end of the year thoughts

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Today, I was looking through my planner and realized that I barely wrote anything for the months of November and December. Which makes sense because they were the most challenging times for me this year. Early November, there was a devastating typhoon in the Philippines, where the rest of my family still lives. Then I organized a successful online fundraiser with my friend Mai. December came, all the stress must have taken its toll on me, and I got very sick that I couldn't work for two weeks. It's all a blur really.

I am feeling much better now, though still not fully recovered, so I had to cancel my holiday travel plans and stay home instead. Once again, I learned the hard way, to never take my health for granted and take care of myself first. Which is exactly what I've been doing these days - reading, taking naps, writing, and reflecting on everything that happened to me this year.

Despite all the challenges, 2013 gave me the very best gifts. I've read the most beautiful books and met some favorite authors in person. I also attended film festivals and screenings and saw a lot of great movies. I've written letters, gone on long hikes, watched spectacular sunsets, and spent meaningful time with friends and loved ones. There were so many little moments that took my breath away this year, some of them I captured on my Instagram, and it warms my heart to look back at them now.

And perhaps the most important gift of all, is a story that came to me last spring, and I have been working on it ever since. I don't know yet what's going to happen to it, but when I went to the Conservatory of Flowers last Friday, I tossed a coin in the fountain and made a birthday wish. And my wish was this: to write the book I need to write, as best as I could.

Happy New Year, my dear friends. See you all in 2014. Cheers!

P.S. As my tradition in this blog, here are some photos from my birthday.

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Photos: birthday latte / sweet puppy outside the cafe / reading at the park / all bundled up

twelve twenty-seven

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One of the best gifts one could ever receive, is to fall in love, so wholly, with literature. I'm still on the first chapters of Stoner by John Williams, and I am quiet certain it will be one of my favorites. Such simple and honest prose, it's already starting to pinch on my heart. And it must have been providential that it found me today, on my birthday.

While reflecting on a certain passage from the book, I kept thinking about this poem:
 
You came one day and
as usual in such matters
significance filled everything -
your eyes, the things you
knew, the way you turned,
leaned, stood, or sat,
this way or that: when
you left, the area around here rose
a tilted tide, and everything that
offers desolation drained away.

-- A.R. Ammons, "Everything"

We often don't have words to explain why we love the things we love. A book, a poem, a place, a person - each carry their own weight and significance, that is inexplicable. Suddenly, our lives are fuller, and we feel connected to ourselves, and the world around us, once again. It's a wondrous thing, and I am grateful.

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Some of you may remember that I started this blog on my birthday, 8 years ago. Here's to another year of beautiful books, movies, sunsets, and everything that inspires us. As always, thank you, for visiting and reading this little blog of mine.

With love and gratitude,
Odessa

winter prayers

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This afternoon, I walked by someone's garden and saw these flowers. "They're so pretty." I said. The lady turned around and asked, "Do you want them?"

Before I could tell her yes, she was already cutting a few blooms with her garden shears. "Be careful, they have thorns," she warned. I said thank you, we chatted for a bit, and I walked back, flowers in hand, and a spring in my steps.

Later, while I was driving back to the city, I could smell the sweet fragrance of the flowers next to me. I thought about Emily Dickinson, her life, and her "envelope poems" I saw at the bookstore. These poems, written on flattened envelope scraps, were reproduced in full-scale facsimile and compiled in a stunning hardcover called The Gorgeous Nothings.  I opened the book to a random page and fell in love with these lines:

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"In this short Life
that only/merely lasts an hour
How much - how
little - is
within our
power."

December, my birthday month, is often bittersweet for me. There is so much beauty that keeps me grounded here, even if the days are too cold, and I start to miss my loved ones, or long for places I've never been. There are gorgeous sunsets. Kind strangers who give you flowers. Hot apple cider and cookies, while folding paper cranes. The gift of poetry, and stories you can always come back, to keep you warm.

Have a listen to this beautiful song, by Iron and Wine.

Poem from The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems.