going nautical

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circa 1983

My childhood photos are in our family home in the Philippines but I found these last week tucked inside my old journal. They were taken at my grandparent's home when I had just turned 3. Isn't my mom beautiful? I had to smile because apparently some things never change, I still love to wear  strappy sandals and all things nautical. This one was taken last April:

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photo du jour, catching up

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This photo was taken in Duncan Mills, a quaint little town by Russian River, where we found the loveliest tea shop called Mr. Trombly's Tea and it was all I could do not to stay there all day and swoon over their pretty teapots and loose tea collection. I bought their Mango and Friends tea and its so for perfect summer! And yes, that's my excited face in front of the tea shop.

We just started a new school year this week and that means all sorts of craziness. In between getting to know my students, driving to different schools, organizing paperwork, emails and phone calls -- my brain is now fried. I could really use some pampering (or a glass of beer) right now. But hey, I said to myself that I will try my best to start this school year without complaints so I'm going to stop now. I do want to share these with all of you:

Reflecting: On these words by Thoreau and 'living deliberately'.
Wishing: My dream wardrobe, styled by Talisa Sutton of Badlands.
Reading: Anne Michael's The Fugitive Pieces. Such beautiful prose.
Listening: Destiny by Zero 7. I can't believe I forgot one of my favorite bands in my previous post. Here is a video, I think this song is just perfect.



// Photo taken by my friend Dana, via iPhone

five things: soundtrack of your life

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When I watched the Olympics closing ceremony last Sunday night, I realized that I was actually listening to a lot of British music when I was growing up. It made me a bit nostalgic for the music of my youth so I came up with this idea of writing the first 5 songs I can think of that made an impact in my life. I'm sure there are more songs I'd want to add to this list but I limited it to 5.

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Baby I Love Your Way, Big Mountain (Reality Bites Soundtrack) // Listen here
This song will always hold a place in my heart. It represents my childhood, summer parties at the beach, watching MTV all day long (back when it was still cool to watch MTV), and the movie Reality Bites. Ah, high school in the mid-90s. I definitely miss the tv shows, we had some good ones back then. Anyone else remember Felicity or My So-Called Life?

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Back for Good - Take That // Listen here
Full disclosure: I used to be a boy band junkie. Yup, I was either listening to boy bands or suicidal music as a teenager. And one of my favorites was the British group Take That. In fact, I might have shed a tear when they disbanded AND when I learned that they were reunited. Watch their comeback performance with Robbie Williams, I think they are getting better with age. I was definitely grinning like a proud fangirl when they performed the final song of the Olympics.

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Let Go - Imogen Heap // Listen here
I love everything Imogen Heap sings but this song really saved me. I remembered back when I was still in L.A. and I was at my all-time low that I even called my mother and told her that I just want to go home, I'd play this over and over again and focused on her words. "Let go, let go. It's alright. There's beauty in the breakdown." (Full lyrics)

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Heartbeats - José González // Listen here
Summer of 2007, I took my first writing class, attended my first poetry festival, and felt so deeply in love with the writing life again. I saw this video of Heartbeats and almost cried because it described how I felt perfectly. Like my heart was everywhere, scattered all over San Francisco and I was so genuinely happy. Also, a blogger friend met José González at a party and said that he was so nice and shy almost, and I don't know, it just makes you love him even more.

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Skinny Love - Bon Iver // Listen here
"Come on skinny love, just last the year." -- How beautiful and heartbreaking is this song? When I heard it for the first time, something about it just felt so raw that I was completely mesmerized and must have played it at least 20 times in a row.  And no matter how many times I listen to it or wonder about the meaning, it still gets me each and every time.

So, how about you, what are your 5 songs? Share in the comment below.

// Top photo of The Beatles. I can't pick just one song of them so I decided to share a photo.
// Image source 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

happiness, etc.

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Here, in this little coffee shop by the sea
I sit by the window and watch a roll of fog
change colors in the distance,
from white, to pale pink
and the softest hint of gold.

// Other things making me happy lately:
Chats with friends who live in different time zones
Delicious peaches from the farmer's market
Taking naps at the beach
Reading Zen poetry

Photos taken last weekend at Miramar Beach

land of my dreams

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"So what if you catch me,
where would we land?"

-- Remy Zero, Fair

It was one of those days when the sky, although overcast, was clear of fog and you can see the horizon in the distance. There were hardly any cars or people, so quiet that you can almost hear the ocean waves, or maybe it was the wind, I can't be too sure. We stopped by a ranch and I thought I must have scared the cows, or maybe it was the other way around, when I started running to take their photo. I had to suppress a giggle when one of them looked back, as if telling me to leave them alone.

Hard to believe that a year ago I drove along these winding roads by myself, the fog so thick I could barely see what's in front of me, my heart heavy with the thought of making a decision that may affect the lives of the people I love the most. After what seemed like hours of driving, I found myself in Stinson Beach, the sun shining so brightly it started hurting my eyes. It didn't seem fair to have a day so beautiful when I felt hopeless and conflicted inside.

Then I started writing a letter, one that I know I will never send, but it was comforting to know that I am writing it for someone, pouring out all my fears and worries on paper. Afterwards, I read the letter and knew that I had made a decision, and my heart didn't feel so tight anymore.

It seems as though there are places and seasons that mark important crossroads in our lives. And for me, it often has to do with summer and the sea. Nine years ago, on August 12th, I can clearly picture myself at the airport, saying goodbye to my family and trying not to panic at the thought of leaving my country and studying in a city where I hardly knew anyone. It was also in August, six years ago, with a shiny new car, barely a week-old driver's license and two good friends, I drove along Highway 5 to move to San Francisco. And in all this, there is always the sea. All those sunsets and solitary walks that I took to figure out what I really want.

I thought about all this today and knew with certainty that I am about to make another one of those important life decisions. The last couple of weeks, I've been going through all my stuff, sorting clothes, books, journals, many years worth of knick-knacks, and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to let go. It is a daunting task and one that I almost gave up on, then I had that problem with my right eye and I was forced to stay indoors and finish my project. I'm still not done but the hardest part is already over.

It's almost natural then, along with organizing my physical space, that I'm now starting to do some self-reflection. And to be honest, it scares the heck out of me. I'd rather forget about it all and spend the last days of my summer break reading a book, watching a movie, or taking pictures. But if there's one thing that I know about myself, its that I need to ask those difficult questions, write things down, watch the sea, and write some more when I am at the crossroads. I'm not sure where this will take me but at least it's a start.

// Quote from this song. Its an oldie but it holds a lot of summer memories and I love it so.
// Photos taken with a disposable camera, two weeks ago in Point Reyes.

difficult questions

Last Monday morning, I had just finished reading the book One Day by David Nicholls and was so upset that I wanted to write something about it right away. This was surprising to me because I've been disappointed by some novels that I've read lately and yet I had no desire to write about them. For me, reading is such a personal experience and I prefer to share my thoughts on books that inspire and move me rather than those that don't.

So what is it about One Day that infuriated me so much? If, to paraphrase what Proust said, every reader is actually the reader of himself and that the book is only an instrument that allows the reader to learn something about himself, I had to step back and think about why I was so upset with this book. The first half of the book was funny and engaging and I thought the premise was very unique so it can't be that bad, right?

Let me backtrack to Sunday when I got this book (and no, I have not seen the movie adaptation). I was excited to be outside after spending stressful days dealing with a painful right eye which turned out to be a scratched cornea and I had to refrain from wearing contact lenses for awhile. I went to a used bookstore to exchange some old books and immediately went to the beach. And there I was, with my book and my little picnic of hummus sandwich, iced tea, and Kettle chips, happy as a clam.

Later, while reading One Day, I found myself frowning and getting irritated. Still I kept on, waiting for the two main characters to do something about their lives and their relationship but when it did happen, it was so anticlimatic that I wasn't even interested anymore. And let's not even talk about the ending, which I felt was so contrived and pointless that I was only glad when it was over. But more than bemoaning the fact that I just wasted a few hours of an idyllic summer day on this book, what does all this have to do with me, as a reader?

I must admit, one thing that really bothered me about the novel was the lack of character growth. It was frustrating to read how the characters made the same mistakes over and over again in the span of two decades. Which then led me to realize something that's been at the back of my mind lately, that on this month, its been exactly 9 years since I moved to this country. And that what I'd have wanted for one of the characters to ask himself so many times in the course of the novel are also those I want to ask myself:  

How much have I grown since I moved here? What have I learned from my experiences?

These are difficult questions. I'm not even sure if I'm up to asking them. And yet, I must.

"segregation series" by gordon parks

Gordon Parks "Segregation Series"

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Gordon Parks "Segregation Series"

The Gordon Parks Foundation recently found more than 70 unpublished photographs by Gordon Parks at the bottom of an old storage box, wrapped in paper and marked as 'Segregation Series'. "These never before series of images not only give us a glimpse into the everyday life of African Americans during the 50′s but are also in full color, something that is uncommon for photographs from that era." (via sliceoflife)

So powerful. The last one, especially, just breaks my heart.

We have certainly come a long way but there is still more to be done.

Read more about these photographs from The New York Times' blog here.

All photos by Gordon Parks, courtesy of The Gordon Parks Foundation

three perfect days

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After spending hours stuck in traffic, arriving to a foggy 56-degree San Francisco weather, and then driving around trying to find parking, all I could think of right now is this poem.

Three Perfect Days

In the middle seat of an airplane,
between an overweight woman
whose arm takes over the armrest
and a man immersed in his computer game,

I am reading the inflight magazine
about three perfect days somewhere: Kyoto
this time, but it could be anywhere—
Madagascar or one of the Virgin Islands.

There is always the perfect hotel
where at breakfast the waiter smiles
as he serves an egg as perfectly coddled
as a Spanish Infanta.

There are walks over perfect bridges—their spans
defying physics—and visits to zoos
where rain is forbidden,
and no small child is ever bored or crying.

I would settle now for just one perfect day
anywhere at all, a day without
mosquitoes, or traffic, or newspapers
with their headlines.

A day without any kind of turbulence—
certainly not this kind, as the pilot tells us
to fasten our seatbelts, and even
the flight attendants look nervous.


-- Linda Pastan, from Traveling Light

Like her, I'd settle for just one perfect day. Preferably in a beach somewhere across the Pacific, swinging on a hammock, and listening to the waves as they roll in.

It sounds very much like I'm describing my islands, yes. I miss it so. Most days I wear this sunscreen because the scent of coconut oil and vanilla reminds me of home. Or I'd listen to Debussy's Arabesque No.1, so beautiful, it always makes me feel like I am back floating in a turquoise sea.

How about you, where would you spend your three perfect days?

Photo taken by me. More images here.