What the wild winds bring

“And scents, they have this unique ability to bring us back, to elicit images from our minds that had long been forgotten.”

Gif by : Stefanie Shank

A floating seed fell on my hand yesterday, carried over great distances by a zephyr, lifted through the atmosphere as though a dancer, all supple muscle and poised grace. Beautiful little thing it was too, the stem thin and elongated, the top softly spread out like an umbrella, or a ballerina’s tutu. It settled ever so gently on my sleeve, caught on a bit of string. So easy it would have been to dislodge it, but for all the times I had chased these floating seeds in my childhood to the ends of the scenery, the idea never even crossed my mind.

And so I kept it close, safe from the winds that had brought it to me. All day long, with a recovered sense of wonder, my finger absent-mindedly brushed against the feathery extremities, sending a feeble yet sharp scent of wildness darting in the air. And scents, they have this unique ability to bring us back, to elicit images from our minds that had long been forgotten.

I imagined fervent wishes whispered warmly in a bunched up bouquet of dandelions as the sun set, and a coldness settled in. A dress billowed in the wind, grass grazed tender calves, and a girl stood alone in an endless stretch of scenery.

I imagined that it must have been a long journey to here. That Nature, the Universe conspired to send me this floating seed and the message whispered urgently into it that spoke of a gentle loneliness. A message in a bottle, sent through the skies. And so, hills, meadows, trees and breeze together decided on the little seed’s fate : “You will go there, to her.” and sent it flying.

So, I keep close to my chest the things the wild winds bring. Sometimes it is voices, other times, this.

Who knows, that I was that girl on the hill, whispering feverishly for a friend. Who knows that this, this little floating seed is a message from myself, from lonely summers back, spent chasing floating seeds to make wishes. I cradle the seed as though it is a present.

And I say to myself, to that girl on the hill from summers back, that it will be alright. Wait for me, I say to her. You must not give up. Just wait for me.

I am glad to know that she did.

I have been having these vivid visions lately, tracing back to innocuous moments I had not understood before. Moments I could not grasp, as though two worlds had collided and I knew only of one, as a life unknown to me breathed all around. Sunsets, days at the beach, or afternoons spent muffled in a blanket, staring at the ceiling, at stars through the open window. How was I to know a piece of Fate was shrouding me then ? That an unchangeable thing was happening, that certain parts of my life were being set in stone. How was I to know, as I breathed quietly the air of gentle, lonely days ? But the air changed, and my skin turned inside out. I could feel it, that something was irrevocably different. Though what, I could never tell. Was not meant to understand.

I look back now, key in hand. The murmurs of the future that I could not comprehend  then finally reach me now. And it was never the words that mattered, but the feelings. Strong, bold feelings that leave you staggering. Feelings that ran deeper than any ocean, that had roots as far-reaching and as invisible as that of mountains. Feelings that are the truths that hold all of our beings together.

Do not give up. Wait for me. 

And even though what followed then were all of my darkest days, this feeling stayed, even if sometimes at the very edges of my fingertips, ready to slip into the void. But the truth is not the kind of thing that leaves so easily. I knew that truth, even when I seemingly didn’t. Even when I gave up, and continued giving up, and thought all of life was going to be just that : a series of abandons, I think part of me knew. Must have known to wait, to not give up. Whatever it was that held me back, made me lift my head up, I suspect it has a little something to do with voices of the past, and things the wild winds bring. I suspect it has to do with seeds from the past, coming into efflorescence in the present.

There are things we forget about that can only be woken up by triggers as unique as scents. There are things, truths, twisting, writhing inside of us, alive if sometimes to nobody but ourselves.

Dawn in the Old Capital

“The day is new, but I am an old, old soul navigating this life through in the old capital…”

Photograph by : Masashi Wakui

The old capital sleeps still as my footsteps echo in its dimly-lit streets, shoes clacking against the marble floor of a colonial-age building that stands proud and mighty, even in the dark.

These teeming thoroughfares that are always loud, infused with smog, resonating the cries of vendors are now so calm, so silent. Almost robbed of life. But there is this silent energy that thrums in the old city, as though the heart, the essence of the city came to life at night, revealing itself to me.

In the orange light of the streetlamps flickering gently in a puddle, the years slowly pass me by.

There is a scent of wildness and freshness, and there is too much sky. Too much sea; the port has yet to be. The city is so young, only now emerging from the ground. Wisps of a language too old for me to understand float in the air. In coaches and carriages, there are men and women, dressed in the finest cottons and silks on their trip to the newly-born capital, hair coiffed, faces painted. But behind them others trail. Nameless. Faces darkened with sweat and grime, with no choice but to be brought to this foreign city and to do as others will. History will remember the names of the ones who brought them there. But their own stories will forever be lost in the nooks and crannies of the capital. The city reminds me that it has never been kind.

But it is archaic, has been there for a long, long time.

The carriages fade, and instead, a crowd amasses near the docks. The first letters have arrived. And newspapers several months old, spices, all sorts of items from around the known world (silk from china, embroidered cloths from India…).

Soon and yet not soon enough, the faces of those who wander the capital freely change. Now, dark skin gleams proudly under the sun, braided locks tumble freely in the wind.

And then all the horses fade. Soon, a few sleek and shiny cars ride along asphalted streets. The capital is changing. It has been changing for a long time now. A boy cries out headlines, stacks of newspapers behind his frail legs. Families bustle around, buying groceries and presents for upcoming holidays. The city is warm and welcoming, now. Many a wayward sailor finds home in one of its hidden places.

And then the boy is gone, and the headlines speak of a war. The streets are cold, the sunlight unwelcome. Whispers of “the war” fan now-sparsely populated roads. The people are glum and thin. Smiles turn out to be rarer commodities than food. Officers, decked in imposing uniforms stalk around, seeming tall and all too important, whisper heatedly of things only they know. The city does not grow much during that time. It hides.

And then the war is over. It is a blink of an eye to the old city, that war. Yet for its people it seemed like it would never end, even when it did. The city is never the same after.

The cars grow sleeker and more numerous now. But protests fill the streets of the city ever so often, and the old capital can only bow to the determined faces, the strong arms brandishing signs.

And then all too fast the years flash by, and even as my eyes water from the whiplash of that much knowledge all at once, I catch glimpses of faces that seem distantly familiar. Faces that I have only ever seen this young and carefree in yellowed photographs. Floral skirts and wild hair flow in the wind, large, tinted sunglasses resting atop noses.

And then there is a child tottering about near the port, ignoring a melting heap of ice-cream, instead entranced by the horizon, the boats and ships leaving the harbour. I know who that child is. I remember.

And later, later, the city rises from the earth and the night, touches the skies and doesn’t mean to stop there.

The day is new, but I am an old, old soul navigating this life through in the old capital.




Bridges of Time

“‘My heart’s hanging back and my brain is looking ahead and I don’t know where that leaves me. If it even leaves any of me.'”

Art by: Artist Unknown

“Every now and then,” he confessed “I wish that the past didn’t exist. That I’d emerge into now from the shadows, not caring where I came from. Because what’s the point of having this moment, living in the present, if I can’t stop reliving the past, you know?” He sought out her gaze, searching for understanding.

“I can’t—I can’t be in two places at once” he offered, tentatively.

“My heart’s hanging back and my brain is looking ahead and I don’t know where that leaves me. If it even leaves any of me.”

“Yeah, but look at it that way too,” she finally said “the past is a bridge to the present, and the present is a bridge to the future. If you didn’t have a past, you wouldn’t have a present you know? The past may have been terrible, but it brought you to here, to now, at least. If nothing else, it did this much. It doesn’t make the situation any better, the past is still like an invasive plant species, crawling onto the present, but…”

“—but it gives perspective?”

“But it gives perspective.” she smiled, “It draws out the bitterness a bit, replaces it with thanks.”

Goodbye, Nostalgia. 

“Sequestering myself in a memory, hiding away like this…I lived vicariously through the person I used to be. “

Art by: Chiara Bautista

I need to surrender to reality.

To release the past from my grip because the flow of Time is inescapable. There is nothing anyone can do about it. We shouldn’t cling onto it, onto memories and past versions of ourselves and the people we loved. I cling to the past because the present is scary. Because the pain from an old wound is better than whatever new ache this unknown world could bring me. Sequestering myself in a memory, hiding away like this…I lived vicariously through the person I used to be. But I cannot live there anymore. The past is not a place where anyone can grow. It is like trying to fit in clothes you’ve long since outgrown. No, it will never satisfy my heart.

No, no more dusty happiness, no more borrowing from the past for me. The present is ineluctable. Running from it means nothing. It is like trying to outrun a treadmill— you can’t. You just can’t. No matter how much you try, you’ll never be able to catch up.

So I will not fight this anymore. I will grow old, as I dreaded. I will be an adult. Someday, I will fade out, I will go out of fashion. I might live enough to have grey hairs and wrinkles. It is not just that I will be old, but also that I will no longer be young. Facing Time, facing the Present, I will lose everything. But I only lose everything if I have nothing to replace it with.

There will be other happinesses, other versions of me to be. There will be new adventures, new people to share them with. There will be another golden age, if only I seize the day.

Goodbye, Nostalgia.


Note: This is Day 13 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find Day 12 here.