Scenes from a Home

One of my favorite hobbies is interior decorating.  My dream house would definitely be a beach cottage somewhere with a mixture of coastal vintage, shabby chic, bohemian, and chinoiserie.  Of course, that’s a long ways down the line.  The image shown above is of my kitchen table.  Yellow seems to be a common color that makes an appearance throughout my apartment, especially my living room.  If used correctly, I find it can be appropriate for any season.  For example with autumn, I have opted to highlight the brighter of the fall colors: yellow, orange, red, as opposed to brown.  I won’t lie; it was actually a bit accidental; the curtains in the apartment are unchangeable (I would have loved to have gotten different ones) so I had to work with what I was given.

I’ve been decorating for fall for a few weeks and below are two shots of the living room:

I love natural sunlight and so having many windows is an absolute must for me.

I use Bohemian accessories to create a relaxing atmosphere (especially after working 12+ hours).  A few of my favorite colors to use are purple, magenta, and fuschia.

I found this elephant wall tapestry at a boutique in one of the local department stores by chance.  I liked the color scheme and thought it would be a nice addition for a room.

I bought this Chinese antique at a bazaar held on the Naval Base.  Using jewelry as decorative adornments can add character and brighten up a piece.

Close up of the doors with Chinese carvings, accessorized by my favorite pair of earrings.

Danse Macabre

Sitting in my apartment, listening to the winds howling outside in the super-typhoon that’s currently hitting Japan.  The wind is actually shakinf the apartment building (and I live 10 floors up!).  Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre couldn’t be a more aptly fitting piece right now for such a dark and stormy night; actually, I’m currently obsessed with it.  It’s a very interesting composition, based off much of the mythology and folklore that surround the character and concept of “Death” as pertains to French superstition.  The piece is based off the poem by Henri Cazalis and translated into English, reads:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking a tomb with his heel,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zag, on his violin.
The winter wind blows, and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden trees.
White skeletons pass through the gloom,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers.
A lustful couple sits on the moss
So as to taste long lost delights.
Zig zig, zig, Death continues
The unending scraping on his instrument.
A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked.
Her partner grasps her amorously.
The lady, it’s said, is a marchioness or baroness
And her green gallant, a poor cartwright.
Horror! Look how she gives herself to him,
Like the rustic was a baron.
Zig, zig, zig. What a saraband!
They all hold hands and dance in circles.
Zig, zig, zag. You can see in the crowd
The king dancing among the peasants.
But hist! All of a sudden, they leave the dance,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world!
Long live death and equality!

You can listen to the piece and read more about the significance of the music on Youtube:

I have had a long-time love of the violin and have been listening to some more modern violin pieces.  The violin is actually considered the “Devil’s Instrument” because of its connection to dance (and the subsequent outrage of the Church at dance).  If you enjoy listening to violin pieces I recommend Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, and for more modern tastes aka “Street Violin”, you can check out Black Violin or Josh Vietti.

The photo was taken by me in Prague at the Saint Vitus Cathedral.  Nothing like some terrifying Gothic architecture to set the mood.

On Running

Sometimes I hold anger far longer than I should, or I find myself thinking about the past and questioning everything about the present.  It’s hard to let go of regrets; and even though Edith Piaf loudly proclaimed, “Non, je ne regrette rien,” it’s hard to just be completely okay with everything sometimes.  I don’t know if I believe that things happen for a reason.  I do think that things just happen and that we need to live our lives with the fluidity of a river; it’s own force pushes it on through eventually to the larger destination where it joins into the sea.  The river flows and turns according to the path carved out in the earth; it adapts to the road set before it.

So I try to accept the things that happen, I try and ask for the serenity to accept what I can not change and to focus on what I can, but it proves difficult (mostly to my own stubbornness).

So I run.  I have always hated running.  I was that kid in gym class–yeah, you know the one–doing the 12:00 minute mile (with lots of huffing, puffing, and stopping).  I struggled to run a sub 8-minute mile for my physical fitness tests when I was at the Naval Academy.  I ran when I absolutely had to.  And then one day last year when I was at a very low point (constant replaying of Pink Floyd’s The Wall in my car driving home from work), one night I listened to a song by Florence + the Machine and I heard the lyrics:

The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run

Run fast for your mother and fast for your father
Run for your children for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind you
Can’t carry love with you if you want to survive

And everything seemed so simple: I needed to run.  2 miles turned into 3.  3 turned into 3.5 and then 4, 4 turned into 5 and 5 would eventually turn into 6, and so on.  I just needed to run.  And I was now running for completely different reasons; not for a PT test, not for gym class, not for anything other than to clean myself out emotionally and spiritually.  Not worrying about distance or time, I just learned to run for longer periods of time, and suddenly I was running distances much longer than I had ever run on a regular basis.  Just  me, my lungs, the rhythm of my breathing, the music I listened to.  Everything turned back into what we are at our basics–animals running and existing to survive.  The beauty of the body, feeling my limbs and my bones all working in perfect unison to self-propel.  The divine machine.  I’ve been reading Christopher McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  It’s the story of a man searching for answers about what makes it so that certain people can withstand extreme distances and conditions when running.  The interesting thing is that most of the people (and even the mysterious Tamahumara tribe) in the book had something in common: running was somewhat of a spiritual practice for them.  The Leadville 100 race started in Leadville, Colorado was borne out of a town’s despair, Caballo Blanco aka Micah True began running because of a broken heart; I am fascinated by the power that the simple movement of one’s body can have on the psyche and the will to survive.

For runners and athletes alike, I highly recommend this book.  When I’m feeling down and like I’m getting myself into a rut because of negative thoughts I think of a line Caballo Blanco has:

“I saw a 95-year-old Tarahumara man walking across these mountains.  Know why he could do it? Because no one told him he couldn’t.”

The Resolution

It’s really funny how sometimes irony pops up unexpectedly in our lives–and then we’re left thinking, “Well, geez, I guess I set myself up for that one in some weird way.”

Have you ever wanted something–or thought you wanted something–and it doesn’t work out and you kind of put it out of your mind, but then suddenly it just clicks easily for someone else?  You’re left there kind of behind in the dust, asking, “Why didn’t that work for me?”  I think that’s hard to swallow, and this can be applied to career, love, life in general.  “I’m putting out all this effort, why wasn’t I good enough for job ____ or for person _____.  Why was so-and-so better than me and they didn’t even put in a quarter of the effort.”

I suppose there are two potential answers.

1.) You are not actually putting in the effort entirely required to achieve whatever it is you are looking for.

2.) The universe is telling you something.

As for #1, I think of a line actor Dermot Mulroney has in The Wedding Date, “Every woman has the exact love life she wants.”  And let’s step back here and imagine that this isn’t really just a quote about someone’s love life, but about life in general.  Within reason, we all have EXACTLY what we want; or rather, what we allow ourselves to have (which in a sense, is what we want because we are not allowing ourselves otherwise).  I say this WITHIN REASON because obviously there are outside factors for certain situations which inhibit us.  But think about it–you can’t just WISH to play the piano and then be able to play, you have to put in the time and the effort to do so.  So sometimes we need to reassess certain situations we initially shrink from because they are not in our favor.  We need to ask ourselves, “What am I going to learn from this so that I can influence the outcome of a similar situation in the future?”

As for #2, I do believe that the universe operates with some sort of underlying timing.  Imagine if chaos had some sort of rhythm to it–what if, and I’m going to be really radical here–what if chaos is actually just another name for a pattern or patterns that we do not yet recognize?  I’m going to be really ridiculous here and make another terrible pop culture reference–in 1984 a truck driver named Michael Larson went on the popular TV gameshow Press Your Luck.  In what appeared random to previous contestants, Larson saw order and as a result he beat the game.  He knew exactly how to game the gaming system itself and it created a huge uproar and scandal.  But the point is this–before him contestants saw the flashing lights on the board to be a completely random, chaotic sequence, but in reality it wasn’t.  What if things really do happen for a reason, even if nothing more than just to complete some larger pattern among the universe that we can’t fully comprehend?

New Jersey, My Love

So I’ve been a little homesick recently (living across the world will, on occasion, do that to you), and I went through some of my photos from home.  I am, through-and-through, born and bred, a Jersey girl (and for all the beef it gets, it is kind of awesome–Springsteen, Bon Jovi, amazing beaches, porkroll!). Summers were spent flying down the streets on our beach-cruiser bikes and walking laps on the boardwalk or through downtown.  You’d work on the Boardwalk or in a local seafood restaurant  and when you got out you’d probably end up hanging out at the Ocean Bay Diner until 5 AM with your friends.  I didn’t really have a curfew in high school, just as long as I called to say where I was.  I come from a small town, and thankfully crime was practically non-existent.

And I come from the time a few years back when the underground music scene was gaining popularity and a lot of the now pop-rock bands started out just as a few kids playing in someone’s basement or garage.

When I came back from Japan after my year long exchange in high school, I started working in this little town known as Ocean Grove.  It’s really a bizarre place, started in 1869 as a Methodist meeting camp, it remains the longest acting camp-meeting site in the United States.  It’s a dry town, and back in the day they used to lock the big iron gates so no one could get in–or get out–until the Sabbath was over.  It’s only a square mile total in size, and the town charter was essentially written incorrectly and in 1921 it was ruled unconstitutional.  Basically everyone was fired from their jobs and Ocean Grove got absorbed into the larger surrounding township.  To make things weirder, there are residents who stay in some of the houses who are really….quirky, to say the least. I encountered quite a few of these “townies” when I worked there.

The town itself really is quite lovely, though, full of Victorian beach cottages and some outright gigantic mansions–you definitely get the vibe of that old turn-of-the-century Jersey Shore glamour.

And a few from Seaside when it’s at its best–in the middle of winter when the Benny’s and the Jersey Shore hooligans are nowhere in sight:

You can take the girl out of Jersey but you can’t take Jersey out of the girl.  Nothing quite like waking up at 5 AM to bike to the beach to watch the sunrise and then grabbing porkroll and cheese on a crispy, toasted bagel at the nearest diner.  And as long as you remember not to slurp your soup or detain a homing pigeon, it’s really a great place to be from.

What place do you call home?

Just a few shots

The days have been incredibly long at my job, so I can not express just how relaxing it is to come home, listen to Edith Piaf, and have a cup of tea before bed.  Especially when the hours you are working look something like wake up at 5 AM and don’t return home until around 9 PM.  Staying focused has been difficult recently; we’ve been working 7 day weeks and it’s not certain when we will stop.  I’ve dug up a few shots I took awhile back that I’ve always liked, so I’ll go ahead and post them tonight.

So on a completely random note, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to listen to more music, and now that I have a big-girl-job I can actually afford to download pretty much all the music that I want on itunes.  Recently I’ve been listening to The Who’s Tommy, which I was introduced to through my all-time favorite, Almost Famous.  It’s pretty wild, and if you’re into concept albums like myself, it’s worth a listen.  Totally bizarre.  And on the topic of music, I can’t wait for Mumford and Sons’ new album to be released.  Definitely looking forward to that one.