Quote: The girl who reads

Books

My friend, Meg, posted this article called “You should date an illiterate girl” by Charles Warnke on Facebook the other day. Sensing the sarcasm in the title, I thought I’d give it a quick squiz and soon found myself completely consumed.

In the first part of the essay, Warnke describes a mundane life that never really comes to much. A life with a girl who doesn’t read. A perfectly comfortable life.

In the second part of the essay he explains *why*, despite the boredom and monotony, it’s so much better to date a girl who doesn’t read than dating one who does. Do it, he says, “because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell.”

Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent as a life unfulfilled… A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much.

Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Little prince quote

Sometimes I think I’ve made myself too familiar with stories. Like other people who read I’ve immersed myself in words and plots and syntax and, as Warnke says I’ve “spun out the account of [my] life and it is bursting with meaning. [I] insist that [my] narratives are rich, [my] supporting cast colourful, and [my] typeface bold.”

And sometimes I wish I was a girl who didn’t read, so that I didn’t always have to try and figure out the plot with all its intricacies beforehand.

Maybe if I’d never fallen in love with ‘story’ I could have lived an easy life in shades of faded pastel spilling carelessly over flimsy pencil sketch outlines, instead of this one that’s always bursting with Amazon green, Kalahari red, flamingo pink, just-before-dawn purple sky, that electric blue you sometimes see in lightning – all burgeoning within stark black curves and contours. This terrifying and wonderful, hilarious and heart-breaking life, a constant contrast… never a dull moment.

But would I want to? Sometimes for a moment I think yes. But deep in my bones, I know it’s an absolute no.

What is ‘home’ really?

Sunset Nadia Krige

A couple of weeks ago I posted a quote from Pico Iyer’s “Why We Travel” essay – probably one of the most intelligent pieces of travel writing ever.

And today, in one of those divine little coincidences (because I would probably not have bothered watching it if I hadn’t read that essay) I came across this amazingly profound TED talk by the very same man.

Somehow Iyer managed to cover and connect a whole range of topics I’ve been mulling over in my mind for a long time now with such ease, humour and simplicity.

Ah, you know, topics like travel and home, being in-between and feeling ‘out,’ yet fitting in with others who are other kinds of in-between, stillness as opposed to movement and movement in stillness…

I keep joking about having a quarter life crisis – that I’m generally just unsure and restless, yet at the same time also kind of excited about this weird feeling of metamorphosis.

Watching this made me even more excited… like maybe I’ve been thinking relevant thoughts after all (some of the time at least). Like maybe I’m not too far off with the things I’ve been pursuing… or at least trying to. Like maybe I will eventually be able to come up with some sort of suitable response to the whirlpool in my head – maybe not as profound as Pico’s (maybe that also comes with age and practice and experience), but a response nonetheless.

The talk is stuffed with quotable gems, but these are a few of my favourites:

“And their whole life will be spent taking pieces of many different places and putting them together into a stained glass whole. Home for them is really a work in progress. It’s like a project onto which they’re constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections. And for more and more of us home really has less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul.” (About our super mobile generation)

“There is one great problem with movement and that is that it’s really hard to get your bearings when you’re in mid-air… I began to think that, really, movement is only as good as the sense of stillness that you can bring to it to put it into perspective.”

“I do think it’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go. And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about… and find a home.”

“Movement is a fantastic privilege and allows us to do so much that our grandparents could never have dreamed of doing, but movement, ultimately only has a meaning if you have a home to go back to. And home, in the end, is of course not just a place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand.”

Oh, and I also really liked this description of the night sky:

“A great overturned saltshaker of stars”

Check the video out for yourself below:

You are tired (I think)

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I came across this ee cummings poem today. Strange how in all the years of dabbling in literature, studying poetry and prose in all its wonderful forms I have never, ever read it before. It really struck a chord with me, because I guess I am just a little tired too at the moment of the always puzzle of living and doing and of things that break, and – just tired.

So, here you go. Maybe you can identify with it too:

ee cummings

P.S. I’m totally okay, guys! Don’t worry about my state of mind 🙂 Just going through a bit of a Quarter Life Crisis, that’s all…

I woke up with this song in my head

beach house

So after being battered by dreams of huge waves constantly crashing down on my head all night, I was so relieved when I woke up with a rather soothing song in my head this morning.

At first I couldn’t quite place the band to which the melody belongs and, for one magical moment, thought I may have become a musical prodigy overnight.

However, after washing my face and sipping some coffee I suddenly remembered a snatch of the lyrics (in no particular order): “Black and white horse, you run before us.”

Then it all started coming together.

It’s a song by Beach House called Zebra, and even though I’ve only heard it once or twice, it seems to have made quite an impression on me.

Give it a listen. It’s pretty, and like I said, quite soothing.

You children of space, you restless in rest

social weavers in the northern cape. Nadia Krige/gypsified

Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls.

For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever-distant and alone…

Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow.

Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

But these things are not yet to be.

In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields…

Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.

Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.

– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet: On Houses

Quirky quote: Saunter, don’t hike

Kogelberg biosphere reserve (Nadia Krige/Gypsified)

“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

– John Muir

(Just a note: I originally spotted this quote on Year In The Wild’s Facebook page. Check it out for incredible photographs and stories from South Africa’s wild places)

Beautiful bearded music

Scrolling through my Google Reader this morning I came upon a post on See Hear Say that caught my eye. Mostly, I guess, because there was a picture of a curly-haired man peeping over the body of a guitar and below it a YouTube video, showing that he did, in fact, also have a beard. And looked a bit like a young Cat Stevens. I swooned.

And then I pressed play and  swooned even more as I watched him sing a beautiful song using only his voice, mouth and body for musical accompaniment. As See Hear Say’s Laura points out: “i don’t understand a word he’s singing but this is so beautiful i could cry.”

http://ansam518.com

Well, the man’s name is Alaa Wardi and he’s pretty much a genius when it comes to recording, editing, producing and releasing soul-soaring songs, using nothing much more than his voice, body, a small selection of instruments and a computer. Amazing!

alaa wardi2

I checked out his website, and this is what he says:

“For me, that’s more than enough reason to keep doing what I do till I die, and I hope for more people to share with me what their souls have to say. I’m honored to be your soul mate… my listener friends.

Now here’s what you think you need to know!!: My name is Alaa Wardi, I’m 25, I’m Iranian, Born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Studied music and sound engineering in Amman, Jordan, and currently living in Riyadh.

My religions point of view is none of you all’s concern ;)”

A charmer, methinks.

So, with no further ado, Alaa Wardi’s Ma3gool for your listening pleasure.

And the good news is… THERE’s MORE!! Check out the rest of his songs on YouTube.

Pics from ansam & Design Taxi

Latest obsession: Out of Africa

If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?

Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?  – Karen Blixen (as Isak Dinesen)

When I was a baby I had trouble sleeping. The pressing heat of a Namibian summer made swathing me in blankets close to impossible, leaving my not-yet-controllable limbs to do as they pleased: mostly flailing energetically to keep me wide awake.

Of course, there was very little my poor mother could do to relieve my discomfort and soothe my infantile insomnia.

So she devised a plan to employ the best remedy she knew would have no nasty side-effects: music. But not just any music. Oh no! She had a single soundtrack on repeat (which in those days, of course, entailed manual turning over of a tape)… the dreamy score of Out of Africa.

Now, I’m no baby psychology expert and don’t really know when memories actually start, but what I do know is that some essential part of that soundtrack got stuck in the fibers of my being.

Until this very day, those are the soothing strains of ‘home.’

But strangely, despite the central place its music has taken in my life, the film has remained largely marginalized… in that I had never actually seen it.

Well, that is, until two nights ago. And let me just tell you… I found myself intensely enchanted. (Fortunately! I can’t imagine how devastated I would have been if it turned out any differently.)

Enchanted by Karen Blixen (played immaculately by Meryl Streep), the brave baroness and master storyteller, Denys Fynch Hatton (played by the swoon-worthy Robert Redford), the tough hunter with his ever-curious mind and marshmallow-soft heart, the long-gone colonial type safari with those luxurious tents, the almost idiosyncratic gramophone, the coffee farm in the Ngong Hills, the sinewy Kikuyu and ethereal Masai.

Enchanted by Africa and her gloriously untameable wildness. Once more. As always. 

Photo: Digital Journalist

Enchanted by incredible scenes like the one where Denys washes Karen’s hair by the river while reciting a poem and the one where all the local children crowd into her home to watch the little coo coo peek out the clock.

And of course the one where they dance to Mozart playing from a gramophone while on safari.

Inevitably, I now find myself fiercely intrigued by Baroness Blixen’s life, because, well, if the film is anything to go by (and I think it is), she was one hell of a woman… the kind of woman I wouldn’t mind being.

And here is why:

Photo: My Imaginary Brooklyn

  • She trekked across African plains entirely unfamiliar to her, to take her husband and his stuck-up British friends a wagon-full of supplies to aid the little colonial war they were waging with Germany.
  • On said journey lions attacked the oxen and, for want of a rifle, she grabbed a whip and literally whipped them right away!
  • She was a storyteller.
  • Her style was immaculate.
  • While she yearned for a life less lonely than she had, she never let being alone get in the way of living out all the extraordinary adventures she dreamed of.
  • She won the heart of a gorgeous man (with an incredible character) by telling him stories.
  • Even though she was quite assertive, she treated everyone she encountered kindly and with grace.
  • With the guidance of Denys, she understood the impact colonialism was having on Africa way before most of their peers.

Can’t wait to get my hands on the Out of Africa, the book she penned under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen and her biography.