Music Monday | Anchor – Novo Amor

The Room of Ancient Keys
by Elena Mikhalkova

Grandma once gave me a tip:

During difficult times,
you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future,
not even what might happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Take off the dust.
Write a letter.
Make some soup.
Do you see?
You are moving forward step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Get some rest.
Compliment yourself.
Take another step.
Then another one.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow
bigger and bigger.
And time will come
when you can think about the future
without crying.
Good morning.

Music Monday | Nightswimming – R.E.M. & Losing My Religion (R.E.M. Cover) – Passenger

Twenty-odd years ago when I was still in my teens, I worked at an American Christian summer camp. In our last week, before we all disbanded to travel back to our respective colleges, jobs, and to resume real life, a group of us went skinny-dipping in a shallow cove just around the corner from the campfire bowl. It was the naughtiest thing I’d done, up until that point. We weren’t even allowed to wear two-piece bathing suits at the camp.

R.E.M.’s Nightswimming always reminds me of that evening; bare, barely visible bodies gliding through the water in the dark. Occasionally, a flash of skin, shining in the moonlight. Hushed whispers became squashed giggles and suppressed shrieks. We absolutely could not get caught. I wasn’t self-conscious in the dark, not like during the light of day.

Years later, I learned to play this piece on the piano. And sometimes, when I want to be transported back to the most carefree time of my life, I still do.

Songwriters: Bill Berry / Peter Buck / Michael Mills / Michael Stipe
Nightswimming lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

I worked at a few other Christian summer camps in the years following, in Canada. And while I believed I believed in God, there was always the struggle. The effort of maintaining a personal relationship. Of course, there were times that I thought God talked back. But you can believe anything, if you really want to.

While Michael Stipe of R.E.M. has frequently said he did not write Losing My Religion about religion (“losing my religion” is an old expression from the southern region of the USA meaning to lose one’s temper or civility, to be at the end of one’s rope experiencing feelings of frustration and desperation, or that moment that politeness gives way to anger), I still associate this song with the loss of my own religion. Church was an integral part of my teens and early twenties but my experiences since have shifted my perspective dramatically.

It didn’t happen quickly and it didn’t happen publicly. I hid it for a good few years. But as I’ve deconstructed and deconverted, I’ve also recognised the damage and trauma that it has caused.

And now I have things to say.

Songwriters: William Thomas Berry / Peter Lawrence Buck / Michael E. Mills / Michael Stipe
Losing My Religion lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Music Monday | Girl – SYML

Sometimes our bodies will hurt for some time
And the beauty in that can be hard to find

Songwriter: Brian Fennell

In February of 2010, without any background in writing — other than a Year 10 Creative Writing elective which the teacher generally slept through — I hesitantly began to turn a blinking cursor on a blank page into keystrokes that created sentences.

I was writing to save my life; I was sick, I was sad, and I was trying to make meaning out of the madness I’d found myself in.

Margaret Atwood says a word after a word after a word is power. And as I continued to write, I began to figure out what it was that I thought and felt. I began to find my own power.

Over the last ten years, I’ve written personal stories publicly about my experiences with mental health, body image, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, meditation, mindfulness, yoga and relationships. I’ve also written privately. Even occasionally had work published, at times under a pseudonym due to the content.

But I’ve kept writing. And the beauty I have found through that process has healed me in unexpected ways.

A few weeks ago, I entered an essay titled Sexy Nails, about my struggle with OCD during the COVID-19 restrictions, into the Writers Victoria Grace Marion Wilson Emerging Writers competition for creative non-fiction. Last Friday, the winners were announced.

I wouldn’t even know how to go about judging personal stories and experiences and I’m glad it was not my job. But I’m also thrilled with the judge’s comments on my entry: Sexy Nails’ weaves past and present together seamlessly, telling both the writer’s story and her grandfather’s, and shines a light on a specific chapter of history that is not often explored. By grounding the work in the physicality of her fingernails, Agafonoff takes a risky writing bet that pays off, resulting in a piece that is haunting and visceral.

The piece will be published in the October/November edition of The Victorian Writer.

https://writersvictoria.org.au/writing-life/news/announcing-the-winners-the-2020-grace-marion-wilson-emerging-writers-competition

I will keep writing — about my life, my body, my mental health and anything else I am trying to figure out. And I will find the beauty in all of it.

Music Monday | White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane

Someone I love(d) sent me a photo with a message the other day that said “remember this place? xx”

And I do. It’s my old apartment building. Nine years ago, I lived in the far middle apartment with a view of the beach. I miss this place. It was small but cozy. And it took me less than fifty paces to put my feet in the sand.

Back then, I’d sit on my balcony and smoke. And listen to Jefferson Airplane.

Music Monday | Nuvole Bianche – Ludovico Einaudi

On May 14, 2014, I wrote this of you. The date is important because it would be less than two weeks later that I’d meet G.

“Thank you,” I text, after an arduous afternoon, “for everything. Always, for everything. Love you. xo.”

“Thanks for the bunny!!” you reply, referring to the chocolate-Easter-bunny-egg thing I’ve been carrying around with me for weeks because each time I see you I forget to give it to you and this time, I finally remembered.

I laugh to myself at your reply. But moments later, my phone beeps again. “I love you, too.”

This time, I don’t laugh. A smile teases my lips and I push my head back into the head-rest as I drive, listening to…something. It doesn’t matter.

It’s true, I say to myself because you aren’t here, I do love you.

And I wonder what might have happened if I’d gotten my heart together, stitched it up, only to let it burst wide open with love for you way back when your heart was curious. But these are idle thoughts. Merely observations because I don’t long for things to be different. And I wonder about all the things that have happened since. And the only truth I’m sure of, is that I am so grateful for your friendship. For your steadfast love and care. And, for you, looking after my cat.

On the weekend just gone, you came to visit us; G and me, and my cat. Years ago now, you introduced me to Ludovico Einaudi’s music and late last year I saw something pop up in my Insta feed: Ludovico Einaudi in his first Australian outdoor performance. “Come,” I wrote to you, “please? I’d love to see this with you.” So you booked flights and I booked tickets. And on Saturday night we sat entranced at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl through Einaudi’s latest creation: 7 Days Walking.

Of course, he couldn’t not play one of his most recognised compositions, Nuvole Bianche. And so in the encore, he did. As he played, I pondered the last eight years. You were so good to me at a time in my life that was particularly awful. When I was particularly awful. And again, I was reminded, that I am so grateful for your enduring friendship. For your steadfast love and care. And I love you.

Music Monday | Sleep Baby Sleep – BROODS

A friend I haven’t heard from in a while got in touch today. Our contact is sporadic but consistent. I have loved him in all the ways it’s possible to love someone over the last 21 years. I love him still. He’s had a rough month; a sliver of the hard news, his cat passed away in his arms a few weeks ago.

I once wrote a poem about her. Or about him. Or about us. Whatever it was about, it was called:

His Cat

His cat is whoring herself
out to anyone
with a warm lap.

She chews on a belt loop
and looks up
disgruntled
when prodded to stop.

She sighs, stands, turns around and
returns to sleep.

It is surreal
or perhaps just
unreal
to think that life could be
like this.

It can’t.

She wakes again
his cat
murmurs and bathes
without leaving my lap.

Circa September 2010

Sleep, baby Piper. You were loved. You will be missed.