I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.
Hhhmm, I see a pattern here. I really need to stop overanalyzing these posts before I even write them. Ah, there you go. First goal for 2014. Don’t think, just write.
I have been thinking about this post for weeks. I’m not kidding. Weeks. The different parts have been swirling in my head for some time now but I guess there were too many books to read, feelings to deal with, a mind to put to rest, people to see, gifts to buy, stories to hear, and an emotional corner to reach and turn before I could sit down and write. I also think it has something to do with wanting to do things differently at the tail end of this year. Because 2012’s last two ber months were a blur. By the end of 2012, I could no longer remember where I ended and began and I felt like I didn’t have the time and/or had lost all inclination to reflect, to take stock of the year that went, to think about where I was, what I was grateful for, who I was quickly falling in love with. You know, things normal people do. I mean I was really happy for so many reasons but I had also reached the dip of the expat cycle. The honeymoon stage was over and I didn’t know it. When January 1, 2013 hit, I was unhinged, disorientated and wordless. I remember writing to my close friends in Singapore that first day of last year looking for a way to feel the ground underneath my feet.
I swore I would never do that to myself again.
I also remember, spending the last hours of December 31, 2012 in the middle of Romanceville, polishing a piece I had been working on with my Grade 7 kids, desperately scribbling, typing, revising and editing this poem. Anything to avoid the profound loneliness I felt just a few weeks into my new relationship. As usual, my spirit was filled with impatience, restlessness and contradictions. I thought I was in love. But I had doubts. I thought I met someone worth the time and energy but some things didn’t add up. I told myself over and over, I could make what we had right/work/last if I tried hard enough and ended with the thought, What? Not here again? Damn it, Pau! I thought I recognized him & didn’t know until later that I had recognized someone else. I swore I would never move or fall that fast again. Even if my heart healed a long time ago. Even if he made me really happy for awhile.
Anyway, as much as I have been thinking, I have also been writing bits and pieces of this post for days. In different coffeehouses, park benches, airports and living rooms. Wrote drafts and parts in a new Moleskine notebook I bought to serve as my writing journal for the coming year. I really wanted to pay attention. Choose the right words. And not share them until they were ready. Until my heart was ready. Until I had my word for 2014. Until I knew exactly what I thought of the year that came and went. I didn’t want to feel lost again when the new year arrived. I watched the days of winter break pass me by as I read and rested, hung out with my family, and observed and took pictures instead of blogged. Four books, pages and pages of redundant notes and drawings in my new notebook, a sleepless week, decisions and a brain crammed with emotional stuff later, what I intended to be my last post of 2013, has turned into my first one for 2014. I thought I was too late and then way too early, now I know this post arrived just in time. Here goes …
Before I officially welcome 2014, let me say a proper farewell to a year that wiggled its way into my heart. Thank you, 2013 (and Haikudeck). Here’s to you and the 13* things that have made you some kind of wonderful
(* implicitly includes God and my immediate family, of course #justsayin).
I started biking to and from work for many reasons. One was to make sure I was moving more and incorporating some kind of workout into my day without needing to carve extra time or creating more obstacles to not be more active. Another was I needed to change my morning routine. It reminded me too much of a time when I was really happy and because I didn’t have that routine anymore, it made me sad to carry on status quo. So a girlfriend and I bought ourselves hybrids, practiced and figured out our routes to and from school, lugged a set of clothes, toiletries and groceries the Monday we were ready and started a new habit that we are still committed to today. Biking has forced me to sleep earlier, travel lighter, eat and feel better, find more quiet time and leave school earlier. It’s one decision we made in 2013 that has made a huge difference in my health, well-being and peace of mind.
I love music but I am not like a crazy fan of anyone or any genre really. So many of my closest friends, including my brother, are like music aficionados, complete with blog post series on bands, concert tickets, old CDs or albums and different playlists they searched for and listened to over and over again. It defines milestones for them, says something about who they are and what they are going/been through and I love that and admire them for it. But I don’t think I have that gene. It’s like a relationship I only understand when I think of my love for books or photography or poetry. Or when I think of films and possible songs that will make up a soundtrack filling the air as the establishing shot begins. Anyway, for many reasons, finding Spotify this year has been life giving. Playing music all the time has changed my spaces. My classroom, my home, my commutes and plane rides have all been different. I hardly listen to the old tunes in my iTunes library anymore (which I ripped from my brother, pretty much) and am slowly developing my own muscle for music. I love having access to different types of sounds and discovering what I actually like, what defines me and the best part, sharing playlists with favorite people. I am still no music expert on any single band but I do love walking around with my headphones on curating different soundtracks for different scenes that actually happen to sh*t that’s just playing in my head.
It’s been a rich year for traveling, 2013 So I am grateful for that too. I went home to Manila four times. Went to Thailand thrice, then Perth, Sibu and Cambodia for different student trips. I also got to visit Kuala Lumpur and HongKong to be with close friends and New York twice to spend time with my sister. What I rediscovered this year is my love cities. Everything about them makes me swoon. From the diversity, the lights, the culture, the pace and its pulse – I miss the ocean and the mountains but this year was a year for city love.
This actually deserves its own blog entry but in a nutshell, one of ultimate highlights of 2013 for me was anticipating the arrival of my sister’s first son, Caleb. It was a treat to have been able to spend time with her during her third trimester in my favorite city on the planet, New York and to be able to go back and MEET and spend time with Caleb AND turn 40 in New York City was like the best birthday gift ever…because of this I will never forget you, 2013.
Which brings me here. This also deserves its own blog entry but right now this is what I have to say about leaving my thirties behind.
Yup. This is what it looks like. Me at 40. Right here. Right now. And guess what, it’s pretty darn awesome. I know a little more…more of what really matters anyway. I also understand that I still don’t really know much and yup, that’s totally okay. I am independent, fulfilled, free and hopeful. I love what I do everyday and am surrounded by amazing people. I live in a beautiful country not too far from my family and can rush to my sister in NYC if she ever needed me. I do wonder what’s next but most days, I take it all in, humbled by the open doors and enjoying the freedom that’s in front of me. At 40, I’ve never felt more grown up but I’ve also never felt so young and ready for anything. Does that make sense? There’s so much out there to still learn and embrace and love; and letting go? That becomes easier because I have also become wiser.
You can read my post on it here. One word – EPIC.
My love affair with images and words continues. Music, art, photography, books and writing our own verses and entries- they always, always save the day. Again, let me use Mary Oliver’s words – because this is what photography and words help me do.
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
Don’t laugh. I know. I should have put something more profound um, but I didn’t and I won’t apologize for it today. Because I love that fashion is like art too in many ways. I know it’s a problematic industry and looks like it shouldn’t be celebrated any more than it needs to be but it feels good sometimes to put something together and let it say something about design and style.
Anyway, I think 2013 would have been treacherous without the love and company of my girlfriends, both old and new. They have become my family away from my family.
Seriously, you know who you are.
From saving me from myself to catching me when I fall to trusting me with your own secrets, joys and pain, I love you all. Thank you for always being there.
Heartbreak is only hard while it’s happening, I guess. In the end, because you survive it and come out stronger, it’s all good. You learn from the crappy bits, remember the good stuff, feel grateful and forgive (and hopefully feel forgiven) and just want what’s healthiest for you and your old partner. All the rest, you get to just throw away because it doesn’t serve you. That’s what I did, anyway.
Best part is, I don’t regret, not even for a minute, putting myself out there with my hopeful heart on my tattooed sleeve. I don’t regret loving fiercely and trusting completely. Can I protect my heart better, sure. But I also know that I have learned to leave when I know it no longer feels right for me. I didn’t settle or hang around like I was 23 or 28 or 35. I left like a wise
R 39 year old and didn’t waste any more time than I needed to.
Ah, I guess, I already have three other posts on the back burner because this too deserves its own entry. Ideologically and literally, embracing the sadness is really so much better when you have a tribe to do it with. Sadness comes in different ways, at different times and to carve time today to talk about it and say, ‘I love and accept you whether I get it or not’, has been priceless. Who says you can’t make new real friends as you grow older? It’s just not true. So to my old Twitter/now new IRL friends who I love, respect and admire to pieces, thank you for making 2013 special. You know who you are.
Did I say three extra blog posts? I actually meant four. I wish I could say more about this but I think I will be composing this particular post for awhile. Let’s just say that in the end, 2013’s finish line has been all about this. Receiving and accepting it actually more than my extending it. I take none of it for granted. I am still humbled by it today. Thank you.
Lastly, my second year at UWCSEA-East is coming to a close and my gosh all the learning can’t measure up against a trip around the world and back. Twice! Everyday, I continue to learn something new, consolidating ideas and collaborating with some of the most inspiring, open minded educators on the planet. I am happy to say that I have signed on for two more years and feel like there is no place I’d rather be except where I am right now in my career. My heart is full of love for my place of work, this UWCSEA and Singapore family and I am grateful everyday for all the open doors.
And for all the second chances, 2013…thank you.
Here’s a little something from Google Zeitgeist, 2013 to end this farewell…
And to the new year, a poem, ‘To the New Year’ by WS Merwin. Nice to meet you, 2014. I love you already.
To the New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
Anyway, my word for 2013 was love but now that I think (and have written) about it, should have been rediscovery which would have been a nice segue from my 2012 word for that year … which was discovery. Not that it wasn’t at all about love because it always is, right?
My word for this year is NOURISH, which includes rest, save, balance, read, write and paying attention to what needs replenishment and love. I want to sustain what’s already positive and life-giving while allowing other parts of this amazing life to grow. I also want to be more giving and be more generous to others so my relationships and people around me are nourished too. Because I’m convinced that nourishing others will most definitely nourish my soul.
I have been working on a a set of goals/plans and projects that I have outlined in my Moleskine journal and when it’s ready, I will share it. Just needs to percolate a little bit more. But this recent article on HuffPost Books is the basic framework for most of my plans this 2014 with a special mention of my friend’s New York Times article, Chris H, which inspired me to no end. I hope to someday write with the same heart and conviction but with my voice. Thank you, Chris.
One thing I did start the year with is a Facebook/Instagram fast. People who know me well will know exactly why (and think it’s silly because they completely understand and accept my documenter gene). If not, my #embracethesadness tribe and I will surely have a lengthy conversation about it. I love Instagram but I need some time away from it to discern what’s next with that space. It might change after this fast or it might stay the same but I want to take a step back and reflect on what it has become and what it can be more of. As for fasting from Facebook – it’s just detox from an addiction that needs to be curbed. I am a social media cliche, I know. A post on how it’s going or how it went coming soon. In the meantime, I hope to breathe life into this space and this one too.
So, what’s your word for the year? How do you plan to live 2014 by it? and what was the first thing you did today to mark a new beginning? Drop me a line below to let me know.
And with that, thanks so much for passing by and reaching the end of my massive post. I really appreciate it. Happy New Year! 🙂
grateful slice: Yearly roundups, reflections and new beginnings
Right. It’s been awhile, I know. :p Boo on so many levels.
But I’ve been busy. Busy with my heart. Busy getting back on track. Busy forgiving. Busy paying attention. Busy planning, moving, settling in, teaching, learning, loving and learning some more. Busy letting go. Busy accepting. Busy making up for lost time. Busy resting. Busy recalibrating. Bust traveling. Oh and busy with images.
Yup. Been busy living.
There’s more to it too, of course.
Part choice, part involuntary mutism – there’s always more to it than just the silence of someone’s soul. Um, because it’s never really quiet in there. The total opposite actually. And until some of the wires untangle, and not until breathing resumes to normal, attempting to write about whatever sometimes, especially when nothing is pouring out, becomes counter productive.
Sure, I have been documenting what I’ve been grateful for these past months. Sharing snaps and slices with people I love in my other online spaces. Traveling has made that easy. There’s something about visiting old friends in a new place (Jower in KL) and visiting old places with fresh eyes (Manila and New York City) that allow for this combustion of inspiration. Everything I see right now, I want to shoot and share. So, yeah, I thank G everyday for photography and communities who appreciate photography.
But writing, boy do I miss you. There’s nothing like you and the way you enable/force us to articulate what we are thinking, feeling, learning one word after the other. I have missed you, old friend. I have been cheating on you with my new love, photography and I’m really sorry for neglecting you. Please forgive me because here I am. Mid year. Mid July. Mid summer break. In my favorite city on the planet, doing many of my favorite things with a lot of great people sometimes; alone most days. Am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy right now and I’d like to honor where I am standing right now with this momentum post and an old poem.
A brief background and an extended explanation:
I wrote this poem for and with my students (and co teacher) last school year. I write a version each year I teach poetry actually, so there are many versions swimming around on different pieces of scratch paper, several inboxes, maybe three to four Moleskine notebooks and Pages documents. I’ve read older versions aloud to my class before but I’ve never blogged any of the pieces. This is the first one I’ve shared beyond the classroom. The original post written for my kids lives here. There’s also this writing and photography course I am taking this summer with 89 other women all over the world, who are strangers right now but hopefully won’t be for long, and I wanted to share this post with them. We are on our second week with already two sets of photo and writing exercises. This where I’m from poem (inspired by George Ella Lyon’s version) reminded me of the first writing exercise we had to do – stepping stones to unravel where we have been, which may also reveal where we are headed. Here goes…
by Ms. Pau
I am from an old house on 21 Lilac St.
from rooms with stories, secrets
and slippers in my father’s hands
occasionally hitting the exposed
surfaces of my little body.
I am from extending stolen tearful
glances at my mother who
didn’t know what to do.
Making that first note to self:
never cry where your young
could sense you.
I am from the stone balcony that looked out
at the dusty street
and our big black steel gate
where I watched my
Yaya Shirley leave unexpectedly
after she was almost stabbed
by our other evil helper.
I am from abandonment that I
got to know too intimately at a very young age,
from the expectation to be
strong, silent and sure, which
meant I was being a good girl because
I understood why,
because I didn’t cry.
I am from thinking that moving houses
was never supposed
to be traumatic.
Haunting images of my parents,
partners and friends
leaving me again and again and again
from Sunday tears erupting from my core
for no good reason except the thought
of another goodbye
even years later
as a grown woman
I am from a bigger backyard, a bigger house
an even bigger gaping hole in my heart.
I am from this place where I learned to say the words
“I love you” second and not first;
“I am sorry” first and never second.
I am from Alabang Golf and Country Club,
holding hands, bad poetry read to young crushes
who thought they had found their true love
Big words and alliterative phrases
clumsily strewn together for loved ones I vowed
I would never forget
never wanted to forget
to forget me
I am from betrayal, deep sadness
and harsh secrets learned too early;
from an awkwardness in my own skin
I clung to, not knowing how else to be
from fighting for a self that he, she, and
everyone I knew thought was perfect
I am from everything they said I couldn’t be
I am from one day realizing I had wrapped
myself voluntarily in a cocoon, so difficult
to escape and wiggle out of
feeling like I deserved to hide there, and
to prove me right I had to
break my heart
over and over and over
But I am also from the paper thin wing that
made the first finest tear
the path to redemption and forgiveness
the other wing setting me free…
I am from books that adorn my walls
fortified from anyone who thought I was
illiterate and not critical enough
Yes, from a thousand books
I can’t live without today
A thousand friends who have
kept me company, have helped
me escape, who constantly remind me
all to well about my own humanity.
I am from a hundred films, movies
and pirated DVDs; characters like
Tyler Durden, Mr. Keating, and
Lara Croft, I wish
I were instead of me sometimes.
Their happy endings, misadventures
and worlds combined
leave me envious and confined
As I gaze vacantly at the laundry
spinning round and round
I am from the quest for kindness
gratitude and turning the corner
but still not having a clue
from women’s rights and claiming feminist
and not believing in God for awhile
because according to my Masters Degree
that made me look weak
I am from all of it boiling down to that angry little girl
who wasn’t allowed to speak
or make an appearance
All she wanted was to be heard and be herself
I call her Olivia
I am from writing and writing and writing
during nights desperate for answers
and from days like this, where I am writing
and writing still
I am from many complicated,
complex and convoluted corners
that don’t remember everything
like I thought I did
I am from wondering what it all means to
all of it making sense
I am from seeing the world behind a lens
and through my pen and lined journals
from finding solace
in the sound of the pounding of keys
I am from these eternal lines and shared images
from these two always, always saving the day
I am from malignant tumors
that peppered my neck and upper chest
from cancer that came out of nowhere
but taught me the most important lessons
from being in remission
and from being spared
for a reason
I am from my body image, the final frontier
that is the total contradiction of who I am now
fissures from an old script
of a self worth defined by a society screaming
I need to be stick thin to be beautiful
tiny cracks in my psyche that need
to be filled
healed and sealed
I am from metamorphosis that only happened
when I stopped trying
from being transformed by
gratitude and a love that overflows
from the ultimate well spring of life
I am from my Creator
who reminds me that I am
wretched and yet
still the best thing that’s ever
happened to Him.
I am from a God who says
I made you for a reason and has
a son who helped me understand
the words, ‘I forgive you.”
I am from the earth and the sea and my
sun kissed skin
from beneath the shallow surface
of the ocean, watching dugongs
swim away as I listen to my heavy breathing
and celebrating a heart that’s so full
it could burst at any moment
I am from my Kuya I was born to adore and
and a father, now older, less angry, my biggest ally
These pieces make me who I am
the best bits that make the most sense
most of the time
the very basic
definition of where I belong begins
with Mon and Maqui, Eddie and Rae
the conversations that wow me on
a daily basis
to collaboration, asking important questions
and reclaiming the power of storytellers
I am from always challenging myself as a teacher
and learner and from saying
I can still do so much more
I am from spaces that we create to build a new life
three hours away from where I was born
From missing the sound of the clipping carabiner
to finding peace on the mat
I am from the inked narratives on my skin
that remind me that the pain, it always ends.
I am from love lost, love found
love that I have recently discovered
who recognized me back
as his long lost friend,
match, partner and soulmate
a challenging handful he can’t quit
We are from the shark always being included
in this disastrous adventure
we have begun
I am from my mistakes and
my redemption and transformation
that has already begun.
I am from where I am headed,
where goodbyes become easier
and where everyday there are
I am from today, still alive
more than okay
the best I’ve ever felt
in 39 years
I wouldn’t recognize ennui
if it sat in front of me to have tea
I am from
looking out my balcony
writing these verses for the most important
people in my life right now
finally coming home to a huge party
where everyone is invited
Again, thanks for passing by. Appreciate it.
grateful slice: summer break, time, poetry and honouring where we are from
So here I am.
One more week to go before school ends, which means my facing the inevitable. It has been real for awhile – this idea that I will leave the life I know to give my dream a real chance. 🙂 But nothing prepares you, not one bit. When that moment arrives where you have one week left before it all changes. Nobody tells you how to deal with that.
So yeah, one more week.
I haven’t been able to fully articulate what all this means; how it’s making me feel, and my goodness, what still needs to be done in terms of packing up my life in Manila to move to Singapore. I have covered a lot of bases in terms of contracts, legal documents and such but looking around my pack-rat apartment right now, just surveying my two gargantuan bookshelves bursting with books bought throughout the years (oh, plus my freaking classroom!!!), I have some work cut out for me.
Anyway, even if that’s top of mind (I keep thinking the month of June will be enough to sort all that out), I know I need to stay present in the here and now, to not miss a thing. I am about to leave not just one family, but two, and I can’t say goodbye without knowing what that means. I need to acknowledge it today that this is a very big deal. Case in point, last week. I wasn’t ready last Friday, when the school surprised everyone leaving (there are four or five of us) with a small token and a certificate of appreciation. They asked us to go up on stage one at a time and man, it took everything from me not to weep in front of the entire school (plus some parents.) I remember watching the Middle School students get on their feet to cheer and express what they were feeling, which was also when I went momentarily deaf. I watched the headmaster mouth words at me in slow motion, words I couldn’t hear. All I could think of was, ‘why am I wearing shorts today and don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.’ I smiled uncomfortably for the camera then hopped off the stage. I felt the President of the Board give me a big bear hug on my way out. And that did it of course. Once I hit the ground, I was weeping into my scarf.
I have many future entries already brewing for this drama queen; pieces slowly piling up in my drafts folder devoted to this farewell but they have to wait. For now, in order to stay present, I have to finish marking papers, reading students’ blog entries, assessing spiels for an Egypt fair, recording numbers and writing reports. (I am already done with all that actually, which is how I am able to finally post this entry).
I have to focus. This is part of getting it right.
Anyway, until then, here is a video, a poem by Neruda and a cover of one of my favorite Smith songs by Death Cab. Special things that have made this working Sunday special.
A lot of people have asked me why I would leave Manila and Beacon when I am perfectly happy and content where I am. MM, my good friend and mentor, shared this video on Facebook recently and I think it captures a lot of my why. Not that staying in Manila, where I was born and raised, or staying in Beacon, where I learned how to become the teacher that I am today, the antithesis of #makingitcount. I guess, it’s staying put (regardless of sentiment and attachment) when you know you have to move; perhaps that’s the first brick sealed in place that becomes the foundation of a house built on regrets. I’ve loved and given my all to where I’ve been the past seven years. I guess making it count means, packing my stuff and finding a new adventure some place else because it’s time.
So here’s the video and a poem by Neruda. They both have been able to capture my response to why.
by Pablo Neruda
repeating the same journey every day,
he who doesn’t change his march, he who doesn’t risk
and change the color of his clothes, he who doesn’t speak to he whom he doesn’t know.Slowly dies he who makes of the television his guru,
he who avoids a passion dies, he who prefers
black on white and dots on i’s rather than a togetherness of emotions
exactly those that make the eyes shine,
those that make the heart beat
before error and feeling.Slowly dies he who doesn’t overturn the table,
he who is unhappy in his work,
he who doesn’t risk certainty for uncertainty
to follow a dream,
he who doesn’t permit himself at least one time in his life
to flee sensible counsels.Slowly dies he who doesn’t travel, he who doesn’t read,
he who doesn’t listen to music,
he who doesn’t find grace in himself.
he who destroys his own love dies,
he who doesn’t allow himself to be helped.
He who passes his days lamenting
about his own misfortune or the incessant rain dies.
Slowly dies he who abandons a project
before beginning it,
he who doesn’t ask questions about topics he doesn’t know,
he who doesn’t answer when he is asked something that he knows.
Let’s avoid death by small doses,
remembering always that being alive requires a much larger effort
than the simple act of breathing.
Only burning patience will bring within reach a splendid happiness
And here is Death Cab’s cover of There is a Light and it Never Goes Out. Um, warning: the video is a little creepy. (And nope, Morrissey did not sing this during his concert last week. Boo. Post on that later. )
Thanks for passing by.
grateful slice: time, reflection and yes, one more week
It’s hard to think about the concept of going down without juxtaposing it with the idea of going up. I don’t think it’s possible. Looking at someone going down a flight of stairs, means the seer is on his or her way up. Climbing a million and one steps to get to a specific place, makes me think about the million and one steps I would need to walk down again to get back to where I started. Then there’s the idea of being in the mountains for a week. When I think of the mountains, (and I do love the mountains), I also can’t help but think of the sea. And how I need to be near it very soon.
I know. A little weird, right? It must be the exhaustion.
Sea Fever by John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
All photos were taken in Sagada with my iPhone4. Filters used from Instagram.
grateful slice: the Mountain Province, the ocean and Photography
Two songs on replay on my Igadgets right now. (Thanks for the recommendations, SC).
Nothing like creating several playlists for a long road trip. I can already hear the scoring for this trip’s movie in my mind. LOL.
Now back to marking papers.
grateful slice: music and long road trips (and work breaks)
“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.”
― Ray Bradbury
February is here and it didn’t come as a surprise. I know it feels like we just spent New Year’s Eve/Day half awake and full of hope but February walked a few steps behind January all month long, looming, peering over my shoulder, getting ready to pick up its pace and race ahead. True enough, February has arrived. It has bulldozed my To Do lists and has threatened me with deadlines front, back, side and center. I am taking it all in though. No sense in pressing the panic button. I don’t want to feed the allostatic load and get wrinkles and heart disease in my thirties. I’ve been here before. We’ve reached the crazy season of being a teacher. But everything will work out, I know it, so I take it all in; even if I have the annual trip to the North with the kids staring me in the face right smack in the middle of report card season. Yup, it’s Sagada time once again, which means, February is HERE all right, exactly where it needs to be.
There’s a lot to be said about these trips to Sagada. The first time a bunch of the teachers went up to do an ocular inspection six years ago, we ended up attending a local baptism where the traditional thing to bring home was a plastic bag of bloody pork. It was an amazing thing to be invited into the locals’ homes, to sit and chat and celebrate and hang out. The multitude of tourists swarming the streets of Sagada that year had no idea what was right under their noses. Then year in and year out ever since, by the time February rolled in, the students and four to five teachers got ready to get on a bus, travel all night long and a day to arrive in one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines.
This year, as tired as I am and as overloaded with deliverables as I am, I don’t care. I can’t wait to get on that freezing bus. To take a break from all major cities and bond with the Grade 8 kids. To take pictures with my prime and my new wide angle lens. To breathe in fresh air and eat yogurt churned with butter (I just found that out) slathered on top of big fat strawberries and granola. I can’t wait to wear fleece and gloves and funky bonnets and warm vests. I can’t wait to spend time with Tommy and Vixenne, Mr. Fau, and the humblest of highest chiefs, Pulat. I can’t wait to see the mouth of Sumaging cave, trek down Echo valley to see the hanging coffins and watch the sunrise from St. Jo’s with a hot cup of Sagada coffee. I can’t wait to see the kids interact with this unique community and learn something new about a place that’s part of where they are from. I can’t wait for the bonfire and the s’mores and the Aha moments, new friendships the kids will make and the many little discoveries this place provides opportunities for. I am harassed with work but I can’t wait to get to Sagada where the trees know so many of my secrets. There’s so much in my heart I want to whisper to them right now. Ssshhh…
Anyway, ironically, at the end of the day what I am really grateful for right now is time. It’s my last year to go to Sagada with the Beacon kids and I am glad I have this time to take it all in. After that, five months and some left. That’s just enough time to fall in love (again) with my complex city, time to say goodbye to my home and say see you real soon to everyone who matter (because Singapore is not far and I predict many visitors often); just enough time to pay attention, to take photos, write and document life as I am living and leaving it. Enough time to sort, pack, throw and give stuff away. Enough time to say it’s been super, but I have to go soon; no matter how bittersweet, no matter how uncomfortable, no matter how scary and exciting. Yes, just enough time to know and cherish what I am leaving behind because I am certain I will miss all of it to bits.
Well, thanks again, G. Sagada always manages to make some kind of statement every year, without fail. Welcome, February. I know you will go by fast but I also know you will be unforgettable.
grateful slice: time and reflection
Today, I am extremely grateful for my new friend, Danielle.
I’ve only known her for three days but it sure feels like I’ve known her for three decades.
I have so many things to say and write about this young, beautiful, South African hipster but I will hold off for now for reasons only known to me.
Let’s just say the stories we have already shared involve a flight, chocolate covered almonds, an airport snafu, a Frenchman who needed our help, a baked doctor, a smashed camera, a kind Italian man who could speak French, an ambulance, her awesome project, the stories we create in our heads, a fantastic meal, an enlightening conversation, Oprah and surrendering.
The past three days have been eventful, that’s for sure, and this week would not have ended as phenomenally if I had not met her.
In the meantime, the one important thing you must know about her is that she is the CEO and creative director of the 11 eleven project; a project committed to making the world a better place. Please take some time to check it out and register.
Thanks for making us meet, G.
We were exactly where we needed to be and it makes complete sense to me why you made it happen.
grateful slice: connections that change our lives forever
It’s a good day to turn a year older.
There are many things on my mind
but I can’t complain.
I am in a beautiful place. (Adelaide,Australia)
Doing some of the things I love to do.
(working, talking about a program I love, collaborating, taking risks, learning, writing and taking photos)
Big picture, I am totally stoked and wouldn’t have spent my birthday any other way.
I do have to admit,
that I need some time to mull over all that has transpired these past few days.
Right now though, it’s enough that I stop for a moment and acknowledge that a year has just ended.
So here’s to the best of possibilities and what’s next.
I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.
From “Nothing Twice”, 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh
grateful slice: the promise of possibilities