Friday, January 30, 2015

Talking Things #1

I love looking at pretty things, and it is undeniable that I spend huge portions of my free time constantly discovering artists, designers and craftspeople whose aesthetics and concepts excite me. As such, I've decided to document the things that seem so special to me by introducing the Talking Things posts. Every month, I would like to share with you an object or two or more that have spoken to me on a visual or conceptual level. They can be items created by a specific artist, a few similar objects by different individuals, or things absolutely unrelated to one another that just happen to have a hold of my attention for the month.

For this first post, I have to show you the most decadent jewelry boxes I've ever come across. They are the beauties from Solange Azagury-Partridge's Metamorphosis collection.
The collection features five jewelry boxes, but the one I particularly enjoy is this one called the Secret Garden. What do you get when you open the secret garden?

You get a bunch of charms in the shapes of a bench, shoes, trees, statues and vase.
Once the greenhouse is taken apart, even the roof gets to be a bowl and the walls two identical cuffs for a very fancy dinner party.
And oh, as if the jewelry box isn't sensational enough already, when the ground of the greenhouse comes off, it gets to be a necklace too. In short, if you own this jewelry box, everything about your box can be worn as some sort of jewelry. Your jewelry box is your jewelry.

I think the Snakepit is another very cool box, mostly because of the morbid element of skeletons among the snakes.

The skeletons turn into earrings once they are out of the pit, and the ground filled with snakes is actually a pendant of writhing snakes. Oh look, the skeletons left behind a pair of heels as charms too. I wonder if the snakes have devoured the other pair though.

Here are the other three designs:
Ark of the Covenant

Eternal Feminine
Through the Keyhole

The detail put into the designs of these jewelry cases is simply breathtaking. I have no idea how much each of these jewelry boxes costs, but with them being made of gold and gems like diamonds, opal, rose quartz and obsidian, they obviously shall remain a thing to be admired from afar.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Lessons from 2014

It's been forever since I last shared a thought here. This space was particularly silent throughout last year, not because I had stopped writing, but because everything that I wrote in my journal felt too personal to be transferred here. Also, every time I have something to say, I tell them in too many words and think I'll bore you with my wordiness. This first post itself is already evident of it, but this year I've made the decision to go ahead with my words even if I worry I may drown you in their multitude.

I'm kicking this new beginning with a few things that 2014 has taught me:

1. It's okay to rest. And it's okay if it took a little longer than usual.

If I have to describe year 2014 in a word or two, I'll call it a restful year. Ironically, this year is the actual year of rest, the Sabbath year in the Hebrew calendar; not last year. That said, I think each of these two years is going to call for a different kind of rest. As announced in my church, 2015 will be a year of abiding and resting in restlessness (John 15:4-5), so I think a lot of transitions and challenges are going to take place that will threaten to shake me, but I'll be fine as long as I rest in God's strength and my faith in Him.

As for last year, it was a much needed period of rest in the recovery sense after burning out from the years of over-committing myself to responsibilities in college. Not that I regretted making Christian Fellowship a huge part of my college life and putting aside hundreds of hours into nurturing meaningful and challenging friendships, but those years have taught me the importance of finding a balance in everything I do. Even if the thing I do is 'for God's ministry'. Trying to do too much of everything that I understood as good only left me overwhelmed, which means I started putting half a heart into all that I did, including my academic work.

In the beginning of that year, as I had one semester left in my college in Kuala Lumpur before I would head to Liverpool for a summer semester, I was so relieved and almost euphoric when I past down my leadership position in CF that I ended up spending most of last year wanting only to mind my own business, bask in solitude and explore places on my own (all of which I did a lot of both in my last semester in KL and in Liverpool). My favorite hideout became the library. I didn't care if it was the college library back home or the grand public libraries in the UK. If they had a corner in which I could settle in for hours without being seen by a familiar face, I leeched unto the space. Was that a healthy recovery? I think so. Or maybe no. Perhaps I enjoyed my solitude a little too much and became quite unavailable to friends old and new during last year, but I think I needed it to save myself.

This period of rest also brought me back to a fundamental act of worship. Because I wasn't busy serving God in any organized ministry last year, I learnt to enjoy again the time spent either alone or with my best friend singing spontaneous songs about His glory, and spending hours in the outdoors simply being in awe of His creation.

I'm not proposing that serving in His ministry is bad, because it is good and needed. However, in my busyness working for Him, I had become a Martha who kept on toiling and forgot about enjoying Christ. It was crucial that I returned to walking closely with Him before attempting to serve Him in a ministry again.

2. Close friends hardly stay close forever. No matter how sincere we all were when we talked about the future and being present in each other's tea party or how fun we would have when our kids have play dates together, this visualization of the future usually unfolds in time not with the friends we were talking to about it, but with the ones we would only come to know in a later part of our lives.

Over the span of last year, I went from being a college student surrounded with a ton (which actually amounts to about 14 people, I guesstimate) of the closest friends anyone could ask for, to a person who was nearing graduation as I worked on my dissertation at home and struggling to come to term with the gradual loss of connection with many people I had thought were the linchpin of my well-being. Turns out, it is tremendously difficult to continually make someone a big part of your life once you no longer share a common place in which daily activities take place for you and the person.

It's not that we have become strangers to each other by now, but at the same time, it's not as easy to maintain an intimate friendship when you no longer can spend the hours between tutorials catching a movie together instead of studying for tomorrow's test, or sit by the road in the wee hours as we try to eloquently answer one another's big questions about life. Contrary to my initial qualms though, in the absence of the social privileges that usually come with being a college student, my well-being is still pretty much intact and my social life has naturally evolved into slowly allowing new people into my life.

In this transition, intimate friends may have been lost to distance, but the most sobering experience is the one in which relationship is cut short in the wake of a frightening revelation of lies and manipulation. Both types of loss taught me a powerful lesson though: to never hold on too tightly to a person. I'm not saying that all the most important people in my life have disappeared. There are a precious few with whom I still talk on the phone regularly just because we like to share the extraordinary and the mundane with each other, and the ones whose ties are never truly broken because we are linked by a connection thicker than water. In the event of this change and loss, the ones who remain close have become more valuable a treasure than they ever were before. But that doesn't mean I'll definitely still have them with me when another five years have gone, because I'll never truly understand the future.

I remember a time back in high school when I was crying to my mom about not feeling as close to my best friend as I did before because another classmate had become a threat to our friendship, and my mom's advice to me was to know that five years down the road, I would probably have a different best friend anyway and how I would laugh at my younger self for thinking my world had ended just because I was jealous of another girl. I look back now and see how right she has been. The people in my close circle now is very different from the ones I had five years ago, and they will be different again five years later.

3. Always apply insect repellent before heading out to the great outdoor for an extended time. No matter how idyllic the place may appear to be. I learnt that after a family vacation in Kelantan, just a week or two before I was to fly to Liverpool for my summer semester nearing the end of May. Our holiday resort sat right by the sea, and I'm a beach girl through and through (not the surfer or extreme water sport type, mind you). So naturally, I spent most mornings and evenings there sifting through the sand for seashells, thinking myself a warrior for braving the annoying bites of a surprisingly big but invisible population of mosquitoes while foolishly ignoring the wisdom of my mom who had advised me to apply the insect repellent she had bought for me.

In any roomful of people, I have always been the first and main attraction to mosquitoes, so getting multiple bites was something quite expected in my daily life (yes, if you have a different kind of logic, you're only right to argue that that should have been a greater reason to make the repellent useful, but my logic fails me sometimes). I began to scratch myself even as I was picking the pretty shells but didn't think much of it. Like I said, it was common occurrence in the life of me. Except, the bugs in Kelantan seemed to be bionic or genetically enhanced, and their insidious bites began to truly manifest themselves 48 hours post action.

By the end of our vacation, my limbs were red with rashes and itching all over, and I watched my legs start to swell into curious shapes. Have you ever heard of gnats? I did, but before, I had somehow only associated them with cow dungs and landfills, never the beach. While I was in the middle of one of my scratching frenzies, falsely cursing the mosquitoes for my plight, my mom casually mentioned for the first time that I'd probably been bitten by sand gnats. 

Upon returning home, my legs were itching so bad that I couldn't stop scratching them and lamenting about how I was to be scarred for life with every passing failure to control my wandering fingers, but I couldn't stop either because all I could think about was the itch, the itch, the itch. I fished out my smartphone for my companion encyclopedia (Wikipedia) and read that bites from these sand flies are especially nasty and are frequently several times itchier than mosquito bites. And longer lasting too. My mom suggested that I wrap my hands in old socks to prevent scratching. Naturally, I didn't listen but continued to scratch and made myself redder. I thought about how I would be the worst patient for chickenpox in chickenpox history, and prayed that I never would have to come face to face with the virus in my lifetime.

The sensational itch stayed with me for two eternal weeks. The scars stayed longer. That summer, I carried regrets and red spots on my legs with me to the UK. Now, eight months after the trauma, I can still spot the faint legacy of the gnats' handiwork.

On second thought, the lesson here should be to always heed mom's advice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Thread So Delicate

Oh what control we imagine we hold,
Over the ephemeral breath of existence.
Certainty taken for granted,
Certainly shall not remain complacent.

Reality, hardly known for its patience,
Or for its modesty in imposing requests upon us,
Dictates life with an iron fist,
Shackling all traces of our rebellion.

But all that is needed for an encounter of loss,
Is a moment’s passing,
A moment not even marked by ostentation,
Albeit so adept at catching us by surprise.

For all the confidence we imagine we hold,
Is a beautiful illusion, enveloping us from an insight
That we all but walk a perilous journey,
On thread so delicate and bare.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

This compulsiveness of hers

She wishes she has one of those personalities that do not have to give a second thought before she sets her heart and full attention into making something transpire. It's a personality that may be interpreted as being impulsive, one that is easily swayed by and acts upon emotions, a personality that is dangerous. But she has been living compulsively for most of her life, obsessing over the tiniest details of things and allowing them to cause her great agitation, letting an isolated thought run amok in her head so that it can drive endless identical circles in her mind. To live compulsively, she's coming to know, is more dangerous than to live impulsively.

Impulsiveness may cause her regret over taking the wrong course of action, but compulsiveness has caused her greater regret, for chewing on the choices presented to her for far too long but never making a decision or taking an action. Impulsiveness is too careless, but compulsiveness has made her too careful. Impulsiveness makes too many wrong moves, but in the process, maybe a good helping of the right ones too. Compulsiveness, on the other hand, has her spending too much energy deliberating on the same calculated move. Impulsiveness is capable of driving others around her crazy. But compulsiveness, it has driven others and herself bonkers.

She should have been an impulsive person instead of one plagued by compulsiveness. Then again, it's not like she was ever presented a choice on a gold platter at birth. The danger of her compulsiveness, she notices with a tinge of regret, is that it has caused her to put more life into her thoughts than her actions. Her mind has churned out more to-do lists and resolutions than ten persons can begin doing in a lifetime. She has uprooted so many would-be projects because her mind had convinced her that one or two or three ingredients were lacking in the recipe of success. She has even gotten bored of a new craft before its time for a test run, because she has put so much thought into the preparation, any more thought on it after that was just nauseous.

She thinks compulsively, and resigns to a final thought that her reality will never catch up with her neurotic imagination.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My story, but not mine only to write

Desires of my heart yearned to be heard,
So on its pages I wrote my own story,
And hoped that it would mirror Yours for me.
But on its way to a happy ending,
My plot lost its way,
Disintegrating a little more each day into greater dismay.
Like a promising idea gone ugly,
Toils of emotion burdened the spirit,
And the more I adjusted the sails,
The greater my plight in the storm became.

One day, 
I decided it's okay to lose control
Of a story so precious to me,
and released all that were secured in my hands.
In losing hope for my own creation,
Of my own prose and diction,
You fill my pages with breathtaking words
Beyond my comprehension,
And in that crafts a beautiful development of my life -
One still very much in the making.

I close this chapter in my heart,
And I wait on You to write the next.
Because, in all of this,
I've learnt no greater lesson
Than the peace found in trusting my ultimate Author.