“Even when I thrust my ear to the seashell”

Even when I thrust my ear to the seashell

I did not hear your voice —

But the ocean’s yawn,

The seagull’s elegy,

And the cackling of the lapping waves upon the sand.

Written February 19, 2019.

Parameters: freeform, Emily Dickinson. Inspired by Barceloneta Beach.

They say you can hear the ocean when you stick a shell to your ear, but in reality you just hear empty space.

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Sketching in Monaco

I fell out of the habit of sketching three years ago when I entered Wellesley because I got sucked into academics. But this past year, I slowly started drifting back into it. In Monaco, I went to the Japanese Botanical Gardens and Larvotto Beach intending to sketch.

Art has always fascinated me, because with the exception of photorealism, artists never show the world as it truly is. I wonder if artistic “creativity” is sometimes simply perception error causing a rift between what they see and what they put on the page. But whatever it is, through their morphing of reality, we see a more aesthetic, ideal vision of the world.

I sat on a rock overlooking the koi pond while I sketched. Curious strollers would stray off the path to watch. And a few times, we had some brief conversations – one Moroccan young woman whose brother lives in LA, and one Monaco native who also enjoyed drawing.

During the trip, I also talked for 3 hours with a man on the bus about everything from Benin culture (his wife is from Benin) to the olive and cork trees that are cherished in southern France. He showed me photos of his grandson who is growing up quadralingual and taught me a lot about the Jean de Florette-esque life of Provençals. I also had a long exchange with our Blablacar driver, who taught us about Carnaval traditions and the beauty of Eastern France.

It’s these kinds of brief encounters that I and many others simultaneously crave and fear. Pleasant connections with individuals who teach us how to appreciate the world around us, who remind us of small things that make life special, but who disappear after helping us discover a bit more.

Memory is faulty. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve condemns even the most seemingly indelible of memories to transience. But that is why we do things like draw and write, I believe. Making art of a situation captures the memories in a way that Instagram photos cannot. By imbuing our memories with our subjective perception – however inaccurate – we remember not only how we saw the world in that moment, but how we felt then too.

“This winter night you become the ghost”

This winter night you become the ghost that seizes the bouquet

Of tulips and dreams I hold crossed against my chest

And drops it in the ocean, at least until May

When snow’s all melted and the doves awoken, but I don’t suggest

That I am Sleeping Beauty in her satin gown

For the waking kiss, for the truth is I’m dressed

All ready for the beach, and weighty things like love might drown

But I am light as a cloudless dawn and won’t let you halt

Me or any swimmer from plucking out the flower crowns

And wreaths of dreams from waters deep, and the salt

Of the stubborn, pounding shore when I walk along the quay

Will not stop me from loving the rolling cobalt sea I so exalt.

Besides – tonight too will pass with you away into the day,

And I never believed in ghosts all that much anyway.

Written January 5, 2019 (at 2:58am).

Parameters: terza rima, ocean themed

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