Thursday, November 30

The most appalling of realities eventually lose their novelty.

I do love the mind-candy of philosophy. And in our medieval philosophy class (mostly focused on Aristotle's effect on Aquinas and the religious integration of classical philosophers), the topic of the Immortality of the Soul was brought up. Don't let it scare you if you haven't thought about it.

Aquinas had to edit and revise (and hideously butcher) Aristotle's system of ideas in order to make it amenable to the religious community, and one of the topics he had to mess around with was the idea of immortality and the nature of the after-life, etc. and I found out that individual immortality is instinctively important to a lot of people.

That is: people find it comforting, and have in themselves a feeling of rightness when they think of living forever in some form or another.

Did you know that? Because I didn't.

Our professor opened the subject with the hypothetical situation of the Arts Building catching fire while we were in it--what would we do? Just walk out calmly? Others said they'd probably be a bit panicky, and I was surprised, and said so.

What would be the point of rushing over people? Because you want to live! Life isn't THAT important. WHAT! I reminded them that my belief system places emphasis on life but that it's not the most important thing.

"Surely you're not being literal when you say you would calmly amble out of a burning building," one of them remarked. Well, no. I have my father's daughter to protect, my mother's daughter to take care of, a blurred and imperfect reflection of God to preserve . . . letting myself die (let's put it in assertion: killing myself) would not only be against the promises I've made and the vows I've taken but it would be just plain rude to inconvenience everyone. Lots of people love me, whether I will or no or know.

But for myself--my self--I'm not that concerned. I've given myself over to something bigger than myself, and in carrying out that will is my rest.

That part of the discussion ended with the instructor pointing out that he had rarely seen such flippancy (that wasn't the word he used) except by very old people who had no energy for new relationships, and then also people of very strong faith. It doesn't follow that since I'm not A I must be B, but I'll take the ego-trip nathless.

From there we went on to talk about peace and happiness, and I said there was a difference. Which is not a widely held belief, apparently. I've spoken about this before, and this ties in with one of my long unresolved struggles I've written about before (1, 2).

Unfortunately the discussion ended over a crepe that was not mine and the endearing but upsetting exclamation of "You don't have to be afraid; we won't judge you!" Said after I tried explaining how one could be at peace and yet unhappy. (Was I afraid?) I wanted to simply say that happiness is a luxury, that one could be content, that you did not even need to be at peace to know that what you were doing and they way you were living was the right way to go about living and doing. Read some Hopkins, for crying out loud.

All of this comes together to surface much of the same struggles I've been having over the last couple of years. Care to read more, and answer my riddles?

I figure that'll do you to start with. While you go get your whiteboard and marker to write me a nice rounded "42" I shall go take another nap. Credit to Penelope Wilcock for the title.

Saturday, November 25

On food, since I've already blogged several times about food at the Antipodes.

I wonder if it is safe to like grocery shopping. There are many interesting faces, places, smells, and tastes to be experienced that it is quite an adventure to go out on a Saturday.

I don't like the flaccidly vague fish smells or the cloying rotting veggie smells or the dull nauseous raw meat smells, but I can certainly handle that mix of fresh fruit and veggibles and warm breads and hot crepes and grilling sausages and drifting wood-smoke and somewhere in there, the odd smell of the sea.

And then coming home, I get to cook for myself for the week; this week is carrot soup (2 meals), leek & potato soup (2 meals), veggie broth for cooking more soups and veggies (bunch of miscellaneous bottles), half of a butternut squash leftover from tonight's dinner, a bag of baby spinach (with garlic and onion and pepper, oh my!) and bag of runner beans (must find tasty recipe for this) that someone was throwing away.

It is a lovely thing to be able to organise such tastiness (is it safe to take such pleasure in order?). For the soups, I will stir in some cream after I've heated them up in my Greatest Pot In The World. I will probably find a scone or a piece of brown bread or something for them.

And sometime in the beginning of the week I will be having a gigantic omelette with brown mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and really good sharp cheddar cheese (someone was throwing out eggs and their expiration date is still three days away) for which I will attempt to frighten some poor hungry people to eat with me since there will be too much food and eggs reheated are generally icky.

It is a pain to just cook for myself, tho. And it is much more fun to cook for other people as well. I miss home, that way. I've offered to cook for people a couple of times, but most people seem to think it more of a chore than a therapy and don't really want the guilt of making me happy. IF ANYBODY FROM FACEBOOK IS READING THIS YOU CAN JUST LET ME KNOW AND WE WILL ARRANGE SOMETHING.

Tomorrow I must make banana muffins with chocolate chips and nuts in them. Or something with overripe bananas in it. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, though. And I get to wear my Christmas present!

I feel so very feminine right now, all talking about cooking and warm clothes and grocery shopping. Perhaps I should go read some Kate Chopin or Emily Dickinson to shake myself out of it.

Friday, November 24

I have stolen three tablespoons of Cadbury's chocolate mix from Julian.

I've got over the major phase of homesickness, I think. That means I feel more smug than sad when people tell me they've enjoyed something I learned to cook from my mother. Mwahahaha.

Well, not really, but you know . . .

And people did enjoy the cranberry sauce. For which I am thankful.

I miss the feeling of sleepy and contented usefulness. That is one of my favourite bits of holidays--along with the secret feeling of being loved and not having to talk about it. And fireplace warmth on toes.

And there is really none of that this Thanksgiving.

Don't get me wrong; I was in the company of very caring people who probably don't realise just how much we appreciate (or ought to appreciate) how much they try to love each other. But they are not familiar, and our relationships are still in the phase of policy and agreeableness. I'm afraid I still feel fairly awkward. Perhaps it is also that they don't yet know how I like my nerdy self and don't play social games well. I live inside my skin, even more so now.

I'm beginning to see the differences in the way my fambly loves and the way other people love, too. It is so odd to be so vulnerable, and yet so confident. And then when I feel hurt (which is due to the voluntary vulnerability) it isn't the part of me that loves that is hurt. It is a very odd process that seems to constantly keep me off-balance, afraid, and compelled. There are so many people that need loved . . .

And once again I wish I didn't have to be involved as a face to my cause. It is an awful thing to seem.

Tuesday, November 21

I just don't think I'll ever get over you.

And another low day full of Schumann and desperate laughing at demons. I'm not sure why I've been so moody, here. It is hard to find any happy medium.

I went to a church today that I'd not been in before. Or maybe I had--it was familiar but I don't think I'd ever been there. In it there is a sculpture of my sleeping, dying, wounded and weary-minded brother.

Those phrases sound stupid, sound awkward, sound sallow and shallow and as if I was trying to infuse them with some meaning they chemically cannot carry. I don't mean them that way.

He looked so cold in the marble and so alone behind the glass. What if he had been my son?

Saturday, November 18

The only thing that makes me unhappy is myself. I can ask for nothing more.

I've been in a library full of undusty books and florescent ceiling lamps for the past few days, and I emerged to buy groceries at the organic market a few blocks from campus, on the river's side, and there I ate a crepe with lemon and butter and sugar in it. And the air was that bluish cold that made my fingers numb on the walk back.

My favourite pair of jeans got a hole in them, in an unpatchable place, and I have been forced to wear my other pair, which are two sizes too big and must be draw-stringed by a belt that doesn't go with them. I have made up for it by wearing stripey socks and reciting poetry to myself.

I'm sure it looks hilarious as I pad about the cobblestones with my hair flying every direction and my overstuffed bag and a stack of books on an author that very few people have heard of or care about, but I'm starting to feel more like I'm a real person.

I'm surrounded by extremely good people. How does this happen? What do I call my feeling for the words that make me rich and orphaned and beloved?

Just in this small space of time, I ask nothing more. I don't understand this feeling of contentedness.

Friday, November 10

Went to see Chris Thile at a concert at the dubiously named Sugar Club.

I am dubious about the name "Sugar Club". So should you all be. But the inside was friendly enough, and a nice venue as far as I'm a judge of such things. Comfortable couch-like seats and long tables for ridiculously adulterated alcohol (they did have some of the stock drinks, but it must be one of the only places in Dublin that did not serve Guinness--my friend ordered a Murphy's probably out of pure shock). Plenty of leg room and enough height that you didn't have to crane your neck to see the stage made the experience a comfortable one.

Chris Thile is the slightly nutsy mandolin player from Nickel Creek--he is the one making faces on the flyleaf and playing with falsettos on the tracks he can manipulate. He is a twentysomething young man with a bit of style that doesn't quite belong in the America I remember. He plays a fun solo and has a strange way of rolling back his eyes in his head when he plays, dancing around a little bit and seeming very very intent on his instrument.

His banter between songs was carefully witty but seemed to be pulled off without too much effort; he claimed to be full of nervous energy because this was his first solo tour, but rather than making him seem awkward his goofball efforts to be funny were, indeed, all in good fun.

The playing, though, was not at all awkward and seemed to be awfully high-energy and creative from such a laid-back, enthusiastic type of guy Thile seems to be. One gets the feeling that he can certainly withdraw into himself to create the music he plays.

He played a bunch of covers and a few of his older songs, though none that I know, and a few of his new ones (and a few classical pieces that were jaw-dropping). I liked all of them, though there were maybe two that could have used a little less of the pick-up and the pretty girl who left him (not to mention the dog that died and the train ride home). Hey, if two is as much as I could come up with, I'm well satisfied!

Also he is personable and nice to his fans and might need a haircut but doesn't seem to mind; all this speaks well of him. Not to mention he's a bit of a nerd (what with Star Wars magazines and songs named after Calvin & Hobbes and Tolkien), which is nifty in my book since I happen to claim nerdhood myself.

And that was fun. Comfortable company, comfortable music, comfortable venue. I would say that makes for a good night.

Wish you'd'a been there:) I miss you.

This is not poetry.

I don't know. For some reason it seems natural to try, right now. Probably because Dante and Havelok and everyone keeps writing and being written in verse . . . bless their little hearts . . . So yes, as long as I read things in verse I shall be tempted to write in verse. Very shakily. It takes practice and you should probably have something worth saying before you start. Which, umm, never mind about that last bit.

But this is my blog, so even though I feel like apologising I will refrain from doing so. In fact, I am going to find a sugary, carbohydratory pastry, and a cup of mediocre coffee. And then I'm going to study with my feet against the radiators in the 1937 Room. Or go to the Library for Langland studies.

Or maybe just collapse. I can't wait till I get into my normal studying groove of things. This last month has been so full of beginnings that it is hard to find a place in which to continue anything. The beginnings seem to take up all the room. I am going to go resent that fact with some caffeine.

Thursday, November 9

I find that I talk about myself too much.

I've become wrapped up in the way my mind
ticks (which may or may not be self-centred).
Always talking about myself, the centre
of attention in my words but mind,
I am trying to find a ground common
to the people I know, and to think
of finding some connection; think
that we may find not only a language in common
but maybe I'll find I'm not so different
from the people I don't understand.
It's difficult to try and take right meaning
when heart and mind proclaim their difference
(and heaven knows I don't understand).
Oh, how do my words disguise my meaning . . .

Tuesday, November 7

Haven't the time of day for Boethius.

Like the yellow smog that curls around
the door-frames, the pedantic shabby grandeur
of industry lurks on the road I'm bound.
Down go the books, up go the sleeves, with candor
and humility attempt to move
my clumsy hands and countenance in ways
useful to the means my cause approves.
Stumbling with hesitant smiles through weary days,
I find myself day-dreaming about you.
Weary, a-weary I have sighed
over spilled hopes and broken memories;
I'll wait till you come home. Darling, what drew
you from me draws me to you. I hold tight
to dreams of you and I at rest, in peace.

I wanted to write about Sunday, but that isn't turning out well.

James hums the Dies Irae he used to sing in school.
It really isn't so bad when you get used to it; Medieval Latin.
Pumpkin bread that brings the flat together in a fit of affinity for cream cheese icing.
My parents who are awesome for sending me cans of pumpkin.
Lunch at the house of an Irish family.
The Donegal accent.
Leeks and mashed potatoes are starting to seem normal.
White wine in a bottle on a lace tablecloth.
A conservatory.
Everyone in civil Sunday clothes.
Trains home in the dark.
Watching children on the train.
Listening to conversations about facts, and being sleepy.
The kindness of strangers.
The kindness of perfect hosts.
The comfort of coming home, and the necessity of using a key.
The symbolism of using a key for home.
There being only a few chairs in our kitchen at home, I sit on the floor in front of the oven, where it is warm, and watch the bread rise and bake.
The warmth of the spot near the oven.
Looking up at people who come by, people who are happy to see other people enjoying themselves.
Am beginning to get a reputation for cooking, now.
Feeling a little more like home when I am able to do things for other people like baking.
Cleaning up the kitchen is a ritual of special import.
The way that people in my flat actually do care, and don't mind doing their part, and the way we haven't had to label much.
Which reminds me, I owe one of my friends (the same of which I am constantly borrowing, which is embarrassing) for two things of cream cheese and a half-carton of eggs. In money, that is. I owe a good deal more than that to my friends, especially after my THNGVB day yesterday. I hope I was not rude.

Monday, November 6

Someone to watch over me.

It is taking me a while to realise that Joe is gone, gone for good. I still expect to find myself curious every now and then about whether he is still going for organisational psych ('cause I thought that was interesting--he really cared about people and was insightful, and with his gift of being a solid, strong back; I wondered how he'd fit into the business-type world) and how the band is going.

I can almost not bear the thought of his family without him. They won't be complete without him. He has always been there. They were such a family unit; living and sinewy and alive and separate and connected. But without one of them? I don't understand . . .

I've been really good at not crying for the past two or three days; my friends have taken such good care of me in that I do not have to be alone if I don't want to, and I am not pressed to talk about it but they don't seem to think it would be odd or uncomfortable if I did break down in tears in front of them. And it is funny how gracefully friends can do that; some of them so I didn't even notice that I was being supported until afterwards. But that is harder to explain, and so I will content myself with telling you how awkward and wonderful that care can be.

I haven't cleaned my room. I have no clean facecloths left. I left my heater on all night last night so that I mightn't freeze this morning. I finally broke down and joined my peer group in our isolated meals that consist entirely of pasta. I can't seem to get the articles of Old English to fit into my head, and one of my professors thought she'd cheer me up by telling me how she remembers seeing one of her young tutored students crack his head open on the pavement. Medieval Latin is alright, now, with ironic thanks to the Dies Irae and my translating partner, J.

I really must give them names.

Joe's family will sound odd without his name in their list. It will be unbalanced, unreal, and the air will hold the silence as if it were fragile, and maybe it is.

Family holidays will be hell; Christmas and Summer and Easter and birthdays for the next (at least the next few) years will end up with a few tears shed in a quiet room. Even to be temporarily distanced, the echo of someone else's laughter is something you can almost hear. Will Joe's laugh echo for how long? We'll never forget him.

It feels so strange to be the only one grieving for him, on this island. Yet I am not alone, but yet am I the only one who feels this grief for my self. In a way, it doubles the pain and dries the tears at the same time.

My voice only quavers sometimes. I have kept myself busy and given myself time to weep.

When does God feel this way? Christ wept.

And now, I have classes tomorrow, all covered over in magnifying glasses of Old English script and sections of photocopies and tea that is too hot in stained and homely mugs. Latin dialogue on the nature of philosophy, the nature of the body, the nature of the universe and of her mystery. Academic words that I want to make practical.

Tomorrow is a Tuesday. How can it be so early in the week?

Chronos is not well, confused by a fever, curled up in a chair in my dorm. Even time grieves.

And my embarrassing metaphors only show their own silliness; what are my words to express anything when I am so confused . . .

Tonight I may be eating alone.

Friday, November 3

Dante and another Doctrinal Fart. This time I have reverted to the sonnet.

Dante and I are having a h'argument again. And this time I've just decided to give him a rebuttal in his own form, except I've changed the rhyme scheme a little. First sonnet is his, second is mine.

Love and the noble heart are but one thing,
Even as the wise man tell us in his rhyme,
The one without the other venturing
As well as reason from a reasoning mind.
Nature, disposed to love, creates Love king
Making the heart a dwelling-place for him
Wherein he lies quiescent, slumbering
Sometimes a little, now a longer time.
Then beauty in a virtuous woman's face
Pleases the eyes, striking the heart so deep
A yearning for the pleasing thing may rise.
Sometimes so long it lingers in that place
Love's spirit in awakened from his sleep.
By a worthy man a woman's moved likewise.

Love and the noble heart are not one thing,
Even as before the poet does greet
The one without the other have been
A singer without note or tune to sing.
Nature, disposed to self-love, Love defeats,
Making the heart a battle-ground for him
Wherein he heals and guides that wrongful king
Teaching proud hands to wash poor pilgrims' feet.
Then a virtuous woman's face, beauty within,
Pleases the eyes, striking the heart so deep,
A yearning for the pleasing thing might rise
Sometimes so long it lingers in that hymn
Love's long-awaited sabbath he may keep.
By a worthy man a woman's moved likewise.