POV: Meditations.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The day I left Berlin, I cleaned the apartment I'd been staying in, one room at a time. I stripped the bed. Sponged down the kitchen counters. Cleaned strands of dark hair from the bathroom's white tile floors. On the way out, I stood on tiptoe to close the windows against the rain. Then, airport-bound and bags in tow, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror by the door. Right away and with surprise, I thought, oh, it's you.

Yesterday afternoon, I remembered something I wrote  close to two years ago, about the beginnings of what I still refer to as a quarter-life crisis.

It wasn’t until I had slipped and crash-landed on my face in the snow that I realized I’d fallen in love with trees. At the time, I was also barely able to pay rent, and single for the first time in years, and, at any given moment, on the verge of panic. The world seemed bleak and I was starved for brightness. In my desperate search, I found it in the most unexpected places: in the curvature of tree branches, in the crowing of birds, in bumping shoulders with strangers on crowded sidewalks.

Everything, all of it, was spectacularly mundane. But at the time, nothing seemed purer, or brighter, or more beautiful than tree bark, than trash buried under snow, than people passing in the street and touching.

I thought about this yesterday as I stood with my shoulders pressed against the wall in a subway car at rush hour. Underground, bathed in yellow light, the scene amid the swarm was dismal. Commuters, too warmly dressed to be so tightly packed, shifted uncomfortably as the train jolted forward in fits and starts. A woman snapped at an older man for suggesting she remove her backpack to make more room. A screaming baby vomited.

There was I time, I thought, when I could have found something beautiful about it.

I looked. But my eyes ached.


Shortly after that subway ride, I found myself at a dinner party in Bushwick. I was seated next to a man I'd never met, but we bonded quickly over the the topsy-turviness of the past few months—for me, it's been a period largely defined by a level of busyness I'm not sure how to navigate. Often, I said, I’ve felt so consumed with work that I’ve forgotten where I am, what day it is, or the names of people around me. My entire trip to Berlin, though extremely gratifying, still seems to me like an out-of-body experience.

I’m someone who writes a series called Non-Career Advice, and here I am, so consumed by work that I’m hardly able to focus on very much else. “I feel far from myself sometimes,” I said.

How do we stay connected, we wondered, in all this chaos?

The need for quiet was mentioned. So was travel, and books, and meditation—a practice that was much talked-about in my home growing up, but with which I'd never really clicked (at least in a way that made sense to me then). Now, I like to think that there are many ways to meditate. For Frank Huang, caring for plants might be a form of meditation. For me, it might be walking—noticing trash and traffic and snow and faces.

“I want to remember that I’m small,” my dinner-mate said. And so do I.

Waking up the next morning in a fog of wine, I remembered an afternoon one summer, just after college. I was running through my neighborhood and I was distracted, lost in thought about something having to do with a relationship at the time. But then, out of stillness, came wind through the trees.

I remember the way it sounded, like waves.

Even in traffic, there on a street corner in a city of preposterous hugeness, I could hear myself breathing.


You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thank you so much for readingPhoto by Jesse Chamberlin via Instagram. 


Kizzy Bass said...

Wow I can so relate to this post. This is part of the reason I've started my slowly lived blog.

PAW said...

This is a very lovely POV indeed, especially for the haiku:
I caught a glimpse
of myself in the mirror
by the door.
Right away
and with surprise,
I thought,
oh, it's you.

max said...

poignant and beautiful as always.

melissa. said...

Goodness me, this is such a beautiful piece of writing. (And I loved that sentence too 'Oh, it's you.') Melancholy but with a line of hope running through it. Thank you.

I so identify with this feeling - I'm someone who is also often quite good at seeing the beauty in small things. I'm a writer, so it's something I've tried to cultivate over the years (a 'way of seeing'). But this autumn has definitely worn me down (homesickness, bereavement, heartbreak, horrible weather) so that there have been some days where I've been unable to find it. I'm trying to get back into the habit of deliberately looking though. I was saying to someone earlier this week: some days its easier than others to see 'the horrible' ...but just because beauty is quiet doesn't mean it's not there (in fact, the quietness is often part of what makes it beautiful). I'm going to try and write something about that soon I think...

So happy to have come across your blog today (almost by accident). It's hard to find blogs that aren't just advertising clothes. Will look forward to reading more!

~ Melissa @teaandascone

ps. sorry that this comment turned into a small novel.

Anonymous said...


burntfeather said...

I had an "oh it's you moment" and a moment of contemplating, am I doing this all right? Thanks for your words, they are always so beautiful!

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much for reading.

Kizzy, can't wait to check that out. Thank you!

PAW, that's amazing.

Melissa, that really means so much. Thank you for reading, and for sharing. I hate saying "I know how you feel," but I have a feeling that I do—hang in there. Looking forward to reading your writing.

Fee, thank YOU. Always look forward to seeing your name here.

Raquel R. said...

Love this, as always.

Sloan said...

This is so achingly beautiful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

What PAW said!

laura tj said...

I seriously haven't been very good at keeping up with blog reading nor my own blog, but every time I do go back and read your POV series, it always makes me happy! Reading this itself feels like a meditation cause it made me step back and stopped and appreciated the beauty of simple things in life so thank you!

Shoko said...

Thank you all again!

And Laura, so nice to see your name here! Thank you so much!


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