Shorter

From Elizabeth Spiers:

One of my resolutions is to get in the habit of writing more frequently, and part of that is learning to write shorter. When I first started blogging in 2000, this was not a problem. A paragraph-long post felt like enough, if that was what was warranted. Now I feel like I have to write a complete 1500 word essay every time I sit down to write something, and it’s not good for my writing . . .

Yes. This. Exactly.

Recently, I’ve found little ways to trick me into “writing” — whatever that entails. Sometimes it’s crafting mediocre haikus on my blog about my new home or publishing tiny poems in Instagram captions. Other times, I’ll start a blog post and then abandon it, which I realize is just another way to free-write — and totally fine. And while I’m not a goal-setting enthusiast each January, I do like Elizabeth’s idea from her blogging resolution post: no posts over 300 words. She states a concrete, firm goal. But it’s totally reachable, even for someone as currently apathetic about writing as me.

As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes I think the writer’s block is due to something as simple as my theme on my main blog; how can a lapsed writer motivate herself to write if her blog is set up as a magazine-style site that best showcases longform writing? Perhaps I set myself up to fail, each time. And I think this is why this theme, on the site you’re on now, has been working somewhat well. It’s a blog, plain and simple. No bells and whistles, no photos, no time ever spent pruning and customizing it. A digital piece of blank paper that doesn’t care — doesn’t judge — when I scribble unformed, unfinished crap on it.

For a moment, I’d considered changing things up here, or migrating all of my followers from my other site, but I think both would be a mistake.

So for now, it’s just me and (the very few of) you. Hello and happy new year.

 

Asleep

What if nobody reads me? But every young, hungry Pinay who crosses your path. Their eyes are so wide; they have never seen a Pinay like you before. You are a brown woman of letters. You speak like you have forgotten the fear of speaking, the harm speaking brings to brown women like you.

“Winter Solstice: Pinay Writing Hard Truth”

I follow over 950 sites in the WordPress.com Reader — something that has happened over the years working at my job. But I’m only email-subscribed to several internal team blogs, and don’t email-subscribe to anything else. I’ve tried my best to keep my personal GMail inbox tidy.

But a month or so ago, while I was compiling stories for a possible Longreads reading list on being Filipino American, I subscribed to the site of Barbara Jane Reyes, a Filipino author and professor raised in the Bay Area, quoted above. So I receive her new posts in my inbox, and while I haven’t read every single post, I’ve felt lately that I’m not breathing all the air that is available to me, that my eyes are shut, that part of me has been asleep. I feel I need to follow a writer like her right now, for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Yet.

cheri.blog

As of today, this blog of notes, lists, and fragments is officially at cheri.blog. I had been using a free, default wordpress.com address (clrnotebook.wordpress.com) because I could not think of an appropriate domain name. Then, when I learned that employees at my company would be able to claim a .blog address, I thought it was fitting to take my first name.

If you’re interested in buying your own .blog domain, visit get.blog. You’ll see domains and combinations of keywords that start at $30/year, while popular keywords can be pretty pricey — writing.blog for $110K, anyone?

 

Encounter

Last night, I was in a school. A student, I suppose, as I had just finished a test and was told to turn it in to the teacher in the next classroom. So I went across the hall. I entered the room, and as I wandered, I saw two people sitting at a pair of desks in the corner — a woman and a man — who were not students.

At that point, as it happens in dreams, my mission to turn in the test had ended, and this place was no longer a classroom, but a space to meet.

They faced the other way, and as I approached and turned toward them, I came face to face with my grandfather and grandmother — my father’s parents. I’ve dreamt of my grandmother before — some years ago. It was surreal, almost entrancing, as a very young version of her floated in a kind of malleable space, a version I never knew as I was too young, yet knew from old photographs. I knew it was her because of her eyes.

But here, the focus was on my grandfather. I put my hand gently on the top of his back and said hello, and we both smiled. As I type, I’m now forgetting what was said — how are you, I’m so glad to see you — but his face was clear, and I saw his eyes, and I saw him smile, and we held hands as we spoke, and I smiled and smiled and felt warm, happy. It rarely happens, but I knew I was in a dream, and I held back tears as I smiled.

I woke up. Still dark outside, the rain steady, and Nick already gone. But there, under the covers, I was warm and full of light.

Next

I’ve really changed in the past year, finding new ways to spend my free and personal time. I’ve surprised myself, actually. I’ve moved on from writing, which was once something I had to do. It used to make me happy. But at some point this year, instead of sitting in front of this screen, wondering where the words went, or feeling bad because I had nothing to say, I stopped questioning it and gave myself permission to pay attention to other things. It felt right; it felt like it was time. And so, as I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been working out regularly and absolutely love it, and I’ve also discovered that I enjoy cooking and potting.

And I really welcome these changes, these new habits. Parts of me have felt stagnant — the not-writing-and-feeling-that-I’m-supposed-to-be writing indeed contributed to that — but I’m glad that I’ve become curious again.

There are a number of other things I’d like to do, try, or get back into in 2017.

  • Taiko drumming. I watched a taiko demonstration several months ago at the Buddhist temple in town and grabbed a card for a free first class. I’ve yet to go, but it’s on my list for January. Watching and listening to the performance, I felt like I was part of it, just sitting in the audience; I can imagine how powerful the experience can be if you’re actually helping to create it. The blend of a physical workout, music, and the element of meditation and trance very much appeals to me.
  • Surfing. I’m going to the Big Island soon, just for a week, but I hope to have time to take a surfing lesson — it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but have been a bit scared. I have no skateboarding or snowboarding skills whatsoever — and in fact am terrible at both — but I love stand-up paddleboarding and love being on the water. I also plan to return to Hawaii in July, when my parents will be in Kauai, and am considering going to a surf camp (of course, this depends on if I enjoy the lesson).
  • Watercolors. I took a watercolor class in eighth grade, which was taught by my beloved French teacher. I learned so much, from stretching the paper to picking out paints and brushes to various techniques. I don’t think I was any good at it — much like how I’m crap at drawing today — but I enjoyed the process immensely. I remembered this class on a recent drive — a woman had set up her canvas at the edge of a vineyard a few minutes from my house, and she was painting a lovely country scene.
  • Gardening. I’ve recently started making soil and potting succulents, which are sprinkled around the house and on the deck. We have construction work beginning next week to excavate and level our lot, and I’m looking forward to having a big playground of planter boxes, raised beds, and all sorts of pots. I have felt so ignorant all of my life not knowing much about gardening and growing food. I’m excited to learn.

Current interests (or, recent browser history)

  • “potting soil for succulents”
  • “floating wall shelves”
  • “10×12 sheds”
  • “tall, narrow arc floor lamps”
  • “Westworld season 1 episode 2”
  • “Westworld season 1 episode 1”
  • “best-rated lounge and reading chairs”
  • “pendant lighting installation”
  • “what is NyQuil D?”
  • “how to make tomato cream sauce”
  • “origami squirrels”
  • “geometric acorns”
  • “Airbnb jobs”
  • “how to make cajun spice mix”

It seems I’ve been preoccupied with my house, cooking, my next tattoo, and Westworld, which we finally started watching last night.

After a lot of traveling in September and October, I’ve been recently enjoying a quiet existence mostly at home and — despite getting sick — finding happiness in new things. I’ve become indifferent about and uninspired at work, trying to remember what I’m passionate about and what I’m actually good at, if anything. And like many, I’m tired and terrified about this election — all the noise, all these things on the internet that are ultimately unimportant to me.

Focusing my attention on what’s in front of me. The leaves, my family, my friends.

Bigly

Most people assume that the dictionary is a static, fixed thing—the place where English is codified, formalized, memorialized. But in reality, the dictionary is an ever-changing cross-section of a living language. It follows its speakers like a dog tailing a messy eater, gobbling up everything it can.

—Merriam-Webster lexicographer Kory Stamper, in the Washington Post, on word spikes, lookups, and the surprising ways people use the dictionary during election season.

Another one

Because I do all that I can to further compartmentalize my online existence, I created yet another blog, Where the Gravensteins Are, for random photos and musings on life in my new home. This is my first-ever self-hosted WordPress site, which I installed and got up and running with Pressable.

Right now, it’s mainly photos around the house, but I’ve also started cooking more, so I may post pictures of food, too. Since the internet doesn’t have enough of that nonsense.

(A Gravenstein is a type of apple, grown in our region.)