art, comics, creative writing, drawing, illustration, psychology, spirituality

I can’t believe it. I used the Copics.

I made one illustration before midnight last night, and…it really surprised me. I haven’t been drawing in a long time, so to have something turn out nice is almost entirely unexpected — even with all that time I spent as a kid doing illustrations. It also helped to watch Supergirl and be able to study people’s face shapes, out of nowhere.

I did see it when I began to overwork my drawing. I had to rescue it a little with acrylic paint marker (insofar as that was possible), though I’m certain this wouldn’t work if I were working professionally (the white didn’t have enough coverage). I need to remind myself that I don’t have to go all the way from white paper to black shadows, or to let my logic-brain screw up my pictorial-brain’s work. I mean, I’m pretty sure they’re different brain regions, and my logic-brain wants to help (but it’s not always wisest in this area [even though it thinks it is]).

I’ve also got to remember that there’s always a next picture, and it won’t necessarily be worse. :)

I found that the Copic Ciao line that I had in Cool Grey was almost enough for the illustration I did, which is nice because the Ciaos are the least expensive of any of the Copic markers (not including their fineliners, which they call Multiliners). I also…realized that I may want to use Copic Multiliners regularly, as I’ve found the tips on Sakura Micron pens to widen (fray) with use, making the grading of their nib sizes misleading. I haven’t often used the Copic Multiliners, though, so I’m really not sure if they’ll hold up better over time. I do think, though, that the Multiliners get finer than Microns run (either that, or my tiny Multiliners are drying out).

What I do know is that Copic does have a line of refillable (not disposable) fineliners (Multiliner SP) which allow replacement of the nibs. That…is attractive, especially as I know how a fineliner with a broken nib works, and also what happens when the pens get old and dry out (and then I have to throw them out and get new ones, which isn’t very environmentally-friendly).

After having watched some of an episode of Long Island Medium which caused me to remember a story I had forgotten, I have gotten back to doing comic art and taking notes on story. It seems I also have a relatively good workflow going on, which caught me off-guard.

I’ve begun using a sketch journal, and — another surprise — I’m liking it. That’s also unexpected — in addition to needing: scissors, narrow washi tape, translucent marker paper, a copier, (just) a 2B pencil, an eraser, and a glue stick. (Well, I didn’t really need the copier, it just helped give me permission to work and possibly mess up my drawing. Having the extra copy made it easier to keep working.)

What I did was draw in my pencil art (outlines), then tape a piece of marker paper over the top, work through that paper to lay in my inks, take a photocopy of my inks, then lay in greyscale markers for value rendition (lightest color first), and work over the top to regain lost highlights with opaque white acrylic pen (not opaque enough). Then I glued down the photocopy of my inks without marker, on the facing page. (In the future, I might want to deal with this on Mixed Media paper — after I have the confidence to know that even if I do destroy what I’ve done so far by working further on it, I’ll still be able to work the drawing over again.)

What I didn’t realize until last night is that if I’m working through both marker and sketch paper, these two together are enough to annul the bleeding of the Copic marker (which normally will leak through a sketchbook page, fairly immediately). That’s basically because the Copics are alcohol-based. All of the solvent-based markers I’ve ever used (as versus water-based), have immediately soaked through most papers. That includes alcohol and xylene. There are also oil-based markers, though I only got one of those to work one time, on one project (I was drawing with an oil-based Sharpie on some sort of plastic sheeting, and couldn’t get it to work at any other time).

The narrative I remembered likely explores the main reason why I stopped writing fiction. Looking back on it, I just overthought things and freaked myself out to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, or between intuition and my discursive mind running amok. Because of this, I think, it has been quieter: if I were a spirit and was just confusing the heck out of some kid by communicating with her, I might withdraw too (even if I did love her, and at this point I have some clue of who it is I’ve been dealing with).

So when a person is dealing with energetic sensitivity, the conflict of not being able to distinguish between fantasy and reality can be amplified. The task arises of needing to tell an inner narrative, fantasy, anxieties, desires, and insights apart from an objective reality containing things that one may not understand, and which most people can’t make sense of.

And then, yeah, there’s the question of how I get that into a fictional format, in order to release myself from the constraints of memoir. Even as much as I know it isn’t my job (or possibly obligation), I think I do have some reservations about causing others to, “lose face,” though I didn’t think about it in that way until recently. In that sense, I mean, it could be a cultural thing where I’m uncomfortable telling the world about the faults and imperfections of people around me (although I’m sure it would be apparent that I’d also be showing you mine, as well: the difference is, it’s my choice and my business if I do the latter — the former is much messier).

I also don’t have to be sure that a thought is true before writing it, if I’m writing fiction. Which…may be part of the reason any fiction exists?

I don’t have any scans for you today. I’m still trying to figure out what degree of anonymity or exposure I want, online. If I showed you what I drew, my style would be recognizable across handles. There is also the issue of First Publication Rights…which makes writing for print publication different from writing on my own blog (unless I self-publish a web series or something…I’d rather do print, honestly).

Right now what I’ve got is just practice, so it’s not really a big thing. But as a bottom line, putting something on the Web means I lose control of it. I know that from having published images online, before, so this time around I’m being more reticent and deliberate.

The Web can also be a very strange place, but I’m sure we all know that. :)

art, drawing, graphic design, technology

Handwriting to drawing to painting

I’m not sure how much or whether I have mentioned on this blog, a thought about the interrelatedness of writing by hand, and of drawing. It’s something that was reinforced for me when visiting an art store today and emerging with a couple of little markers.

Whenever I start drawing, it seems kind of inevitable that I would be drawn into practicing my handwriting in Japanese language. I have a relatively solid grasp of kana (phonetic characters) and a very introductory knowledge of kanji (ideographic characters). The thing is…it’s very, very tempting to try and practice getting stroke quality, size, type, proportion of each character in such a way as it becomes beautiful at the same time as it contains meaning.

Of course, this is likely related to my interest both in Graphic Design and calligraphy, painting, and some spiritual bents such as Zen Buddhism. The last three, in particular, are very related historically in an East Asian context, along with poetry. I wouldn’t have known that without having researched the topic of art and writing within Zen, for a graduate project…but I’m fairly sure that this also pre-dates Zen and goes back to the literati in ancient China.

Okay, and that gets really complicated, with the introduction of Buddhist dharma (way of existence) into China, and the mixture of Buddhism and what are now called Daoism, Confucianism, etc. That was introduced into what is now Korea and from there, Japan, though there were multiple transmissions. (Buddhism is not native to East Asia; so far as I know, it originated in South Asia [now India], and traveled through Central Asia into China — but my sources are skewed due to the fact that I currently can only read English-language versions of the history of this. English-language versions of, “what Buddhism is,” by people who only know other English-language versions, are generally imperfect at best, warped and misunderstood, at worst.)

My point is basically that there’s a large historical precedent for my interest in this, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these values were passed on to me by the cultures of family and friends (at the least). To get deeply into that goes into some personal spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), which I’m not even all the time sure on (see the Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching for a reference to why I may not talk about this — it’s a short work), but it gives me some stability. An inkling of it.

Anyhow…I read somewhere that the expression of the writer/artist with ink and brush was supposed to be a reflection of the one who wrote it, although at times an artist would get someone else to do the calligraphy for him. (Most of what I’ve read goes over male artists/poets/calligraphers; that doesn’t mean they all were, but it’s what I’ve seen.)

I believe that it is because of the high value placed on literacy and writing in at least Japan, that the language has turned out as beautiful (and complex) as it is. There are thousands of kanji (ideographic symbols borrowed from Chinese language) to learn to read and write, though there are also patterns within the kanji (like their formative elements, or “radicals”) that give clues to their meanings and readings.

I did start this post talking about the interrelatedness of writing by hand and of making art. My concern is that when people shift from writing with their hands, to writing by typing — only — that the practice which allows drawing to grow from writing, and painting to grow from drawing, is avoided. I do have some concern over the fact that most of us — unless we make a conscious effort otherwise — will likely be writing mostly by using a keyboard, and facing a computer screen. Not by hand, with paper (or any surface) and whatever instrument you use to write with, which could be pencil or marker or pen or brush or charcoal or something else. Something that will make a mark. Anything that will make a mark.

There’s a freedom to any of the latter in that you can express yourself not only in how the text is encoded, but in how it is drawn, and also that you can draw other things that are not letters or punctuation! My drawing, really, started in the margins of my notes and writings for school, as a young teen. I got bored. I found a way to express myself which no one could take away from me, without also taking away my learning tools.

Coincidentally, it was also close to that time at which I started to learn kana. I was into anime, particularly Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, and I wanted to know how to read the text in the Japanese-language books I had to accompany the series. This was also, particularly, because I knew there were a number of seasons and movies (most of them, actually) which had not been translated into English. The only contact I had with these movies and series were the anime books (these must have a name; they’re an entire genre) and untranslated VHS tapes which I found through local venues.

I’m guessing that for me — at least, right now — writing in Japanese is closer to art, than writing in English. That is changing a bit, as I experiment with incorporating more cursive into my handwriting (which inevitably makes it messier than my regular [legible] print; or my regular cursive, where my “r”s are a bit…hard to identify). It’s probably also because writing in Japanese is less familiar to me. But I think I need a bit of a challenge in my reading — and not from English sentences being indecipherable. (It happens in college readings, sometimes. I’ve had textbooks like this. I’m not kidding. SENTENCES WHICH MAKE NO SENSE.)

I have, off-and-on, heard arguments or concerns about Japanese youth losing the skill of reading because of the popularity of manga (comics). I’m not so much concerned about that at this moment, but rather the loss of artistic skill and development which may loom because of a digital revolution in which no one can even write (well) by hand, anymore. It’s already a given that a lot of schools in the U.S. no longer teach how to write in cursive, making the reading of things like old ledgers written in Copperplate script, difficult to read. (I can barely read Copperplate. How much worse must it be for kids who didn’t learn cursive in Kindergarten?)

I also wonder how much I have bought into that in the past, because I did have to spend so much of my time in front of a screen. Something that no one told me, though, is that going to school online does mean that you have to take copious notes (even when the Professor gives handouts). Which are best done by hand. It’s hard when you haven’t written quickly and legibly in a very long time. And, I’m finding, it’s likely harder to draw when you haven’t written by hand at all in a very long time.

I’ve been writing by hand recently, though (which I’ve referenced in earlier posts here), and…it is easier to edge back into mark-making by just trying to write correctly in Japanese. I am not entirely certain why, except for the fact that I now can tell when they’re right (or at least when they’re beautiful), and when they aren’t. I do believe that a lot of that is due to my art training. Before someone close to me dropped out of Japanese-language class, the teacher saw my writing trying to help them on their homework, and said I had “nice handwriting.” So…I don’t know what that’s worth, except that I know I’m not going way into calligraphic territory. It’s legible. That’s good.

So far, I’ve not personally focused on this Inktober thing, but it is kind of inspiring to see all the works people are doing. I’ve also been able to get into acrylic paint markers…which, alongside my Pitt pens and alcohol markers…they’re alluring because of the use of color, for one thing. Opacity also helps, and it’s absent in other water-based and alcohol-based markers. I wouldn’t consider myself into graffiti in any way, but there’s something in the graphic qualities of marker that’s there for me.

I’m thinking that if I get deep enough into this…work in paint may come easier to me. I realized that Acryla gouache is what I was seeking, in a hybrid between acrylics and watercolors which I could utilize on paper without abusing my watercolor brushes (gesso is rough) — say for miniatures. (I still love Shahzia Sikander.) There’s also the possibility of using gouache mixed with acrylic glazing medium, or the (gasp!) use of transparent watercolors mixed with gouache.

I haven’t tried any of that yet, though they’re all creative possibilities. Right now what I have to deal with is how to get my markers out so I can see them, and how to combine transparent, opaque, and permanent inks…

…and paints. If I try, I’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. As I’m learning, a lot of art (or at least design), seems to be about that. That, and not getting hung up on what other people say art should be…

beading, craft, creativity, design, jewelry design, psychology, self care

Process over product?

Or, “process,” over, “hoarding,” maybe?

I began this post way too late to really be coherent, but after I had a jewelry design + construction session. I worked out a set of earrings in Onyx, Copper, and Hematite; and in trying to work out another set, formed the focal point of a necklace in Smoky Quartz, Citrine, and gold-plate.

Some other things have happened since then. I was contacted by HR, and now have some time set up to go back into work for training. I also was able to purchase some shoes which, hopefully, will help combat the tendency of my feet to hurt, these days. I’ll be wearing them around the house to see how my feet tolerate them.

I also have been notified that it seems I’m having a hard time coping with anxiety. So…it was possible that I would need to reschedule an appointment because of a surprise training session, but my appointment has been delayed at least twice already, making it now about four weeks past the time I initially agreed to return. I think it’s important that I not allow that to be pushed back any more.

It’s possible that making the jewelry helps take my mind off of other things that are going on in my life. I wasn’t in a great place, emotionally, when I made the earrings last night. There’s a certain energy that goes with them, which I didn’t find to be best for me today, when I was putting myself together this morning.

In particular, yesterday I had a lot of anger over a situation which occurred and — although I didn’t see it in quite these terms — others say it sounds like I was triggered, and continued to “seethe” afterward. So, what I made yesterday, looks “hard” to me, today.

Getting out of the “hard woman” role is one of the reasons I decided to stop comparing myself to women and aligning myself with feminine gender terms. Because if you’re a woman, it’s possible to be a hard woman…and if you’re a man, it’s possible to be a soft man. But if you’re female, and you look female, and want to be a soft man…it’s next to impossible to be seen that way. And when you’re not recognized that way, it’s very hard to maintain that identity.

And then I get angry, and I’m back into reinforcing “hard woman” territory, again. I don’t like being angry, or feeling forced into a role.

So then you get into identity erasure, and on top of that, not being given a chance to speak because of gender dynamics combined with racial dynamics. The bad thing about this is that at this point, I’m dealing with anger, regardless of whether I’m a man or a woman or other. And as I’ve learned, being seen as angry and black at the same time is not a combination that makes my life easier.

My issue…as it stands, is that I tend to get angry and stay angry over things that I see to be injustices, or systemic social patterns that I see to be wrong…which I may be more informed on, than most. I’m informed enough on it to know that focusing on it will likely lead to an early death from heart concerns or cancer. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the problem when you want to fix it, and think that if you think about it enough, you could understand and fix it. Often, though, the stress just ends up killing people.

I mean, I come from a background where people allow each other space to speak. I come from a background where “Step Forward/Step Back” is a basic ground rule of discussion. “Step Forward” invites people who are otherwise silent to contribute to the conversation. “Step Back” asks people who are dominating the conversation to quiet down and allow other people to speak — even if there are silences.

It’s a way to address the effects of power inequalities in spaces where group members experience differing power levels or cultural norms of conversation. Otherwise, it’s known that those who are accustomed to higher levels of power may take over and direct the conversation, often even talking over other people to maintain control. This silences others, perpetuates the current power dynamic, and deprives the group of the generativity it could experience if everyone were contributing.

The obvious argument is, “contribute if you want to contribute,” but that assumes that I’m comfortable with my contribution conflicting with or destroying the current dynamic, in which I’m a lower-powered member.

Anyhow. Aside from witnessing another episode of, “let’s watch the status quo in action,” I was able to put together the beginning of a necklace. It features a couple of Citrine beads I got in high school and never used, because the drill holes were so uneven that they wouldn’t even take a 24-gauge wire. I do have a bead reamer, though, so I held the beads under cool running tap water and twirled the reamer with gentle pressure (backing it out when it jammed, so I wouldn’t snap it off) until I could actually see that the hole widened enough to take a wire.

No, I didn’t intend to be gross about that. (I edited before posting.) Quiet, you. :P

Anyhow…it was easier than I anticipated, and left a cleaner drill hole than I anticipated. Another reason to ream a drill hole under running water is that it captures free particles of silicon dioxide, which I would expect to be hazardous to the lungs unless contained in something like water.

I’m thinking of using a wire-wrapping technique to wrap a teardrop-shaped cabochon of Smoky Quartz with Rutile inclusions. I’m not entirely sure right now, how I would do it; I just know that it’s possible. Maybe I should get some square wire to practice on, and, you know, see if I am better off making the earrings. :)

I also don’t quite know where I’ll find more Citrine…at least, in non-spherical shapes. The two specimens I have now, I bought loose — because, if I’m recalling correctly, they cost around $4 or $5 each. The entire strand was just an exorbitant price, for a teen (remember, I bought these in high school).

What’s weird is that both Smoky Quartz and Citrine are commonly colored by heating and/or irradiation, which…it’s just weird to me. Don’t mind me. They’re supposed to not be radioactive at point of sale, which I can just hope is true.

Anyhow, right now it’s mid-October, so the Bead Show will be here in about a month — if I can save up enough money to wait to buy a gorgeous Citrine strand, then. That, in turn, depends on how much I work, or am allowed to work (or how much I sell! I’m not overly attached to either of my last pieces, but I do need to document them — including cost of production).

What I’ve found is that I do really love making things, but I’m not too attached to the little pieces of jewelry I have after I’m done making them. One of my friends was telling me that she was addicted to the process of making, but then has all these things that pile up after she’s done, that she has to get rid of. I’m kind of feeling like that. Certainly, at the time I began this post, that’s how I was feeling. I mean, what I made is nice — but I can do better, and I will. And I want to see that. And…income from selling what I’ve made will help me see that.

I also got a gaiwan today (a little teacup-brewer). It isn’t as pretty as I would like, but it is a porcelain gaiwan, I can upend it comfortably, and it didn’t come with a Prop 65 Warning on carcinogens. At this point, I don’t know how much more I can ask for…

beading, jewelry, jewelry design

Untitled; completed 10-12-2019

I’ve completed another necklace, and though I do have all the tools I need to figure out how much it cost to make (in materials, at least), I haven’t yet calculated that out. What I know is that it wasn’t cheap; materials from four different strands of gemstones went into it.

Making this piece has reminded me of why I stopped working in stone and precious metal: it gets very expensive, very quickly. This is mostly due to the cost of precious metal parts. If I tried to circumvent this by using base metal, I would be stuck working in brass, copper, and silver-plate…which are all vulnerable to tarnish. The negative thing about silver-plate is that it can be worn off, for example, by polishing off that tarnish. For this reason, I’ve tried to work in sterling or gold-fill, where it matters most. (Using solid karat gold is so expensive that it isn’t a realistic option.)

This photo came out closest to true-color, likely because of the background…

The above necklace is a 21″ strand made of Aquamarine, Hematite, Pink Botswana Agate, and Dogtooth Amethyst. The clasp and strung beads are all sterling, except for the crimp beads, which are silver-plated brass; and the wire guards and jump rings.

Detail of the clasp area

I used crimps and wire guards to finish this necklace because I needed to use steel cable to string it (Soft Flex Medium weight, 49-strand). I don’t really have a good way to weigh it, not that its exact weight would matter, but it’s fairly heavy. Also, because of the width of the cable, I had to file down the insides of the holes on each of the sterling bead caps. I couldn’t use the round silver spacers at the very ends of the strands because they wouldn’t allow me to double back through the rest of the beads. Doubling back enables me to hide and protect the end of the cable, which would otherwise become an irritant to the wearer.

If I had just gone down a size in cable, there is a chance that the cable may have eventually worn through: gemstone beads, like “crystal” beads such as Swarovski and Preciosa, are known for having sharp holes, and with the weight of this thing, I wouldn’t have wanted to take the chance. If it breaks, that is, these beads are going to scatter. If I were to make this again, it’s possible I could have hidden small crimp beads on the insides of the bead caps. That would mean that if the cable broke, only a small portion of the strand would be potentially lost — if I could fit them under there.

Apologies for the lighting and failed attempt at color-correction. It looked better in-person.

I’ve…got to get better at digital photography. It doesn’t help that by the time I remembered to take photos today, it was after 6 PM, and the sun was setting.

I have more to say, but it’s unrelated to this. Right now, I’m tired and I need to get back to bed…

ceramics, personal, work

Good tea amidst stressors…

Today, we actually got to visit Teance’s new headquarters in Berkeley. That was the good thing. The…not so good thing, is that I did check in with HR, and apparently they feel I could benefit from more training in working with children. They didn’t tell me this until I initiated contact today (after a week of near-silence). Should I be looking to work within an Academic Library setting? (That is, a College or University library setting: I might be more comfortable with the patrons, there, whereas Public Library settings, I’m seeing now to revolve around babies, children, and teens.)

Another not so good thing: our visitor has to leave pretty soon, and I don’t know if anyone is really happy with that. The third not-so-good thing: our power company has instituted rolling blackouts and threatened to cut off the power last night (which never happened). This is likely because they’ve been implicated in causing two large-scale fires with death tolls relatively recently…it’s not like I can remember the names of either of them, though.

Also, I’m supposed to go and take my test to regain my Learner’s Permit, tomorrow (EDIT: later today). So I can, you know, drive. Again.

I have also recalled why I stopped making gemstone and sterling jewelry (expensive — not from the stones, so much as the metals). And there’s talk of my relative now moving out of the country. The latter makes me question why it was that we were planning to move out-of-state to join them if they’re only going to move again…

Good part first (turned into “good part, only”): Teance is now open, and their Yin Hao Jasmine Green tea is pretty good. The location is also very close to the place we normally get tea from, so it’s easy to stop off there and get some higher-quality tea.

I’ve been doing some research on East Asian tea ware: I do like some teas like Tieguanyin and Chrysanthemum, both of which are more characteristically Chinese than Japanese…so I was thinking that they may work better (have evolved along) with Chinese ware, more than Japanese ware.

I did find a Taiwanese oolong that I’m curious about…it was mid-range expensive, which means that it wasn’t extravagant, but that it should be high-quality. I haven’t yet opened it. Even though I only got one ounce, it takes up a lot of space in its package. I also inadvertently crushed some of the leaves doing something, today, that I can’t even remember anymore. I only regret this because when I opened the Yin Hao, it was full-leaf. So, I mean, I was really crushing stuff.

So…the Yin Hao is very nice, less astringent than most green teas I’ve tried, although on first brewing it did initially smell like baking soda. It’s a good thing that I only brewed a very small amount in a little bit of hot water initially, as I could then rebrew (and rebrew…and rebrew…) the same leaves without losing a lot of flavor (though some mellowing does happen, as I’ve found with many teas). Anyway, I don’t feel I lost anything by brewing just a small amount of leaves. At this rate, one ounce will last a while.

Anyhow, I noticed that the Taiwanese oolong recommended a Yixing or porcelain teapot, whereas the other two I got (Yin Hao Jasmine [Jasmine-scented Green] and a Genmaicha [Green, with roasted rice]) were okay to brew in glass. I also did get a Longjing (Dragon Well) from a separate grocery, as I’ve forgotten what it even tastes like.

I started looking up Yixing ware and that led me to gaiwan brewers. Gaiwan…I’ve seen before, though I don’t own one, and haven’t used one yet, myself. Upon reading around, I found that instead of going for a Yixing teapot, a porcelain or glass gaiwan set would be better for my tea-drinking habits.

(The reason I’m looking at a different way to brew this stuff is that it’s kind of clumsy to try and clean out either of my tall, narrow Pyrex teapots.)

Well, and for the Japanese teas, I probably won’t have to worry about finding a genuine zisha (purple sand) clay pot, as I drink lighter and herbal teas. I did, however, realize that one of the more notable teapots I found in Japantown this last time, was likely related more closely to a gaiwan than to a normal Japanese teapot. This would explain why it was unglazed, lacked a handle, and was meant to be lifted by its edges. It was beautiful, but it was also $85…

I’ll think about it, okay? (Maybe.)

The major reason why I wouldn’t get a teapot like that, is concern about what minerals or metals would seep or leach into my tea. This teapot in particular was also black…which sounds like some kind of basaltic clay (or soot from the firing), unless a coloring agent was added.

The thing about teapots that get seasoned with use is also apparently that, being porous, they impart flavors from past brewings into future brewings, so it isn’t great to switch around with different types of tea. It’s like there is one pot for Taiwanese oolong, a different pot for Tieguanyin, etc.

I also don’t drink intensely flavored teas (black teas or dark oolongs) much at all (they’re just too strong for me), which means I probably don’t need an unglazed teapot to season. Yes, apparently they do need to be seasoned! And I’m not really a formal-tea-ritual type of person.

I’m also still tasting a lot, which implies that a gaiwan would be best for me, until I settle into a favorite type (over Jasmine, I guess, which would also be great in a gaiwan).

I also learned a new term: tisane, which refers to an infused drink like a tea, which is not made of camellia sinensis.

Anyhow — I should get some rest, but I wanted to post this. I am not sure how much going over things in my life which I don’t like but can’t change, will help. And, tomorrow I will be able to work at my driving stuff. Things go on, I have foundations to build. And I haven’t been fired yet. :) Even if I am, I have the active backing of a vocational program. And, my family. It should be OK.

creative writing, LIS, personal, self care, work, writing

Reading, boredom, and other people’s lives

I am still waiting for the go-ahead from my County to go back to work. It’s a little…unsettling. For the past couple of days, I haven’t been doing much aside from eating and sleeping. I did realize, either yesterday or today, that I could be studying my employer’s website for content, or that I could be reading in any of the literary magazines I’ve just obtained, or working on my Japanese language acquisition. Or: writing, but it’s hard to write when you don’t have a lot to write about.

Actually, it isn’t the case that I don’t have a lot to write about; it’s that I have a number of things that I feel I can’t write about, due to an attempt to respect the privacy of others. If I were to write a memoir, you bet I’d have a lot of stuff to write about. There are people relatively close to me whose lives are like a slow-motion train wreck that never ends. It’s just that when people do messed-up things, you know, often they don’t want anyone else to know about what they’re doing.

I do recall getting a book recently that was talking about just this which was saying that, essentially, if people didn’t want the author to speak badly about them, then maybe they should be better people. I just went to check my shelf and I have several different unread books on writing. One of them is Ursula LeGuin’s Conversations on Writing. I’m not sure if that’s the book I’m now thinking of, but I believe it was a female author.

So…it is the case that perhaps I can start reading again. Not necessarily entirely focused on my job (or my health)…but it has been such a long time since I’ve been able to read things that I’ve chosen for myself (as versus textbooks), that I may have lost the habit of reading for pleasure. Of course, my current job does reward the practice of reading.

I believe the biggest thing in between myself and reading is likely the fact that 1) I trained as a writer first, not as a reader, and 2) print books aren’t animated like the ****ing computer screen. Of course, though, it’s possible that reading physical books won’t have the same degrading effect on my vision that reading the computer screen does.

In any case, I have plenty of free time right now. My concern is that I don’t know when it will end, and I’ll be able to go back to work. I have to pass a number of screenings that I have no input on, get my photo taken, and then get into the substitute interface. I’m just hoping that they didn’t send my affirmation to my work email, which I can’t access from home. I’m also hoping that there wasn’t something missing in what I was supposed to do (or not do) that I now need to rectify…after someone advises me of it.

I also have three more days before our guest leaves, but they’re on a working vacation, so yesterday and today, I haven’t seen much of them. I do need to get a haircut, but with my hair, I can’t bet on that being cheap. I have a hard time spending a lot of money on something like that…but on the other hand, it has been at least 10 months since I last had a trim.

And…my hair is getting long enough that I’m inadvertently getting it into things behind me. Not to mention that I’m finding (and making) a lot of split ends. Maybe I will make an appointment.

Let’s see…

I think having this extended period of nothing to do is worse after having worked three 40-hour weeks in a row. Whenever something like that happens, whether it’s related to work or school, it leaves me without an established routine when it suddenly ends. After, you know, it has been taking up the vast majority of my time. I had to really center my work, and focus on being ready for it day after day, in order to keep going for as long as I did.

Not to mention that I think I was doing better as regards self-care, when I was off of the computer. When I got back on here to do that post about the necklace I made, that was when my routine started to degrade. I need to remember to live for me, not for an audience. I mean, I’ve had times where I was actually making posts that were getting a lot of hits, but that doesn’t happen without posting regularly, for an extended period of time. That takes a lot of effort, and some planning. Especially when I’m including images.

I should note that I did find some Japanese-language readers at Kinokuniya, but I put off buying them because I know they’re above my level, right now. I do need to get back on my Japanese-language study. So maybe I should prioritize reading. Also, soon I should be able to get some materials for the Hematite + Smoky Quartz necklace that is now in progress on the living room table.

I’ve just got to remember that I do have some things in progress, and I shouldn’t just wait for things to come to me; I should do something in the meantime, while I’m waiting.

personal

Another day in Nihon Machi

I swear I didn’t initiate another trip to Japantown, today. It just sort of happened. Whether or not I ended up materially gaining anything from that trip (or losing money from same) is a different question. I stuck to spending cash so that I wouldn’t go overboard.

You know…a short while ago, we did get a Zojirushi. For the uninitiated, this is a hot water heater. Which for some reason has an elephant for a logo. But it’s not just any hot water heater. It will heat up up to two liters of water, and keep it hot. For things like tea. TEA!!!

We’ve been drinking a lot of tea. I think the habit (drinking tea instead of juices or sodas) is causing weight loss. M recently found my Chrysanthemum tea from Teance, which I had been searching for — it’s a year old, but I unsealed it from its foil just earlier this month. It is so good. It’s enough to make me want to go herbal with my tea drinking (not to mention, opening my Lupicia low-caffeine teas).

Chrysanthemum tea used to be a favorite of my grandmother, who would ask for it at Chinese restaurants. I’m used to it tasting something like what I imagine unflavored artichoke steaming water, would taste like (if the lemon, rosemary, salt, and garlic weren’t there). The Teance stuff…you can actually taste the nectar in the chrysanthemums as it steeps into the liquid. It’s sweet, but mildly sweet. The liquor is golden. The whole blossoms expand with hot water, which I can watch through my Pyrex teapots. It’s just kind of magical.

The first day, I did have some itching in my throat (I’m allergic to pollen), but this subsided with drinking straight water, and after the first two cups of tea. It also didn’t bother me the next day, when I drank more. Chrysanthemum is supposed to help take down inflammation and allergies — I’m not sure whether this is an actual benefit, but it makes sense. Like eating local honey will expose a person to low levels of pollen, and that’s supposed to help desensitize them to hay fever. (It has been a while since I’ve had bad allergies…I blame it on moving away from the freeway’s tire dust, and away from constant mold and eucalyptus. After I moved to a well-lit suburban area [as versus a shaded hillside near a freeway and industrial steam], my allergies and associated ills [asthma, eczema] essentially disappeared…not to say that everyone will have that experience.)

The day after I drank this, I went back to Organic Jasmine Pearls (a bulk item from the local grocery), then ended up dumping out that pot and steeping these chrysanthemum blossoms, instead. I mean, if I was going to drink something, I wanted to drink something I enjoyed.

I started out with two ounces in the little pouch I got from Teance. I don’t know how many I have left, but it’s a lot, even after I dropped too many blossoms into my teapot, the first time. (That teapot holds over 600 ml of hot water.) I realize I went high-end with my tea, here, and that another pouch of this will not come cheaply. But it is so worth it.

Having a convenient source of hot water has also gotten me to realize that I don’t have to use a high-volume teapot anymore. Today I was at Cha-To by Kinokuniya bookstore, waiting and looking at the little Pyrex teapots. (It helps to bring people back, the fact that they welcome you with a little cup of iced tea.) Then I realized…if I have a ready source of hot water, I don’t actually have to use Pyrex. I can use an actual handmade ceramic or iron teapot.

Like, a real teapot. A real, actually nice, teapot. A NICE TEAPOT. And I can actually only brew what I’ll immediately drink (over and over and over again) and extend the life of my good tea. And maybe I can get it in dimensions that will be easy to clean out, unlike the two tall Pyrex pots I have.

Good tea is…I mean, it can be really good. And with bad tea, it’s like, “why am I drinking this?” I mean, just drinking water is often better than drinking bad tea.

So…now I have to find a good Iron Goddess (Tieguanyin) tea again: I tossed mine because it looked like it had expired three years ago (the label I put on it said, “’16,” as in, “20…’16,” though I don’t know if I bought it in 2016 or it expired in 2016)…being an oolong (partially fermented) tea, I was wary of using it (microbes!), though I’m now told it basically lasts a really long time when it’s kept dry and sealed (which it was; we have too many tea tins).

I am now thinking, though, of going herbal. Jardin Sauvage from Lupicia is another tea that I’ve liked, which has no camellia leaves in it (“true” teas — black [called “red” in China, IIRC], oolong [called “black” in China, IIRC], green, and white — are all camellia leaves). Camellia sinensis is the plant that normally gives regular tea its caffeine content. “Herbal” teas are anything that is not camellia, regardless of whether it is medicinal or not.

So, technically, at least in my region, Yerba Mate would be herbal, even though it also is a stimulant. Tulsi (Holy Basil) is the same way. I don’t think they work the same way in one’s system, though…not to mention that some teas (like Tulsi) will interact with medications, as they are essentially medications, themselves.

Disclaimer: I just need to let you know to do your research and take responsibility for your own health before drinking an extract of anything you don’t understand, as there’s a possibility it could harm you, especially if you’re on other drugs (even prescription ones).

There’s also a chance that if you’re allergic to preservatives, you could have a reaction (possibly severe) to things like dried fruit which have been added to teas and also treated with preservatives. I’ve personally had my throat start to close up because of eating Golden Raisins (which, like standard dried apricots [which I also can’t eat], are treated with sulfites to preserve their color and flavor). I’ve been driven to vomit from eating dried apple slices which have been treated with preservatives. I just, at this point, know that my body doesn’t play nice with sulfites (at the least).

Note that I am saying this as a person, not a Librarian, and I am not representing anyone other than myself on this! Every time you choose to put something in your body, you take your life and health in your own hands. This is true for food; this is even true for tea.

In any case, Jardin Sauvage is a blended herbal tea from Lupicia (basically, a high-end tea company which you’ll probably only be able to mail-order from) with a base of Green Rooibos. It does have dried fruit in it, and also flower petals. Rooibos is an African plant which is usually oxidized, and makes a caffeine-free, red liquor. Green Rooibos is not treated the same way as regular Rooibos…I’m not sure if I can describe the difference in taste or aesthetic, as I still haven’t broken into my straight Green Rooibos herbal tea. I’ve also tasted such different qualities of Rooibos (sometimes also called “Honeybush”; and I am still unclear on the difference between the two), that I have no standard baseline to compare it to.

However…Rooibos can be good. Jardin Sauvage is just particularly…nice. At least, to me. I generally don’t drink flavored teas, either. Even though I am allergic to sulfites, and there is dried fruit (mango?) in this tea, I can still drink it (at least, so far). Not everyone will have the same reaction, though.

Elderflower is also something that I’ve had good luck with…we still have a tiny bit of Elderflower + Chamomile here, which is a gorgeous tea, flavor-wise. It also has that effect of putting people to sleep. :) Should I go to sleep? It’s almost 1:30 in the morning, right now…

I…there’s just something about this that makes me feel like I actually am Asian-American, which I know I am, but still: I’ve felt excluded for a fairly long time, because of the race thing. It wasn’t really until getting into the fact that I am, ethnically, different from most of the professors I had in college…that I did start investigating this.

Some things you grow up around, and you don’t realize until late in the game that not everyone is like you. Not everyone eats yokan at New Year’s. Most people don’t know what yokan is. Not everyone sees New Year’s as a thing to celebrate, and I’ve been participating in osechi for decades without knowing the word, “osechi.”

By the second generation, it’s common for children of first-generation immigrants not to pass on their parents’ native languages to their own children. Even though English is the only language I’m currently skilled in to the point of functionality (same with my parents), that doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t have a cultural background that originates outside the U.S. It also means that maybe the people who do speak those other languages might not be so different from me.

Grandma may have tried to be, “American,” but that didn’t erase the environment and family she grew up in, or the training that her parents had. They provided the context of her life in her formative years. That has to leave a mark on someone.

That’s not to ignore culture from my other side, or the experience I have had of growing up in this area. It is just that I think the parent I’m thinking of now, did want me to have a cultural grounding…which is not always easy to come by for someone whose historical reference to a “home” outside the U.S. was essentially obliterated. What culture there is, we made, and we inherited. Without necessarily knowing that was what we were doing. That there was something different that other people did, or that we did, and that it made us, as a community, unique.

And that’s complicated. As is the difference between myself as nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth) and the experience someone who grew up in Japan, would have. It’s not a bad difference, or a “wrong” difference, but it is a difference. (The word for “to be different” in Japanese language is “chigau:” it also means “to be wrong.”) And yeah, that’s something I’ve grown up with, too! People thinking that I am wrong, or that I shouldn’t exist, because I am different (in some way that mattered to them, but was based on appearances — on race — not deeper realities of culture or family. Or clan).

But my experience is an authentic experience, for me. How often have I even been able to think, that I am something that I can identify? That I can point to, and say, “that is me”?

It hasn’t been often. But maybe I’m growing into myself.

And yes, I am glad to be with family, family I connect with, again.