Kapitbahay

Noong isang umaga, habang ako’y tumatakbo sa aming lugar, ay napadpad ang aking isipan sa lugar na aking kinalakihan. Ang aming kalye ay masikip at ang mga bahay ay dikit-dikit.

Ito ang kalye kung saan ako nanggaling, at ito ang dati naming mga kapitbahay sa Sampaloc, Manila. IMG_1598_3 Hindi lang mga batang paslit ang laman ng kalye kundi may mga lalaboy-laboy na hayop din sa dating naming lugar.

Ito ay mga askal (asong kalye). Kapag sinamang-palad, nagiging pulutan sila ng mga nag-iinuman doon sa kanto. IMG_1595_2 Ngunit iba na ang mundong ginagalawan ko ngayon. Layu-layo ang mga bahay at malalawak ang mga bakuran at bakanteng lupa.

Ito ang isa sa aming kapit-bahay, isang barnhouse, na nasa gawing likod ng aming tahanan dito sa Iowa. IMG_3606 Ito naman ngayon ang mga lalaboy-laboy na usa (deer) sa aming lugar ngayon. Maaring sabihin na mas masarap na pulutan ito kaysa “asosena.” IMG_3642 Kahit paano ay nami-miss ko pa rin ang dati naming lugar at mga kapit-bahay. Maliban sa mga maiingay na lasing doon sa kanto.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Our Family Tree

This post has nothing to do with genealogy or my family’s ancestry. It is about a real tree.

Four years ago, we planted an apple tree in our backyard. It is a 5-in-1 tree. That means it has 5 varieties of apples – Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Jonathan and Golden Delicious – all grafted into one tree.

Here is a photo right after we planted it. My wife was lovingly trimming it and placing rich soil, fertilizer, and mulch around it.

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Due to the many wandering deer in our area, we have to put a fence around our young tree to prevent it from being dinner (or breakfast) for hungry animals. They eat twigs, leaves, and all, not just the flowers or fruits.

Below is a picture when I was putting up a fence around it.

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On its second year, it only produced a couple of fruits. They were small, and we did not even had the chance to taste it as they fell to ground before we can even pick them.

After three years it grew much taller that we felt we can liberate it from its protective barrier, so we took out the fence. It also bore more fruits, and this time we were able to taste the produce of our family tree.

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Above is a photo of our tree last year. Note that the lower branches were bare, as deer nibbled on them. My son was trying to pick the apples, but it was beyond his reach.

Too high? No problem. He used a ladder!

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We were able to picked 5 or 6 apples last year. Not bad at all.

This year our tree really blossomed. Here it is this last spring, full of flowers and full of promise of a bounty harvest.

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We had so many budding fruits this early summer that we have counted more than 100 apples.

As summer turned into fall, which is the time for picking, we were unable to harvest them all. Some fell before we can get them. And some simply disappeared. There must be some mysterious apple thieves in our neighborhood, or maybe it was the pesky deer.

Yet there were still plenty of apples left to go around. Here are red apples of the Gala variety in one branch.

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Here are the green apples of the Granny Smith variety in another branch.

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You can notice that due to its many fruits, the weight of the apples made the branches of our tree stoop low. Thus, making it more reachable for us. And that is so true in life – the more fruitful one gets, the more giving it becomes.

Here’s my daughter picking an apple, way within reach.

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We are looking forward to several more fruitful years from our family tree. We are hoping that in the coming years, we would be able to taste all the five varieties of apples from our tree.

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I know, this tree will outlive me provided that it is nurtured and cared for. Maybe my children or my children’s children will enjoy its fruits even after I am gone, if they choose to stay in this house. And even if we move out of here, still somebody else will benefit from it. Not a bad legacy, I would say.

Or if tomorrow, our family tree will get bulldozed by a rampaging buck or chopped down by a deranged axman, at least I already immortalized it in the world of blogosphere.

Live, Pray, Run

Many runners regard their endeavor as a religion. They are so devoted that they may be members of the Nike’s Witness, or the Church of Later-day (and Early-day) Runners, or the Cross-Country Faithful, or the 7-day Joggers. Maybe I am a member of this creed.

Then there are other people who treat other things as their religion. Like eating. They perform this as if it is their sole God-given duty. Well, I will not divulge on this subject any further, at least for now.

But why shouldn’t we treat running as spiritual exercise? I mean, literally.

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My training for the half-marathon for this fall is in full swing. I have been doing the short runs (3 miles) at least twice or thrice during the week, and one long run (5 miles and increasing by a mile every week) on the weekend. I am currently on 8-mile long run.

That is a lot of time dedicated (or wasted?) on running, you might say. What else can you do with that time?

For me, I use that time to clear my head. Or do some serious thinking too. With the beautiful scenery around me, my creative moments (due to relative lack of oxygen?) come during those runs. I have even composed in my head, snippets or even whole article blogs during those period, and I just have to download it into the computer when I sit down.

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But more recently, I have used those times running alone, as my meditation hour – communing with nature and its Creator. We certainly need those quiet moments. Not much talking, but listening.

Not too long ago, during a heat wave in our area, it was so hot that we had a string of 100-degree F days. It was so dry too that we had no rain for weeks, and we were in a drought-like condition, much to the demise of corn and soybean fields here.

Then one morning, as I went out for my run, the surrounding was all wet from the rain the night before. The parched land was soaked with water. It was breezy, cool and refreshing. I was grateful for the rain, as the farmers in our area were as well.

As I was running, I encountered a deer who perhaps was also thankful for the rain. She stood motionless as I passed by, just staring at me.

A thought was impressed on me. “As a deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee.” What a good reminder. To this I add: as a runner panteth for air, so my soul longeth after Thee.

May we all have a blessed week.

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(*photos taken with an iPhone during my morning runs)

Life Interrupted

It was a beautiful, clear, crisp November morning. The sun has made its way up in the low horizon. I was scurrying my way to work and just pulled out of my driveway. My car clock said only eight more minutes till eight o’clock, which is the time that my first patient in our clinic was scheduled to be seen that day. But nothing to worry. I would make it on time. Even though my office is 8 miles away from my home, it only take me 10 minutes or less to drive there, as there was no real traffic to talk about.

I was speeding down the lonely but scenic, winding country road from my home to the interstate highway when a deer out of the woods bolted into the road in front of my car to cross to the other side. I had to slam on my brakes hard so not to hit the deer. By the way, this is the stretch of the road that I see a lot of roadkill. Good thing there was no car behind me, nor in-coming vehicle on the other lane, otherwise it could have caused an accident.

But what followed the jumpy deer was six (yes, six!) more anxiously looking deer that dashed across the road a few feet in front of my car. They must be traveling in herds. I had to come to a complete stop to let them all cross to the other side. Now I would be late. Darn deer!

We don’t like being interrupted. Whether it is somebody rudely butting in when we’re speaking, or someone disturbing us when we are quietly meditating, or somebody ruining our set schedule or plans, or deer jumping in front of our way, hindering us.

But was it me that was interrupted by the deer, or was I the one who interrupted the deer’s peaceful existence. By the way, it is mating season for them and they are constantly on the move. (November has the highest incidence for deer-related vehicular accidents, and Iowa is rank #2 among states in the US with the highest car insurance claims relating with deer collisions). Or maybe those deer are running away from someone, as they looked scared, for it is also the peak of hunting season.

As I continued my drive to work, after being unceremoniously stopped by deer, I saw a flock of geese in flight, maybe 10 or more of them, in their beautiful V-formation. Perhaps they were flying south for the winter, as the air had really gone cold here in our area. The harsh winter is coming, so they are fleeing to a much warmer place. But they will be coming back here in spring. That is the cycle of life.

geese in V-formation

As I marvel their majestic flight, the geese suddenly broke out of their orderly V-formation. There was chaotic flapping and confusion that followed. Then I saw one of the geese spiraled downward to the ground.

It took me a moment to realized what I had witnessed. I surmised that a hunter somewhere nearby, perhaps hiding in the fields, had shot the goose and hit it. I am not a hunter, and have no desire to be one, and so my heart goes out to that poor bird who was taken down abruptly out of its flight of passage.

I want to slow down and find out further what happened to the flock of geese, but I was approaching the interstate highway, and besides I was already running late. My view of being interrupted have completely changed in the past few minutes. I cannot shake the sight of that hapless bird plummeting down to its death. Talk about life being interrupted ….. permanently. And I complain just because I was delayed for a few seconds?

I was in deep thought when I was again interrupted when a big semi truck pulled close behind and overtook me on the interstate highway. I then became aware that I was driving slower than the speed limit. That has never happened before.

(*photo from here)

A Glimpse of a Legendary Creature

The other morning, just as the sun was peeping above the horizon, I spotted  some deer strolling in my yard. It was a buck and his doe actually. Nothing special I thought, as deers abound in our neighborhood, especially around this season. In fact this week, I am seeing them almost everyday in my yard, usually in a group of two to five.

a buck and his "deerly" beloved

However, when looking closer on this buck, there was something peculiar that I detected. No it was not the glowing red butt of this supposed to be whitetail deer. That was just the reflection of the rays of the rising sun. There was something more. Do you see it?

Rudolf, the red-butt deer?

It had only one horn! Is it a nature’s accident? A genetic variation? Or most probably he just busted his one horn during a fight with another buck. Fighting for his “deerly” beloved, his beautiful doe. If push comes to shove, or more appropriately butting heads and antlers with another buck, he probably will gladly sacrifice his remaining antler for her.

one-horned or unihorn buck

Or maybe, my one-horned buck is the legendary elusive unicorn! Did I really see a unicorn? A “unihorn” at least. Will it bring me good luck? Maybe tomorrow I’ll see Bigfoot.

legendary unicorn?

Lesson From A Limping Deer

It was a lazy weekend afternoon. I was just relaxing sitting by the window, and my thoughts were wandering beyond the confines of my dwelling. In fact, one of my favorite form of relaxation (aside from blogging), is just staring blankly beyond the blue. It’s transcendental daydreaming.

My quiet musing was disrupted by the sight of familiar visitors intruding and frolicking in my yard. Even though I’m used to seeing deers in my lawn, something was quite different this time.

As I observed them more closely, I noticed that one of the deer was limping. I hurriedly grabbed our camera, and zoomed in to see closer.

I was surprised that one of the hind legs of the limping deer was rotated backward. It appeared that it was dislocated from the hip or fractured above the knee. (Maybe I’ll have a career in veterinary orthopedics.) Perhaps she had a close encounter with a speeding car: got mesmerized with its headlights and did not move out of the way quickly enough. But she lived and did not become a roadkill. And she had the evidence to show of that tragic encounter.

My first reaction was I felt sorry for the deer. That must be a painful experience. And perhaps more painful to struggle with everyday existence with her injury.

Deers are agile animals. They are fast runners and strong leapers. Thanks to their powerful hind legs. But with only one good hind leg, this deer was in a great disadvantage. How could she survive in this cruel world?

I thought of giving her food by bringing it out in my porch. However, something stopped me. First, I may just scare them away when they see me go out. Second, my wife would probably get mad at me, as I know she really hate those deers, for they massacre her flowers. And besides, by providing food for that deer, would I help her situation or just make it worse?

That deer did not asked for my pity. What she asked for is time and chance, to show me and the other creatures, that she is fine and that she can rise above this tragedy and survive on her own (three) feet.

How about us? Do we gripe that life is unfair and cruel? Or maybe we already had been wounded and injured. Do we give up and wallow in self-pity? Do we continue to parade our open wounds so people would show us mercy? Or do we lick our wounds and rise to the occasion and overcome the adversities that life had dealt us with?

I noticed that the deer was moving with ease and had no apparent distress despite of her injury, telling me somehow that her accident was quite a while back already. As she scurry and bounced away gracefully, albeit with a limp, somehow she showed me, that she had learned to adapt to her condition and that she had already conquered her disability. She had three good legs left, and that’s all she need to survive.

Good Morning Deer

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was barely up, when a visitor arrived in our front yard.

Come and take a seat. You must be tired from your morning jog around the neighborhood.

Can I offer you toast and hot chocolate? How about tapsilog? The tapa is not your kind, I promise.

Oh, you prefer to read the morning paper instead. I’m sorry, but the possum under my porch borrowed it.

And off she goes.

To hunt or not to hunt

Growing up in Manila, I was not exposed to hunting until we moved here in Iowa. Hunting is not a part of the culture I grew up with.

I was surprised how big hunting is in this part of the world. There are big stores solely dedicated in hunting equipments and everything about hunting. There is even a full TV channel, just showing all forms of hunting as sports. I guess hunting dates back to our prehistoric existence and is so primal to the survival of our specie.

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who’s the hunter and who’s the game?

Few years ago, after we settled here in Iowa, someone invited me to go deer hunting. I hesitated. I don’t know how to shoot a gun, and definitely, I have no skill in using a bow and arrow (during archery deer seasons, guns are not allowed for hunting, only bows and arrows).

I was afraid, I will shoot anything that moves and end up shooting one of my hunting partners. I think it’s too dangerous for me, besides the thrill of shooting a deer is not for me anyway. I just don’t have the heart to kill Bambi. Maybe my wife will, when those annoying deers eat her tulips and roses.

Then somebody suggested I go mushroom-hunting. Mushroom hunting??? Now, that’s new to me. Here in Iowa, hunting for morel mushroom is such a big thing.

When they say ‘hunting’, I imagine chasing something. So I asked, are these fungus walking, or do they sprout so rapidly and gone the next minute?

I was disappointed when I learned that they are just like ordinary mushrooms, and are not moving at all. So what’s the thrill in that? What skill do I need to hunt those mushrooms down?

morel mushrooms

First of all, they told me that I need discernment of what a morel mushroom is, as well as the skill of where to find them.

And the thrill?

I guess the thrill is gathering and eating the wrong type of mushroom and you end up poisoning yourself. We know that there are toxic and hallucinogenic mushrooms. That sure will bring an adrenaline rush! That’s too dangerous for me also, so I did not go mushroom-hunting too.

Maybe someday I will gather enough courage to try hunting (too chicken?), but for now, the only game that I will devour tonight will be coming from the meat and produce section of our grocery store.

(*photos from the web)