Five Things I learned From a Fisherman

It was a rainy day at this village where fishing is still done the traditional way – with hook and line.

The boats were safely on shore, but I noticed someone working in his boat and he was gracious enough to share some of his time. Here are some of the things I learned.

1. Even when it’s stormy, you still have to work and prepare for when the sun comes out. Preparation is part of catching the fish and takes as long as the time at sea.

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2. Chicken feathers make good bait. Never underestimate the hidden treasure in ordinary things – they can be the secret to a livelihood.

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3. If you don’t get out and catch some fish, you don’t eat. The world doesn’t owe you a living. But it isn’t always stormy and the sun does come out.

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4. Don’t be afraid of the waves when you go out to sea, you will get used to them. But watch out for the clouds and rain that hide the stars and mountains that guide your way home.

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5. There is always reason to smile.

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I thank Mr. Fisherman for the lessons I picked up that day.


 Traditional

(On the island of Mindanao in the Philippines.)

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Movies In My Mind

I make movies in my mind, or sometimes they write themselves in my sleep.

In one movie I see you smiling, coming into the bedroom as I wake up. I tell you about some plans for the day and you laugh. You pick up a towel and glance at me as you step into the shower.

In another movie you gaze into the distance as I rest my head on your shoulder, your arm around me, both of us not speaking a word. I think about the future while wondering if you were thinking about it too.

And then the light hits my eyes and the movies begin to fade.

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I choose to linger in the fog, to make the movies keep playing, because then the world looks like a garden in the mist. Because then distance and time disappear.

Because then you are closer to me.
———
Evanescent
Reprieve

Like the Sweet Smell of Jasmine in the Night

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Her smile held all the promises of summer.

She was wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat that framed her face against the blue cloudless sky.

She sat on the bench and snuggled up to me, and her smell was like a whiff of sweet jasmine in the night.

Her face was very close, and her breath smelled even sweeter.

Suddenly she stood up and grabbed my hand. “Come,” she laughed.

And with that, she turned and led me into the summer.

——
Perfume

The Story of a Fortress

He tried, he really did. He put his whole being into it, he made her the center of his universe.

But the more he tried, the more it was slipping away. The more he surrounded her with this fortress, the more determined she seemed to escape.

Until one day she left. And he was empty, for every moment of his waking hour, every thought and every part of his being as humanly possible he gave her.

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Then he saw a castle and he saw it in his heart — was he protecting her, or was he protecting himself? Was he putting this fortress not around her but around his heart so he won’t get hurt?

Slowly he knocked down the walls, bit by bit. He cried, he laughed, he got hurt again, and didn’t mind.

He made a leap of faith, and things started coming to him, including the peace of mind that he never found inside his fortress. The inner peace that only comes from freedom.

She did come back, as a butterfly. And he was happy for her, as only one who has found freedom can.

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—————-
Security
Denial

Conversation Between a Golden Leaf and a Young Shoot

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“Hello there! What are you?”

“I’m a leaf, like you.”

“How come you look different? All my friends are like me. We are green, our skin is supple, and we are swaying with the wind. Your color is like the setting sun, your skin is wrinkled, and you seem stiff.”

“That’s because I’m an old leaf and you are young. My color is like this because I have been kissed by the sun so many times.”

“I love the sun! You mean to say you have seen the sun come up and come down a lot of times?”

“More than three hundred times.”

“Wow, that’s so cool! I can’t wait to see the sun come up and I have only seen it a few times.”

“You will see it many more times.”

“Cool! How come your skin is hard and you look stiff?”

“That’s because I had to become stronger so I could stand the days when the sun does not come out and the wind gets stronger.”

“You mean to say there’s danger?”

“Sometimes the sun does not shine, but we know it is always there. I am always thankful to see it again, like today.”

“So my friends and I will become like you?”

“Yes, those who get through the windy days.”

“Where are the rest of your friends?”

“They’ve gone back to the roots of this tree we all belong to.”

“Do you miss them?”

“My friends have done their part, they have nurtured the tree and now the tree has new shoots like you! They may even have become part of you and your friends.”

“So you will be gone too? I’m beginning to like you.”

“I’ve seen my season and I will soon join my friends.  For you and your friends, there’s a lot of sun ahead!”

“I can’t wait!”

“Keep reaching for the sky, enjoy the sun, and dance with the wind.”

“Thank you, old leaf.”

Seasons

I Wanted To Be a Painter and Became a Photographer

When I was a child I wanted to be a painter.

But I could not draw straight lines.

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Some of my friends could draw a hundred lines side by side, straight as rulers without using one. They could draw a portrait with a few pencil strokes, or slap a few brushstrokes and conjure a colorful sunset out of nowhere as if by magic. Most of all, they could draw a scene and make it look so real.

I was struck in awe, but I could not draw straight lines.

Many years later, I had my first camera, a point and shoot in the film days. When I saw the print of my first shots I thought, “Aha! I have a short cut! With one click, I could recreate the scene in front of me, capture the sunset and take portraits just like that. I don’t need to draw straight lines!”

But it was not as simple as I thought. The camera is not a brush and the print is not a canvass. I don’t have to learn how to draw straight lines, but I have to learn how to see.

I haven’t stopped learning.