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Archive for August, 2012

First Days

I love the feeling of having a post locked up away in my mind, saving it for the near future.  I love the feeling of sitting down at my laptop on a low-key Friday afternoon, and unleashing every word that’s left up there.  It’s cathartic, in a way.

Wednesday was my 12th first day of school.  Yet, on my 12th first day, I felt the butterflies one would feel in kindergarten—the feeling of uncertainty, the slight excitement, the equal resentment.  My summer was great, but not incredible enough to keep me going.  I was almost ready for school, to see those I hadn’t seen since the blistering days of June.  Surprisingly, I was also ready for my classes.  I walked in the first day with the optimism I so wish I always carried, ready to tackle the year.  The freshmen, as always, were minuscule beings in the hallways—you could practically smell the fear.  Sophomores were indifferent, as sophomores always are.  And then juniors; us.  Together, some of us spent our 12th first day together.  This is mind blowing for me.  There’s a certain camaraderie that forms with spending so much time together, regardless of differences.  Nonetheless, I always feel the degree of separation in our class, a void that never fills up.  Everyone was different on day one—inches taller, dyed hair, tan skin….the typical summer results.  I always find myself doing head-to-toe analyses of everyone who walks by me on the first day of school, an immediate reflex that means no harm.  And every year, I find myself fascinated by the drastic changes of some people—the way summer can mold personalities into new shapes.  I never know if I change—never realize it until later.  I definitely have over the years, but never drastically over the summer.  Although, summer is a spectacular time to find “yourself.”

As I hoped, my classes were fantastic. The classes are challenging enough to maintain my interest, while manageable (so far….I am taking AP Chem).  In fact, I started a book for fun the other night, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which has, much to my surprise, captured my interest from the first word, a rare instance for books (good book suggestion for anyone interested in Afghanistan, good writing, a classic).  After three days of school, I barely have any weekend homework.  I’d like to consider these three days as my last official days of summer.

There’s a certain air at SB that reminds me of why I love it there.  Simultaneously, I often feel a certain repulsion for the place, for the people.  It’s the way that anything can become old after a while.  Every hallway is familiar, every room, every minute.  The way the receiver for the announcements feels in the early morning and mid-afternoon reminds me of the place I hold in the school.  We have a community that builds throughout the year, and breaks apart at the end.  This week, the beginning, the community has felt scattered, incomplete.  And every beginning leaves me hesitant to love the place.  By mid-year, I usually find my place—my niche, to say the least.  I usually begin to love it, but I often long for the past during the first few weeks of the school year.  Sophomore year, regardless of a multitude of flaws, was truly fantastic.  The work was unmanageable, drama prevalent, stress an all-time high—but it felt right.  The teachers were friends, and classes had a sort of intimacy you don’t typically find in high school.  Junior year is the opposite, yet I already find comfort in my classes—French reminds me of old cobblestone Paris streets and my unparalleled love for the language; English reminds me of who I am as a writer, the way words can be as sweet as blossoming flowers and as vicious as the thorns on the stem; Chem reminds me that even science is an art that slowly becomes an object of affection over time, as it has for me; Peer Leadership reminds me of how I used to be a wallflower, and how familiar people from my childhood can bring that diffidence out from within me.

Of the twelve first days I’ve had, most remarkable is 5th grade, the last of a long journey.  In a classroom warmed by colors on the wall, the day started with an obligatory hug from the teacher.  By obligatory, I mean that we weren’t allowed in the classroom until she gave us a hug, as was every following day for the rest of the year.  The class was intimate, to say the least, but it was the sweetest way to preserve those elementary years before the daunting real years began.  The first day of sophomore year feels like yesterday, an unrelenting amount of stress that slowly pushed down my shoulders, until they broke only days later (I’ve learned to manage my stress since…).  Yet, first days in general rarely leave imprints in my mind.  They feel like trivial moments that pass rapidly.  I find this upsetting; first days set the tone for the year, the first impressions of the journey ahead.  It’s my way of judging the book of the year by its cover (a faux-pas I’m guilty of continuously committing).  I have a good feeling about this coming year, a gut instinct that tells me it’ll be filled with fulfilling moments.

Besides school, I’ve realized that I have several travel plans this coming year.  Before the obvious Russia/Estonia/Finland next summer, I’m going to India (again) this winter, spending a few days in Agra to see the Taj Mahal and a few days in good ‘ol Calcutta (photojournalism, anyone?).  Summer travel plans, I’ve talked about plenty (lately, I’ve been spending an unnecessary amount of time looking up pictures of St. Petersburg and Talinn).  Senior year, my band teacher is hoping to take us to Bavaria to compete in a music festival there that her husband and her are organizing.  My second trip to Germany, I hope I’ll able to make the trip/it works out.  Either way, there’ll be plenty of travelling (once again) this year, and plenty of travel journals.  Sometimes without a bit of travel, my blog posts seem bare, redundant.  I need some action in my life!

That’s all I have for now.  Happy end-of-the-summer, happy Labor Day, happy first-week-of-school; here’s an invisible toast to an excellent summer, and another terrific year!

-B

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Hi!  It feels like it’s been a while.  For all you non-poetry/classical music lovers, I’m sorry about this post.  I’ve been at the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival all week, drowning in poetry.  Just posting a few of my favorites.

I have this theory
that a musician is most
beautiful
in his or her moments of playing,
most vulnerable to being
loved when the world
momentarily escapes
them
and they live vicariously
through their
music.

Sophie Shao is a
warrior
who raises the hem of her
ink-pattern dress
inches above her ankles in battle,
a strong-willed woman who
glows in the blaze.

Jeewon Park,
the woman with the
mahogany-tinted
bouncing curls,
is a dancer who
glides across her Steinway & Sons,
sweeps into illusions beneath her eyelids,
and leaves the audience
pining for more.

Bella Hristova with the
stunning ocean gown
is a poignant wonder,
and I fall in love with
the lady who immerses
herself
into E-string vibratos
and falls into the glistening wood
of her
instrument.

The passion of their playing
is expressive of the passion in
their hearts,
a trend amongst musicians.
The way the violinist dips
into her antiquated score,
the pianist leaps across her
ivory keys,
the cellist fosters her
resolute instrument–
they are objects of affection
to someone
somewhere
who once saw them under radiant
lights,
musicians who taught someone
to love
with their
music.

And this next one was inspired by this piece: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtOwbJGMRRM

Paris in the riveting spring,
cherry blossoms fluttering above stone-façade buildings,
the air breathes Schumann’s andante.
Street artists who paint to the inspiration of the glistening cello,
wanderers who are as self-effacing as the viola,
lovers who sing zealously above the Seine like the wide
violin vibratos.
On cast iron bridges above undulating waves,
locks guard the past,
timeless love swathes wooden railings,
and footsteps in the form of silvery keys
connect stars.

A lulling melody
like the city itself,
makes us wistful for the golden days,
aching for amour,
yet momentarily content.

And it eases along,
like the cobblestone streets
in old Paris.

 

And one last short one about audience members….

Every audience member is a petal
that dances to a unique style in the breeze—
I see myself,
a lilting petal,
graceful,
enchanted by the everlasting breeze,
wistful for the past,
pining for the future,
yet drifting where the wind blows.

(wind/breeze represents music)

Happy Last Days of Summer!

-B

 

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I close my eyes, and I’m racing through tunnels, a sort of flashing that only comes in dreams.  The darkness is tinted with the distinct smell of fear—my own, I realize.  I fear the closing walls, the way they coddle me.  On the contrary, the outdoors is too vast—the fervent sun, the audience, the way the ball can leave and never come back.  On the court, it’s like the sky is falling, trapping me under its weight—rather, I’m trapped by my own weight.

The smell of new Wilson tennis balls is a figurative high, a high that pulls me through the rest of my game.  My opponent is my enemy; I stare her down as if to alleviate my own pains.  She smiles.  I maintain a resolute face.  I’m not so cold in my daily interactions.  Yet, in this moment, it’s all about my Prince and I—and the Wilson tennis balls.  I’m thrown off by my inconsistency in brands whenever I come to one of these tournaments.  I feel impure, feel like I’m cheating them.  My loyalty lies with Wilson, but my game lies with Prince.  These thoughts seem to throw me off my game too.

I serve an ace my first point, double fault on the second.  If my game was ever graphed, the marks would sporadically extend off the page; my mental stability in these moments on court would most likely do the same.  I net the third point, and find myself laughing.  I don’t know where the laugh comes from, but it’s a combination of nervousness and anger.  Better to laugh than smash my racquet.  I win the next three games, and find myself overcome with a newfound confidence.  Never good.  Confidence makes me feel invicible, and this calls for mistakes.  I’m an overhitter; I channel my tacit anger towards the world through killer overheads and the rare winner.  Yet, most of the time, the base line works against my benefit.  The court conspires against me at every given chance.

I pull it through to a match tiebreaker, a situation that can never be good for myself.  If I win, I blame myself for not winning at two sets.  If I lose, the self-loathing begins.  Yet, I’ve found a peculiar comfort zone in losing, as if there’s no where else to stoop down to.

I lose the match by two points.  Third place, honorable mention.  We shake hands at the net, and I smile courteously, but I’m internally seething at my loss.  She becomes my permanent enemy on the courts.  I walk off with my Federer-endorsed Wilson bag, an honor that seems to have no effect on my game, and drive away on the gravel roads.  I never run through my matches until hours later, yet I find myself wincing at every recollection of every point.  I have the strategy in my mind, the plan, the potential—but I suffer from permanent stage fright.

I’m asked to play in two other tournaments, but I refuse.  I need a break, I need to train, I need time for myself.  These are all things I tell them, but I know, deep inside, I’m letting fear dominate.  I drill my shots with my instructor, an eccentric woman who I’ve taken to since my childhood, the only person who I openly allow to criticize me—one of the only opinions I sincerely respect.  She tells me she’s seen me play better, she teaches me how to become mentally strong.  She tells me I lose mentally, and my school coach reiterates these words.  I start running, I start eating healthy, I start working on every shot until it’s impeccable.  I don’t play in another tournament.  During the tennis clinic, I win all the games. I find comfort in drop shots, a trick I learned from Federer, which eventually becomes “my shot.”  Everyone begins to dread it, start telling me that I can work miracles with that shot.  My instructor beams the entire time.  See, she says, you did it.  And you’re one of the only players I’ve seen who smiles while she plays.  The irony.

I start fading throughout the rest of the summer.  I’m busy, I say.  I’m focusing on my writing.  I’m in a play.  But I’m not busy as I say—I find hours of idle time filled with F.Scott Fitzgerald or Chris Bohjalian.  Yet, I find myself under bright lights at newly-renovated courts on some isolated nights, drilling serves until every single one is in.  I start training myself, working with and against myself, perfecting my game.  I still refuse to play tournaments.

In late August, my parents ask me why I haven’t played.  I hate tennis, I say. That’s not true, they answer.  There’s a sliver of truth in this.  I used to love tennis, used to love the thrill of being agressive, the thrill of being on a team with people who shared my love.  I slowly became discouraged.  It’s a love-hate relationship, I like to say.  We’re going through a temporary annullment.

I start to dream about tennis more, a sort of unrealistic vision of what Wimbledon or Roland Garros would be like.  One of my tennis friends says her dream would be to play on the centre court in London.  I close my eyes, envision pristine white outfits, shaking Sharapova’s hand at the end of an enthralling match.  I see myself blowing kisses to the crowd, tearing up with a trophy in my arms, being interviewed—yes, I once wanted to be a journalist, but I ended up as a professional tennis player!  I realize I’m turned off by these thoughts.

Federer, my greatest idol, shows a comeback in recent matches, inspiring me to get back on the courts, back under dark lights by myself with my basket of high-inducing Wilson balls.  Simultaneously, I read Agassi’s autobiography, my second greatest idol, and relate to him.  He says he hates tennis, yet he feels this constant longing to go back.  I’m not as devoted, but I find truth in his eloquent words, find myself between the lines.  He says he loses mentally, says he has thought about walking off of the courts multiple times.  The only difference is he’s one of the greatest tennis players in the world, and I am a burned-out 16 year old.

Days before school starts, my mom asks me about the tennis season.  You can quit if you really hate it, she offers after nine desperate years of pulling me through it.  I’ve worked too hard, I respond, surprising myself.  I’m not ready to go back on the courts quite yet, but I’ve worked too hard to let go of it.  I’ve worked too hard to let petty differences take me away.

I’ve worked too hard to love the game.

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On Parting


Tuesday night reminded me of what goodbyes feel like.  They cause this stinging feeling—a sharp pain that never goes away, a sudden aversion towards life.  People always come and go, and that’s something I’ve learned in the past year from endless goodbyes—the French exchange students, friends from science fairs, and now college-goers.  It seems like there are so many of the latter in my life now.  Sitting by a bonfire under the extraordinary star-lit sky on my last night with the group of seniors reminded of exactly how much I’ve been through with them.  Once I said goodbye, I realized how much I’ll truly miss them.

Most of the seniors in my friend circle went to France with me in late February.  What began as acquaintances on a larger-than-normal Air France flight turned into eternal connections.  I’m always fascinated by the effect traveling can have on people—the way it can meld together puzzle pieces forever.  Rather, it’s the effect of going on an adventure together.  It brings out the best and the worst in people—and once you go on this roller coaster with someone, a long-lasting connection is inevitable.  Being followed on Rue Mouffetard, taking the “slow train” over the “fast train”, putting up with Juneau’s shenanigans, bowling in the French countryside, absorbing the rich culture and food—those will always be some of the best memories of high school, and those people will always be some of the most important people in my life.

Some other people were faces in the hallway, or from various clubs I did throughout the past two years.  Yet, it’s incredible how many memories they’re in.  From chanting winners’ songs after being the state champions in Speech to year-long classes to hallway smiles, I’ll hold a special place in my heart for this entire group.

On my way to the party on Tuesday night, I felt myself driving slower and slower, as if reaching there earlier would make everything end sooner.  As I heard my name from the circle around the bonfire, I suddenly felt nostalgic.  But the night was what I needed—recapping the past year or two, taking final photos, laughing without a care in the world.  And at the end, I wasn’t ready to say bye.  Every hug was meaningful—it was full of sincere good lucks and “remember this time….?” and “I’ll visit you/visit me!”  There was truth behind it all, along with a lingering mix of excitement and sorrow in the air.

In general, I’m an emotional person—I am a teenage girl—but I’ve learned to control tears.  I tend to cry when angry or embarrassed, but rarely when I’m sad.  One of my rare crying incidents was when the French exchange students left Vermont—I found myself on the announcements minutes later, sobbing between breaths and words.  On Tuesday night, as the influx of goodbye hugs began, I had no anticipation of crying.  It was alright—I was upset, yet almost willing to let go.  And then Qianyue came along, one of my best friends from this year, an incredible girl who I’ve learned to idolize regardless of once being intimidated of her.  As she walked towards me, arms open, there was no turning back—I was bawling.  And I realized this was due to a variety of reasons.  First of all, Qianyue and I have been through so much in the past year; when things weren’t right and I needed someone to turn to, she was always there for me, regardless of the situation.  Our relationship reminds me of the cliched, but true, quote, “Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest… It’s about who came, and never left your side.”  Second of all, reality began to strike.  I’m almost certain that regardless of how this year goes, there will forever be a void, one that the incoming senior class won’t even be able to fill.  Some of my best moments, my happiest moments, have been with these seniors.  And on a late Tuesday night, I felt it all fading away.

The thing is, I’m getting closer and closer to the turning point of my youth—the transition from high school to college.  As I get closer, people start leaving more and more, and everything’s changing.  I’m sure once I head to college, I’ll be enthralled by the prospect of new adventures.  Yet, until then, I’m frightened by the thought of change, or, more fittingly, people leaving me.  Much of my feelings about this senior class embarking on their college adventures comes from the fact that while they leave and have some of the best experiences ever, I’m stuck here, the same place I’ve been in for 11 years.  There’s no other change in my life, except for the sudden dispersal of many good friends.  Yet, it’s bittersweet for me—it reminds me that the end is near, and my turn will come soon enough.  And regardless of how frustrated I might be with my class, I know graduation will be a sentimental moment for me.  Some of the people in my class have been with me for 11 years.  In the end, it seems as if any differences will become trivial, and all that will matter will be the fact that we have grown up together, enduring the best and the worst.

I guess I don’t even know how I feel about all these goodbyes.  I will undoubtedly miss the seniors more than ever, and I admit that I’m fearful of connections waning with distance.  Social media continues to reassure me.  Nevertheless, I’m tremendously excited for all of them and for the incredible things they’ll do one day.  So, best of luck to anyone going to college!  As much as I hate to see you all go, I know you’ll have some of the best years of your life—so I wouldn’t want to deprive you of that.  And one day, we might end up in the same city, reliving memories of high school.

It’s crazy to think that you never know where life goes.

On another note, summer is practically over.  Junior year is about to begin.  Here comes the fun.

-B

 

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Bluebird (Cover)

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I’m a writer-in-residence at the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival this week, hosted by world-class violinist, Soovin Kim.  Here’s the first to many different pieces 🙂  Written during the Bach’s Ricercar a 6.  

This building—this sweet building
I’ve written about so many times.
It massages my tense shoulders,
and reminds me of home.
I am no stranger here.
I have learned of its corners,
every detail,
every light,
every feeling.
I have learned how the music
deceives in these halls,
how not only people,
but antiquated wood dances.
I look across the room,
and realize the art lies not only on stage,
but on scratched wooden floors—
the audience members are artists.
They are masters of applauses,
masters of listening,
masters of weeping
when music so wishes them to.
They have learned
from their mistakes of clapping
between movements,
learned to stifle their breaths,
learned to become one
with the stage,
the lights,
the music.
I am an artist.
We are a room full of artists.

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I’ve been recently exposed to surrealistic writing via Young Writer’s Project, a style that leaves me dazed and simultaneously frustrated.  Surrealism is best described as stream-of-subconsciousness, something I find difficult for myself.  My complex mind has so carefully trained itself to filter thoughts, that diverting from this, being truly honest with myself in my writing, is an impossible feat.  A prominent writer on the site describes it as following: “Automatic writing is writing without thinking– sometimes, without being aware of what you’re writing. Surrealists call it writing from the subconscious. Spiritualists used automatic writing to get in touch with ghosts.”  Some who have followed the exercises write nonsensical things, words here and there, thoughts most would keep to themselves—yet, this is the point of it.  I think I would have a list of questions, if I were to ever do one of the exercises.  My mind exists in question marks, and sometimes my speech too.  When I meet new people, I interrogate; often, I have to apologize for being this way.  In class, I throw question after question at the teacher.  I think this comes from my tendency of being a perfectionist, maybe even my aspiration to be an intellectual—I starve for details, exact details.  Often, in my own thoughts, I come across questions—-broader ones.  Why is this like this……why are things shaped the way they are, why are humans the way they are, why is our intelligence as a species so dominant in a world that came first, why do we do the things the way we do?….etc, etc, etc.

I often ask questions in order to be sure of myself, of the way I think.  I’m not a very decisive person; it’s easy to persuade me in certain directions.  As much as I’d like to be fervently opinionated, I’m often torn between the center line.  Instead, I ask questions—mostly for myself.  In the rare occasion that I hold a strong opinion, I am stubborn to all extents.  There’s no way to explain my thought process, really.

I just completed the book Where Men Win Glory for my English class, a recap of the life of ex-football player and soldier Pat Tillman, who was KIA, and the consistent deception of the US Government and politicians all throughout.  Additionally, it offers an insight into the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter of which has a long history of brutal civil wars.  While reading, I realized a few things.  First of all, war fascinates me to all lengths, and I say this in a non-sadistic way.  I am intrigued by the way conflict is mapped out, simultaneously relieved as it becomes resolved.  Yet, my fearfulness of strife keeps me from wanting to be a war journalist, or ending up in a war situation.  In general, I like avoiding conflict.  Second of all, I found myself overwrought with a resolute hatred for the US government, ashamed of the country that has become a part of me.  The army and US government both proved to be deceitful in the case of Pat Tillman, as well as ignorant to early foreshadowings of 9/11.  I find myself at a loss of words, but it feels as if there must be more to it than this book outlines—there must be more reasons, more of a backstory, especially with 9/11.

So this book, naturally, led me to a lot of questions.  I don’t know if I’m knowledgeable enough to form opinions about these specific topics—I feel as if I might be cheating myself, and those involved.  But why was the Iraq war necessary?  Bush sent troops to Iraq immediately after the war in Afghanistan began, crediting his desire to eradicate Saddam Hussein.  Amidst a single, inarguably more significant, effort to stop Osama Bin Laden, was it necessary to cause more strife at that moment—-to expend more resources?

Pat Tillman’s death was wrongly veiled from his family and the country, sparking tremendous controversy in following years, and producing many skeptics throughout the country.  Pat Tillman was killed in a friendly fire, meaning his own troops accidentally killed him in action.  The controversy  that sparked was from the government’s attempt to hide this significant detail from everyone, primarily to continue using Tillman’s “hero who died for a good cause” headline throughout the media, a stunt to gain $$ and promote the army/war.  It revealed the government’s selfishness and, more importantly, cowardice.  Why not live up to our mistakes?

Many people interviewed had different opinions about how the soldiers responsible for Tillman’s death should be dealt with.  I can’t wrap my mind around this idea of friendly fire.  Are they to blame completely?  Should they be punished?  If so, how much?  One soldier repeatedly argued that they were trained to listen to their superiors, regardless of anything.  So when their superiors called for fire,  why are the soldiers being punished, when it should really be their superiors?  Is it right to punish someone for an accident, for good intentions but bad results?  How much is too much?

I’m appalled by the deceitfulness of people who I have always had faith in—people who I easily accepted to be righteous.  Maybe I’m frustrated at myself for being so naïve.  I said before how I’m easily persuaded, easily accepting, but I think I need to question things more—form my own opinions, my own morales, and stick with them.

I’m clearly still indecisive.  I think I’m trying to sort matters out in my mind.  Ideas?  Thoughts?  Opinions?  Arguments?

-B

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