the light of the woman

I sat next to a beautiful old woman on plane from Shanghai to Vancouver.
Her name
was Nurun Nessa.
She was flying from Bangladesh to visit her son and daughter-in-law, whom she hadn’t seen in four years.We talked for hours.

She told me she would do anything for her daughter-in-law because her own mother-in-law had been nothing short of abusive.
I told her about my travels.
She told me she wished for grandchildren with all her heart.
I told her about my life in New York.
She told me she was proud of what her son and his wife had accomplished as immigrants in my country.
I told her about my dreams.
She told me my career was important and that I needed to continue to put myself first.
I told her about my fears.
She told me I was doing the right thing.
She told me she admired strong, independent young women because growing up in her country she was never allowed to seize such opportunities.

She put her hand on my hand and looked at me with kind, honest eyes and said that when the time comes, I will be an amazing mother.
She said she could see it in my eyes and hear it in my voice.
No one has ever told me that before.
My own mother has said I would be a horrible mother; that I was too selfish for kids.

Maybe I could raise some kids.
I don’t think I’m selfish, I just think I’m free.

Her name was Nurun Nessa.
She wore a gold and yellow sari.
Nurun Nessa means Light of the Woman.

 

 

star notes

I’m walking down a street in Reykjavik, Iceland with my oldest best friend and I look up and see the stars.

I’m on a night train in Australia, traveling between Sydney and Melbourne and I look out of the window and I see the southern cross and the little dipper for the first time.

I’m skinny dipping in the middle of the night in a small surf town in Queensland, Australia with a best friend, lying naked in warm ocean water staring at the infinite sea of constellations above me.

I’m tripping on acid in a secluded bay called Tonsai in Thailand, with someone I only met a day ago, playing with the phosphorescence in the night ocean and staring at the stars.

I’m sitting on a wicker chair outside a hostel in Ubud, Bali, talking about god with a boy, looking up and naming stars.

I’ve just hiked up a mini mountain outside of Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the night with a most eclectic group of people and now, at the top, I’m watching the stars disappear and and sun start to rise.

I’m on a night boat safari in Borneo going down the Kabanatuan river and the stars seem more plentiful than the space between them and I have never seen them so close.

I’m all alone on an island in Malaysia, spending the night in complete solace, sleeping on a beach, with just the galaxies above keeping me company.

And now I sit on my roof in my hometown, smoking a cigarette, and I’m looking at the stars.

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It’s hard to write about looking at the stars without it being totally cheesy, but the fact is, some of my strongest memories (the kind of memories where you can remember everything about the moment; what you were wearing, what the air smelt like, who you were with, how you felt) revolve around me staring up at the night sky. Looking at the stars has always brought me intense contrasting feelings: the feeling of existential dread, that we’re just tiny specs in this giant world that barely matter, along with a grand feeling of beauty and optimism and wonder.

When I look up and see lights from celestial bodies lightyears away, I feel insignificant and I know I’m merely a minuscule blip in this massive universe. But I also feel amazement and gratitude.

I feel the vastness and the beauty of this world and I feel lucky to be able to exist and experience it all.

We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.” (Carl Sagan)

white rock, 2016

 

how to sleep on a beach on an uninhabited tropical island alone

Step 1: go to an uninhabited island of the coast to borneo for a day trip

Step 2: go hiking around the island with your new found german friends

Step 3: climb down a steep ledge to get to a secluded beach

Step 4: swim in the ocean and look back at the beach. see it’s potential.

Step 5: when your new buddies suggest it’s time to hike back to catch the last boat, tell them you’re going to stay and spend the night and they can too

Step 6: do not be dissuaded to go through with your plan even when the giant german men look at you like you’ve just told them you see dead people and hike back up the cliff looking back down at you every few minutes expecting you to scurry up after them

Step 7: lay out your towel and sarong, spray yourself with insect repellant, and take in the sunset with every inch of your soul

Step 8: read your book with the light from your cellphone, and when your cellphone dies, look up at the stars and let the feeling of being truly alone in nature sink in. feel the beauty, and feel the fear. and feel that fear transform into the calmest, most peaceful sensation, physically, mentally, and emotionally you have ever felt in your entire life. let the new sense of self and world understanding wash over you

Step 9: curl up, and fall sound asleep to the lullaby of the sounds of the jungle

Step 10: wake up with the light of the first morning sun

Step 11: sit on your towel, watch the sun rise, and look to your right. 20 feet away you’ll see a giant monitor lizard, just chillin. as he looks at you, look back at him, have a moment, and as he scurries away into the jungle, silently thank him for sharing his home for the night.

Step 12: go for a long morning swim in the ocean, climb up the cliff, stopping at the top to say goodbye to your little beach home, and then make your way back to the other side of the island to catch the first morning boat back.

Step 13: when you return to the city of Kota Kinabalu on the main island of Borneo, smoke a cigarette and go get yourself an egg mcmuffin because life is about balance.

 

 

 

 

maybe

Maybe, I understood religion today.
Or, at least, the feeling of faith.
The sense of something bigger than myself overtook my mind
and my body
and my heart.
The connection I felt to nature, this planet, reached someplace new.
I think I felt what people feel when they are at their church or their mosque or their temple.
I can only describe what I felt as real faith.
But I’m worshipping the ground beneath me, I’m worshipping the jungle around me, and I’m worshipping the existence of this beautiful creature swinging above me.

Orangutans share 96% percent of our DNA.
4%
4% of data separates us from another species.

How can so much be done and believed because of words other humans wrote?
It never felt right to me to hear human words in a human language and except them as holy, or sacred, or divine.
Swimming in the ocean feels holy.
Having the skies open up and pour down rain feels sacred.
Being in the presence of a wild, beautiful animal feels divine.
Alone, we are not special.
We are special through our connection to the world around us.

I might not believe in one creator, in one supreme being, in one high and almighty.
But if there is a god, maybe she is an orangutan.

borneo, may 2016

people

Nick and King, the lovely locals of Ubud, Bali. King dresses regal, to suit his name, and Nick, well, his tattoos dress him up. they give me laughs, they give me rice wine, they give me love, they give me massages, the give me cigarettes, they give me guidance. King barely speaks english, but tries to teach me their gambling game. Nick tells me much about his life: his past addiction, his love for music, his family, his philosophy, his idea of beauty. he lives slow, he lives simple, he lives kind. everyday, we drive back into the courtyard and I am just as happy to see their faces as I am exploring the beautiful town of Ubud.

bali, march 2016

the feeling

I wanted you to speak more and you did. and I didn’t like some of what you said. I was mad because you had been perfect. the little that you had said was perfect. then you spoke more to me and

you weren’t perfect anymore.

I saw your flaws

And I didn’t like them

 

But something happened, something that broke my usual mold :

I didn’t run. I didn’t stop caring. not an ounce of indifference came over me.

some things you said bothered me. some ways in which you acted made me sad. because you mattered. because I was starting to feel unconditional love slowly bubbling inside of me.

I wish I didn’t have to let you go.

but this is the last goodbye, and I thank you for the feeling.

white rock, 2016