Dieu on the Grass

Category: Prose

Where are you from?

For anyone who has grown up as an immigrant with family who were born in another country, you’ll understand how complicated that question is. I get asked it all the time, often by strangers who are just being friendly. The question of, “where are you from” seems so simple but to me, it’s so complicated and requires me to basically tell my life story and more personal details that I’m not always comfortable sharing. My parents were born in Vietnam, while I was born in Indonesia, and then we moved to Canada. I think what people really want to know when they ask that question is, what are you? But for me, where I’m from is just one part of my identity. I’m also Canadian, I’m Vietnamese, I’m a refugee. My skin colour is just one part of who I am, but it does mean I get asked that question.

I used to get annoyed when people who I never met asked me that question, because it happened so often that I got tired of trying to explain my complicated origins. I also didn’t appreciate that only certain people (not white) got asked this question, when European immigration does exist as well. We are a land of immigrants both white and non-white. We are mostly all from someplace else.

Now I’ve come to see it as a more positive question. It makes me feel like I’m in a land of travellers, where many people are in transit to or from another place. It’s a question that implies that the person being asked has history. I just wish everyone was asked that question, because we all have a history, a culture, and a backstory to tell.

Vietnam Memories

The most powerful experience from my trip to visit family in Ho Chi Minh City was visiting the memorial of my maternal grandfather. He was 25 years old when he was killed during the Vietnam War. One day at night, men came knocking on his door to tell him he had to come to a meeting. He never returned, and my grandmother was told he was killed and buried in an anonymous grave somewhere. During the war, people were often suspected of being informers, and in that atmosphere of paranoia, he was one of its victims. My grandmother was also pregnant at the time. It’s a horrifying story to hear, like something out of a movie, but it was something that happened to many people. It was hard for me to not imagine what happened to him. Was he tortured, was it a quick death? These questions will go unanswered.

His memorial was one among thousands of family altars lining the walls of the pagoda. Even though I never met him, I felt emotional thinking about my grandfather, this man who would never know me and who I would never meet. My mother was only a baby when he was killed, and her sister was not yet born (my grandmother was pregnant with her at the time), so that feeling of loss of having never known him was shared between all of us. As we all stood there looking at his photo and admiring how handsome he was, I thought about the strength and resilience of the women in my family. But even more than that, I felt the love we all had for him.

Central Buddha at Viên Giác Đạo Tràng pagoda where my grandfather’s and family altar is held

Art and Life

Visited a museum shop today and while browsing, I came across some handmade jewelry by a local artist. Although the jewelry was beautiful, I really loved her artist statement:

I love the way the Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy, described the importance of art; that it was a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and was indispensable for the life and progress towards the well-being of individuals and of humanity. Art has purpose. It can capture historical events or aspects of nature. It can symbolize a devotion to the divine, protection from evil spirits, the love of two people, or a commitment to a common cause. It can stir our senses and call us to action. Art contributes to our collective spirit. As the worlds economic forces drive people towards homogeneity, our hunger for the special, the unique, and the innovative will most assuredly grow. Art is the antidote to a bland world.

~Franny. E. Strathern

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The Loveliness of Winter

 Outside the window, in the darkened yard, there’s snow. That kissing sound against the glass. It will melt off because it’s only November, but still it’s a foretaste. I don’t know why I find it so exciting. I know what’s coming: slush, darkness, flu, black ice, wind, salt stains on boots. But still there’s a sense of anticipation: you tense for the combat. Winter is something you can go out into, confront, then foil by retreating back indoors. 

~Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin 

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The brittle cold of winter brings out many things, such as colds, numb toes, the early dark evenings and chilly mornings, the layers of coats, scarves, and other wooly things, soft armour to brace one against the biting north winds.

But with winter there are the things that I love the most. The reward and comfort of drinking a whole pot of tea with a good book after braving the snow and ice. These things are so much more enjoyable in winter.

The hermit in me secretly loves winter.

Yes, I get terribly sick almost every time this year, and yes, my skin peels and cracks from the frosty, dry air, and yes the inconveniences of snow blizzards and -30°c below weather takes its toll on everything, but I can’t help but love it. Winter means snowflakes, and cuddles, and rosy, frostbitten cheeks, and the gratitude that comes with having a warm home to return to, and the generous empathy and help for those who aren’t as fortunate to have that.

So, while I, like many complain about the freezing temperatures, I think I would miss winter if it never came.

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I’m all snotty and sniffly, but gosh darn it, this is good tea! Now, I just hope this cold goes away before it turns into the usual “I sound like I’m dying” cough.

Part II: 3 Rules to live by

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1. Be gentle even when you don’t feel like it.

2. Choose one thing to look forward to at the beginning of your day no matter how simple or small.

3. When you don’t have a friend around, chocolate and books are always good options.

Thought of the day

It is better
to be broken
hearted
than
hard-hearted.

A new poem

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~dieuonthegrass

Mirror

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~dieuonthegrass

Connection

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Bite

The teeth of your words leave their mark on my skin.

Sailing

Upon your head is anointed the holiness of life.
Instead of bowing under the heaviness of the burden,
raise up like a ship upon the sea.

~dieuonthegrass

Everyday saints

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Quote for the day

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.”

— Jane Austen, Emma

The logic of the heart

You don’t become a real person once someone loves you.
Someone loves you because you were already real to begin with.

~dieuonthegrass

Rules

Keep your heart generous.
Earn what you have.
Listen as if you are within the mind of the speaker.
Do not give advice unless it is asked for.
If you love someone, tell them why.
Speak your feelings even if it is risky.

Bright eyes

You have the most brilliant, incandescent smile of anyone I have ever met.
Your face becomes brighter than the glint of light off a blade and it makes me think, who needs religion when goodness like this already exists.

Coronation

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A lover’s thought

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High school writings

I came across this old piece of writing of mine in an sketch book from high school and was taken aback by it. Even then, I was an introspective dreamer.
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Quiet time

20130423-005339.jpgAs soon as spring arrives, I’ll be here outside my neighbourhood library by the park and gardens with a coffee and good book. It doesn’t take much to make me happy – give me good weather and quiet time, and life seems perfect.

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