and then there was light

Tomer's Lighthouse

Image by Tomer Tysowsky

Reading Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm germinated in me an unhealthy desire to watch a mega-storm; probably not on the water, but close enough to feel the tininess that is being human.

Over the last summer I ventured attempted to visit all of the lighthouses along the North Carolina coast, in severely illogical order:

light houses.pdf

Original image from Lantern Press, Lighthouse and Town Map, Outer Banks

I also went to the Wright Brothers Memorial near Manteo, and was struck anew by the willpower of mechanics and tinkerers who are hell-bent on figuring out that they had set out to figure out. Especially when your co-conspirator is your equally tinkering, equally dedicated, equally bachelor brother. And with the collective power of their frontal lobes, tiny humans strained toward a dream and took to the sky.

Naturally, the one lighthouse I chose to climb is the tallest: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at 210 feet, depending on your sources. There are pages of all sorts of terrible things that might happen, for which the government is not responsible in case they should befall you. An AED was located halfway in the tower; and the question remains, who shall deliver said device in its need?

I was fascinated by the Fresnel glasses, which in their own right, have grades much like diamonds. Apparently the lenses were also irresistible to thieves, although if I had my choice, acquisition of any loot should not increase my likelihood to suffer a herniated disc. I have no idea what sort of pulley system was called upon to transport the unauthorized acquisition, but that is one potentially deadly Rapunzel’s delivery.

The lighthouses seem arcane now: the light’s automated, and the buildings are arguably ornamental. But in their time, the lighthouses are human’s victories over nature, who unfazed by the darkness of a wild sea, created for themselves a guiding light. The tender to conquer storms are measured in men’s lives, but the human spirit seems to be immortal.

For more stories of tinkerers who won’t let up on their dreams, check out How We Got to Now. I have a moderate geek crush on Steven Johnson. 


duck lessons

Baby Common-goldeneye ducks leaving nest, flying for the first time,

Baby Common-goldeneye ducks leaving nest, flying for the first time,

I write because I forget. The daily oozing of words like perspiration squeezing out of pores on a sultry summer day. Once in a while a nugget worth keeping bubbles up, speaks over the clamorous droning of life–such a  simple word–but often, almost always, due to the lack of attention or pen or scratch paper or the overabundance of self-consciousness–what if I come across as weird, coming to a dead stop and writing?–the thought flits through the thicket of to-do lists and remains uncaptured. And by the end of the day, all crumbled in the sweaty palm of errands and deadlines and tests, whatever remained of the thought is washed-out and bleached, fuzzy half-ideas alongside half-chewed dinners and half-muttered indignations.

I write because the raw thoughts, spat out unfiltered into the vibrating air, would likely land me in a straight jacket that some already think should suit me just peachy. So I write, shuffling and cutting my deck of words. If life is but a game, might as well play your hand right.

The travesty of that seemingly simple, four-lettered word is that we slaughter it with another four-lettered word. Wait. Wait for something to happen, wait for decisions to be made. And the four-lettered words chit-chat and mingle and Chekhov, one of a handful, wrings out the unhappiness of so many lives steeped in so much waiting, asks us through a rheumatic pseudo-intellect, to do something with our lives.

I sit on a wooden bench by the pond and watch the ducks. Sunning, grooming, minding their usual ducky lives. And I wonder, as the sunbeam glide down their glossed feathers, into the water, if I am missing something ontologically. I’ve been reading through Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet, and ontology has been my word for this fall. Graduate school had been what I thought it might be, yet simultaneously anything but. Beneath the swan-like exterior is the maniac pedaling, borderline-panic treading water to keep afloat. Grades, acclimation, relationships, self-worth. Every so often, usually after a move, the question comes back: who am I? Am I okay with who I am?

Feeling displaced makes me more keen of living consciously. Ontologically.

And I wonder if this, this awareness, demarcates an otherwise frivolous existence, or worse, one atrophied in waiting. I have had my times of both, speeding along or wasting away. This move to North Carolina was to stretch my brain and social skills and confidence so I have no excuse to do either. But it’s hard to distinguish what I want from what I think others want me to do, and who I am from who people decide I am from what they infer. Ontology gets trampled a bit in all of it. 

I watch the ducks being their ontological selves. The autumn air smells of leaves and sun and silence.

PM rambling, first of many

photo credit:

Observation: an hour-long round-trip bike-ride through moderately slope-y areas on a bike with almost no gear, after a year of relative sedentary lifestyle. Gluteus muscles disapprove.

Observation: fourth week of graduate school. Brain has reached maximum capacity for the nth time. To sleep or not to sleep, that is the question.

there and back again

Disclaimer: the following contents contain information processed through suboptimal brain function. The author is not responsible for irrational aphorisms, improper grammar, and general nonsensicalness.

I am writing this from the southern quadrants of the Canadian-United States border. One of the slew of reasons I have not updated anything since my last post in Canada is that school crashed in full-force 60 hours after I parked my car in Durham, North Carolina at the end of a 13-hr driving day, and since then my brain cells have contemplated spontaneous apoptosis a dozen times over.

A bit of catching up: since posting about my previous Visa interview, I was able to successfully interview for my student Visa the second time around, on August 19th. Technically speaking, I was not any more or less eligible for the Visa the second time around, since my student status is still in good standing, and I have no questionable intent that might jeopardize my successful term at Duke.

This illustrates my trip since leaving Milwaukee on August 7th:

Plus or minus 5% in mileage for when my GPS decided to be coy.

After I posted about my situation while in Canada in mid-August, people in the States came together and made contacts for me to stay with the local Pastor’s family. So I was an unwilling, yet not homeless, international bum for about two weeks’ time. I really can’t tell you how much difference that made, to be with a family who took me in without a moment’s hesitation and treated me like I belonged there.

And now that I am recalling on the ordeal—can I still call it an ordeal even though I matured and grew from it, more than I could have ever imagined?—I can’t quite capture everything anymore. These moments, the marrow of life, are so real when they were taking place that, once they have passed and “normal life” inundates me, I find it hard to describe them with all of their realness intact.

I haven’t really written much about spirituality and my personal beliefs up to this point, because like relationships, those things are sacred to me and I, perhaps out of selfishness, want to keep them private. But sometimes, a trip to Canada to confront one of my deepest fears, and to be rendered helpless, then delivered, makes me think that perhaps, my faith isn’t just mine, but it’s a story. And we are storytellers, and we are dreamers of dreams.

I wrote to a friend about my recent journey, there and back again, and I think sometimes, life is about reshaping everything you know. Rarely does a traveler returns from the journey unchanged:

“[Speaking of spiritual fire, and the transformative power of trials.] For me, the struggle had been trying to feel worthy by what I can do and accomplish. I associated my worth with my immigration, where I only feel worthy if I can prove my worth by being granted to stay in the United States and build my career that I can call my own, and not realizing (not fully, at least) that I have inherent worth with God, regardless of what immigration rules dictate, or what country decides I can contribute to their workforce. So my personal test by fire for the past decade, and now the fiercest this time around, was God taking a firm hold of my entire heart and being, of what I cared about the most, and taking it out of my hand, and asking me do you trust Me? do you trust me THIS MUCH? And I realize this even now, just a few days after the “ordeal” (since it usually takes me a while to recognize His work), that He knew what I needed, what had to happen for me to grow and mature spiritually, was to cut me to the quick and lay me open so all of my internal demons stood before God and I had to surrender everything I thought I could handle.” 

And I’ve been there and back again and it’s already a struggle to remember that journey, of the people I have met and the roads taken and the battles fought. And I am a bit frightened that I would forget what it was like and what it all meant, because I want to remember. I want to remember my story and tell it someday. And I am frustrated because there’s been hardly a moment to think because a mere two weeks into graduate school I am forcibly suffusing my brain with biomechanics and anatomy and I am about being ready to

I may or may not have already thrown stuff.

So I am sitting down at last and writing; it’s a start, at least, and I hope after a few reams of pseudo-sensical rambling I might begin to tell you a story worth hearing. Because being there and back again, and being here now, I don’t want to let the busyness of life dilute the essence of it.

The beginning.

P. S.: Adding to my no small list of to-do’s, I went online to check my phone account and waiting for me was my monstrous roaming bill.
P. S. S.: For school we’re using MacBooks and being a PC’er I am super discombobulated with all of the Ctrls and Alts and Apple signs being in different places. I feel like a cat after the house has been suddenly remodeled and I keep running into wrong corners.