The Promise of Youth

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Gif from: Howl’s Moving Castle

This beautiful life is no longer without consequence. Time has begun taking its toll out on you, dear. The late nights are now mapped out on your face, the sorrow weighing down the skin under your eyes. The memories of us have turned into sadness, who would have known?

Who would have known that one day on a roadtrip with no destination would change us so? You see, not even Youth is without consequence. Every happiness is to be paid for. So now we are sad adults, you and me, experiencing not Life, but the drudgery of everydays, reminiscing. Reminiscing about a pair of teenagers, wild and eternal, whose footsteps echo ever so briefly in the hollows of our chests.

Perhaps this is grief. Perhaps this is regret.

Because we killed them. The people we used to be. The dreams we used to have. We gave in to the world. We bowed to the storm and let it strip us of all we were.

So we go through this cruel existence, paying the penance for our crimes with unhappiness and misery. If you are miserable, then their deaths will mean something, right? If you feel hollowed out, soulless, then it is because you deserve to be, right?

Right?

But even now you appear right when I have scrubbed my memories clean of you. In the supermarket, outside a café. Grocery bags in hand. Sadness in your eyes. And for a moment there, I see the spark of the 17-year old you used to be. I see this tingle of Life that wants to awaken. And for a brief minute, Life allows us this repose. This breath of Youth that erases the fine lines and the great walls alike. And all disappears. As though Life had an undo button, a ‘restore to previous version’ option that could take us back to that summer when we were 17. Where the sunlight was warm on our faces and our days were boundless. The grass was tall, and the pink carnations swayed in the wind as the nearby brook ran its course.

But you chose, long ago. So you turn your head and in a heartbeat, take the sunlight away with you.

Éclat De Vie

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Art by: Jin Xingye

So much of who I am today comes from others.

I find comfort in the idea that I carry a piece of the souls I have met and loved with me, wherever I go in Life, wherever I may wander on this Earth.

On days when I face the numbness of reality, I remember the peals of laughter my Grandmother would burst into and I smile a little brighter.

When I feel like I keep messing up, I think of that kid I went to school with. She never could whistle and for a year she tried, spitting all over the place as she did. Until one day, she did. And flowed from her lips a feeble melody.

On rainy days, the ones that are thunderous and grey, I think of the stories my Father used to tell when the lights were out and we were all gathered in the living room, hiding from the storm. And it makes me a little braver.

Life, I am learning, does not have to be lived alone.

To All You Idealists, Dreamers and Lost Wanderers…

Gif Source: Tumblr (Artist Sadly Unknown)

The sun is shining down hard on my head today. My ears burn red under the heat, but I continue to wander my way through Life.  The people around, they all seem to know where they are going. No-nonsense business suits and straightened hair; their ties are smoother than the road ahead.

“Put-together”

They do not hesitate. Their gait is sure, their shoulders firm. They are not afraid of the road. They rule over it. They decide where the road will take them.

Which is why sometimes, it feels like their eyes are boring through me. As I slip in and out of alleyways like a needle through a piece of cloth, as I wander and then abruptly stop to look around me, panic-stricken and lost.

I am not yet like them. My hair is a tangle of dreams, my steps wobbly from fear at times. But also from joy, at others. And I don’t look at the road sometimes, because the huge palm tree that tickles the skies is too beautiful to ignore. Because the port is not too far away and if I strain my ears enough, I will hear the boats with their multicoloured flags rocking, splashing in the water. And the birds. The birds are soaring. The wind is blowing, carrying the smell of salt and the sea.

The sun is shining down so hard, but I’m still looking up.

And I wander.

I look on the world like a wayfarer.

I breathe in; I am not yet like them.

But every so often…Every so often, I will see a soul in a business suit. A young man with slicked back hair, still curling at the edges, still a little light from the sun. I can never look at the eyes. Full of drowned hopes and dying dreams. And yet eyes that are still searching.  Still searching the sea of people, still hoping with a last thread of Hope that the tide will bring something.

I am not yet like them.

But wanderers are a dying breed. And soon, soon… The sun will be too much. And I will stop looking up.

 

Let The Wind Take You Away

Grafolio's portrait.
Art by: 현현

The wind blew across the prairie where I laid, carrying with it the scent of foreign lands.

I could smell the salt of the ocean on its breath, and I shivered a bit at the cold that it spread. There was the unmistakable tang of fish, but also the freshness that you get when you are far, far at sea. I could hear the crashing of the waves, this soothing “Shhhhh” sound. But also a soft animal cry that I could not place.

Today, in a small piece of land in the middle of nowhere, I got a hello from the South Pole,or the North Pole or Norway or Alaska or….

And I was content.

Because the wind, like a messenger, also carried the picture of that beautiful afternoon I had with it. The tall grass and the warm sunlight that makes you sleepy, the smell of wild flowers and freshly laboured soil. The happiness from a giggle, the fluttering of butterfly wings.

This afternoon will never die. The wind will carry it until it reaches a soul that can uncover all the treasures it holds. And it will be safe there, this memory.  But it will eventually fade away, as all things do. It is the kind of feeling that gets lost in between the years. But only one scent, on a day like any other, and the memory comes rushing back to you. And suddenly, the summer when you were 16 is here again. Suddenly, the world is new and so huge that it’s a little intimidating. And like this, out of nowhere, you find peace.

Grafolio's portrait.
Art by: 권민정

 

The grief in her eyes

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Art by: Maria Ngyuen

If Grief is a look, then I saw it in the eyes of someone not much older than I today. And it was only a flashing moment, only in the slight squinting of eyes against the harsh sunlight did I see the mark of Grief painted there. She sat, leaning into the hard seats of the moving train, her eyes closed, as if nursing the pain that had been gathering for 3 years now.

3 years. That’s what her arm tells me. 1967-2014 and a few birds flying away into freedom. I could not catch the name written across her skin, but I have a feeling it is something in between “Mon Coeur” and “Mon Amour“. My heart, or My love.

The dulled tingle of Grief awakes again now. I imagine how it must have been, 3 years ago. I imagine the shock, the disbelief.

Then plummeting into reality, crashing into the overwhelming truth and thinking that you did not sign up for this. This wasn’t meant to happen. It is a breach of all human laws and of all fairness, all decency — and the person you have known and loved all your life, the person you have not had time to cherish yet, is “no more”.

But what does “no more” mean when they have never existed more wholeheartedly for you than in that moment?

But I, 3 years ago, I was probably stressing out about an assignment. 3 years ago while she cried, I was probably binge-watching some show. The day she went to get her skin inked, I was probably lying in bed, quietly contemplating the meaning of my existence at unruly hours, my gaze shifting to the stars for guidance. It always baffles me how your world can change and turn on all its axes three times over in a day without it ever meaning anything to anyone else. To others, it’s just a regular Tuesday that will soon be lost in a sea of everydays, gasping for breath in the foam of memories and ultimately sinking into nothingness.

How strange a thing it is, to exist.

How much stranger it is to be when Grief claims you. When all of the sudden, there is all this love that has nowhere to go. All those ‘Be careful’s, ‘Have a good day’s and ‘See you tomorrow’s that have no place to be. So you keep them in, you close the lid. You close your eyes one day in the stuffed train and let the world be.

3 years is a lot of time for anything. But not for Grief.

 

 

Nature, Not So Beautiful.

EditedPhoto

Orange and Lavender? Not a colour combination I would have chosen myself, but Nature has beauty standards all its own. I am sometimes convinced that Nature could even make sandals worn with socks look beautiful.

I mean, when has Nature disappointed? When have you been in a field brimming with flowers and thought: “There’s too much going on here. Too many colours.”. When have you seen a running stream and said: “The stream is too narrow. The water pressure too low and the pebbles on either side could be more polished.”. When has Nature been too much or not enough?

But then, when we are ourselves part of this Nature we so glorify, why are we not this accepting? Why are our noses too big, our lips too thin and our faces not symmetrical enough? We do not compare every river to the Nile nor every mountain to Mt Everest, then why are we never enough on our own, and must always compare to those who the world says are the prettiest?

And who decided that Orange and Lavender could not go together? Who decided that people could not all look different and be beautiful?

Cup of Life, Anyone?

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The tea leaves swirl in the old porcelain cup, Her wrinkled hand, darkened from long hours in the sun, energetically draws circles of steam in the air as She tries to infuse the dried, blackened leaves in the boiling water.

In the old days, She would often predict your future after one hard look at the remains once you’d had your cup.

But right now, I cannot think of futures. I am the leaves twirling inside the hot water. I am losing my essence, and all of me is becoming undone in the stifling heat, in the dizzying turns the cup takes and the growing tornado threatening to gulp me whole.

Storm in a teacup, Life in a nutshell.

I am being stirred, dissolved into something else. They hope to take the elixir that hides beneath the obsidian-clad body and then discard what is left of it.

Squeeze the soul out, throw the body away. It’s a consumerist society. Fast-food, fast-everything.

So now, She tosses the tea leaves in the bin even before the old, knowing eye can even take a look.

Mother

Warm, slow breaths that come and go, as soothing as the tide that washes the shore to-and-fro.

It is ancestral, this rhythm. One I have been hearing ever since I was born—no, even before. It is a rhythm the soul remembers all too well but the body cannot recall.

Her soft, slow breaths. Calming, soothing.

They are no different than they were when my body was so much smaller than hers, so small and fragile that she could cradle me in one arm.  Even her heart, it beats the same rhythm in spite of the years, in spite of the tragedies that broke it and the losses that shaped it.

Her gentle, comforting breaths.

And yet, when I look at her, I can see that everything has changed. Because now, I look down to see her face, now she looks small. The hair that once was black is now grey, the skin that once was firm is now soft and delicately wrinkled. My body is so big now that it could cover hers like a blanket.

Before, she never was anything but herself. But now, she is tired. She is worn, her weary eyes telling the tales of Life. These eyes, they contain such untold depths. In them, I could see the joy, the pain, the sacrifices and the pride, even the hint of dreams yet to fully grow wings. I could see a life, a soul painted in eyes that have been looking at me since before I was even born.

She saw me, when no one else could.

And even now, she sees me in ways no one else can.

But I am scared of how the years are passing her by. Scared of how she grows smaller even though she stays the same, as though she were a flower that was slowly wilting, folding into itself before rejoining the earth.

But flowers are not eternal…Flowers—are not eternal.

Yet I choose to gaze at the flower, thinking it to be as beautiful in the glow of spring as it is in the cold of winter. I choose to gaze at the flower in both bloom and gloom.

I choose to look at her.

But now, I also want to see more. I want to see more of Life etched into the specks of her eyes. I want to see more wrinkles on her face, more grey hair on her head. I don’t like watching her get old, but if that is what she must do, then I will not look away.

Fear The Shallow Waters

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Art by: Ana Santos

You know, one of the greatest fears people have is that of depths. The depths of the sea, the depths of a deadly fall, the depths of despair.

But I, I am afraid of shallowness.

I drown in shallow waters, in the recesses of my own mind. Like a fish in a tank, I long for the ocean. I long for depth and breadth and dimensions that are limitless. I do not want to be self-contained, I want to bleed colours into the ocean and scatter golden scales wherever I go. I want to turn myself inside out and wear my darknesses and lights like a shirt I’d been wearing wrong my whole life.

I want to dive and jump and sink and get lost. I don’t mind dying if it means I get to live before I do.

But shallow living?

It is only one kind of death followed by another. First, the soul. Then, the body.

But when the soul is dead, what is there left but an empty box? A meat-coated skeleton, a hollow vessel that only echoes back what you throw at it?

Yes. I, I am afraid of shallowness. I fear blandness. I fear not darkness nor light, but this dull grey in-between, this murky puddle that is everyday life.

This blog is not dead (A lesson in apologies and doing the right thing)

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I don’t usually do posts like these, speaking as myself (?) It feels like breaking the fourth wall. But I’ve recently discovered that you must do the right thing, even if no one cares. You must do the right thing, even if it’s a little embarrassing. This blog hasn’t been very active these past weeks (past month?) and I’m sorry for that.

It happened like many things do in Life, you don’t expect something to happen or to last very long, but when you look back, you realise it has already become a part of your life, a thing. Sometimes, you wake up and you’re 60 and you realise you’ve spent your whole life doing that job you swore you hated and pushing aside the dreams your little heart once held. But I’m lucky enough that I didn’t wake up to be 60, with a lifetime of regret. Sure, I’m a little old(er?) now (Although, define old) but if my ability to dramatise is still intact, I can safely say that all is not lost. It might be a little silly, going to these lengths for something like that. But this blog has become somewhat important to me, and it’s not silly to care about the things that are important to you, whether the thing in question is a broken old toy, an inside joke between you and your best friend or even someone.

So, this blog is back. And I hope you’ll continue to enjoy it.
Until the next time Life happens.

Anonymously yours,
Of All Things Beautiful.