23 March 2022


So I turned 39 a couple of weeks ago, and the first thought that entered my head was, Shit how am I going to celebrate my 40th?!

A 47-year-old trainee said that she threw herself in a 40 Days of Skiing revelry. At that time, she explained, she was getting into this new hobby and it was a turning point for her. Cool. Not my style of "big", though. Can't see myself writing 40 poems, staging a 40-song recital, or eating 40 artisanal cakes.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I would love to do a nude photoshoot. I had wanted to do it before. In fact I did a half-nude version in 2002.

I was part of the college literary folio and one of the members had this bright idea to have a nude cover for our next issue. They asked me to model. No need to convince me, I was up for it. I liked myself, I liked them, I liked what we do.

In the end none of the photos we shot were approved by the organization adviser who will not be named in this post. I lost to Julie Lluch's Thinking Nude. A close-up shot of her sculpture of a woman examining her body in front of a mirror made it to the final copy of the journal.

The editors probably cared more about the rejection than I did. I got a copy of my photos and was very happy with them. Well, not all. There was a frontal shot I'd rather forget — I honestly don't know if a copy or the negatives still exist somewhere.

I framed two of my favorites and displayed it in my room. My mother got angry when she saw it and told me that I could showcase the pictures when I have my own house. I was surprised by her reaction, since I didn't do it out of malice or as a form of rebellion. But fine. It's now standing in my apartment's vanity dresser.

It wasn't until I was around 33 when I felt that my body was in its best shape. I couldn't wear shorts or a nice skirt in my teens and twenties because of a skin condition that I only got to solve when I started working and had the money to pay for a dermatologist. After that breakthrough, I also became more disciplined about exercising and my eating habits.

This affection grows as the years roll and my internal state is catching on. If you ask me, I am my most beautiful self — physically and internally — today.

A feeling of having been born is akin to the feeling of having been made. You're a clean slate yet somehow you are also complete. Inside, I am young. But when I look at the number, 3 - 9, 4 - 0, it's as if someone is telling me to be old. To act my age. How do 40-somethings act nowadays?

Rhetorical questions aside, last night's chat with my girl friends had me thinking about why I am open to being photographed nude yet I hesitate to send nudes to potential dates and partners (yes, I am conservative that way). Truth is I refrain from reading about nude portraits because I don't want to ruin the experience. I don't want to read any criticism of it. Because I can do it myself.

Schitt's Creek has this super relatable episode about Moira Rose and her leaked nude photos. Turns out there are no pictures of a young, vibrant, and naked Moira online. And she regrets it. We share the same impulse. Materialism (corporealism?) and vanity.

Part of me wants to preserve what I will surely lose in the future. Another part of me wants to flaunt what I've got. The nude portrait I have in mind may not be as profound a self-reflection as the woman in Lluch's artwork, but dammit I'll say it out loud: I want to be my own work of art — to be enjoyed by whoever cares to view!

Whereas "sending nudes" is meant to titillate, which is perfect in the context of dating or having fun, but again my conservative side would rather avoid it.

Happy 20th anniversary to my half-nude photos. Never thought I would love my present self way more than the 18-year-old girl whose back is turned against the observer.

21 March 2022

Piano lessons

Learn slow to learn fast.

Everyone will say this in one form or another, in passing or in depth. I'm quoting above the exact phrase said by the first piano teacher who first said it to me. It's the cliché that isn't because the more you play, the more you relearn its truth.

You can't make it if you can't hear it.

Fascinating how producing a sound is similar to writing. (As soon as I typed and reread that sentence it seemed so common-sensical!) A haze is in your head and you have to lock it into shape. Now once you go outside of your mind and put things down to words, the shape shifts into something else. Not wholly different but definite.

I am having interpretation problems with a certain section in my repertoire and my teacher advises creating a general story that would make sense throughout the entire piece. I get it, however I am a bit skeptical because I've had enough experience with creative people sharing the backstory of their work, and the theory and philosophizing are often way more interesting than the actual work.

A coherent narrative helps, though. Sure it will not register 100 percent from your mind's ear to your fingers and out the sound board (speaker in my case lol); and the fidelity goes much lower once it reaches an audience. Yet that is not the point. The point is you have an anchor to your act, a North Star to your journey and other such metaphors. I should listen to my teacher more.

Be an idiot.

There are no stupid questions. What we have is little time to ask all of them. My suggestion is to pick your most idiotic idea to discuss with someone else.

It also happens that we think we are super brilliant. So share your brightest idea to someone else and be open to disagreement.

The only place I'm devoid of any trust issues is in front of the keyboard. There is freedom in knowing I have no one to compete with in this discipline. That I won't be, I don't have to be, and I don't want to be the best here. Nothing is at stake. That's why it's easier for me, I guess.

I would participate in recitals and mess up and move on. My motivation undiminished.

I had a teacher who actually made me feel like an idiot and I moved on. My love for music and respect for teachers undiminished.

Oh wait, I joined a 'battle of the bands' in high school and I messed up the keyboard part in one of the songs. I made up for it in the next song. Heh. Good times.

I wish I could be as vulnerable in other areas of my life. Maybe I'll be as happy.

No one does it alone.

Even if solo piano is my vibe, I need at least a coach and an audience to be good and to be happy. Once in a while I feel a pang of loneliness. Sometimes it's a hunger for a thoughtful listener, sometimes a desire to play with others.

Back in my very first year of piano lessons, I was playing a short excercise piece and halfway through, my teacher, who was seated to my left started playing along. Normally I'd panic and would probably be so bothered that I'd stop. Something in the way she snuck into the music made me feel comfortable to the extent that I started enjoying myself.

Few moments had been as magical as that moment in the practice room.

10 March 2022

Poem 3, 2022

Birthday Line Breaks

Aphoristic couplet

I seem to have forgotten much of what I've done
Which really pretty much was none



I seem to have forgotten much
of what I've done
Which really pretty much
was none


Clever and deep

I seem to have
much of what I've done
really pretty

much was none

—Razel Estrella (16 February 2022)

09 March 2022

Cosmic waltz

Cracked open Volume 1 of Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (which I ordered at a music shop sometime in February) and I am loving it so far. Wonderful break from the repetitiveness of Czerny and the predictability of the common method book. Note: I adore Czerny and there is value in repetition, but I crave variety.

My favorite is Excercise 33, Slow Dance. The title is suggestive, plus it's in 6/4 time, so there are enough cues to make the job of teasing out the music easier.

But the key, I think, makes it special, makes the notes ring like a cosmic waltz.


And the word Mikrokosmos may be interpreted as a series of pieces in many different styles, representing a small world. Or it may be interpreted as "world of the little ones, the children".

—From the Foreward by Peter Bartók, son of Béla Bartók

I like this. I really, really like this variegated cycle of mini piano pieces. In each page I feel like a child for whom everything is a discovery.


Here's another exercise I enjoyed from the first book.

On to the next one—

04 March 2022

Poem 4, 2022

The Idea

Write down your ideas.

I did last night,
got out of bed and grabbed
a pen and paper and, like a child
chasing fireflies, caught
bright ends of a thought.

Sleep came quick
when my head hit cushion,
for a piece of my mind was safe
by the bedside table.
My body unburdened by the weight
of the unrecorded.

Morning arrived without flourish.
Neither the jolt of bad news.
Work was fine, the meals far
from sublime, small talk
and I was back to my room.

A glint
from the cap of a pen.

Ah, the idea.

Like a child hungry
for an endless gaze at her prized insect,
I hopped towards my conquest.
Two hands on either side of the page.
Eyes shifting
till they stopped in shock.

I got out of bed for this?

In front of me, before the red sun was my idea,
dry as a paper wing.

—Razel Estrella

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