Saturday, December 7, 2013

And then it was the third year.

Today's rather uneventful day marked my mother's third death anniversary. "It's been three years already", or "It's been only three years since", I still can't make up my mind between the two.

This year, I am writing from the comfort of my latest home in Tokyo, Japan. It may seem to you like December 6 has become "that time to write another depressing post" for me, but that is, in fact, not true at all in terms of how I view this day. I think it's simply that today is the one day in which I feel I can let myself dwell a little more on my grief. Today isn't the day when I write a post "in memory of my mother"; every day, I live in memory of my mother. But if there's going to be any day, it's today for trying to put some of my thoughts into words, because that is what I most regret not doing before, and one of my hardest lessons learnt from my mother's passing.

Grief doesn't gradually disappear or subside. It's always here, tucked away in this corner or that corner inside. It's like trying to hold back an ocean with its waves beating against you constantly. As probably everyone who has ever lost anyone says, you just learn to live with loss, because it's never going to go away. "Time heals all wounds", but loss isn't a wound. It's just… a void.

Of course, there's Tennyson who very romantically states, "It is better to have love and lost, than never to have loved at all."

But, oh, losing is so, so difficult.

It's one of those phrases that you repeat to yourself, hoping that if you repeat it enough times, you'll finally start to believe it. Love gives you so many good memories, and it teaches you kindness and adds perspective and flavour to your life. Certainly, it is a very good and essential part of life. But coming across too much flavour changes your tastes, and with experiencing love, you also learn what it means to lose it, to feel the lack, and the bitterness and resentment on the flip side of it. There were so many days before when I couldn't stand being in society, because I didn't want to see how things could still function without my mom's existence. They sound like two completely irrelevant issues, but are nevertheless among the mass of feelings that grew inside me since my mom became bedridden, even before her death.

The half year from summer and winter of 2010 has been, inarguably, the worst time in my life yet. I suppose one thing to admit (or reiterate, as I basically said the same thing two years ago) is that loss is, in many ways, much more easier to deal with than seeing the prolonged suffering of a loved one. So many times, it hurt me to see people with the privilege to live their lives normally. It made me angry to ride the bus and watch old couples on their way home from a nice walk around town, or perhaps from their daily trip to the grocery store. Naturally, it was even more frustrating when I came across old people who, incidentally, had terrible attitudes. I would think to myself, "Why is this person--so completely undeserving and non-contributive to society--alive and well up until an old age, while my mother--beautiful, strong, and brilliant--was literally rotting away at her still young age, suffering and confined in front of the same white wall everyday?"

My mother has and would have continued to accomplish so much, and would have kept making the world a little brighter everyday, if only she didn't die. Clearly I have no evidence, but I'd like to imagine that she would have made a much more positive impact on the world than some other people, who are still living now, would ever make. It sounds awfully judgmental (or just plain awful) of me to say such a thing, and it is. But everything in life is subjective; objectivity may, perhaps, just be subjectivity in a humble disguise.

Since I was little, for one reason or another, I've always known and accepted the fact that life is unfair. It just is; there's no use making a big fuss about it. It's simply the truth. Saying that doesn't make me a negative person, however. On the contrary, knowing that life is going to be unfair no matter what I do, I live with the philosophy that that fact is not going to change, so I might as well think positively rather than the opposite. It's basically just about the only choice I do have.

I wonder if my mother ever had these kinds of bitter thoughts. She never seemed passive aggressive like how I am. She went through so much in her life, and how I wish the world knew even half of how she lived her rocky life with such finesse. I don't feel ashamed at all about feeling bitter. But I wonder if my mother, with a similarly difficult life, had similar thoughts too and just dealt with it much more gracefully than I ever have.

I can only spend the rest of my life pursuing the grace she had exhibited, so subtle that I was only able to notice after she was gone.

I miss and love you, Mommy.

(Past memorable entries regarding my mother: 2010, 2011, early 2013)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The remaining sparks of summer.

Last week, I thought summer had already come to an end. It's been a blazing hot summer this year, but after the typhoon a few weeks ago, it had cooled down drastically. Still, the summer sparks remained and flared up to past 30 degrees again this week. Talk about a persistent summer, despite it being mid-October already.

To be honest, my health has been terrible especially this past month. The exact cause(s) are unknown, but no doubt, the ever-changing weather has a part in it. I've had the cold for a month now, and I've been feeling faint and very fatigued, to varying degrees depending on the day, but too often to be considered healthy. I've been trying to eat more regularly lately as well as more balanced meals (also increasing my vitamin C intake), but since I was previously diagnosed with a mild case of anemia, there may be a variety of reasons why I've been sick and I'm not quite sure what exact steps to take to speed up my recovery. Maybe I should go see the doctor after all, even if I can't explain what exactly is unwell.

In any case, today I finally had a day off and was reminiscing about what kinds of things I've done this summer. Honestly, it hasn't been a very exciting summer. I worked, and I was sick half the time. Because I get easily tired, on days off, rather than going out I've preferred staying at home and resting.

But now that I think about it in retrospect, I guess I did do a couple of things this summer. I went back to Hong Kong. I had my hair cut. I went to see several exhibits. I ate watermelon. I tried to go see the fireworks.

Speaking of fireworks, a friend was visiting Tokyo in July and we went to see the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival. It was my first fireworks festival in Japan, so I had been waiting in anticipation for weeks. I hadn't been feeling well that month either, unfortunately, but still I went after a long day of work with high expectations.

And, as it happens, we managed to get an obscured view of the fireworks for 10, 15 minutes before we were hit by a giant rainstorm. By rainstorm, I mean sheets of pouring rain and strong winds that rendered umbrellas and raincoats useless.

My friend and I noticed the sky clouding over, and disappointed that we weren't able to secure a good spot among the masses of people due to us arriving rather late into the evening, we actually decided to start heading back to the station about 30 minutes after the fireworks started. We wanted to avoid both the rain and the crowd.

But we couldn't make our escape fast enough, and the rain didn't stop for hours. Visibility was extremely low with the wind and rain (it was already dark by then), and I had never been to the Asakusa area before. Unable to find our way back to Asakusa station, we wandered around (soaked from head to toe) for almost an hour until we found our way to another station.

Needless to say, it literally "rained on our parade" and we went home without the satisfaction of "ooh"ing and "ahh"ing at the fireworks while drinking beer and eating street food like we had pictured. But it's all right, because I would say that's pretty much how this summer felt overall.

Despite the miserable rainstorm, however, I did try to snap a few pictures of the fireworks near the beginning--you know, to prove that I did go and everything. I wasn't in a good spot and I didn't snap any spectacular shots, but looking at how fire and light can warp and move was still fun for me.

Well, let's think of it this way. I'm determined to go see some spectacular fireworks next year, and it's definitely going to be much better than this year's. Already looking forward to it!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A peace of mind from within another concrete jungle.

A few weeks ago, I took some time during the Obon holiday to go back to Hong Kong for a brief visit. As it happens, a strong typhoon with a storm signal of 8 hit Hong Kong a day after I arrived. That in addition to my dad being extremely busy with work, honestly, I didn't really go out much at all. I spent about half the time in the house alone.

Despite the lack of events, however, I appreciated the short trip very much. Lately, I've been missing Hong Kong more and more, and all the little daily things life there offers. In fact, about two months ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a sudden craving for cha siu (which I did satisfy 2 weeks ago). I seem to only ever want things when they're not easily within reach--but then again, that's not such a strange thing.

I did come back with the regret of having forgotten to eat my trip's worth of gai dan jai (鷄蛋仔, or apparently called "eggette" in English according to some quick Googling).

Someone asked me recently, when I showed them a picture of Hong Kong, how the buildings can be so tall without toppling over. I redirected the question at my dad sometime during my time back, to which he said, "I really don't know." Oh well. Let's forget about the how and enjoy the view from the 110th floor (yes, where I took the stormy picture above).

In any case, the common Hong Kong scenery and fleeting reunion with family gave me an odd peace of mind. The truck-ridden streets. The mini death buses (with a speed limit of 80km, much to the dismay of their drivers) with no specific stops. The high-end shopping malls. The contrast between the new and old buildings. The cold air-conditioning. The English-Chinese bilingualism. All the little things.

And I thought for the first time to myself, I'm so lucky to have been born in Hong Kong, and to be able to go back whenever I like. I can't believe it's only been a little over a year since I moved away from Hong Kong.

Lastly, might I mention how wonderful of an idea this "Battery Charging Station" is? I never noticed anything like this before! (But I tend not to notice a lot of things until much later--ie. I just realized a month ago that there was a movie theatre next to where I'm living now.)

As it goes, you can also rent a portable iPhone charger from the information desk with a deposit of $300 HKD, refunded to you upon your return of the charger, so you can continue your shopping while your phone is being recharged. Brilliant! And so incredibly typical of Hong Kong.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Colouring the streets with pink and white.

Oh dear, it's hard to believe that we're already in the middle of May! Spring has already come, spent its allotted days for this year, and is almost coming to an end. While spring is not my favourite season, it definitely is one that kind of drifts in like a pleasant storm, taking you by surprise, and then passes by before you realize.

I just wanted to share something nice that I came across two weeks ago. It was early morning and I was just heading out to work, when I walked past this cluster of flowers sticking out of the fence just outside a nursery.

I'm not sure why I liked it so much. Maybe because I like pink, or how the patch is placed at such an obscure spot, or simply because it's a tiny remainder of springtime. But for whatever reason, I took a particular liking to it, and it makes me happy just walking by every time.

Unfortunately, they're not as abundant as they were a few weeks ago anymore. But today was a warm and sunny Saturday, so I decided to take a walk outside and snap a few shots of the blooms before they went away for good.

At first I thought it was a rather arbitrary place to plant cute little flowers, but I'm glad whoever decided to plant them there did. Brilliant!

Monday, April 8, 2013

All things come to an end.

I was saying to a friend a while ago, "It must be so sad to be the person to clean up all the fallen cherry blossom petals after". I guess, in the moment I was reveling in the beauty of the cherry blossoms in full bloom, I had found it incredibly sad to think that it would all come to an end.

But there is a sort of elegance in it too. In things that are gone, things that are barely able to hang on, and things that remain.

I actually walked past two people one morning while they were sweeping up the petals on the staircase beside the park. They had set about it in a very routinely manner, and executed their work with a kind of vigour that, rather than emitting the kind of gloom I had imagined before, exuded a kind of vitality and matter-of-factness.

I suppose they were telling me that, as a matter of fact, life does goes on.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Natsumi Hayashi's "Today's Levitation" exhibition.

Yesterday, I visited Spiral Garden at Omotesando to see Natsumi Hayashi's "Today's Levitation" exhibition. Supported by the lingerie brand une nana cool, the exhibition was only available for one week, and I was very fortunately told about it by my friend Joanne (who is, incidentally, living outside of the country).

I was very excited upon hearing about the exhibition. I first saw pictures from Natsumi Hayashi's yowayowa camera woman diary last year, when it appeared in a newspaper in Hong Kong (where I was living at the time). My uncle did a search online, and that's how I came across more pictures from the "Today's Levitation" series. Being someone who also likes to take jumping pictures everywhere I go, all around the world, naturally I loved the concept.

Seeing the levitation pictures on such a large scale was a fun and enjoyable experience. It was my first time at Spiral, but I found the building itself to provide a very soothing atmosphere, and I took my time in looking at the large prints. Natsumi Hayashi's photos give such a clean and fresh feeling of ordinary life and of nature. The exhibition was definitely an excellent start to the day!

There was a small shop set up at the entrance of the Spiral building that sold Natsumi Hayashi's first photo book, postcards, some cute "Today's Levitation" themed applique, and products from une nana cool. The shop attendants were very sweet, making small talk with me and complimenting me on my skirt (it had little birds printed on it).

I bought a few postcards to send as souvenirs, and they kindly gave me a limited edition shopping bag and slipped the postcards inside it. It was a little ridiculous, seeing as the huge bag was completely flat (after all, it was only holding five tiny pieces of card stock), but I transferred some other things from my handbag into it, and it was fun swinging it along the street as I went about for the rest of my day.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A last glimpse of the cherry blossom season at Kudanshita.

The cherry blossoms are already disappearing with each passing day. It's been windy this week, but I think the cherry blossoms really tried to hang in there for a little longer. Although it's gotten chilly again today, the previous two days were quite warm, and I took advantage of this eye in the storm as much as I could to spend more time outside.

On Thursday night, my lovely friend Lisa brought me to Kudanshita to view some more yozakura before they disappeared for the year. We got there shortly after 6'o'clock in the evening; the cherry blossoms were scheduled to light up at six-thirty. Before the sky got too dark, I snapped a quick photo just outside the station. The flowers were so pretty and abundant, hovering over the water like snow.

We walked on the street overlooking the water near Kitanomaru Koen, and it seemed that everyone around us was also there to catch a view of the blossoms at night.

Looking up at the canopy of pink blossoms, I had an overwhelming sense of the otherworldly. It's as if this short-lived season is a temporary bridge transcending between our reality and something else out there. I felt as if I could have stayed in that intermediary state forever.

There was a one-way traffic of people traveling under the cherry blossom trees, and when we got near the end, there was a spot close to the boat rentals that seemed to be the most popular place for taking pictures. I wasn't really sure why, but in any case, I felt compelled to also take a picture here--albeit a not very good picture (oh, the disadvantages of being short). Then I decided the crowd of people taking photos made an even more interesting picture.

It was a very relaxing evening. I'm so glad I was able to catch one last glimpse of this metaphysical beauty before it floated away to someplace else, far away. Please come back again next year.