An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

22 February 2013

Other lives

As a writer, I find it necessary to wonder about the lives of others, and in so doing, furnish my own writer’s treasure chest of words and phrases with the plausible details that make up a believable story. But on top of that, I am also required to look inside my own life, open my own windows to my soul, and speak to the memories and the dreams that lie there, in the hope of getting a grip on what makes my own heart beat.

It isn’t easy. It is far easier to look at what little we know about the lives of others than to look inside our own dark abyss and grapple with the unknowns swimming inside those murky depths. To do this requires a deep-seated and ancient sensibility, which I don't have. So I look outwards, towards the lives of others, and make up stories in my head and in my drafts about them, plots of my own doing, inventions and fabrications that spice up my own reality.

Such has been my long-time habit as writer. I wonder about other lives, other worlds, in the quest to gather details that make up a good story. This comes easy for me, since I live my life fairly quietly, not too publicly, and with a propensity for taking down copious notes.

And perhaps this is how it will be for now. I will look less inside myself and more into the activities, concerns, troubles, affectations, and outward lives of others, as quietly as I can, as invisibly as I can, and store them all inside my writer’s treasure chest of words and details. Someday, I will open that chest.

[Image credits: 1, 2]

15 February 2013

My vials

At one corner of my desk at the office there sits a test tube rack for forty test tubes. However, instead of holding test tubes, it holds ink vials, thirty-one in all. Each ink vial holds one color of fountain pen ink, and the vials are labeled with the brand and color of the ink they contain.

I decided to use this system so I can finally keep my original ink bottles in a cool, dark container where they should be stored, instead of sitting haphazardly at whatever surface was free on either of my desks at the office or at home, and sometimes even residing inside an assortment of bags.

One day I chanced upon this idea on The Fountain Pen Network, which we lovingly call The Nuthouse, and got myself this rack and forty ink vials.

Now my original ink bottles are all safe and sound in a cool, dark place, away from light and dust and the rest of the world, while this ink rack stands at my desk in the office, so all my inks are available to me in case I want to refill a fountain pen or want to write with my dip pens.

This is indeed a brilliant idea, although sometimes people who come to my desk tend to ask me why I am keeping blood samples. Then I have to tell them about the inks and the fountain pens and the paper, which makes me look just a little bit crazy. But then again, that’s a small price to pay for this convenience.

14 February 2013

Morning, noon, and night

This year’s Valentine’s Day was low-key, but special. Mr. T just gave me one long-stemmed rose in the morning, another one at noon, and another one at night.

And then we went home early to have dinner at home and watch a romantic movie and a few episodes of our favorite funny TV show.

Simple, sweet, and real. Thank you, Mr. T, for always finding ways to make me happy.

[Image credit]

08 February 2013

Old hobbies and old habits

When I was ten years old my grandmother, Bita, taught me how to do cross stitch. She gave me a pattern of a silhouette of a lady in a ball gown carrying a fan and standing beside a tall plant. The pattern required only one shade of embroidery floss, and it was fairly easy to do. All I needed to remember were: stitch only in one uniform direction, keep the thread tension even, and never to let the floss become twisted upon itself.

I have been doing cross stitch ever since, and over the years, I have learned and maintained a steady hand, and have nurtured an obsession about flosses laying flat against the fabric. I have learned to hold the work up to a light source at an angle, to check if the light reflects off the floss uniformly. Any stitch that reflects light differently will have to be redone. And for as long as I kept true to these rules, my work would be okay.

So far I have pretty much lived up to Bita’s standards. About a decade and a half ago I have graduated from stitching on basket weave and aida cloth, and have turned to stitching on linen, which other stitchers found more difficult. I didn’t; I just found it different. I chose linen because the designs tend to stand out more dramatically, and I chose patterns of elegant ladies and fairies draped in the most sumptuous fabrics and prints in the most gorgeous colors, with a profusion of wavy hair, and with beads and metallic threads and other wonderful embellishments.

Indeed, this was no longer the cross stitch of my childhood. This was spectacular, grown-up cross stitch that showed women brooding over the men they love, angels in a rich swathe of clouds and cloth bringing serenity to a troubled lover, half-naked fairies with voluptuous curves laughing under the moonlight. This was something we do not simply turn into pillowcases and tablecloths. This was art to be framed and displayed as they are.

But complicated though the designs were, the technique to be used in stitching them was just the same, and there are still those three same things to remember: stitch only in one uniform direction, keep the thread tension even, and never to let the floss become twisted upon itself.

Over the years I have kept up this hobby, but in a less persistent fashion. Sometimes I let a project go untouched for months on end. Sometimes I spend entire 48-hour stretches doing nothing but that project, stopping only to eat and nap. But more or less cross stitching has stayed in my life, and the compulsive orderliness of process and placement that went with it.

Bita herself no longer does cross stitch. Her eyes have become too weak, her hands are not so steady anymore, and her back can no longer endure her sitting up straight for more than fifteen minutes. But sometimes I wonder if she really has stopped doing cross stitch. Because for as long as I have known her, even up to know, she has maintained that compulsive orderliness on laying out her bed linens and her clothes each time, in how she places her slippers at the side of her bed, even in how she hangs the towels. Things have to be placed just so, to reflect a particular meticulous disposition, as if she was making sure her strands always lie flat and the stitches are always in one uniform direction. This is what she has taught me: it’s a good thing to have order.

Image credits: 1, 2, 3

01 February 2013

Blogging, changing, and bearing witness

Blogging for me is a way to mark the quieter but no less significant moments and movements in my life. The traditional markers that we have are usually for the milestones, the popular, the public, the historical. Get married, and you’re the star of the week. Have a baby, and you are bombarded with well-wishers. Earn a degree, you get to be on the yearbook and in the march. Publish a book, and you’re in the promotional write-ups. Win an award, and you’re practically everywhere. Those things are rather hard to miss. But what about the things that happen to us without the benefit of a witness or any pomp and circumstance? Such as finishing reading a really difficult but essential book, or finally finding the last element to a work in progress that has long been missing, or even just successfully cleaning out one’s junk after a long, long time. It could be about finding an old memento and the memories they bring back. It could also be about something not so insular, such as meeting a long-lost friend, some thoughts on a movie, impressions of a visit to an art exhibit, taking a walk.

It’s natural to write about these things in our diary, since a diary is an attempt to catch the fleeting moment and make sense of things, and we all need that kind and level of introspection. But when we begin to blog about certain things that we usually keep in private in our diary, we are effectively making a declaration that our introspection is relevant to society, and that we feel that we have something to say that should be paid attention to. A blog can be a kind of drum roll, perhaps, or it can be a coin into the well of discourse, or simply an invitation for others to be witness to our life. It’s human nature to seek acknowledgement; it’s human nature to want to reach out.

Being a writer, I came into blogging late, and I began my blog without any plans or expectations whatsoever. I began it when the year 2005 was about to end, and I thought I would just wing it. After a couple of weeks worth of posts, I thought it might be fun to attempt to join my two great loves, writing and physics, in my blog. The former is a public love, and its presence in my life has defined how people have been perceiving me for years. The latter is a secret love, born a little later in me, but has nevertheless lived in me long enough for me to know that I would make sacrifices for it if need be. Those kind of posts lasted only a couple of months, as my readings in physics had to give way to the more mundane routine everyday things and issues. Now my blog has become a blog of love and reading and love of reading and about reading as a writer and about writing for love, and about tools for writing and my love for these, and my blog has become nothing like it was when it began.

This changeability, this ease of transformation, is any blog’s greatest strength. My blog will change again into something else, announcing moments, sounding my drum roll, inviting people to be witness to my life and to my attempts at making sense of things.

[Image credit]