Caveat: Anapana

Anapana is meditation with a focus simply on the movements of air that are a part of respiration. It's a (the) starting point for meditation. I've been making on-and-off efforts at meditation for years now, but this video I ran across (posted by my aunt Janet in facebookland, in fact) is as good an introduction to it as any.

It's so easy to "forget" to do this. But then it's not hard to "remember" to do it, again, either – I needed the reminder, I guess. But I'm still not really very good at it – especially lately.

Caveat: Antiques

I had a kind of lazy morning, viewing this as my last day of my "radiation holiday" – although I'm only returninig to work part-time, tomorrow, October 1st, I still feel that the pressure will begin to mount to return to full-working status. I both look forward to it (because I like my work and I miss the kids) and dread it (because if I'm feeling like I am still, currently, work is going to be pretty hellish).

Then I got fed up with sitting around, so despite the burning horrible pain in my mouth and neck, Wendy and I took the subway into the city to a neighborhood I hadn't visited before, called Janghanpyeong. There we visited some "antique markets" that I'd read about. Much less ambitious than the vast flea market area I visited with Andrew and Hollye some weeks ago, but very focused on pre-20th-century antiquities. True antiques – the kind that would be illegal to buy and take home outside of Korea without a government permit.

Here are some pictures from the antiques market.

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One of the amazing things about living in the outskirts of Seoul is that it is so vast that I could conceivably go into the city and explore a different, completely unfamiliar neighborhood like this one that I went to today, every week for the rest of my life, and not run out of new places. It's spectacular. I disagree with those who say Korean neighborhoods are "all the same" or that they lack individual character. Certainly there are patterns, and certainly there is some sameness to the architecture, with the vast majority of it being that post-Korean-War, on-a-tight-budget style. Even still, there are all kinds of things that make each neighborhood different, like the presence of these antique markets in this one we explored today.


My evening since getting home has been pretty uncomfortable. I had felt earlier today that maybe I was "over the hump" as far as discomfort, but yesterday and this evening are the worst I've felt since that horrible Sunday 2 weeks ago. The reason is obvious: I had quit taking the hardcore pain medication because I felt that it was making me unnecessarily depressed (as a kind of side effect). But… I may have given it up too soon. I may decide to resume it tonight.

I really don't like this cancer thing. I know I've "got it beat" – at least for now – but I really wish I could just get past all the side effects of the treatment, and get back to something resembling "normal."

Speaking of antiques…

What I'm listening to right now.

John Prine, "Some Humans Ain't Human."

[daily log: walking, 3 km]

Caveat: Street Furniture

Today has been a hard day. Just too much discomfort to really do anything at all. I made the mistake, too, of looking into my mouth in the mirror. That was depressing. Mostly, I've avoided that kind of self-regarding contemplation in the wake of this cancer situation and its slowly unfolding aftermath.

I took a shortish walk with Wendy, and read a bit, and napped, and that's about it.

More later, then.

Here are some pictures from the Lake Park today, where we found an exhibition called "Street Furniture."

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Lastly, there was a pavillion with some student works, and this keyboard-alligator leapt out at me.

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[daily log: walking, 3 km]

Caveat: Time will say nothing

If I could tell you

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose the lions all get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

– W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

Caveat: Basques

Since June, I haven't finished a single book. I was beginning to wonder if I was losing the ability to finish reading books. As Wendy said, though, "You've had a few other things on your mind."

BhotwSo it was almost a shock today when I finished one of the 15 or so books I currently have in progress. I came home from work, took a kind of disturbed nap, and then I finished reading a book entitled The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky. I've always been fascinated by Basque culture, language and history, although it's an interest I haven't actively pursued.

Partly I was surprised to have finished the book because I actually found it rather disappointing. It promises a wider scope than it offers – it's not a Basque history of the world so much as a fairly conventional, anecdote-driven history of the Basque people. Nor does it in fact spend much energy on the Basque diaspora, which is interesting in and of itself – my main first-hand exposure to Basque culture was in Mexico, for example.

As a history, however, it's fairly well-executed. I think the anecdotal structure facilitated my ability to finally work my way through it, and my already strong familiarity with Spanish History meant that I had a lot of context of my own to fill in the ellipses.

Maybe someday I'll get to go and explore Basqueland.

[daily log: walking, 4.5 km]

Caveat: 포기할 수 없는 이유

The Seoul subway sometimes has these poems posted in various spots, in places where you might also see advertising. I saw this poem and I admit it struck me because it was offered with an English translation – otherwise I would have probably disregarded it.

Below is the poem, and the translation provided.

포기할 수 없는 이유

뒤처졌다고 분노하거나 좌절해서는 안 됩니다.
앞서 가는 자의 뒷모습도 소중한 교훈입니다.
포기하지 않는 당신도 누군가의 길이 될 것입니다.

– 이원준 (시인 / 소설가)

The Reason Not to Give Up

You should not be angry or frustrated even if you are falling behind.
The person walking ahead is also a valuable lesson.
You who do not give up will also be a way for someone.

– Lee, Won-jun (poet / novelist); translated by Kim, Sun-ae


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What I’m listening to right now.

Kaija Saaraho, “Sept Papillons pour violoncelle.”

Caveat: Pain Over Cobwebs… um Maybe Not

I have been so disturbed by my cobwebby brain that I did an experiment this morning and forewent my pain medication. I'm not sure it really worked. Wendy and I went into the city (Seoul) for a few hours and walked around. I still was absent-minded as all-get-out, and it was very annoying. I
forgot my phone at home and had to go back and get it. I got lost
(disoriented) twice in a subway station – that wounds my geographical
pride.

Walking around, though… I was fine, walking around – she kept worrying about if I was OK walking around. I emphasized that everything below my shoulders is quite fine and even in tip-top shape. Walking around was great. Only when we stopped to eat, and I attempted to eat some leek jeon and some dumpling/tteok soup (both bland-flavored and I can manage them, chopped into little bits) I had to break down and break out the codeine. And talking hurt, too. I talked too much, as usual. So it's the above-the-shoulders stuff that aches and hurts and burns and is all fuzzy. That's all.

When I got home I lay down and had a feverish-feeling nap. That's the other thing the analgesics do (which are embedded with / accompany the opioids): they solve the feverish sensation that comes from my immune system's current overdrive status.

I have to teach tomorrow – my September Saturday-only schedule which was off last week from the holiday.

Next week, with the start of October, I will have an approximately 20-25% teaching load. I'm really worried about it – my talking feels blurry and distorted. It's going to be hard, and I don't want to let down my fellow teachers or students, either.

The walking, though. Fine. We really didn't even walk that much. Here is Wendy, probably unhappy about trying to keep up with me, in Seoul (we went to Namsan – we took the cable car up the mountain, which minimized the climbing, but didn't eliminate it entirely).


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Note the homeless guy camped on the side of the stairway-street: South Korea isn't some kind of utopia, as some people seem to think I'm implying sometimes in how I write about life here. I like it here, and I view the country's social problems as less severe than in the US, but I am hardly in denial that the country has some major social problems, many of which parallel those in the US.

[daily log: walking, 5 km]

Caveat: Cat War

I had meant to post this entertaining video a while back but got distracted and forgot. So I'll post it now, as I have nothing much else to say at the moment that wouldn't be a rehash of things I've said already.

Normally, I try to be sparing in my posting of the notorious internet "cat videos" on This Here Blog Thingy™, but this video was too irresistable.

Good morning.

Caveat: An End to Catastrophic Interventions

Over the last three months my body has seen a series of catastrophic interventions: surgery, various invasive scans, a major infection and a second surgery, and then 7 weeks of cancer-killing radiation therapy.

I am now hoping these interventions are over, and that way I can focus on actually trying to build up my health and resistance once again.

Oddly, I feel very little of the elation I expected to feel upon  the end of my radiation series. Instead, I feel overwhelmed: overwhelmed by the fact that now, I should "get on" with my life. I no longer have any excuses, except the delay of my own body in "getting it together again." I am a naturally impatient person – did I mention that?

Here is a picture of the technicians who did my therapy. I think the one on the left is an MD – but I'm not really sure. I didn't really interact with them much – mostly they are in a little booth (protected from the radiation) while I was inside the machine.

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I gave them a gift – some individual-sized cakes from a bakery across the street.

The lobby of the radiation building has a multilingual sign. I noticed something today for the first time – good to notice it on my last day there. What I noticed was that the language at the end is utterly messed up. Wendy thought it was mutilated French, while I wondered if maybe it was an attempt at Catalan. I've decided Wendy is more likely correct, but it's very bad French, where someone may have forgotten to clear his template of some leftover Spanish, first.

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I wonder if the other languages, that I don't know as well, are messed up too?


What I'm listening to right now.

My Bloody Valentine, "When You Sleep."

[daily log: walking, 9 km]

caveat: zap-o-matic number 30

1969_ArcataCAModelARoadTripComingSooni dreamed i was driving my dad's 1928 ford model A through rural korea. i was alone. i had stopped to fix something, along a dusty road that on closer inspection resembled rural mexico more than rural korea. my brother rode by on a motorcycle and refused to to help. he was wielding a flaming tree branch.

then a man stopped and gazed on me as i worked. it took me a while to realize he wasnt korean. he had a stark, expressionless face, and blue eyes. he asked me where the post office was. when i said i didn't know, he ran off as if upset. i finally got the model A running again, and drove into a town. there were men with cows standing around, arguing. i saw the blue-eyed man who had asked earlier about the post office. he was carrying a basket of snakes.

the model A was full of junk. trash, really. my brother came by and insisted that the best way to deal with it was to light it on fire, which he did. the flames roared, and i pulled the trash out of the car as it became clear the flames would consume the vehicle too. as i did, there was a woman among the trash. she was on fire. andrew and i kicked dirt over her, trying to put out the fire. the woman was screaming.

the men with cows watched. the man with blue eyes ran away.

i awoke, wide awake, at 530 am.

(the picture, above right, is a scan of one taken of the car in 1969. my dad still has the car.)


59661-Yellow-Radiation-Prohibited-Sign-On-White-Poster-Art-Printtoday is my last day of the x-ray tomographic radiation therapy.

now i just have to get healthy. that's going to be rougher than i expected. somehow, in conceptualizing this process, i had imagined, quite inaccurately, that i would finish the radiation and then immediately go back to my regular life. this is clearly not going to happen: i expect the next week or two to actually be the worst in terms of discomfort and incapacitation, as my body begins the slow and difficult work of rebuilding and repairing all the things in my mouth and neck that the high-energy photons have broken and damaged.

 

Caveat: Just Walk

My brain isn't very functional these days, balanced as it is on the ridgeline separating pain and medication. Sometimes it's the pain, sometimes it's the medication, but either way, my brain is immersed in syrup.

So I sit at my computer a lot. Reading blogs or playing my game. Or just sit, zoning out, listening to NPR.

But I still walk a lot.

Every day, I walk to or from the hospital, or both.

Yesterday, here are Wenday and I at the observation platform at the top of Jeongbal hill, taken on the way home.

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Yesterday, Wendy and I walked around the lake in Lake Park.

Here are some pictures of the lake.

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Today, we walked over to the Madu neighborhood and back.

Here is an idiosyncratic (and probably very expensive) home we saw there.

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What I'm listening to right now.

Django Django, "Storm."

[daily log: walking, 9 km]

Caveat: un silencio o memoria


AleixandreEN EL FONDO DEL POZO

    (El Enterrado)

Allá en el fondo del pozo donde las florecillas
donde las lindas margaritas no vacilan
donde no hay viento o perfume de hombre
donde jamás el mar impone su amenaza
allí allí está quedo ese silencio
hecho como un rumor ahogado con un puño
Si una abeja si un ave voladora
si ese error que no se espera nunca
se produce
el frío permanece
El sueño en vertical hundió la tierra
y ya el aire está libre
Acaso una voz una mano ya suelta
un impulso hacia arriba aspira a luna
a calma a tibieza a ese veneno
de una almohada en la boca que se ahoga
¡Pero dormir es tan sereno siempre!
Sobre el frío sobre el hielo sobre una sombra de mejilla
sobre una palabra yerta y más ya ida
sobre la misma tierra siempre virgen
Una tabla en el fondo oh pozo innúmero
esa lisura ilustre que comprueba
que una espalda es contacto es frío seco
es sueño siempre aunque la frente esté borrada
Pueden pasar ya nubes Nadie sabe
Ese clamor ¿Existen las campanas?
Recuerdo que el color blanco o las formas
recuerdo que los labios, sí, hasta hablaban
Era el tiempo caliente. Luz inmólame
Era entonces cuando el relámpago de pronto
quedaba suspendido hecho de hierro
Tiempo de los suspiros o de adórame
cuando nunca las aves perdían plumas
Tiempo de suavidad y permanencia
Los galopes no daban sobre el pecho
no quedaban los cascos, no eran cera
Las lágrimas rodaban como besos
Y en el oído el eco era ya sólido
Así la eternidad era el minuto
El tiempo sólo una tremenda mano
sobre el cabello largo detenida
Oh sí. En este hondo silencio o humedades
bajo las siete capas de cielo azul yo ignoro
la música cuajada en hielo súbito
la garganta que se derrumba sobre los ojos
la íntima onda que se anega sobre los labios
Dormido como una tela
siento crecer la hierba verde suave
que inútilmente aguarda ser curvado
Una mano de acero sobre el césped
un corazón un juguete olvidado
un resorte una lima un beso un vidrio
Una flor de cristal que así impasible
chupa de tierra un silencio o memoria.

– Vicente Aleixandre (poeta epsañol, 1898-1984)

[daily log: walking, 7 km]

caveat: zap-o-matic number 28

i forgot my phone in going to my session this morning, so this posting is later than usual.

its drizzling.

i have this metallic feel in my mouth, the last few days gradually becoming more pronounced. its like i tried to suck on hot ball bearings as if it were candy.

i dont like this increasing absent-mindedness. im sure its the medication, and not the treatment per se. but whenever i feel out of control of my mental faculties, i start to panic about old age, senility and the conditions under which my life would quickly lose meaning.

two more sessions. then some weeks of recovery, which ive come to realize will be worse than the treatment.

grr. really grumpy today.

Caveat: A mob of cobblers

Dreams

Dreams are but interludes which Fancy makes;
When monarch Reason sleeps, this mimic wakes:
Compounds a medley of disjointed things,
A mob of cobblers, and a court of kings:
Light fumes are merry, grosser fumes are sad;
Both are the reasonable soul run mad;
And many monstrous forms in sleep we see,
That neither were, nor are, nor e'er can be.
Sometimes forgotten things long cast behind
Rush forward in the brain, and come to mind.
The nurse's legends are for truths received,
And the man dreams but what the boy believed.
Sometimes we but rehearse a former play,
The night restores our actions done by day;
As hounds in sleep will open for their prey.
In short, the farce of dreams is of a piece,
Chimeras all; and more absurd, or less.

– John Dryden (English poet, 1631-1700)



I went to my treatment session, this morning, and took an extra pain pill afterward – that's the first time I've doubled down like that, although the doctor had said I could. It left me feeling disjointed and outside of time, and I zombified in front of my computer playing a game.

I somewhat recovered, after Wendy reminded me the time, and so we went over to the hospital again to meet Dr Ryu, but the visit was fairly perfunctory. He didn't seem to find anything unexpected, and I kept my optimism.

We walked over to my work and I introduced Wendy to my coworkers, but I didn't stay long. Finally, we walked back home.


What I'm listening to right now.



The Tallest Man on Earth, "1904."

[daily log: walking, 7 km]

caveat: zap-o-matic number 27

wendy came with me to the hospital so i didnt walk – i walk too fast as part of my normal routine to expect her to keep up.

im feeling discouraged after my five day break for the following reason: i had hoped that after five days i would have begun feeling "better" but in fact i feel just as bad if not worse. this is discouraging because it means once i finish the radiation series this thursday, its still not really finished, as the slog to full health will remain a long one.

this is worrying because i had made the optimistic promise to resume a regular teaching schedule on october first, but under the present conditions that os hard to imagine. im going to have to have a depressing conversation with curt, as a consequence. and of course, each month of not working full time is expensive, too – more so than the actual treatment. i continue to shovel through my retirement savings at an alarming rate.

i visualize scrouge mcduck, emptying one of his money-swimming vaults with a shovel or a bulldozer.

Caveat: 흥국사

I'm really not up to day-long trips, right now. My energy-level is limited. However, it's still important to get out of the house and I want to show at least some things to Wendy, too.

So I've been thinking of shorter half-day or several-hours-long trips we could do. I've long thought I should make more of an effort to visit things that are close by – landmarks, temples, parks, etc., that are right here in Goyang City. So many things are nearby that I never visit because it's always that phenomenon of "I'll be able to visit that any time I want" which boils down to never visiting it.

With that in mind, today we went to a temple called 흥국사 [heung guk sa] which is on the eastern edge of Goyang, up against where the city touches Seoul at the western end of Bukhansan National Park.

It turned out to be a rather rustic temple – not polished for the tourists, at all, just a working temple, a bit run down in areas. I actually like seeing places like this.

It took about an hour to get there: subway to Gupabal Station, then bus number 704 up the road that parallels the city limit between Seoul and Goyang for about 20 minutes to a rather rural-looking spot. Then walking up a one-lane road, up a narrow valley between two arms of a small mountain, to the temple.

Here are some pictures.

At the top of the road, here is the temple parking area.

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A tourist map of Goyang on an announcement board.

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The gathering area in front of the complex of buildings.

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Looking up toward some of the buildings.

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Bukhansan in the distance.

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Eaves of two buildings, a hanging bell, and the peaks of Bukhansan in the distance.

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A guy flying along.

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A seashore scene.

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A really nice painting up above the level where most of the panel paintings are, up under the eaves.

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A dragon.

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Some guys talking in what looks like a blue fog.

 
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A guy riding a tiger.

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Another nice panel painting.

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Wendy is resting on some quarried stone for building curbs or steps. There was some construction going on at parts of the temple site.

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Jared and the dragon.

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Another view showing how unpopulated it was, there, and the western side of Bukhansan in the background.

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Looking up at several buildings – Wendy is standing on the balcony on the building to the right.

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Looking at the temple from the large gathering area in front of it.

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A bored looking dog near the temple.

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A hint of fall colors in the parking area.

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Crossing a small stream on the small road near the main road (I think this stream is the city limit between Seoul and Goyang, but I'm not positive).

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The sign for the temple at the main road where the bus stop is.

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Then we got back on the bus and went back to the subway and I came home.

[daily log: walking, 3 km]

Caveat: sobre los silos de Ítaca

Llegar a ese punto difuso

"Los dioses saben lo venidero, los hombres lo acontecido,
y los sabios lo que se cierne." – Filóstrato

Llegar a ese punto difuso donde poder
tomar distancia sobre uno mismo
observando al sustentador incardinado
transitando encrucijadas de meandros…
Ser receptor de las vibraciones de lo que se cierne.

Recibir el misterioso zumbido y trasladarlo
al depositario de mi inherente legado
para que cuide mis emociones y pasos
eligiendo el curso adecuado
para el devenir de mis futuros años.

Que al dejar mi incorpóreo estado
ya surcando el longevo camino deseado
la despensa de mi galera se colme
de los más nutritivos conocimientos
afluentes de gozo y tersura para mi espíritu.

En esos parajes de acontecimientos
hallar lo hermoso, lo noble, lo magnífico
saborearlo sin premura, tomándome mi tiempo,
y al llegar a puerto se elevasen las riquezas
que mi alma ansía sobre los silos de Ítaca.

– Francisco Jesús Muñoz Soler (poeta español)