Live, Love

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I love the way darkness frames
a most colorful entry to light,
not engulfing, not obliterating,
but celebrating our passage there.
I love how the colors of my childhood
both veil where I am preparing to go,
and emit their own spectral flavor,
cutting through my rationalizations,
inviting the little girl inside of me,
the seed of the woman I am still,
everyday, becoming, to be here,
every last part of her perfect being.
I love every last inch of this place,
that cocoons every last part of me,
holding nothing back in its embrace,
the darkness all consuming, total,
the promise of the brightest world
lying just on the other side
of my pretty, precious obstructions,
for me to linger with, converse with,
and finally, when I can, let go,
this space of dark and light
reminding me above all else
that until we die, we should live,
until the end, there is every beginning.

-tt

We All Want Home

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It’s possible to spend a
lifetime looking for home
 
After many humble beginnings
Many false if hopeful starts
 
After bowing in thanks and
reverence for finding ourselves here,
 
For being given the chance to
know the awe of our humanity,
 
Thankful, too, for the realization
that home is a space we seek
 
Having found it in juicy parts,
the fiery sun descending over waters,
 
The bird’s first chirp as it arches
its tiny neck for mother, for food,
 
The cicadas heralding their arrival
for a cycle in comforting song,
 
The startling clarity of a cool,
clear river rushing downstream.
 
Between solid ground and the
expansion of sky, we are here,
 
Where for a startling moment,
inside matches out and our breath
 
Is the air of a thousand ways
to soothe and balm the world.
 
We will travel through many
places that will not be home,
 
Where we squeeze and constrict
and try and anguish and scream
 
In confusion for why home is not
our birthright, now, at the ready,
 
And then we will breathe, and breathe
again, and find that the pursuit of home
 
Is why we are here, and that there will
be nothing sweeter than arriving. -TS
 

The Sky on Long Summer Days

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I remember scrunching up into a ball

as low as I could in the backseat of

my parents’ car on summer vacations

(sun-drenched and filled with sweetest things)

and squinting my eyes so that there was

only me and the sky and the whir of

all the things passing by

 

The feeling comes back to me often

though I can’t find the words for it __

the being one with the sky, that seemed

the only constant thing and I could

never touch it or fly right up to it,

though the gravitational pull up

there was so strong

 

The safety of being so still amidst

all that movement, the getting from

here to there that existed to my

childlike mind as a cartography drafted

by the wizards and sorcerers responsible

for all the best of our earthly wanderings,

treasures over the rainbow

 

And for all the adventures that awaited,

the junk cereal indulged in, the death-defying

walks across slippery waterfall rocks, the secrets

my father told his gleeful daughters in his

hushed whispers, it always came to this:

the sky through the car, the warmest invitation,

holding my future safe.

There’s No War in World: the fading mountain

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

The Fading Mountain

(Laos)

The new moon is a mist behind clouds but I turn to the mountains in the near distance, on the other side of the very narrow river.

There’s a small rickety bridge that crosses it and last year they were building a second bridge not far away. Now it’s done. It’s not rickety yet, like the others, but it’s flimsy so there’s a lot of promise.

Now the sky is thick like you can touch it and it’s a dress from the Victorian Age made of endless folds of velvet. I want to watch the mountains go dark the way you want to watch water boil without ever taking your eyes away from the pot.

They say a watched pot never boils, but of course that’s not true. It’ll boil as sure as the sun rises everyday (so far that’s a sure thing, until one day the sun will just run out of energy and die). I’m not sure what that expression is trying to tell us, maybe not to be impatient but just to go on with life and let the proverbial water boil on its own?

Personally, I just think we don’t have the patience to watch water boil and are afraid to see this. The mind goes elsewhere and the body follows because we’re not as in control of ourselves as we’d like to think we are. If you’ve ever tried meditating, you’ll see how difficult it is to watch your breath go in and out, in and out, with full concentration. This is mind-training, and the mind is stubborn. It wants to be anywhere else so you start thinking about the past and future, all sorts of happy and bad things, and before you know it you’re anxious and miserable and the breath has been forgotten.

How I love the mountains of Laos, their curves and shapes and strength, and I want to watch them change in the night, all night. I want to watch this water boil. There’s a large mountain covered with trees, and next to it is a series of smaller mountains, with one darker one dominating that’s also covered in trees. Above these the sky is now several intoxicating shades of blue. I look and immediately I’m back to when I was here years ago, and how I felt so protected under these nurturing mountains, and how lonely I was then.

The mountains were everything. I see again: the sky is darker, but you can still discern the varying blues of the sky. The mountains behind the darkest one have faded into the background. The large mountain next to it has become a silhouette. I missed this in the space it took for nostalgia to grow.

I hear someone start to cry. I try to find her but I can’t. I think of loneliness again and now my attention has moved away once again from the mountains, which are almost gone now. But I remember these mountains, and I’ll keep on remembering them. You can feel them even as they disappear.

Hello! {an accidentally visionary tale about Hello Kitty’s – and our – identity crisis}

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Preface

I’m the same age as Hello Kitty. This doesn’t mean we’ve gone through life in the same way, but it does create an affinity, one people of all ages have for her (which explains her inordinate popularity). I grew up with the predominantly red Hello Kitty items available to me at the time. Going to find Hello Kitty stuff wasn’t just like going to the candy store. In the case of my youth, I can remember that it was actually a matter of going to the candy store,  actually, a Tabagie, a smoke stop of sorts, in suburban Montreal. My best friend and I would gape at the little plastic queendom of Hello Kitty in the dim and cluttered, as I recall, basement, and then buy some green and purple flat, sugar-coated licorice on the main floor. Your earliest memories of Hello Kitty are likely different, as they probably even are for my best friend and I. But the love affair might be quite the same. Years later, just as Hello Kitty was starting to become an object of nostalgia for my generation, I moved to Bangkok, where this story takes place, and where I wrote it. This was truly (one of) Hello Kitty’s world, her popularity was universal, and this was both comforting and jarring to me. Now, I’m living in Japan, which, in the context of my lifeworld-with-Hello Kitty, adds another level of meaning to the recent events that have caused ripples worldwide. Hello Kitty is not a cat? Or, she is kind of a cat as Kitty White, personification of one? None of this should make me think so much, but it does. The idea that something outside of Hello Kitty (even if its her creators) can come along and throw information out there that both changes everything and nothing is disconcerting. It’s also interesting. I hope that my story, in a small way, brings Hello Kitty to you however you need her to be.

 

Hello!

 by Tammy T. Stone

 

I’m in an electronics alleyway in Bangkok’s largest market. Gadgets with wires hanging out of them, computer parts, toys, toy guns, massive calculators, tools, shiny things resting on beds of saturated colour on scratched metallic table legs. The men call out to me half-heartedly, beautiful, beautiful! But mostly I’m completely ignored.

Zoned out under a sun just beginning to acquire the power of a day in the tropics, I wade through other distractions until I reach a stand being watched by a tiny teenage girl. She’s selling watches, almost exclusively Hello Kitty, which lords over street consumerism in Bangkok in pastel and deeper pinks, also one of the King’s two colours. Hello Kitty stares blankly, cute but not entirely indifferent as she stares out at passersby from any number of brandable objects, from pajamas, pencils and hang bags to stationery sets, neck pillows and Rubix cubes.

The men sitting here on the stools with toothpicks in their mouths, and the elderly doing their shopping are not the target consumer for cute pink things that teens and white collar workers here love so much. Hello Kitty’s audience is missing. She isn’t a mockery of herself but the magic, which comes from collective adoration that almost verges on something important, is absent.

It makes me want her more. The watches are 70 baht apiece, and dangle vertically from mini racks. Most are working but the times on each vary. Some are stained with grime. I lose myself in this kaleidoscope of time-tellers as I lift watches from their little hooks to examine them – for what and with what kind of discerning eyes, I don’t know. I’ve hardly noticed a gaggle of schoolgirls approach to gawk at me. I may have brought them there, I may not have. In this country I never know some pretty basic psychological things, which at home I rely on as the schema for a functioning life.

The girls don’t leave. I’m still trying to choose a watch when I see one glinting at me in smile. The girls chatter to themselves. I decide I’m going to buy one Hello Kitty watch and one of the nameless-cartoon ones. I want to surround myself with this glorious wealth of plastic that might eradicate each of us without an agenda of its own.

I see that the girls have put three watches each on their left wrists. Nine watches in total. At that exact moment, they flick their wrists again with a quirky grace too intoxicating to be absurd. I have to close my eyes from the shine. Of course when I open them nothing can be the same. And it’s not.

*

I see them right away. They’re pink, bigger, up to my thigh or so. Furry and white, mostly, but some are shiny and hard. Plastic. But filled with life. Their heads see and move and propel them this way or that in small clusters of like-with-like. I’m the only person here who is not Hello Kitty.

One of them hobbles up to me, bouncing really, and takes my hand. Come, her look says. She can’t speak, she has no mouth. She looks serious. I wonder for the first time if all Hello Kitties are female. They look androgynous. It was always the pink of their corporeal existence I associated with their femaleness. Cats in general seem female when only half of them are.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never really put Hello Kitty in the cat realm, though I think her popularity in Thailand must have something to do with the Chinese reverence for felines.
Where are we going? I ask Hello Kitty, but she doesn’t answer. She tugs gently but firmly on my arm and starts hoppiting forward. I follow right behind. She’s guiding me like she’s the wind and I’m a fragile leaf just fallen from the tree with no conception yet of ground.

She bounces from foot to foot and I walk through. I feel like I’m floating or on a conveyor belt. The world passing by is pink and spotted with other pastel-coloured objects. Everything here might taste as good, as surprisingly saturated, as cotton candy. There is no one else on the conveyor belt with us; most everything else rests higher up, in the sky of light gauzy pink. Then the movement stops. Ahh, I say, gently landed. Hello Kitty lets go of my hand and makes a squeaking sound. Her whiskers twitch. Hello Kitty’s alive, I think with amazement. The twitching stops.

She’s a million versions of herself and they’re all vibrating, or giggling, I can’t tell which. But their eyes remain serious, little black dots looking only forward, until they turn their bodies to hop somewhere else and begin twittering again. Some of them sit on regal furry sofas, all pink or white or a combination of the two. Some of them have images of Hello Kitty embroidered onto them in glossy, fuschia stiches. Kitty, the one who has led me here, cranes her neck to look up at me.

What am I doing here? I ask her. She continues to stare and doesn’t say a word. I’m not surprised by this. I am surprised, though, at how loud my voice sounds to my ears. Like the ripple effect, it has reverberated in and around the little spaces in which Hello Kitties congregate. Maybe it sounds like music to them.

Poke. My Hello Kitty is trying to get my attention. What is it? I say with my eyes. Show me. She takes my arm again, no small task for her; she has to take both of her short, stumpy arms and clutch them together around my long, slender one. I’m enraptured by her big head and her face that now looks earnest as she pleads to me even though her actual expression cannot have changed.

We’re in another space now, a yellow one. There are no Hello Kitties here, no floating objects, just yellow. A pastel yellow, granted, but it’s not pink. Hello Kitty doesn’t exist in a world of yellow. What is this, I ask. Her look is now imploring.

This is grotesquely wrong, I say to myself. Hello Kitty needs to be in her place because then we know our place. How did she find this yellow room though, and what threat does it speak to? Is the yellow room going to expand and invade the world of pink? Has it already, is this in fact a war because the world isn’t ready for this? Maybe this new insipid colour has stripped the pink kingdom of its language. I take Hello Kitty by the arm anyway and say come. Let’s go back. Who needs this room.

She won’t budge. I start to get a little anxious. Well, I say, I’m leaving. I feel a pang of regret already. I’ve been here for a few minutes, with someone I think I’ve loved for years, and my first thought is must exit. And I’ve gotten angry. Now I’m angry about getting angry. I’ve learned nothing. There’s no chok di, good luck in this for me.

I’m sorry, I say. No response. I start back where we came from.

As soon as I reach the place where yellow meets pink, I find a pile mountain high of Hello Kitties, and it’s glowing, actually shimmering. They’re trying to do something, together. What sounds, what vision! The desire they generate seems to promise a future. I am positively in awe of this white mountain of heads and eyes set in pink.

Take me! I want to shout. Carve a little space for me with your soft pliable selves and let me dive in. The world can stay plush, I know it can!
I don’t need to see outside amorphous confines of their world anymore. I can give up seeing and get carried away in other pleasures this new world offers.

I’m going to do it. I’m ecstatic. I poise, knees pent, and then –

I dive forward. The shimmer gets momentarily brighter, but then immediately disappears. I crash land into a pile of hard plastic that hurts my head and shoulders. I bump around for a second and then pile’s gone and I’m back in the yellow room. Many Kitties are here with me. They float around and the space between them seems thick and saucy. Something sounds like music, or at least, it did.

My first Kitty, my strange little guide, stands in the corner, far away, separated from the rest, watching me. I get the feeling she thinks I have something to do with this room. Something big. I remember that my childhood room was the same yellow. I had a pink Hello Kitty pencil holder with a little notepad and little colour pencils and a little eraser that came with the set.

I face a Hello Kitty perched on a Hello Kitty swing hanging from a non-existent yellow sky. The swing starts swaying faster and faster, until Hello Kitty rotates all the way around and is ejected so hard that she spins and flies and floats until she simply disappears. Goodbyyyeeee, I hear. The others disappear the second I look at them. I run but the air is indeed swampy and I feel like sludge. There is no pink in sight and the yellow is getting brighter. It’s getting to be as bright as the sun. The Hello Kitties must have found their way back. Good, I think, good. They’re happy again.

The room is getting yellower and hotter. My clothes stick to me and my face is dripping in sweat. My Hello Kitty is still standing in the corner, watching. I look back. She won’t divert her gaze.

Why are you looking at me? I’m not going anywhere. Why don’t you go back to your friends? It occurs to me that I’m not sure Hello Kitties can be friends with each other. Is friendship impossible when everyone is smiling the exact same smile or is that the very definition of boundless love, which much be happiness?

The heat is unbearable. Hello Kitty begins to look like a god to me. She’s so … unruffled by this. So assuredly here. Hello Kitty, I say. Help –

*

My words are violently cut off as the deep yellow turns into a blinding sheen. My eyes snap closed involuntarily and when I open them I’m on the side of a road. I don’t know where this road is going but I’m the only person I can see in all directions and I know because of this that I’m not in Bangkok anymore. There is bright green grass and a clear sky and no smog. I think there is a dilapidated cabin, maybe a farmhouse, in the distance. I am somewhere between water and sky.

I’ve said before that I want to buy a house in Saskatchewan, not in Saskatoon but off in a tiny town that is a shell of its illustrious farming days, a ghost town. I want a small house, nothing fancy, not to live in but to come to once in awhile, a place far away from all the clutter. So I can stop moving. I couldn’t, at the time, think of a place farther from everything than rural Saskatchewan. I’m here, I’ve made it.

Then I hear a faint twitching sound. I look down and see Hello Kitty looking up at me from my new watch, her eyes small and black and motionless but full of expression anyway. It still seems this way to me. She’s never close or far. She just is. She is exactly here, where we find her in any of our configurations.

 -end-