That feeling during the fourth movement of a symphony where the whole orchestra plays, and the sound swells and flows and finally, finally, something out there sounds exactly like how you feel inside, and everything is culminating, and you know, you just know you’re one with the Universe. That feeling. That’s why I love classical music.
How it goes through your chest and fills up your lungs and shines out of you like sunbeams.
And so much more.
I’ll address a few criticisms on classical music and why I think it’s an element of interest anyway.
First: Classical music is the kingdom of cis white men.
That’s true. I cannot argue that classical music isn’t extremely white-washed, as are pretty much all primarily Western things from that time. Although there is some debate around Beethoven’s ethnicity, the fact remains that, in most people’s minds, he lives on as a white man. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was, however, without a doubt, biracial.
That being said, I do encourage you to smash the gender binary and never assume that anyone is anything. That’s a discussion for another day, though.
When I stream classical music, I make an effort to stream from a variety of contemporary musicians. I encourage you do the same.
But yes. Absolutely. Classical music comes with a history of oppression. So do medicine, literature and sports. I think this history is important to acknowledge and change. Let’s do it together.
Second: Classical music is elitist.
I’m so sorry that you were confronted with people who made you think you were too uneducated to enjoy classical music. I’m sorry you were shushed when you clapped after the first movement of the symphony. I’m sorry your music teacher made you feel bad about yourself. Those things genuinely make me sad because you deserved better than that. No one deserves to be shushed for clapping once the orchestra stops playing. No kid deserves to feel bad at school.
As I’ve just written, classical music comes with a history of oppression. We don’t need to keep that going. We have the power to change that. I’ll try my best.
Third: Classical music is stuffy.
Not to pull a Sebastian-from-La-La-Land, but classical music has caused riots. That’s hardcore. Have you seen Amadeus (1984)? That’s hardcore. Chopin had an affair with an author who went by George Sand. That’s hardcore (though George Sand herself was so much more hardcore than Chopin). Tchaikovsky dealt with widespread and internalized homophobia for decades. That’s hardcore. Have you heard Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and imagined it being played in 1808? That’s hardcore. Vivaldi died in poverty in 1741 and “[m]any of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of […] a home for abandoned children.” (Wikipedia) That’s hardcore.
Classical music is so hardcore!
Fourth: Classical music is too old to still be relevant.
Amazing new songs are being written every day. Yes. I agree. It’s important to support artists who are alive. Yes. I agree. I definitely agree.
Aside from the many, many classical musicians still alive today, I think classical music as an art form is still relevant as a creator of discussion. It’s a reason to think more, talk more, listen more, share more. It’s a reason to ask one another questions. Did you like this? Why or why not? What were you thinking about while you were listening? What did this remind you of? What do you think this piece meant when it premiered, hundreds of years ago? Do you think people hummed the main theme in the streets? Do you think strangers stopped them and said: “Oh, you heard the latest Beethoven too! Wasn’t it amazing?”
Kids learning to play classical? That’s even more important, I think. Playing music in ensembles taught me to listen. It taught me to wait. It taught me the value of hard work. It taught me tolerance. It taught me solidarity. It taught me trust. It taught me the extraordinary hugeness of what we can do when we work together. How are kids supposed to learn those lessons from playing music together when adults don’t value the type of music they play?
Finally, please forgive the hyperbolic comparison, but are mountains too old to still be relevant? Stonehenge, the Moai on Easter Island, the Sphinx of Giza – are they too old to still be relevant? Those monuments of nature and humanity are still relevant because they’re beautiful. Because they’re puzzling. Because we look at them and we’re breathless with the immensity of what we humans can achieve when we put our minds to it as a group. When someone has a wild idea and we listen instead of fearing and chastising.
I want to be one who listens.
(…) Here it is:
some days are difficult for me to live through… not necessarily because they are hard, but sometimes things are so good i don’t know how to hold it. i’ve been reading about overcoming imposter syndrome, and one night i understood some things about my view of myself:
i tend to define myself by what i do, and not who i am. when what i do changes, even only slightly, my sense of self is disturbed.
i also divide myself into selves based on context, though not in that good girl/bad girl way that people think teenagers do… mostly my access to words and self changes based on context. when these selves cross paths, i feel shame, fearing i am less authentic. funny, because the merging of my selves makes me more myself than ever. so i need to remember this: i can be both-and, and all. multi-faceted. deeper.
some days, i simply do not recognize my self.
and on these days, i need to settle into my body, into my self. to question what matters. what is beauty, in my eyes. what makes me feel. what i want to do. my intention in every situation.
sometimes this simply means i put clove and tangerine oils in my diffuser. maybe i eat outside and steep in sunlight. maybe i do a little yoga. do my skincare slowly. and sometimes it means i read nonfiction, or fiction, or poetry.
poetry always does that thing to me, whether i write it or read it. it asks me to see and feel the world, without remaining an apathetic observer. to appreciate something, even if it’s the wording of something hard to swallow.
it’s national poetry month, so i’ve added some poems that i think are worth reading or listening to. i hope you find something that brings the color back to your world, and helps you feel a little more like yourself. let us know if there’s anything we should try. we love to hear from you.
namaste, the light in my recognizes and honors the light in you,
→ still i rise, by maya angelou, performed on so you think you can dance, for survival
→ laugh with god, by madi mae parker, for becoming
→ for the dogs tho barked at me on the sidewalks in connecticut by hanif abdurraqib, for meeting yourself
→ angel of the get through, by andrea gibson, for your best friends
→ the future, by neil hilborn, for your hardest days
→ things that could happen to a girl wearing jeans, by rhiannon mcgavin, when politics gets too much
→ how to be a poet under the new regime by roberto montes, on being
→ self portrait with no flag by safia elhillo, for pledging allegiance
→ joy seekers, by levi the poet, for easter
→ Elgar’s Nimrod (Variation IX) from Enigma Variations. listen when in pain, for the reminder than in every hurt there is longing, and in every longing there is hope.
nadine: this month’s classical love is a staple. apparently, according to the song’s wikipedia, it’s played pretty much all the time (i’m exaggerating, but only a little). this enigma variation was dedicated to Elgar’s closest friend, August Jaeger; it’s the story of how Jaeger encouraged him to push through pain and keep making music. in a letter to Jaeger, Elgar wrote that each variation had been written borrowing the voice of a friend, “if they were asses enough to compose.” to me, the Nimrod variation is a reminder of what a powerful balm sincere encouragements can be. i hope it catches you at the right time.
→ Happy by Julia Michaels (released in Inner Monologue Part 1, jan. 24, 2019). listen if you feel like dancing and feeling sorry for yourself at the same time.
nadine: mmm who doesn’t like a good sad pop anthem?? this one’s been stuck in my head all month. (also worth noting that i think this song needs to be taken with a certain measure of self-deprecating humour; it’s absolutely not necessary or even useful to “kill relationships for art.”)
→ Night Falls over Kortedala by Jens Lekman
gray: a long time favorite album of mine, and my favorite Jens Lekman album. every year, for me, this album seems to usher in the beginning of spring. the dancey instrumentals and silly, lovelorn lyrics will never cease to feel brand new to me, even on the thousandth listen.
→ Mississippi by Kevin Abstract
m: the outro to the brand new ep ghettobaby, this song had me both tearing up and dancing at my desk. it’s homey and homesick at the same time.
→ Guava Island
m: i’m of the opinion that Donald Glover can do no wrong, and i am right again. this time, glover is flanked by Rhianna and Lititia Wright *heart eyes*
→ The Future is Feminist edited by Jessica Valenti
m: a brilliant intro to feminism, spanning much time and differing schools of thought. each essay is different both in subject and mood (yes, some will make you smile.) despite the hot pink and orange text (I couldn’t read the quotes in orange), i love it. i want it. this is intersectional, empowering, accepting feminism, and i feel empowered creatively and mentally.
→ “Why Do I Always Have a Crush on Someone?” by Heather Havrilesky
“The trick is not to stop wanting. The trick is to stop abandoning yourself and your life every time you want something. The trick is not to stop eating. The trick is to stop blaming yourself for your hunger.”
as a chronic crusher, this piece makes me feel validated and made me think a lot about how i exist in relation to and treat my romantic/etc desire.
→ With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
m: Acevedo’s first book, The Poet X, was incredible, and so many thought so. Her second book releases May 15, and let me tell you… it is spicy and sweet and warm and bright. Emoni is a single mama, a girl who adores cooking, and a high school senior. this life is so much pressure, but so full of love. highly recommend, not just for the story, but also for the beautiful writing.
→ Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon
m: i feel like this book is a guide to life. all you need to know right now is that it’s austin kleon’s new book. perhaps i’ll give it its own blog post.
sipping + eating
→ thai coffee, strong and sweet and spicy. good for chatty dinners over stir fry noodles or productive afternoons.
→ lemonade. it’s already hitting temps of 80F here, so i might as well lean into the summer weather with a classic drink that happens to be a favorite of mine.
→ ginger matcha ice cream with dark chocolate chips. healthy for your heart.
→ nadine: how are the hindering things i do benefitting my fake self? what can i do to stop the negative cycle where my self-sabotage fuels my negative self-beliefs? procrastination, i’m looking straight at you. i will not let you make me angry.
→ nadine: i want peace of mind, but i am constantly looking for ways to make my life more intense, dramatic, exciting. in my journal, i have written: “why am i not that person now? thick fabrics, plants, light. a big garden. who is this person & what has changed within him/her to bring him/her to let go of that need for drama & intensity? why is he/she content with that life? what life is that?”
→ m: what do i feel like i’m not allowed to do, and why? what blocks are in place before my creativity, and what have i forgotten to love as the years pass by? how can i dismantle shame
→ m: do i have a routine? what is my dream routine, and how can i slowly work it into my mornings, days, and nights?
→ m: how can i create space for other people? who have i not forgiven?
→ gray: time is passing whether or not i want it to. i have spent the last several months oblivious to this, stuck in a pattern of being stuck. now it’s april and i find myself trying to figure out what i’ve even been doing. a short break post-grad turned into a time where i have been questioning all my decisions and skills that i believed i had. how do i move forward with my life now that every turn is filled to the brim with uncertainty? and who am i to complain? how do i stop focusing on the path not taken?
what about you? what’s been making you think, lately, “i’m glad i stuck around long enough to discover this?” let us know!
About a month ago, I reached a point where I thought my present circumstances were unbearable, and the only way I found to convince myself to push forward was to daydream about the summer. My ideal summer day went something like this: Wake up at dawn. Make coffee. Have coffee on my balcony with my laptop, write for a few hours, have breakfast too. I’d write for this blog, work on my fiction, write the screenplay for that musical I dream of putting up. Then, once the sun would be too hot, I’d pack lunch and bike downtown, to the library. I’d rent all kinds of books. Philosophy. Physics. Psychology. Once I’d be done, I’d bike to a park, where I’d read and have a picnic. As I’d bike back home at the end of the afternoon, I’d stop at the market to get fresh vegetables. Make something I’ve never had before for dinner. Listen to music. Journal a bit. Go to bed early.
I told my friend about my plans. She looked at me thoughtfully and asked: “Why aren’t you living that life now?”
I had reasons. I’m so busy. My balcony’s buried in snow. The sun rises after 7. Fresh vegetables are rare and expensive at this time of the year. I opened my mouth to voice them. Something stopped me. This quote, that I haven’t been able to find attribution for, popped in my mind: “There's no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you'll make time for it.” I could react defensively and list my reasons and play the victim. Or I could open my heart and think.
My friend continued, her voice careful: “Sometimes I think we live like we forget we’re going to die.”
Cue an Existential Crisis, complete with questioning all my life choices, booking appointments with my guidance counsellor and my psychologist, and holding back sobs as I tell my mother on a video call: “What is the rest of my life? 60 years? 50? 5? I don’t know!”
I spoke to some other friends about it. If you’re dealing with stuff, tell your friends about it! Every time I give someone a peek of what’s inside my heart and they don’t go running the other way, I feel a little less lonely. To one of my friends, I wrote:
I don’t want to kill the hunger within me, and idk, I know this all sounds melodramatically existential… I don’t want to live on autopilot. I think living intentionally, mindfully and purposefully all go hand in hand. And the joy that comes from enjoying the small things comes from the same place that the pain of existential questioning comes from: an understanding that life is beautiful, fragile and so so precious.
I’m happy. I derive inordinate amounts of joy from the smallest things. A chord. A patch of blue sky. How broken ice looks. How Freddie Mercury is scatting in Under Pressure and it works. My mother’s gif game. A discussion with a friend. My high-waisted paisley palazzos. Cooking my oats in vanilla oat milk and stirring in almond butter, frozen berries and sunflower and pumpkin seeds (the luxury!!!). The way Julie Andrews sings “when you wake up, wake up!” with all the might in the world. My sister’s reaction when I told her what I said at the student assembly. The house brand ancient grains bread. So many things bring me so much joy, and when I realize that for several years I was seeing life as biding my time, as eating pistachios (you break your teeth trying to open them and they don’t even taste that good), I think I must be the luckiest person alive.
But I can be happy with the small scale and unhappy with the big scale. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, like I told my friend, I think they come from the same place. I’m deeply unhappy about the suffering in the world. I’m deeply unhappy about the state of our planet. I’m deeply unhappy about violence and oppression.
I’m also not sure that my life isn’t heading towards a devastating midlife crisis in 15 years.
In one of my university classes, several years ago, we were learning about midlife crises and one of the students – an older one – asked the lecturer: “Is it possible to avoid having a midlife crisis by being reflective and introspective throughout your life?”
I think the idea is interesting. However, I’m sure that whatever I do, I’ll have a midlife crisis. I mean, look at me. I’m a walking-talking existential crisis. I just don’t want my midlife crisis to destroy my life. My quarter-life crisis destroyed my life. Once is enough. Our time here is finite (that we know of for sure). I don’t know how much I have left and I want to make the most of it.
Change is coming.
When is it not?
Next time, I’ll write about classical music, just like I promised in the collective march love list.
Until then, I hope you get the time to ask yourself questions. About anything.
Gray recently posted some of their thoughts around being nonbinary, transitioning and coming out. To be honest, I loved that post so much that I immediately messaged them to let them know, which is something I tend to have difficulty stopping myself from doing.
I told them about the things I could relate with (I’m nonbinary and I identify as genderfluid) and the things I experienced differently – namely, how I like the state of aspiration that comes with being between selves. Gray suggested I write a response post about the state of aspiration! So, here we are.
In their post, Gray expressed feeling frustrated with the “state of aspiration,” a term coined by Joshua Rothman that Gray reinterpreted in light of identifying as nonbinary. My understanding of this state is that it is the state of changing, rather than the state of having changed. Change is not “complete” as much as we’d like it to be. I guess I live in a constant state of aspiration. I’m always asking questions, changing my mind, redefining myself and my life, re-evaluating my decisions. I think I’d be miserable if it wasn’t the case.
Sometimes I revel in the shape of my body and I accentuate it however I can. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think it’s completely wrong. Sometimes it’s just there, and like, whatever, I guess I need a body, right? But at the end of the day, I like my body. I refuse to be made to feel like my body is wrong.
And if you dislike your body, for whatever reason, if you want to change it, permanently or not, that’s totally ok and valid and worthy of support. But it’s not my situation. I love my body because sometimes I adore it. And yeah, sometimes I think it should be completely different, but those days don’t erase the days I love it. It’s like… will you get rid of your backyard because you can only garden in the summer? No. But if you never garden, then by all means, sell that backyard, my friend.
I mean. It's your backyard. Do what you want with it, it's all cool.
Shitty metaphor aside, this is what I want to say. I am so many people. I am one person, and that person is always the same, but I see it like a container, a person-shaped cauldron, and inside so many people are flowing. And I like that when I am one particular person more than the others I am not completely that person. Because it leaves space for the others to come.
Lately I’m a prickly theatre director, the kind of demanding jerk with big visions, big opinions, big emotions. He wears draping, colourful, dramatic clothes. He gets called “grumpy” a lot, which always confuses him, because he sees the beauty so much. He knows joy and he knows pain and he knows they come from the same place. He sees people not as who they are, but as who they could be, and that’s why he comes across as both overenthusiastic and overdemanding. Anyway. I use “he,” but he’s also loosely based around High School Musical’s Ms. Darbus (what an icon), and sometimes he doesn’t feel like a “he,” either.
Is it weird that I’m talking about a part of myself in the third person? Yeah, totally. I just want to emphasize that it’s a part of myself. It’s not all of myself.
So, what’s the plan? The plan is to live my gender authentically every moment I can and want to. And for me, that gender is the space between selves, and that’s ok, just as someone else’s gender might most decidedly not be in that in-between space. Gender is so… everything. Multidimensional. Vast. There are so many different genders, and then there’s the space between those genders, and that space is genders too. Unless that’s not what you want to call it.
And it’s all ok.
Before I finish this, I just want to say: I think the way we view gender is heavily tinted by our upbringing, how the world tried to fit us in certain categories, how rigid those categories were. In this way, I am conscious that my upbringing was unusual and my parents, very gender nonconforming (especially in the context of 90s-00s rural Canada). When I wrote, in my intro post, that I didn’t care about what pronouns you used to talk about me and that I thought gender was “unclear and illusionary,” I meant it. I’ve taken Intro to Sociology (and other sociology classes) but I still don’t really understand gender, least of all mine.
Writing this was hard, and posting it is scary, so props to Gray for writing the original between selves.
Next time, I will write about the inevitability of death! Yay!
Until then, courage.
i don’t know what march is like where you are. if you can feel the springtime coming. here (a corner of canada; this is nadine writing) you can’t. it’s cold, it snows, it’s cloudy. the only clue is the lengthening hours of daylight. and yet somehow that’s enough. you can feel it in others, this quiet resilience, a mixture of tiredness and hope. march is ugly. march is thick ice and grey snow, asphalt invisible under the rocks and the dirt, trees still bare, puddles bigger than the street, car wheels that spin loudly on the ice. sidewalks are the enemy, obstacle courses. march is not kind. but march is precious. thirty-one days. one month. march may not look like a gift. but i refuse to see it as anything else. maybe march is a test. maybe march is nature, vulnerable and wild, fragile and fierce, asking us “can you still love me like this?” and i want to be the kind of person who says yes. i want to be the kind of person who loves unconditionally. people, nature, life.
for me, these days, trying to love life unconditionally means two things: appreciating it as it comes and daring to reconsider it completely.
hopefully these favourites of ours will help you do just that. anchor yourself to the present and look to the future with hope. because you know what? there will be more. a month from now, we’ll make a favourites post, and none of us knows what will be in it yet. you’ll have new favourites too. definitely something worth sticking around for.
→ Debussy’s La Mer: Trois esquisses symphoniques: 1. De l’aube à midi sur la mer played by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap Van Zweden (released feb. 22, 2019). listen with closed eyes. you’re on a small fishing boat on the Atlantic Ocean by the coast of France. it’s dawn. the sun rises, the sea awakens. the sunshine reflects on the waves, blinding you at times. everything is saturated, but in a good way. the song ends at noon and you’re still out on the sea, with the sun at its zenith and your compass unwaveringly pointing north.
nadine: this is impressionist music; like the paintings from the same movement, its purpose is to create an impression in the mind of the person who encounters it. in this case, i find the impression startlingly and pleasantly clear. i know 9:16 sounds like a long time, but it’s so worth it. the last minute of this piece is pure euphoria to listen to for me (the chords!!!!). after i heard it the first time, i had to stop everything, remove my headphones and just laugh because who knew there were still such wonderful treasures i’d never heard before? you never know what you don’t know, and if that’s not a reason to stick around, i don’t know what is. finally, two things: (1) if you have time to listen to the entire programme/album, do it! it also features The Rite of Spring, which i actually discussed in my last post. (2) i will be back with a classical music (loosely-used term) piece each month. will probably discuss why i think classical music is beautiful, powerful and relevant in a blog post, but until then, i do hope you enjoyed this at least half as much as i did (and that would already be a lot).
→ Sucker Punch (LP) by Sigrid (released march 8, 2019). listen when you’re out for a walk on a sunny day, or on a cloudy day that you want to make sunnier.
nadine: Sigrid is my favourite newish player on the pop scene! this is her first LP. listen for a quirky voice and production with an upbeat vibe. i recommended the entire LP because LPs are a rare commodity these days, and LPs with many enjoyable songs are always a rare pleasure. if happy pop is not your thing, you may want to skip directly to the last song, Dynamite; otherwise, honestly, these are all straight from pop heaven.
→ Placeholder by Hand Habits (released march 1, 2019)
gray: the new album from meg duffy’s project hand habits is like a breezy spring morning. duffy’s sweet vocal melodies and melt over ephemeral instrumentation and evocative lyrics. let it fade away, in the bathtub with clay on your face (“are you serious?).
→ What Chaos is Imaginary by Girlpool (released february 1, 2019)
gray: i guess this month i’m into sprawling sounds. since the album came out earlier this year, i’ve been captivated by the vagueness of the lyrics and the moments of larger-than-life sounds (“what chaos is imaginary,” “chemical freeze”) mixed with soft, intimate moments (“all blacked out,” “hoax and the shrine”). let the sound surround you until what’s real becomes…well, imaginary.
→ Avalanche by Just Friends, and other songs on the playlist. listen with the lights dim, your body fluid and submissive to the way music asks you to move and groove. alternatively: on a porch watching a spring rain.
m: bonus points, moving on a rainy day. someone asked me recently what music i like and i froze and blurted out “reverb… beats… purple stuff that envelopes you and makes your body loosen up!” juicy songs to do yoga to. music in the background writing papers, yet the same music you can close your eyes in, and lose yourself in the waves. world building music. avalanche does this incredibly well. half through, the bass thrums in your chest, yet water trickles in the background, but all you can hear is a woman’s voice. then, a piano chord. it’s intricate, yet feels so simple and human. dip into it. then, shimmy your shoulders to playful cellos and basses and more in soul alphabet. dip and repeat.
→ Self Control by Frank Ocean and Cavetown and Dissect. listen loud, with that bittersweet ache, and a thought for summer, late at night, on the phone with your best friend.
m: covers are hit and miss. usually, i prefer the original, but sometimes an artist does a song so differently, or so distinctly theirs, that i fall in love (such as Somebody Else by Vérité.) this is true here. frank ocean’s self control is so intimate and distilled, a musical journal. beautiful. i suggest listening to the podcast dissect episode on the song. lyrically and sonically, it is an art, and irreplaceable. when cavetown, a red haired english boy, covered self control, i was skeptical. while very similar to frank ocean’s version, this version is somehow distinctly cavetown’s. listening to the tune, i could believe each version was written by the artist.
→ The Dream Chapter: STAR by TOMORROW X TOGETHER (or txt, for short). listen when you want to feel happy and excited and kinda silly. like afternoons in the summer with your best friends that you'll remember forever
julia: txt is a new group, they have debuted only a couple weeks ago, but I'm completely addicted to their debut EP. they are pretty young, with members ranging from 20 to 17, so their songs are basically about the growing pains of being a teenager. the main single, Crown, talks about a boy who one day wakes up with horns on his head and is afraid he turned into a monster. but then he meets a boy with wings and realizes that he's not alone in being a bit weird and now his horns feel more like a crown. even though i'm way past that age, i still can relate a lot to both feeling inadequate for something i was born with and trying to come to terms with that too the point where i can see the positive side of it. Also the songs are just bops, Cat & Dog is absolutely absurd and hilarious, it always puts a smile on my face.
→ this video of Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson’s acoustic cover of No Tears Left to Cry with violins and cellos for BBC Radio 1 (released dec. 11, 2018). watch at the end of the long day with the quiet conviction that you’ll find a plan.
nadine: i actually love covers, so i was already sold on the idea of combining this duo with one of my favourites 2018 releases, but this exceeded my expectations in every way. i’ve watched this oneit so often by now that now anytime i finish a video on youtube, however unrelated, youtube is like: “now this?” and i’m like: “YES!” i could probably write an essay about this cover/song. or Miley Cyrus. it’s so quiet but it feels so huge.
→ MARINA’s new album trailer (released march 8, 2019).
nadine: i like people who think deeply, creatively and earnestly. Marina, previously known as Marina and the Diamonds, is definitely one of those people. besides, album trailers are a cool concept, and this one doesn’t disappoint. about staying soft and kind, finding beauty, and finding love in the midst of fear.
→ John Green's Cause for Celebration (released november 20, 2018) for when you feel unwell and unhappy.
m: John Green reminds me how much humanness we have lost recently. sometimes i wonder at the human inclination, across culture and age, to dance. humans love to dance. along with this, humans, forever, have celebrated, for the seemingly smallest occurrences. sure, some of this is because people of history actually depended on things like rain to survive. a harder life, for sure, but a more thankful life. i wouldn't mind reclaiming some of this joy, especially in the dead of cold spring.
→ txt’s live performance of Crown
julia: this month has been really all about them for me and I'm simply in love with this choreography. it's so intricate and fun! I have watched it so many times but I'm still not sick of it.
→ Will You by Carrie Fountain, a poem to read on your kitchen counter.
m: this poem uses glitter to confront your wakefulness or apathy.
→ Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
→ Yes She Can: 10 Stories of Hope & Change from Young Female Staffers of the Obama White House compiled by Molly Dillon
m: good for crying into your coffee when you should be working, or googling “credentials to work in the white house, wait a second, who’s the current president?”
→ Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience
m: i picked up my copy of this book today, and i am already stunned and touched. incredibly well written, featuring voices such as elizabeth acevdeo, chen chen, safia elhillo, and ocean vuong. steep in another's world.
→ matcha with vanilla almond milk. pairs best with lust for springtime and planning the present.
→ dirty chai with oat milk. a literal incarnation of the term “bittersweet.”
→ coffee, lots of coffee. currently my fave is a citrus chocolate blend from my friend's own brand. citrus + chocolate, opposites complementing each other instead of fighting, the kind of balance i want for my life.
→ this month was for Existential Questioning with much-deserved capitalization. examples of questions nadine has asked himself/herself/themself include: ♫ what does it mean to be a good person? ♫ why is it important to me to be a good person? ♫ what does it mean to do good in the world? ♫ just as i don’t want to pretend i know what’s best for someone else, can i pretend to know what’s best for the world? ♫ how may i balance altruism and hedonism; how may i contribute to the wellbeing of others while having fun? ♫ what is inner peace? is it attainable? is it a selfish thing to want? do i even really want that? ♫ why do i think i am currently alive as this particular human here? ♫ where does my pain come from? ♫ how much money do i really need, assuming i’ll live to old age? ♫ what motivated the past Big Life Decisions i’ve made? ♫ what pursuit brings me the most happiness, why, and why did i ever give it up? ♫ how can i find more people who don’t make me feel like a freak, who make me feel less alone? ♫ what do i want to do with my “one wild and precious life”?? ♫ what can i do now to start exploring the world more thoroughly? to have more fun? ♫ how may i reframe my feelings to realize that regardless of their degree of normality, they’re normal for me? ♫ how do i become the best friend i can be? ♫ etc. ♫
→ how can i be honest with myself without running away, terrified?
→ club prompts, 3/10/19 ☽ what do you stay for? ♡what is ur church? how do u pray? ☽ spoken word for a wordless song ☽ turn on a song. dance. move the way u need to. capture your thoughts + arising feelings ☽ poems for tarot cards ☽ instant film ♡send us your favorite skies
→ club prompts, 3/5/19 ☽ sink into the point of view of an original character ♡ use a morning routine to create a piece ☽ boat building ☽ what details encapsulates your february? ☽ the horoscope you need to read ☽ erasure ♡a light in the wrong place
I started reading tarot in the Spring of 2015, which was most definitely a Bad Time in my life – head full of deep, cakey mud that made it almost impossible for any wheels to turn. I stopped not long after. That’s why when people ask me when I started reading tarot, I usually say: December 2016. Because that’s when I really dedicated myself to it as a practice.
One card I never really understood was the Knight of Pentacles. I have a notebook in which I jotted down thoughts regarding each card’s meaning. Most cards have elaborate flow charts and mind maps. The upright Knight of Cups page just read “hard work”… for over a year and a half. Seriously. Two words.
I was fortunate enough to find The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin at my library last summer. In it, Crispin goes through every tarot card and illustrates it through famous artists or artworks, creativity-related anecdotes, etc. Bear in mind that this is most definitely not an introductory book; I would suggest a certain level of familiarity with the cards before reading this (i.e. being able to read each card comfortably with or without notes).
It would not be hyperbolic to say that this author revolutionized my understanding of the Knight of Pentacles. It’s true. Of course, between “hard” and “work”, there wasn’t much to revolutionize, but still.
Crispin relates the Knight of Pentacles to a particular number in The Rite of Spring, I think, or in The Afternoon of a Faun that had been produced a few months prior, I can’t remember. Point is: erotic ballet in the 1910s causing upheavals and controversy.
Jessa Crispin also mentions ballet in the discussion of the Nine of Pentacles, saying that the Nine of Pentacles looks like a ballerina floating onstage, but that, like the case is for the ballerina, a whole lot of hard work went behind it. This is something that helps me understand the use of the erotic ballet metaphor with the Knight of Pentacles. Another thing that helps is the reminder that the Knight of Pentacles is earth (Pentacles) and fire (Knight).
I got the Nicoletta Ceccoli deck in January 2017 and it is one of the two decks I am still using today (the second one being the Circo Tarot by Marisa de la Peña, which I got in August 2018). In that deck, the Knight of Pentacles is portrayed with a discarded heart-shaped sign on the ground on which the words “Hate me” can be read.
I never understood the point of that sign until I read Crispin’s Knight of Pentacles chapter. I feel so moved when I think of the vulnerability in that “Hate me” sign. I think that sometimes we ask for hatred because we’re tired of asking for love and being met with indifference. When we get past this need to claim others’ hatred – the moment I think the card may be portraying – we are ready to dare in the most authentic way possible, not to get reactions, but because that is what we feel in our gut we must do.
We’ll never know what Vaslav Nijinsky was trying to do with his erotic ballet, if he wanted to shock or if he was just going for the frankest form of expression he could imagine. Some people say The Rite of Spring was a publicity stunt, created entirely for its shock value; yet, others disagree. Did Stravinsky, Nijinsky and the others ask themselves “What is the most shocking thing I could make?” or “What is truest to the feeling and the vision I have inside?” Call me idealistic; I like to think it’s BOTH.
Because I’ve felt that way. So huge and electric and intense inside and like nothing I can make will shock others enough to make them understand. I can relate to the need for the high-pitched bassoon tune, for the dissonance, for the confusing rhythms, for the weird melodies. I’ll never know if Igor Stravinsky wrote those elements in his music because there was no way for him to create anything that satisfied him otherwise, or because he just sat down at his desk and thought something like: “Alright, let’s shock these rich Parisians and get me a lot of press attention.” But I like to think there’s an element of honesty in The Rite of Spring, and for the sake of this post – discussing the Knight of Pentacles – let’s say there is.
And so, I sense a duality in the Knight of Pentacles. On one hand, the training, the work, the physical care, repeating exercises over and over, bandaging our feet, showing up, buckling down. On the other hand, daring in the most authentic way possible.
See you in the next one: the inevitability of death.
Until then, I wish you the courage to channel your inner Knight of Pentacles.
Back in the Fall of 1992, a 35-year-old put on his bright blue windbreaker, wrapped his baby in warm clothes, slid his favourite cassette in his Walkman and went for a walk around the neighbourhood. And he did it on the next day. And the next. And every time, the same thing happened: his baby (finally!) fell asleep. During the same song.
The number of times I fell asleep to that cassette. You’d think it would be special somehow. And it is. It is special. My father loves it, and every time he hears the song, he thinks of the warm feeling he got when he finally managed to make his first child, his four-month-old baby fall asleep, feeling the baby’s head drop close to his chest, and that song played, and the Fall wind blew, and for a few seconds, everything was right. There was hope. He was connected. He had a place. Here was a small, wonderful, beautiful human who’d have a life completely different from his own. And he’d created it.
I’m sure you know this feeling. Even if you’ve never had a baby. Even if you’ve never touched a cassette or a Walkman or a bright blue windbreaker. Even if you’d sooner die than go on the same walk listening to the same songs in the same order every day.
It’s the feeling when the sounds in your ears echo the humming of the blood in your veins. Something out there is the same as something in you, finally. Your mind can’t believe it, but your heart knows it’s real. Everything is exactly where it needs to be. Including you.
Or maybe it’s not music or even sound. Maybe it’s something you see. Maybe it’s something you read. Maybe it’s a smell or a taste. Maybe it’s the heat of the Sun washing over you on a summer day. Whatever it is, you can take comfort in knowing that it’s real. And that weird intangible unnameable thing inside you, that wilderness you can’t explain? It’s real too.
When I was a small child, I was heavily interested in Catholicism, the religion of my grandparents. To a certain extent, I was brought up with this slight Catholic undertone, I think mostly as a way for my parents to appease their own parents after they’d eloped and moved away. But I just knew there was something more to life than what I could see and, not knowing other religions really existed, I tried to study that one. I think I was five or six when I asked for a Bible for Christmas.
I was disappointed when I learned there were other equally as valid religions, or when I started seeing the extent of the pain that existed in the world. It wasn’t long after. It was some time after I’d gotten those two children’s Bibles (children’s Bibles, seriously, how insulting, I want the full stories, I remember thinking with my six-year-old brain), and before I got the actual, full New Testament in Catechesis (I think I was eight then).
I have this vivid memory… It wasn’t too long after I’d gotten that New Testament. I was cross-country skiing in the trails my parents’ friends traced on their land. I was using my mother’s old ski set, the one she’d bought for herself as a teenager with the money she’d made babysitting and giving music classes. I stood on top of a hill, ready to go down. There was a gust of wind. It caressed my face. It blew away the hair that had slipped out of my toque. I stretched my arms out to the side. The wind slipped and slid all around them. I was completely surrounded by this gust, and I felt powerful and high on endorphins and I remember exactly what I thought: “This is God.”
I wouldn’t call it God anymore. I don’t know what I would call it. Life. The Universe. Energy. Synchronicity. Love. Connectedness. I don’t know. But I know there’s something. I know there’s something because of the way I feel when birds sing, when the breeze bristles through the leaves of trees, when the soles of my feet hit scalding hot sand, when I listen to Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity or Postcards from Italy, when I read tarot, when a friend says something that gives me hope, when I see the smile on my father’s face as he tells the story of the baby and the cassette, when I’ve made spaghetti sauce the way my mother does, when a song I’ve written gets stuck in my head…
I know this is coming from a place of privilege in many ways. In fact, it’s coming from appreciating and acknowledging the privileges I have, from my parents to the nature and peace around me, along with the colour of my skin and everything else on the way. Even simply knowing what hot sand feels like.
And I think the real problem is not privilege in itself, but ignoring or diminishing it.
See you in the next one. I’ll write about the Knight of Pentacles.
Until then, I wish you joy at least as big as having your newborn finally fall asleep while listening to your favourite song.
Nadine (whatever pronouns; go wild) is changing all the time, yet always the same, and passionate about finding out how that works. Does not give up their search for meaning, ever. Unapologetically dramatic and wholly uninterested in lukewarm living. Can be found overthinking, asking uncomfortable questions, writing, or misusing the glitter emoji.
I’m Nadine and I will be posting on this blog (!!!!!!). I figured it might be a good idea to write a bit more about myself first. I feel like I’m dropping in with no explanation.
I could start by telling you about all the people I’ve been, but that would take a long time, and besides, am I not always the same? Right. I am. Technically.
People who meet me say I’m calm, but I don’t think they mean it as in “chill” – more like soft, probably. In a vague sort of way. Because they also say I’m the worst drama queen ever, and can’t you stop exaggerating everything? What they don’t understand is that I’m not exaggerating. Things are huge for me. I have a sensitive barometer that swings either way quickly. My reactions are contained and reserved compared to the intensity of what I perceive, believe me.
I understand that in our society, when you’re introducing yourself, you’re not supposed to lead with “I’m overly dramatic, but that’s because I’m sensitive, and I refuse to see that as a hindrance.” So, here are a few more conventional pieces of information about me:
My name is Nadine. That’s the name I was given. I didn’t always like it, but I’m starting to see the appeal in being called “Messenger of Hope,” so I’m keeping it (etymologically, my full name goes something like “rebellious messenger of hope and armed warrior” and I think that’s kind of #goals). You may associate this name with pronouns of your choosing. Gender is honestly very fluid, unclear and illusionary to me. I’m Canadian. My first language is French. My formal study of (as well as in) English is limited. I have a B.Sc. I’m still a student and will hopefully be a librarian in no more than a year and a half.
I realize I haven’t uploaded a picture of myself. I’ll be honest here. I think my body’s kind of awesome. Sometimes I wish I could change a few things. Ultimately, I’m ok with it. I just never manage to find a photograph of myself and think: “That’s me.”
But to give you an image of sorts: I’m white with a pinkish undertone; Instagram’s Juno filter makes my selfies look the best. My hair is thick, dark and slightly yet noticeably streaked with grey, the back and sides short, the top longer. My eyes are just as dark, though not streaked with grey that I can tell, and round. I have a witch’s mole on the tip of my nose and several acne scars all over my chin, forehead and temples. I always raise my eyebrows, and when I’m not raising my eyebrows, I’m frowning, so you can imagine the lines on my forehead. My face is round. It’s a good, average, functional face.
I’m passionate about deep thought. I speak in metaphors, comparisons and analogies because that’s the most authentic and honest way to verbalize what’s inside me that I can think of. I read tarot. I love the wind and birds. I’m trying to become better at doing the dishes. I’m also trying to become better at seeing myself as a person who deserves love, whose inner immensity is a gift. Not easy!
I want to end this by telling you a little bit about where I am in my healing/growth process.
There is a certain power within me. A life force. An energy. An urge to create. I prefer to illustrate it as wind. So, there are these huge winds that my brain produces. And, as a child, especially in school, whenever I let these winds roam free, I’d often get disappointing or even hurtful reactions from the people around me. Indifference, reproach, helplessness, jealousy… I learned to keep the winds in. But what happens when you keep winds in a confined space? They bounce against the walls and eventually create a tornado. And tornadoes aren’t very good at things that aren’t destruction.
I was 21 when the tornado became too much. I went to people in positions of authority, powerful people, experts. “Help,” I said. “The inside of me is rubble, wreckage, destruction.”
“I see,” they replied very seriously. “Let me fix that for you.”
It took a long time and a lot of work, but eventually, they shut down the tornado. It stopped hurting quite as much. I wasn’t very happy with the results, but I couldn’t argue with the fact that the wreckage had disappeared.
“I did it!” they announced, smiling. “I fixed you. You’re normal now.”
The problem was that I didn’t feel fixed at all. I felt extinguished, and a part of me couldn’t believe I had to be extinguished to be happy. I was afraid to speak up. I was 24 and I was empty. Empty, empty, empty. And not in a depressed way. I wasn’t depressed anymore. I was just… The inside of me was a cold, dark, very still cavity. I was alive and healthy, so why did I feel so dead?
I finally dared to talk about it. We found a way to start letting the winds back in.
It took me two years after that to realize that I didn’t have to keep the winds inside me. I could learn to wield them. Lots of things I could do with winds like that. Goodbye inner tornado, hello to blowing ships’ sails!
Anyway, that’s where I am. Learning wind-wielding. I’m just starting out.
If you can see yourself in the whole “being made to feel like exteriorizing your own power is bad, keeping it inside and having it destroy you” thing, here are a few resources I’d suggest: an encouraging message from a fellow intense person, the gushing ramblings of a fellow intense person, and a creation that gives me hope and that I could personally gush about for hours right now. It’s not necessarily a matter of who said it; it’s a matter of what is said (in the first link) or how it is said (in the second link).
Next time, I will talk about faith and babies.
Until then, may you find a piece of art you love at least half as much as dodie loves La La Land and I love Jupiter.