Category Archives: Rumination

But Beautiful

Goodness, I have so much to do. I’m not doing those things.

The yellow dust from China has been settling on my skin quite disagreeably. There are angry rashes on my forearms, and I haven’t had a case of such epidermic irritation in years.

Music has been evading me lately. When I commute, I end up listening to podcasts or just take off my earphones in the middle of a song to enjoy the orchestration of happenings around me. The last new album I listened to was the new tUnE-yArDs album.

I never type out “tUnE-yArDs.” I always copy/paste it.

Books have also been evading me. I can’t concentrate at all. My thoughts are packed so tightly into my head — not unlike brown sugar when baking.

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Faces

I draw. Not well, but I draw because I enjoy myself.

Most my pieces — that word sounds so affected, let us call my drawings drawings — have people in them. Faces. I am often asked why I include a person or a depiction of a face in nearly all of my drawings. It’s not that I’m averse to nature. Heavens no! God knows I miss it like hell when I’m in the Seoul subway at rush hour. It’s…

It’s this.

Yes, as the saying goes, life is full of simple pleasures — potted plants, a pensive walk, new shoes, a good book, or a glass of ice cold orange juice at seven in the morning. But life is also full of the big and complex pleasures — a lover, the unabashed behavior between siblings, a knowing look between friends, the transcendent comfort of a mother’s breast. The difference between the simple and the complex pleasure is you. It’s me. It’s people. The heaviest and the most difficult part of our lives, but they are how we judge the value of our time here on this earth.

And so I draw faces. To remind me precisely how important it is to never live only for myself. We’re all the main stars of our lives, but we are supporting roles, minor characters, or even extras in the lives of others. We must put our effort into those roles as well.



Luck

I’ve been drawing so much more than I have been in the past few months. There is a group on Flickr that I joined, and in that group, artists draw portraits of each other in their respective styles. Just going through all the beautiful and unique portraits has been teaching me so much about rendering the features of the human face. I’ve been developing my own style of drawing faces and found myself using markers more than pens. I’d used my markers for about two years, only equipping them when accentuating small parts of my drawings. Then, when I got on board with the art group, I saw the need to replace my markers promptly.

So today, after postponing the purchase for weeks, I ventured out into the crisp, frosty air of the premature winter. Fully armed in three layers of blouse, sweater, coat, and an extra adjunct that was my scarf, I walked in step to the sound of my music: “Did I go at it wrong? Did I go intentionally to destroy me?” I took the shortcut in front of the local elementary school that led to a good acre of pubs and pig-intestine restaurants. The green tarmac concealed by the yellow gingko biloba leaves, I walked with my eyes on my feet, mesmerized by the vivid golden color.

I crossed the sidewalk, squinting as the wintry gusts blew my hair about my face. I sidestepped the people whose visions were impaired by their mobile phones, tablet computers, and mp3 players. The aesthetically pleasing buildings with services inside to make people more aesthetically pleasing towered around me, and my mind unprofitably filled with ruminations on the practice of going under the knife to enhance one’s visual appeal.

Then I stopped.

A sniffing, red-nosed man in only a mauve windbreaker sat on the sidewalk, an upturned cardboard box in front of him. A thin layer of blue felt covered the top, and scintillating shapes caught my eye. On the side of the box was a piece of A4 paper that blazoned in a lurid azure “Four-Leaf Clovers for Sale. 1000 Won for Your Luck.” The gleaming bits I had seen on the box were an array of four-leaf clovers, laminated and cut accordingly. The man looked up at me as I paused for a split-second in my stride. As a glare from his spectacles blinded me momentarily, I thought of all the things Luck could assist me in.

The instant I would purchase the fortune-bearing leaf, a multimillion lottery ticket would blow into my face. I would choke on a magical piece of lint blowing in the wind, and I would then be bestowed with a transcendental singing voice. A brilliant stuffing recipe for a Thanksgiving roast would simply fall into my head. An inventive plot for a spectacular novel would formulate as I would gaze upon the venation of the charmed clover. An esteemed film director would catch a glimpse of my plain face and think it was bizarre! idiosyncratic! and ask me to star in a new “dramedy.” My blog would suddenly get fifty million hits! My hand would suddenly be gifted with an unparalleled talent to paint rolling landscapes! The cure for cancer would come to my brain! Unite the two Koreas! Achieve world peace! Reverse global warming!

The man looked down and my senses returned as the hallucinogenic glare directed its power elsewhere. Spots appeared in my eyes. Glancing at the four-leaf clovers, the quixotic reveries flashed in all their glory and instantaneously evaporated. I turned. I looked ahead at the bookstore building that looked not unlike a compact disc rack and onward I went. Though with an amulet, successes could perchance be more frequent, I let the one thousand won bills rest in my wallet.

For who requires luck to simply purchase a pen?

What’s Wrong with Me?

I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. This truth may be due to the fact that I was born a sick baby to be stuck into an incubator the moment I took my breath, or the fact that I had a fibroadenoma removed last autumn, or just simply the fact that I try to find the answers to everything.

I will try not to divulge all sorts of intimate details, but sometimes, you — my dear reader — must indulge me.

I spent five years of my childhood in Northeast Texas in a little town (now a federally established city) called Van. I remember when the new grocery store opened adjacent to the cube that was Austin Bank. I remember when it snowed for the first time in ten years. I remember the elementary school that was built to emulate the Alamo. The architects fooling the children with their cunning chicanery, I remember entering that school building feeling valorous, the straps of my cerulean backpack slung across my shoulders, walking fearlessly into the Homeric battle that was math class.

My family worked with a charity organization, so we were always moving. We — to this day — have never owned a home. This was the cause of much of our chagrin but also much of our delight. Just in Van, we lived in four different houses. While many other half-pint gals were collecting Cabbage Patch Kids birth certificates, I was adding to my list of sundry street names. I would write the titles on Manila paper, makes designs with Elmer’s glue, and glitter that damn thing ’til kingdom come. The papers heavy from embellishment would boast in their prismatic glory: “West Virgina,” “Pecan,” “North Palm,” “Country Road”*. And it was on Country Road I began my hypochondriacal journey.

*I just realized how John Denver these sound.

Red Bud Ranch, Country Road. It truly was a beautiful house. Antiquated and creaking though it was, the house emanated an alluring charm with its cobblestone path up to the house, its six sexy cats, its ivy everywhere, its round gravel driveway, and its breathless sophistication. It was at this house that the snow fell and boy, was it enchanting. The lofty trees that encompassed the house caved in to create the effect of being in a giant green igloo. That’s not all. To the right of the house was an extensive field with two horses, Skeeter and Shorty. Horses. Did my little eight-year-old heart burst? Nearly.

I spent hours and hours on the slate-blue deck that encircled the whole house, sighing with pleasure, gazing at the beautiful beasts prancing about on the beige dirt. My mum would bring out a basket — yes a basket lined with plaid fabric — of carrots and apple cores, celery and lumps of sugar. On this particular sunny day, I forgot — as I always would — the warmheartedness of my mother in my elation and took handfuls of the horse-treats with superhuman speed. My greedy, peewee fingers barely containing the carrots and celery, I warily crept to the wooden fence where the great beasts were grazing. At the approach of my gaudy red coat with the Tweety Bird embroidery, they gracefully raised their heads, wordlessly investigating the churlish intruder. Attentive not to make any sudden movements, I reached out my hand. Shorty, whose name was more than accurate, chomped thanklessly on the carrot I’d bestowed upon him. I was tinkled as pink as a baby’s bottom. I produced even more divine nibbles for them to wolf down. Saccharine sugar! Sweet celery! Crunchy carrots! Oh how they chewed and chomped! I ran back for the last few carrots, mad with the euphoria of catering. Skeeter burrowed into my palm, my hands too slow to pull back from his assemblage of rectangular, yellow teeth.

Then I was on the ground. Spots were in my eyes. I could only see the looming silhouette of the varmint that was once cherubic. I looked down at my hand. While the rest of my hand was pale from the winter wind, there was a fine line of deep red and violet across my palm. That ass had bitten me all right, but the skin was not broken. My heartbeat started to accelerate. I couldn’t even bear to look down at my poor, poor hand again. I had rabies. I was sure of it.

The next day I went to school, knowing that in a few weeks, I would be dead. I asked my teachers about squirrels and dogs and their relative death-dealing diseases. I smiled hopelessly at my friends who wanted to play four-square. I thanked my teacher for their altruism. I went to the library and skimmed my hands over the books I loved so much. Quentin Blake’s illustrations from the Dahl covers grinned at me, unaware of my woebegone fate. My father picked me up from school and inquired after my wretch├ęd visage: “Hey babe, why the long face?” The “long face” would call to mind the bloodthirsty villains who had bestowed the premature demise upon my pitiable soul, and I would be again plunged into ineffable desolation.

But I didn’t die. In a fortnight or so, the ominous, mortal line had vanished and with it went the anguish of losing my life. Oh the glee that overtook me! I would survive the terrible brute’s sting of death! I vowed to never feed horses again — what would possess me to put my mind through such havoc another time? I would be careful. No more cracks that broke mothers’ backs. No more red M&Ms. No more standing next to microwaves. I would wash my hands at least ten times a day.

——————————-

I once forgot how to spell the word “hypochondriac.” I was writing a short story about a couple named Greg and Lucy, the latter being a woman who constantly feared for her health. I paused to put my fingers to my temples, rubbing in small circles to push out the Writer’s Block. My thought was: “Goodness, I don’t remember how to spell the word ‘hypochondriac.’ What’s wrong with me?” I stopped and reiterated my thought.

Then I laughed. I laughed; I guffawed; I bellowed; I cackled. I remembered Skeeter and his terrorizing demeanor. I remember when we found mice in one of our transient homes and looking up “Black Death” in the World Book encyclopedia. I remember my infected knee scrape in fifth grade that made me fear amputation. I remember losing quite a bit of cheek-fat while growing taller and consequently researching the Banded Bolivian Tapeworm.

My father always taught me that not knowing (ignorance) was often the cure. Then I remember my fibroadenoma I thought was nothing that culminated into surgery that required a full-body anesthetic. I don’t know if I’ll die of a disease. I don’t know if I’ll die a natural death. I don’t know if I’ll get hit by a car and bleed to death. I don’t know how I’ll die. And as morbid as thinking of death may seem, it’s really just another musing among my thousands. I’ll die. We’ll all die. But what’s the use in shaking in our boots about that process of death?

I want to be happy. I want to stay happy.

And so, I will continue feeding Skeeter. I will continue feeding Shorty. Perhaps I’ll get a few more bites, and some of those bites might open up and bleed. Some of those bites might cut my whole hand or even my whole arm off.

But I’ll be left with the sweet memory of feeding those daggone horses. And that’s enough for me.

[On: Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes]

Cattail Down

Yes, I’ve been thinking too much again. I’ve dove right into the pool — much more appropriately a puddle — of my thoughts that I assumed to be shallow but unveiled itself to be an abyss as soon as my fingertips skimmed the water. The inky water wet my hair through, and I have yet to reach the glimmer of the surface to take a long, fulfilling, gasping breath.

I’ve ruminated ceaselessly this week. On so much. Mostly, I’ve been down and morose thinking about how little control I have over my life. Every single fantasy of luminous happiness seems an inch out of grasp. There always seems to be one small component of that particular formula for joy that seems to be missing or unobtainable, whether it be a visa or finances or a loved one that cannot be there concurrently. It reminds me how small I am. How infinitesimal! How tiny! How minute!

I was speaking to my former English teacher from the ship, Jolie, whose husband is an incredible traveler on a journey to touchdown in every single country in the world before the age of 35 (his book just recently got released! Go here for more information on him and The Art of Nonconformity!), and who herself is an amazing artist, knitter, writer, and beautiful person (Website!). We were talking on Skype (I kiss the feet of the creators of this communication tool still), and she told me “Do what makes you happy, Grace.” I deliberated on this statement the whole day. That evening, my mother and my brother — the one volunteering in Thaliand — arrived at my flat. My mother and I shared the bed, and we stayed up drowsily speaking on profound matters close to the heart. My mother has the uncanny ability to sense a heavy heart. She spoke on this and on that, edifying me with sharp, succinct statements. My mother then said “Grace, God just wants you to be so, so happy.” How could I not let the tears slip? They found their way to my temples, gently dampening the fringes of my hair.

I feel very lost lately.

But not without hope. Without hope, I am nothing.

I never leave these entries with a satisfying denouement, and I apologize.
I’m off to henna my hands.

[On: Tell the Truth (Live) by Ray Charles]

Combien de

My life has always been drenched, soaked, imbued, and completely saturated with uncertainty. From the day I gave up my diapers to today, when I tried to find Capote’s In Cold Blood in the bookstore (I watched Capote last night, and felt the need to read it again) and found naught but Twilight and Shopaholic books. I sit here at my MacBook at 10:13 in the PM with the humid breeze hitting my thighs repeatedly, and I’m worried. Where do I even put on my shoes for this new path I’m supposed to take? Which shoes am I to wear?

I do so hate the feeling of having to type out an email to people who have possible ideas/connections for my coming future. I feel like such a fictitious friend, the one who walks you home, buys you a couple of drinks on weekends, then asks to crash on your couch because he or she can’t afford the rent. I am a refugee from the caprice of my own life. Though inoculated against idleness from the missionary life my family and I have led, I’ve come down with a chronic case of itchy feet. Quelling these traveling toes will take more than a lifetime, and I’m afraid a lifetime is all I’ve got.

Settling down? Is it really as overrated as all the wild-eyed travelers say? Even in my young and green years, I’ve seen the need for an anchor, a home, wherever it may be. Albeit the chain between the ship and the anchor may be a lengthy one, I do wish for somewhere I can say I’m from. Meeting new people has been something of a predicament for me. I feel embarrassed, uncomfortable, and even sometime chagrined when asked where I’m from. In all honesty, I really don’t know. I don’t feel at home anywhere. That fact dispirits me more than I let on, and I do wonder when I will find that home. How can I tie myself down long enough to find a home with this ravenous craving to travel? How can I travel without often feeling hollow due to a lack of a place to take off this yoke of mine?

But alas, the hour is late (for the hour I must awake). I’m putting on an episode of Radiolab and getting this hopeful head to the hay.

[On: Conversation by Joni Mitchell]