YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE UNIVERSE

The Desiderata says, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” These very familiar first words were written by writer Max Ehrmann in 1927.

Towards the end of the prose poem it says:

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It’s a good reminder this Christmas, when we become overwhelmed by the many people and situations demanding our attention. We should all have a quiet place, a quiet space, a safe space, with which to order our thoughts and establish calm.

Daily Prompt: Calm

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TRYING TO RELAX

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Last Friday I had a moment of panic, and asked my father if he had ordered the turkey for Christmas Eve dinner yet. Christmas Eve dinner is the big Christmas moment in the Philippines, oddly more than Christmas Day itself. He texted back, “I ordered early but they haven’t confirmed my order yet. Do you have another supplier?” I didn’t have one, and I had to go online to check out caterers. Fortunately he texted back a couple of hours later that our order was taken and was told when we could pick it up. We went to all this trouble because our oven thermostat is unreliable and can’t handle a roast. I heaved a sigh of relief. I could – maybe – relax a bit.

Do I feel prepared for this holiday season? Every year I feel unprepared. There always seems to be something left unbought, some place left unreserved, something left unordered. I’ve listed down the menu for Christmas and New Year meals. I’ll be paying a visit to the deli tomorrow. This year, though, I’ve managed to get some things done early. I’ve made reservations for my birthday lunch at the neighborhood Japanese restaurant, for the end of the year. There have been times in the past when I left it too late, and all the restaurants I wanted to dine at were fully booked. I’ve also remembered to order my birthday cake from our baker neighbor. My only problem now is where we’ll eat dinner on January 1, when many malls are closed. I’m sure we’ll think of a place in time.

I haven’t even watched Star Wars: Rogue One yet.

A part of me wants to stay in bed and hide under the covers, but adulting is necessary this Christmas, so yes, I’ll have that coffee now.

Daily Prompt: Relax

PEN STAND BY DAN BROWN

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I received this pen stand a year ago from a very generous friend, whom I had helped with a fountain pen purchase.  It’s a two-pen stand of walnut wood, with a space specifically made for a Pilot Iroshizuku ink bottle, with my name on it.  It’s made by Dan Brown (not the author!) of East Wenatchee, Washington. He can make custom pen stands to order (you may prefer a different ink brand bottle stand). His work (under account name Komitadjie)  can be seen on the Fountain Pen Network forum. Unfortunately, I have no idea how much this costs, because it was a gift.

TSUNDOKU

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[Tsundoku: “is the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them… It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf. As currently written, the word combines the characters for “pile up” (積) and the character for “read” (読).” Wikipedia]

It’s ten days before Christmas, and my mother is clearing up the clutter of boxes lining our hallway. The boxes are full of books – books meant to be shipped to her home town. Just a week ago she went to the warehouse sale of a publishing house and made away with yet another box of books she got for PhP5 apiece. Our hallway looks like a warehouse of books. On Monday she plans to ship them all off to San Enrique. We wonder why she waits until the very last minute to do things like this. My father is frustrated by the amount of clutter. He wants an orderly house by Christmas. My mother is doing her best.

Our house will never be one of those showcase houses, the kind you see in the magazines or on tv. It’s a decent-sized condominium unit good for a family of six, but we are overrun by books. In the living room we have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf screwed to the wall (in case of earthquakes), and it’s full. There’s another shelf just for my niece’s children’s books. Every bedroom has bookshelves, but we are out of space. We have given away or donated boxes of books but we never seem to create significant space for new ones.

In the last couple of years we have been buying e-books so that we can just store them in our smartphones and e-readers instead of real books taking up space. But we have also been regularly attending the Manila International Book Fair every September, buying books for gifts. Our folly is that we can’t resist real books – you don’t need a battery to read them, and it’s comforting to have a tsundoku pile near your bed in case you can’t sleep. My mother is a retired professor who raised us to read, read, read. We daughters feel like Belle from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”.

Life hasn’t become an episode of “Hoarders” yet. Too many books is not such a bad problem to have. We just need to make an act of will to give away the books we no longer read to others.

Daily Prompt: Folly

AT THE SYMPHONY

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Last night, my family and I went to see the Manila Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, at the Meralco Theater. It was my first concert in years (the last time I watched one was in 2008, I think), and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

We got good seats, since my sister bought the tickets way back in October (for a 25% discount!). We were near the front, on the left side of the theater, with a good view of everything.

It was good to hear Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in its entirety.  Of course, everyone is familiar with the melody of “Ode to Joy” (taken from a poem written by Friedrich Schiller), the climactic last movement. The first part of the symphony had a lot of stirring piano.  The middle, the Adagio, had a moving, tender theme expressed by violins.  When “Ode to Joy” came along, we were treated to a choir (made up of smaller choirs) and guest soloists, in a rousing, uplifting, triumphant wall of sound.  This earned the orchestra and singers a standing ovation.

Sitting near the front, I was able to observe the different musicians closely.  One cellist’s bow had a broken string.  The percussionist playing the triangle was very precise, you could still hear the triangle above the cymbals. The Japanese pianist played with confidence and verve, it was a pleasure to see her perform.  Watching the conductor and his movements was fascinating; he had excellent control over the entire score.

If the theater had been any further away from our house I don’t think we would have braved the traffic to see the concert.  As it was we were able to get to the theater in 30 minutes. There are so many good concerts being shown nowadays. But I was happy to see this one; it stirred my heart. It was a rare treat.

 

 

 

DESPICABLE

There is this unpleasant woman from our church who tries to bully my mother into doing things for her. My mother is a sweet old thing who is gracious to everybody and tries to help people in need. She attracts her fair share of crackpots and people who try to take advantage of her generosity. This woman was a former student of my mother’s. She was a former activist and feminist writer who has managed to alienate everyone she associates with, by dint of being a pushy, whiny bully. Of course she believes, when she is in one of her campaigns, that she is doing the world a lot of good, so she is actually clueless about her lack of social skills.

Anyway, this unpleasant woman tried to invite herself to our house, because she wanted to swim at the condominium’s pool.  My mother said, “I’m sorry, but I’ll be out today.”  She insisted – how about tomorrow, then? My mother said she was going to attend a Christmas party and will be out all day too.  “Shall I meet you at the party or at your house?” she insisted. My mother did not reply.  Finally that night the woman called our house, to insist on coming. My mother said, “I’m sorry, it’s not convenient for my family.” When pressed what “not convenient” meant, my mother said, “My family doesn’t want you to come.” (Nobody in our family likes her. Why should we have to entertain her?) The woman even had the gall to be affronted, as though it were her right to be at our house. “What kind of people are you anyway?” My mother put the phone down. I was damned proud of her at that moment. Later I checked her phone and saw texts from the woman, one of which said, “Do you even believe in karma?”  I deleted it. I don’t care what her agenda was. She has no business messing with my mother.

This woman has no boundaries whatsoever. She gossips about other people and their families, criticizes everything, and yet does not wonder why her own children wouldn’t even put up with her. People meeting her for the first time would do well to flee. She likes to call my mother and dump the day’s bad vibes on her, believing they are close friends. My mother is always polite, but she can say no.  This woman doesn’t always succeed in making my mother do things, fortunately.  She is toxic. She is a harpy.

As I wrote in a previous post, I try to practice compassion – to think of the other person’s position, in order to understand their motivations.  This woman is very unhappy, obviously. She lives alone, her husband having left her. Her children do not spend time with her.  She likes to participate in grand causes, like campaigning against noise pollution in the city, or campaigning against the cutting of trees along the highway. It gives her something to do. But what she does is harangue people in order to get her way. My mother gets things done in the “catch more flies with honey than vinegar” way. Guess who people prefer to be with.

I know it’s good to be kind, but we’re no pushovers. We’ve bought books from her, even overpriced magazines, in order to help her, but inviting herself to our house when we don’t even want to be in the same room with her is the last straw.  When she tries to call again and I’m the one who answers, I’ll tell her off myself.

Daily Prompt: Flee

PLATINUM BLUE-BLACK

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Last Saturday, at the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines Christmas pen meet, I won a bottle of Platinum Blue-Black ink.

This is a dye-based ink, as opposed to the pigment-based ink that Platinum also produces.  Pigment-based inks have bigger particles, making it necessary for one to clean their pen often so it won’t clog.  Dye-based inks usually clean easily with water.

This is also, according to Platinum, a ferro-tannic ink.  This means it’s iron gall ink, whose main claim to fame is that it’s reasonably water-resistant. As the blue dye eventually fades away with time or exposure to the elements, the part that is ferro-tannic remains black and stays on the paper.  Some people don’t really want to call it a blue-black, just a dark blue, but the color is sufficiently attractive and sober enough to be used in many official situations.

I wish this was a review of the ink, but the Platinum 3776 Century Chartres pictured above is full of Pelikan Blue-Black ink. I will direct you, however, to the very reliable review by the Peaceable Writer, JD. JD explains that if you don’t clean your pen well after using Platinum Blue-Black, it may mix with your newly-filled ink and refuse to write. Here’s a more recent review over at the Goulet Pen Blog, which mentions one has to use and clean the pen regularly – long, unmonitored exposure to iron gall inks can cause corrosion on steel-nibbed pens or fixtures.

My last iron gall ink was the old formula of Lamy Blue-Black, which I enjoyed using. It did flake off a bit of the gold plating on my Pelikan M200 steel nib.  I plan to use the Platinum Blue-Black in the Platinum 3776 Century, which has no decorative trim rings on the section that can be corroded, and whose gold nib and feed are easily removed for cleaning.