dangerous for peace of mind and for peace in general! Despite all this, unreasonable of me, I want to feel everything!

I want to reach out and take what I need without apologizing, without even asking for permission. Never mind that life isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if life was like that, the world we live in isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if the world we live in was like that, asking for permission is always a good idea! No, I don’t want to come back to reality! Unreasonable of me, I want to take!

I want to share with you. Never mind that there are no words for the first buds on the tree opening up. Never mind that there are no breaths deep enough for the sky disappearing into shades of clouds above the mountains. Never mind that there is no heart rhythm enough for that book, that movie, that concert. All this notwithstanding, unreasonable of me, I want to share with you.

It should come as no surprise that the only constants are you and me…. and my unreasonable entitlement!

Language, revisited

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I was reminded by my friend about language. Native language, to be precise.

You see, there was a party today. An immigrant party at the end, an island in time with yummy food and drink and teasing and joking and merry-making. Then there was the catch up about people and relationships and illnesses and deaths and other serious stuff. Then there was the bad music that you can dance on all day and night if you have to, just because you need it after the heavy stuff before. All the above required specific words that would have been difficult to find in normal life, when some of us don’t use our native language every day.

And so we talked. And gesticulated. And exclaimed in ways that made sense in the context but translate very badly. Some don’t translate at all except in metaphor. Sometimes when I talk to people back home it is difficult to translate as well because some of the experiences I’ve had have been here only, and I wouldn’t have used the words there so the translation is choppy and rough and the words don’t flow smoothly in either language.

But my friend recognized that native language has that ease about it, the lack of formality that even swearing doesn’t obtain in a foreign language, no matter how well you speak it. I find I use swearing in English just as I would recite poetry, appropriately, but with the usual coda that it doesn’t quite fit. You know, like reciting poetry in the supermarket doesn’t fit, even if you’re saying it beautifully. Perhaps because you say it beautifully.

I could have had the same conversation in English today. I dream in English and have done so for years, it’s the first language in every day life as my husband and child don’t speak my native language. I write poetry in English although I have despaired of ever rhyming in it. I read more in English and most of the music I listen to is in English as well, if said music has words. But even if talk about insurance and mortgage and work is easier in English my native language remains the one I am most happy to joke in, to express feelings, to say names, yes and no.

It is even funny when it comes to plants. I would know or read the name of a plant in my language. I would then have to research (internet or books, it matters not) the Latin name for it, then go and find it in English. It works the same way vice-versa. Wikipedia is good at this because it sometimes has both languages. And then I would be able to compare the sources, another quirk of mine 🙂

My little one has asked to learn my native language. She already knows some words but not at the putting-into-sentences level, so she doesn’t use them unless encouraged. But we have decided we’ll try. So now I have to find a way. She is not a baby who will absorb whatever it is that her mother says. I will have to teach my child my native language as if it were a foreign one.

How in the world would that work?

Words

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Such a simple construction… a few sounds, the associated letters, an agreed-upon meaning… suddenly, you’re in the business of communicating! People use so much of who they are to work with such a simple thing: they hear it, they speak it, they understand and remember it, occasionally they write it, they use it sometimes every day. If they don’t know the word, they may still understand it from the context and children learn full languages from scratch to perfection in just a few short years.

Truly words are amazing, and people use them in so many situations that I am not even going to attempt describing it. Originally, ancient people who have coined names for the naming may have meant something else, but for the Latin and the Slavs the meaning is that of understanding, meeting, gathering. Maybe the unity formed by the sound and sense is what brought the actual word into being.

For me, words are both slaves and masters. I can gather them, and use them, and play with them as time goes and I read more, talk more, write more. There are maybe for you a few people with whom you talk differently, who manage to kick-start your language ability in ways you never use at work or in the family. It is exhilarating to banter and quip with those people, and sometimes I feel as if a wall is coming down. Most of the time I “translate” words, not from my native language to English, but from solemn English to practical English. Translation is, however, by definition measured, reasoned, slow. When that wall is coming down, words flow fast, spontaneous, almost withought thought, like champagne overflowing the cup in sparkling abandon.

But the words as slaves multiply and rebel. When too many are crammed into the little time I have for reflection, they lay siege to the very fortresses of thought and these revolutionaries demand to be heard, to be written, to be spoken. Guerillas of words, organized and efficient, come out in poems and metaphor. There is no resistance that I can mount, all I can do sometimes is delay the inevitable grabbing of paper and pen. They are assuaged then for a while, and tensions that I was never aware of dissipate as if a pressure valve has been opened.

So if I have no powers over the words then they are masters, are they not? I do not feel as if I have much choice, and especially when it comes to writing. And yet they will submit to the sentences I craft, they obediently line up in the verse I mutilate in the modern fashion. Then they are slaves? Or just demanding pets?

Eh, humanizing words (aren’t they human? Stories are ambivalent on this subject) doesn’t seem to work. What to do? Much as I sometimes feel like rebellion, the easiest way for me is adjusting, giving and taking as seems appropriate at that time. There will be times when I speak them and times when I will write them, times when they hold sway and times when I ignore them, times when they help and times when I hinder their flow.

There is a story in my language where all the sounds and words utered by humans go to a land beyond mortality, where they live forever. Someone journeyed there to find a spell and was almost crushed under the weight of memories those words were carrying.

Should we not make sure that the words we utter are worth being crushed under?