November showers | NaNoWriMo Day 1

tamaki
Art by : Tamaki

Where I live, November marks the beginning of a long, humid summer. All day long, the atmosphere hangs on your back like the sky has fallen on its head and cracked open all its contents on you, fragile human that you are. November makes you feel like you’re always wearing too many clothes and that your face can only be seen through a layer of sweat and grime.

Things are no better at night until, that is, it begins to rain. It feels like a sea spray, all salty and fresh and shiver-inducingly cold on your face after a day spent in a boiler room. It’s also inevitable that it should rain. What with all the humidity the sky has been holding in the whole day, like a balloon gradually being filled with air until it is about to burst. It’s inevitable, truly. Rain is a result, a consequence, a logical follow-up. If it is humid, it will rain.

In that sense, I have been seeing the ends in all things lately.

This rain that I catch with my outstretched hand will evaporate or will be had by the Earth. Ultimately, it will go back up to the sky and fall again. It will rise and fall, rise and fall. Like the chest of someone who is sleeping, like a heartbeat. As people do : we live, we die. Then we are reborn in some way or other. Our bodies become food for the earth and the earth uses it to grow beautiful things. (I wish some part of me could help grow a forest one day). Our lives never end though, it is an infinite loop of life and death and life and death. Rise and falls, ups and downs, ebbs and flows, even the sea churns the same waters over and over again.

But somehow, this feels special.

This feels like I’ve stepped just the littlest bit off-course, outside the loop. As though I’ve just derailed infinitesimally from the endless circle. I fear I may have broken the cycle but I also think this is the culmination of all the lives that came before me, all the energy that was cultivated over light years so that I could be as I am now, on this earth. I could be a star in the sky right now, grazing one of Saturn’s rings. But here I am.

How wonderful that I can be. That now I can be aware of more than nameless survival. I can now point to what I am doing, to what I am—my hands, my face, my heart, my lungs— and breathe I live. I am.

When I was younger and had stumbled unprepared on this, the door that led to the end of all things, I had been horrified. Sick to my stomach. Utterly refusing to even consider, let alone believe. That things are so simple, that death comes as swiftly (no, much more swiftly, much easier) than life. Because death is bad. Death is wrong. How can it be so easy?  I’ve embraced it over the years, unconsciously. I have assimilated it deep inside of me, or rather I’ve finally let it expand from where it was all along. “Survival” is “not dying” after all, so we do have a notion of the concept—our fear of death just makes us ignore it altogether, hoping it is an illness that will pass.

I’ve been learning about it, because fear leads to ignorance. I’ve learned so far that all of me will turn into dirt one day : not just my body, but all my ideas and thoughts too, will be reduced to dirt.

But I’m telling you, this feels special.

We are all born and will all meet our ends, timely or untimely as they may be, but the difference now is we get to choose what happens in between. We get to write stories, and be more.


Note : This is Day 1 of my take on NaNoWriMo : one blog post a day every day of November ! There have been known to be cheerier themes to start such challenges with though lol.

Zara With The Beautiful Hair

longhair
Art by: Unknown Artist

Zara has beautiful hair, as black and heavy as the night.

It is a black so intense that it should not gleam, should not reflect any light, and yet it does. People are in awe of Zara’s hair. There’s always that split second when eyes unconsciously shift to the sheer mass of curls and waves that is her hair. It mostly happens when she takes it out of her bun, and there’s that sudden explosion, like water bursting through a dam, and her hair cascades down her back in ripples, reaching past her hips. It reminds you of something powerful, like Nature reclaiming its rights, in a way. And it all makes her so mysterious, so startling.

She has always been beautiful, in a way the world never failed to notice. High cheekbones, brilliant dark eyes and a sharp tongue. The kind of person you try hard to impress. But people also tell Zara she should do something with her hair. Dye it, layer it, straighten it. But Zara never does. In the most unpretentious way, and yet with a hint of pride, she knows she is beautiful. She does not need to change. Zara is that girl you notice, but more importantly, she is that girl you remember.

Fast-forward a few years, marriage, 2 pregnancies and the drudgery of working an 8 to 5 at the department store have stolen her youth from her. The prominent cheekbones are now a little lost in the pudginess of her face, gained from pregnancy and idleness. The sharp light in her eyes has also dimmed. Zara wanted the dream life, lots of money and lots of travel. But Zara also dreamed of Prince Charming, found him in a humble repairman and occasionally in one of the buff guys on TV.

Zara is not the same person you remember from 5 years ago—dazzling, intimidatingly beautiful. Zara is the person who works the cash register with a weary smile. But ah, Zara is still Zara with the beautiful hair. People, even now, are not aware that they stare. But Zara knows, Zara has always known. She is Zara with the beautiful hair, and the world will notice her, the world will remember her. Even when she is old and grey, and her hair has all but gone, she will always be Zara. The kind of person too beautiful to approach, too mysterious even until the very end.

Wild Blooms

carflower
Photograph by: Unknown

You know, sometimes I want to be one of those odd objects you discover in abandoned gardens. Somewhere amidst the overgrown grass grazing your calf, a rusty bicycle or a tin box, an old chair with a gaping hole where there used to be a plush seat. A bicycle with vines twirling around the handles, almost struggling to breathe under the weight of the flowers wildly blooming over. The small, inedible mushrooms that poke through the chains, the dandelions that grow in between the crisscrossing wheel spokes. And the wheel itself, hanging in the air, unmoving, stopped by Time and rust a long time ago.

It’s something that feels like it has been pulled to the Earth. It seems such a peaceful thing to be. Bathed in warm sunlight, watered by rain, kept company by wildflowers that giggle in the wind. Overwhelmed by nature, uncaring of Time. For something that was formerly abandoned to bloom like this—Ah, it is wildly enchanting. Like something you could mistake for the beginning of a fairytale.

It is in this sort of garden that breathes eternity that we meet every now and then, in the realm of dreams that try very hard to be reality. We set up wooden swings on the wheel spokes, watch as the vines curl around metal and contemplate how Nature always takes over. We wonder if, when it happens to us, it will be as peaceful as this. Imperceptibly, your hand tightens around mine.

 


Listening to:

 

Fleeting Little Phenomenon

davidng
Art by: David Ng

“Aren’t you angry,” you asked “that we met only now, and we already have to say goodbye?”

I would have been grateful for even one day. For even the blink of an eye. Shooting stars and meteor showers are fleeting, too. Should we be angry that they couldn’t last longer? And yet, with these goodbyes, it’s so hard to focus. All I can think about are all the hellos they will bring with them. We have too little time to be upset. Whether it is a week or 60 years. It will never be enough time. Only infinity would ever satisfy us.

Am I angry? I haven’t given myself time to be.

It’s so rare, this. I can’t complain. My days are filled with thank yous to the Universe.

It is paradoxical, too.

That there will never be enough time. And yet however much of it we will get will be enough. Because this, this is like a comet we could have never caught at all. Something that only happens every hundred or thousand years. The requirements for this to happen were something along the lines of: to have been born on a Sunday at 13:03:56, gone to 3 different high schools, have had a friend called Dudley, seen a peacock every 2.5 years, worn green every other Tuesday, taken the bus 156 times a year and hated watermelon for half your life. If even one day had happened differently, could you honestly say life would have happened the same?

This thing we have is as beautiful as a meteor shower. And how lucky we are to have caught it. How lucky we are, that we do not have to spend the rest of our lives wondering.


Note: Ahhh, today is the last day. This is Day 30 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. I wanted to end on something that said: “Ends are beginnings”. I’ve strayed a little from the intended goal, but I hope you liked it and that you’ve been enjoying these 30 days of writing. It’s certainly helped me understand my writing better. And with this, I guess this is the end of NaNoWriMo this year. Who knows, maybe next year…

 

All Anyone Can Do

“Not all days need to matter in the way the world defines it. You don’t need to save the world everyday. You don’t need to save yourself everyday. Some days are just for existing. For being warm and cozy and to hug the people you love a lot….The days that don’t matter are important.”

kimmingji
Art by: Kim Min Ji

All the days were the same, tinted with tentative happiness.

Until today when my comfortable, sheltered routine crashed and I had to say goodbye.  And I realised I had taken my time for granted. I had let my days flow by, frame by frame like in a film roll. All the while knowing explicitly that each day was a stitch in the tapestry of life and that ultimately, each would affect the overall picture. You see, life does not just happen now, it also happens in retrospect. It is not a mere succession of days, no. What you do with your days becomes what you do with your months becomes what you do with your years becomes what you do with your life.

But I let it all go by me, like a powerpoint presentation I wasn’t remotely interested in. I chewed on a pen, doodled a little, wrote some terrible poetry and daydreamed, almost waiting for it to end. But then the presentation came to an end and it was like I had suddenly woken up, anxiety again master of my mind, and I realised I had missed out on something too important.

If I know one thing, it is that you should not take Life and Time for granted.  You can waste either if you want, but waste it knowing the value of what you’re wasting. And well, not all ‘waste’ is waste. Not all days need to matter in the way the world defines it. You don’t need to save the world everyday. You don’t need to save yourself everyday. Some days are just for existing. For being warm and cozy and to hug the people you love a lot. Some days are for movie marathons that last 9 hours. The days that don’t matter are important.

But don’t take Time for granted. Don’t think you have all of life to do this thing. You never know when the world is going to turn over on its axis. You never know when you’ll have to say goodbye—No, you never know which goodbyes you’ll never get to say.

All anyone can do is try very hard to not have regrets. The rest is not in our hands. Beyond that, there is nothing that we can do. And though there should be defeat in this, I find only solace. If I had been able to do more, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to. The weight and power of the universe are burdens too heavy for anyone to bear.

There is only this one thing I must do: I must try very hard.

The hardest I can. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not my fault. All anyone can do is make the days count. All anyone can do is try. And why should we not? We only have the one chance at trying. And if we don’t try for fear of failure, we lose by default.

 


Note: This is Day 15 (!!!) of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find the previous entry here.  I’ve also written on the theme of Time before, so you can also check that out 🙂  Also, is the illustration above art of ‘The Little Prince’? Yes, yes it is.

Sucker punch to the Void

“We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. “

hannakdraws
Art by: Hannakdraws

I used to think that lovers who carved their initials on trees were stupid. Why would you hurt a tree like that? I used to get angry. But now that I’m older I get it, I think.

Cave paintings, initials on a tree, even youtube ‘firsts’… You do it to say:

“We were here!”

To show that there was a ‘we’ once. You carve those initials to show that there was happiness and laughter and joy during a picnic on a summer too beautiful, too blurry to remember. We were alive! We lived, we loved. We were there. So complexly, so beautifully, so mind-numbingly, persistently, resentfully, there.

And even though the love has gone, even though our lives have passed, we are still there. We will always be. A picture of us etched into a tree lost in this world somewhere.

We need others to see, others to know. Because it is not enough to tell ourselves it was real. The memory of how real it was will stray in the black holes of our consciousness. It will be lost if others do not remember. If the memory isn’t shared consciousness, or if it is not agreed upon that it is reality, it will all be lost. If you’re the only one who remembers you, then everything you have been dies with yourself. And after a while, you stop being real.

So we try our damnedest to buckle ourselves to choice moments of this life. Even though in reality, Life is a great waterfall that perennially flows, carrying us with its currents. And any attempts to go upstream, to defy its waters will ultimately lead to a slip, a fall. Even so, even if it is foolish, I understand now.  We do what we do because we want to bookmark our existence, to cry at the Void that we are, we were. For a moment, we were true and infinite and you could not touch us. We shone so bright we illuminated the ultimate darkness of our existence, like the city lights that sparkle so bright they can be seen from space.


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Note: Day 8 of ‘NaNoWriMo’. You can also find the entry for the previous day here 🙂

Hello Darkness, Don’t Call Again

‘ “I understand that you want your time here to matter in a hundred years …but it is only enough to have existed at all, kid. To have stood face-to-face with Time, and looked that bastard Oblivion in the eye.
Your mark, is that you will have walked this Earth, will have sought its mysteries and found yourself along the way. Your mark is that you will have had time.  It is enough, to truly have lived and that—” he smiled wryly, eyes twinkling ever so bright, “is the real challenge.”‘

albumcover
Art from the album cover of All Our Favourite Stories by Dog Is Dead

“I am afraid of a great many things,” he began “but not of Death. Not of Oblivion. See, I think…that this is the cycle of life: we are all born, we live, we die, then we are forgotten, eventually.

“Of these 4 stages, we only exercise control on one. So shouldn’t it be the only one to matter? Truly, who’s to say that even if you changed the world, you would not be forgotten? I imagine there are many kings —and queens—” he added with a nod and smile to her, “that we do not know the names and lives of today. And yet conversely, look at Kafka. Look at Van Gogh. Dude lived his whole life underappreciated and miserable. He died and he didn’t know the world would love him. He died, probably, thinking very little of himself. See, thing about Oblivion is, you wanna know people will remember you after you die. That’s how you win, right? So, if you don’t know, then it doesn’t matter. You don’t win at all. What’s the point of people loving you or remembering you when you’re dead? What’s that to you? You’re dead.

“I understand that you want your time here to matter in a hundred years—people might remember, they might not,” he shrugged “but it is only enough to have existed at all, kid. To have stood face-to-face with Time, and looked that bastard Oblivion in the eye.
Your mark, is that you will have walked this Earth, will have sought its mysteries and found yourself along the way. Your mark is that you will have had time.  It is enough, to truly have lived and that—” he smiled wryly, eyes twinkling ever so bright, “is the real challenge.”

“To worry about people remembering who you were is all good and well, but how about living so fully that you can’t think of anything else? The distant future, the looming end… How about living so hard you could burst? I’m not afraid of being forgotten. I’m a simple man, I only fear not seizing the moment. Not taking a stroll because I’m worrying. Not going for a drive at 2 a.m. because I’m worrying and that’s not what I should be doing at 2 a.m.. I deal in hypotheticals, but not when they stop me from leaving the house.” he laughed.


Note: Day 2 of the (sortof) NaNoWriMo writing challenge

This Gentle Sadness: Mono No Aware

” It is not a sadness you manufacture, not something you own or create. It is something you find one day when you listen. And after that, it is always there. It does not mean I am unhappy, no. Just that the world I see goes far beyond the world I live in now. The world I know is a hundred thousand layers deep and counting—always.”

mononoaware

There is a gentle sadness about Life. Something about growing and getting old. Because when you grow, you also outgrow and when you live, you also outlive. This gentle sadness courses through all that we touch and are, through all the known and unknown universe. It is a truth we cannot fight. Just like we cannot deny that the sun will rise and set or that the rain will fall. We are witnesses, actors in a play that we ultimately do not decide the end of.

And yet, this affliction, this soft greyness is not too common, I find. Even so, it is a way of viewing the world. A way to find beauty in the dusty city. It settles like a blanket over me, this feeling. During sunsets and in nature, as the midnight fireworks go off, as I stare away into the sky, as the end of our adventures draws near and the quiet reigns.

Often, I am quiet because I think that all this beauty dies one day. I am quiet because I am sad for the world. The one I live in, the one in 10 minutes from now, even the one from eight hundred or eight thousand years ago. It is not a sadness you manufacture, not something you own or create. It is something you find one day when you listen to the world’s stories. And after that, it is always there. It does not mean I am unhappy, no. Just that the world I see goes far beyond the world I live in now. The world I know is a hundred thousand layers deep and counting—always.

Sadness is the state of life and the world. It is a reality you learn to accept as you accept that the planets rotate around the sun and that gravity exists. There is sadness that lasts, and there is nothing to do with it, save for acknowledging it.


Listening to:

The Oldest Happiness

“In these last moments, it will always be the quiet, innocuous days that stand out most. Nameless and blurry, anonymous as they may be, I revisit them with a warm, gooey feeling even now. “

AnnaPan
Art by: Anna Pan

When I die—or at least right before—I don’t think I will think about all the crazy, wild things I will have done. In these last moments, it will always be the quiet, innocuous days that stand out most. Nameless and blurry, anonymous as they may be, I revisit them with a warm, gooey feeling even now.

Late breakfasts eaten on the terrace
The warm glow of the sun on round cheeks
Easy chatter and even easier laughter
Midnight conversations spoken in hushed tones
The spaces between printed words where you get lost in a novel
Finding out a surprising thing about a sibling
Watching kites in the sky

Or quiet, otherworldly afternoons-turned-evenings, dipping wooden spoons into mounds of delicious, melting ice-cream. Staring ahead, above the clouds, wandering past the limits of the Earth, travelling to moons and planets far beyond. Then being startled back into the here and now by very fluffy cats. Then wondering what life as a cat is like.

It’s all such idle contentment, such effortless happiness. It’s the oldest happiness I know.

 

Complex.

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CTO: As Per Illustration

Humans exist with such complexity.

We always see more, feel more, think more than there is. We attach concepts to ideas, weave symbolism into art and inject meaning into everything we do. Our minds are elaborate castles with hidden traps, dungeons and secret passageways. Our thoughts are labyrinths, our dreams oceans of unexplored depths.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, as if our minds were not already uncharted territories, we find ways to link them to others’. We connect our worlds with theirs. And so, if our minds are worlds, then our relationships are galaxies that contain all of us, from the deserts of depression to the mountains of glory, through the fields of love and the black holes of mourning.

We are charged with meaning, alimented by purpose.

It is phenomenal that we can create all this from bodies that are essentially clay, that we can build worlds with something as mortal and fragile as the human body.
It is awe-inspiring that our ideas can transcend Death, that our existences are not limited to our lifespans.

But even so, it is both a blessing and a curse to exist so complexly.

Because you can see the beauty of a flower, but in the same breath, you also realise that it will soon wilt. You cannot be truly happy because the voice nags. There are whispers of ends that reach your ears, ideas of loss that poison your bliss.

No wonder so many intelligent people are sad; they see untold outcomes. And not many of them end well.

You have castles of thoughts that await, but inner peace evades you.
What is the point of owning such a big estate, such expansive worlds, when you do not even have one broom closet where there is quiet?

The mind is loud, noisy.
It bustles, it always works.
It overheats but it never stops.
It overthinks but it never stops.

So sometimes, I wonder.

I escape the mind by going further into it, by seeking its hidden cracks.

Sometimes, I want to be something simple. Like a cloud. Float gently around the world and distribute rain, sometimes thunder? I can do that. There would be no need to have inner peace then, because I would just be.

Cogito Ergo Sum? More like Cogito Ergo Sum.

The mind is too loud,
the thoughts require too much.
I just want to close my eyes and be.
I just want to close my eyes and breathe,
feel my heart beat and look at a flower
and only think that
it is indeed very beautiful.