Iterance

It rained today. Not a lot of rain; just enough to inconvenience a person carrying a folder full of endangered papers, who didn’t have an umbrella. Just enough to make you question if it’s weird to wear gloves in the rain; if it’s better to just take them off. Won’t we be cold anyway?

It rained today for the first time since the ice melted away, and as I crossed the path between the skeleton of a winter-ravaged park and the rolling wheels of the street, the scent of rain on dust hit me; the sort of smell you didn’t realize you missed until you smell it again. Until it stings your eyes. Until you can taste the incoming spring.

We sat in that café again today, and I asked myself again what I would leave behind. My grandmother told me a story some months ago, about a man who died in a foreign country not knowing his purpose. You can die without knowing what you have contributed; that’s for later generations to know, not you.

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Nacimos – #8M

Nacimos.

Vos con los autitos, y nosotras con muñecas. Muñecas. Siempre me pareció extraño que el nombre del juguete es también una articulación indispensable. Tu papá te vio jugar con nosotros – jugar a ser papá, a ser responsable, a ser hombre de familia – y abrió la boca para imponer la ley.

“Sacale la muñeca, para que no sea marica.”

Sacale la muñeca, para que se quede sin manos.

Acá vamos por la vida las mujeres, dando nuestras manos porque te quitaron las tuyas.

Te quedaste sin manos, y dijiste que la cocina es para la mujer. Te reíste. Llegaste a casa después del colegio y te pichaste porque no había la comida que querías. Llegaste a la universidad y te quedaste gastando de más de tu bolsillo. Llegaste a nuestras camas, y quisiste comer de nuestros platos. Continue reading

Lo que es

cassia-fistula-lluvia-de-oro-9No es que extrañe mi país, dice, y patea la nieve con una bota desaliñada. Pero a veces pienso en su tierra colorada, la boca roja del río, los saltos dorados a la luz del sol. La lluvia de oro con flores que flotan suspendidas, como si el tiempo se detuviera con el viento.

No es que extrañe mi país, y prepara tereré como si fuera un ritual religioso, se posa sobre su ventana porque acá no hay patio, acá no hay sillas de cable rojo y azul, acá se sienta frente a la ventana a lado de la calefacción y así no tiene frío. Pero quiero mi cielo de colores. Quiero acostarme en el techo antes que aparezcan los mosquitos, y mirar la explosión del sol. Allá las nubes están más lejos, y se lucen más. Allá el cielo es más grande.

Ve a su amiga preparar chipa guazu, pero no tiene horno. Intentó hacer mbeju un día y no salió con el queso extranjero. Siempre odió el queso fresco, siempre odió el queso, pero en este invierno no hay kavure tampoco y bueno, no es lo mismo.

Hay algo lindo en decirnos adiós cuando nos pasamos en la calle, dice, cuando camina con su bufanda tapando dos tercios de su cara. En el cumpleañitos y el quince y el asado los domingos. El caminar sobre calles de barro, o los empedrados que serían más cómodos si hubieran quedado como caminos de tierra. En ese vecino que llena los baches gratis con su pala, porque la municipalidad jamás va a hacer nada, he’i.

Se burlan mis amigos que hablan castellano porque todo mal hablamos en mi país, fuera de orden luego ponemos las palabras, “no tiene sentido”. Para nosotros así da más gusto.

Toca los timbres acá en vez de aplaudir. La gente siempre le mira raro cuando explica que allá se aplaude. No sabe si esto es nostalgia, pensar en cosas comunes y querer sentirlas de nuevo; no es de extrañar a gente o cosas, no es que llore. No es que mire fotos en Facebook para sentir que está allá. No es el tipo de extrañación que la gente suele sentir en el extranjero. Pero extraña cosas raras, como salir a la costanera hasta en el invierno, aunque el frío esté para morir. Me gustan los ríos tan grandes que apenas se ve el otro lado; los que dan un poco de miedo. Los que tienen historia.

En invierno, el mate dulce con coco y leche de su niñez. Ahí en la esquina, las vecinas preparando para su kavure mientras pasa por ahí con sus amigos—vamos na a comprar, demasiado me estira.

Es raro, exiliarse a uno mismo. Sabe que mucha gente piensa que salió porque quería salir, se fue porque “no quería más estar acá”, “se fue a su país”. La verdad es que persigue un sentimiento; la epifanía de reconocer su casa después de vivir en tantos lugares diferentes. El sentimiento de mirar por la ventana del avión cuando desciende, ver los arroyos y los ríos extenderse como arterias sobre el rojo y verde, los techos de teja y zinc, los árboles entre los edificios. El sentimiento de atravesar las nubes y sentir que se le llama. Mi tierra me llama. Acá. Mi casa.

No es que quiera volver. Acá soy feliz también. Pero a veces me despierto en la noche y miro las estrellas por la ventana, y no conozco sus nombres. Y cuando sabés lo que es ser amada por el cielo, es raro volver a ser una extraña.

No es que allá la vida sea más simple, dice al final, porque acá las cosas como colectivos y supermercados y clínicas suelen ser más fáciles. Pero es una vida que abraza.

2016 roundup

And just like that, 2016 is over. So much happened this year on the world stage, a lot (ok, most) of it unpleasant; but on a personal level, it’s actually been quite a successful year. It’s been a bit hard to document at the end of blog posts, though, so here’s a post devoted to the writing-related things that happened:

Articles

Fanfiction

  • The Malfoy Case, Harry Potter (complete, after two years!)

    The trials for suspected Death Eaters involved in the Wizarding Wars have begun, and Draco Malfoy finds himself trying to hold together what is left of his family and his fortune, while struggling to escape the looming, almost inevitable future of a lifetime spent in Azkaban. But there is one person who might not have given up completely.

  • ErosionMad Max: Fury Road (complete)

    Furiosa runs.

  • in the andaruni, Narnia (complete, this year’s NFE)

    “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.”
    ― Muhammad Ali Jinnah

  • The Tisroc and the King, Narnia (still in progress)

    Something went very differently, and Cor and Aravis never met. As two enemy nations crown their new rulers and are faced with the threat of imminent war, Aravis and Cor find themselves dreaming of a mysterious boy and girl, and a life that could have been.

  • The ettiquette of retrospect, Harry Potter (complete)

    In which Ursula Black hosts a party after violently disowning her son, Belvina Black knows all the gossip, and Herbert Burke must get his act together.

  • Scope and IntensityHarry Potter (complete)

    Bill returns to Cairo to pack his bags

  • Soldier’s Heart, Harry Potter (complete)

    “I just didn’t think that things would ever be normal,” he said. “It’s almost autumn again, and last winter we were just trying to survive…”

  • Marius, Harry Potter (in progress)

    The East End of London, 1938. Marius Black is a Squib—the shame of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, hidden from Wizarding society lest it discover the family’s terrible secret.

    As a second World War draws ever closer, and a mysterious magical threat rises in Nurmengard, Marius turns to the Muggle world on a relentless quest for what those of his family have always coveted: power.

Others

What to expect in 2017

  • Hopefully no more celebrity deaths or the annihilation of human rights.
  • I’ll be traveling even more, and eventually starting school in America!
  • You’ll be seeing a lot more of me on Hypable… more on that later.
  • The Tisroc and the King will finish (yes, really)
  • Marius will properly take off (I know I promised this last year, but this time I mean it)
  • More blog posts, as I collect even more interesting experiences!

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Happy New Year, everyone! May 2017 treat us better than 2016 did. I hope to continue providing more content here, and on my other platforms, for your enjoyment (or confusion, if you’re still trying to understand why I spend so much time on fanfiction).

Moddi and the music of our time

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The first time I heard a song by Moddi, I was on a mattress in my friend’s house half-listening to the TV that was on a rare music channel. There were people talking in the room, loud enough that when I caught the beginning of Let the Spider Run Alive I had to spring up from the mattress and press my ear to the TV to listen. I memorized a few words from the song and then googled them as soon as I got home.

I know that Pål Moddi Knutsen himself likely had completely different reasons for writing the verses that I identify with the most. But Poetry became my hymn for a long time; it’s such a beautifully hesitant song. Rubbles is angry, frustrated — something to listen to when you need a storm, but there isn’t one. House by the Sea was the song I listened to as I flew away from Paraguay, and one that has followed me on all my trips since. And countless others… One Minute More, The Northern Line, and Ardennes (something about the line about animal skin always freaked me out in a great way).

For me, listening to Moddi was a form of meditation. The lyrics force you to look inwards.

But recent times have changed the way I perceive media and art. More and more, I think, we’re aware that everything we consume is affecting our perception of the world. When I heard that Moddi would be releasing an album that consists solely of banned, censored or silenced songs, I was cautious. Music and activism are two fields that very often intersect, but it’s hard to write music that resonates with feelings more nuanced than love or sadness. And it’s even harder to keep them from turning political or aggressive in a very ugly way – or, at the other end of the spectrum, too ambiguous so that they lose their meaning.

This, I soon discovered, was not the case with Unsongs.

Punk Prayer was a beautiful combination of spirituality, freedom and feminism, which I readily fell in love with. A Matter of Habit hit me more personally; it distinctly reminded me of a young ex-soldier I met, and the stories I had heard from friends. And then O My Father I Am Joseph, which immediately made Unsongs my favorite album… possibly of all time. The story of Joseph has always fascinated me, and Moddi’s introduction, dedicating the song to Muslim people across the world who are being discriminated for peaceful beliefs, gave it even more depth. The lyrics — which are originally a poem written by Mahmoud Darwish, and adapted into a song by Marcel Khalife — remind me very much of the Tablet of Fire from the Baha’i Writings.

And then The Shaman and the Thief, and Strange Fruit, beautiful renditions of older tragedies, the wounds of which still haven’t healed today.

The love with which each song has been crafted, and then, in turn, adapted into a cover in English in Moddi’s voice, makes for an album of exquisite beauty; a collection of voices from all around the world, across history. A collection of beautiful stories that were once lost, but that we are now desperately trying to recover.

Being in the same room as Moddi while he plays is to witness something amazing happening within a person. I didn’t get the sense that I was being entertained in the way one normally is at a concert – rather, that I was finally understanding something about the world, and about myself. The music and its message is too important, too great, to be carried within one human body. It’s something that demands to be shared.

These days, I find myself thinking of platforms and their importance. When social media is both a blessing and a curse – providing a space for progressive movements, yet also spawning hate-speech and misinformation – anyone who possesses a platform and the ability to share facts with others, and empower them to contribute to the betterment of the world, should be doing so. We often criticize artists for not taking a strong enough stance in the face of world crisis, or not using their platform to raise marginalized voices.

I think Moddi is a good example of how this can be skillfully done. He openly speaks about his privilege, which I find very fascinating and unusual – and he uses that privilege to help less fortunate artists (imprisoned, exiled, or otherwise silenced) have a voice on a global stage. And even the way in which he speaks is markedly different. One of the first things I noticed is his avoidance of the word “fans” (although we are all, quite clearly, fans) – he uses “listeners”, instead; a posture that invites his audience to his level, that invites them into the conversation.

Calm determination will be vital as they strive to demonstrate how stumbling blocks can be made stepping stones for progress” says the Universal House of Justice. To me, the songs in Unsongs are an example of how calmness and determination can be weaved together – how the silenced can find a voice again, how we can learn from their words. How to speak up in the face of oppression, but in a way that will be understood by the masses of people who, lacking the spiritual and moral education to understand their fellow human beings, can only be reached through meaningful conversation and individual stories.

There is a historical significance to all of this; from artists who choose to lift others’ voices as well as their own, to listeners who choose to take in and boost creators who inspire. This is true for books, and journalism, and every other creation of humanity, but especially the music that we write and listen to. Our music is our voice; it is our call to arms, and often our greatest weapon when it comes to elicit emotion out of other people and spur them into action. What songs will they remember this period of history by?


This is Moddi, this is Unsongs, and this is the Unsongs website where you can learn the backstory of each song. You should probably check everything out right now.

From Before

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When summer was still alive, we left our candle-lit tents and made our way to a clearing lined by the dark shapes of the Lithuanian forest.

There’s something special in being involved in the rituals of other cultures—in being a spectator to something that carries so much. To experience the swaying movement, the closed eyes, the voices that rise and fall. I’ve never heard music like Baltic music; there’s something raw about it, like it’s been drawn out from deep places.

We stood around the fire as two boys pounded on drums, and I looked up at the nighttime sky—so far removed from the lights of cities, aglow with thousands and thousands of stars that have seen millions of years. A thin wisp of smoke lifted itself into the air from the bonfire to the stars, like a signal to whoever was watching. And it occurred to me, as I felt the grass beneath my feet vibrate with the sounds of our presence and the breeze curled around us, dipping in and out of the forest, that it would be very easy to imagine that nothing had changed in thousands of years. That this was not 2016, that we didn’t have cars and phones waiting for us by the tents, that we had ever spoken something other than this language—this language that was lifting itself up into the sky by so many voices that had somehow remembered, that had been kept alive despite so many attempts to erase it.

In the firelight, it was easy to imagine that no time had passed at all. A girl across from me had dark hair, hooded eyes, her lips parted in song. Her linen dress and bare feet over the dirt conjured images of a maiden from a painting, if only I could render her properly.

I didn’t speak the language. I shouldn’t understand the words. But somehow I did, there in the forest, holding hands with strangers. So much life has taken place; so much is beautiful that it cannot all be remembered. It must be bottled up, carefully, in songs and drums and those moments near midnight when youth wander into clearings and sing the words their ancestors wrote. When the ancestors listen.

I think a lot about what music does to culture; about what it says about our history. I wonder if those ancient Baltic people ever expected that their rhythms and words would still remain after so many generations have come and gone, after so many wars and occupations have threatened the memory of them. I wonder what any of those people, from the recent past and the distant past, would think if they knew that I—a strange combination of nations and cultures—would hear their words and identify with them.

I wonder if I know them a little more, now. I hope that like this, they can be a little less forgotten.


The reason for this delay in posting is that, although I’ve had this written for months, I was hoping to combine it with another post and connect two ideas rather ingeniously. It turns out that I can’t. So here you go: part 1 of my music musings.

Late-year updates:
– My second article, “To fight back: Harry, Katniss, and what the world really needs right now” was published on Hypable in November.
– I won NaNoWriMo 2016 and finished writing the draft of the rest of “The Tisroc and the King“. Once I get to edits chapters should be out with more regularity.
– I also published 3 new one-shots, for Narnia and Harry Potter, so check them out if you haven’t already. I’ll do an end-of-year round up of everything because there’s too much to say here!

Forestation

20160627_113035 (2)Vilnius was built in a forest, and trees hug its walls as it rises in their midst, red roofs painting a stretch of autumn foliage in the midst of the deep green. Forest ripples and stretches out on the horizon, rising slightly over the city level, as if nature is refusing to be outdone by man-made structures.

The buildings don’t seem to mind.

Lithuanians carry themselves like the inhabitants of a friendly wood; after all, they tell me, nothing in Lithuania is poisonous – except for maybe one snake, and even that won’t kill you. They emerge from the block-like cement buildings they live in, the last remnants of an old regime, and seem to rise like plants in the sun. On the walk from home to the bus stop, time is taken to taste leaves from the trees, to touch petals, to smell flowers.

It is strange to me that someone thought to enclose these forest peoples in concrete boxes. I wonder that in summer they inhabit the indoors at all.

There’s a spring of water behind my home, in a dip in the woods, so pure that you can drink straight from it. The banks are lined with wild strawberries and blueberries. Between the foliage I glimpse the bent backs of people harvesting wild mushrooms and other things – this plant tastes like garlic, this one is good for salads, this one helps with scarring. Sometimes, people wander barefoot; no plant dares to sting your feet in Lithuania.

People seem to blend into the forest, like new flowers taking root where they were meant to stand all along.

I take a taxi one night, at three in the morning. The streets are bare, the only movement the intermittent switch of a traffic light from green to yellow to red. On the corner, a grassy hill surrounded by a semi-circle of trees, cut-and-paste into the city. In the center of it, a large hare as large as my own torso, ears gleaming in the moonlight. He stands still at the very top of the hill, as if he knows I’m watching, as if he’s standing there for me; long enough to let me feel the piercing stab of nostalgia for something I will never know: for the depths of the forest at midnight, for a life of nothing but rain and sunshine, light and darkness. Then he hops back into the trees and out of sight.

I find that roots are starting to grow beneath me.

They say summer is a bright three-month oasis in dreary white winter. I imagine it now, blurry white replacing the greens and blues, but even in my dreams, the same quietness remains. A forest is a forest, be it warm or cold. Vilnius is a forest – sometimes a forest made of bricks and cement and wood and business, but a forest nonetheless.

For a tourist, weary of overcrowded postcard-perfect scenery, Vilnius is like finally seeing — it is not a theme park of an ideal; it is the ideal incarnate in reality. Though it is the capital of a country, it lacks the wolfish hunger, the gaping hugeness of a capital. There is no rush, no clamor, no shocking sounds or smells. I emerge from the woods and the trees turn to buildings, the sound of swaying leaves into the hum of trolleybuses, the chirping of forest creatures into the voices of people – but it gives me the impression that if I had my eyes closed, I would not notice the change at all.

Just past midnight in August, I wrap a blanket around my shoulders and walk out into the chill air. The trees are quiet, not even whispering, as if they’re being considerate of sleeping people. Overhead, a mass of clouds advances over the stars, lit up in reddish-grey by the city lights.

I reach the neighborhood basketball court, a black rectangle between walls of communist architecture, the lights of apartment windows like little LEDs flashing on and off in a smoothly functioning machine. The trees around the court shiver, their branches reaching to hide the lights. In a moment, the buildings will be dark, like hollow logs full of sleeping forest creatures.

I lie down in the open air, my back to the asphalt, tucking myself in with my blanket like a child going to bed. The wall of clouds shifts, like the earth is reaching out towards the galaxy. Summer happening in space.

I see the first shooting star of the night. My body is rooted to the ground, and when I close my eyes, I hear only the forest around me.


Chapter 5 of The Tisroc and the King has been posted. The 2016 Narnia Fic Exchange has begun, so expect more Narnian fics next month. Fall also means that I’ll be starting regular Marius updates. Thanks for reading!