This Happiness is My Own

Tonight. We sat across the lake to live music. The sun set to rock classics. I dangled my toes over the brick wall, occasionally dipping them in cold lake water. Look! I’d exclaim. And I leaned back, prickly grass against my elbows. Rock and roll!

Can you bring me a beer? He did. I finished the IPA he brought me. By the end of it, I was tipsy dipsy. Still sturdy. But loopy. I wiggled my way over the brick wall.

The band played classics from the 80’s. And it all just felt so summer quintessential. Light and muggy. Grass on your thighs, and you’re swatting at bugs, filled with heavy heady happiness. That presentness feels like what the movies look like. Being here, in the now, swaddled in music, oldie tunes, beer, cool breeze of summer.

Has summer always been so beautiful? My memories of summer are scorching hot. Beads of sweat within seconds. It was “fry an egg on the sidewalk” type heat, where I wouldn’t step foot outside unless I had to. Has summer changed? Or have I? Have I discovered, for the first time in my life, the blissful coolness of post 8 PM summers?

This happiness is my own. There were moments I found myself lost in the music. I watched each wave. Patterns of white reflection blinded me. As the sun lowered, the neon signs by the lake glittered louder than ever.

“No Justice, No Peace”

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I unintentionally semi-attended one of the protests for the death of Floyd, murdered at the hands of police brutality. Unless you are Patrick the Star, you know who I am referring to (Floyd and countless other victims), what I am referring to (systematic racism and police brutality in the US), the evolving situation (peaceful protests over the span of half a decade whistling into frustration; people taking advantage of the situation, bringing UHaul trucks to a protest); and how many people may or may not feel on social media.

We had gone into the city to observe the apparent damage from last night. This was after we mosied on through the rich and poor neighborhoods, a mere ten minutes apart. Here, in the heart of the city, cop cars lined every street. They parked in groups of ten. They huddled together, breaths close, adjusting their tear gas masks, apparently forgetting that while it was a period of protests, it was also a pandemic. We glanced at street troopers deeply inhaling each other’s air particles.

All of the windows, for streets on end, were boarded up. Not because they were broken, it turns out, but for preemptive measures. We circled around the blocks several times, peering at the graffiti that spat from every wall. Every corner. Chants I have heard many, many times. No justice, no peace. A different energy permeated the street. As we passed by people with signs and masks, we sensed that there was a new person in the chat: tension. Fear. You could feel it. Whisps of it. Floating above the cauldron of anticipation.

We passed by a screaming ambulance. And it pointed us towards the hundreds of protestors, who suddenly showed up overnight. They were not here ten minutes ago. But now they were, an itching crawling mass of ants, a rhythm of outrage, sadness, defiance. We ended up parking right in front of the protestors as they all crossed. We honked our horn, because we were inside, and le beau held a fist, and they saw, and they did too. And in the video footage, I see now, the collective fists rising, rising, rising in unity.

I have always loved attending protests, capturing the raw energy, swollen and real. Collective effervescence was the term my professor had once used. And even though I was not in the protest myself, I felt it, if only briefly. Again. And then I remembered the incredible sadness and tragedy and numbness that accompanies every other headline. The same old story. For so long, people have turned a blind eye. This protest–this was different. The posts I see on my feed–they’re different. How so? Not the content, but the people who are posting them. By God. The message seems to have gotten through to more of the masses than before. That is the smallest sliver of hope.

This is all straight out of a USA textbook. Times from the 1960’s. The L.A Race Riots. Dates of sit-ins and names of groups. Malcom X, MLK, Black Panther, Emmett Till. We memorized these names. These faces. Rotely. Sang their names in songs. Unaware that as we bristled about, naive and young, the world outside was very much the same as the one in the textbook.

It feels as if there is nothing I can say to add to the discourse. There is nothing I can say that will change the past or reality. There is nothing I can say to change the world as it presently is, or once was. My desire to see no evil and hear no evil, a privilege I cradled like a baby’s blanket, was ripped from me today–silly girl. It’s somewhat relieving and exhausting and overwhelming to see that this dominates every single news feed. People know. People who would have normally waved it off five years ago, when it was Trayvon Martin, are noticing a pattern. And they feel some type of way about it.

That being said, I can hear both sides of the argument for and against violence in the context of protests. Outside the context, I do not condone violence. I strongly dislike violence. It makes me nauseous. It’s sickening. We got here because of violence. Because of countless murders. Because of regular brutality. I can hear that peaceful attempts have been ignored for far too long–I can hear that violence only perpetrates violence. Here’s my cop-out, no pun intended: I take no stand. The sad thing about violence is that what makes it violence is a victim. Usually dead or maimed. And we may support violence in the abstract, until that victim is our mother, father, sister, best friend, cousin, uncle, co-worker, husband.

There is no happy ending to this post, no conclusive remark. Just as there is no happy ending for Floyd’s story, a familiar U.S tale. Racism is America’s cystic acne, I said today. It continually flares up. And when you think you’ve cleared out most of it, it just crops up again. Who knows what’ll be the miraculous Clean-n-Clear to America’s racism? I sure don’t.

But so long as there is no justice, there will be no peace.

From all sides

Dr. Stephenson and his study of incidences of reincarnation ...

He had to learn from all sides in order to truly understand. We all do. We change religions, races, and nationalities. We experience lifetimes of extreme wealth and of abject poverty, of sickness and of health.

We must learn to reject all prejudice and hatred. Those who do not will simply switch sides, returning in the bodies of their enemies.

No-Screen Sunday

I opted for no-screen sunday yesterday.

That meant no phone, no laptop, no television. For 24 hours. And for the first time in a long time, I noticed the world around me. I hadn’t noticed the way nature sounded: birds chirping, swaying branches, whispering wind. I hadn’t noticed the way green looked, the way the trees expanded on the streets ahead, how light fell across all hours of day. I hadn’t paused to smelled the air, the actual air, to inhale a space fragrant with garlic, seasoning, the outdoors. I hadn’t remembered what something other than my greasy keyboard had felt like. Feathery pages of a book, soft fur of my pigs, linen cloth.

And like a millennial monk, draped in privilege, I meditated throughout the day. This is the present, I repeated to myself. This is the present. Shoo, thoughts. I repeated it to myself until it registered: that all there was to this existence was this very moment. That we accumulate musings of the past, trauma, become lost in waves of yesterday, when it is all in the mind. When all our anxieties, worries, concerns–engulfed towards the unforeseen future–are of the mind. That even as we mire ourselves in thought and feeling, which feel real, and are, all that there truly is is the now. And it’s something I had a hard, hard time wrapping my mind around until one day, while meditating, it registered.

I still get lost in thought, tangled in musings, hamster-wheel running on the cycle of news, news, bad news. But meditating, even if it’s only for a few minutes, bowls me over in brief realization.

Longwinded 35mm

I fell in love with film during an Economics lecture while sitting in the front row. It was 2015. The photographer was Japanese, Tsu-something, and I found his Flickr somewhere. He had beautiful friends in beautiful places. Film became a weird aesthetic obsession. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I remembered, somewhere inside me, that this was something I loved.

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For a few weeks, I hunted around for film alternatives: apps, edits, programs. In the end, I discovered that something I’d shunned as a kid, kicked around with friends, brought to the zoo, no less–disposables–would be the closest thing. So I ordered disposable cameras and shot them during the remainder of the school year. I brought them to work during my internship, where my co-worker chuckled–wait! I said, let me get my camera. I sent them to Wal-Mart to get developed because it was the only place I could. The 2 hour places were gone, Costco had recently stopped, and Wal Greens prices were expensive.

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I did this with a disposable every year. A disposable camera album for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2015, I tanked a Biology test, dropped the class, and took a film one instead. I loved it. I learned how to pick out the film. Place it on the reel. Add the chemicals. And dry the film. And dropping the Science class wasn’t for naught–I was still able to shave off a semester of college, and end up rediscovering my love for Psychology. (-Oh! How funny in retrospect. Things would have been different if I hadn’t taken Psychology in lieu of that Bio class. After that, I opted for a Psychology elective my Senior Year…which led me to my current graduate program in Psychology. Wow. Weird. It all came full-circle.)

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A few years ago, while cleaning out the house, I stumbled upon my parents’ old camera, a Canon Snappy LX. They’d used it when they were young. And hip. And looking like cool flower hippies from the 60’s, with my mom in long skirts and my dad in shorts. The camera still worked. I bought film, but barely shot anything: I knew it’d be overly expensive to develop the film. Film itself is expensive, as any 20-something with a friend with Polaroids will know. And developing it is also expensive. Aside from Wal-Mart, most places charge about a quarter or two per photo.

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But come last summer, I finally bit the bullet and bought my own chemicals. I bought my own tanks. I did some online research and scrapped their time-consuming, overly expensive tips. Instead of professional chemical bottles, I used old vinegar jugs. Instead of a hot water bath, I threw those in the microwave. It worked. And my boyfriend, seeing how much I struggled to convert the negatives to images, hearing how much I babbled about film, surprised me with a Epson 5500 scanner.

Since then, I’ve scanned about 8 rolls of film–about twice as many as I have over the past 5 years. I’ve been lightly sharing some of the 35mm on WordPress, but not as much as I’d like to. Now that I have so much more time, I plan to post batches of previous film that I’ve developed. Because why not? I love film. And my oh my, was this a longwinded love letter to it.

A Guided Meditation

 

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relax. in this moment.
breathe in
breathe out

let your thoughts drift
they'll come
let them go

milk honey
book lies
oil order

let them go

listen to the chirp of birds
and feel the present engulf you
here here
always here

don't be swept away by the
media
by the internet
by things
you can't
see

focus only
on the here
and now

the way your toes
tingle
the way the trees
sway

relax your mind
relax your mind
relax your mind

right now, there is only the present
the way the air swells
faint buzz of cicadas

in this moment
you are at peace with where
you are 

the present is all that here
truly is
everything else
is in
the mind

listen to the sound of the
leaves
watch them
sway--
they don't contemplate the past
they don't worry about the future

be not consumed by yesterday
or tomorrow

--the maybe's
the what if's--

bask in the right now
and just
relax

I wrote this shit 3 weeks ago.

Americans are being released from the Diamond Princess ship in Japan, which held hundreds of the infected. The quarantine period was 2 weeks upon arrival in the US. But if the incubation period for the coronavirus is roughly 2 weeks to 24 days, then it may be possible that the virus goes undetected until it’s completed incubation. It seems to be a versatile virus; there is a case where a woman infected her entire family, but never experienced symptoms.

My point is that there might be a false sense of security surrounding the 2 week quarantine of the 400 or so Americans who will soon be released, many of whom will likely reunite happily with family members, co-workers, children and friends. Some may have been tested negative, only for the incubation period to finish within another 7-10 days. And within those 7-10 days, they will, if not in self-isolation, probably spread it to the local burger joint workers, their best friends, their moms and dads. This is how it begins.

I hope that, similar to the SARS outbreak, that the coronavirus will be negatively affected by warmer weather, that the summer will burn out coronavirus. But I do not know. All I can infer is that paranoia is warranted, that our false sense of security may soon be stamped on, and that this is probably only the start.

And it was only the start indeed.

happiness syrups

there’s a sweet liminal space
before spring–after winter–
where summer swells in anticipation
and the air grows thick on groggy mornings

i hear the heathers
click-clacking down the high school
halls, veronica sawyer’s curling
accent. corn nuts.

these are lazy long summers
before summers were long and lazy
before nights swelled with cicadas
at the very edge of chorus: nature’s orchestra

this space is fleeting and periodic–
where happiness syrups
time lags
and days expand

A Sufi Story

“There is a Sufi story that relates to this about an old dog that had been badly abused and was near starvation. One day, the dog found a bone, carried it to a safe spot, and started gnawing away. The dog was so hungry that it chewed on the bone for a long time and got every last bit of nourishment that it could out of it. After some time, a kind old man noticed the dog and its pathetic scrap and began quietly setting food out for it. But the poor hound was so attached to its bone that it refused to let go of it and soon starved to death.”