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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

entry arrow1:23 AM | Looking at the Horizon

It has become a strange habit of mine—something borne out of a newfound impertinence perhaps—to ask people, many days later after the last firecracker of January 1st had exploded: “How’s your year shaping up so far?” I say it with a nonchalance bordering on startling. There’s something in my tone that suggests a hard edge to my question, which does not seem to require a reply, and it can be strange to witness the variety of looks I get: from chirpy hopefulness to downright confusion. (My favorite is the classic blank look.) “Umm, it’s far too early to tell,” some would say, “but I hope it will be happy.”

“Well, good for you,” my impertinence would reply. And then I’d be on my way to my next victim.

I don’t know why I do this. I don’t even know why, last week, I dared myself to climb a tree (at my age!), or to spend exactly one week not logging on to my snug online life. “There has to be something nice about an offline life,” I told myself—and there was indeed: in consequence, I have gained about ten pounds, which soon had me going to the gym. (Granted, the offline experiment is also a woeful result of my current Globelines broadband connection being the worst as it had been since the underwater Taiwan quake of January 2007—it is sooooooo slow a snail can make for the moon in record time, and several days after I have complained to Customer Service, I still am in waiting for the service team to arrive. As of this writing, it has been roughly three days.)

But it has been a strange January so far, and moments of introspection tell me that I seem bent on shaking things up in my life so far, even in the ways I deal with people. Already, the twelve months ahead seem to me to be a stretch of utter ambivalence, totally unlike the fervent sureness I felt when 2007 came to take its opening bow. Once upon a time, the start of another calendar provided easy demarcation between past and future, and also remembered frustrations and renewed aspirations. This year, 2008 increasingly feels like a mere continuation of what has already gone on before. Technically, this is always true for any year, but I meant that symbolic ending and beginning that concentrates around New Year’s Eve when we get a psychological reprieve of sort.

I used to have rituals in marking that reprieve. Going ga-ga over stupendous fireworks is one. Watching the first sunrise of the year is another. The last one is a romantic, even pagan, idea of greeting the first day of the year alert and in worship: the first sunlight of the year on our face … nothing could be better than that.

But I never did see the first sunrise of the new year.

It was not the fault of an alarm clock gone silent at the appointed hour—mine did ring around five in the morning, and I did wake up to the groggy early hour, the outside still dark, the bed still inviting me with all its soft temptations. But then, in that shadowy region of half-sleep, I chose to surrender to the bed, to sleep. I guess, in that instant, I had chosen my theme for the year: to let go of what was expected and the routine, to try to court the other side of impulse.

I have never lived this way before.

Later on, when I had savored enough of my apartment’s quiet (I swear I could hear my hamsters breathe), I ventured outside and found it was already quite late in the afternoon. I like New Year’s Day in the city: the stillness from everywhere is of the comfortable sort, not the funereal silence of Lent and the high holy days. That was when I decided to go to the Boulevard, to keep a late appointment with the Dumaguete horizon, this time no longer to be the romantic sort and “see the sunrise” but to just be there, because I could, and because my feet led me to it. I thought: life is much better lived outside the tyranny of alarm clocks and schedules.

The afternoon that proceeded seemed both startling and soothing. I sat on my bench along the Boulevard paseo: under the golden sunlight streaming from the Cuernos de Negros, two boys were trying to throw a styrofoam board to the sea, only to find it dancing back to them on the shoulders of the sharp sea breeze—tottering on the ledge of the seaside brick dike like a deranged ballerina; a woman in a black coat and carrying a green parasol walked with a certain sadness to her eyes; a young family listened to music from the stereo their little boy was carrying; and an old couple in a red cap and a brown hat traversed the entire paseo, perhaps to fulfill a resolution to fitness. From where I sat, Siquijor looked blue in the distance. The sea was rough. And the sky, which was blue a few moments before, now fielded the sight of rain clouds creeping in from the north. The city was quiet.

I don’t know if there are portents all around me. All I knew was that this was me living in the moment, taking only what that moment could offer me.

Perhaps in my subconsciousness, I have realized how I may have built up a life that embraced too much the comfortable. To wake up in the first day of the year to catch the sunrise? I am 32 years old, and I am now too old to entertain empty signs. Last New Year’s Eve, I went with my mother, my brother, and his family on a short excursion by car to the Dumaguete seaside, to greet the midnight of the incoming 2008 with the sight of “splendid” fireworks, courtesy of Lee Super Plaza. What we saw was a beautiful 20-minute or so show of explosion, boom, and colors—and then, right after, there was only empty, dark skies to behold. And what was suddenly left to consider in the night skies were the almost unexpected sight of our ancient stars, which proved more beautiful, and more lasting than any fancy fire ball.

It struck me that sometimes what fills the soul is the unexpected calm after the riot of what we have sought for. What we often seek is almost always instant gratification, quick to end, and then soon lost to forgetfulness. I don’t want that anymore. I don’t want empty signs either.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich