Monthly Archives: January 2015

The rabbits of ra.a.g.f Rabbit Cafe

Found this cute little rabbit cafe in a quiet corner of Harajuku after a long meandering search. We got to see these very fluffy long-eared darlings. The cafe allows you to take one rabbit out at a time for about 20 minutes each, provided they are not having their break time, and you can open the cafes and pet the others as well.

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Notice the cute little profile picture on his name tag ^^ Each of the bunnies had their own little avatar like that.

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Mittsu, this huge lop-eared bunny was the first one we played with.

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This girl is left-eared.

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This one had amazingly soft velvety fur.

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Little bright-eyes.

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[22/12/2014]

The First

The first passes in a silent spell

What should I say? I’m only just realising

That my squirming toes don’t touch the floor

When I sit at the table, face front,

Shoulders even, open and incomplete.

 

I’m better these days, I say. I get out of bed in the mornings,

I work. We’ll think of ways to keep me floating,

To stop me sinking into the undercurrents.

I nod and agree not to thrash and to keep my eyes on the sky

Although what I really want to say is

That I like flowers too. And my favourite colour is pink.

Can we go see the ocean?

 

I’ve been buying bookshelves, making sandwiches,

Thought rearranging thought

Saying it as it is: The days are cool and the house

Is soundless. Occasionally out and about an old man’s slow voice

Or a friend’s sturdy hand on the back of my chair

And I am immobile with wonder.

Thinking about these things as I walk down the street

Sunlight pouring everywhere –

Should I go back to the touch and the whisper?

Or should I go to the sea?

 

So January is passing. I feel better at school these days. (There are times when I actually manage to understand what’s going on). The days have been still and there is little to life besides demands and words and demands for words. At home my sister has thrown herself into her drawing, my brother into his games, and I find more and more solace in my work.

School life is kind of empty and lonely, and I struggle with uneasy, unsettled feelings. But I guess that’s just what it is for most people. On weekends I’ve been going to birthday parties and gatherings, deeply enjoying the comfort of pink and purples and blues and lovely people.

7 Mental Health Resolutions for 2015

A little late, but yes, taking better care of yourself is a definitely a good thing to do this year.

TIME

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, our self-improvement efforts often focus on getting a better body. And we ignore that other, equally important part of our wellbeing: our mental health.

Certain health hazards come with warnings, like cigarettes or alcohol, but less obvious ones, like loneliness and rejection, can take just as great toll, says psychologist Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts. Research shows social isolation is linked to shorter lifespans, yet we often ignore our emotional hygiene. “If our dental hygiene were as poor as our emotional hygiene, we’d be all gums and no teeth,” says Winch.

This year, prioritize your mind as well as your body, and make a resolution for better mental health. Here are some of Winch’s tips for prioritizing your emotional hygiene in the new year (and all year long).

1. Pay attention to emotional…

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My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

asherReading this book was rather like swimming. I could only dive into a few pages at a time before having to stop and breathe. This is a beautiful book, full of tenderness and trembling. It is a journey through different kinds of anguish, the anguish of a child, and the anguish that fuels a need to create. It is about art as an expression of being, and how such expression inadvertently causes hurt. It is a book about “the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats”, about “dreams of love”, “nights of waiting”, “memories of death”, about things which should be remembered but are forgotten, about love that overwhelms yet cannot find its voice to speak, and most of all about the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world, Asher concludes, cannot be comprehended.

The world – so full of love and memory it is. So full of suffering love and painful memory so powerfully expressed in the aesthetic mould chosen by Asher for his major works. And that mould is none other than the crucifixion, where one mystery is chosen to answer another.

 

It is difficult to pick quotes from this book, because it is so full of poignant running prose that loses its significance when is taken out of context. Nevertheless, I have attempted to jot down some parts for safekeeping:

1. “The fact is that gossip, rumours, mythmaking and news stories are not appropriate vehicles for the communication of nuances of truth, those subtle tonalities that are often the truly crucial elements in a causal chain. So it is time for the defence, for a long session in demythology. But I will not apologize. It is absurd to apologize for a mystery.”

2. “Often on Shabbos or festivals, I would see him in the living room, studying Talmud or a book on Hassidus…

‘Why do you study that so often, Papa?’

He smiled faintly and his eyes grew dreamy. ‘My father liked to study it often, Asher’”

3. “‘It’s wrong rivkeh,’ Her sister said. ‘The boy will have scars.’ Then she said, ‘Rivkeh, it is forbidden to mourn in this way.”

My mother was very still.

‘The torah forbids it?’ she said quietly. ‘It is forbidden? Yes?’

‘Yes,’ her sister said.

‘But there are scars everywhere,’ my mother said. ‘And who will hold my pennies?’”

4. “There was his face, very clearly; not truly his face, but the way I felt about his face. I drew his face inside my head. I went to my desk and on a piece of blank white paper drew how I felt about his face. I drew the kaskett. I did not use any colours. The face stared up at me from the paper. I went back to the bed and lay on it with my eyes closed. Now there was ice and darkness inside me. I could feel the cold darkness moving slowly inside me. I could feel our darkness. It seemed to me then that we were brothers, he and I, that we both knew lands of ice and darkness.”

5. “’No one likes my drawings,’ I said through the fog of half sleep. ‘My drawings don’t help’

My father said nothing

‘I don’t like to feel this way, Papa.’

Gently, my father put his hand on my cheek.

‘It’s not a pretty world, Papa.’

‘I’ve noticed,’ my father said softly”

6. “I remember that night very clearly, the texture of it darkness, the echoing resonance of its sounds. I lay in bed in the enveloping night and felt myself one with all the vast and endless arc of the universe, felt myself as raw flesh connected to near and distant pain… to draw, to make lines and shapes on pieces of paper, was a futile indulgence in the face of such immutable darkness…”

7. “’It’s only a taste,’ my father said once, looking out across the buildings and trees. ‘But remember, Asher, some tastes remain a long time on the tongue. A taste of the Ribbono Shel Olom…’”

8. “’The world is a terrible place. I do not sculpt and paint to make the world sacred. I sculpt and paint to give permanence to my feelings about how terrible this world truly is. Nothing is real to me except my own feelings; nothing is true except my own feelings as I see them all around me in my scilptures and paintings. I know these feelings are true because if they were not true they would make are that is as terrible as the world. You do not understand me yet, Asher Lev, my little Hasid…’”

9. “The girl sat very still, bathed in sunlight. I looked at her and worked carefully, translating her body into lines, making choices, each curve, each subtle change in the flow of her flesh, necessitating and interpreting choice of line”

10. “Do not try to understand. Become a great artist. That is the only way to justify what you are doing to everyone’s life.”

11. “I worked for – what? How could I explain it? For beauty? No. Many of the pictures I painted were not beautiful. For what, then? For a truth I did not know how to put into words. For a truth I could only bring to life by means of colour and line and texture and form.”

12. “He listened attentively to what I was saying. But there was nothing in his intellectual or emotional equipment to which he could connect my words. He possessed no frames of reference for such concepts. He could not even ask intelligent questions. My world of aesthetics was as bewildering to him as his insatiable need for travel was to me”

13. “And it was then that it came, though I think it had been coming for a long time and I had been choking it and hoping it would die. But it does not die. It kills you first. I knew there would be no other way to do it. No one says you have to paint ultimate anguish and torment. But if you are driven to paint it, you have no other way.”

14. “I did not know, but I sensed it as truth”

A winter walk in the Cotswolds

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My two friends and I traveled to the the village of Stow-on-the-Wold for a night. And on the second day we embarked on a walk to Bourton-on-the-Water. The YHA hostel was warm and pleasant, and the staff were very friendly. Our room had a window that led out to the roof.

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From there, we managed to catch a cold but pretty sunrise.

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It started out as a bright day, sun illuminating the honey limestone houses of the village.

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We headed along the road towards the village of Maugersbury.

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We passed some sheep and horses along the way.

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We headed down this road from Maugersbury, which turned out to be a mistake, and we ended up doubling back.

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A thick mist was rolling in by then, and we couldn’t see very far.

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We passed an abandoned farm filled with disused equipment

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And began the climb up Maugersbury hill.

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Eventually descending to the quiet village of Icomb, with its 12th Century church.

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After leaving Icomb, we began to pass through a series of marshy meadows.

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And crossed some bridges.

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Finally coming to the village of the bridges, Bourton-on-the-Water

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From there, we went to a delightfully pretty tea room called the Smith’s of Bourton. Every table setting was different and very princess-like. We didn’t feel very princess-like though, with mud all over our boots and frost in our hair. But the cakes and scones were lovely. After that, we headed back to the station and took the train back to the comforts of London.

Now that I think about it, it was a rather crazy thing to do, to head to the Cotswolds for a trek in winter. But it was still an interesting experience trekking through the ice and snow and mist, and one not devoid of pretty moments. The walk we took was car-free and can be found here.

[3/1/15-4/1/15]

Final flight home.

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I’m lucky to be sitting on an airplane for the fourth time this holiday. I like being carried in this slow rhythmic motion, up and down, as though in a cradle. I like the gentle vibrations, the soft blankets, the quiet dimness, the isolation from the world.

It’s been 3 weeks away from home, from the white slopes of Hokkaido to the cluttered, vibrant streets of Tokyo, to the cold marshy meadows of the Cotswolds and the familiar grey streets of London. Before this journey I was in such a poor state of mind that I didn’t even want to fly anywhere. It seems characteristic of disturbed minds to desire for all things to remain as they are. And perhaps it is that which leads to the curious tendency of depressed people to cling to their depression and reject possible routes out of suffering even where such routes clearly present themselves. In retrospect now, I am glad I embarked, glad for the excitement of Japan and the comforts of London. Three weeks away from the writing and reading and the anxiety of too many words and too many muddy thoughts, I feel like I’ve had a good mental reset.

The past few days the thought of going home and school starting has been filling me with a sickening sense of dread. In part, I am afraid of the sadness coming back. A few days ago I heard a song that I used to have on endless replay on those difficult nights where the pain prevented me from getting done any of the work in front of me. Suddenly I felt a wave of memory and an accompanying anguish. It is strange how sounds and smells can trigger such sensation-rich memories. Every time I think about looking at notes or cases I feel sick inside, as though I can no longer separate the sight of my law materials from the inner anguish I struggled with whilst they sat in the background.

I’ve been bathing in comfort since coming to London. Though many people have been away travelling or busy with family, I still had ample time in the presences of familiar people. I sat in friend’s flats, enjoyed high teas, went for walks through the familiar greys and reds and dark greens of the streets. I enjoyed being the sole occupant of a large bedroom. All these things relaxed me, and also made the thought of going home more daunting. I fear being separated from all that is familiar and kind. I fear the harsh programs and structures, and how artificial and inorganic they make life feel. I fear that sense of disconnect and the anxiety of not knowing what is going on and not wanting others to know it. I fear the fatigue from having no place to rest at home. I fear how it made me lose the quiet assurance I have always forged ahead with.

I remember whenever it rained and I needed to get out of the house I would just put on a jacket and hop onto my bike and cycle out into the downpour, with hardly a sense of the silliness of it. Just go, I would tell myself. It can’t be helped. Now I wonder that I did such things. It was that constant disconcertedness, coupled with anxiety and depression that numbed my sense of reality and drove me to do silly things or to carry things out in a silly way.

As I type this the plane has just gotten rocky. Over the PA a crew member tells everyone not to use the lavatories and the lift infants out of the bassinets. Perhaps I also ought to stop writing for now, and just allow myself to rest in the rocking of this vessel for the last 3 hours of my flight. Perhaps now, after bringing home these pieces of my London life packed into my suitcase, I will be able to live a little more like myself.

Good night.