Memory is a tool in carving a transitory beauty of life

People say that the first memory is important to interpret a person. Her first memory was a huge bolt of lightning hitting mountain top in the summer night sky. She must have been around 3 or 4. She still remembers seeing the diverging electric beast in the pitch-black background. She didn’t feel fear. It was awe she felt.

Life carries strange things around. Strange memories, strange feelings. The sky is always her thing. Her eyes lit up whenever the sky changes its color. Especially as the last strand of the sunlight fleets to the West. Her eyes are soaked with the splendid color of the dying day. Time feels closer.

She used to carry a big DSLR camera with a tripod to catch the beauty of the sky. People loved the photos she shot. She knew how to intensify certain hues using exposure and filters. But she never got the image she wanted to capture. So, she picked up brushes to paint it. She did several oil paintings and some of them came out satisfactorily. She hung them in the front foyer and her bedroom. She loves to see her sky when she goes to sleep. Somehow, those passions faded with time. She found that grabbing the beauty with those tools was in vain. She accepted the transitory nature of the sky under the setting sun and just watched each day’s magic of colors with some sorrow.

As the possessive pursuit for the sky diminished, another light flew in. This light dissolves into her skin and makes her eyes close. The music. She loves sad tunes and sad voices. Listening to them is like holding a flickering candle inside of her chest when the gushing wind blows. Maybe this kind of beauty only can be felt with an aching heart. Maybe that is the deal.
At certain times, when her life’s events make her too weak to hold the flame in the wind, she gives up the beauty of dying light because it is too painful to listen to. When her heart regains some strength, she goes back to her playlist to listen to those songs again and again for several days until her heart becomes soft and tender.

In recent years, a miracle came to her. A pure miracle because there was every possibility that she might never have gotten this miracle in her lifetime. The beauties of the sky and the music escalate under the aura of this beast.
But as the evening sky, she knows she cannot grab or hold this one. She just contemplates it as she sees the dusk with an aching heart, carving the beauty of her miracle’s presence like the huge lightning bolt of her first memory.

<June 7th, 2017>

Puddles

–  dip a bit –

My feeling about my superiority to the other immoral beings has carried on for a long time after that experience. But now, I wonder that what is the right way of living. I wonder if they are the real ones who got more in life, voraciously sucking their life and getting the most out of it. I wonder if I’ve taken less, felt less, and lived less under the name of my moral standard. I wonder if I am on the loser side of the planet under the disguise of a noble mask because I easily give up my fingers holding one side of the dollar bill with my trademark despise towards the greedy people. I think a lot nowadays that she was the one who got full of the scented erasers in life even she stole them. All I got was the empty pride that I felt morally higher than her. What for?

– in “The Scented Eraser” –

 

We were all looking for something. Some were desperate. Some were just curious. But we were here for a reason. Each one of us had our stories, each one of us had our pain and fear, each one of us had our broken parts, and each one of us had our hope for hope. We supported one another as best as we could with whole hearts and honest minds. Emotions and energies boiled over in every session. Rages and grudges of each one of them exploded and covered the others like hot ashes. We yelled, cried, jumped, danced, hit things, gave out tantrums, laughed, cried again, closed our eyes, opened them, looked at each other as if we looked into a person’s eyes for the first time in our lives, wrote, listened, talked, acted, hugged, whispered, gave hands to support, accepted the others’ hands to be supported, and held one another like one giant melting rock.

– in “Dots” –

 

When they walk to the garden, the wind sweeps their bodies. It blows away the things spoken and leaves behind the things unspoken.

– in “Decoding”-

A Blue Heart

image2She loves blue; from pale pastel blue like almost pure white to indigo blue like the sky right before the dark. She loves serenity, melancholy, and sincerity of the color. She loves blue jay, blue topaz, blue sky, blue eyes, blue water, the blues, and the things coming out of blue. But she hates some blues though, especially artificial blues; blue roses, blue soda, alien’s blue blood, and blue blank screens in TV or computer. She buys blue stuff; a blue jewel Bluetooth speaker, a watch with blue straps, a blue character key chain, blue suede loafers, blue pens and blue leads for her sharp pencil, and blue post-its. But she knows the blue doesn’t suit her skin even she wants to wear pretty blues badly, the only clothes she got in blue is a sky blue cotton shirt. She loves that shirt very much. And finally, she has a blue heart.

Hearts should be red, or at least pink, but somehow, her heart is pictured as blue in her mind all the time. She bought a small blue heart paperweight made out of recycled glass. Sometimes, she holds it in her hand to warm it up because its coldness feels very sad to her. Her heart is blue not because it is dead or frozen, but because it is bruised. Beaten again and again for a long time. And beaten again before it restores its original color. The blue color of her heart makes her sad, and then, the sadness she feels beats her heart back. Now she can’t distinguish which was the first, the blue heart or her sadness. The two circle on and on with the added force of her life’s events and the others’ lives events because the heart absorbs up the pain of others as well with its soft tissue.

She recognizes people who have a blue heart. The color seeps out of their existences in one way or another. She notices the sadness of the sound vibrating through the strings of viola when R. O. plays. She knows that his heart was born blue. And that blue makes his music different from others, sad and beautiful. She looks at the wolf dog’s eyes who couldn’t belong to any place and notices his lonely heart through his elegant gaze. She can hear Oscar’s scream shattering glasses in Tin Drum and is sad for his beaten up heart. She ached when her friend lost her loving husband for whom she bravely and painfully left her earlier marriage. Whenever she encounters the people with a blue heart, in real life or fictional worlds, she has an urge to hold them tight until they get warm as her glass paperweight blue heart does in her palm.

She knows that the blue heart doesn’t necessarily mean less warm or less active. It moves so frantically that it is difficult to keep it in her chest quiet. It is hot as the blue flame of a candle light is the hottest part. She doesn’t want to close her heart to avoid the life’s beating. The hurt is painful, but the magnificent things come along with it. Beaten, bruised. It is okay as long as it moves. Now she thinks that she chose the blue one instead of the red because she loves blue; from pale blue like almost pure white to dark blue like a bruised heart.

<March 15th, 2017>

Him

I took the hand of the man I mistook for my dad. I walked half a block beside him. My top of the head was about at his waistline, and my small hand disappeared in his large hand. A wrong feeling crawled over me and looked up, and he wasn’t my dad. A stranger who had similar clothes. Instantly, I was terrified and frantically looked around. My dad was just a little behind, grinning at me who hopped a few steps ahead and took the hand of a wrong man. I was embarrassed for my brief horror that I had thought I had lost my father. How could he lose me? I knew it couldn’t happen. Even though I was six years old at that time, I knew it. But as I grew, I did start to lose him. My indifference toward my father grew from that of a little girl as I became a woman.

If I think back over my childhood, I always remember my dad associated with some sort of sounds, even though he didn’t talk much. To amuse his little daughter, he used to pick up a thick leaf of a garden plant, roll it up, put it between his lips, and make sounds like a simple song. He played harmonica in the leisurely evenings, sitting on a big rock or a step. I saw his head and shoulders swaying with the rhythm he was playing through the garden door from our living room. He played many many songs I didn’t know and still don’t know. But I can hear those melodies if I recall those times as warm moist hands stroked my cheeks. I found that the tune of the harmonica made the soul tender, which I often resisted at that time, and thought the instrument suited only for a soldier in the lone nights at an army base.

As a child, I had lots of free time. I used to look through the album jackets of his LP music collection. They always looked funny and outdated to me. The women singers’ faces were flat and white, and their clothes looked cheesy. But I lay down on my belly and looked through them one by one, again and again, like peeking at something for grown-ups. Sometimes, my dad asked me to put an LP disc on the turntable. Whenever I put the needle on the silky black vinyl track, it made a loud noise like zipping a rusty zipper of a giant. But rarely, when I managed to land the needle barely making any noise, I was very proud of myself.

He also played the piano. My brother and I dragged to take the piano lesson for years, but the person who truly enjoyed playing was my dad. He never told us how he learned to play. But he played well any music. It was unusual that a man played the piano who grew up with Korean War and had such a serious job. He must have been the first man who worked to support the family in his bloodline for a few thousand years. Before the Japanese colonization, the aristocrat class didn’t have to work. All they did was studying, reading, writing, discussing with contemporaries for the intellectual stimulation, hunting, enjoying music and art, and hustling around among several wives depending on their status and wealth. What they only worked was keeping their position through the politics. But when the history shifted fast in the early 1900s, the old value became not valid, and the poor living condition hauled the incompetent men to the competitive work market to feed themselves and their family. In this transitional period, my grandfather’s parents were still wealthy and revered. So my grandfather was sent to Tokyo to study new things and culture. But what he did was took a second wife, a Japanese woman, and enjoyed living as his ancestors. My grandmother, maybe in her early 20s, took the ship to Japan and dragged her husband to Korea. That was how my dad and I could exist in this world.

The Korean War made everyone miserable, and my grandfather wasn’t a man who could feed the family. It was my father, the second son, who took care of his family from his early age. I heard he was a genius at school. He memorized everything even he didn’t make any note and had to work after school since ten or so. He climbed the social ladder quickly exercising his brain and diligence after the war in the rapidly developing country, enough to provide the affluent life to his family. He paid all college tuitions for his siblings and his wife’s siblings. He bought houses for himself and his elder brother. He supported his parents until they passed away. But he didn’t say a word about these. I heard from my mother. He never complained about his labor, and he never boasted about his contribution. He just sat on the piano seat and played a while as if nothing mattered at those moments. He never said how sad he was when his youngest brother died during the army service, but he went his brother’s cemetery every year on the national Patriot holiday. I used to go with him when I was a kid, and I knew my company made him happy.

I didn’t realize at that time, but there must be some common interests between him and me. I remember the first time I opened the Nietzsche in his bookshelf and my lifetime affection for Nietzsche began. It was a worn green hardcover book with the embedded golden title. The paper was brownish yellow and the lines aligned vertically from right to left like the old Asian scripts. I could smell the book’s age when I turned the page. Still, I can see clearly that a teenage girl stood in front of that bookshelf forgetting time and space, and took out “Human, All Too Human” among the Hemingways and the Fitzgeralds. I also read the copies of “To Whom Bell Tolls” and “The Sun Also Rises” from that bookshelf and my eyes were busy up and down following the vertically flowing stories.

Now I can see that my dad is a man of many talents and charms whom I nailed as a boring man when I was young because he worked every day from the morning to the evening following the same routine. I didn’t know at that time that his devotion was there, but his passion wasn’t. He has been a brilliant Korean Chess player matching to the professionals, a tireless mountaineer to the top alone or with others, a man getting poetry love letters written on large dried leaves which made my mother vigilant to catch the sender, a voracious lifetime reader who handed me the clipped newspaper articles whatever related to my work, an animal lover who had to keep his love quiet for his non-animal lover wife, and a man with a very few words having enormous sounds flowing out of his presence. Maybe I can follow the end of the string of our common interest and find the way to cross the gap between us, which caused by my indifferent and arrogant mind. I guess I am ready to hear the distant sound my dad had played when he had been younger than me now. Since sounds can reach to the distance regardless of the shape of the earth we are standing, maybe this time, sounds can time travel from the past to the present to a humble daughter who is finally ready to listen.

<March 1st, 2017, reworked the piece written in February 23rd, 2017>

The Elephant’s Belief

“Do you know how to keep the elephants from running away?”

E. looks around at us sitting in a circle. I know the story already. But the serene mood of the room and her low husky voice make the story feel different this time.

“When the elephant was a baby, people tied the baby elephant to a tree. So it only could move around the area the chain reached. And when it got curious about something far and tried to go, the metal chain stopped it and cut into its skin. So the baby elephant gave up running away. As the elephant grew, he got the power to pull out any tree or peg it was tied. But it never tries, even it was little wood stick stuck on the ground, if his leg was tied.”

I feel something moving in my heart. First time I heard the story, I just thought about the elephant. This time, I am thinking about me. I, as an elephant, tied to the imaginary chain which I thought there has been. Or chains I can pull out or cut off with my power or will. But my thinking tied to the conventional tree resists the process. I have yearned for freedom for all my life, but still I felt bound. Bound to the real things in life. Financially, emotionally, and physically. But I am questioning now. Am I?

This leads to the different question. Then, was I pretending that I was bound to the tree, even knowing that I could break the chain with my power? Was it my hypocritical self which wanted to stay beside the tree, smacking of a free spirit to the people around? Because I knew, I knew that if I stay around the tree, there is no need to find the way of survival. No need to find food and shelter. No need to deal with living necessities. So, in the end, it was me who didn’t go anywhere. But my ego made up an imaginary chain and made myself think in the way that all the social conventional values were tying me up.

If I leave the tree I bound, where can I go? Where is my direction? If I take my journey far, will it be just the daily struggle to survive? Will my freedom become every day’s striving to find things to eat and places to rest? Will it be worth to venture then?

Still I am beside the tree stubbing my toes nervously against the dirt. But the one thing I know is that I am not content with being here, being here for my entire life. I need to find a way to break myself from me-used-to-be. Maybe here, I can make arrow and shoot or learn tricks and show. Or I can go, I can take the chances being hungry, tired, wet and cold out in the rainy nights. I should be ready for the inconveniences of the life. To live the life.

Elephants and whales are special to me. They came in many different ways in my life. I feel like them in some way. Felt big. But I can’t find a place to lay my big body in the world, the world so immense that elephants and whales have no problem in living. I should squeeze myself out, elbowing other beings around, and make my way to the unknown. Break the tie with fear and thrill. Even tears will be worth more in the realm of freedom. In freedom.

<May 10th, 2016>