27 June, 2009

I've been:

dreaming of Moscow, saltspring, drive-in movies and Lake Baikal

getting ready for birthday number twenty-six (eek!)

freezing raspberries and lemon slices for pitchers of pink lemonade

swooning over the thames at dusk

admiring my new red shoes (over 3/4 of my shoes are red...problem?)

clomping around on my own with books and popsicles

struggling to embrace the fresh start

writing like a crazy person

crushing on kevin kline

indulging in greek yogurt. sometimes twice a day.

feeling ridiculously proud of carousel

contemplating a haircut. a real one. where all the hair goes. for the first time in my life.

slicing up and consuming watermelon at alarming rates.

missing fireflies and fairway and birmingham and 1367 summer, and feeling far from the home i love.

writing about Love

maybe spending too much time on the south bank...

planning monumental trips to siberia
...and my best friend's wedding

courting an orange dress at karen millen

trying to turn the inner owl clock around
...and sort of failing

hunting down happiness

loving the way the sun hangs on for hours. Ah the height of summer!

contemplating toenail colour possibilities
...overthinking it, in truth (someone said to me the other day "friends don't let friends have ugly feet...")

feeling totally YUM about summer

20 June, 2009

The Hornpipe

The Hornpipe from stage right!

The Penultimate Evening Hornpipe at The Savoy Theatre, London (Sharpy's last hornpipe-- Sharpy is played by Derek Hagan in the red head scarf and this was his last show! The ensemble stepped back to let him and Victoria Hinde do their "lovey dovey" sequence as a solo!)


17 June, 2009

The Salt Mines of Nerchinsk

It was political prisoners used to work the mines, which was foolish of the system, for what better place to discuss rogue political ideals with like-minded thinkers, than deep within the cavernous infinity of Siberian darkness? It would not be a foolish assumption to think the eventual Revolution began within the frozen salt mines of Nerchinsk katorga.

Katorga labor was, in those days, generally used for mining lead ore, salt and silver. Also in foundries, wine-making and salt-processing factories. This particular katorga, also known as a frozen work-camp of the Russian Empire, had been in operation since the 18th century, and was located in the Nerchinsk okrug of Transbaikalia, between the rivers Shilka and Argun near the border to Mongolia. This was the most remote prison camp in European Russia, and since the establishment of the Nerchinsk Katorga Administration, this particularly brutal base had been reserved for the tortuous vassalage of political prisoners, keeping them as far away from the major cities of Moscow and Petersburg as it was possible to get.

Prisoner 90137 wiped his brow. His face was sore and tight, his hands cracked, his lips flaked and bleeding, all from the salt in the cave’s atmosphere. Residual salt. Skin peeling, falling away. Salt in his lungs, his hair. In his eyes and filling his nose with a stinging dry, agony. He exhaled and began again.

“Mikhail!” rasped a voice from down the shaft, “Do you have a sip, brother?”

He did.
Liquid was at a premium here in the caves, as dehydration was the leading cause of death among the salt miners, and liquid that would not freeze was more valuable than gold. He rummaged through his knapsack and slid the regulation flask down the shaft where the faceless worker’s withering hand reached out from within the darkness to clutch it.

“Thank you, brother,” the voice rasped. And with that, Mikhail took up his pick and began again.


As he returned from the mines and stood at the entrance of their barracks, he caught a glimpse of Shura washing herself in a basin, her beautiful hair unraveled and flecked with the thawed light of the wasteland that would always be imprinted upon his mind as their first home. He bathed in the autumnal light of this hazy evening, and realized he had asked Shura to be his wife just over a year ago. Light, he thought, has a funny way of imprinting itself upon your memories. He was suddenly stung with regret. How quickly things had altered.

For all his talk, for all his rhetoric, his dreams and visions for the future of The People were minute in comparison to his dreams and visions of a future for Shura. He loved her and all that she was more than he had ever loved anything. And his commitment was not a promise to honor her throughout his life, no, it was, more than anything, a commitment to opening his unpracticed heart. To endeavor to give her, not all that he had, but all he knew she deserved.

She felt him enter and her body responded to his presence. She moved towards him with a knowing tranquility. Half dressed and hair unleashed, she wrapped herself around him. And he tasted, as he did every day, of salt. Her embrace revived his weary muscles, his cracking, knotted bones. His body felt older and more pickled every day, but her touch revived him like a cool, soothing wash of water. Every glance, every touch revived and buoyed him.

But Shura’s love was not in her glances, or her touch; her love was the palpable warmth of feeling behind these things. In the still of the bitter nights he would enfold her while they talked, and they would make plans and dream. She would lie in the circle of his arms, leaning into him while enclosing his hands.

After a day in the mines, he would come to her for a few moments of sanity, to talk long in to the night, to listen, to have his life held in her sane and discerning mind; to hold hers, to provide some semblance of helpful commentary, and to bask in a contentment that felt like the warmth and strength of a divine hand upon his chest.

She placed her cheek against his, and a flood of emotion rose within him; swollen, bursting, like the waves of an inner ocean. It was this surge of feeling that moved him to kiss the palm of her hand with a covetous thirst, as if drinking in her very essence. The salt of Nerchinsk may indeed have been slowly preserving him, but it purified him too. He was falling, dissolving into her. He relinquished himself to the ebbing pull of her tide, dissolving like a grain of salt in a body of water.

“Shura,” he whispered in to her neck, “Shura, I love you.” He held her with his crumbling fingers, and inhaled deeply the scent of her hair.

She did not need to reply, for the devotion in her eyes and her steadfast grip on his face said it for her. She kissed his mouth, tasted the salt and smiled.

“Your kiss makes me think of King David,” she said.
“King David?” he asked.
“Yes. From Scripture. The salt covenant. Every time we kiss you taste of salt and I think of it. Papa always said salt signified permanence, loyalty, fidelity. It is a symbol of unchanging, incorruptible purity.” Her face formed a small, quiet smile and she kissed him again.
“ ‘Should you not know that the Lord God gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt?’ Chronicles.”
“Every kiss is a salt covenant?” he asked, smiling.
She grew very serious, “For us. Yes. The unbreakable promise.”

And suddenly, he was overcome. She was in every way his equal, his partner in life. He had found a person who was a reflection of all he cherished, and it was with her sense of life, her way of living, that he had fallen in love. It was reflected in her tiniest gestures, her way of seeing the world, her distinct, irreplaceable Self. He adored her with both his spirit and his reason, and it was the greatest reward of his life. It was not, in any way, a sacrifice; it was the transmission of life. Yes, he thought, Yes. He clung to her for a lingering moment, then lifted her up, and took her to bed.

Everything he could do for her now was about love.

“Should you not know that the Lord God of Israel
gave the dominion over Israel to David forever,
to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt?”
- 2 Chronicles 13:5

13 June, 2009

Raindrops on Roses

These are a few of my favourite things.
Another list.
I like lists.
In fact, let that be number one...

1. Lists
The virtue of lists (versus a list of virtues...) is infinite. I could list them but then, it might all seem a bit too frightening. Like a vortex sucking us in on ourselves. But lists are a magical thing. Everyday parlance is littered with lists: laundry, grocery, honey-do. "Enough organization, enough lists and we think we can control the uncontrollable," observed one of the faceless unendurably attractive assistants on the TV show House. By now you would think there are enough lists, but still we keep jotting things down in an orderly fashion. So why do I love lists? Aside from the obvious virtues of helping us remember things, keep us from procrastination, relieving stress and freeing the mind; lists bring order to the chaos. "People are attracted to lists because we live in an era of over stimulation, especially in terms of information," says David Wallechinsky, a co-author of the fabulous Book of Lists. "And lists help us in organizing what is otherwise overwhelming." Moreover, lists are finite. They don't usually go on and on. And if they do, you can skip to the bottom of the list. The Internet Movie Database, for instance, lists its "bottom 100 movies as voted by users." (Incidentally, the winner —er, loser —is Zaat, a 1975 sci-fi fiasco). But most important of all? Lists can be meaningful. Who hasn't jotted down the pros and cons? Who hasn't listed the many ways we love someone? Or listed our favourite films, favourite songs, our favourite moments with a person, 25 random things about ourselves? The list, as they say, goes on...

2. The Tate Modern
While my love for what's inside sometimes waxes and wanes, my love for the building itself never dies (For love, my friends, does MANY things... it "changes everything", for example. But as ALW is about to show us in some spectacular of mind-blowing proportions, IT NEVER DIES...) It is so open and welcoming and embracing. The space (though, admittedly, difficult to get to on public transport) is a jewel inviting you to discover the treasures within, or lounge on it's lawn in the sunlight, or simply to enjoy the view in it's cafe with a glass of curiosity cola. Go Tate Modern. You are a thing of beauty unto yourself. And I don't care if I am the only one who can see it. (PS. Oh yes, and it is FREE... what is friendlier than free?)

3. Watermelon
Ahhhhh FOOD PERFECTION... Alright. I admit it: I am watermelon obsessed. I shamelessly gulp down this fruit in all forms. A storehouse of vitamins and minerals, watermelons keep your heart and nervous system in blooming health. It's juicy, sweet, and succulent. Rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B1, Vitamin C, and healthy fibers, lycopene and antioxidants, I look forward to watermelon season every year, and have mastered (with the guidance and Shaman-esque teachings of my fellow watermelon obsessed mother) the art of selecting the perfect fruity specimen by "THWACKING" it (if you will) in the customary Silber manner and listening for the ever-magical CRACK of a "good one." Ohhhhhhh the CRACK of a "good one." How melodious. How intoxicating. The essence of summer.

(Note: Art related to the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos commonly depicts watermelons being eaten by the dead or shown in close conjunction with the dead. This theme appears regularly on ceramics and in other art from the holiday. Watermelons also appear as a subject in Mexican still life art. Weird. Love that.)

4. Breakfast for dinner
I could eat it EVERY. DAY. Why is all breakfast food so incredible? Brioche, oatmeal with fruit or raisins, cereal: the best food in the world, scrambled eggs with salmon, paaaaaaaancaaaaaakes, omelets, sausage, bacon, toast toast toast... the list is endless! Breakfast for dinner: nothing better.

5. Peanut Butter
[Details here.]

6. Owls
When I first met my friend R's kids, the oldest thought my name was not in fact Al, but OWL. It stuck. When I call R, OWL SILBER comes up. I love it. I love it because I have always loved owls. This winter Paperchase did an Owl design that I spent a FORTUNE on. I inwardly squealed when I passed the shop on The Strand and whilst shoveling owl merchandise into a basket, immediately phoned R who requested a set of Owl eggcups. It was a moment of madness...

But my love of the owl is not merely aesthetic or sentimental, it runs deeper. There is a sort of global reverence for the Owl. The witch's companion (famously accompanying the likes of Merlin and Harry Potter, as well as dwelling in the Hundred Acre Wood), the owl is deeply connected with magic, wisdom, intuition, education, messages, longevity and heightened senses throughout the ages. What's not to like? They are majestic as well as whimsical, and I like the hours they keep (us theatrical types share the same secret powers of the night...)

In some middle and far eastern cultures, the owl is a sacred guardian of the afterlife, ruler of the night, a seer and keeper of souls transitioning from one plane of existence to another. The ancient Greeks attributed the owl to Athena, goddess of wisdom and foresight. This symbol was used on Greek coins and therefore also became associated with wealth. Native Americans attributed owls with wisdom and sacred knowledge. The shaman would call upon Owl medicine for insight into the truth of ill-intent. Plains Indians wore owl feathers to protect against evil spirits. West African and Aboriginal Australian cultures also saw the owl as a messenger of secrets, and companions to medicine people. In the Celtic tradition, the owl (cailleach-oidhche), represents wisdom, clairvoyance, stealth, initiation, change and detachment. Always aware of its surroundings, the owl uses intuition courageously, with insight into hidden truth, and a guide between earth creatures and Underworld deities.

The owl’s gift of heightened senses enables it to see through deception, external appearances and illusion and to discover hidden truths. (Appparently, if you are drawn to owls or owl symbolism, you may have this same ability to uncover secrets. People may feel uneasy around you, as if you are able to see through pretence). The owl also teaches us to acknowledge the dark side of our personality, and in that darkness we may find a source for growth.

7. Leon (addicted to their organic brown rice and glorious coleslaw that accompany any hot dish. And of course, their low GI brownies with dark Valhrona chocolate and ground almonds and fruit sugar instead of ordinary flour and sugar. (They believe you can have your cake and eat it... and I love them for believing that...)

8. Guerrilla Poetry
Let me explain... I love to leave little poems written on snatches of napkin, say, in unexpected places for people to find. I love to think that perhaps it brightens some one's day to have found a napkin poem lying about waiting to be read.

9. Postcards
They are little magical gifts of beauty and sprightly correspondence. Send them! It takes but a moment to jot down a loving or whimsical message (perhaps a quote or piece of poetry?) I like to keep a few around with me at all times in my diary, in my bag, with postage pre-attached and ready to mail the second a burst of correspondence hits me! It is better than email, better than facebook, it is handwriting, it is "I-thought-of-you-and-sent-this-wrote-this-and-now-you-are-reading-it." Magic! Sometimes I make my own, and I also like to collect truly odd postcards and keep them in a little box with my art supplies or in a special wall-hanging thingy made for photographs. Sometimes for inspiration, at other times just for enjoyment.

10. Recycling
One of my objectives has always been green living and recycling has been a tricky one to crack. London doesn't make it easy, so I am one of those people who brings heaving, gigantic bags of tin cans, plastic bottles and heaps of paper to those vats provided outside the tube station. People stare at me on the bus. One time, someone stared while drinking a can of Fanta. When they were done drinking they threw it on the floor of the bus while making direct eye-contact with me. I picked up the can, shoved it in my giant earth-friendly bag and said "It's not madness, it's recycling. You're welcome."

06 June, 2009

Trying to stand.

She gathered her breath and tried to stand. The muscles in her legs screamed with agony and gave way beneath the weight of her soaking clothes and spiritual depletion, but she fought on. She didn’t stop to think about it, she only worked her way upward, sweating. Clinging to the stones on the wall, she fought and wrestled her way up, and though she was heavy, and staggered when she finally lifted herself, the physical burden of her body was oddly gratifying in comparison to the agonizing weight in her heart. Victory. She gathered her posture and began to walk.

Burdened so, she made her way down the backstreet. I must find a place to rest for the night, she thought. She turned one corner, then another; made her way past the back of a putrid café, a seedy depot; throngs of rodents and the cretins of society leering at her coldly as she scrambled along. When at last she stood at the gateway to a busy street, she joined the flock of pedestrians. Each inhalation froze her soft-palette with silence and savage cold. The city consumed her; and for a little while she ceased, entirely, to think.

She leaned, forlorn against a weathered wall and thought, I am not what I was. Indeed. She was nothing, and now at least she was the possibility of something. And this she would defend.


She returned to find him waiting by the window. How long have I been away? she thought to herself. She recounted her journey to him, a seeming stranger after all that had passed.

“But was it not rough?” he asked after a time.

“Certainly it was rough," she replied. "Certainly I was in danger of my life! The ocean of despair, as it were, reached out for me! The impatient foam required my body for its satisfaction! I believe I enraged it by continuing to exist!” she said with a rich, dark humour, “But I am inextinguishable, it seems. I am beyond the reach of temper or of climate," she uttered, "and like a flimsy scrap of cork still bobbing in quiet bays long after the ship has floundered, I have endured…” she let out a profound sob. “Why?” she cried, “What is it that gives me this… this perpetuity?”

She laughed bitterly, her face almost imperceptibly contorting with pain and amusement. Shura did not know it at the time, but she intrinsically possessed two elusive human qualities: one we call beauty, the other called identity. And although the standard notions of disfigurement were not evident, her disfigured spirit endured a terrible sense of tragedy. And it alone articulated, and would continue to articulate, that pain was a necessity. For Shura, as for us all, pain was no accident, nor was it malformation, nor malice, nor misunderstanding. It was integral to her human character, both in its inflicting and in its suffering.

This is pain's role, she thought to herself, it makes beautiful.


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