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
I am a collector and I hardly throw anything away. Not things, vintage clothing, pieces of paper with scribbles on them, memories, letters, pictures, feelings, associations and connections. I am a big believer of documentation, of writing everything down and have been accused of compulsive capturing. This sentimental side, the one that also houses the pack-rat gene, has been there ever since I could speak and then became more pronounced when I learned to write. At some point, this compulsion to take everything down and remember every single detail of what I see and experience, I attributed to being a writer. I figured I needed to remember it all, so I could always fill in spaces and gaps in whatever story, character, poem or essay I come up with. I thought all these things will eventually make it to my future ‘book’ somehow (on what, I still don’t know) so remembering meant material. There was comfort in knowing I could retrieve something, anything, from wherever I stored ‘stuff’ because it was torture to forget.
But today, I am thinking that it’s okay, sometimes, to put the camera down. To let go of the pen or the sticky keyboard and turn the computer off. It’s okay, sometimes, to document experiences and epiphanies in the little cracks of our consciousness instead of hurriedly and clumsily on the page. It’s also okay at times to wait for inspiration, for the best moment, for the mind blowing muse, the worthy snap, before spilling our guts onto a place where people will see them. There IS beauty in silence and power in observation and withholding. I honor that today.
It’s all good anyway because the silence is temporary and from whatever writing and documentation hiatus, the compulsive capturer always emerges with a new way of seeing; one that’s not so attached, harassed or desperate.
These past few weeks have been a blur. I tried, many times, to sit down and write but felt overwhelmed instead. So many things were happening all at the same time. I never knew where to begin. I didn’t know how to back track. How to recall and record.
So,I let it go. Because I realized not writing something down does not always mean I will forget.
Anyway, amidst the blur of loving gestures, emotional goodbyes, surprise parties and special meals with loved ones, packing and sorting through stuff I never threw away, I found myself agreeing to facilitate a summer writing workshop after a good friend and parent requested I do. People thought I was crazy to agree with everything I still needed to fix and arrange prior to moving. But I didn’t care. It felt like a gift, actually. A nice chance to be surrounded by Beacon kids. I thought it would be a wonderful way to ween and manage the separation anxiety.
True enough, this is where I find refuge these days. Twelve brave souls decided it was worth their time to spend eight two hour sessions with me and if they only knew what a treat it has been. To share and teach something I am passionate about. Without rubrics or TSCs or report card narratives. With nothing but the intention to get them started on their own writing journey. One I hope they will keep alive and nurture even after the eight sessions are over.
We are right smack in the middle of the workshop and so far, things are going well. Kids are excited. They are writing and writing and reading each others’ work. They are attempting interesting writing activities and have been blogging! I couldn’t be happier.
In light of encouraging the twelve to start their own blogs and write and share as often as they can, here is a poem I have been meaning to post for months but never had the guts to. I wrote it awhile back and showed it to one person (Joey Tandem aka Mr. Lapid) who helped me refine part of my controlling metaphor and one transition. I felt pleased once we “fixed” it but quietly placed the piece on my desktop thinking there would be a better time to share it.
I guess, now is that time.
Tell me what you think.
by Ms. P
It crawled inside her head
and lodged itself
in the deepest cavities
of her cerebral cortex.
She thought she was,
at this juncture,
impervious to the leech;
didn’t think it would
there it sat
sucking the might
of her confidence
slowly eating away
at her lobes,
without her knowledge.
Nothing prepared her
for the pain
when it dug
its jagged teeth
on the soft tissue
surrounding her decisions
the grey matter of
her insights and
It drank the life out of
everything she believed was
real and important.
Worn out and weary
she wondered why
she could not hold her
heart in her hand,
the usual indicator
that she was in a safe place;
where there were no hidden agendas
or predators lurking
in her subconscious.
Until of course,
alerted the little demon
hiding in her brain
that she finally,
It uncurled and
the little bastard
of her ear
moved on to her shoulder
on to her forearm
passed the tiny tiara
and sun tattoo
on her wrist
only to find its
way on her palm
until she could
close her fist
the little fiend
that tried to eat
a part of who she was
die, douche bag!
from the gaps
of her tight fist
the color return to her cheeks
as she unclenched
her pale yellow
And you? What’s your recent source of inspiration?
grateful slice: my summer writing workshop and my 12 young writers
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
I miss writing. So I promise to do it soon. And more frequently. Photography, it seems, has seized all of my attention the past few months and I can’t seem to unlock my gaze at the world; this life I constantly crave to document one snap at a time because it’s the fastest way to express my love and gratitude. Love for a life peppered with extraordinary moments. Gratitude for each and every breath and step I take. I am extremely blessed and photography has allowed me to say thank you often and quickly.
But I know I can do both. Write and shoot and continue to tell my truth bit by bit. So, that’s the plan. 🙂
In the meantime, here are some recent snaps of my looking/passing/peering/gazing through something. Tell me what you see…thanks for passing by.
by Mary Oliver
Understand, I am always trying to figure out what the soul is, and where hidden, and what shape –
and so, last week, when I found on the beach the ear bone of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought maybe I was close to discovering something – for the ear bone
is the portion that lasts longest in any of us, man or whale; shaped like a squat spoon with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer’s head, it joined its two sisters in the house of hearing, it was only
two inches long – and thought: the soul might be like this – so hard, so necessary
yet almost nothing. Beside me the gray sea was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over its time-ridiculing roar; I looked but I couldn’t see anything through its dark-knit glare;
yet don’t we all know, the golden sand is there at the bottom, though our eyes have never seen it, nor can our hands ever catch it
lest we would sift it down into fractions, and facts – certainties – and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know. Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly I know our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving, which is the way I walked on, softly, through the pale-pink morning light.
(from Why I Wake Early, 2004)
Photos taken by my Nikon D90 or my iPhone4. Snaps taken in Tagaytay and Batangas.
grateful slice: appreciating the obvious and seeing what’s beyond
It’s been crazy the past few months and there are many things that can explain my silence. I will, in the next few days, attempt to tell the many stories I’ve been harboring and gaining distance from to be able to tell them well, but right now I am basking in my own silent space. Just enjoying the utter quiet before the Eve and the solitude before the mayhem. I am grateful for days like these. It’s really what makes rest possible and recovery authentic. Thanks, G.
Anyway, here’s a self portrait slideshow sandwich between two great poems. Have a Merry Christmas everyone! 🙂
S e l f – p o r t r a i t
by Edward Hirsch
I lived between my heart and my head,
like a married couple who can’t get along.
I lived between my left arm, which is swift
and sinister, and my right, which is righteous.
I lived between a laugh and a scowl,
and voted against myself, a two-party system.
My left leg dawdled or danced along,
my right cleaved to the straight and narrow.
My left shoulder was like a stripper on vacation,
my right stood upright as a Roman soldier.
Let’s just say that my left side was the organ
donor and leave my private parts alone,
but as for my eyes, which are two shades
of brown, well, Dionysus, meet Apollo.
Look at Eve raising her left eyebrow
while Adam puts his right foot down.
No one expected it to survive,
but divorce seemed out of the question.
I suppose my left hand and my right hand
will be clasped over my chest in the coffin
and I’ll be reconciled at last,
I’ll be whole again.
|by Adam Zagajewskitranslated by Clare Cavanagh|
Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter half my day passes. One day it will be half a century. I live in strange cities and sometimes talk with strangers about matters strange to me. I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich. I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain. The fourth has no name. I read poets, living and dead, who teach me tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand the great philosophers--but usually catch just scraps of their precious thoughts. I like to take long walks on Paris streets and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy, anger, desire; to trace a silver coin passing from hand to hand as it slowly loses its round shape (the emperor's profile is erased). Beside me trees expressing nothing but a green, indifferent perfection. Black birds pace the fields, waiting patiently like Spanish widows. I'm no longer young, but someone else is always older. I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist, and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses dissolve like cumuli on sunny days. Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me and irony suddenly vanishes. I love gazing at my wife's face. Every Sunday I call my father. Every other week I meet with friends, thus proving my fidelity. My country freed itself from one evil. I wish another liberation would follow. Could I help in this? I don't know. I'm truly not a child of the ocean, as Antonio Machado wrote about himself, but a child of air, mint and cello and not all the ways of the high world cross paths with the life that--so far-- belongs to me. grateful slice: poetry and the quiet before Christmas eve
I stumbled upon Sarah Kay, her poetry and her TED talk about the same time last year and have since shared her work with whomever I can. She leaves the hungry young poets in my Grade 7 class speechless, and me, well, she has me inspired to always write about only what is true, with a small letter t, to me. Here’s her newest TED talk. Nice way to end an awesome weekend.
grateful slice: Sarah Kay and her poetry
Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what was seen during a moment.
Man, these photos bring back such awesome memories. Thanks, G. For making it all possible. 🙂
Photos taken with a Nikon D90 and Canon Ixus: India, HongKong, Sagada, Manila, New York City.
grateful slice: open doors and the guessing that comes with the territory