Sunday, May 21, 2017

Children of dust and ashes

Sometimes I randomly find new or old musicals and get obsessed with one or two songs from those musicals. (Sometimes, it's the entire musical, like with Hamilton.) But the other day a New York Times update buzzed on my phone saying that a musical called Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 had been nominated for 12 Tony awards.

It caught my attention because it's an adaptation of War and Peace. And basically anything that has to do with Tolstoy or War and Peace will definitely catch my attention.

Anyway. I've been listening to the some songs. And there's one that I'm just obsessed with. It's sung by Pierre, who is (arguably) the main character of the novel. Pierre's great. And by great, I also mean that he's confused, searching, kind, selfish, and ultimately has a beautifully messy soul. I love his character arc and watching him grow. He has a lot of "ah-a!" moments in the novel, but they don't always last (but that's also so realistic--often we have those moments where we recognize that we have to change, and we fully want to, but then life happens and we forget, or we lose our zeal--and then we have to be reminded of our need to change--and the other beautiful thing about Tolstoy novels is that there is no statute of limitations of the amount of times someone can recommit to changing their lives).

The song I've been obsessed with (and thus the one that gets featured on my blog) is a song sung by Pierre after he's dueled a friend of his (such a trope in Russian novels and it never goes well), and he realizes that he has to make some major life changes. And the song is just so beautiful, powerful, and full of Russian existential angst--it captures the essence of Pierre:

Is this how I die? 
Ridiculed and laughed at
Wearing clown shoes. 
Is this how I die? 
Furious and reckless 
Sick with booze. 

How did I live? 
I taste every wasted minute
Every time I turned away 
From the things that might have healed me. 
How long have I been sleeping?

Is this how I die? 
Frightened like a child
Lazy and numb. 
Is this how I die? 
Pretending and preposterous 
and dumb. 

How did I live? 
Was I kind enough and good enough? 
Did I love enough? 
Did I ever look up 
and see the moon 
and the stars
and the sky? 
Oh why I have been sleeping?  

They say we are asleep 
until we fall in love. 
We are children of dust and ashes. 
But when we fall in love we wake up 
And we are a God 
and angels weep. 
But if I die here tonight
I die in my sleep. 

All of my life I spent searching the words
of poets and saints and prophets and kings
and now at the end all I know that I've learned
is that all that I know is I don't know a thing. 

So easy to close off 
place the blame outside 
hiding in my room at night
so terrified. 
All the things I could have been 
but I never had the nerve
love and life
I don't deserve. 

So all right, all right
I've had my time
close my eyes
let the death bells chime. 

Bury me in burgundy 
I just don't care. 
Nothing's left
I've looked everywhere.

Is this how I die? 
Was there ever any other way my life could be? 
Is this how I die? 
Such a storm of feelings inside of me?  

But then why am I screaming? 
Why am I shaking? 
Was there something that I missed? 
Did I squander my divinity? 
Was happiness within me the whole time? 

They say we are asleep 
Until we fall in love 
We are children of dust and ashes. 
But when we fall in love we wake up 
and we are a God
and angels weep. 
But if I die here tonight 
I die in my sleep. 

They say we are asleep 
until we fall in love. 
And I'm so ready 
to wake up now. 

I want to wake up. 
Don't let me die while I'm like this. 
I want to wake up 
Don't let me die while I'm like this
Please let me wake up now
Don't let me die while I'm like this
I'm ready
I'm ready 
To wake up. 

There you go. My latest/not-so-latest obsession (because I've been obsessed with Tolstoy for years now). But it just speaks to my soul. And I love Pierre.

"It was clear and frosty. A dark, starlit heaven looked down on the black roofs and the dirty, dusky streets. Only by looking up at the sky could Pierre distance himself from the disgusting squalor of all earthly things as compared with the heights to which his soul had now been taken. 

“And there in the middle, high about Prechistensky Boulevard, amidst a scattering of stars on every side but catching the eye through its closeness to the earth, its pure white light and the long uplift of its tail, shone the comet, the huge, brilliant comet of 1812, that popular harbinger of untold horrors and the end of the world. But this bright comet with its long, shiny tail held no fears for Pierre. Quite the reverse: Pierre’s eyes glittered with tears of rapture as he gazed up at this radiant star, which must have traced its parabola through infinite space at speeds unimaginable and now suddenly seemed to have picked its spot in the black sky and impaled itself like an arrow piercing the earth, and stuck there, with its strong upthrusting tail and its brilliant display of whiteness amidst the infinity of scintillating stars. This heavenly body seemed perfectly attuned to Pierre’s newly melted heart, as it gathered reassurance and blossomed into new life.” (War and Peace 663)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Aflame with the glory of God

"We thank thee [O Lord] for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning and hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime. Grant us, we pray thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in car or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God." --Walter A. Rauschenbusch 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Tri-lingual affirmations

Did I mention I'm studying three languages this summer? I'm taking a beginning French course, an intermediate German course on German culture and history, and then practicing my Russian with a friend for an hour or so each day. It's great (I really do love learning more about these languages and their cultures), but also, I don't know any languages anymore.

Case in point: Today I had my German class. At the beginning of the class, the professor asked (in German), if any of us had seen the film Luther. I have, so I nodded my head and proudly said, "Da." Then I realized I had spoken Russian, so I corrected myself and said, "Oui." Then I was really embarrassed and finally found the right language and said, "Ja."

So. What we're saying is, I will know ZERO languages by the end of the summer. Or just speak a mixture of all these languages. Hopefully someone will understand me.

May evenings

May evenings in Utah are like slices of heaven. The weather has been glorious the past couple weeks, and that means walks in the neighborhood, talks with friends and roommates, listening to music (I've been singing "Something Just Like This" to myself over and over again--it is, and glorying in Utah sunsets.

This evening it's been fun to introduce my roommate to the Great British Bake Off while eating Frostys.

And, of course, evening are always nice when I get to talk with my favorite person in D.C., especially when it's light enough now to sit and Skype in a park.

Hooray for gentle May evenings. Can't ever have enough of them.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chocolate polka-dots

My friend Chloe and I have decided to do a "Russki Chas" (Russian hour) this summer in order to practice and improve our Russian. Every day we decide on a different theme--and it has ranged from Russian literature to electrical engineering. It's really fun. Like, really fun.

Today it was cooking. Because, let's be real. How often in Russian courses do you go over how to read even basic recipes in Russian or read a cookbook? Not often.

Today I learned the Russian word for "chocolate chips." Which you would think I would know, because, oh, I don't know, chocolate chips are one of my 5 basic food groups. But I never learned it because they don't really have chocolate chips in Ukraine or Russia. (When I baked chocolate chip cookies in Ukraine, I always just cut up a chocolate bar.)

But it's the cutest thing. It's "schokoladny kroshky," or literally, chocolate polka-dots.

Isn't that amazing?

I love Russian.

And I love chocolate polka-dots.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dress Codes

"Come as you are," they said.

So we came as we were. 


Hooray for wonderful roommates who are so fun to live with.* 

And hooray for more occasions to wear phenomenal dresses. 

[Annnnd, a vanity shot because I couldn't help myself. #sorrynotsorry]

* And as an aside, I learned yesterday with the Boden catalog that came in the mail that apparently I live with a Baroness Becky Burr. So yes. We do fancy here. Obviously.