Thursday, 24 January 2013

Haven Sent

I get a coffee cup out of the cupboard and place it by the kettle.
  “A Blog post . . . a blog post . . .” I say to no one in particular. You see, my unofficial update schedule had again arrived before an idea, and I was at a loss for ideas. “I could always just raid my backlog . . .”
I open the fridge door and grab the first bottle of milk. It’s almost empty, but some fortuitous soul restocked the fridge, so there’s a full carton behind it, I take them both to the bench.
  “It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those meta, fictionalized features. That was kinda my trademark way back when, in December . . .”
I ready myself to make a cup of coffee, but I’m lost. Something is missing. For the last few nights my sleeping pattern had been, shall we say . . . irregular. So to right myself, I had not slept the night before, planning to spend the whole day awake and crash that afternoon. A great plan.
Unfortunately my secret weapon, coffee, was a lot harder to make without eight hours of sleep.
  “Teaspoon!” I exclaimed. Of course, not loudly enough to wake anyone in the house, but loud enough for you to read. I head to the cutlery drawer and search for a spoon. I grasp the florally designed handle of a long, slender, silver spoon. We have a random mix of spoons within the drawer. Long and pointed, short and thick, round and thin. But this was my favourite. The size of the bowl holds the perfect spoonful of coffee, or sugar; the stem was a practical length for my coffee cup. The floral designs were isolated at the terminal tip, leaving the business end unadorned, and the bowl tip was pointed, for manual scooping. The perfect spoon.
  “I love having the right spoon for my coffee,” I say to the cutlery drawer as I close it. I head to the coffee bench, piece together the elements of my brown elixir, add ice and milk and head to my room, stirring it.
  “Wake up, Dictionary!” I say, taking the old book from its place on the shelf. As the ancient codex grumbles under the covers, I take a sip of my coffee. It’s perfect, in no small part because of the spoon that brewed it.
  “I love it when the coffee’s done,” I say, referencing Wheezy Waiter, a really cool guy who, alone, validates Youtube’s existence.
  “Sleeping . . .” grumbles Dictionary, ignoring internet and pronunciation references “n. 1. The condition of being asleep. 2. A state no longer applicable to Dictionary.”
  “Sleep later,” I say, “I need a word.”
Dictionary groans, loudly and obnoxiously.
  “Come on, I just need a good word for ‘favourite’. I want to talk about some of my favourite things. But not favourite. Some other word.”
  “Thesaurus . . .” it grumbles.
  “I thought you said Thesaurus was an asshole.”
  “You /yū/ pron. An asshole. See also, Thesaurus.”
  “Look, I just need a word. One word, and you can go back to sleep.”
Dictionary thinks about it for a moment, before it concedes.
  “Right. Now I’m thinking, like, things that are just your favourite, because they make you feel at ease. At peace, you know? Like when things fall into place, and the world feels better, safer and pleasant . . .”
  “ . . . Haven,” says Dictionary, after a moment’s thought.
  “/hey-vən/," it reiterates, "n. 1. A harbour or port 2. Any place of shelter and safety; asylum; sanctuary.”
  “Safety and sanctuary, huh? Yeah, Haven sounds right to me. Thanks Dick.”
  “Goodnight.” Says Dictionary. But I doubt it knows what that means because not only does it give no definition, but it is clearly early morning. I place Dictionary back on the shelf anyway, and start my blog post:

>>Today, I started my morning thinking about those things that I love. Because I was listening to my ‘ Nocturnal’ playlist of songs with soft beats, with the night’s darkness still lingering outside my window, and I just felt content. So today, since my last list was so much fun to write, I thought I’d continue with another list. A much more personal list. A list of things that make me feel safe, and at home, and like the world should keep on spinning for another few years, just so moments like this can exist. These are my:


Number Ten: Wiki-surfing.
On Wiki-based websites they offer links to their other pages. So as I read and indulge in new information, if I then come across a new concept I want to know more on, I can open up that can of worms, and learn even more. Wiki-surfing is when you keep clicking on links and amass a whole bunch of these tabs, and then finally ‘ride the wave’ and absorb all of that information. And for me, when I finally close that last tab, I feel perfectly content. I wanted to read something, and I then read all there is to know on it. I am not only now informed (or just entertained), but I finished a task I set myself. I have feasted on knowledge, and completed a goal. There’s no better feeling than that, except for the next nine . . .

Number Nine: Rain Outside a Window.
For one thing, I have mild tinnitus. So in a seemingly silent room, I will often hear a persistent high-pitched whine, like a bee is screaming in agony. So I like ambient sound. But rain is more than that. Each individual drop makes its sound. A single drip that exists, and then disappears forever. But this one sound, amongst the orchestra of millions upon millions more raindrops, creates a harmony in this downpour of finite, singular tears. It helps calm and clear my mind. Not only does it silence the screaming bee, but also those little niggling thoughts. The mental minutia of an operating brain: nose twitches, skin itches, twerks, thoughts and brain bubbles just become a blank, white slate for ideas. And even if I don’t want to write a story, knowing that I can have an instant, clean white canvas on which to create, puts me at peace.

Number Eight: Having the Right Ingredients.
In the words of Marco Pierre White: “Gastronomy is the greatest therapy an individual can ever be exposed to.” Which is quite true, and so I do, occasionally, like to cook. But not some grand meal something small: French Toast; a Simple Pasta Sauce with Fettuccine; Egg & Bacon on Toast & Westernized Nachos are my favourite dishes. Because they are simple, smaller recipes that I can make my own, experiment in and play with, while still retaining those uncompromising, beautiful flavours. But there’s one thing that makes the moment that much sweeter: Spontaneity. If I am in the kitchen, and I just want to make a sandwich, but then realize we have one of those key ingredients. I’ll start to look. I’ll find more bits and pieces and place them on the bench. And if it turns out I have everything for a recipe, and all of the right ingredients, then I feel a wave of excitement as the adventure begins. It is a moment built by random chance that I celebrate every time, with my feast of a single dish, and I love it.

Number Seven: Feeling Pensive.
Feeling pensive is, essentially, just thinking about things, but that does not do the term justice. Because I don’t mean when you are trying to remember something, or trying to solve a problem. It is more like daydreaming, but while fully conscious of your mind. Not so much “letting your mind wander” as it is “wandering through your mind”. I like it because, when I am feeling pensive I am usually thinking about story stuff, or life, or people and the world around me. In essence, it’s my way of not taking the world for granted. Using my imagination to run a diagnostic on my logic and reasoning. And I like this feeling, because when I am done, I always feel right. As in correct, conclusively proven to be true. Because even if I was wrong about something I once knew, I now know what’s right! This is the more abstract item of the list, but don’t worry, the rest make more sense.

Number Six: Watching a Meaningful Film on my Own.
Some films should be watched in groups. But I find this is because ‘misery loves company’ and these types of films are either bad, stupid or romantic comedies [so: bad
and stupid]. And while I enjoy watching some action, comedy and romance films with others, some films I find it better to view with no distractions. No other stimuli. Just me, a dark room and a screen. That way I get to absorb the story. Feel the emotion and understand the characters the way the writer, director or cinematic artist wanted me to. Then, when it ends, I watch the credits, listening to the music as I let it come to a slow boil in my mind. Then when it ends, I get to lean back in my chair, and enjoy the contentment not of having ‘watched’ a film, but having ‘experienced’ it.

Number Five: One last, stiff drink
I like to drink alcohol. But I don’t like to get red-eye, where’s-my-pants, blackout drunk. At least, not all the time. I like to remember my experiences. For you non-alcoholics [here
alcoholic should be read as Australian] you may not understand enjoying a drink to get drunk. But for those that do, it’s good to do so amongst friends, and good company.
But when a night of hard drinking is coming to its end and everyone else is calling it quits, I like to enjoy those last moments with a drink. I get one last glass of whatever poison is on offer, and I sit alone amongst the debris, slowly sipping it. I let it sink in, and enjoy the moment. Because I know I have had a good night with friends, and I am mulling over the events in my mind and will soon go to bed and drift into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

Number Four: Watching a Sunrise, when it’s Cold.
I don’t like sunsets. To me it just means ‘The End’. And while you can say the colours are pretty, to me it’s just the sun giving up and going to bed. Which is why I like sunrises. They are full of potential, and awaken the day. And they can be pretty. But I’m not fond of aesthetics for aesthetics sake, I think that true art is about meaning, not just colour. But when it is a cold morning, and the house is chilled to a blue coldness, that sunrise means so much more. Because not only does it mean beginning and awakening and fresh life, but as the sun’s orange light rolls over my skin, the warmth of it becomes a part of me, and cooks up my core, so that my body becomes alive with the oncoming heat of the day. It’s an invigorating, bright and beautiful kind of serenity that only the Australian Sun can provide on a cool morning. And it makes me feel at one with the entire world that is coming alive at that very moment. A wonderful feeling.

Number Three: A Well-Made Cup of Coffee
I love coffee. It gets me up in the morning. I know, because when I don’t drink it I seem to drag around like a zombie that wants to melt back between the blankets. But more than that, I enjoy the flavour. It’s the perfect mix of smooth and sharp, and I really enjoy that taste of coffee . . .
But only when it’s done right. Yet the fact that I sometimes stuff up and get it wrong, makes it that much more special when I make it right. Too much sugar is sickly, too much coffee is bitter. But if you can hit that perfect harmony of ‘bittersweet’, then it’s a drink to worship. Just one sip is sweet and inviting, and smooth with the milk and the flavour of the beans. Then the caffeine seems to bleed into your veins, and you stretch and moan with the pleasure. Then the bitterness on your tongue starts to bite, teasing you like a lover. “Please,” it says “have a bit more . . .” and so you do, and that tantalizing taste starts the whole cycle over again. A good cup of coffee is more than a beverage. It’s a seductress.

Number Two: Writing a Good Short Story
I like writing stories, and when I finish writing a long story that I’ve been planning for months and months, that rush makes me feel like King Kong on cocaine. But that’s not exactly a haven, that’s too violent and raw. That should be a list of “Top 10 Favourite Drugs (that are Legal)”. But writing short stories is different. I didn’t spend months planning it, working out the scenes in my mental theatre or talking to the characters like they were real. I probably got the idea a week ago, and wrote it out on the weekend. And while I love those little ideas and enjoy fleshing them out, when I am done, I just feel a little buzzed. Like Donkey Kong on Pixie Sticks. But then, what really makes me smile, is that I then get to read my story. And in one sitting, I experience my writing like a reader, enjoying the fruits of my labour. So it’s all the fun of reading a good story, all while knowing that I was the one that made it happen. It’s a good feeling.

Number One, Soft Words in Darkness.

I like a good conversation. People use their words to express ideas; communicate and make their thoughts material. But good conversation is hard to find. People can say really stupid things, especially on the internet, and even some of my best friends can say inane, pointless shit that doesn’t even matter within the context of why they said it in the first place.
But I find the best way to get people to talk about what matters is in a quiet, dark place. I prefer outside, because of the ambient sound of nature (treating my tinnitus), but it should be at night, early morning or very late afternoon.
I find then, people tend to talk softly. Not in a whisper, just a low voice. I like this for a few reasons. Firstly, even the most annoying, whiny voice can sound pleasant when they speak softly; so it sounds nice. Secondly, It means everything that is said is punctuated by silence, so you are both heard clearly and forced to say what you mean more distinctly, so everyone becomes more social. Thirdly, because of the darkness there are no distractions, just listening to what is being said, or trying to improve the silence. Finally, and most importantly, that quiet, solemn atmosphere tends to make people more thoughtful, and prone to more meaningful and intelligent conversation.
So it’s kind of like Numbers Nine, Seven, Six & Two on this list, all rolled into one, with the added bonus that you don’t have to do it alone. Although, if you so choose, you can. I like the sound of my own voice, and in the early morning, after a sip of coffee, I like to softly read poetry to the darkness. It is a good atmosphere, but of course not as good as having a deep, meaningful conversation with a close friend in the dark, something I think we all need to do at some point, just for the pleasant sanctity of it.

I finish the post, and drain the last few drips of coffee from my cup. Then exhale with delight.
  "Today is a good day."
I look out the window at the late morning sky. The clouds above are dark and promising rain. And indeed, the house is quiet and empty, with Dictionary softly snoozing away.
"Hmmm . . . I might watch a movie," I say softly to myself. I get up ready to leave, but a thought lingers, makes me pause for thought, and glance back at the screen of my word processor.
  "It's a little self-centred isn't it? Personal Havens. Perhaps I could get some feedback up in here . . ."

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That is a conclusive list of my top ten personal havens, but this doesn't have to be all about me. What about you? What do you consider your 'Personal Haven'? Do you enjoy one of mine? Or do you have a serene sanctuary, all your own?

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I would love to read your words.