Sunday, February 26, 2012

book sematary

way back in college days, i always bring one of my treasured paperbacks, walt whitman's leaves of grass.  ever since i stumbled upon one of his poems, he became one of my favorite poets.  his style was different, his message so mystical, so spiritual.  and so, i tried to save up so i can buy the leaves of grass. during every lull from school work, i just sat idly by and immersed myself in whitman's poetry.  on the empty spaces on each page i dutifully scribbled my notes, my impressions for the poems, things i learned from whitman. so, imagine my dismay when one day i found out it had dropped off from my back pocket during one of the jeepney rides. i lost my treasure.  i vowed that once i am able to land a job, i'd immediately buy another copy.

well, it's been years, and i never was able to fulfill this vow. until the other day. when suddenly, as i passed this book store, i had this irresistible urge to go in and browse.  this is a shop that sells only second hand books.  i sometimes refer to this store as the book sematary. well, to admit, i coined this word as a take off from one of stephen king's horror novels, pet sematary,  it should actually be cemetery but one of the child characters in the book had painted a sign for the pets' burial ground and misspelled the word. the increased popularity of e-books and the current fad of using handheld portable devices which can download and store these had somehow eroded many peoples' fancy for the printed books.  well, it's really not hard to understand why most people had gone electronic -- they can actually now carry every day with them almost their entire collection of books! they have their entire library right in the palms of their hands!  very convenient indeed!  thus, many people now, as soon as an e-book version becomes available, immediately acquire the e-book and dispose the printed one to the second-hand shops.  and so i say, this is how the printed ones get "buried" in the book sematary.

well, i'm still one of those old-fashioned bookworms.  still enamored with the paper version of books.  i love the feel of the book in my hands; the way i struggle to keep the page i am reading on while the wind teasingly blow the pages away; the manner by which i frantically reach for a pen or a pencil to draw lines below the texts that i found interesting, or to dog-ear the page if a pen or pencil is not available; i savor the time i spend annotating the book, using the vacant spaces on the pages, to write down my own thoughts, sometimes debating with the author on ideas i found contrary to mine; then, closing my eyes that got wearied of reading, i lie down in some quiet corner, propping my book as a pillow underneath my head. 

so, i entered the shop. and behold, right there across the shelf opposite me, i found whitman again. the leaves of grass.  this one's not so used. the cover's cut up though at the right corner. the pages are still crisp.  there were some dog-ears.  the book smells good.  it had not been buried for so long.  i inspected the pages. no torn pages. no writings on the vacant spaces of the pages. a complete book.  leaves of grass,  mine again for only 75 pesos.  i thanked the lady at the book sematary.  she and another lady were busy though.  i noticed they were getting ready to catalog a fresh batch of second-hand books that just got delivered. soon, they'd be "burying" these books in the shelves to be hopefully resurrected later by another old-fashioned bookworm
outside the store, i looked at the cover again. walt whitman, bearded, long, silver hair, cocked hat. they say he had attained cosmic consciousness, nirvana. that's why his poems are sweeping and panoramic and of a different melody.  i'll discover it again.

whoever you are holding me now in hand,
without one thing all will be useless,
i give you fair warning before you attempt me further,
i am not what you supposed, but far different.

                                                          ---- walt whitman

Thursday, February 23, 2012

starry night

just yesterday,  i was up early at 12:30 preparing to leave for my 4 am shift at work. i was done with my meal, done washing the dishes,  got dressed. suddenly, electric power went off and all around was pitch black.  i hurriedly looked for candles and lit two.  there was the familiar yellow glow of the candle lights, the flames flickering in slow motion as the cool, gentle breeze found the window.  i momentarily watched my shadow as it danced to the flickering lights. there was something poetic in the moment -- the blackness outside and the yellow light inside my house, the coolness of the air, and the sudden silence, well, the dogs stopped barking.  it was the cicadas unseen amid the branches and leaves of our avocado tree that gave that moment its peculiar song.

i had to leave.  i woke my daughter up and gave her instructions on what to do once power comes back.  i told her to always monitor the candles but i made sure that they'd be no cause for any fire even if they burn themselves off if the power interruption lasts long.

i went out to greet the darkness outside. the streetlamps were all off.  i stood outside our gate for a few seconds to familiarize my eyes with the blackness. no moon this time.  i did not bring any flashlight.  i walked gingerly.  occasionally, i turned on my mobile phone using its glow to see what might be in front of me.

i looked up.  the sky was very clear.  the stars! so many of them and the surrounding darkness made it easier for me to see those glittering sequins of this night's black robe.  as i was walking, i tried to play a guessing game by myself.  trying to figure out the configurations i see in the heavens and naming them as in the horoscopes or astrology columns i seldom read. 

that could be the big dipper, i said to myself, as i outlined its form, or maybe the small dipper?  what about there, could it be the bull?  i frantically searched for my astrological sign, the lion, but much as i tried hard to, i could not make out its form.  amazing! and these were what the ancient mariners and travelers used as guides as they went from place to place.  i told myself i'd research on these later.

the night was poetic. as i neared the stop where i'd be taking my ride for work, i stopped for a while and looked up again. 

i remembered vincent van gogh and his famous painting,  starry, starry night.  i could not help but whistle one of my favorite songwriter's, don mclean,  song tribute to vincent

it was a poetic night.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

in the silence

just could not blog so much these past days. still trying to get this body get over the inconveniences. further, i had to assist my daughter in  editing her thesis prior to printing. can't believe she's nearing graduation from college.  ah, time sure flies fast! she was just 5.13 pounds when her mom delivered her and look at her now,  a beautiful young lady enthusiastically finishing up her thesis on travel photography about my home province. ah, time! this is probably why henry david thoreau wrote -- " time is but the stream i go a-fishing in."

i came across an article in one of our broadsheets, the philippine daily star, about our philippine tarsier.  it is known to be one of the smallest primates  and definitely the one that has the largest eyes.  the report said that a group of scientists have just found out that this little one has the capability to communicate in ultrasound.  this means it can send and receive messages far beyond the hearing abilities of humans and animals. thus, this ability enables it to approach and capture its insect preys and also send out warnings to others of its kind about approaching predators.

this brings to mind that fact declaring effective communication does not necessarily need spoken or written word. lovers have this special ability. they just stare into each others eyes and communication is completed. an understanding of feelings is recognized. paintings, photographs, musical compositions, and other forms of art, including fashion shows, all these communicate to us not in the regular medium of language.  somehow, these tweak something in our inner beings and we feel, we recognize, that which the painter, the photographer, the composer, the clothes designer, wishes to convey. our inner eyes and our inner ears capture that which is being communicated.

the thing is,  for us to be able to fully understand the message, that which is being transmitted in silence, we must be fully receptive. much as the philippine tarsier transmits via ultrasound his warning signals to other tarsiers about approaching danger, we also must rise to the level of the painter, the photographer, the musician, the couturier, so that we can  comprehend the exact message. failure to rise to their level will result to over-interpretation or under-interpretation, and thus there will be miscommunication.

the Old Sages and the Masters teach that the Infinite communicates to us in silence.  we must endeavor to raise our consciousness to Its level.  and it is by going deep within ourselves that we will be able to achieve this. by stilling the mind, by rising above its distracting waves of thought, by being one-pointed.  to be deeply aware of the Infinite is to be Silent.  to be fully absorbed in Silence will allow us to Listen to the Infinite, and understand ...

in the Silence
i sought Your Smile
seeking softly 
that for awhile
You'd find me worthy
and reveal
that Inner Beauty
You conceal
from those whose hearts
remain impure
a single pain
could not endure
i'll wait dear Master
hard i'll try
to win forever 
Your Radiant Smile!