“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”
Sharing this quote from Virginia Woolf, who was born on this day in 1882. This 20th century literary giant left us these words reminding us once again that “the whole world is a work of art” and all these little things, moments in time—even the most unbearable ones—form the tapestry of life.
It’s 5 A.M. when streaks of light start painting the sky with shades of pinks and purples. As we hike further, the sky turns from hazy burgundy to rose, then to rich yellow. Some of us pause to take that treasured snap; some just lovingly stare at the riot of colors. By the time we reach the peak, we are face to face with the sun. Everything the light touches turns golden — the grass, our skins, our hairs. And everything I do is stitched with its color.
Finally, I let go of my backpack and the worldly worries I have been carrying are no more. Money? Politics? Climate change? War? All gone. This is what I live for. To experience the feeling of returning home. Neither my labored breaths nor my shaky steps will hinder this renewal. I am one again with the gods.
Word count: 144
In response to dVerse’s Prosery hosted by Lisa, who asks us to write a prose of 144 words using a given line from a poem. Today’s line is Everything I do is stitched with its color taken from W.S. Merwin’s “Separation”.
This challenge immediately took me back to my 2019 climb at Mt. Wiji. Sunrise in this mountain is still — by far — the best one I have witnessed. The low quality photo above which I took from my old phone may not give it justice, but hopefully these words will do.
one day she will get through these dystopian days look at the mirror and see blue irises growing from her painted bruise she will take fortune out of misery— make a wager with fate; there’ll be no more sad mornings or skeptical days
peace will propel this crepuscular creature who no longer breathes between alternate universes and thousand ironies this will be her renovation— rebirth to the nth degree.
What goes up must come down, they say. So there we were, descending 740 meters from the summit of Mt. Apo to reach the iconic Lake Venado where we would encamp for the night. A short distance for many, but a challenging one nonetheless.
The trail to Lake Venado was evidently spoiled by time and people. It was steep and muddy and slippery. But for someone who prefers downhill over uphill terrain like me, it was honestly a little fun. Had we not been carrying our backpacks, we would surely enjoy running — even sliding — on the mire like kids. But nobody dared to take photos during those two hours of balancing our feet. Our minds and eyes were focused holding on to branches/roots/grass to avoid tumbling down.
It was 4pm when Shiela, Karl, James, Ate Sherlyn, Shandy and I finally reached the lake. The rest of our group went ahead and had already set up camp. For us, we took a quick breather and stared at our feat. We survived the Lake Venado trail!
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.
What I liked:
1. The POV. This is the first WWII novel I have come to read that is not centered on the plight of Jews during Hitler’s regime (which just reminds me again that I must not call myself a well-read person). It gave me a glimpse of the side of war that I have not paid close attention to before: the struggles of the lesser known European countries during Stalin’s rule. One will have to read this novel with a lump in their throat. From the first page to the last, there were suffering and misery and death. There were moments of hope, too, sneaking in and out of their gray days. But as with all wars, nobody truly wins in the end.
The POV from a teenage Lithuanian girl is also a welcome take. And the use of art (drawing) to reveal the truth and to connect with others is powerful move. I find the bittersweet flashbacks of Lina’s family life before the war a breather. It reminded me of the real humans before they were turned into a walking ghost.
2. The characters. Each individual is a gem, from the likeable to the unlikeable. The characterization felt real and I found it easy to jump from one shoe to another. It was an emotional rollercoaster living the lives of these characters. Their pain, frustration, fear, anger, madness — I felt it all. The only thing that felt distant to me is their resilience (perhaps reading the book in these anxious times made it so).
Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still for once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language; let’s stop for a second, and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.
Here is something that we all need in these heartbreaking times. May we find the much-needed pause from all the hate and greed.
Edgar Allan Poe, who was born on this day in 1809, left us this poignant narrative poem about love… and death. This 2022, may we spread the kind of love that neither the angels in Heaven above, nor the demons down under can destroy it.