(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
This past week, I had my Canadian friend Gabe staying with me for a few days after he got back from camp but before he returned home himself. I've known this enthusiastic kid for two years, and this is actually the first time we've seen each other in two years since we parted ways at the Power of Hope camp where we met. It's the kind of price you pay for being minors who don't drive and live a good four-plus hours journey away from each other.
Since we had mutual camp friends organizing an informal after-camp get together on Whidbey Island, the day after my family picked him up, Gabe and I threw a day's worth of supplies in a backpack and took four buses and a ferry North. We ended up staying on the island for three days.
By the end of our stay, despite feeling like I smelled worse than a wet dog, I was told repeatedly by one of the girls in our merry band of love children that I smelled good, leading us to the theory that I emit some sort of pheromonal scent in my sweat that makes me somewhat attractive to women. The cruel irony in this of course is that I'm Capital-G Gay.
Long story short, we had fun and I'm sure the sense of love we all got from that experience together on the island will carry with us through the next year until we can get together again. In the meantime, we've agreed to start a traveling notebook, acting in some ways akin to a chain letter, passing from person to person with us each adding our own entry to the collective story.
I've spent the last four days at home decompressing and writing letters. Which has made me realize I should really get some kind of personalized stationery. It would add quite the personal touch to my letters and look prettier than the standard printer paper I've been using.
Sometimes I feel so old fashioned with my letter writing. There are people in my generation who don't even know how to send a letter, let alone have the handwriting to do so. We're so used to typety-type-type-typing everything on our laptops and cell phones. And while this isn't a bad thing, it lacks that special touch that sets a letter apart.
I for one can't imagine a love letter without the curlicues and twists of some cursive script. What font can really compare to the handwritten for the effort and simplicity that goes into what's being said? Sure, readability might be better, but it doesn't feel like it has as much thought in it. You can tell a person immediately from their handwriting, but the typed word could be anyone.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Maybe I'll write about my recent excursion to the beautiful Whidbey Island, or maybe I'll write about the horror of what felt like the hundreds of bus transfers it took to get there. I don't know, it's too early to tell. All I know is I'll write it in some kind of word document and then I'll post it when I get online again sometime next week.
Can we agree to that? Is that satisfactory? Well, too bad, you don't have a choice in the matter.
Friday, July 17, 2009
I'm not really one for portents and omens, but considering I just started a shirt design based on the mantra of compassion (ohm mani padme hum), this is a little too convenient. I mean what are the chances?
Now I think I need to write a post about my religious beliefs. I'll try to get one up in the next few days.
Just suffice it to say for now that I believe in the power of Fate, Kismet and the purpose of coincidence.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
"I love you."
What meaning do these words have anymore? We repeat them a thousand times a day, often without any thought. I love you means goodbye. I love you means can I kiss you. I love you means I'm glad you're here.
But when I think about those moments of pure love where I look at someone and all thought leaves my mind, all the voices in my head shut up for the power of what I'm experiencing, in these tiny moments words fail me. They're moments full of innocence and an intensity that pull you direct to the bone.
In these moments, my instinct is not to say some stammered "I love you," but to act. I want to reach out, to caress away a tear or kiss surprised lips. To laugh with pure, unfiltered joy and spin in circles until I fall down crying because I'm smiling so hard.
I've said this in previous posts, but love is unconditional. Love encompasses and rises above whatever else we may be feeling. If it doesn't, we should question whether or not it's actually love or if it is love, then what other emotions and influences are at work.
It's possible to love someone you hate and hate someone you love. If you don't believe that, just look at your parents. The hate may or may not come and go, but the love endures. Or for another example, look at a small child. Hurt them and they will react in rage and sadness, but as soon as that passes it's like nothing ever happened.
Have the heart of a child tempered with the control of experience. It's a scary thing to do because from experience we learn to harden ourselves, to protect and shield ourselves from all the pain and misery the world throws at us, or in some cases that we throw at ourselves. We're afraid to let go of those protections, to make ourselves vulnerable and open and let our love express itself.
It takes work to break habits we've been in the process of establishing since early childhood, but as the tired adage goes, practice makes perfect.
More often than I like to admit, I've let fear hold me back; fear that my expression of love is somehow inappropriate for the moment or for the person I would be showing it to. But there have been a few times where I've pushed past that and bridged that gap and let my love manifest itself.
The first time this happened in recent memory, was my first kiss. Which I feel understandably uncomfortable writing about that here, but discomfort is just fear of judgment, and if you come from a strong place within yourself no matter what anyone else says their judgments cannot hurt you.
We'd been talking online for what felt like months, though in reality it had only been a few weeks. There was an excitement and reciprocation of interest I'd never experienced before. We discovered each other through some mutual friends and started talking out of my lack of inhibition when it comes to talking to friendly strangers, or in this case, not so strange people I don't know.
One of our mutual friends was putting on a poetry reading in my area and being that we're both poets of a sort it seemed like the perfect opportunity and motive to get together in person. The only thing was that he would be coming from out of town. Not really thinking of any deeper implications, I offered my dorm room, opening my door and my bed. After all, what is mine is my friend's (except for my toothbrush, but that's kind of a different circumstance).
He caught a bus, or rather several different buses, on a Friday afternoon and was to meet me after my classes ended for the day. Sure enough, I wasn't out of my last class for a full 10 minutes when I got a voicemail from an unrecognized number.
"Hey Danny, it's me on somebody else's phone, just letting you know I might be a little later than expected since I have to transfer buses downtown before I make it to campus."
I waited with my friend, Dani taking silly pictures on one of the nearby sculptures. I saw him before he saw me and almost instantly had this huge, silly grin plastered on my face.
We spent several hours together before the Salt Lines performance talking and hanging out, basically getting to know each other better. Laying with my head in his lap, I noticed he had strong hands. I got to hold those hands later at the performance and again when we reconnected with some friends. I felt safe in them.
Back in my room after all of this as we lay in my bed, he felt warm sharing that space with me, his arms wrapped around me. I think we were both drifting off when I rolled over. I wanted to look in the face this wonderful person beside me. I think I held my breath for a moment before I leaned in and kissed him on the lips. On and off throughout the day I'd felt called to do that, but this was the first time I stopped my fear from holding me back.
It tickled sweetly and it was an unfamiliar pressure on my lips. It didn't go much farther beyond that, it'd been a long day for both of us, but I think that was as far as I was ready for at that point.
Looking back, I'm tempted to call that a beautiful moment in my life, but realistically, all firsts are beautiful in their own way. It means a lot to me though that I've been able to find the peace within myself to think of this moment without any bitterness. So often we let the end of a relationship ruin any happy memories from that relationship or worse, get so caught up in missing those happy memories that we don't let go of the relationship and it hurts us.
But by sharing the experience of my first kiss here on my blog, I'm trying to show how it happened in a moment of love when I let my guard down and just let it happen. I didn't need words to say everything I expressed with a kiss. Of course it doesn't always have to be a kiss, depending on your relationship with the other person and the situation at hand, love could express itself as a hug or a smile or even something as simple as eye contact.
Love is a gift like the air we breathe. We all have it and we can give it freely to anyone. You cannot contain it and you cannot see it, but you feel it when it's missing and you feel it when it's there.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Does that disturb anyone else?
I doubt they're named after the USSR espionage agency, but the similarity puts me on edge, more so knowing that so many of my peers are ignorant of the connotations of the simple acronym KGB.
What's worse is the ads themselves depicting an underground internet search organization finding answers fast as you can text. Um... HELLO?! Secret underground organization dealing in information? I hope this is just some clever marketing joke.
I also discovered just how much we rely on our pinky fingers and that tiny bit of extra leverage they supply to operate in day to day life. Lifting anything bigger than a pen was torture and a frying pan was next to impossible.
The uneven lump I discovered a few weeks later once the swelling and pain went away proved otherwise.
My hand had healed without a visit to the doctor, but the bone didn't set evenly so now I have mismatched hands to tell the tale of my youth. It's nothing so drastic as to interfere with the use of my hand. Being that I'm a lefty and it was my left hand that was injured, I'm glad to still be able to write with as much legibility as I had before my accident (which admittedly by some standards isn't saying that much).
But now I find myself from time to time experiencing ghost pains in my left hand. Or more likely they're real pains and I just haven't caught on that my hand is still effed up. But I don't do any kinds of activities that put particular stress on that bone. I don't karate chop blocks of wood or… actually, I can't think of any other activities that would directly impact that part of my hand. Regardless, my point is made, I'm not doing anything to actively make the problem worse save massaging the lump caused by the healed fracture when it aches.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
So, if you ever want to see Danny have a nervous breakdown, ask him to plan your wedding.
I think the reason this kind of stress gets under my skin so much is that it often lacks that element of control. There are too many unpredictable variables, too many people involved in coordinating even simple events for you to be able to do anything but hope people pull through with what you ask them to.
I trust people, probably at times entirely too much, but there comes a point where I'm trusting too many people to come through like a series of dominoes, perfectly in order, all at once: it shakes my faith and puts doubt in myself. My natural inclination towards positivity and optimism makes it hard for me to admit that I have doubts about people I trust, but that doesn't change that the doubts are there.
I'm much happier when I have control, not necessarily to micro-manage since I also believe it's important to respect the personal space of the people you're working with and trust them to do what they need to do in their own way, but I've lived so long by the adage that if you want something done right you do it yourself that it's hard to give up that independence simply because I've never really had people available to ask to do it for me.
It's not even about the people either. Sometimes my fear comes from chance. A computer crashes or a bus is late or something happens. Something always happens and while I can usually improvise and find a way to work through this, the thought of it is daunting.
As a result, I have a tendency to overcompensate. I always make sure every possible base is covered almost to the point of redundancy. I will double and triple check that people know what time and where and who with as well as where to go if something goes wrong. Nobody's ever said it, but I'm sure I can get annoying about it with the way I will reiterate and rephrase everything so that there is absolutely no possible way you can confuse what I'm saying and meaning.
Friday, July 10, 2009
It's me of course because the top is the number 21, which is what I take to be one of my guiding numbers in life, and no, it has nothing to do with drinking ages. I was born on September 21.
Truth because the little black specks down near the bottom are the Japanese kanji for shinjitsu, which translates as truth. And it's a sword shape because sometimes the truth hurts, but sometimes that pain is necessary.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Swiss cheese has a tiny bit of tang to it with an almost waxy texture. It's sweet too, which I like in a cheese (I've since learned that I am not alone in this and that Americans in general favor sweeter cheeses, which is how the ewephoria variety was developed).
Another Swiss cheese that I like is a variety called gruyere. It too is sweet, but it lacks that same tang; it has a slightly nuttier flavor and a definite pungency about it that gives it some oomph. The texture is nice too. It's a hard cheese with a kind of gritty, crumble in your mouth feel. Pieces closer to the rind take on a slight chewiness. When I'm in the mood to treat myself, this is the cheese I splurge with, eating it by the block. Which at roughly $30 per pound, making a pretty standard-sized block about $9.50, doesn't happen very often.
Cheddar is kind of strong in my opinion. Next to American cheese (whatever the hell that is), it's the white bread of cheeses. Or rather, it's the toasted Wonder Bread of cheeses or the fake-tanned faux-Californian from the middle of suburbia of cheeses. Cheese is not naturally yellow-orange, you know. They add annatto, a vegetable extract, to it to make it that color.
The only cheddar I've had that I really liked was a free sample at a Haagen store of a wine-soaked variety. It was purple on the outside and still had that distinctive cheddar sharpness, but it was mellowed by the winey taste.
Generally I've avoided pre-sliced sandwich cheeses, I think mostly from bad experiences with Slices (that processed, individually-wrapped "Cheese-product" you could almost use as flame-retardant, worse than Velveeta) than anything else. That said, provolone isn't bad. I've only ever had it in sandwiches though, so I tend to think of it as pretty bland with a soft, creamy texture.
I'm not too big on soft cheeses: Munster and the like. They have their place and go really well with certain things, but as far as snacking on them by themselves, they're too mushy and don't really lend themselves to portability. When I get the chance though, I want to try some more.
That said, I like mozzarella. The real kind that you find in specialty stores and closer to the deli, not the stuff that goes on pizza or gets individually wrapped and put in lunches for school, though when melted those can be quite tasty. Top some firm heirloom (or regular) tomato slices with a piece of mozzarella and a little basil or Italian seasoning, and it's a perfect. It's mild enough that it has versatility, but it's distinct enough that you still know you have mozzarella when it's put in front of you. Plus it retains its stringiness which is fun.
Like any food in your standard American culture, cheese is vastly underrated. When your standard consumer can only name maybe five varieties of cheese they use on a day to day basis (two of which are pre-shredded mixes of the other three), you live in a cultural wasteland. Explore a little, people! There is more to food than meat, bread and potatoes. There is more to flavor than just meat or salt!
And if you truly enjoy that and are happy with that, then I can respect your decision. But before you settle down to your bland little grocery world, will you at least try something different first?
I've degenerated to ranting now. This is usually the sign I should stop typing and go away, so I think I will. Try some cheese, send me some suggestions and enjoy your day.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
"Imagine a perfect relationship. You are always intensely happy with your partner because you live with the perfect woman or man for you. How could you describe your life with this person?
Well, the way you relate with this person will be exactly the way you relate with a dog. A dog is a dog. It doesn't matter what you do, it's going to be a dog. You are not going to change a dog for a cat or a dog for a horse; it is what it is."
-Don Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love: A Toltec Wisdom Book
It reminds me of that Depeche Mode song that goes: "People are people so why should it be you and I should get along so awfully." Every relationship is a connection between two people each with their own desires and drives that create not only who they are, but how they interact with the world. Expecting them to change to fit your drives and desires cannot work and cannot lead to happiness.
I like this dog metaphor because it's true. If you treat every relationship like you would the loving bond (an important distinction since some people treat dogs quite horribly) between dog and master, then you'll be much happier.
A dog wants to be with you when it wants to be with you because it wants to be with you (or because you have food, but even then, it still wants to be there). If it doesn't want to be with you, it will squirm and struggle and run off to the other room; there's absolutely nothing you can do about this except to laugh and let it go. You can follow if you want but it won't expect you to and will probably be just as happy if you do as if you don't. If it isn't, it will come back.
The dog doesn't try to change you. It doesn't try to control you. It will let you know when it needs to go to the restroom or that it's hungry or thirsty, and if you don't respond it will work within its means to satisfy those needs without you. If it misbehaves and poos on the floor or eats out of the garbage or drinks from the toilet it's because you didn't do your part not because it's acting out against you.
Put a dog in a kennel or lock it outside, and it will whine. It will be sad. You are containing it's free spirit to roam and wander and randomly come up and lick your face and give you its love.
The key part of all this is the unconditionality of it. The dog is a dog no matter what, just like you are you no matter what, and you both have to be those things entirely for it to work and not expect the other to be anything else than what it is. The book goes on to ask "If you want a dog, then why you are getting a cat? If you want a cat, then why would you get a horse or a chicken?"
I look around at my relationships and the relationships of the people around me, and we're constantly criticizing each other and nit-picking. You don't fit my vision of what you should be. You don't talk loudly enough. You aren't responsible with money. You never communicated with me on the level I was trying to communicate. You aren't the pretty little tabby, you're a dirty, smelly mutt.
We can't change those things. All we can do is try to change how we react to them, which isn't to say we should give up, but getting angry or upset is an action in futility.
Basically what I've taken from this is the idea that I want to love unconditionally and love compassionately for the betterment my happiness and for yours. It is by no means a completely selfless or easy endeavor, I want to be happy as much as the next person, but in recognizing that, I'm also accepting that I'm not perfect and neither are the people around me. By accepting that fact as something I will never be able to change though I'm working that much closer to my goal.
The reason I post this here is because thanks to Power of Hope, I've learned that the best way to actualize an intention or goal is to verbalize it and share it with other people.
As we say at camp: Do you support me in this?
Monday, July 6, 2009
shower of gold
this is the end of the rainbow broadcast
across the evening sky
shakes my heart
Boom. Boom. Crack.
shakes my bones
fingers of light to caress this aching soul
Please never let this end
So much smoke the aftermath.
Wherewithal does this wind us blow?
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
Fill this union with soot
but take away the memories.
I spent the Fourth of July with my friends Kellen and Dani on Kellen's grandparent's boat out on Lake Union. It's really the first time I've done the whole fireworks thing without my family. I grew up going to our family cabin on Hood Canal. That's long sold now, so the last few years have been much quieter celebrations of Independence Day, that is of course if we do anything at all.
I have to say there's something to be said for experiencing the Fourth on a boat. Being able to feel every explosion as the fireworks light up the sky was something I highly recommend… unless you have heart problems or an otherwise sensitive constitution. If you're going to be on the boat all day before the fireworks start though, I strongly recommend bringing not only copious amounts of food/drink, but also things to keep yourself entertained.
Anyways, during the light show I felt rather poetic and since I didn't have my usual notebook handy, so I pulled out my phone and texted the above poem in chunks to my email. It's not the most eloquent way to write a poem, I know, but it got the ideas out of my head and into a more concrete medium than anything else available.
I realized only after I had Dani read it that it kind of sounds like a love poem, which I suppose I shouldn't ruin that element of it by admitting that it's not, but… it's not a love poem, or it wasn't meant as such when I first wrote it. I may keep this and adapt and expand what I have into something more once I have someone in mind to be writing about.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Be safe, have fun and for the love of Mike (who's Mike?), take some pictures for posterity.
For anyone interested, the included pic is yet another acelessthan3 original print. I managed to make four variants of this design (which I've named "the hope umbrella") before the stencil fell apart on me. Because the holes were a little smaller, it was harder to evenly screen the ink through all the different parts... maybe I need to thin the ink? Anyone with experience silkscreening, your advice would be welcomed.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Going to college does not mean you have to gain weight, if anything it's an excuse to be in the best shape of your life. Cold hard facts say that this is right around when our metabolisms start slowing down, meaning we don't burn as many calories as we did while we were going through that growth spurt called puberty, but just because you aren't some hot-blooded young thing anymore doesn't mean you can't look like it.
For most, the college lifestyle is pretty laid back. You have at the very most four classes a day, many of which get planned so you can sleep in until noon and then the rest of your time to study… or not. When your college has full on gym facilities rivaling that of many YMCAs, why not put them to use, you're already paying for them.
Losing weight rather than gaining it when you head off to college is about more than just going to the Rec center once a week though, you have to maintain an active lifestyle and eat a healthy diet, just like you would if you were out in the real world. Pizza, as convenient and tasty (not to mention cheap) as it can be, isn't going to help you if you have it every night and despite the name, Beer Pong is not an active sport.
Get out there, and get involved. Dance clubs almost always need more men in their ranks, and I'm sure you can find some people willing to play Ultimate Frisbee with you on a nice day. Or you can do like I did and let out your frustrations of the week by running around an empty lecture hall shooting at your friends with foam darts. There's always more going on than you'd expect at a college, and if not, by all means, start something.
But I'm starting to sound like one of those guides that well-meaning parents get as graduation presents for incoming freshman.
I won't deny that those things have some value if you've lived a sheltered life or suddenly lose all common sense by moving what's hopefully a minimum 2 hour's drive away from home (no offense to all those still living at home, but isn't the point of going away to college to go away?), but they're so generic and authoritative I'm sickened by the thought of them, like one of those crappy, summer, road trip comedies that Hollywood seems to come out with every year. There's only so many ways you can tell people not to do dumb shit before you have to let them learn the hard way.