Dieu on the Grass

Category: Uncategorized

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

The Things I miss…

Social distancing has made me realize how much we take for granted. I find myself fantasizing about the day when I can go out and do what used to be everyday things. From enjoying a nice meal at my favourite restaurant, to having friends over for a board game and dinner night, these were things I saw as not particularly special. It’s a strange time to live in where these small things seem almost like a dream from a place and time far in the past. Perhaps this will teach us that it’s the small things that should be valued, and not that expensive sports car, or that fancy suit, which are probably not what you need most right now.

Although I’m an introvert, I also miss just being out in the world. There’s a quote from the film, “The Kindergarten Teacher”, that says, “Loneliness is still time spent with the world,” meaning that even when you are alone, you are still engaging with the world, a world that is full of wonder and mysteriousness, and that in itself has meaning. But ultimately we are not alone, we are all experiencing this surreal and scary time together. I’m hopeful that although the world has drastically changed, we will come out of it with a stronger grasp of what the essential and important things in life are: family, friends, kindness, creativity, honesty, and empathy.

When you could visit Versailles Palace. Right now, I’m looking forward to the time when I can visit a building with people that’s not a grocery store!

Making Macarons

Results of my macaron class. There’s something about their light, fluffy chewiness that makes them so good! 

Painting flowers


This painting took me awhile to finish. It didn’t turn out exactly how I envisioned it, but I’m quite happy with the result. I think flowers are one of my favorite things to paint, but getting all those petals right is so hard!

Painting on paper lanterns




My experiments with ink painting






Read this everday

Sometimes you find lovely gems like this in the World Wide Web. I wish I had read this in my confused and turbulent early 20’s.

You don’t have to achieve great things by the time you’re 25
You have intrinsic value above and beyond your perceived utility to other people and society at large.
You don’t have to have sex, or have sex in any way that you find uncomfortable or unpleasant, to keep anyone’s love or good opinion of you. They didn’t love you or think very well of you to start with if they demand it.
You don’t have to stay with someone who isn’t meeting your emotional or sexual needs because they need you, or you’ve been with them for awhile, or you need to be in a relationship. You need you. Your time is your own and it is finite.
It’s ok to work at a job you enjoy that doesn’t make you miserable even if it’s not a career and it won’t “lead to anything.”
Your life is not a narrative. It is not leading to anything, there is no overarching thesis, it does not have themes beyond the usual shared cultural experiences of your time and place. This is ok. It does not mean that your life is without purpose or meaning.
It’s ok not to like or get along with the vast majority of people you encounter, so long as you afford them the same respect, courtesy and dignity that they afford you.
Expensive is not always better.
Failure is temporary if you’re still alive.
People are both much better and much worse than you’d suspect, but usually not all at once.
Stop thinking of your future self as a different person and it will be easier to prevent money and health problems.
Let people help you, lean on them when you need to, and be available to help, but don’t swing too far in either direction. Try to carry your half of the life basket as evenly as you can.
Set boundaries, and do not be afraid to kick people out of your life who disregard them. You will not end up alone and unloved. People who love you will be ok with your boundaries.
Your power does not come from money or beauty, but from seeing life steadily and wholly, from a curious and thoughtful mind, and from your ability to say no when you want to, and yes when you want to, and I don’t know when you don’t know.
There will be bad times, maybe lots of bad times, but not only bad times.
Love will not heal the wounds in your soul, but love can give you the impetus to begin the work of healing yourself.
Life might be a long series of starting over, and that’s alright.
You’re really cool, you’re really beautiful, you’re really special. Really. Not to everyone, but to a lot of someones sometimes.


Everyday saints


From the beginning

This beautiful short story made me realize how small our lives are, how often we try to analyze and understand the meaning and origin of everything in our lives when all we really need to do is live and see everything for what it is: life.

A History of Everything, Including You
by Jenny Hollowell

First there was god, or gods, or nothing. Then synthesis, space, the expansion, explosions, implosions, particles, objects, combustion, and fusion. Out of the chaos came order, stars were born and shown and died. Planets rolled across their gallaxis on invisible ellipses and the elements combined and became.

Life evolved or was created. Cells trembled, and divided, and gasped and found dry land. Soon they grew legs, and fins, and hands, and antenna, and mouths, and ears, and wings, and eyes. Eyes that opened wide to take all of it in, the creeping, growing, soaring, swimming, crawling, stampeding universe.

Eyes opened and closed and opened again, we called it blinking. Above us shown a star that we called the sun. And we called the ground the earth. So we named everything including ourselves. We were man and woman and when we got lonely we figured out a way to make more of us. We called it sex, and most people enjoyed it. We fell in love. We talked about god and banged stones together, made sparks and called them fire, we got warmer and the food got better.

We got married, we had some children, they cried, and crawled, and grew. One dissected flowers, sometimes eating the petals. Another liked to chase squirrels. We fought wars over money, and honor, and women. We starved ourselves, we hired prostitutes, we purified our water. We compromised, decorated, and became esoteric. One of us stopped breathing and turned blue. Then others. First we covered them with leaves and then we buried them in the ground. We remembered them. We forgot them. We aged.

Our buildings kept getting taller. We hired lawyers and formed councils and left paper trails, we negotiated, we admitted, we got sick, and searched for cures. We invented lipstick, vaccines, pilates, solar panels, interventions, table manners, firearms, window treatments, therapy, birth control, tailgating, status symbols, palimony, sportsmanship, focus groups, zoloft, sunscreen, landscaping, cessnas, fortune cookies, chemotherapy, convenience foods, and computers. We angered militants, and our mothers.

You were born. You learned to walk, and went to school, and played sports, and lost your virginity, and got into a decent college, and majored in psychology, and went to rock shows, and became political, and got drunk, and changed your major to marketing, and wore turtleneck sweaters, and read novels, and volunteered, and went to movies, and developed a taste for blue cheese dressing.

I met you through friends, and didn’t like you at first. The feeling was mutual, but we got used to each other. We had sex for the first time behind an art gallery, standing up and slightly drunk. You held my face in your hands and said that I was beautiful. And you were too. Tall with a streetlight behind you. We went back to your place and listened to the White Album. We ordered in. We fought and made up and got good jobs and got married and bought an apartment and worked out and ate more and talked less. I got depressed. You ignored me. I was sick of you. You drank too much and got careless with money. I slept with my boss. We went into counseling and got a dog. I bought a book of sex positions and we tried the least degrading one, the wheelbarrow. You took flight lessons and subscribed to Rolling Stone. I learned Spanish and started gardening.

We had some children who more or less disappointed us but it might have been our fault. You were too indulgent and I was too critical. We loved them anyway. One of them died before we did, stabbed on the subway. We grieved. We moved. We adopted a cat. The world seemed uncertain, we lived beyond our means. I got judgmental and belligerent, you got confused and easily tired. You ignored me, I was sick of you. We forgave. We remembered. We made cocktails. We got tender. There was that time on the porch when you said, can you believe it?

This was near the end and your hands were trembling. I think you were talking about everything, including us. Did you want me to say it? So it would not be lost? It was too much for me to think about. I could not go back to the beginning. I said, not really. And we watched the sun go down. A dog kept barking in the distance, and you were tired but you smiled and you said, hear that? It’s rough, rough. And we laughed. You were like that.

Now, your question is my project and our house is full of clues. I’m reading old letters and turning over rocks. I bury my face in your sweaters. I study a photograph taken at the beach, the sun in our eyes, and the water behind us. It’s a victory to remember the forgotten picnic basket and your striped beach blanket. It’s a victory to remember how the jellyfish stung you and you ran screaming from the water. It’s a victory to remember treating the wound with meat tenderizer, and you saying, I made it better. I will tell you this, standing on our hill this morning I looked at the land we chose for ourselves, I saw a few green patches, and our sweet little shed, that same dog was barking, a storm was moving in. I did not think of heaven, but I saw that the clouds were beautiful and I watched them cover the sun.

– From New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond

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.



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.



Shine On Award


M Lewis Redford whose poetry I have come to know by chance and love for its real-ness and sensitivity has shared the light with me through the Shine On Award. I am oh so flattered for this.

The rules for the Shine On Award are:

1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you
2. Offer the Award to ‘Shine On’ to other bloggers you know to shine
3. Answer the questions given to you

Here are my answers:

1. What is your favourite colour and why?

I love any colour that is a variant of teal, aqua, blue-green, mint, sea-foam… It makes me think of cleanliness, Tiffany’s, the 60s, candy and the sky, sea, glass… Oh, and I love pastels!

2. what is your favourite light of the day/year? why?

The light in the late evening on a summer’s day through a window. There’s something about light through glass that does something to me.

3. when was the last time you ‘saw the light’?

When I was home alone one day perfectly happy with a good book after a good home made dinner. Simplicity makes all things shining, my dear.

4. who, for you, is the craziest diamond in music?

Ah, this is a hard one. I’m going to have to go with Joe Strummer from the Clash on this one. I went from a boy crazed high schooler who obsessed over the Backstreet Boys to a convert to the School of Punk Rock because of the great Clash. It also helped that Joe had a ton of sex appeal.

5. who, for you, is the craziest diamond in art?

Marina Abramovic. The Diva of performance art.

6. who, for you, is the craziest diamond in literature?

Rilke. As cliche as it is, I think his poetry is like experiencing the sorrow and beauty of life all at once. Read his Duino Elegies and you’ll feel what I mean.

7. are you a crazy diamond?

No, maybe I’m more like a smooth little stone that is happy to just be.

My nominations are:

The Hour of Soft Light : Liana’s photographs I could stare at forever. They are peacefully hypnotizing.

Mari’s poetry is light and dark and love.

The Mirror Obscura – if only my poetry was this good.

Akanedou has the most heavenly nature photography I’ve ever seen. Abstract, simple and yet mesmerizing. Each photo is a work of art and an image of zen.

Kozo’s Everyday Gurus makes me smile and think every day. His honesty and humble posts remind me that to be human is to recognize our flaws and then strive for better.

A Prayer Like Gravity – with a name like that, you know it has to be good! A blog full of words of beauty, light, and spirit.

Chester has amazing, vivid, vital poetry that is just so original that I envy them.

Quote for the day




In the darkness

I’ve always loved old churches.

I loved how inside they were always dark except for the candlelight and the glowing jewelled colours of their stained glass.

I think these dark and old, musty churches with their walls of brilliant coloured glass spoke to me because they reminded me of what true beauty was.


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