catching up

Hello friends! I'm back from my unplanned blogging hiatus. Lots and lots of things happened while I'm gone that I don't even know where to begin. Well, let me start with a good news: I'M GOING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS! This was one of the reasons why I've been so busy lately, I had to keep all my paperwork in order and buy all my Christmas presents before I will leave for the Philippines. I'm almost done, thank God, though I suspect that I'll be broke as a joke after New Year's. Oh well.

Two weeks ago, my niece from Chicago came to visit us and we took her sightseeing around the city at night. I've never done this before because its often foggy dring the night and you really can't see anything much anyway. Fortunately for her, the weather was gorgeous, so we went driving along Highway One during the day and sightseeing around San Francisco at night. We walked across the GG bridge just after sunset and I must say, it was magical. Definitely something one should do on a clear evening. Here's a picture of us at the bridge, and yes, she is way taller than me!


where i live



This week's Totally Optional Prompt is about places. I decided to write a few haikus to give you a glimpse of this multifaceted city I now call home:

stack of houses
on a photogenic hill --
tourists gaze in awe.

* * *

café in North Beach
poets meet and write --
bikes wait outside.

* * *

downtown train station
bearded man plays guitar --
young girl looks away.

* * *

streetcar crawls
up and down steep hills --
the fog is lurking.

small pleasures



"Maybe happiness didn't have to be about big, sweeping circumstances, about having everything in your life in place. Maybe it was about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures... Maybe that was all you could ask for." -- Tibby from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

I just love this quote. It is a gentle reminder to be grateful for those little pleasures in our lives that we often take for granted. And so today here is my string of happiness:
* Sunlight coming through the blinds and bathing my books by the window.
* Finding a perfect parking spot without having to drive around my neighborhood in circles.
* Taking a short nap at the end of an exhausting work day.
* An evening walk around Duboce Park and Lower Haight.
* A poem following me around and never letting go until I finally sat down and wrote it. (It's still very raw and scattered but I might post it later).

a lazy, feist(y) day

Here I am listening to Feist and the pitter-patter of rain. Perfect excuse to stay in and lounge in my pajamas, don't you think? I actually saw her concert last night and oh, it was soooo good. So much so that I'm still floating in the wonder of it all, inspired to do something that I can pour my heart and soul into. Watching Feist perform onstage does that to you - she's a truly gifted singer and boy can she play the guitar!

And she sang this song that had me grinning from ear to ear:


If Feist sounds vaguely familiar, that's because her song 1234 is actually featured in the new iPod Nano commercial. I can't say anything about the Nano because I don't own one, but I would definitely recommend her new album The Reminder, easily one of the best ones this year.

so true


"We need experiences larger than our problems. We need to see we're wearing the ruby slippers all the time." ~Richard Bartlett

Photo taken at Half Moon Bay, November 3, 2007

swing's eye view

I was once a therapist in a clinic full of swings and they did wonders to the children that we worked with. Now, more than ever, I need something to lift my spirits up and thought that a ride at the swings might just be the cure that I need. So off I went to my neighborhood park by the hill where I can see the city's skyline just in time before dusk slowly settled in.



And yes, I realized that I still have a lot of things to be thankful for. The gift of solitude, even for an hour. How the golden sunlight made the city glow in the distance. The crisp autumn air as I went up and down the swing. Breathing in and out and not thinking of anything else. Being able to wear flip-flops in November. Oh, and some bit of sand between my toes. =)

vivid



I am juggling a lot of things in my life right now. But amazingly enough, I've never felt more invigorated. I'm sure it has something to do with the sun and the gorgeous weather that we had this weekend. And oh, the news that I'm already an aunt! Yes, my sister-in-law gave birth to a baby girl last Saturday and I can't wait to see her although I have to wait for 3 months to do that since the rest of my family are in the Philippines. But no matter, I am still excited. I am a tita! *cue the silly grin*

Yesterday, I went out for a morning walk and forgot to wear my glasses. I am very nearsighted so everything was a blur from afar. Funny thing is, it forced me to look at things more closely and it made me feel like I was walking inside this poem by e.e. cummings:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

I guess we all need to walk around in a blur sometimes in order to really see.

here's to friendship...


and getting together for the first time, 7 years after our college graduation!

trading poetry

What if someone asks you to write a poem in exchange of a book from this publishing company, will you say yes? You can have one of their books for free PLUS a chance to be published on their next poetry anthology. Easy enough decision, right? Except of course, I forgot one little thing. I have this terrible stage fright and that includes writing on-the-spot poetry.

This happened at the Lit Crawl last night, a 3-hour literary crawl along the Mission District as a culminating event of San Francisco's annual literary festival called Litquake. Just like last year, I felt like a kid in a candy store, too excited to even think straight. Let alone write a poem.

But I did try and came up with 2 short stanzas that refused to go anywhere. It was frustrating but at the same time there was nothing I could do about it. The lady at the poetry trading post was so nice, she let me pick a book even though I had turned in an unfinished poem. This in turn made me feel guilty afterwards and I promised myself that I should write a poem and post it in my blog. So here it is.

* * *

At the Poetry Reading

A crowded room. Someone is reading
but I could not understand a word
that he said, even the accompanying
fiddle spoke in a very foreign tongue.
Though I nodded just like everyone else
went through the motions of one who knew
exactly what she's doing, turning pages
of the program I picked up at the door
closed my eyes, pretended I saw the gritty
subway he painted, hear in his howling words
a familiar story of human pain, touch an inch
of broken skin, anything, anything - nothing.

Later they gave me a pad of yellow paper
and pen. I watched in fascination as page
after page, everything I have ever written -
from those first big letters of the alphabet
to those flowing river-lines of cursive,
the stories I pounded away on computer keys
in the middle of the night - all of them
scattered before me, a confetti of words
and syllables skimming air, so close
I thought I heard them call my name
but their voices were gone long before
I could catch them with the pen.

* * *
I know I had just said on my previous entry that I wanted to take a blogging hiatus. But a girl can always change her mind, right? Especially if its about something exciting like
this new poetry site. And special thanks to Clare for sending me over to this blog. Now I can look forward to my Thursdays again!

yes, i'm still here

Two days ago I received this e-mail:
"Dear Ode, What is up with you? I have called several times and left an email. Are you still in the country? Much love, L. "

And then I got this text message from one of my closest friends:
"hey, just wanted to make sure ur ok. haven't heard from u."

Truth is, this past week was one of those times when I really just wanted to keep quiet. I've been so busy (oh, how I hate using this word) and I realized that I need to step back and think about things for awhile. And as always, I sought comfort in words, and I found these lines from Rilke's poem called Lament which helped me understand how I felt:

I would like to step out of my heart
and go walking beneath the enormous sky.


I too walked a lot. And I found that with every step that I took, it became easier to go out of my heart and walk back towards it at the same time. One cold evening, at the end of my walk, I wrote this in my journal: I walk to find myself again/the wind shaking trees knows/exactly what I meant.

I have no idea where those words came from. But there they were, written on a page. I'm glad that we had our first pouring rain this week for it gave me the opportunity to slow down, enjoy the little pleasures of reading a good book and sipping hot cocoa, and just BE. I'm not sure where exactly this quiet time will take me. Just know that I'm still here, thinking of all of you.

* * *
Here is a postcard taken along one of the stairway walks in my neighborhood:

After the Rain

ah, poetry...



Eversince I saw these words inscribed on one of the plaques at the newly restored Jack Kerouac Alley, I have been looking for its original text. Finally, I found it today and was blown away by the beauty and honesty of Ferlinghetti's words. It is quiet long, but I picked some of these lines which speaks to me right now.

* * *

What is poetry?
Love lie with me, and I will tell.

Poetry is a lawless enterprise.
Poetry is the truth that reveals all lies.
All the world is one poem, all poetry the world, give or take a bomb or two.
Poetry is what we would cry out upon coming to ourselves in a dark wood in the middle of the journey of our life.
It is the light at the end of the tunnel and the darkness within it.
It is the morning dove mourning love, and nothing cries out like the cry of the heart.
Every great poem fulfills a longing and puts life back together.
A poem can be made of common household ingredients: it fits on a single page
yet it can fill a world, and fits in the pocket of a heart.
It is a pulsing fragment of inner life, an untethered music.
It is the sound of gaiety while weeping.
It is the sound of summer in the rain and of people laughing behind closed shutters down an alley at night.
It must be more than want ads for broken hearts.
It is worth nothing and therefore invaluable.
It is a high house echoing with all the voices that ever said anything crazy or wonderful.
It is a humming, a keening, a laughing, a sighing at dawn, a wild soft laughter.
It is the existential dance of the self and the other.
Poetry is at once sacred and pagan play at its most utopian.
Each poem a momentary madness, and the unreal is realist.
It gives voice to all who see and sing and cry and laugh.
The poet must decide if bird cries are cries of ecstasy or cries of despair.
What is the use of poetry? If you have to ask, you need it.

Taken from "What is Poetry? A Rough Draft of an ARS POETICA" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. You can read the entire text
here.

* * *
Update 10/4: Today could very well be the end of the Travelling Poetry Show and Poetry Thursday and I won't lie, I am really sad. But such is life, I can only thank my lucky stars that I was a part of this community even if it was only for a short period of time. Thank you Liz and Dana and everyone for helping me find my way back to poetry again. I will still continue to post poems here, especially on Thursdays, and hope to "see" all of you around the blogosphere!

from where i'm sitting



After an overly long meeting at The Presidio this afternoon, I decided to clear my head and take a short walk around area. Eversince the school year started, I have been constantly running around, if not physically, also mentally. For even if I'm not doing anything, my mind is still thinking about all the things that needed to be done.

During my walk, I kept reminding myself not to think about my "to-do" list, just concentrate on the walk itself, one foot after another. That didn't work. But I kept on walking anyway. After a while I found a tree stump and decided to sit and write a poem from there. Actually, its still a draft but I want to share it here because of its significance today.

{notes from where i'm sitting}

still life bay. sky, trees,
mountains, sailboats, all
at rest. even the water,
not a ripple or sound
as if everything here is
standing still, paused.

i see the bridge, picture-ready
in red. i ask, does it ever
grow tired of posing for the
camera? if it wasn't painted
red, will it still be famous?

red, burning, deep red.
the color of monks' robes in Burma,
a splash of blood on the streets,
a light that says stop - red.

no wonder everything is standing still today.

* * *
This is my (early) contribution for the Thursday Travelling Poetry Show, hosted by Tracie Lynn over at The Red Door Studio this week.

writer's island

For some reason, I only want to write small poems lately. Maybe its because so many things in my life is so disorganized right now that my writing is an attempt to at least be as short and as neat as possible. This one was inspired by Cletus Nelson Nwadike's The Poems in My Heart:



I locked the poems
inside my heart
and never gave
the key
to anyone.

somehow they
escaped
and gave me
a voice
instead.


* * *
Explore the Writer's Island and read more responses to 'The Key' here.

sunday scribblings

I've been writing this poem in my head all this week, trying to find words to describe how I feel about the changing season and its overall gray skies. What started out as a random list of word associations finally came together as a small poem. Coincidentally, over at Sunday Scribblings today's prompt is "Hi, my name is..."

autumn

autumn falls
to explain the word
melancholy -

scattered leaves
trailing behind me
in a rustle
of collective
sighs.

a thursday poem

Peace Lily

This morning before I left
I saw pleats of your leafy
skirt hanging low, spine bent
as if taking a bow before
the last of the summer sun.

Was it only four months ago
when I picked you out in a
nursery brimming with hope?
Someone told me you are
easy to grow, he must have
known I'm no green thumb
starting small with you.

Now I look at your yellowed
edges and know its only a
matter of time. The wind
beating impatiently on
the windowpane tells me
none of this is my fault
that I had you blooming for
a season should be enough.

And yet, why do I still feel
like I committed a crime?

* * *
Check out more Thursday poems over at
jillypoet who's hosting this week's Traveling Poetry Show.

back from SoCal

I just want to give a huge shout-out to Max and Jane who are now honeymooning in Maui. Yay to the newlyweds! That said, what is it about weddings, flowers, and churches by the sea that makes one sigh and dream of ever-afters?

My friends and I, mostly single and happy to be, laughed it off as a temporary aberration of our overworked brain. But still, wouldn't it be nice to have a candlelit wedding in this glass chapel overlooking the ocean and have your names inscribed in those lovely garden bricks?


a postcard


No Thursday poem this time. Things are just (too) crazy at work right now. But as always, the world gives me a reason to catch my breath. If only for a moment. And enjoy this spectacular view from the corner of 19th and Noe Sts. Then I'm off to sunny Orange County tomorrow night for my dear friend's wedding. Wishing you all a great weekend filled with unexpected joys along the way! =)

my imaginary life

When I was little, I wanted to be a gypsy. Though I wasn't even sure what a gypsy is, I just imagined a life completely different from my own. Mine was full of rules which I never broke, predictable, unexciting. I wanted to live a bohemian life, to see different places and cultures, belonging to no one. Here is a poem about my imagined gypsy girl with a lovely collage I found over at Holly Loves Art:



She smiles, giving nothing
away, hiding a caravan
of stories between the
layers of her billowing skirt.

She dreams, finger-walking
along ridges and maps
written on the soles
of her wandering feet.

* * *
Explore the Writer's Island and read more imaginary lives here.

la valse d'amelie

Finish paperwork. Do laundry. Buy dress for Jane's wedding. Prep for treatment activities. The list goes on and on. Just even thinking about it is enough to make my head spin. The word "swamped" is an understatement. But what can I do? I can either whine and start pulling my hair or take a deep breath and try to relax a little. I decided to do the latter.

So here is a glimpse of a movie that never fails to make lift my spirits. Paris, unforgettable characters, and falling in love - all in the wonderful world of Amelie. This film is so lighthearted and whimsical you can't help but smile and wish you have a bike so you can pedal anywhere. And the colors, oh the colors, are just lovely! I read somewhere that the director portrayed a bright and clean Paris to show Amelie's view of the world around her and it works perfectly. I want to curl up in her lovely couch and watch old movies there. And oh, I just LOVE this song:

a thursday poem

The Path
by Jack Hirschman*

Go to your broken heart.
If you think you don't have one, get one.
To be one, be sincere.
Learn sincerity of intent by letting
life enter, because you're helpless, really,
to do otherwise.
Even as you try escaping, let it take you
and tear you open
like a letter sent
like a sentence inside
you've waited all your life
though you've committed nothing.
Let it send you up.
Let it break you, heart.
Broken-heartedness is the beginning
of all real reception.
The ear of humility hears beyond the gates.
See the gates opening.
Feel your hands going akimbo on your hips,
your mouth opening like a womb
giving birth to your voice for the first time.
Go singing whirling into the glory
of being ecstatically simple.
Write the poem.

* * *

The first time I read this, I felt like it was written just for me. Poetry has been a part of my life since I was little but after some of those love poems in my youth, I never really allowed myself to write poetry anymore. For a long time, it seemed that this poetry path is something that wasn't for me. I thought I didn't have the courage to put myself out there and be vulnerable in such skinny string of words.


But this past summer, I found poetry again. Or rather, poetry found me. And I have never been more in touch with myself. Yes, there's still those times when I ask "Do I really want to write this? What will they think of me? Who wants to read this anyway?" Every time this happens, I always tell myself to stop. Stop and just write the poem. That's all you really need to do.

*San Francisco's current Poet Laureate

jeepneys and a lot of love



My first thought when I saw this truck was, "Oh look, a Philippine
jeepney at the Summer of Love!" I was so excited to see this familiar fixture of my childhood, one where I spent too many hours sitting in traffic going from one place to another, that I actually elbowed my way amongst a tie-dye wearing crowd just so I could take a picture of it. Ah, I miss those good ol' jeeps.

According to CNN, some 50,000 people showed up for the
40th anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love at the Golden Gate Park last Sunday so you can only imagine the craziness. It was fun though, luckily we found an empty patch of grass and spent an hour or so people-watching from there. Love and peace everyone!


See more pictures on my Flickr photoset here.

sunday scribblings: the end

Since I started writing poetry again this summer, I've been going through all my journals to find my poems. I've kept a journal since I was 15 so you can only imagine all the digging that I have to do. It was so much fun though, some of the poems were so cheesy I was rolling my eyes and getting side-stitches from laughing too hard at the same time.

What struck me about my sophomoric poems were three things. First, they were all about love. Second, they were mostly unrequited love. Third, they all had this air of finality about them. Like these lines:

Why does it have to be this?
Everything leads me to you
and I can't remember
without you.

This was my first heartache, not that the boy even cared. Last time I heard he dropped out of college, got someone pregnant and moved to a different island. He was always a player. But I liked him anyway and at that time it sure felt like he was the only one for me. Here's another poem:

How long is lone?
it begins and ends
with the thought of you.

I guess when you're young, it seems like all endings are just that - endings. And it was so hard to see beyond your pain. You want the rest of the world to stop and mourn with you. But as your heart gets broken again (and again) you'll learn that endings are really just beginnings - the chance to believe and start over again. My poems also started to evoke these feeling as I grew older. Like this ending lines from a poem I wrote in college:

Soon, you will give your life to another.
Soon, I will relearn how to laugh again.

And soon your presence will become
but slowly fading echoes
surrounding my heart.

* * *
Ah, this might be the first and last time that I'll post something about luv here. But who knows? Read more responses to prompt #75 "the end" over at Sunday Scribblings.

hoarding summer


View of the city skyline from Dolores Park

Remember this poem? I realized that just because I'm back to work now and the season is changing, it doesn't mean that I can't enjoy the outdoors or do something creative anymore. Yes it will be tricky and I will have to stay on top of getting organized with paperwork but I can do it. I need to do it.

September and October are San Francisco's warmest months so at least the weather will be on my side. From now on, I will try to post an entry of 'My Everyday Summer' in this blog which can either be a picture, a poem, an event, a video or anything else really as long as it relates to my favorite season. Since I live in SF, the photos and events will mostly be in and around the Bay area. Stay tuned.

And here's to making everyday a summer day wherever you may be!

a few of my favorite things

Goodness, first week of school was hard. I ended up coming home very exhausted everyday. Decided to go to Chrissy Field later this afternoon to unwind. Thank God for the ocean, I soon forgot anything work-related and realized that most of the things that I really need is inside this tote:


my journal and its companion purple pen
a book of poetry, Neruda of course
peppermint-chocolate Luna bars, some water
a sweater (the fog can roll in any minute)
my little camera and a muted cellphone

Have a fabulous long weekend everyone!

of summers and open windows



When I think of open windows, I think of the sun waking me up in the morning, curtains dancing with the breeze, long drives in the country while singing to my heart's content, drive-in movies at the park - all things related to summer. So for this last week of Poetry Thursday, I wanted to share an ode to summer, which just like PT, I am not quiet ready to say goodbye yet.

* * *

Hoarding Summer

I want to chase the sun
and linger on hilltops
highlighted in gold.

I want to feel the wind
free my hair in a veil of waves
as I walk along the shore.

I want to watch bonfires
flicker with the stars while
their shadows play on the sand.

I want to keep my feet
warm on a quiet tickle
of grass, a floor of earth.

I just want to stay here
where the days are long
and I can write my stories.

* * *

Read more Thursday poets here.

on your mark

get set go!

The kids are back in school today. Lots of crying, clinging, paper-shuffling and hovering. When I say hovering, I meant the parents, we saw a lot of them peeking at the windows, standing close to classroom doors, lingering at the playground, sitting in their cars at the parking lot - I even wondered who's more nervous, student or parent.

Meanwhile, I think summer took all of my brain cells because I was so out of it today. I forgot some teachers' names and I can't remember where I placed some of my working files. I need a couple more days to get back to the routine again, thank God I don't start seeing kids until next week.

So then as I was going around the classrooms trying to figure out a schedule for my kids' OT sessions, I kept running into the kindergarteners and always, always they were standing in line, with their teacher right to the side. They were standing in line at the playground, they were standing in line in front of the principal's office, they were standing in line at the bottom of the stairs. I had no idea what they were standing in line for and don't they have to go back to their classrooms and read stories and sit in circle time?

Finally, it dawned on me - they were practicing how to stand in line! Duh. I'm so slow. I looked at them in their neat little line and for a split second I wanted to be a kindergartener again. You know, back when everything around you is still big and you stare at the world in wonder and you kept wishing for the bell to ring for recess so you can show off your new Power Rangers lunch box to your classmates. How uncomplicated life was then.

My reminiscing was cut short though when I heard a cry, followed by the sound of footsteps running down the corridor, then heavier footsteps until I saw a first grader with chubby cheeks and his teacher running after him. Apparently that was the third time that he ran away from his classroom today. Poor kid. I know that feeling. For didn't we all, at some point in our lives, wanted to run away from something that overwhelmed us?

But ready or not, school must go on, our lives must go on, no matter how many times we want to run away from it. I just wanted to give him a big hug.

budapest

My writing is kind of hit or miss lately, there are moments when I am so inspired to write and everything around me is drenched in metaphors, while there are also those times when all I could write in my journal were a few scattered, nonsensical sentences that weren't exactly going anywhere.

Today is one of those "miss" days. My mind is too full of my to-do-list now that I'm back at work again and every time I start to pick up my pen or open a word document, I got sidetracked to doing other things. Truth is, all I really wanted to do is lounge in my pajamas, browse the Internet for hours and eat ice cream for dinner - which I did, except for the ice cream part because I already made plans to meet with friends for dinner.

But the web is such a wondrous place, I found a poem by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins and I didn't feel so bad about not being able to write anything. I figured, at least I "showed up" to write, so that still counts right? Funny thing is, after I played this video a couple of times, I've also written some "dutiful lines". They may or may not be useful later but what's important is I tried, even if I was daydreaming most of the time. Watch this lovely animated poem below and tell me if it inspires you to write:




Oh, I so want to be in a city where I have never been! Don't you?

poetry thursday


Alamo Square, taken on December 2, 2006

One thing that I've come to love about San Francisco is the fog and its cold summer evenings. I know, 58 degrees seems freezing in August, but I actually like it that way. Its perfect for meditation and long walks. That said, I wrote this one for Poetry Thursday, inspired by a prompt on first and last lines. I choose a line from one of Rilke's poems as my first line.

The sky puts on its coat of darkest blue *
coloring trees, flowers, narrow alleys

I walk past a line of tall houses, bay windows
reflecting the first light of streetlamps below

In the corner, a small park sits still, soft grass
carpet waiting for dogs to sink in their paws

Slowly a shroud of fog floats, thin white
sheets hiding oceans, faraway sleeping hills

It is evening. Soon I will turn around
to follow my shadow-steps again.

*Taken from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke as translated by Stephen Mitchell

magic

We didn't really know where we were going as we drove up the coast along Highway 1. Somehow we ended up on this secluded beach just in time for sunset. The golden light was blinding, the wind was buzzing, sand-dust swirled everywhere. And with my hands shaking from cold, I pointed my camera towards the light, the ocean, and the distant cliffs:


Dillon Beach, taken August 18, 2007

postcards from the bay

I was feeling a bit under the weather today. Especially when I realized that summer is almost over and I have to start working again on Monday. It seems like July and August went by so fast and I haven't done all the things that I wanted to do yet. Plus that dent on my car and some other concerns about my paperwork for immigration. All headache-inducing. Urgh.

So I did what I always do whenever I feel down - walk around. I rode the bus to the Marina and walked all the way to Crissy Field where I took pictures and watched some wind and kite surfers play with the waves. It was so beautiful out there. There really were no other words to say except thank You.






I hope that wherever you are, you will also find things to be thankful for. {See the rest of the photos on my Flickr photoset here}

from my window


Photo by taqri85 on Flickr

I've always loved looking out from an airplane window. There are defining moments in my life that I can vividly recall looking out towards a vast sky and feeling all sorts of emotions. Like that time when I was so depressed sitting in the front row of the plane with my fractured foot and I wondered if how long will it take for me to walk again and then I saw a breathtaking sunrise from the window and knew that everything was going to be alright.

Or when I left my country and my family for the first time, sitting there at the window seat of Philippine Airlines, how I felt so alone, terrified, and yet so free. I was only 23 then and didn't know what to expect about living in a different country and starting grad school. Then I caught a glimpse of Southern California, with its endless rows of twinkling lights and winding freeways and realized that my life will never be the same again.

It's almost like being in a liminal state, a sense of being not here nor there, when you look out of the window thousands of feet above sea level that makes you sigh in wonder and feel as though anything is possible. And so it was with this feeling that I wrote my first haiku(s) two days ago:

cotton candy clouds
magic carpet in the sky
take me for a ride

the sun bids adieu
a multi-colored painting
on top of the earth

* * *

Read more Thurday poets here.

a welcome home

"Ma'am, is that your car?" a guy asked me as I approached my little Civic.

It was around 11:30 last night, I had just gotten back from my trip to LA. I knew before saying "yes" that something had happened to my car. I just had this premonition even before I left, going back and forth with my decision to park it on the street close to my apartment building, and eventually deciding to go the cheaper route since I've already done it before and nothing happened to my car anyway. But the feeling that something bad was going to happen stayed with me and I even called my cousin over the weekend so he could check my car. He did and everything was fine.

That is, until yesterday. The guy, who turned out to be a fireman, told me that there was a fire in the apartment building next to mine earlier that evening and someone had backed into my car. I looked around the dark street and saw two fire trucks close to the intersection as well as charred pieces of wood scatterred at the sidewalk. I must have been really tired because I didn't even notice the smell of smoke/fire when I first got there.

"I think he left a note and his contact info on your windshield," the fireman said. I hurriedly went to grab the piece of paper on my windshield and sighed when all I read was "Bumped your left rear." Just that, no phone number. Again, I was too tired to feel anything and resigned to the fact that this is the price that I have to pay with street parking. It could have been worse.

The fireman, on the other hand, was angry and said that he could help me find out who the person was because the guy was a part of the emergency response team. He gave me a phone number for the city fire department. I thanked him and said, "I will follow up on it tommorrow", not even thinking about the dent on my car.

Later, while I unpacked my suitcase, I realized that it was exactly a year ago since I left LA to move to San Francisco. And how strange that there was also a fire then. A huge forest fire along Highway 5 which resulted to 10 hours of heavy traffic until we finally drove across the Bay Bridge right to the city. What's more, we arrived at around 11:30 p.m. too.

Isn't it amazing how life takes us to these little circles? That at the end of each journey we often find ourselves exactly in the same spot where we started? My trip to LA was in so many ways an affirmation of my decision to move here. I still miss my friends and the life that I had there, especially the clinic and working with children and their familes but that chapter in my life is already closed. And here, in this city that I now call home, another chapter continues.

Update: I went back to my car and found a business card stuck at the bottom of the windshield. I must have missed it last night because it was too dark. Wish me luck.

i'm off to sunny SoCal

Hello all. I'll be gone for a week of fun in the sun in Southern Cali, sans my laptop, so it will be a challenge to post entries from there. That, and of course, all the running around.

In the meantime, I already updated my favorite blogs on the sidebar. Check them out, they're all lovely and inspiring. And oh, if your blog is not on the list, feel free to drop me a line and I'll be more than happy to add your site.

P.S. The newly-launched Virgin America offers cheap travel deals (e.g. LAX to SFO for $44, each way) so if you haven't planned anything yet for the end of summer go,go,go! Also keep in mind that the best months to visit San Francisco is September and October when the weather is just gorgeous.

Enjoy the rest of the summer everyone! :)

over coffee

They say its not the place nor the moment. Because if you want to write, you write, it doesn't matter where you are or who you're with, etc. In this case, it was definitely the place and the moment. Friday night. A small cafe. Outside, its all misty and gray. Inside, you're warmed by a cup of coffee, red and oranged walls, and the possibility of words.

* * *


Javalencia Café


My book awaits open
patiently as though it knows
I need to take some time
to soak in the warmth of colors
dimmed lights that softened
a framed poster on the wall
one that says “Moulin Rouge”.

A young couple sat in a corner
by the window, face towards each other
lost in a conversation loud enough
for all to hear, her eyes twinkled
as she spoke, he used his arms
like a maestro conducting an
orchestra carefully making a point
as he punctuated the air.

A woman started to sip her coffee
on a table nearby and glanced
at the couple, I wondered if
she too was thinking of near-forgotten
images, dreams buried so deeply
she can barely recall their names

while a love song hummed discreetly
in the background and faint sounds
of someone washing dirty cups
and utensils chimed in harmony,
I went back to my book and reached
for a pen to write these lines.

becoming jane

I saw the movie Becoming Jane last Friday night and I really enjoyed it. Yeah, I know a lot of Jane Austen scholars are cringing at the mere thought of a heartbroken Jane writing Pride and Prejudice, but historical facts aside, the film was surprisingly good.

The cinematography is gorgeous, full of lush greens of an English countryside and its easy to imagine oneself walking out there, as Jane Austen must have. I also loved the sense of community, the costumes, and those country dances. And who doesn't enjoy grammatically correct sentences and witty conversations?

And then there's the love story. Like everyone else, I grew up having a crush on Mr. Darcy and the idea that Jane Austen had a dashing young man of her own and whom she based Mr. Darcy's character is making me feel absolutely giddy. The filmmakers may have made their romance a tad too dramatic but I really don't care. For despite it's limitations, I still went out of the theater with a smile on my lips, basking in 18th century goodness.

On a shallow note, James McAvoy is just lovely and the perfect leading man. I can't wait to watch him in the film adaptation of Ian McEwan's Atonement.

* * *

Still on the subject of love, I found this one from Liz's lovely blog (thank you Liz) and I really liked it so I'm sharing it here:

I have this theory that the more important and intimate the emotion, the fewer words are required to express it. For instance, in dating, "Will you go out with me?" Six words…"You matter to me." Four words. "I love you." Three words. "Marry me." Two words. But, what's left? What's the one most important and intimate word you can ever say to somebody? It's "good-bye." ~ Joe Straczynski, creator/writer/director of Babylon 5

I couldn't agree more. Especially goodbyes.

poetry thursday


Photo by zinkwazi on Flickr

little sister

what we have is
more than blood
more than history
or shared beginnings

so much more than this
changing time zones.

if only you are here now
I'd give you half of
my broken wings, together
we'd fly beyond our pains

you, with your paintbrush
me, with my pen.

waxing poetic

The past two nights I have been listening to poetry readings at the SF International Poetry Festival. They were beautiful. They made me cry. They made me howl with laughter. They made me want to learn a foreign language. Most of all, they made me want to write.

"Do you write?" one poet from Italy asked me.

"I do."

"Good. Keep on writing."

"I will." Though after I said that, it left me with a strange mix of excitement and nervousness. I have been flirting with poetry for awhile now but could not quiet give myself fully to it yet. Its easier for me to write lyric essays and creative non-fiction than poetry. I wasn't sure why.

I've always thought that of all literary genres, poetry is the most fearless. And boy did I see this last night. We had poets from all over the world; one Marxist, one anarchist, a lot of activists, all speaking of their truth. This is San Francisco after all. I was in awe of their boldness and said to myself "Whew, this is precisely why you can't write poetry. You're too timid.

Then later, after everyone has read, I realized that I was wrong. One can still be fearless without writing about politics, the war in Iraq, the horrors of capitalism, the plight of the homeless people. One can still be fearless and write about the mundane, the ordinary. As long as its the truth, your honest-deep-in-the-gut truth, then you are writing fearless poetry.

I understood then that the reason why I was having a hard time with poetry was because I never allowed myself to write them in the first place. I already had this notion of how or what I should write and it paralyzed me. But hopefully, after this, not anymore. I'll keep on writing until I'll find my voice.

* * *
As someone who also left her country and family, I was particulary drawn to this poem by Cletus Nelson Nwadike. He was born in Namibia but now lives in Sweden and interestingly enough writes in Swedish:

A Stranger

I dreamed
I came home
but my mother
didn't recognize me

I tried to
explain to her
but she just went away
and didn't leave any food for me

I went and sat by myself
where everyone in the village
could look at me
but no one understood me anymore

I began to cry
and everyone in the village came
and spoke in a language
I no longer understood

(translated by Jack Hirschman)

* * *
Before I fell asleep last night, I thought:

Ah, to be drunk
on poetry
I never want to be
sober again.

flow

I'm a mess. In a creative kind of way (aha, good excuse!). Seriously, I'm barely getting enough sleep or nutrition, I'm glued to my laptop and yet I forgot to pay one credit card bill, which I could have easily done online. I haven't been this way since college when we used to pull all-nighters trying to finish projects and term papers. Csikszentmilhayi, a famous psychologist, called this creative state as "flow", an experience of being wholly absorbed in what you’re doing that the awareness of time disappears. Its exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. And I'm not even doing a big project.

First, there's writing. Now that summer school is done, I intend to do the best that I can for my writing class. As a result, I've been scribbling furiously in my journals or typing away on my laptop. But as everyone who has ever written or tried to write knows, writing is really all about waiting patiently, waiting for that special moment when the words will just flow (that magic word again) and you don't even think about it. In the meantime, there's much trying, staring into space, and writing "shitty first drafts", as Anne Lamott calls them, which I have been doing a lot lately.

I also made a photo book, thanks to Shutterfly. I have this box of pictures and souvenirs labeled "for scrapbooking" but really, who has time to make a scrapbook these days? Enter Shutterfly, an online photo service that lets you upload your pictures and put together a journal. Its just like scrapbooking, the digital way, they have guided templates on different themes (e.g. travel, birthday, wedding) and all you have to do is drag and drop your pictures and viola - a photo book. You should try it, I had so much fun making mine. Unfortunately, I don't have the book yet so I can't scan it but just to give you guys an idea, here's how it looks like:


Lastly, there's my books. I have so many books that I haven't even read past chapter 1 or 2 and yet I keep buying more. This weekend, I told myself to make a list of all the books, sort them, and exchange/sell the ones that I don't need in a used bookstore at the Mission district. It was a good plan, in theory. What I didn't realize is that in the process of sorting them, I also came across some of my favorites and started reading excerpts here and there. Pretty soon, I was reading Jose Saramago's Blindness and stayed up all night to finish it, with the rest of the books scattered all over the place. I have yet to finish the sorting.


* * *


So all that's been keeping me busy these days. How about you, experience a state of "flow" lately? I'm tagging you, its your turn to tell your story.

house with a view


Imagine waking up every morning to a spectacular view of the city's skyline, rows of houses looking like they were carved out of those hills, the changing sky at twilight, and the winking lights at night. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have a house like this one.

As it is, I'm just grateful that I had the chance to spend my Saturday morning lounging in this sun deck, spying on hummingbirds with a pair of binoculars, chasing a cat named iPod, and eating fresh cherries and blueberries. All this after a 2-hour hike to Bernal Heights Park.



i've got mail

Click to enlarge

Isn't this Apple iCard the sweetest? And it matches the colors of my blog too! Ms. Mary is one of the paraprofessionals who works with one of the kids that I see during the school year. Can't wait to go hiking with her on Saturday!

cold summer evening

The temperature was in the low 50s when I ventured out to Duboce Park and watched as thick folds of fog slowly covered the hills and the houses in the distance. And I never thought I'd say this because I'm such a weather wuss, but somehow the cold felt just right. Perfect even.

out of sync

Photo by JucaFii

It's one of those days. I woke up from an afternoon nap and just felt so low. That's not even the right word. I just felt so out of sync. Like I've ran out of happy pills and there's nothing else to do but mope around and ponder on the unpredictability of my mood swings.

I'm giving myself a headache by squinting at my computer screen for too long. What else can I do? Its not like I can just snap my fingers and everything will be all rosy again. Sometimes I even wish that I would stop thinking too much, feeling too much. You know, just live the unexamined life. But alas, I'm not that way, and even if I want to, I could never be that way. So there.

we're all in the dance

Ah, it feels so good to have my computer up and running again. A week off of the internet was liberating in some ways, but a couple more days without it I know I would feel so out of the loop that I wouldn't even know what to do with myself. As it is, I'm barely catching up on my favorite blogs, per usual, laughing so hard over some seriously funny pieces at the McSweeney's, and just enjoying this insanely addicting world of the web.


Some days ago I saw the movie Paris, Je T'aime and fell in love with it. Eventhough I've never been to Paris, I feel like in a way I already know the city, thanks to authors like Colette and Hemingway and movies like Before Sunset, Amelie and now, of course, this one. Its actually an anthology of 18 short films set across different Parisian neighborhoods from directors the world over, each showing their unique perspective on the City of Light.

Watching the film, I was struck by its diversity and how eventhough it was set in Paris, those stories could have happened anywhere else. There was the young immigrant who had to leave her baby at a day care center only to take care of someone else's baby in a more affluent part of the city, there was the husband who was having an affair and just as he was about to leave his wife she told him of her terminal illness and so he stayed and fell in love with her all over again in the process, there were those two lonely mimes who finally found each other (in jail, no less!) and lived happily ever after, there was a young blind man who picked up the phone, listened to his girlfriend break up with him, and ended up reminiscing about their story during the entire telephone conversation. Of course, like every other anthology, there were a couple of misses, stories that didn't quiet fit in, but I think they also make the film more appealing, for just like in real life, it's messy and not picture-perfect as we want it to be.

There was one story that really touched me, that of an American tourist who had an epiphany about herself and Paris while she sitting alone in the middle of a park and everywhere around her were lovers, families, groups of people. Alexander Payne, bless his beautiful heart, directed this narrative in a way that made it both funny and so very sad at the same time. Aptly, this was the last feature of the film, with a lovely song by Feist playing towards the end:

We all go round and round
Partners are lost and found
Looking for one more chance
All I know is
We're all in the dance

And yes indeed, life is like a dance and we are all a part of it. Movies, music, the internet, and everything else really, tells us of how closely connected we all are to each other, and its so wonderful to be reminded of this again.

disconnect

My laptop has been out of commission for a week now. It's so disconcerting, to say the least. Now I'm back to paper and pencil for my writing assignments and it feels so different not to have a blank computer screen in front of me, my fingers poised to type away my thoughts, or press the backspace key should I decide to change my words. Not to be able to check my e-mail or read my favorite blogs everyday is also very difficult, I feel like I'm so out of touch with everything and everyone, which is really surprising considering that I didn't even have internet connection in my apartment a year ago.

On the other hand, having so much time in my hands which I would otherwise have spent surfing the net, I was able to do so many things. For one, I've gotten more writing and more sleeping done. I've also been staying outdoors a lot, reading a book at Dolores Park or walking along the pier in The Embarcadero. It was hard at first, letting go of that compulsion to go to the nearest internet cafe, but its gotten better everyday and I could go for days without checking my e-mails now. I realized that like everything else, we could easily fall into our little routines and take away an essential part of those routines and you'll feel a huge sense of disconnect, but then it was also amazing how you'll find other things to do to fill up that void, pretty soon you'll get used to a new routine, and the cycle continues.

Its very cold here in San Francisco today, 55 degrees and grey. This is still another thing that I have to get used to, not seeing the sun intermitently on summer days. But then again, instead of whining and sulking in my little apartment, I'll take this as an opportunity to be quiet, to rest and catch up with the things that I need to do. Tommorrow I'll be in Sonoma County, with its rows of vineyards and endless supply of fresh produce, and it'll be another beautiful day.

tour del gelato


On a whim, I decided to walk down to North Beach (Little Italy) and eat gelato at my favorite gelateria today. The weather was perfect for walking around and I was close to the neighborhood anyways so I just went there right after work. Eversince I learned about Tour del Gelato, I was really excited to write about Gelateria Naia for hands down, I think they have the best gelato in San Francisco.

This place is almost always packed so I was ecstatic when I saw that I was the only customer there. One of the best things about Naia (well, aside from their gelato of course) is their colorful presentations. I mean, they arrange all these different flavors in so many creative ways that it such a visual delight. Take a look at this one for example, my favorite is the rose-flavored one with a real pink rose on top:


Since I was the only person there, I was able to sample a lot of flavors. They also have dozens of flavors of sorbetto (fruit version) and soy gelato. I opted for the ones I haven't tried before, just to be a little adventurous, and ended up getting a mix of peach and mango sorbetto. The peach one actually had real seeds in it! I was so happy in my own little gelato world that I almost forgot to pay. Yes, I was already out the door when I realized it. Thankfully the guy was really nice and he said he'd figured I'd go back anyway. The poor guy had to deal with me taking too many pictures AND almost not paying for it. Tsk, tsk. And their prices are not bad either, I paid $3.50 for a small one with two flavors.

Anyways, after I got my sorbetto, I decided to take it around Little Italy instead of sitting outside the gelato place. I stopped by Washington Square and took this picture with the famous Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the background. Don't you just love the little orange cup?



Read about Tour del Gelato at Ms. Adventures in Italy & At Home in Rome

multicolored heartbeats

Yesterday was the official start of summer school. I spent the entire time going from one school to another, checking to see where my kids are, driving all over the place, up and down the hills, in and out of streets that I've never been to before. It was craziness, in a fun kind of way.

I've heard some really bad stories about summer school and a couple of therapists that I know refused to work at this time of the year anymore. But so far, its been mellow for me. Or maybe I'm just really happy that its summertime already that nothing can faze me anymore, not even trying to find street parking in the Mission district or at Chinatown where some of my schools are located. And besides, my caseload is somewhat on the average side and I share two of my schools with another therapist so its not too bad.

Today, I was talking to one of the other OTs about how beautiful the weather is these days. And how much we love San Francisco. It was so good to know that someone who has lived here for more than 5 years still feels the same way as I do. She even went so far as, "I know that no matter where I go, I'll never be as happy as I am in this city."

For all my vagabonding tendencies, I really do feel the same way. I've always said that I can't stay in a place longer than 2 years, but just even thinking about leaving SF is making me feel really sad. If you ever come here or has been here before and has stood right on top of the hill in Dolores Park, with the entire city stretched out before you, then you will know what I'm talking about. There's just something about this place, as the song says, that makes you leave your heart here.

And if my life is a music video, this would describe it perfectly right now:



multicolored bouncy heartbeats spontaneous lightness wonder.

rain

It's Poetry Thursday. And I wanted to write a poem, I really do. But you know what I realized, after not writing poetry for so long, its really hard to switch back from essay-writing to poetry, my brain is so used to writing in sentences now. Maybe it'll come to me easier next time. But for now, here is what I ended up with. Not quiet a poem. Yet.


* * *


Holding a cup of water poised to give my little potted plant a drink, I stopped to dip my index finger inside. The water felt like cool, silky sheets, inviting the rest of my fingers to join in. Pretty soon I was gathering rivulets of water between my fingers, dropping them on a leaf, slowly, like a soft kiss of rain. I tried to imagine how the leaf must have felt as drops of water touched its dark green cheek. Will it be startled? Delighted? Refreshed?


Suddenly, an image came to me from a different time, a different rain. My siblings and I, our little bodies drenched to the skin, taking a shower underneath a tropical rain. We ran around with arms outstretched as cool drops of rain touched our upturned faces. When the rain came down harder, it drowned our mother's voice and we didn't hear her calling us to come inside. So we stayed out longer and played some more. I tried to remember the warmth of a towel and getting dressed, the steaming hot cocoa that our mother always prepared for us, but all I can see were the lined
paperboats we made, sailing along a little river that the rain left behind.


Photo from Flickr

north beach

San Francisco is all about its neighborhoods. Much like Paris and its 20 different arrondissements, the neighborhoods here are so diverse, each with its own distinct culture and personality. Just going from one to another makes me feel like I am in a different country already.

Last Sunday, I listened to the traveler in me and attended the North Beach Festival. Also known as the city’s Little Italy, North Beach is one of the main reasons why I fell in love with San Francisco. I remembered my first visit here as a tourist, walking from Fisherman’s Wharf all the way to Columbus and Broadway Street to City Lights Bookstore and feeling so happy just being here. Now, a year later, I still feel the same.


Photo by saturdave


So what's makes it special? First of all, there's the neighborhood's rich Italian history. You know you're in North Beach when you see those red, white and green stripes that are present everywhere. There's also tons of family-owned restaurants, art galleries, jazz clubs, and sidewalk cafes - perfect for leisurely meals, people-watching, and some taste of la dolce vita.

Which brings me to the next reason why I love this neighborhood: coffee and dessert. North Beach is home to some of the best-tasting espresso and capuccino. And because I Iove eating dessert, I must say that I've never tasted soufflé as good as the one I've had at Café Jacqueline's. You can skip any other restaurant in North Beach, just don't skip this one. And now that I thought about, don't miss eating gelato at Naia too! They're heavenly.


Last but most certainly not the least, there is the Jack Keroauc factor. After reading On the Road, I knew that I just had to see the neighborhood where he used to live and where Beat literature had started. There's an alley in North Beach that's named after him and every time I come here, I always feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. For never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I'd come to live in this city and yet there I was, standing in Jack Keroauc's little alley, thinking about his words and how they changed my life profoundly. I am indeed blessed.


Note: Click here for a slideshow of pictures that I took from the festival.

gorecki

There's a song that’s been playing inside my head for days now. Over and over, taking me to another place and time, to an evening of conversation, of words flowing freely, and meeting of minds.

Still my heart this moment or it might burst, sang the song.

I knew that feeling. That recognition of ‘finally’. Finally, out of all the people in this world, there was someone who totally gets you. Someone whom you can be your truest, craziest, neurotic self with and still know, deep inside, that you’ve never been better. Or more alive. And even if there wasn't more to the story than that, just to have known it, at one point in time, is magical. One that I will always remember with a smile.

Meanwhile, check out this live performance of the song at YouTube. Its called Gorecki by the British band Lamb. Hope you all will enjoy it as much as I did. And watch out for the fireworks towards the end, its amazing.

wordplay

Guess what I found while traipsing the blogosphere today - an online poetry project! I was so excited I even skipped lunch (cue stomach growling) to read most of the poems shared by its participants. The object is to post anything related to poetry in your blog every Thursday and share it with the rest of the crew. I haven't written much poetry lately so this seems like a good place to start. They have lots of ideas and prompts that will help you write a poem or just be inspired with the written word.


So, here's what I've decided to share. Something that I wrote a year ago when I was still living in L.A. Revisiting this poem, I realized that I am in a completely different place now than I was when I wrote this one. Its amazing really how much a year can change you. Reading this took me back to those days in good ol' Carson when I really didn't know what I wanted but all I could think about was to be someplace else.

* * *


Unsettled


I am swirls of orange and red
dancing, rearranging
like makeshift words
crisscrossing
a poet's pen
I waver, I sigh
beneath your sundrenched
sky, golden beams
catching
my restless spin.