Fret Not, My Heart

Thank you to all my readers who have been on here, while I have been inactive. It means a lot to me!

My heart is heavy with grief today. I revealed my feelings for a friend yesterday and she doesn’t feel the same way. I waited a long time – a year – to do this. Waiting didn’t make it easier, neither did revealing the feelings. There is some relief that it’s out in the open, but there is some gnawing sadness, holding onto its leg.

I’m glad I did this, that I conquered the fear and that I am honest with this friend.

But, my heart is heavy with grief. And it’s now going through all the memories and mind-pictures that it thought were signs of mutual attraction… and it’s realizing that they were just the signs of a strong, kind woman who is able to express her affection for a man.

Fret not, my heart. You will recover from this, stronger and healthier.

Fret not, my heart. I won’t be unfaithful to you and try to escape by rushing the process of grieving, or seeking another person to medicate the pain. We’ll get through this together as partners and we’ll be just fine.

This woman was different. I can tell by how much you’re hurting, my heart. But I can also tell how much you’ve grown in how you were yesterday. You stayed honest and present. You listened. You responded. You were honest. You are an honest heart now.

Fret not, my heart. This too shall pass.

Truly Beautiful Writing

Swedish author

I’m studying my sophmore year of high-school Swedish. My assignment due tomorrow is about Karin Boye‘s short story Min son blir inte snickare (“My son won’t become a carpenter”). These excerpts* are just truly beautiful: 

Samma stygn som en gång förr, bara mycket starkare och med en lite bitter giftverkan av hoppslöshet, gick genom hjärtat på honom.

The same suture from before, only sharper and dipped in a little poison of hopelessness, went through his heart.

Hans vaknande ungdom kom med ett nytt allvarsdigert medvetande om att det fanns något som hette framtid.

His burgeoning youth dawned on him with a new and overwhelming realization, that there was something called the future.

Han blev tung i bröstet av det där tjocka som kallas längtan.

His chest was filled with that smog called longing.

* All translations my own.

Making Bella

taken 2005

I made a film yesterday and put it online. It’s called Bella, after my late maternal grandmother’s nickname.

Backstory

I have been sitting on this concept for the past ten years. I was denied a chance to say goodbye and see her before she slept in Christ. So, I have been wanting to make sense of all the memories, the final things left untold, and living life without her around.

Returning to Egypt to visit my family, has not been the same since she left. There’s this hole now in Cairo, shaped after her. I spent a few days there in 2012 in my grandparents’ apartment. It didn’t bring me closer to her, as I had imagined. I left feeling the loss more intensely. That’s grieving, I suppose.

The idea

A month ago, I stood out in my balcony here in Stockholm. I hadn’t really been out there since I moved in. And as the bustle from the road, the balcony, and the sky converged in a moment: I remembered Bella.

And then I wondered if I could make that film about her, but here in my balcony.

Concept

standing in the balcony, reminiscing over Bella and remembering her, me narrating, with some of my own scoring and using a part of this song by the Saudi Arabian artist Hussain al-Jasmy. This song is about loss and when I first heard it, it become forever married to the memory of my grandmother.

Production

I shot the footage this morning with my Canon EOS on a monopod. Autofocus, standard lens, that’s it. I didn’t want to be distracted by the technical execution. That will come later, I know.

It was an artistic challenge to see how I could both record enough shots so that it is enough for the narration and so that it’s not much of the same. I tried to use different angles, mimicked some panning, and played with shadows on the walls.

Initial Editing

I went through the footage and made clips. I threw down them quickly onto the sequence in Premiere Pro, as quickly as possible. Some thoughts and pictures came back to me from when I was shooting, so I followed their lead. I played through the rough cut a few times to see how it feels.

I brought up a text editor and started writing the narration as it played through the sequence. In a way, I approached this like a broadcast news story rather than a film – record first and then evince the story from the footage.

After I laid down the initial rough cut, I looked at the shots and see how they worked with the script. I tweaked the script in Evernote, as I decided on the final sequence of shots. To avoid too much time re-recording audio later, I remembered a trick that a friend taught me a long time ago: use text clips in your editing software to play with the rough cut and editing process. This really helped me think through the shots before I touched the mic.

Scoring and Narration

I recorded the audio with the M-Audio M-Track soundcard and SM-56 vocal microphone. Adobe Audition Pro CC is my choice for post-processing and production. I really developed my skills in sound editing after this project.

Final Editing

This was definitely the most involved editing project I’ve undertaken, in that I had 4 audio tracks and several video tracks. After laying down all the audio, I took out the placeholder text and tweaked the edit further.

I wanted to avoid tropes with the opening sequence, so I got the idea to break up the introductory song clip with a piece of narration. Thank you, shower! It worked.

Favorite Moments

  • The intro
  • The shot where the narration says, “When I was growing up…” It was just a simple way to portray growing up.
  • The photo I picked of Bella
  • The flashback audio impression of Bella’s voice. I did it in one take and it’s still haunting me.

Lessons Learned

  1. Storyboarding and planning. Using the placeholder texts in the sequence and going through multiple edits made the whole process straightforward and intuitive.
  2. Good audio makes a difference. I really see the value of good-quality, well-edited, solid audio. It increases the production value exponentially.
  3. Keep the shots simple and cheap. They tend to express what you really want to say, without getting lost in the execution.

What’s Next

I’m brainstorming and ruminating over a film about my late friend Nancy. Stay tuned.

 

Planted in Blue

Water filling my sight
Sitting planted in blue
of air and wet.

The water in my eyes
and the water in my being
and the water before me
finally embraced.

 

A Letter to Myself Today

Dear Mina,

This is an important year. You are at peace, there’s a warm glow in your heart, and you’re living awake.

You’re strong, resilient, and pliable enough to know now that it’s not about one’s own might.

You’re worthy. And you’re believing in that, one day at a time.

This year you allowed yourself to be known and seen, to be helped and cared for. This is a wealth freely given to you by God. Cherish it.

The last 7 months have been a string of little deaths, the quiet execution of old plans, defenses, and traits. And there is a rumbling in the rubble, an equally quiet emergence of someone you’ll soon to get to know as the hidden you. A Mina that is not the final product, but certainly a first draft of the genuine you. You and I are both the process of writing the draft and living out the draft, one day at a time. We are the daily process.

A lukewarm wind is gliding past your arm. The sun is hot, it’s a calm and unassuming sweat today. It’s just us on this pier. There is some longing in you, for it to have been two. But this moment is enough. And you’re documenting the particular marks of this longing.

The party has come to our street. Let the contentment begin.

A Midnight Gem by the Beach

Sometimes, you just discover gems because you’re willing to be curious.

I went for a midnight walk to Hässelby Strand, a nearby beach. I heard some familiar sounds from a distance, it was coming from the barbeque area.

It turned out to be a Middle Eastern ensemble (“takht“) jamming or rehearsing.

I stopped to listen and record.