Hello world, I am 39 years old today. It feels exactly like the number—it feels like I am on the verge of something bigger. It doesn’t really feel like my birthday, save for the flurry of greetings on FaceBook and the ringing of my cellphone.
I woke up early this morning to get to a job interview, but Fate intervened and waylaid me. Now when Fate suggests I abandon my plans and go elsewhere, I am wont to agree. So early in the morning in Monday-rush Makati, I paused for a coffee street side and watched the rest of the world go by, drinking in the rush of the day, but not joining in. It’s a skill I have, just sitting still and being an avid observer. Not so marketable, but a skill nonetheless.
On the verge at 39, and yes, I can feel the ground shifting again. I got a call last week that promised a change is going to come. It did not surprise me, this promise of a change rearing its head all of a sudden. My first (and often truest) impulse is to accept it, to make room for it. I feel more than ready for a change, the same way I felt when change sidled up to me 2 years ago and invited me to pack up and move my life to Manila.
At 39, fear does not strike me as sharply anymore. My life has shown me that there is nothing much (oh please) that I cannot survive. Maybe my edges have been blunted, maybe I just have a heightened sense of denial, or maybe I’ve grown an exoskeleton—who knows—I just don’t seem to feel as much anymore. I am not sure whether all this is good or bad. I’ve just resigned myself to it, that is all.
So the 39th year is begun. Alright then, bring it on, give it all you’ve got. I’m more than ready, I’m raring to go!
Green means go, right? Just yesterday, I finished fiddling with the photos that I uploaded to my Flickr account, and I noticed that I have a lot of greens in the batch. Leaves, palm trees, shrubbery, lawns, rolling hills, whatnot—the color predominates—shades that are saturated, filling the frame with lushness all around.
The longer I stay in the city, the more I long for green, the hue of nature. Last weekend I was down on my hands and knees tending to my little garden at home. I pruned three pots of shrubs, re-potted some purple bromeliad-like plants, weeded out my foxtails, trimmed chinese bamboo, and applied fertilizer (organic, of course) like it was going out of style. Ironically, it seems cleansing to me to muck about in the dirt, to pull out weeds and dead leaves, breathe in the smell of fresh-turned earth.
It’s been raining for what feels like weeks now, and the patches of green have become more vibrant, as though photoshopped by a manic tree hugger. After a rain, I like to go out and look at the underside of leaves on the trees, their veins seem to pulse and throb with life. Even the air smells different, as though it was swirling scents around, a secret concoction you take in, trusting that it has miraculous properties.
Just when everyone was looking elsewhere, summer was snatched away by moonsoon rains. In the taxi ride going home, my gaze speeds through streams of black water puked up from the sewers, vomit from the very bowels of the city. Here, rain falls down as a gray, dank sheet—clouds flushing the great toilet in the sky. The air is visible, riddled with smoke and particulates like the air inside a cheap, rundown girlie bar.
I wish green will take over the city one day, creep up from the edges of the highways, underneath buildings and bridges, up from cracks in the cement lots and asphalt roads. Imagine it, shrubs mushrooming everywhere, vines looping through wires, grass spilling into malls. A hothouse of flora blooming overhead, soft grass underfoot, colors cutting through the grayness. Green going on, and on, and on.
At home this weekend, the heat of a city summer burns and burns. There is no escape from it. Well, perhaps if you choose to descend with the rest of the horde into the great big maw of the mall, then there is some succor. I’ve never been much enamored by malls, so it’s home for me. A few months back, I suddenly decided I wanted plants to figure in my life, so I hauled off a few pots from the gardening store—mostly flowers and small shrubs—and set about making things grow.
I let the patch of grass cross our little lawn and moved stepping stones aside to make room for more green, less parched earth. Flower pots dangled by the window, a trio of shrubs lined one wall. I re-potted and fertilized, weeded and watered. And what do you know, it is indeed relaxing to putter around and manhandle dirt. It’s not much of a garden yet, but it’s there. It’s a start.
Sometimes my boys run on the grass, wallop the hanging pots, pinch off a leaf or two. But I don’t mind, I let them frolic about like the little wildlings I imagine them to be. I wish we had more space for them to run around in, more grassy lawn to trample underfoot.
I think at heart, I am a girl who loves green. Not for me the claustrophobia of concrete and asphalt, the hard, brittle quality of things man-made. Constantly, I miss seeing lush, broccoli-shaped trees spread out against a blue sky, unfettered by wires. I like to see vast tracts of land rolling out into the horizon, with no building in sight. One could miss experiencing these things: clouds kissing grass, the sound of water flowing, the texture and smell of wet soil.
Going into the place where my office building is located, I pass by a very short avenue lined by trees, and this is the only part of my commute that I enjoy, secretly, and all too brief. I keep my enjoyment of trees to myself. Folks here seem to frown upon a liking for trees, and greenery, and nature. I’ve heard some say the office location is a drawback, that it is so secluded, so far from civilization.
As though the mass of steel, glass, and grayness just a few minutes away is less of a jungle, and more of home.
It’s a Friday here and the office folks are antsy. Most are eager to get the workday over with and begin the weekend in earnest. Except me, the one drone that got in late today. Traffic has been terrible on the skyway, turning my less than an hour commute (one way, sigh) into a monster two hour crawl! I work late so that I can come in late, but this getting to work late business is bordering on the ridiculous. It’s a demotivator, it makes me want to chuck in the rest of the workday and just go malling.
And god, the heat is not helping. Outside, everywhere you go that’s not blessed by airconditioning is like swimming in simmering, sticky soup. Argh. This reminds me that summer is not really my favorite season—save for the beach opportunities it does present. Meanwhile, this awful heat, this heat that carries with it wafts of eau de commuter, is a real killer.
I thought I’d just jump in and get back on the blog horse, after quite a dry spell. That explains the picture here. I was wishing for a drink, and that night, my wish came true.
A friend took me to the San Miguel Octoberfest launch, and the onslaught of rock music, alcohol, and people out to have a good time seemed to trigger a response in me. I had been in a tepid, debilitating, lowest-slung depression for months. I was plodding along with my eyes glazed over, going through the motions. It was not very sad, just exhausting. It felt like a desert spread out inside of me, covering every inch, eating through bone, leaving only dust. Outwardly however, I appeared the same. And testament to my ability to morph and blend in with the herd, no one noticed.
I think I’m coming out of it now, though. Perhaps contact from long-lost friends helped, or maybe the oblivious jollity of new ones shook me out of it. Slowly, I’m finding the resolve to come away from that dark, dark place that swallowed me whole, and yet felt the safest. Rising from these slumps always feels like moving through traffic, gel-like, in slow-motion. But, I am moving now, and for the most part, that’s all that matters.