Old Friend

Hello friend.

First of all, I know it is your birthday tomorrow. Don’t be impressed that I remember that after all these years. It is just because you shared the same birthdate with my father, that’s why I cannot forget.

I know we have not seen each other in person for several years. But it is not a reason that we have not stayed in touch as friends. After all, we’ve known each other since our “uhugin” days of childhood. We even had that matching yellow shirt that we would often wear at the same time when we were kids, as if we were twins.

We played together. We ate together. We even got lost once together in a farm. We were so small then and cannot see beyond the tall plantation. But you told me that we should kneel down and pray right there in the rice field. After that, we eventually found our way back.

Remember how we played those tau-tauhan or toy soldiers? We would stand them up in the dirt while we were on our hands and knees on the ground, and we’ll hit them with marbles as if it was a war. I think I could hit more than you. And I’ll rub it in, mas asintado ako sa iyo.

Our lives were intertwined, as our families were good friends. We would go to parks and other places together. Remember how we would fit our two families in our “Ford Cortina” – all 4 adults and 6 young kids in one car? Who cares about seatbelts? Those were the good ole days.

Then your family decided to migrate to Papua New Guinea. I was sad that you were leaving us, but happy for you and your family that you would be going to a new country and pursuing a “better” life.

Yet you still came back a couple of times to the Philippines for a visit. You told me about your experience riding that big airplane and crossing the ocean. I was so envious! You told me how excited you were in going down the stairs of the plane that you slipped and almost fell down the tarmac.

Then after a few more years I heard that your family would be migrating to the US from Papua New Guinea. Again I was happy for you and your family for another new adventure. Though I honestly was saddened, as the chances that you would come back to live in the Philippines and we’ll be together again was nil.

But tadhana smiled again and our path crossed once more. Several years later I was given the chance to go to the US too. I remember how you and your family welcomed me with open arms. I even stayed in your place for a short time. You showed me around California in your new Toyota Camry. Your family toured me to Disneyland. And you even took me shopping for some muffler and gloves, as you learned I was going to New York City in the dead of winter to have an interview.

Then I too was able to chase my American dream.

One day you called and told me that you are quitting your job. Your stable, high-paying job. And that you were going to South America with your family as missionaries. I was surprised. But more so, I was so impressed with your admirable faith. I know it’s not easy to give up the comforts and luxuries of life, and leave everything behind, in the name of God’s higher calling. I don’t know if I can do the same.

I understand it took you some time getting used to the change. You told me how remote your location was in South America. That you live almost like in a jungle, and your home was like living in a big tree house. And how it would take you a couple of days to travel to the nearest city. Yet you never forget to call me once in a while when you have the chance. I know you can only make that overseas call whenever you’re in the city.

I heard you say that even though how meager your resources were and how simple your life was, you told me, that you love working in God’s mission. What a remarkable dedication. I have nothing but respect for you.

Then more than a couple of years ago, I learned that you and your family came back to the US. Though I understand, you were still live-in volunteers in a small Christian academy. At least you don’t have to fight anymore, those pesky mosquitoes and poisonous snakes that sneak inside your home.

Once in a while we’ll talk about our families over the phone. And how we would open up about our “little” problems raising our family, just like any parents have. I called you few weeks ago, and I told you that I would be praying for you and your family. I also got your “thank you” card about two weeks ago.

Then I got a phone call from your sister yesterday. What an awful news! A heartbreaking news. That you had a tragic car accident. And in an instant, you were gone.

I don’t know what to think. My finite mind cannot rationalize it. I don’t know why God called you home too soon. But I just have to trust Him. As you always did.

I cannot imagine how your family and children are taking this. I am praying for them. I would continue to support them in whatever way I can, just like I promised you the last time we talked.

I guess I will never hear your voice again. We will never have that heart to heart talk again. At least not here on earth. But hoping someday, somewhere, beyond this earth…….

Goodbye my old friend.

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(*in loving memory of Boying)

(**photo taken with an iPhone)

 

 

Barriers

He was always there.

Constantly standing outside the ICU room, that is closed by a sliding glass door. He looked worried. The expression on his face was if he was begging for any news or information to any hospital staff that goes in and out of that room. Except that even when we tried to talk to him, he does not comprehend any word we say.

He does not speak English. Yet I believe he had a sense of what was going on. I think he somehow knew that something very bad was going on. Except nobody can really confirm it to him in a language he can understand.

His wife was inside that ICU glass room. Lying in bed hooked to several monitors and to a life-sustaining machine. Infusing into her veins were several liquid medications in upside down bottles hanging from poles. Coming out of her body were several tubes and catheters – some in natural body orifices, and some in surgically made openings.

The room was a negative air-pressure isolation room. Meaning, that all air droplets were being suck out of that room to a special outlet to prevent from spreading. And all personnel that go into that room needs to don a gown, a mask or a respiratory hood, and gloves.

As he stands outside that glass room looking in, several barriers are separating him from his sick wife, and from the world.

First is the physical barrier of being in an isolation room. This is being done as we suspect she has a highly contagious disease that can spread not just to the other hospital patients, but also to the hospital staff. If only he can be constantly at her bedside. Of course he is free to go inside the room, as long as he wear all those protective gear.

Second is the language barrier. Being a new immigrant to this country and not understanding its language can be very isolating. Not able to communicate even the simplest of questions is already difficult, how much more understanding a very complex situation.

Perhaps he and his wife came to this country to escape hardship or persecution. Perhaps they came here to pursue a dream and to begin a new life. Then, this happened. Which leads me to the biggest barrier of all, the barrier of the unknown tomorrow. What will happen to his wife? To him? To their dreams? And their future?

For the past two days we have been talking to him only through a phone interpreter. Due to the circumstances’ limitation, most of the conversation with him was to explain a procedure or a test that is needed, and to obtain his consent. Consent for blood transfusion. Consent for the CT scan and MRI. For the spinal tap. For chest tube insertion. For percutaneous abdominal drainage catheter. For bronchoscopy. And other more. But sitting down and explaining to him every nitty-gritty details of her wife’s illness and its prognosis, we have not done yet.

Finally, the social worker was able to get an interpreter to come to the hospital. Being an obscure dialect of a certain language, it was hard to get an interpreter in person.

So I sat down with him, and with a live interpreter, explained in as much as I could, the gloomy situation. I explained to him the severity of her wife’s condition: with overwhelming still-to-be-determined infection, plus the ravaging systemic lupus affecting almost every organ including the brain, the odds were plainly against us.

As I converse with him through the interpreter, I learned that he has no relatives and the only family he had here in the US is his wife. I also learned that at night he still goes to work at a meat-packing factory so he can keep his job, and then come and stay in the hospital all day. Somehow he just tries to sneak some naps in the ICU waiting room during the day. No wonder he looked so haggard. Life can be tough at times.

Then he asked me the crucial question, “Would my wife get better?”

I gave him my honest answer, “I don’t know.” I told him that there’s a possibility that his wife may die. Even though she’s only 22 years old.

His face became more saddened. Perhaps that’s an information that he was afraid to learn. Now through the interpreter, he fully grasps the gravity of the state she’s in. Sometimes I think, that not knowing is better. Perhaps not understanding, is bliss.

Two more days passed, and he was there most of the time. Outside the glass door. Looking. Pleading. Hoping. I almost wanted to avoid him, for there’s no comforting words I can say, with or without the interpreter.

But today is different. I cannot wait for the interpreter to arrive so I can talk to him. I needed to tell him the news. I think we have found an answer. I think she is slowly getting better.

I needed to tell him, that I believe she will live.

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Fields of Gold

A few weeks ago, we visited a friend’s farm where they are experimenting if they can grow rice here in Iowa. In case you don’t know, we don’t plant rice here. The farms here in Iowa are mostly corn and soybeans. Though rice is grown in a few southern states of the US.

The rice that they are trying to grow here in Iowa is a different type of rice though. As you can see in the picture below, it is not growing in paddies that we Filipinos are more familiar with. This variety of rice is more sturdy to the cold weather and does not need irrigation or much water. Of course the part owner of this farm is a Filipino. As we Filipinos loves rice, where ever part of the world we are.

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Back in the Philippines, even though I grew up in the city, we went to my father’s province quite regularly when I was young. Their ancestral home was by the edge of a rice field. We spent many hours watching farmers work on those fields. We sometimes played in those fields too, hunted for palakang bukid (frogs) there, and even played tag with my cousins while running in the pilapil (dikes).

During harvest season, it was beautiful to see the palay (rice) with their golden grain swaying and dancing as the wind blows through them like the waves of the sea. I miss seeing those fields of palay.

In 1993, one of my favorite singers, Sting released the song “Fields of Gold.” The song opens and ends with these words:

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky
As we walk in fields of gold.

Sting found inspiration to write that song as his house in England, a 16th century Wiltshire manor house, was surrounded by barley fields. Even though I am not familiar with fields of barley, I can somehow relate as I have seen “golden” fields of rice, which I believe has the same poetic appeal.

If Sting lived in the Philippines, he could have sung: “You’ll remember me when the west wind moves, upon the fields of palay.” And if he grew up in the Philippines, his name may not be Sting, but it could be Pagi (stingray), or Putakti (wasp), which we know can sting bad. Sorry I digress.

By the time the song Fields of Gold became popular, it was the time also that I left the Philippines. You could say that I left my native land in search of some greener pastures and in pursuit of “fields of gold.”

When I came to America, the first couple of CD’s I bought was albums of Sting. For several months, during my lonely moments, Sting kept me company. I listened to his melancholic songs of Fragile and They Dance Alone, and also sang along his upbeat songs like All This Time and If You Love Somebody Set Them Free. Sometimes he even serenaded me to sleep.

After living here in the US for some time, and after moving from New Jersey, then to New York, then to California, then to Florida, and finally settling here in Iowa, I believe I have found what I was looking for. I can even claim now that I am literally looking at fields of gold. With autumn season upon us and with changing fall colors, even the fields here are turning gold, signifying that harvest time is near.

Below is a picture of a ‘golden’ soybean field.

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I may have traveled long and far in pursuit of my dreams, but at least I can say that it brought me to my own fields of gold. I am not saying that I own those soybean fields. I don’t own corn fields either. I am not even talking about the soybeans, or cornfields, or even those rice fields. What I’m saying is this – what I own, is the realization of my dreams.

As I was running the other morning near these golden fields, the song Fields of Gold was playing in my mind. And if I may borrow from the lyrics of Sting, albeit with some changes:

Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley palay
See the children me as I run, as the sun goes down up among the fields of gold.

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(*photos of soybean fields taken during my morning run)

 

Sunset Boulevard

In Hollywood, there’s a famous street called Sunset Boulevard. It is lined with tall palm trees, bright lights, commercial establishments, and is teeming with cars and people any time of the day. This is where the Star’s Walk of Fame is also located. I drove and walked in that road a couple of times.

Here’s our version of Sunset Boulevard here in Iowa, which I am more familiar with.

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Just me, the road, and the sunset.

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(*photos taken while on our way to my daughter’s university)

Don’t Lose Your Head

Perhaps you’ve heard of the advice that goes something like this: Be careful, or you’re gonna lose your head.

For some creatures, apparently this warning should be taken literally.

One morning last week, while I was working at our clinic, I noticed a praying mantis resting on our glass window. Our office room is one huge room that I share with my other partners.

One doctor partner of mine also saw the praying mantis and nonchalantly said that female praying mantis sometimes chomp off the head and eat their male partner after they mate or even while they are mating.

What?!!

I don’t think I heard that fact before. Maybe I was absent that day or missed that lesson during my biology class in high school and college. I know some creatures cannibalize their mates. The most notorious perhaps is the black widow spider, that’s why they are named such.

Other creatures that kill their mate after copulation includes the jumping spider, some scorpions, and some octopus. You probably have heard the song, “Love Hurts” by the rock band Nazareth. But for these creatures, love kills!

Our office secretary also overheard our conversation, and started ‘googleling’ some facts and videos about praying mantis.

I learned that mantids (plural of mantis) have 2 large eyes and 3 smaller ones and have stereo-vision. They can also rotate their head 180 degrees, enabling them to scan their whole surrounding. But maybe that’s the reason they are decapitated by their female mate, so they won’t look around anymore for another mate.

By the way, they are called “praying” mantis, because they have a stance that their front legs are folded like they are praying. The word “mantis” in Greek means prophet or seer. But don’t be fooled with this angelic pose, for they are deadly predators, preying on smaller insects. Bigger mantis can even prey on lizards, frogs, and birds. Yes, they prey even on their mates! They should be called “preying” mantis.

Such an opposite meaning between praying and preying. Do we sometimes give a different impression than who we really are? Do we hide horns underneath the halo? Maybe those mantids are just praying before they prey on their meal.

So back to my story, after hearing more facts from our secretary, courtesy of Dr. Google, we wondered whether the mantis on our window is a male or a female. Doctors can be very inquisitive, you know.

We learned that differentiating a male from a female praying mantis is quite simple. A male mantis has 8 abdominal segments, while the female has only 6.

So we looked closely on the praying mantis on our window whose belly is very visible to us. We determined that it is a male.

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praying mantis on our window

Doctors can determine the sex of the fetus or an unborn baby by looking at ultrasound images. They can determine the sex of a skeletal remains by anthropometric measures and bone features. They can even determine the sex where a tissue sample came from by doing genetic testing. But in our case, we also determined the sex of a praying mantis by simply looking at its belly.

After learning all these, we said to the mantis, “Be careful buddy, or you’re gonna lose your head.”

I guess, the warning applies to humans too, especially for the young ones. Many times we lose our head, in a sense that when the ‘love bug’ bit us, we lose our mind and we abandon our thinking brain, as we behave and act against all reasoning.

As Francisco Balagtas, a Filipino poet wrote long time ago in his work Florante at Laura:

O pag-ibig na makapangyarihan, pag pumasok sa puso nino man, hahamakin ang lahat masunod ka lamang.

(Love, all-powerful thou art, when you enter anyone’s heart, all will be abandoned, just to follow thy path.)

To all lovers out there, not just for the mantids, please keep your head.

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(*English interpretation of the excerpt from Florante and Laura is my own translation.)

 

Chedeng at Chinelas

Noong makalawang araw ay bumisita sa aming bahay ang isang kaibigan, kasama ang kanyang asawa at panganay na anak. Siya ay isa ring Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Meron lang silang dinaanan dito sa amin.

Aking napansin na bago ang sasakyan niyang dala. Sabi niya, ipinamana na raw niya ang lumang Honda sa kanyang anak. Akin siyang kinantsawan na sobrang asenso na niya. Ika ko nga, “hindi ka na ma-reach!”

Kasi, naka-Chedeng na siya.

Malugod din niyang ipinakita ang mga features ng kanyang bagong kotse. Pinindot lang niya ang kanyang cellphone at umandar na ang kanyang kotse, kahit wala siya sa loob nito. Napabilib ako. Siguro pwede pa niyang i-program na utusan lang ang kanyang smartphone: “Siri, start my car.”

Mayroon din daw itong standard safety features, gaya ng automatic braking kung sakaling aanga-anga siya at hindi nakapag-preno kaagad, at nagbibigay din ng warning kung may sasakyan sa kanyang blind spot at kung siya ay antok-antok at lumilihis sa lane. Hindi lang din daw camera sa likod ang makikita niya kung siya ay umuurong, kung hindi 360º view. Higit sa lahat, kaya nitong magself-park, kahit pa parallel parking. Sabi ko nga, kulang na lang mag-drive ‘yung kanyang Mercedes na mag-isa.

Pero sang-ayon sa mga eksperto, by year 2020 or 2021, mayroon ng mass production ng self-driving cars, at available na ito sa lahat. Kahit sino ay pwede nang maging Knight Rider!

Habang ipinagyayabang ng aking kaibigan ang kanyang Mercedes, ay para kaming mga musmos na natutuwa sa bagong jolen, o trumpo, o kaya’y matchbox. Iyon nga lang, totoo ‘yung matchbox.

Noong ako’y batang paslit pa, ang kilala ko lang na luxury car ay Chedeng o Mercedes Benz. Kilala ko rin si Aling Mercedes, pero hindi siya kotse. Hindi ko pa alam noon ang BMW, Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Ferrari, Cadillac o Lexus. Kilalang-kilala ko naman ang Sarao. Tingin ko sa mga naka-Chedeng noon ay sobrang yaman at sobrang matagumpay sa buhay.

Sa katunayan, wala nga akong kilalang naka-Mercedes noong ako’y nasa elementarya at high school pa, maliban sa isa. Siya ay crush ng bayan sa aming eskwelahan, dahil maganda na siya tapos naka-Chedeng pa. Ang tatay niya ay duktor, at sila ay nakatira sa Dasma (Dasmariñas Village).

Noong nasa kolehiyo na, ako ay namulat sa katotohanan na kahit sa mahirap na bansa’t lipunan pala, ay marami pa rin burgis. Marami akong naging kamag-aral na naka-Chedeng. May mga kaklase pa nga ako na may sarili silang kotse at naka-tsuper pa. Buong mag-hapon naghihintay lang ang kanilang tsuper sa may parking lot ng unibersidad. Hindi lang nga Mercedes Benz, may nakita pa akong estudyante na ang dina-drive ay Porsche. Okay lang, ako naman ay “Cadillac” – kadilakad.

Balik tayo sa kaibigan kong Pilipinong duktor dito sa Iowa. Habang kami ay nagku-kwentuhan ay aming napag-usapan na parang kailan lang ay mga musmos pa ang aming mga anak. Ngunit ngayon, pareho na kaming may anak na nasa kolehiyo. Ang bilis ng panahon.

Nagawi ang aming usapan noong kami ay nasa-kolehiyo pa. Siya ay nag-aral din sa Maynila. Nabangit ko na napakarami nang nagtataasang condominum sa Maynila pati sa university belt. Sabi naman niya ay marami na rin daw masasarap na kainan sa paligid-ligid ng university belt. Sa susunod niyang uwi sa Pilipinas, gusto raw niyang pumasyal at kumain sa mga turo-turo sa tabi ng unibersidad. Simple pa rin talaga ang trip ng kaibigan kong ito, down-to-earth pa rin.

Napag-usapan din namin kung paano kaming nakikipag-habulan sa mga jeepney, at kung paano kami halos makipagbalyahan at siksikan, makasakay lamang. Pinaririnig lang din naman namin sa aming mga anak kung gaano sila kaswerte ngayon, at hindi nila naranasan ang  hirap na aming dinaanan.

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Chedeng na Jeepney

Hanggang sa napag-usapan noong kami ay nasa elementarya pa. Kwento ng aking kaibigan, dahil siya ay lumaki sa probinsiya, ay naglalakad lang daw siya araw-araw patungong paaralan nila. Ang pampublikong paaralan ay nasa kabilang barrio, kaya’t medyo malayo ang kanyang linalakad. Para mag-short cut, siya ay tumutulay sa pilapil ng mga palayan habang bitbit-bitbit niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi maputikan. Minsan pa raw, binibitbit din niya ang kanyang chinelas para hindi ito maupod agad, upang makatipid.

Ako ay napangiti at napaisip. Ang batang nagbibitbit lang ng chinelas noon para hindi ito maupod, ngayon ay naka-Chedeng na.

Tignan mo nga naman talaga ang tadhana. Marunong pa rin itong ngumiti sa mga nagsisikap na umasenso sa buhay. Kahit na hindi Mercedes, ang kanilang pangalan.

(*photo from the web)

 

 

Road Trip

The road hums a wistful song, while the passing trees, powers lines, and scenery plays like an old movie in my hazy field of vision. I am safely buckled in my seat, while we whiz down the interstate. The car’s trunk is loaded, but not nearly as full and cluttered as my mind is.

My daughter and I are going on a road trip.

It is hard to imagine that it was more than 50 years ago now, when my daughter and I went on our first long trip. We went camping in a distant national park, and even though we stayed there only two nights, we packed our car full. We brought almost everything, except the house itself – the propane stove, the tent, the air mattresses, pillows and comforters, folding chair and tables, and even a portable heater.

When I fastened my little girl on her car seat when we embarked on that trip, she mildly protested. It seemed like we stopped on every rest area for a bathroom break, as my daughter claimed she needs to go. But maybe it was just her ploy to get out of her car seat. And yes, she asked a million times, “Are we there yet?”

It was a fun trip though.

It was more than 30 years ago now also, that I took my daughter on another long road trip. We drove for several hours to another nearby state. The car was overloaded with many things, like the electric fan, microwave oven, television, vacuum cleaner, a closet-full of clothes, and my daughter’s big cello. That was when I dropped her off to college.

She was so excited to go to the university and to be on her own. I guess she views it as independence. My heart was heavy all the way through that trip. Even though it was a long drive, I don’t want it to end. For I know that when we reach our destination, I would be leaving her behind and may not see her again for several weeks. Perhaps months. But she has to go and leave the nest, and make a mark of her own in this world. I get that.

Of course she made it through college. And beyond.

Now we’re together again on another road trip. Except that I am not in the driver’s seat anymore. I am just the passenger and my daughter is driving.

She said that I cannot live by myself anymore in our old big house. And I agree, since her mother left for heaven, I am really lost and lonely. She is taking me to a place to be closer to her.

She told me that I don’t need most of my stuff, just the bare essentials. For in the place where we will go, it has everything I need, she said. I don’t need much stuff anyway. The most precious things I used to have, I already lost them.

Funny that people say that my memory is getting bad. That my mind is already playing tricks on me. That I don’t remember things anymore. Like where I placed my glasses or even my dentures. Or who is Mr. or Mrs. so and so, people they say I should know. And yet, why do I remember all these nostalgic memories so vividly?

I know this may be my last road trip. For I can barely walk without any assistance anymore. I cannot even feed myself without spilling food on my lap and all over the floor. And that’s why I am going to this “big house” with all the help available, with some other old forgetful people like me. I hope my daughter will visit me there often.

It’s nice to be on the road again. To feel the wind and the sun on my face again. If only this road trip would not end.

photo taken in some back road in Iowa

(*This short story is written as a fiction. And hopefully will stay as fiction.)

Eclipsing the Eclipse

They said that it was the greatest show under the sun. The solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, billed as the Eclipse of the Century or also referred as the Great American Eclipse was visible within a band across the entire United States. The last solar eclipse that was seen across the contiguous United States was in 1918.

Where I live now, which is in Central Iowa, we only have partial eclipse, but it is still 95% cover. But if I want to see a total solar eclipse, all I need to do is drive about two hours west, or two hours south of me, and I will be in that narrow band of total solar eclipse path. Two hours travel is nothing. When I was still in Manila, it takes two hours just to cross EDSA.

There were places that I know that advertised their town or city as “the destination” for the best viewing area for the total eclipse. Their hotels were fully booked months before the event. I know some friends of mine tried to book a hotel on these popular places but were not able. Though they were still able to find hotels in smaller towns nearby.

In one place, they made their city parks and regional airport as the designated viewing place, but you have to reserve a spot for parking weeks before the event as they expect a wave of visitors. Of course there’s a fee involved. In another place, it was a military base that they assigned to welcome eclipse travelers, but again you need to reserve a slot there. Perhaps all the streets in these prime towns and cities suddenly have parking meters.

Even several weeks before the solar eclipse, I already knew that I am not working that day. It’s because I would be on-call the weekend before, so I am off that Monday. Thus I considered going to those prime viewing places. However, I learned that by that time, summer vacation is over and my children will be back in school already, and so I did not make any early plans.

As the event got nearer, and the hype for the eclipse got hotter, I thought that maybe we don’t even need to stay overnight in those choice places. I could easily drive early morning that day as it is just 2 hours away from us, and the time of the solar eclipse is not until around noontime anyway. And even if I have not made any parking reservation in those viewing areas, I thought I could just park in their town’s Wal-Mart.

Few days before the eclipse, I still have not procured the recommended glasses which is needed to safely view the solar eclipse. I tried to look for the certified eclipse glasses in the stores around our area, but all of them have sold out. I want to see the solar eclipse but I also don’t want to go blind. It was really poor planning on my part.

The weekend of my duty came. I worked and was on-call for an ungodly long time of almost 60 hours straight. Besides being so busy it was depressing too. In one stretch of time, we even had a string of deaths in the ICU that Sunday. I was just glad it’s over.

Solar eclipse by the way, for the superstitious, is regarded as an evil omen. The word “eclipse” comes from the Greek word “ekleipsis,” which means “an abandonment.” Thus it is not a surprise that civilizations throughout history associate it for bad things to happen.

Come Monday, the day of the eclipse, I was awakened by lightning and thunderstorm. I checked on the weather and found out that it will be raining the whole day in our area. Rats! So much for viewing the solar eclipse.

I also checked on those areas where I initially planned on driving to see the totality of the eclipse, and the weather forecast there was cloudy too for the whole day. Suddenly I felt bad for those people who made such elaborate arrangements and plans to view the solar eclipse, only to be disappointed by the cloudy weather.

I end up just visiting my daughter in her university which is also two-hour drive away. But it was north of us and going farther away from the band of the total solar eclipse path. I reasoned, If I’m not able to see the total eclipse due to the weather, at least I’m seeing my daughter.

When we arrived at the university, it was cloudy there too. The university have even arranged an eclipse viewing party. Outside the university campus, in the town center, there were also lots of kids and their parents gathered outside the public library with their lounge chairs and eclipse glasses. But all were disappointed, as the sun can be barely seen due to the cloudy skies.

Below is the best we were able to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse:

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The greatest show on earth was covered not by the moon shadow. But by the dark rain clouds. The eclipse was eclipsed! What a bummer!

Clouds are part of our lives here on earth. And so are disappointments. We can make all the elaborate plans for the future. But there is always that element of unknown that is beyond our control. All we can do is make the best of the situation.

It was still cloudy when we got back home. It even rained some more. But as the sun was about to set, this showed up in the sky:

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Sometimes, those rain clouds that disappoint us can also give us unexpected joy.

 

(*photos taken with iPhone)

No Swan Song

There is an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song just before they die. Whether this is scientifically true or not does not matter, as “swan song” has become a metaphorical phrase or a poetic term that means giving a final gesture or performance before saying goodbye.

A few weeks ago, I thought of ending it. Not my life, silly. I meant this blog.

After 7 years and 7 months of blogging, and after writing more than 700 posts, I just thought it was time for me to sing my swan song.

It is not that I have declining readership. In fact, last month was the most successful month with regards to number of visits, ever since the inception of this blog. It’s not also that I am losing my fire to write nor I am running out of ideas. On the contrary, my desire to write burns intensely as ever, and my ideas of what to write overflows from my brain like a bad bout of diarrhea.

But it might be those same reasons that I considered ending this blog. Seeing that my readership and followers are constantly increasing, I have this almost compelling urge to check my blog stats to see if I could break my previous stat records. Maybe I can get another 100 or 1000 more visits a day? Or maybe I can get another 100 new followers or more? I also experience intense anticipation of how many “likes” could I have on my new post or the next one. The craving to get more, more, and more.

I have not earned a single cent from blogging anyway, and I made that conscious decision to be that way. No sponsors, no ads. So that’s not even the issue.

Don’t get the idea that I am one of those elite bloggers who have a gazillion readers and followers. I’m not even close to that category.

Desiring to have a busy blog traffic and getting people to “like” your articles can be good, but it can wear you down as well. Like a bad itch or addiction. Plus the persistent pressure to outperform myself and the constant pursuit to please. Writing should de-stress me, not stress me out.

And that’s the reason, I thought I should end this blog. At least I am ending it on my own terms.

However, as I was writing my swan song, I realized that I still enjoy writing. Never mind if hundreds of people are reading my articles or it’s just me. Never mind if several readers push the “like” button or none. I don’t need to write for the approval of others. Never mind if my last post was a week ago or a month ago. No pressure.

I came back to the realization of my basic reason why I started this blog. I blog because I want to and for the simple joy of writing. Nothing else.

I guess my swan song article will remain unpublished. Together with some other 18 or so unpublished posts that will remain in my draft bin.

Swan song anyway, is just a myth.

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(*photo taken in Boston Common)