inexplicable

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"Poetry connects us to what is deepest in ourselves. It gives us access to our own feelings, which are often shadowy, and engages us in the art of making meaning. It widens the space of our inner lives. It is a magical, mysterious, inexplicable (though not incomprehensible) event in language." -- Edward Hirsch, The Washington Post, January 2002

Happy Friday, friends. Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my last post.
Here's to a weekend filled with inexplicable wonder.

Photo by me, first posted here.

land of my dreams, part 2

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I know nothing
but what I've glimpsed in my most hopeful of daydreams.


-- Li-Young Lee, from Epistle


Last weekend, I spent three lovely days along the coast in Monterey, Carmel Valley, and Big Sur. Witnessed two beautiful souls seal their commitment to each other in one of the most touching weddings I've ever attended. And there's only gratitude, for this summer and the lessons it has taught me, for arriving here, these days and moments I keep close in my heart.

The first half of the year was really difficult and I barely came out of it unscathed. I wasn't sad or depressed, it was more of a realization that I was merely going through the motions and there's no real purpose or growth in my life. I was burnt out from work, feeling creatively unchallenged, and was constantly sleep-deprived. When I started having dizzy spells, both from exhaustion and lack of sleep, I knew that something needs to change.

Then came summer and all the introspection that I had alluded to in my previous posts. I needed to be honest with myself, ask those difficult questions, and slowly find my way to really live and fall in love with my life again. It was perhaps the hardest thing to do but I think having the inner resolve to do something (for the better) is more than half the battle.

One Sunday afternoon in mid-August, I was sitting on a bench by the water and staring at the city across the bay, classical music coming from my headphones, and I just knew what I needed to do. It's as if a dark fog was lifted and I called my mom, talked to her about the most mundane things, unaware that I already had tears in my eyes. Then I told her about my decision and plans for the next couple of months and she just listened. My mom didn't know it then but it was the first time I had talked about it to anyone. Later while I was driving back home, I felt such lightness that can only come from a place of honest truth.

And you know what else? I am writing again. Writing creatively, writing poetry. It's been so long since I've written anything close to a poem that when I finished one (revised and all), I wanted to start bursting into a song and dance number along the sidewalk. Of course I didn't do that but I may have squealed a little bit inside.

Lastly, I just want to say thank you for visiting and reading. Taking photos, writing my thoughts on books and movies, and sharing them with you in this little blog is one of my joys, especially in those dark and gloomy days. Much love and gratitude to you, my friends.

And happy first day of Autumn. I hope you enjoy the photos above, all taken in Big Sur with a disposable film camera.

// First part of this post is here.

jesse et céline

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Before Sunset 2004

Remember these two? Hands down, my favorite film couple. And I found out that they had just finished making a third movie! In a week filled with meetings and back aches spent from sitting too long and writing reports, this is certainly the best news!

You see, I feel like I grew up with Jesse and Céline and watched their story unfold through the years. When I first saw Before Sunrise, I thought it was such a sweet film about two young people who met on a train and spent a night together wandering in Vienna but it wasn't until I was in my early 20s and also fell for a guy I had met briefly while traveling abroad that I really appreciated how special their story was. Then Before Sunset came out in 2004, exactly 9 years later, which also coincided with how long Jesse and Céline saw each other again in Paris.

I thought the second movie was perfect and I loved the characters even more. They may have lost their earlier idealism but their conversations are deeper and much more realistic. I also identified with the older Céline, her independence and wariness of romantic relationships, and couldn't help but wonder about the ending. Did Jesse really miss his plane? Did they end up together and if so was their connection just as strong when faced with the realities of day to day life?

Now the wondering is over because we get to see Jesse and Céline again after 9 years. The dream team of director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy confirmed last week that they had just wrapped production of Before Midnight in Messinia, Greece. I'm amazed at how they were able to keep filming under the radar and then all of a sudden, it's here.

Have a look at their first released photograph in this news article.  Ah, I'm so excited!

And just because I'm feeling a little nostalgic, here is the ending clip from Before Sunrise. For a long time I couldn't stop thinking about how beautiful this is, how they showed all the places that Jessie and Céline had visited and how it all came together with Bach's wistful melody. There's a bittersweetness to it that one often feels at the end of a beautiful trip, when you're sitting alone thinking about the places and the people you've met, how you can't quiet let go of them yet, knowing you must.

madame bovary

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I'm currently reading Lydia Davis' new translation of Madame Bovary and it is exquisite. I rarely underline sentences when I am reading a novel but with this one, I find myself reaching for a pen to highlight certain passages. Like the one below, so perfect and precise:
"Perhaps she would have liked to confide in someone about all these things. But how to express an uneasiness so intangible, one that changes shape like a cloud, that changes direction like the wind? She lacked the words, the occasion, the courage." 
I was so captivated by the book's lyrical prose that I immediately looked up Lydia Davis and found this article on translation that she wrote for the Paris Review. I don't speak or read French but it is interesting how she listed all the previous translations of the phrase 'bouffées d’affadissement'. Which makes you wonder, if a phrase can be interpreted in so many ways, how about an entire book? And what of the author's writing style, can one really capture that in translation?

I never thought about this before because for the most part I am just thankful for great books that have English translations I can enjoy. And indeed if a piece of literature is able to stand the test of time partly because of its English incarnations, then its essence must have been preserved, right? Definitely something to think about. In the meantime, I will continue to savor this beautiful book.

Have any of you read Madame Bovary? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Most especially, what do you think of Emma?

Images from the film adaption of Madame Bovary (1991)

today's inspiration: emily brontë

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'Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?'


With all my organizing around here, I found an old journal with excerpts from this poem by Emily Brontë which inspired me to read some of her poetry once again. I was curious why my teenage self found it so powerful that I even wrote the quote above at the back cover. What did I know about anguish then? Or even love? On the other hand, am I just underestimating a much younger heart's capacity to feel so deeply?

Reading my old journals makes me think its the latter, because despite a cringe-worthy amount of teen angst, a lot of those writings and observations are very truthful and passionate. And I do miss those moments when I allowed myself to pour my heart out on paper, not caring about what will happen to them later. It seems as though from the moment I thought of myself as a writer, there's always an awareness, even at the back of my mind, that the words I write will one day turn into a poem, an essay, a story, and that someone else will read it.

This isn't a bad thing necessarily, in fact I wrote a lot of pieces because I needed to tell a story and share it to someone. But a lot times, even if I know that I can push myself further, it's much easier to stay on the safe side than allow myself to be vulnerable. Which may also explain why, despite it being my first love, I seldom write poetry these days. Poems are the easiest and also the hardest for me to write. They come naturally but at the same time they also take so much out of me. I wish there was a way to achieve some sort of balance but I know the only way around it is to be less afraid of the unknown depths that my poems can take me.

So inspired by Emily Brontë, the first item on my poetry list is to submit for publication. I think it's a combination of stage fright (or in this case, publication fright), indecision over which poems to send out, and chronic procrastination that's keeping me from doing it. Well, all that is going to change and I'm sharing it here so I can be held accountable for it. I did my homework and found out that majority of literary journals are accepting submissions from August to January, so now is definitely a good time. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

// Listen: Poems of Emily Brontë in MP3 (audiobook format). I was so excited when I found this. Also, you can listen to Wuthering Heights for free here.

literary friends

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I met my young friend at the children's section at Green Apple Books when she was trying to pick a Nancy Drew novel. I told her I read all of them when I was in my early teens, she said she just started reading them last month, and soon we were gushing about the series like the book nerds that we are. Ah, I love talking to young readers, their enthusiasm is such a wonderful thing.

It's true, before I 'knew' Elizabeth Bennet, Jo March, or Jane Eyre, I was reading all about Nancy Drew, Heidi, and Anne Shirley, and I thought of these girls as my 'friends'. I also learned the word kindred from Anne and decided that it was the most beautiful word in the English language, then later I dreamed of going to Prince Edward Island and visiting the Green Gables House.

And oh, while most of my friends were swooning over Hollywood stars, I was definitely crushing on Gilbert Blythe. In fact, I don't think any other male literary character has made such an impact on me in a romantic way, Captain Wentworth and Mr. Darcy came close, but it's still Gil whom I loved the most. He had me from the moment he pulled Anne's pigtails and called her "carrots", and he pretty much owned my heart in Anne of the Island.

How about you, who were your favorite literary characters (and crushes)? I've asked this question before and I'd love to know what kind of books you loved to read when you were growing up.  Please share in the comment below or in your blog so we can all geek out collectively.

Photo by me, via iPhone

weekend instagram

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This long weekend was just the right balance of solitary and social, sun and fog, coastal and cityscapes. Time spent inside bookstores and cafes, writing, exchanging words with strangers.

I fell in love with a children's reading poster that I saw at the bookstore, found an oldish but still-pretty skirt in my closet, saw the movie Vertigo in 70mm at the Castro Theater, and spent a lovely afternoon with Holly who is moving to Australia in two days.

Yesterday I woke up at 7, the earliest that I've been up on a holiday, to pick up my aunt who just arrived from L.A. She is starting a new job in the Seacliff area so we ended up spending some time in China Beach and watched the fog roll in. It was gorgeous and definitely reminded me that I need to minimize my night owl ways so I can have early ocean mornings like this one.

Happy September friends.

// You can see the rest of my Instagram here.

notebook love

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Today I woke up feeling sorry for myself that I was coming down with a cold and had to cancel some plans for the long weekend. But then I bought this Orla Kiely notebook and ended up in a coffee shop filling pages for more than an hour. It's the most writing that I've done in awhile, something about the notebook's scalloped edges and whimsical pattern must have inspired me, and I couldn't be happier.

Funny how that happens, when such a simple thing can turn your day around. One of my closest friends once told me that if she had only so much money to indulge in one thing, she'll spend it on a good cup of tea. Mine will probably be spent on beautiful paper and pens. Its always been this way, even when I was little, my mom literally had to drag me away from a bookstore because I will stand there for hours deliberating over which ruled paper to buy. And forget about journals and planners because those I tend to be very, very picky. Thank goodness for Moleskine and Japanese stationary stores, their paper products definitely made my life easier.

And speaking of paper and pen, I started exchanging letters with my goddaughter Drew (who just turned 11 - gasp!). She is so sweet, she even learned how to write thank you or 'arrigatou' in Hiragana. Her mom texted me the other day and said that Drew wants me to know she's still making an envelope for her letter. I had to laugh because that's exactly something that I'd do. Now I'm even more excited for her next letter!

// For those of you who love beautiful notebooks, here's some you might like:
O-Check Notebook - so pretty and the perfect size to take everywhere.
The Little Prince Moleskine - I adore this video and the paper cut-outs!
Cat Companion Journal - this has the sweetest illustrations, I almost bought it today.
Write Now Journal "Write More Happiness Into the World" - gorgeous typography and paper.
Rollbahn by Delfonics - one of the best quality paper and beautiful colors, made in Japan.
Apica Notebooks - also made in Japan, I have these in different sizes and colors. How it says "most advanced quality" on the cover always cracks me up!

Photo by me, via Instagram