Saturday, August 20, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Last week, I discovered that my passport was lost in the mail en route to the SF based outsourcing company in charge of dispensing visas for the Indian embassy. The business I entrusted my documents to were giving me the run around. The event sent me into a minor tailspin. I felt vulnerable, alone, and far away from home--a home I don't really belong to anymore.
So, last Thursday, in an attempt to escape from my worries I rallied friends and joined a throng of New Yorkers engaging in one of the fave summer activities in the city. Every square inch of Brooklyn Bridge Park's main lawn was occupied for a free viewing of Truman Capote's "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
The classic movie with the stunning and gracefully long-legged Audrey Hepburn and the dashing young George Peppard is a classic romantic flick that not only lovingly looks at the charm of New York but also explores some of life's serious themes (search for self, ethical quandry between survival and self respect, art and, of course, love)--for now, we'll just ignore the blatantly racist yellow-faced portrayal of Yoshi by Mickey Rooney. I think the movie is so good that those who love it, like myself, may not find it forgivable but are certainly able to overlook it.
Its ironic, however. I was feeling picked on and fed up with NY. And was now watching a movie based in the city surrounded by New Yorkers. I was feeling anxious about traveling, about writing and my place in the world at large. And here are the two main characters, Holly struggling with who she is and where she belongs, fraught with fear of being caged and Paul, the writer afraid of failure.
Hm. Sometimes, there is no escape.
I enjoyed the movie and the experience thoroughly, especially being able to watch with a special assemblage of friends new and old, connecting Boracay, India and NY, all of us snug on our expanse of picnic blankets, but I also couldn't help but relate with the characters and their human struggles, how perversely wounded we are by our histories, our need for survival, our misconceptions about ourselves.
Sure, I was bummed by my lost passport. But I was reeling because of how lost it made me feel, my current homelessness, my insecurity about what I was doing, or how little I was doing in terms of writing or yoga.
And as I looked up around me, I could see that hundreds of others were fixated on the screen. Yes, its a charming movie, filled with many beautiful tender moments, tear-jerking and heart-lifting. But it also strikes a chord somehow.
I think we all want to create. We want to belong without being owned. We want to be honest and unmasked. We want to be whole. We want to be loved. And we want to accept love when the real thing finally comes around.
Movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's remind us of our human condition and that we needn't sell ourselves short of the things that we really want.
music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Moon River, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going I'm going your way.
Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end--
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
When I think of island, I usually think of sand, of crystal clear water, of coconut trees, of fresh mango shakes which are a year round specialty in the tropics. I think of the 7 kilometers of beach and reef of Boracay that looks a little like a dog bone from the air. It's hard to let go sometimes of what our minds are used to.
I forget that this place is an island too. Manhattan. Brooklyn, where I am currently hanging my sarong, is a part of Long Island. But there's not much sand to speak of, the Hudson and the East River are not inviting, and--save the beautiful park oases that dot the city--the jungle here is mostly made of concrete.
Though not on purpose, I've been drawn here to visit with family and friends, I find myself going through a sort of island detox as I pause here worlds away from what is familiar.
I lived in Boracay for about five years. I guess that sort of makes me an island girl (though I'm city girl too, I grew up in Manila and Los Angeles). From Manila, its an hour south by plane and a pump boat ride from the main land. It continues to be paradise. Picture perfect. Amazing weather. The best sunsets. One easily tops the other. For many locals, it is a ritual, daily sunset worship. And each day, when the sun dips down into its watery grave, the sky becomes a different painting, nature's ephemeral artwork.
I had escaped to the island to recoup from Manila living and a rather ego-wrenching relationship (quite possibly with myself), and now, having recovered some of my old courage I feel the need to be more a part of the world.
Leaving home, however, is not so easy. Especially when home is as insulated as a wee little island where everything is so straightforward with a community of neighbors and happy sun-drenched island people. I guess with any place where one has lived a lengthy amount of time, you get familiar with the patterns, routinary life sets in, and you become the master of your little universe.
And as I reprogram my small town island head in one of the most bustling and diverse cities in the world, I do so with bated breath. I can't help but miss friends, the beauty of the beach and the simple life. Right now it feels like I have one foot thousands of miles away in Southeast Asia, where life feels safe if not a little predictable, and one foot here, in this tangle of urban life, full of the brilliant potential of the unknown.
I've come this far, the first leg of a year of travel, intentionally seeking out adventure. And here it is. Though I can't help but cower a little, I also see the task at hand. I've already moved. My things are in storage. So now I have to let go, to relinquish the expectations that are linked to the past. That back foot has to come forward. And all of me has to be more present, here, now, so that I can fully dive into the mystery of the great whatever out there in store for me. For this is what I wanted. And, ultimately, I am the only one that is holding myself back.
I'm a poet. I write poetry. I have to say that twice so that I can one day start to believe it myself. And even then...
Part of this remarkable journey (because at the end of the day, we are all on one, whether we like it or not) is embracing that side of me. The one that loves to write--poetry at that and I hope somewhat improved from my woebegone high school days! In a way, I feel I've sort of repressed it, I've been afraid to share, for fear of criticism, fear of failure, fear of fear.
And fear, well, it's isolating. It keeps us from knowing ourselves and it keeps us from connecting with each other. It's the opposite of love, the topic to which this entire blog is dedicated.
So, in the spirit of love, of connection, of fearlessness, I will start with a poem:
Aspens quake and we pause,
fingers twined, ears attentive.
We listen to the forest chime,
leaves aquiver in soft symphony.
We think they honor us
as they clap leaf to leaf and
we take in the trail, the trees, the
dome of blue swathed in cotton,
walls of endless mountain ranges,
nearby gurgling water, all of which
we inevitably associate with
the miracle of us. We are
encouraged as applause
travels in waves across
a frothing sea of green.
The tree line glitters
and we kiss, once again,
slowing our progress
down the mountain.
Later, we are informed
that their synchronicity is not
our good luck or great timing,
neither can it be attributed
to the magic of our love—
as much as we might contest this.
Rather, their song is older than
time, instruments so finely
tuned, so precisely selected;
they are designed for life,
efficient bathing in sunlight,
dancing foliage throwing
off mite-sized predators,
seeds carried by wind,
aspens growing a landscape.
We will not see this, but
when time comes and the last
of our summer sets on these hills,
the trees will change together.
Miles will turn golden, as if
their gentle cooing triggers
the very moment in which they
harmonize their autumn robes,
in that inconceivable act of
solidarity, love among trees,
miracle of miracles.
The real secret is this:
Aspens stand autonomously, but
each is an echo of an original tree.
The whir of woods starts deep below,
where the mightiest of roots do grow,
and from each root hundreds and
thousands of saplings spring
with leaves already trained to sing.
Like us, a colony of trees is one force,
drawing strength from one true source,
this is where the miracle starts,
it is a song sung straight from the heart.