4 x This Week: Back in Seattle, Inktober (question mark?) and Craving a Book

Seattle Sunset
Look how pretty!

Back again. And on a Wednesday, no less. And on a school day. Sigh.

**1**

I’m back in Seattle! And I start school today, as I have mentioned earlier. Everything in Washington is so beautiful. Sorry Phoenix. I miss the trees.

**2**

There was a book I ran across at the book store that I reeeeeally want to buy. Like, the summary and I just clicked, you know? And I almost purchased it even though I told myself I’d try not to impulse buy books. Plus, this book is pretty new and is $25. (Probably would be like $18 if I bought it on Amazon, but I want to support my local independent bookstore, damn it.)

So… check back with me next week. I might be $25 in the hole by then.

**3**

I’m thinking about doing inktober this year, which is saying something because I am historically bad at doing these kinds of challenges. Remember the 30-ish day drawing challenge? The one that I never finished? Which was about the same length as the month of October?

Yeah, me neither.

I keep saying I’m “thinking about it” even though I just bought new drawing pens and markers. You’re such a hypocrite, me.

Anyway, we’ll see how this one goes.

**4**

Earlier I mentioned that I’m back in school, so I thought I’d talk a bit about the future here. I’m going to keep trying to do these 4x posts, though it may drop down to every other week, since school makes me quite busy. Not that anyone cares, probably. These posts reach, like, what, two people?

Sorry, sorry, that’s just me being salty. Anyway, I don’t want to drop these posts completely because I think it’s good for me to meditate over what happens to me every week, even if it’s not particularly exciting. So I’ll carry on, I guess. Though it will probably  be

much

much

slower.

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4 x This Week: Jazzhop, Mean Dreams, Recycling Gods, and Baked Salmon

Books: York and The Night Circus
York by Laura Ruby and The Night Cirucs by Erin Morgenstern. One’s an “about time I read this” and the other’s an “about time I reread this.” The last one’s a journal. No significance. She’s only there for aesthetic purposes.

This week’s picture I chose because I liked it. No other reason. I haven’t even started reading York yet, but it’s on my list, okay?

But just look at that typography. So gorgeous.

**1**

First off, let’s start with some atmosphere. For the past few days I’ve been listening to jazz-adjacent instrumental music. And by jazz-adjacent, I mean in the realm of “jazzhop” or “jazzy hip hop” or “lounge music,” according to the videos. I dunno, the category of  jazz has always been fairly nebulous to me, because one minute you’re at cocktail piano levels, the next you’re nearer to swing, and then maybe smooth jazz, or even ragtime, and those all sound pretty different. Wikipedia has this list of jazz subgenres, in which jazzhop does not appear. Which is kind a sad, because the name jazzhop has grown on me.

But anyway, there’s like eight hours of jazzhop on these three videos:

I’m also really fond of this Studio Ghibli jazz covers collection.

Really good for studying/focusing/writing or whatever.

And if you’re looking for a new show to watch and you really appreciate this jazzhop vibe, may I recommend an anime called K (sometimes called K Project). Great jazz hop-ish soundtrack, also really like the color tints they add to the animation.

**2**

Rant. I had a dream a few days ago where an internship that I had applied to (in-dream) called me back and told me I got the job, and it was in L.A., and I went, and I think I was involved in product design, and me and my coworkers made grilled cheese sandwiches in the break room. I woke up once again jobless and without grilled cheese, and so far it’s one of the meanest dreams I’ve ever had.

**3**

This may be a Pacific Northwest thing, but having stayed in Phoenix for some time now, I have to ask: why no recycling? I feel a bit snotty saying this, but I guess I’m more environmentally-aware than I’d previously thought (or more privileged in that recycling cans in Seattle are everywhere). Let me break it down for you.

I a) cannot drink the tap water in Phoenix because it is not 100% savory and is not 100% unquestionable, according to my sister, so I have to b) buy bottled water, whose bottles I c) then have to throw away because d) I cannot find a recycling bin in my sister’s entire apartment complex.

It’s official. I have taken recycling for granted. I apologize to the recycling gods for the sheer number of plastic bottles I have sent down the trash chute.

**4**

I thought I’d share my experience baking salmon. I bake salmon a lot. I love it. Another Pacific Northwest thing, I guess. It’s actually pretty easy and fast, if you can find salmon on the cheap. So here’s how it goes.

How to bake a salmon in the oven.

First, pick yourself out a good fish. Salmon or steelhead will work. Steelhead is pretty much like salmon only it’s actually classified as a trout. But whatever, still tasty. So, when you go to get your fish, smell it—fresh fish either has no smell or a slightly sweet smell. Fish that smells like fish is old fish. You can also check for freshness by looking at the eyes: clear eyes, fresh fish. You’ll want a good fillet, so the eye thing might not help. But who knows.

Fillets: typically I go for a fillet of one whole side with the skin still on. You can get it without skin, but I find the fish has better texture, is more moist and stays together better if you bake it with the skin. Plus salmon skin is delicious, especially the parts that get all crunchy in the olive oil (more on that later.)

So now you have this fish. If you’re not gonna use it right away, wrap it in some plastic wrap, then wrap that in foil, and put it in the freezer, then defrost it whenever you want to use it. Otherwise, take the fillet and rinse it with some cold water. Just let some sink water run over it, then pat it dry with a paper towel.

Get a baking sheet and line it with foil. It makes cleanup easier.

Put a drizzle of oil on the foil-lined sheet and spread it around for a thin layer. Then put the salmon on the sheet, skin-side down. Get some more olive oil, and cover the whole salmon. Make sure it’s entirely covered, you’ll probably have to use your hands to rub the oil around.

Once that’s done, seasoning. Usually I just stick to salt, pepper, and some paprika for fanciness. One trick, though: for even more fanciness, sub out the salt for some smoked sea salt. It makes it taste a little bit more like you grilled it on an open fire, even though you clearly did not.

Okay, now the oven. 425 degrees for 15 minutes usually does it for one whole salmon fillet. Once time’s up, you’ll want to check the salmon by taking a knife and sticking it in the thickest part of  the fish. The knife should go through easy, and when you look inside the cut, the meat should be opaque, and not translucent like the way raw salmon usually is.

That’s pretty much it. If you’re a lemon-and-salmon type of person, I would advise against baking the salmon with lemons on top. While it looks pro, baking lemons makes the lemons (and thus the fish) kinda bitter, so I’m not totally in love with the idea. Try just squeezing some fresh lemon instead.

Aaaaand you’re done! Easy peasy salmon. If you’ve got leftovers you can save them, or you can mash up the salmon with some cream cheese + mayonnaise + maybe more salt to make a salmon dip. Maybe throw in some onion powder. Chives. It’s good with chips, or on a bagel.

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4 x This Week: Phoenix, Aimer, and Lightless Rooms

Airplane Sunset on My Way
Sunset from my airplane seat on my way into Phoenix. How did I get this gorgeous shot? I have no idea.

The photo is a bit deceptive. It is beautiful. Light. Almost whipped-cream adjacent.

This post is not.

**1**

I’m in Phoenix! If anyone is reading these 4 x This Week posts (which you’re probably not, but I’m trying to practice being an optimist), you might remember that I mentioned that I would be visiting my sister in Arizona two weeks ago. And then I didn’t. And I went to Seattle last week instead.

Well, I finally made it to the Grand Canyon state. As expected, it’s hot. Like, really hot. As I am typing this (at 8:36 at night, sun is down) the current outdoor temperature is 102 degrees. Now, 100+ degree weather is not what you would call my forte, but I’m coping. We have air conditioning. The sunsets are amazing. I’m adjusting to the heat… sort of.

I can’t say the weather isn’t exciting, though. Saturday there was a weird storm thing happening. In the morning it was sunny as usual, and then all of a sudden in the late afternoon it was raining and the wind was blowing hard enough to break the palm trees down the road. It was kind of fun, but then again I didn’t have to go outside, so.

Update: It’s 10:00 and there’s a storm. Lightning, wind, dust, the works. And yes, it is 92 degrees.

Second Update: 10:15 look it’s raining. A lot.

Still 92 degrees though.

**2**

Right now I’m listening to Aimer. She’s a singer from Japan and I absolutely love her voice, as well as the rock/emo influences in many of her songs. I just found out she’s on Spotify, so she’s been on repeat for a few days. The first song I ever heard from her was Brave Shine, which I highly recommend. Also, I really appreciate the whole blanc/noir theme of her two collection albums. And cats! With crowns!

https://i2.wp.com/aramajapan.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/aramajapan_blanc-noir.png?fit=1024%2C518

**3**

Writing: right now I’m at 42,816 words in my latest draft (give or take—I skipped over a section but also tend to write a lot of notes). I feel like the story needs to happen along faster, or that 42,000 words is a bit much for how far I actually am in the story. But then again, they say that when writing you should worry about the word count later. For now, just write.

Right?

Also I think I have too many characters moving around in the story right now… which I feel has actually been a problem for a long, long time. I guess I just never felt like addressing it. Well, not properly, anyway.

So if the person who is reading this right now is actually me from the future, I hope you’ve done something about this. And if you haven’t? SIT DOWN, GRAB A PEN, AND FIX IT.

NO, DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT.

FIX. IT.

**4**

Besides all the stuff above, nothing is really happening right now. I mean, if you don’t count my inner turmoil (which is almost always happening, *eye roll*). The thing is, I knew something like this would pop up eventually—that one day I would sit down to write this post and realize that there is nothing of interest for me to write. Nope. Nothing. Blank.

Most days I just wait for my sister to come home from work, since I’m not at school and do not currently have a job. It’s just minutes upon hours upon days upon months of in-between, transitory waiting time. And in those minutes to hours to days to months, I get these flickers. Flickers of fear, flickers that I will be forever in this waiting limbo. Doing nothing, contributing nothing, enjoying nothing. Just… waiting for something to happen to me that is not a blood sugar crash or a panic attack.

I can rationalize and say that this transitory state is, by nature, transitory. But I can only realistically see this and/or feel it to be true once I am outside that state. It’s like being in a room that’s completely dark, a room whose dimensions are unknown. It could be five feet across. It could be a hundred. But I won’t know until I cross the lightless room, touch the walls, and possibly find a light switch. Until then, I am endlessly in the dark, waiting, waiting, waiting.

For eternity? Maybe.

…Anyway, sorry. Got a bit depressing there for a moment.

On a lighter note, I have realized that Emma, my current read, is actually the basis for the movie Clueluess. Huh. You learn something new every day.

***

Well, that’ll be all for today, folks. Stay tuned for the next 4 x This Week, where we’ll discover whether or not our young heroine can pull herself out of her own misery. Will she be forever waiting in a lightless room? Will she find a job? Or is her life about to take a turn for the worse? Find out next Monday!

Aaaaannnnd We’re Back

Stone Park in My Hometown
It’s like Stonehenge… but without the stone

Hello there blog, I haven’t seen you since… wow, April? Really? That’s a long time. Anyway, I’m going to try to blog again, which I know you’ve heard a million times before. But it’s summer now, so I guess I have more time to blog, in between dealing with the crazy people in my house and walking to the library two miles away.

(On my first walk this summer I crossed through the weird/cool stone park in the picture. Definitely didn’t know that was there.)

As exemplified by the stone park photo above, I am trying to improve my photography skills. For some reason, this means adding a lot of yellow to my photos when I edit them. I don’t know why. Everything is bluuuue gold *cue Halsey song*

Along with improving photography skills, I’m also going to be doing more writing. I used to be up to 2000 words a day at one point, but now I’m back to 300+. I say “+” because I usually write more after 300. I forget where I heard it first, but someone had the idea of giving themselves a goal of 300 words, since they’d usually get into the flow by then and keep writing after 300. Hopefully, though, I’ll to get back to 2000 soon.

As for the blogging, I think I will attempt to do something new, and hopefully easy: once a week I’m going to list nine (four? five? seven? I’ll decide later) things that stood out to me during the week. In addition, I’ll try to post about my writing journey or other things at least once a week as well. We’ll see how that goes.

I think that’s it for today. Next post will probably be on… Tuesday? I think I used to blog on Tuesdays.

Obviously I am a master at this.

Well, farewell for now.

Inspired by Books: Me and The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

(Note: Post is kind of long today. Trying to get back into the writing habit.)

There are times, when writing, that I love my story.

And then there are the times when I forget.

It was a week or two ago when I had one of these feelings. It wasn’t necessarily writer’s block—I knew what I wanted to say, what I wanted to happen next in the narrative, what I had been excited about the week before. But whatever it was, I just wasn’t excited about it now.

The feeling is the equivalent of your favorite food being put down in front of you when you are not hungry, or perhaps when you’re sick and can’t eat a lick. My brain registers, Oh, this is my favorite food, but my body rejects it. The same kind of thing happens to me in writing, in reading… in a lot of areas, actually. These things have cycles. Some days I write voraciously. Some days I read so deeply that I forget that I’m sitting in a chair in my living room. And then, some days, I don’t.

Anyway, I was thinking about my writing, and why I didn’t like it like I should. I made revisions, but they weren’t helping much. I knew it wasn’t so much that I had grown tired of my subject, so much as that I was just tired in general. And I wasn’t very excited about what I was writing. So I asked myself some questions: What books had I been excited about before? What books had resonated with me? And what had made them so?

Thus begins a self-reflection in my relationship with books. Books have had a profound impact not only on me as a writer, but me as a person—as I’m sure any reader can attest to. But I think that it’s important that I, especially now, look back and see what, exactly, has influenced me.

Not sure if this is going to be a proper series of posts or just a one-time thing. Either way, this won’t necessarily be a book review. We all know how those go, for me at least—which is to say, horribly. No, this won’t be a review, but a reflection. More personal in nature, and more random, too.

Plus, I haven’t put anything writing- or reading-related on the blog in a while. It’ll be good to get back to that.

So now the question remains: what has influenced me?

My answer: an ocean the size of a pond.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman came to me at just the right time and place in my life, in the summer of 2013 right before my senior year of high school. Had I read it at any other time I think I still would have loved it—but because of where I was at and what things I held to be true in that time, I was able to understand something I’m not sure I could fully grasp before or after.

As I sat down to first write this post a few days ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. I had liked The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It was good. It had left me with a profound, air-light feeling in my stomach after reading it, something only truly great books ever do. But other than those things, I wasn’t sure where to go next. It had, after all, been three years since I’d last read Ocean. I’d forgotten some of the specifics. So over Thanksgiving weekend as I returned home, I scuffled through my stuff, dug up my copy of the book, and reread it.

I was not disappointed.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about an unnamed main character who goes back to the place of his childhood, and begins to remember things he hadn’t before about when he had lived there. Most of the book takes place in this man’s past, when he is seven. A strange turn of events leads him to become friends with Lettie Hempstock and her family, who have a pond in their back yard that Lettie claims is an ocean. It’s also a story of how he and Lettie confront some pretty dark forces that have come to the neighborhood.

There are “superficial” things I like about this book—that is to say, things on the outside I’d probably still like even if my experiences growing up were different (after all, with different experiences, I would probably have related to the book differently.) Neil Gaiman is a master writer. His prose is familiar and magical at the same time. In fact, so are the stories and places he creates. But The Ocean at the End of the Lane holds something specific about me in between its pages—and I think that thing is the memory of childhood. Or, at least, it’s one of them.

I suppose I was a storyteller as a child, but not in the way that I think authors usually are. Many established authors can find books they made as kids, written in crayon with random, brief plotlines. The urge to read and write seemed to strike them early, as if they were born knowing and continued to know it. I didn’t think much of either of these until I was probably fourteen. I suppose I’m not an established author, though, so there’s still time to prove this theory correct.

I never really wrote as a child. But I imagined. I made up characters and worlds. I had imaginary friends. I knew they were not real in the way that I knew that characters in storybooks were not real, but just like those same storybook characters, my own imaginary ones felt more real to me than anything in my life. They had not existed, but that did not negate the possibility that something like them could exist in the future, or in another place.

As a child, everything I discovered was most personally mine. I wasn’t swollen with selfishness, necessarily. But I was the protagonist of my own narrative into which others appeared periodically. Like that Taylor Swift song, my entire world was one block wide but that only made everything bigger. Since my immediate world was so small, and I knew there was more outside of it but not what that outside stuff was, the outside world seemed vast and endless and full of possibilities. In a sense, because the bounds of my inner world were tiny, and because I didn’t know where the outer bounds were, the entire outside world took on a magical quality and became boundless. The conglomerate universe of these worlds was paradoxically small and large at the same time. I’d often look up the street, a place where I’d never gone on my own, and imagine what was past the houses that I’d never seen up close, what lay beyond the trees obscuring the view, how weird it would be to touch the brown paint on a house that seemed very far off.

Now, as an adult, I can pretty much guess what’s beyond the houses even if I haven’t been there: it’s more houses. Furthermore, if I want to know for sure what’s over there, I could walk. Drive if I was lazy. Or look it up on the internet.

But as a child, it was magic to wonder what was beyond. It was an adventure just to go see, if I ever managed to. I didn’t manage to often.

And that’s how it is, isn’t it? As kids we aren’t surprised by the prospect of something more being out there, but we’re still in awe of it. We can believe impossible things, even though we haven’t seen as much as the adults. We aren’t concerned with the bounds. We haven’t seen them, so why can’t they be a million miles away?

This is often what I think about when I think on The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The entire book takes place in this one-block-wide kind of place, and yet the book is its own little world, with the unbounded possibility extending the edges. But more than that, it’s also about how these worlds that used to be real to us can—and probably will—be forgotten.

Like I mentioned before, of all the books I’ve read, my relationship with my childhood is probably best represented through this one. Not to say that my childhood was close to this—but more that the truths that I knew as a child are truths that I find in Ocean. I remember adults not believing me—not necessarily because either of us was incorrect, but more like we were speaking different languages and it was hard for us to translate. I also remember big battles that my parents didn’t (and couldn’t) know about. Not being able to explain to my parents why I wasn’t hungry. Letting very few into the inner circle of my world.

But that summer of 2013 between my junior and senior years I also remember being afraid of losing my world-system.

I was, in a way, growing up. Not in the sense that I was learning to be responsible, as many people would say. As a child I was fairly mature, and I think fairly responsible, or as responsible as a child could be. But at seventeen I was losing the very last remnants of my sense of wonder, of boundlessness. I was aware of the real world in ways I wasn’t before. I knew where the edges were, undeniably now. And they were much closer than I’d anticipated.

That year and the year after, my world was simultaneously crumbling and being built. I was preparing for STEM careers, and preparing for the tests that led to those careers. I was meditating on college. I was ambushed by what I can categorize now as an anxiety disorder, something I’d never experienced in such force when I was young. My home life was abysmal, and at certain points in time, hopeless.

But in that same year I started my first “real” draft of the novel I’ve been working on. My classes were all successes. I was learning compassion, learning to pay better attention to the people around me. I knew with no small certainty that this was the year I’d look back on and see many events that had defined who I was.

But I was gaining things at a slower rate than I was losing them, I felt. I was forgetting something I never wanted to. I had been comfortable in the worlds I’d built before. But the world in my head and the world outside were now melding, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

When I read Ocean now, it’s a reminder to me of the worlds I’d forgotten. Much as I hate to admit it, I’m more like the man, attending a funeral forgetting about my past. But reading it then, in high school, I was in the midst of the memory, steeped deep in the middle of the ocean where I knew everything. And I was Lettie Hempstock, in a way, trying to protect something that maybe I couldn’t and later trying to see if it was worth it.

I suppose, more than anything, this book is a comfort. It nudges me, reminds me of things I used to know. But it also reminds me that I still know them, deep inside. It has a part of me that I have inadequately tried to describe here. This story is about a child, but the lesson is for adults. What that lesson is, I am still not a hundred percent sure.

Perhaps I will not feel this way about this book years or even weeks from now. Perhaps I am over-exaggerating, still high from reaching the end of this wonderful book again.

But this is accurate, I think. For now, it’s true.

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Blog Birthday and an Announcement :)

Cases of salt from the market on Granville Island in Canada

Little Atmospheres has survived two years!!!! *hooray! confetti! confetti*

I want to thank all of you who have ever read a post of mine–it really means a lot.

Now, I’ve promised an announcement, and here it is: I’ve decided to join Flickr! So… we’ll see how that goes. But I’m hoping for the best!

You can see my photos on Flickr here.

And if you’re wondering about the photo at the top, it’s actually a picture of bunch of salt in small cases that I found in Granville Island in Canada. It’s one of my favorite photos. What does the salt have to do with anything? Well… nothing. But I like the photo, haha.

Happy birthday blog!