Early morning, we ate breakfast on a veranda overlooking the pier, and watched this small island town come to life. Our breakfast was always the same - fish and rice, eggs, fruits, coffee for me and my brother, hot chocolate for my sisters.
We talked about the islands we planned to visit, and made sure we had everything we needed for the full day ahead, things like snorkeling masks, a bottle of water, and sunscreen.
Then we were off to the sea, with backpacks over our shoulders.
Have a listen: The Boat Behind
"There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings..."
-Robert Haas, Meditation at Lagunitas
It has been while, I know. I have stories that need to be told, though it's really hard for me to sit down and write these days.
I came back from my trip to the Philippines exactly a month ago, and some part of me is still wishing I were there, waking at six in the morning to swim, or catch the first light of the day, while floating on turquoise seas.
Soon, I hope, I will settle into a routine, and create a space for myself around here. My new place is up on a hill and has a lovely view of the city. On clear nights, I can count the stars from our back porch, and remember to dream again.
And to those of you who still read my blog, thank you. Much love to you.
All photos taken by me, from the islands of Northern Palawan, Philippines.
“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”― Oscar Wilde
Tonight, the moon is full and beautiful. My fingers are tired and stiff, having written letters in the last couple of hours, letters that are now on their way to dear friends, both near and far.
I'm moving in three weeks, and it's also the end of our school year, so life couldn't be more hectic. But there's something about packing your personal belongings that is very solitary and cathartic, and despite this fear I have that I'll never be able to finish everything, there's also a quiet joy that comes from finding notes tucked in books, dresses I haven't worn in awhile, tickets from favorite shows, old Polaroid photos, almost 7 years worth of memories. And the realization that despite all it's difficulties, my life is indeed filled with goodness, and wonderful people, and that I am free to do the things that I love.
And then, I am finally going home, to the Philippines, for two months. I can't be too excited yet since I still have so much to do before then, but TWO MONTHS!!! I haven't been home in years, so I think that deserves exclamation points. And I'm so looking forward to spending time with my family, and breathe the tropical sea breeze of the islands.
I wrote this exactly two weeks ago, after I learned that Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In a way, this is the Side B to my previous post, the same book that I took with me to the park. I wanted to get my thoughts down on paper, because I've been missing it's characters since I read it in January, and I was curious to know why I'm so attached to it.
Here's the transcript of what I wrote (may contain some plot spoilers):
Today 'The Goldfinch' won the Pulitzer. I don't even know why I love it so, it's not the kind of book that I often go crazy about. I think what really won me over about this novel is it's ability to take me to this fictional world and really live in it. I remembered feeling so bereft when I finished reading it - all 771 pages - and really missing the characters in a huge way. I missed Theo and Boris, I missed hanging out inside Hobbie's antique shop, I missed Amsterdam at Christmas, even if I've never been to Amsterdam. That's how 'real' the story was to me.
I know that if I look at it closely, there are some inconsistencies, and too many random coincidences that propelled the plot forward, but I honestly don't care about those things. Because in those two weeks that I lugged that heavy book around, reading it before I go to sleep, reading it in coffee shops and talking to strangers about it, I was completely swept away in Theo's world. I felt his heartache when his mom died, I fell in love with Boris and was drawn to his larger-than-life personality, the way Theo must have been drawn to him, and I wanted to be a part of their crazy (mis)adventures, no matter how messed up and unbelievable they are.
And isn't this the whole point of reading fiction? To be swept away in a make believe world and learn about one's self in the process? Reading 'The Goldfinch' felt like that to me, it was like falling in love with books for the first time, all over again, and being enchanted with worlds and stories between it's pages.
I've been rereading some passages that I highlighted, and this one really stood out for me.
"And just as music is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of color across the sky - so the space where I exist, and want to keep existing, and to be quiet frank I hope I die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair is struck pure otherness and created something sublime."
Has any of you read The Goldfinch? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.
How I Would Paint Happiness
Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No—
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
too beautiful to touch.
by Lisel Mueller, from Imaginary Paintings
Today I briefly sat under this tree, the wind was blowing steadily, and I found a pink blossom that fell on the grass. I tucked it between the pages of a beloved book, and left because it was starting to get too cold. Then I went to a coffee shop nearby and had hot apple cider, while writing a letter to a friend who lives in Amsterdam.
Is it possible to miss a place you've never been? Because I feel that way about Amsterdam, and other cities I've known only through books, or stories from friends and loved ones.
Poem taken from The Paris Review, Issue No. 124, Fall 1992