Monday, January 31, 2011

Taking Flight

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of devoting two-and-a-half hours to a practice, a Journey to the Core, with Ana Forrest. A strong, stoic, yet gentle and affable woman, Ana led an absolutely full room of yogis to find their strength, find their truth in the core of their bodies (not just your abs, but form the head to the coccyx, the house of the chakras). The room was full with the sound of ujjayi breath, a veritable ocean of sound and power.

She encouraged everyone, at the beginning of the journey, to focus on a point in our bodies that needed healing or just more considered attention. I picked my upper shoulders since they have been feeling tense lately.

After buzzing our way through the chakra areas (with Bharamari or Humming Bee Breath), we focused on our point. Immediately my mind envisioned the base of wings across my upper back.

I breathed into my fallen wings.

Throughout the class, we came back to our point. It was a fluid, strong, focused, deep, beautiful practice. My body was exhausted but also replenished with breath and an incredible, soulful 'workout' (I hesitate to call yoga a workout, it's much more than that, it can be an experience).

And today, I am still stuck with the image of wings. Human beings with their fallen wings. Tragic and beautiful, the legacy of the human back.

And so I leave you with a poem written by my friend Adam McGee which uses this very image and has stayed with me since I read it some years ago.


Naked chest to chest,
I reach the perfect V’s
of an outspread thumb & forefinger
to cup the plunging curves
of your shoulder blades.
In the field around us,
dew reflects a zodiac
of fractured light.
Last night in my dream,
you grew triumphant wings
from the ridges beneath my hands.
With the grace of a storm
which comes from nowhere,
you beat down the grasses
with your miracle of lift,
leaving me astonished & below you
as you whipped an arc
through the brightening sky.
When I awoke, I touched
the hard bones of your back
& closed the distance between us.
Now, as I hold you,
I need to purge this guilt:
that on waking, I gave thanks
for gravity.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Power

Now pray,
as I who came back from the same confusion
learned to pray.

I returned to paint upon the altars
those old holy forms,
but they shone differently,
fierce in their beauty.

So now my prayer is this:

You, my own deep soul,
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing.

What mystery breaks over me now?
In its shadow I come into life.
For the first time I am alone with you -

you, my power to feel.

-RM Rilke

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pour It Out

I spent all day yesterday in the library, and I am gearing up for yet another morning at the library, this time the collection at the V&A. I'm not really sure where this energy and focus is coming from but I am embracing it.

I think the pressure of deadlines and the weight of workload may have something to do with it, certainly. This is the quickest and busiest semester I've ever had to face in my education. Ever. But I am up for the challenge. All while trying to keep balanced, doing yoga here and there and listening to my body and mind when they have truly fizzled out.

I'd like to think, though, that there is another factor to this new focus (besides some cosmological planetary alignment with Jupiter and Venus in the sign of Sagittarius). A series of events in my life recently have taught me to relinquish worry and embrace trust. I lay down my trust after putting forth my effort, knowing that the universe will provide if it sees fit. Because, if you're not worrying about things and strategizing, etc., the world has more of a chance to charm and surprise you. And who doesn't want a little charm and surprise in their lives?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Something in the Water

In North America, they ask bubbly or flat? In England, the question becomes sparkling or still?

It is funny to consider the difference. Flat as a word to me seems so bland, one dimensional, an endless plateau stretching out into the horizon. Still, on the other hand, connotes a quiet pond, calm and meditative, at peace.

Flat or still? I'll take the still. :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rilke, twice over.

Read on, read through, the second is my favourite of the moment... - SZR

I, 18
Why am I reaching again for the brushes?
When I paint your portrait, God,
nothing happens.

But I can choose to feel you.

At my senses' horizon
you appear hesitantly,
like scattered islands.

Yet standing here, peering out,
I'm all the time seen by you.

The choruses of angels use up all of heaven.
There's no more room for you
in all that glory. You're living
in your very last house.

All creation holds its breath, listening within me,
because, to hear you, I keep silent.

I, 19

I am, you anxious one.

Don't you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can't you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn't my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting:
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made of time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fashion Fast Forward

John Galliano, always a wow-er, presents a theatrical, Russian/dancer/gypsy-inspired collection. Leggings, high boots, socks above footwear, embroidery, furs, turbans and bold colours, Johnny G does it all. See more here: The Fashionisto.

Luxurious: adj.

Luxurious has nothing to do with wealth.

Luxurious is early mornings, hints of light, and a heavy duvet weighing
down on me, but not weighing. Instead, it embraces with all its soul.

Luxurious is elaborate script, as if brocaded, stitched, intricate yet flowing.

Luxurious is towels, freshly laundered, expanded and giving tenderly to the touch
and heat of your skin. A caress that press-es into the sensual.

Of time, lost.

My mother is currently showing at Art Mur in Montreal. I had a chance to write a review for the ArtBlog. Below, a sneak peek, peering through the curtain at instinctively artistic and sensitive photographic work.

In of time, lost, Montreal-based photographer
Ewa Zebrowski reflects upon the suspension
and deterioration of memory.

Evocative and mysterious, Zebrowski’s quiet
yet poignant images plumb the depths of a
desire for the past. The collection, belies its
medium – the photos shimmer, as if submerged
just below the surface.


(credits: palazzo barbaro, followed by ca' d'oro)

Friday, January 21, 2011


Loosen. Gilded.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Full Moon, A Full Day

Yesterday my class spent two hours looking at 17th-19th century drawings, analyzing their production and representation. How inspiring it was to be in direct engagement with excellently preserved works from the past in The Courtauld's Prints and Drawings Room.

Later that day, after doing some writing, I re-embarked on my German-learning journey. A challenging but fun endeavour to attempt to translate and demystify German texts. Shortly thereafter, in the same room, I attended a yoga class, a solid basic flow class. How funny it was to be in the exact same room.

And late in the night, below a full moon and at an evening called The Night Shift at the SouthBank Centre, me and a few friends attended a cheap orchestra concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, playing a program of Mahler and Liszt starting at 945pm. A very chill atmosphere, full of young people, preceded by jazz, succeeded by a groovy loungy DJ. What fun!

And today, to work, to work.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Buddhist Love Affair

This Buddhist love affair, in every moment
shifts, endless tangential points
of infinite connection, mindful
movement and sparks, glowing minds, ignited eyes.

Buddhist lover, write me letters, so I can
read them and ignite, words cannot
be forever held, their duration a candle
wick that I must burn to keep the pace
of letting go. Every evolving, every
shift, brings me to breath, brings
me to centre. This Buddhist love affair,
I grow and watch it grow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's Raining.

It's raining. Again. This is the weather I feared, the weather I was told so much about. In London, it can sometimes rain every day if you're here around the right time. Sure, it can be dreary and depressing (but go stand next to some fluo lights, take some vitamins). More than anything though, as long as I am not fighting my way through it, I find this London rain to be an absolute marvel.

I mean really, where does it all come from? How can it rain SO much, SO frequently? I think more often than not, we have the urge to scowl and cringe our way through rainy weather. Why not just relax and get wet? Why not just look up at the heavens and marvel?

Fashion Forward

Now is the time that I seem to get inundated with images from Fashion Week here and there and everywhere. It's time for Milan's Fashion Week Fall 2011 (what? what about spring? I'd like some of that before I think about next fall already...).

I just wanted to share, above, an image of shirts being put out by Dolce and Gabbana. I used to have a shirt from Etro of a similar style. It is as if the tips of the sleeves and the waist were dipped in another colour. What I find genius about this style is that it taps right into a sartorial behaviour that is already happening. You know the guys with the jeans that keep sinking down? You know you've always wanted to bring those sleeves out of your coat and make them protrude as well. Well here's a shirt that does both, and you can still be proper. Pretty cool, eh?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Foxes of London

A couple of months ago my across-the-hall neighbour and I were walking home from South London and as we passed a church, I pointed out two creatures limber-ly scrounging in the corner of the yard. Orange. Sleek. Foxes! We were so stunned about the appearance of the pair. It felt like a favorable omen.

The fox, as a little research unveiled, and its fire-ey orange colour can signify passion, desire, intensity, and expression. We saw it as a positive omen of creativity, stealth, drive and intelligence. A special moment.

And then, last night, I was walking through London Fields and a creature crossed my path. What was it. Gingerly jogging across the grass, stopping to perks its head in my direction every now and then. A pointy dog with a bushy tail? No! Another fox! These urban foxes of London are trying to solidify themselves as my personal omen or something. Another very special moment. Omen-ous. Portending.

And I smile at the wily ways of nature and the universe.

May what I do flow from me like a river

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

-R.M. Rilke

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I believe in the night

Rilke has been striking a major chord with me lately,
echoes of my soul.
So instead of writing, I'm going to do some transcribing...

You, darkness, of whom I am born -

I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.

But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations - just as they are.

It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.

I believe in the night.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Moment of Grace

I've been having these moments lately, where I take moments to step back and gain a little perspective on my life. The fortitude and grace that has blessed my life is immeasurable. I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunities I have, to determine my schedule, take time to immerse myself fully in the theory and study of art and to be able to live in London.

Last night, for example, I went to the Late at The Courtauld event, where the gallery was open until 9pm. There I met up with some old friends from the Boston area. We listened to live music inspired by the current show of Cezanne in a room with Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergeres and a few Cezannes as well...folk songs and Ravel... How they got the piano into the room is beyond me. To be able to commune with art and friends, just such a special thing.

And I better not forget it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

[I read it here in your very word]

I read it here in your very word
in the story of the gestures
with which your hands cupped themselves
around our becoming - limiting, warm.

You said live out loud, and die you said lightly,
and over and over again you said be.

-R.M. Rilke

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lagging, Breathing

I spent most of last night waiting for sleep. Silly me, after my first night and ten hours of sleep, I thought I was set. So long jetlag. Yea, right.

It's funny how I get attached to routine. Sometimes, though, is there anything wrong with saying: hey, I'm not tired, I'm going to stay up and read a little longer. Clinging to routine and ignoring my body seems like it can only be negative. Of course, there's the whole jetlag business that is the very definition of the body working itself out and the imposition of a new and foreign schedule. But rather than listen to all the barrage of thoughts - negative and otherwise - I just try to breathe deep into the moments, breathe through it all and emerge on the other side.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Stars and The Clouds

I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream. -Vincent Van Gogh

During my flight last night, I looked from my small personal entertainment screen out to the window. Beyond the airplane's wing in the pitch black of night, the sky was covered in stars. Speckled across the expanse of black, some smaller, some larger, they shone and captured my imagination.

And later, as we were landing at the beginning of a new day, I looked out to see the rising sun extending its warming orange-pink rays out across the clouds, thick above and interspersed in puffs below, lined up like schoolchildren in ordered rows. And below them, a verdant England.

Monday, January 10, 2011

YUL > LHR. Transitioning.

I arrived back at my little dorm room (very little) in central London and was struck by the contrast with having just been home in Montreal. My room in London is so little that if I put my two suitcases flat on the floor in my room, I have to jump around to maneuver from the door, to the bathroom, to the closet.

When I unpack, I take it all out, and put it all away. I was daunted when I started. I thought, "What the hell was I thinking at home when I packed all these clothes?!" It couldn't possibly fit in my narrow closet and my shallow-drawer-ed dresser. But, lo and behold, the storage units in my room seem to be some sort of British brand of storage clown cars, because shirts and sweaters and other odds-and-ends just kept going in. And magically it all went in.

It is a bit of a shock to be back in my room in London. All the space and grandeur of home in Montreal has been shrunken (as if in a cartoon) to a cozy little living space. I know I will yearn to spread out my personal effects. Alas, I don't have such room to do so.

A new transition in the new year, a new mode of living. Switching gears for the new semester.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

And Then...

Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that's wide and timeless

-R.M. Rilke

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Body and The Soul

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?

-Walt Whitman (I Sing the Body Electric from Leaves of Grass)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Wandering Digitally into the Abyss

One of my (and one of my sister's) new year's resolutions, is to observe my use of the Internet. Too often, and too easily, I find that I can get lost. My curiosity leads me from one thing to the next, idle observation leads me down the digital rabbit hole and, soon, I find myself in loops of negative thinking that are far from helpful. I click on photo albums of people I know peripherally, I check my blogroll on GoogleReader, etc. etc. etc. It all happens so fast, it all happens so easily, and I don't always feel good about it all.

Coming home on the plane from London, I observed a similar pattern of behavior. At my fingertips, I had movies and TV shows, music and radio stations, all so readily available. I must have watched three movies on the flight back, taking up most of my time. I started to feel a little nuts, burning eyes, over-stimulated. Once again, all too easily.

It is like some sort of 21st-century mania. There is a myth (or perhaps not a myth at all) of limitless availability along with a shrinking attention span. There are tons of movies and TV shows out there. Doesn't mean we have to watch them all. There are millions of people out there, yes. But we can't ever know but a handful. Knowing people well involves time, energy, geographical proximity. We can have connections and nurture them, but the illusion of the instantaneous can never replace the journey of evolving relationships.

There is so much to see. There is so much to be research. On the Internet, I sit on the park bench observing life. Except this is a digital park bench and a digital life that streams by endlessly. Where does it stop? At a certain point, this digital world can become too immaterial and rootless.

What I want is reality. No, what I want is a reality complemented by this digital world. The Internet is a tool, to broaden knowledge, to broaden relationships. To broaden the real. I feel like I am in an age that continues to progress technologically. I am also in an age that needs to be very self-aware in order to define the holistic, wholesome uses of that technology, which can be an incredible tool, but can also be an incredible hindrance.

The Internet, I find, leads me away from the introverted life that I am compelled to live. In searching and Google-ing, in scanning Facebook, there is this outward seeking, one that denies selfhood if taken too far. I feel that if I limit my online time, I can better focused on my self and better use the Internet as a tool.

So in 2011, I will observe how I spend time online, I will hope to spend less time online (at least less time that is less productive; less vagaries). I will trust more in patience, in time, in the steady unfolding of journeys (relationships that may be nudged together by the Internet - but will always need time in reality). I believe that my relationship with technology can be a healthy one that involves sharing, communicating and networking. I simply need to be more self-aware, more self-controlled in order to feel at the helm of my life, both facing the world and facing the screen.

Aren't we all?

Last week, when I was in NYC, I went to a yoga class at The Shala Yoga House. Upon entering and saying it was my first time, the woman at the front desk told me of an introductory offer for 5 classes. In reply, I told her I was from out of town and was just visiting.

And she responded, "Aren't we all? Aren't we all just visiting?"

And I smiled. I knew I had entered a great space.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

This Feeling, This Body

This feeling of pins and needles does not numb.
My limbs, alive, explore concentric circles.

This feeling all over my body, trembling,
not fatigue, not cold, but tenderness and luxury.
My skin doesn't yawn, but breathes in, on the cusp.

I am all boundaries, but boundaries that do not contain
The line is dotted; I skate in and out. Reaching in,
reaching out. This body, my world, shines, radiates
in all directions.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Rilke's Wisdom

At the age of 24, R. M. Rilke returned from Russia inspired by the spirituality he had encountered. I am currently slowly reading Rilke's Book of Hours, given to me by my sister, and I am so impressed, astonished and awed at the articulateness and depth of a young man in 1899. Below, the first poem.

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there's a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me, to meet and be met.

A Visual New Year

NYE in NYC, 2010>2011.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Adding Another

One human is complicated enough. Adding another begins
a multifarious network of psychological misgivings, grasps
and piteous doubt.

So allow me to crawl into this connection with the pace
of a snail, feeling every fibre as it changes in my body,
they are deep.

Lately my teeth have begun to curl in, clenched, retreating,
the beacons of my persona, and I fear, and I stress.
Then I breathe,

and I let them unfurl again, like fern leaves unrolling
their green in the sun, to open up and stretch, to receive
and to smile.