Soul-searching.

young adult old soul writing magic realism
Art by: thelunarfeline

“Who are you?” is never an easy question to answer.

I mean, how do I define myself beyond these fill-in-the-blank questions, beyond a selection of names, numbers and practical facts? How do I explain that who I am now is not who I was a minute ago, and yet there are parts of me still rooted in the days of childhood, the dawn of my life? There is no way to explain all the times my skin has cracked apart and the light has mended it with a golden thread. How can I say that I have been dipped into the darkness so much so that its stain remains; that I have loved as ardently as I have lost?

Who are you?

It takes a lifetime of soul-searching for some people to find out; journey upon journey through the world and through themselves. Some never do. Others still, drift in life, unaware. Yet, at times, it is quite by accident that the human essence bleeds out. In casual conversation, during middling days, boring car journeys as we experience time in the most unexceptional ways.

It was maybe a year ago now (and yet with everything that has happened, it seems so distant…). We were strolling around a deserted mall that Sunday afternoon. You could say that I was with “the girls” although most, if not all of us would object to calling each other that. We are not that to one another. I have another group of friends who are “the girls”, who I will go on dates with to trendy cafés, with whom I can be a little daring when it pleases me. But this group and I are like childhood friends. The fact that we have grown up together, seen each other everyday for 7 formative years, creates a bond that cannot be erased. However much we may lack a natural connection, there is something underlying, a common thread of Time that ties us all together. It’s hard to forget. To let go, because in so doing, we cut ties with parts of ourselves, the ones that reside in others. So we are not “the girls” to one another — we do not carelessly hang off of each other or exchange makeup tips; but we are friends. This is a label we hang onto quite possessively, protecting it from Time, distance and changes in who we are as people. We are not the girls we used to be. We do not slot as comfortably into each other, cannot bounce off the same experiences or share the same crucial opinions anymore. The conversation doesn’t flow as smoothly and we sometimes resort to small talk to fill in the gaps. They have grown so different from the 13, 16 and even 18 year olds I once knew. But it doesn’t matter. Some part of me recognises some part of them. That is enough.

So that drowsy Sunday, as afternoon was melting into evening, we roamed about an abandoned mall in a coastal village, still too full from the buffet lunch to form words.

It seems a miracle now, since I went back several times and never saw her again, but there was a woman with a jewelry stall in one of the building’s wings. She was probably one of these woman entrepreneurs, who have a skill and who are trying to develop it into a business. This could explain why she was there, alone, on a Sunday afternoon, and probably why I never saw her again. It’s a shame, because the jewelry she sold was just beautiful. Brooches, pendants, bright bracelets, earrings, shell necklaces and other kinds of pretty trinkets were all laid out on a table.

So, remember that part when I said we weren’t “the girls”? Well…we do love to accessorise.

I didn’t have any particular intention to buy anything; I’m not much of a shopper. A. and M. were picking out bracelets and the lady, previously overcome with ennui, was eager now to tend to 1,2,3,4,5,6! 6 young women flocked around her stall. The jewelry was pretty, in that way only simple things are. Dainty as a snowflake, light as a grain of sand.

And that’s when it happened. When some essential part of me showed itself without me knowing. I was eying the pendants and their myriad designs: stars, hearts, moons, circles, triangles, the tree of life… I was quite partial to the ocean themes; all these delicate pieces of metallurgy were gleaming like treasure from the sea. My heart was hesitating between two of these pendants. “Why not have both?” is an option I, for some reason, did not seriously consider. Back then, I was still on the fence about many things in my life.

“Anchor?” I asked, bringing it to the hollow of my neck, “or shipwheel?”

“Whichever one you like best.” M. replied.

“Yeah!” cheered A.

Let it not be said that my friends are not supportive. Now, helpful is a whole other thing. But supportive, still.

Y. still had this sort of aloofness about her but volunteered her opinion anyway, which goes a long way to show how she’s changed, actually. Before, she didn’t care to care for more people than she already did. Now there’s an opening for vulnerability, carved by the wounds of life. She’s softer now, but also a little worn out. Her answer didn’t much help,though.

“Whichever one you want. Take both, actually, if you like them both equally.”

Y. has always been the logical one.

But in my head, it was this dilemma. I wanted so much to decide, to not just choose the easy route by buying both (and yet, what’s so wrong with taking the easy way sometimes? Why does everything have to be complicated, so labour-intensive?). There were so many decisions I was not making in my personal life, and I wanted to get this trivial one right. So which one did I just have to have? Which could I bear to leave behind?

“Shipwheel. I want the shipwheel.”

And that was it: shipwheel. Nothing more, nothing less.

Like the cheesiest person, I wore this shipwheel pendant with my sailboats and shipwheel dress for far too long.

But why all this talk about an old necklace all of a sudden? Well, now this necklace lays in my hand, its clasp broken. I have been decluttering (again) and finding it has made me realise a lot of things about myself and the year that has passed.

Shipweels or anchors?

Do you want to explore and risk yourself out there? Or do you want to settle here, content but mostly unchanged? Back then, without even knowing it was a question, I had already chosen an answer. I was just a girl buying a necklace, how was I to know?

The symbolism I could not grasp then is not lost on me now. The fact that I ever stopped wearing it already says something. But so does the fact that I’ve found it again now, as I am rising back to myself. Still, fittingly, the clasp is broken and I wonder what it means for me.

I am unsure when it is that I will be at the wheel again. But I look at this pendant and somehow, I know who I am. I am the kind of person who chooses a shipwheel over an anchor, who fears stillness more than adventure.


Note: Behold now, the (not so) mighty shipwheel necklace I have just dedicated 1200+ words and several hours to. It has lost some of its lustre but should be good after some polishing and a new chain! Also, I’m curious to know, have you had any small moments like these, which later turned out to be huge life realisations? I’m always worried it’s just me 😂

Girl meets world.

Old Soul Writing Magic Realism
Art by : Federica Bordoni

I feel like I have experienced a big bang all alone in my mind.

That is how traveling has made me feel. For context, here’s something I haven’t mentioned on this blog : I am a small town girl from a small town place. Dreams are big and far-reaching where I live, but the hearts are warm and satisfied, not always willing (or finding reason) to brave the cold, to let go of the little comforts in order to live Great Adventures. Everything is small and cosy, and you can never get properly lost, because all roads but the ones to the sea lead home. Essentially, I live in the real version of The Shire.  I am the product of that kind of place. Raised with the love of small comforts, of the little things. A cup of tea after a long day, a soft sofa to sink in, good food and hearty portions shared with loved ones. Home.

3 weeks ago, though, I left home and stepped out into a storm to get on a plane I wasn’t sure I wanted to catch anymore.

Kerosene burned in the night and the world in my mind melted like candle wax. It disintegrated, simply. I could almost feel the remains flowing in smithereens under my skin. Every little thing collided within myself, every knowledge and memory, every wish and preconceived notion. All fused to form a much greater picture, a vaster world.

I had been thinking it before, how I now need to redefine reality. Because now I’ve discovered more of the world, where before it was blacked-out, a mere outline of an idea. Something that had a name, but needed desperately to be given depth and dimension. Experience has now fleshed out these missing parts. A whole other reality has awoken in me and stepped into the light.

I don’t think I am the person I used to be.

I feel I am fleshed out differently.

The Wanderer’s New Year (Short Story)

“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

the_name_of_the_wind_by_marcsimonetti
Art by: Marc Simonetti (Cover for the french version of ‘The Name of the Wind’)

“Hush,” he whispered to his mare, the gentle and now weary Céleste. “Easy now, Céleste.”

He brushed through her mane soothingly and in an easy movement slipped off her.

Night surrounded them on top of the hill they had climbed, millions of small stars blinking down at them. Céleste gave a proud grunt. She liked the night, it looked just like her coat of black speckled with white all over.

The sound of something being fired pierced through the silence and soon, bright sparks of red and gold formed patterns in the sky.

The small town below them was illuminated far more than normal towns usually were and in the distance, it seemed to him like an ant colony: busy, bustling, full of energy. Another few rockets exploded in the night, showering the town in streaks of pink and green lights.

“So it is already that time,” he murmured to himself “Already a year…searching, seeking out the road that promises no destination.”

“A year spent wandering,” he mused, “and what for?…Purpose? Meaning?” He sighed and looked back down the way from which he had emerged.

His eyes and voice were wistful as he spoke to no one in particular.

“But there is no place for me there. Not anymore; perhaps there never was. And so now to the road do I belong, and Time,” he looked at the bursting fireworks more intently now “does not matter here. Only the road matters. I will either reach the stars above or die on the road. I am on a journey that has perhaps no end, and yet I cannot stop. I cannot stop because it is better to wander unknowingly than to stay somewhere you do not belong.”

He stood still, watching the displays of lights and sounds with a profound sadness that only grew deeper at the sounds of loud cheers and lively music.

He remained like this a long while.

And then, as though he’d had enough, he pulled the ample hood of his long cloak back on, and Céleste’s reins in hand, marched forth into the darkness.

Conversations With The Past

luceferous
Art by: Luceferous

“Have you ever wanted to be a thing?” she asks, her eyes wide and expecting.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of being something other than human. Most days, I’m quite happy being a complex constellation of thoughts and emotions and occasionally, home to one or two indescribable inner phenomena.

“What do you mean?”

Her face scrunches up, thinking. Then, she points to the sky. Too bright, too blue, and scorching my retinas.

“The sky?”

She shakes her head, pigtails swaying with the movement.

She points harder, her hand moving to follow something.

It’s a black plastic bag, stark against the summer sky. It is flying higher than the tallest building, dipping and soaring, flailing and being blown away towards the harbour. It’s drifting, drifting…

Free, free…

Maybe it’ll even stick to the masthead of one of those sailboats. All the while uncaring of the business of humans below. Unconcerned by the clinking of coins, the rustling of bills. Or the man shouting through a megaphone that you get 2 pizzas for the price of one in the next hour. The whirring of the slurpee machine, blending a rainbow of colours and the condensation gathering on the outside of the clear plastic. The crowds of people trying to enjoy their Saturday. Café-goers sitting by the terrace, one leg on top of the other, loose and content, sipping on some cold thing as the wind ruffles their hair, threatens to pick up their large hats. Or even the thick, black fumes of vehicles and the mellifluous yet angry “Dring! dring!” of a bicycle bell caught among car honks.

“You want to be a plastic bag?” I laugh.

Her pudgy little face scrunches up again, growing red and angry this time.

“Hmm, I wanted to be a clear plastic ball once.” I tell her.

She peeks at me, as though giving me a chance to redeem myself. It’s not everyday you get the chance to impress a child, you know.  At least not intentionally.

I don’t know why I still remember though. That clear beach ball. We’d lost it in the summer of 2004 to a roaring ocean. We were playing catch in the sand, right next to the sign that said “Dangerous bathing”. And then the ocean breeze caught the ball mid-throw and it disappeared in the froth of the sea, between the large, black rocks. Afterwards, we could see it drifting ever further from the coastline, reaching for the horizon. There was no saving it, either. We could just watch dolefully as it went away.

Drifting, drifting…

“It’s strange, but I still think about that ball sometimes.” I muse.

And it’s true. Many times after, in class or on the bus, I caught myself thinking about where that beach ball could have reached. Only later did I consider the possibility that it could have burst. But it didn’t matter long, that idea. The image of it drifting away was stronger than any imagined truth.

By now, my little companion has forgotten all about her grudge. Her eyes are twinkling, focused on some blank space, living the tale of the departed beach ball.

She grips my hand suddenly, tugging on my sleeve.

“And then! And then! What else did you want to be??”

I laugh as we walk away into the city, navigating the cobbled roads.

“Well, once, I wanted to be a parachute…”


Listening to:

 

A Tale of the Desert

“Land is the kingdom of man. And yet there is no king in the desert save for nature itself. Where man intends to stab a flag and build castles, the desert swallows his pride in storms and blows away his fortresses as though they truly were made of sand, a child’s construction.”

wallup.net

We cleared out the garden today, the one on the rooftop. I hadn’t cared much for it before, except for the nights I’d needed to get away and had needed to mind my step.

I was on dirt duty, having to sweep away the mess of a garden unkempt for so long. There were heaps of very fine dust that had accumulated into dunes almost everywhere, most of all the corners. I hadn’t known dirt could shine so prettily in the sun, like gold dust or bits of precious stones. The sun beat down on my neck as I swept the dust away, sweat already glistening on my forehead.And suddenly, like a child, the mundane chore turned into an adventure. I was in the desert.

Often, people who have spent extended periods of time in the heat and utter isolation of the dunes, they cannot describe it. And yet, it is within human nature to always try. There is nothing like the desert, they say. Nothing like this overpowering nothingness, this capricious nature that will soothe as it will kill. They say it is a world of its own, a planet distant from Earth. The desert, if it were comparable to one thing, it would be the ocean. But even then, the desert is not like the seas. Land is the kingdom of man. And yet there is no king in the desert save for nature itself. Where man intends to stab a flag and build castles, the desert swallows his pride in storms and blows away his fortresses as though they truly were made of sand, a child’s construction.

I imagined the desert was lonely. So vast, so empty, yet brimming with restless energy.

The desert was once human, I thought as I swept away. She was a young human of learning and knowledge who yearned to make beautiful things. As the gods did.

She voyaged nights and days, sacrificing years and the quiet happiness of selling books and maintaining a garden. She went east and west and wherever the road would take her, on a pilgrimage that lasted many years. No one in her village had heard of her in a long time. They spoke of her, on those long, cold nights when they all gathered around the meat cooking over a crackling fire. The children delighted in the stories, quiet wonder gleaming in their eyes.

Unassuming during all her youth, save for her brilliance and crafty spirit, she was a gentle soul. Her parents had died shortly after she had come of age. After that loss, there was something that shone sharply in her eyes. A fire greater than the one that had claimed her parents. A fire greater than they could ever extinguish.

Then one day, she went to the chief’s house, a bag brimming with scrolls and books slung across her shoulder. She emerged, painted in the colours of their people, red and azure dotting her forehead and cheeks. Her hair was braided in intricate knots only the old mother remembered.

She went, as though a conqueror.

As plain as she had once been, she was beautiful now. The hazel of her eyes burning against the dark brown of her sun-marked skin. And after that, she was never seen again, the old man would tell the children huddled around the fire.

Yet, unbeknownst to them, she reached. She reached where she needed to be.

And she roared. Roared and roared her anger. Years, years of research only to be shunned at the doors of the heavenly light. Deep marks covered her face now. The sun had eaten away at her youth, her beauty. Her fingers threatened to pull out her black hair (browned at the tips now, what would be a sign of ugliness in her village) as the acrid tears fell.

“Why would you deny me light?!” she cried, and in that moment, she was young and tender again. Wounded. A girl with no parents, not anymore. A girl with a dream to be a god. To heal others, to heal herself. To give light and beauty when there was darkness. The same darkness that had once overpowered her, stricken her from the inside all those years ago.

“Let me be light!” she roared and cried and tugged at her hair, “Let me be light!”

But when they did not grant her wish, when her years, her knowledge, her beauty had been sacrificed for nothing, she raged. If you will not let me be light, I will be the world instead. If I cannot shed light to the world, I will become the world, I will decide its fate instead.

So with her knowledge, she summoned an old demon, sly and willing.

“Let me be the world.” she had asked.

The demon narrowed his yellow eyes. “I do not have the power. I cannot make you into the world when you have not walked all its lengths nor climbed all its heights.”

“Then,” she thought, that quick, beautiful mind spinning, “make me into the world of here. Give me this land here, that I have walked for all my life, from the north to the south, from where the sun rises to where it sets.”

“Very well.” the demon had smiled.

And for that wish, he took all of her.

The desert now, is her. Oases are said to be the places she could not visit or the places she held too dear. Her old village now was dust and bones.  But she always protected the sons and daughters of her people. Although now, she had lost so much of herself she could not remember why she did so.

That is the desert: vast, lonely, capricious.

A desert that does not understand itself, but rages at an old wound that cannot be remembered.


Note: Day 1 of  (sortof) NaNoWriMo

 

To All You Idealists, Dreamers and Lost Wanderers…

Gif Source: Tumblr (Artist Sadly Unknown)

The sun is shining down hard on my head today. My ears burn red under the heat, but I continue to wander my way through Life.  The people around, they all seem to know where they are going. No-nonsense business suits and straightened hair; their ties are smoother than the road ahead.

“Put-together”

They do not hesitate. Their gait is sure, their shoulders firm. They are not afraid of the road. They rule over it. They decide where the road will take them.

Which is why sometimes, it feels like their eyes are boring through me. As I slip in and out of alleyways like a needle through a piece of cloth, as I wander and then abruptly stop to look around me, panic-stricken and lost.

I am not yet like them. My hair is a tangle of dreams, my steps wobbly from fear at times. But also from joy, at others. And I don’t look at the road sometimes, because the huge palm tree that tickles the skies is too beautiful to ignore. Because the port is not too far away and if I strain my ears enough, I will hear the boats with their multicoloured flags rocking, splashing in the water. And the birds. The birds are soaring. The wind is blowing, carrying the smell of salt and the sea.

The sun is shining down so hard, but I’m still looking up.

And I wander.

I look on the world like a wayfarer.

I breathe in; I am not yet like them.

But every so often…Every so often, I will see a soul in a business suit. A young man with slicked back hair, still curling at the edges, still a little light from the sun. I can never look at the eyes. Full of drowned hopes and dying dreams. And yet eyes that are still searching.  Still searching the sea of people, still hoping with a last thread of Hope that the tide will bring something.

I am not yet like them.

But wanderers are a dying breed. And soon, soon… The sun will be too much. And I will stop looking up.

 

L’appel Du Large

huebucket-bicycle-11
Art by Huebucket

Have you ever heard the sound of a boat hitting the waves as it sways? Have you ever felt that sense of vertigo, this light-headedness as you rock from side to side, this feeling that can only be called beautiful— a wild, true kind of beautiful? Because sometimes, sometimes it is what I dream of.

This is what I see flashes of in between lectures and assignments, the white foam of the sea, the deep blue waters…This is the calling that reaches me as I plan for the future— “I’ll work for 2 years at X company and learn a language because firm Y, which will be hiring then wants polyglots and then I’ll wait another year to become a permanent employee and then…”

This is the feeling that makes me read reports a hundred pages long without understanding a single word because sometime into the reading, my hand slipped to the side of my head to support it and I found out that if I cupped my ear with my hand, I could hear the sea and its waves crashing into my ear.

And the scent…the scent of ocean salt, I can smell it when I close my eyes, when I put down my pen and push aside all those papers that mean nothing. It lures me in like a mermaid-song, wraps around my being and pulls me inexorably to where adventure lies.

It’s usually the middle of the week when these visions assail me, and suddenly, just like that, I don’t belong to the week anymore. I don’t belong to 5-year plans, to office etiquette and broken coffee machines.

I belong…to the world. To the deep blue seas and green pastures.

.

.

But it’s still the middle of the week, still Wednesday when I think that, and as much as I long to run, to swim, to fly— it’s still Wednesday. And I’m still very much “part of the system”. My life is still a 9 to 5 job. And my dreams…still dreams.

 

The Wanderer’s New Year (Short Story)

“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

the_name_of_the_wind_by_marcsimonetti
Art by: Marc Simonetti (Cover for the french version of ‘The Name of the Wind’)

“Hush,” he whispered to his mare, the gentle and now weary Céleste. “Easy now, Céleste.”

He brushed through her mane soothingly and in an easy movement slipped off her.

Night surrounded them on top of the hill they had climbed, millions of small stars blinking down at them. Céleste gave a proud grunt. She liked the night, it looked just like her coat of black speckled with white all over.

The sound of something being fired pierced through the silence and soon, bright sparks of red and gold formed patterns in the sky.

The small town below them was illuminated far more than normal towns usually were and in the distance, it seemed to him like an ant colony: busy, bustling, full of energy. Another few rockets exploded in the night, showering the town in streaks of pink and green lights.

“So it is already that time,” he murmured to himself “Already a year…searching, seeking out the road that promises no destination.”

“A year spent wandering,” he mused, “and what for?…Purpose? Meaning?” He sighed and looked back down the way from which he had emerged.

His eyes and voice were wistful as he spoke to no one in particular.

“But there is no place for me there. Not anymore; perhaps there never was. And so now to the road do I belong, and Time,” he looked at the bursting fireworks more intently now “does not matter here. Only the road matters. I will either reach the stars above or die on the road. I am on a journey that has perhaps no end, and yet I cannot stop. I cannot stop because it is better to wander unknowingly than to stay somewhere you do not belong.”

He stood still, watching the displays of lights and sounds with a profound sadness that only grew deeper at the sounds of loud cheers and lively music.

He remained like this a long while.

And then, as though he’d had enough, he pulled the ample hood of his long cloak back on, and Céleste’s reins in hand, marched forth into the darkness.