Almond Blossoms

Another excerpt from my memoir, a polished-up and expanded older piece: almond blossom

On Sunday, Jun. 24, Egypt announced its first democratically elected president: Muhammad Morsi. It’s a milestone for any nation. Egypt is no exception.

I ‘d like to say I was huddled in some austere bunker nibbling rations as a radio murmured Morsi’s name through static, or that I was near Tahrir, watching a sea of faces, cheers, and gun shots rattle in the air as people celebrated the pick.

They’d make good stories.

Instead, I was taking a nap. From my window, I heard someone shout Morsi’s name from the street, so I cracked my lids open to decipher the echoes. When no one else shouted, I closed my eyes again.

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There’s a difference between quiet and silence. Before I graduated high school, I climbed

Photo I took from the summit as the sun rose.
Photo I took from the summit as the sun rose.

Mt. Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York State, with one of my high school friends, his dad, and another scout. We started our ascent at midnight, reached the peak by 4 a.m., and waited for the sun to rise near five.

On our walk up, our breath mingled with the humidity, revealing webs of water vapor in the light of our headlamps. We sometimes talked, but mostly, things were quiet: the shuffling scratches and thuds of our footfalls as we scrambled over rocks, the heavy pants of our breath,  The occasional slosh and swallow of our water, and the continued cracking and hissing of wind laced through forest.

Now and then, I’d hear an animal, it’s sudden rustle breaking the background.

Quiet is a sense of monotony, a pattern, like a radiator rattling and blowing in a classroom. You forget the noise is there. It’s like the air, bearing down on us, stirred up in with fingers, vibrating in pulsing with invisible waves. Yet we feel like nothing is there. Continue reading

The Ticking is the Bomb Review

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The Ticking is the Bomb, as seen on Amazon.com

I propped open The Ticking is the Bomb by Nick Flynn while sitting on my bed in a Zen Monastery, day two of a spiritual pilgrimage. It’s an older book, coming out in 2012, but a teacher recommended it.

The day started just before 5 a.m., when some monk jangled a handful of bells outside the door. At the time, I imagined he took a sadistic joy in it.

“Hey, here’s a crammed group of exhausted travelers—how can I give a good start to the day?” he probably thought. “Loud bells!”

Rubbing my head, I greeted the others with a nod.

Night still drenched the windowpanes in reflection as we entered the meditation hall. I crossed my legs into a half-lotus and a bell pitched the space into silence, broken occasionally by the rattling radiator or the rasp of a stuffy nose.

I wrestled with my thoughts for the next hour or so. The rest of the day blurred as we moved from one lecture to another and a silent work call. I stayed in the kitchen, cracking 160 eggs for a massive casserole.

Thirteen hours after waking up, I was choking on Zen. Flynn’s tense prose challenged the backdrop of silence that permeated the day. But I needed it.

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