night sky

“You know I was reading,” she begins, “the other day that there’s a spiral galaxy, like our milky way, that makes the sound of a fan.”

We’re lying on our backs, on the apartment block roof, looking at the stars. The apartment roof is flat. We’re near the city. Near the sea. It feels still and quiet. She climbs up onto her elbows and lifts her right hand. With it she makes circles with her index finger in the air.

“Whoop whoop whoop whoop. Whoop whoop whoop whoop.”

She whispers again and and again, making the sound of a fan.

We came up the stairs to the rooftop tonight because we both decided we wanted some perspective. “Eyes up” we used to always say, but lately hadn’t taken a second to look.

Tonight the air is cool. The sky is clear but I can’t quite see stars. I’m remembering looking at the stars with the woman who lies next to me, from a garden, a long time ago in northern Europe. We used to lay there and draw dot to dot the stars. Right now we lay, but we can’t make out the patterns above.

“Whoop whoop whoop whoop. Whoop whoop whoop whoop,” she whispers.

“You know I was thinking,” she continues, “I love this idea that space makes noises. Like that space makes a melody. Like a song.”

“I was thinking,” she continues as she jumps up to sit cross legged. Her legs just next to my head and she talks to me as I continue I face the stars.

“I was thinking about that circular motion of the spiral galaxy. I was thinking about the fan noises that it makes. And I was thinking of how I seem to run in that spinning motion myself. But I get really tired. I want to move at a constant rate like the galaxy. That beautiful constant “whoop whoop whoop”. It’s not tired. But it’s moving. It’s generating life.

I’m not sure if space begets life, but I let her continue.

“You know, I dont want to run amock spinning out of motion.”

I prop myself up with my fingers interlocked behind my head to listen to her. And to see her. The reflections from the lights of the city dapple bright colors over her face. The lights paint beautiful colors over her visage. It’s a little distracting.

“You know,” she said. “I was thinking this morning before I went into my boardroom meeting. I was thinking I don’t want to be flustered and frantic. I want to be peaceful and sure.

You know, I think, under pressure I get stressed about generating something of my own accord. I try to generate human movement as I spin these plates around.

But I get tired and I don’t want to keep spinning like this. So when I was reading this thing, about the spiral galaxy, I was thinking imagine if space really is moving in song and dance. And then I was thinking, imagine if I could if I could let go of my own movement and somehow hear for the “whoop whoop whoop” of the stars, and move with it.”

“That’s beautiful sweetheart, but I’m not sure if I’m with you.”

Looking at her, the lights on her face sweep over. Sliding reflections down her face. There is movement in the city, projecting colored lights.

“Well I was thinking that I’m so impressed by the things in front of me. By the things I’m doing. Or else I’m frustrated by the things I’m not doing. The things I haven’t conquered. But even then, I’m not looking up. These things in front of my become lights that blind me to the stars above.

And in my imagination light begets light. Lights above plants ideas of lights below. Like our eyes and nebula remember?”

I’m looking at her as I’m talking. More specifically, I’m looking at her speckled green eyes. I’m remembering images I saw in her cosmology book about how eyes mirrored the nebula in the sky. My own girl with her difficulty in lifting her eyes up, has nebulas in her eyes already.

“You know this is the thing Wil. I’ve actually been spinning and flustered and am anxious about not moving at all. And I’m anxious about the times where I’ll be without work – fearing a coupling of nothingness and unrest. Craving a coupling instead of stillness and movement. That’s what I want. I want to be still, but to move. Like “whoop whoop whoop” in the sky.”

She spins her index finger again. And trails off “whoop whoop whoop”.

She lays back down beside me. I bring her into my chest. We lay properly and look at the stars. The blank clear night. As we lay, the stars eventually come out, one by one as we gaze above. With my eyes relaxed now, in tune and alert to the darkness above, I begin to see.

Without the distraction of the scintillating city lights that flashed as I sat propped up, I can gaze into the sky’s lights. Gaze into real lights. Fire of burning gases lights.

I close my eyes and imagine a mirrored nebulae in the sky, mirroring the colors and specks in my own eyes.

“I like this idea of spinning in nature’s song,” she says. I hold her closer to me.

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heavy

Wil,

I’ve been thinking about your words tonight. I saw friends in the city and caught the train home. Alone on the train I sat thinking. I walked home from the station. Walking home from the station I was thinking. Late into the night I was thinking.

I hugged my jacket close to my skin, remembering how I used to imagine my clothes as a protective shield when I was on exchange. Moments like this, when you’re gone, remind me of when I was younger. These moments as in that lengthiness of being apart from you. It reminds me of more independent go-getter me. Backpacking-around-Europe-me. Meet-people-on-the-streets me. The-adventure-me : the adventure you despise.

I was thinking about how that changed when you came. The way you expanded into my life like a breath. I remember for moments, feeling so small, feeling like you outgrew me, my space, the portion I took up. I remember you being large and me being small. I remember you charismatic and shouty. And me as quietly confident. And i remember feeling confused because i could always manage it all. I could be charismatic and loud and strong, but there you were casting shadows over me. And then you were life and adventure, and weighty, expansive breath. I was so perplexed by it. But then you contracted just as you expanded and made space for me to be my truest self. In the blink of an eye, at the end of a breath, we balanced out. Like the constellations of the set of balances. And we set about a weighty expansive life together.

We’ve always wanted a life that is weighed with tangible significance. I know you want heavy burdens, roots and all. But you’re talking like a life of travel and the pursuit of dreams equates as some inconceivable lightness. You’re flinching at the concept of flitty, up in the air, head in the clouds. And I love that you are grounded. And that you want to be grounded. But Wil I want you also to see the freedom that you have. Freedom, not necessarily to travel, but to be. To breathe. Don’t see purpose as boxes ticked, or rather weighed down in papers of things achieved. We’ve talked about the journey from a to b so many times. I hear you stubbornly resisting that you could be free from the boxes you put yourself in. And that your life could still have meaning.

Do you remember the conversations we used to have about holding heaviness and lightness in two hands?

Don’t see these lack of anchors: book, baby, bottle as a corpulent burden. Feel the waiting with a wind of liberation. We need not see our lives as beginning once those foundations have been laid. It began so long ago. And I can’t wait to have you back and live the life we have shared for so long now. The life that’s lived between brushing your teeth and you forgetting your keys.

Go outside. Get out of the cafe. Stand on the foundations of Rome that have been laid for thousands of years. Hold up your finger to the sky, feel the wind. Feel the now. Be acutely aware of where you are. Discern the way the wind is blowing. And write it all down.

How many times have we talked of the life as one of sejourning? Of setting up camp and feeling free to pack it up again. Of heaviness and light. Of empty and full. Of resilience, failure, success and being okay. With or without earthly anchors.

I breathe again. I miss you here. I miss all the space you take up and the lack of space you leave. There’s no better exhale than in your arms, where I feel heavy lightness.

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what we hope to get from the news

We live in a world of spinning wheels, motions, cogs and stories. We live in a world of intricate moments, atoms discovered, bizarre human growths, curious landscape patterns, erosion and new forms. We live in a world of human decay, corrupt people of influence, celebrities drunk on themselves, footballers that play the field and educators that need to get their head in the game.
Journalism distills these facts, movements and circulations. It looks at the pattern and puts it into words. It looks at the research and translates it. It looks at the old man, his middle aged sons, and asks whether they are playing for keeps. It asks whether the issue is worth exploring. It looks at the agenda, and spins it until it collects some speed, adds different angles, another view and pokes at it until its clear. We live in a world of human decay, intricate moments and motions. We live in the spinning wheels, cogs, motions and stores. And by putting it into words called news, we look at what makes it go around.

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movement

My darling azalea,
I’m writing to you from a noisy cafe in Rome. 
They’ve put me on this square wooden table and keep asking me to move seats so they can fit the individuals, couples, triplets that come for their afternoon drink. As I’m midway through jotting down notes, an italian gentlemen comes up to come me, wipes coffee off his moustache, “scusi, scusi” he says, and motions that I move down once again.
 
It’s noisy. The noise is water boiling, people talking, cups being picked up, put down. I’m listening to the international’s conversations about coffee or blogging or photography, or the ideas they’ve come up with on a walk or in the shower. There’s a little trip advisor sticker on the window of the cafe. Some original place for espressos or something. I just saw that it looked popular and wandered in. A break from the city. And now I’m moving seats again.
 
Flying in yesterday I spent the mourning finding my bearings like the pigeons in the ancient ruins. I saw another writer friend in the afternoon, and met with my old publisher, you remember him, in the evening for dinner. This afternoon I plan to get some writing down – but I’ve stopped in here because I feel stuck. I feel guilty. And stuck. 
 
I’m stuck midway through my manuscript. I’m stuck because I feel indulgent taking this writers break. And I’m stuck feeling like I don’t know where my story’s heading. I guess I just want someone to come along and tell me what to do. Or what my characters should do. I want someone to reassure me that I’m on the right track with it all… And that this block doesn’t stay like this. I collided with it all when yesterday, I met up with that journalist friend Ned in the afternoon. He said to me: “what’s going on for you?” and my response was this internal scream of “I’M IN ITALY FOR THIS BIG ROMANTIC WRITERS ADVENTURE TO GAIN CLARITY AND THOUGHT AND HOPE AND MOVEMENT.” But in this fit of strange jealous disease, I think I blurted out something to the extent of “I-DONT-KNOW-WHATS-GOING–ON.” 
 
And then later that night at the restaurant, I find myself. Crying! In a tiny little alleyway, behind a cast iron door. It’s tiny and it’s beautiful and the waitstaff keep coming back to fill up my wine. They are talking at me and I don’t know what they are saying. They are taking bread away and filling up my water and keep coming back. And I’m crying. And they just do not seem to take the hint that I want them to take a break. That I want them to stop coming back. And I’m not screaming or blubbering. But I’m just a full grown man with tears dripping down his face. I’m wincing even writing it now. Between sandstone walls, with a glass of red wine, opposite my old editor and a pizza. And the scene is beautiful. Stunning. Old Italian gentlemen in three piece suits and women in black with big coats and heels. And I think of you. And wish we were here together and that we were on some romantic adventure. But then I feel the weight of this being work and that I am here to get things done. And you know, I’m grateful that Tony gets me. He sits and he listens from across the table. He’s got that stunning italian ease about him. That calm nod, with the intermittent passionate gestures. And he kind of reminds me of Al Pacino. Maybe it’s the Brooklyn Italian thing. But You know, he saw potential in me when I was trying out that non-fiction stuff for competitions and those lit mags. And he has the ability to draw those tears out of me. In all his class and sartorial elegance, he lets me cry in a streetside restaraunt for all to see. 
 
I was talking at him about the things I keep bucking up against. That I’m looking for anchors. That I want stable deals and contracts. That we’re trying to have a baby. That I want to settle down. That I’m fearful about the money to pay for it. But wanting that family life. I kept calling them weights when I talked to him. Telling him I want tangible significance. Something we (three) could cling to. Anchors. Stability. 
 
And then I tell him, and here I am in italy feeling like I need a break to get stuff moving but I’m stuck. And I don’t want light flighty adventure. I want weight and significance and glory. I want to feel like I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. And I think I’m also speaking for my characters. I want to feel like I’m going somewhere, being led to something. Some sort of weighty movement like a downhill river stream. 
 
And I’m talking and I’m talking and I feel like I’m so ungrateful for this whole world of opportunity that I have. Even being here. Lecturing. Speaking and all that. Feeling this force of HEY IM IN ITALY HAVING A GREAT TIME. And to sit in this dumb ‘stuck’ sadness feels indulgent. But I still find it hard to move forward. 
 
THEN he tells me about the anthology he’s working on, with people’s painful stories and lives. And he’s talking about issues, REAL issues. About sadness and trauma and sickness and death and abuse and pain and I feel SO sad. What he’s doing feels so meaningful and I’m all lost in fiction. Even here my problems feel nothing in comparison to people who have lived really painful lives and so I’m comparing myself. Then I’m comparing myself to all the writers who write about it and the same comparative goes for my success. I’m unable to give myself freedom to feel sad about things or the freedom to feel like I’m doing well. Then I feel like I’m talking Tony’s ear off. AND THEN HE PAYS FOR DINNER! And it’s so kind.
 
And I ride home, so woozy on a moped, where for a minute I feel I’m flying. Recalling some piece of literature about ‘would that man were birds – born able to fly. yet man, in his jealousy and inability instead rein them in and cage them.’ Then I’m practising one of those mindfulness activities and imagining myself uncaged and free. Yet hours later, I lie awake at night coming back down the earth feeling totally jealous of Ned! 
 
NED! With his new house in London and his new wife (thought we know that was painful). He’s killing it as the European correspondent. And looks so bloody tidy and clean because now they’ve got him on tv. He’s telling me about this new apartment they’ve got with a view of Putney river and about how he and his wife go for late night walks and drink wine on the roof and it all sounds like bliss. 
 
But I don’t actually even want that. I want this. I want what feels true and right for me. I want this bliss that I keep telling others to believe in. And in part I need to let go. See I’ve been trying to write about place for that lecture for the MFA school in the states. And I cannot for a minute try and come up with an adequate way to capture the Colosseum in all its roman glory and depilated tourist cringe. I cannot describe it wonderfully, or even sardonically. And now writing that I think I’m tired and I’ve had too much coffee and let myself whinge too much. I need to let go of writer with a capital W and just let it flow. And also I really need to go to the toilet. I think I’ve been here for hours now. And look, maybe I’m almost there. But still this is not resolve [dont think I’m at resolve] but I am going to just keep going. I suppose I’m so afraid of whats at the end of the story. [that part that also really excites me]. I’m just afraid of a dark void at the end of the story, like it all gets lost in this chasm. I can’t see the next door. It feels heavy and weighty like that cast iron door where I was out for dinner last night. I don’t know what happens next and I find that hard. 
 
But, we’re human. We go on. (Was that Steinbeck?)
 
I’ll write when I’m in a better place. Better still, I’ll probably call you from the hotel. Maybe in a better mood.
 
I feel good for having written my thoughts out though. And now I’m thinking. I didn’t have to move for the past twenty minutes in which I was writing the latter part of that. Amazing!
 
Okay. Love you. 
 
Sorry this wasn’t romantic and italian and stuff. 

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alter ego learns latin

For some time now, my alter ego has desired to surpass the status quo.

This alter ego, has wanted to build up its curriculum vitae, and achieve summa cum laude.

Ergo, I’ve wanted to learn latin.

Someone once told me that in order to be interesting, one must have interests.

I have since been gathering an unwritten list of interesting things I would like to do, try, learn et cetera.

Quickly, I have realised that tempus fugit and unless you carpe diem, you will never be able to say “veni, vidi, vici”, “I came, I saw, I conquered”

Yet circa late January, I could, verbatim.

I took up the class 1A at the Latin Summer School held at the University of Sydney.

My prima farcie was one of fright.

The stuffy college hall was filled with wrinkled people ab initio back at their alma mater.

As the twenty-three year old student, I felt like the young persona no grata and what had been a good idea a priori, seemed de facto, the opposite.

This was mea culpa. While the vox populi of my friends called from the beach, I remembered I had chosen to do this.

Yet as we moved into classes, a swarm of young School students came filling in the seats.

I don’t know where they had been in that first stuffy lecture. It was as if they came ex nihilo.

It was not just that they were young, per se, that made me excited, but it was the fact they coloured in the spectrum of people interested in learning.

My classmates, old and young, shared their stories of why they were at the course. Some were returning to the language, some returning with a tabula rasa.

Others were there, caveat emptor, looking for help with their law terms.

One new friend was learning the language for his magnus opus, needing to understand latin terms for his PhD in Jesuit music in Japan.

The vox populi, young and old, of the cohort now sang of interesting people with interests in learning.

Together, these were people who could hold onto the fine particles of a language that may one-day requiescat in pace. They too could maintain that this be a language for viva voce.

I chanted with them, “amo, amas, amat” ad naseum.

The week came and went with reading and speaking declensions and conjugations and vice versa.

I wandered through the Nicholson Museum as students attempted to use their new knowledge to uncover what was ignito.

A posteriori, I realise that although latin is a dead language, it is one that can be used to uncover interesting stories both before and after anno domini.

After all this, “qui bono?” from a Latin Summer School in the heat?

I would probably answer, “my more interesting ego”, the one who realises how tempus fugit.

And next summer, perhaps I’ll take up another interest in situ. Who was it that said ex astris scientia? From the stars, knowledge. Perhaps I’ll take up astronomy. Et tu Brutus?

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a life of Must

Someone stopped me in the corridor last week. She said, “You will not lose one iota of your faith if you are true to yourself”

There is an article on Medium that references a WH Auden quote, and the idea that, getting older, our lives are becoming more specific. As they become more specific, we are actively making choices on who we want to be, and what we want to do. The writer of that article said, “An authentic life must be lived with integrity. That calls for choosing and committing without holding back.”

I was thinking about that article last night, while also thinking about what integrity means. What “following your heart” means. What “being true to yourself” means.

Who knows? Kind of.

This year I’ve been thinking of the idea of synchronicity. I’ve been thinking about the idea of being led, doors opening, the universe conspiring, et cetera. I’ve been thinking that if we are all born with very specific giftings, contexts, and desires, we are all born for very specific purposes. And somewhere, inside of us, we have inklings towards what that is. Or what they are.

In the past, I have wondered whether this is irrational, illogical and unrealistic. But more and more, I am becoming convinced otherwise.

I stumbled across this article today about the crossroads of Should and Must. Should being what we, society, our friends, our imagination had thought of us and they way we should live. Must being this undergirding force, this inner propelling inside of us that dreams of breaking out, being free, living true.

In the article, she talks about the fact that Picasso’s life blended seamlessly with his work. She purports an idea that our career can be our calling can be our job. I have a faith, and have often been told that there is a difference between having a calling, and having a job. The word vocation comes from the latin vocare; to call. So this idea is indeed ancient. And sure, job and calling, they don’t have to blend in obvious fashions and facets. But I’m increasingly believing that in some ways, they can – and will. If I am following what feels right, if I am following some sort of intuitive leaning. And that is because my God is as interested in my creative work, as he his my ideas for a story, my desire to connect with people, and my desire (most of the time) to challenge myself.

But that’s not what this is about anyway.

What this is about is more synchronicity. Call and response. Following what feels right. The inner unctioning, of what I would call, the spirit. What every person has inside of them – I guess the gut, perhaps intuition – of what helps make decisions.

“Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. Because when we choose Must, we are no longer looking for inspiration out there. Instead, we are listening to our calling from within, from some luminous, mysterious place”

Back to Picasso. Picasso’s life blurred and blended with his work. Which reminds me. A couple of weeks ago, at uni, we had a guest speaker that came to speak to us. He was a non-fiction writer of Jewish decent. He told us that he was led to the Middle East as a correspondent, believing that “inside every person, there is an arab-israeli conflict”, and if he could understand that conflict, he could understand every confict. That was because, he said, this was a conflict about memory, tribalism, and family. Those, he said, were the genesis of every conflict. Brother against brother. Cousin against cousin.

What struck me most was how he talked about his faith, his career, his dreams and his family with poignant humanity. Everything blurred into everything. In interviews with people, he tried to capture the “essence” of a person – the crinkle of their eye, their multi-faceted mind. He wanted to find out what made them tick. I want that blur.

According to a friend, this belief, that everything flows and blurs into everything is a Hebraic idea. A Hebraic mindset. There, everything moves in spirals. Time is based on context “the day that the Lord did”, rather than on a linear scale. Everything is spiritual, and centred around family. It’s centred on good humanity rather than good thinking, chronology and a ladder of success and understanding (Greek.)

There, true living is being true in every facet and in every sense. One thing will lead to another. It’s cyclical and unconventional and moves in seasons and spirals. “Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before”, modern philosopher Joseph Campbell wrote.

I am inclined to believe that Must will actually filter out the things we believe we should do with ourselves. Must says that there are things that have been placed inside me that I will use. That I will dream with and then that I will build with. Must says that I have a “luminous part of me that exists beyond my personality”. As George Saunders said I must “do those things that incline [me] towards the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce [me] and make [me] trivial.” I need to “believe [that part] exists, come to know it better, nuture it, share its fruits tirelessly.”

It also says that I can throw myself into things. I can believe with all of my heart. I can go with what feels right. I can trust that there is abundance. I can trust there is room for everyone. My friend says, “everything is poetry and alchemy”, and that’s how she tests working it all out. Feeling out the chemicals and the rhythms. Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher said, “lead us into marrow and fatness Holy Ghost.” The book of Job says, “he will complete the things he appoints for me, and many such things are on his mind.” I am inclining towards believing these things.

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Farewell to Alexandria

When suddenly, at midnight, there comes the sound
of an invisible procession passing by
with exquisite music playing, with voices raised—
your good fortune, which now gives way; all your efforts’
ill-starred outcome; the plans you made for life,
which turned out wrong: don’t mourn them uselessly.
Like one who’s long prepared, like someone brave,
bid farewell to her, to Alexandria, who is leaving.
Above all do not fool yourself, don’t say
that it was a dream, that your ears deceived you;
don’t stoop to futile hopes like these.
Like one who’s long prepared, like someone brave,
as befits a man who’s been blessed with a city like this,
go without faltering toward the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the entreaties and the whining of a coward,
to the sounds—a final entertainment—
to the exquisite instruments of that initiate crew,
and bid farewell to her, to Alexandria, whom you are losing.

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