Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Every spring I get homesick for a magical place that, although I was not born in, lives inside of me each day and has shaped the person that I am.

Home can mean many things to many different people. It can be where you are from or a happy memory; it can be a state of mind or a familiar smell that evokes bygone memories. It can be where you hat your hat or it can be a dream you aspire to achieve.

Home has been all of these things for me at some point in my life and often it is for me several of these feelings and memories all at once.

The feeling of home can even be irreconcilable, warring emotions that tear you between one love and another. There is a lyric which captures my own internal struggle to reconcile my feelings for the life I lead and the one I might have led once upon a time: “I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly away. I don't know where my soul is, I don't know where my home is…”

Each day of our lives, we must choose between one path and another. Each path carries possibilities and chances and room for regret. I believe that we have all mourned the road not taken in our lives at some point. Often that regret is revisited periodically; sometimes to remind ourselves of the freedom to choose, other times to flagellate or berate ourselves for choosing the “wrong” path.

The searches for self and home are to me, twin souls holding hands on the same journey; they are not joined at the hip unable to separate from each other, but they often clasp hands to follow the same footpath. Occasionally, one lets go to explore the scenic route, but inevitably finds them self again holding hands on the path to the original destination.

I lived a magical life once, in a fantasy land filled with music and color and smiling people. I found the kind of person I wanted to become: Gentle, adventurous, hard-working, fun…

For me, life in this magical place was simple and easy but still exciting and dangerous. Things that had never occurred to me in my former life came easily to hand in my emancipated state. Nothing was beyond the realm of possibility; no adventure too great.

I could spend days surrounded by saltwater lagoons, bathing in the warmth of the South China Sea. I watched native tribesman with homemade goggles, snorkels and wooden fins strapped to their sandaled feet circle around me with their fishing spears as I arose from ocean depths. Once I was clear, they would surge thirty feet to the floor and skewer the deadly stonefish that I had been observing a few moments before.

I’ve ridden malnourished mules into a volcano and slid down a muddy mountainside in a post-war Jeepney with bald tires. I’ve trekked thorough ancient cocoa tree jungles with an AK-47 wielding guide to guard against the prevalent kidnappings of the region. I’ve forded rivers in small hollowed boats paddled by frogmen to the mouths of silt- laden waterfalls where bony caribou rise from the river bottoms like horned phantoms placidly chewing water bulbs like cud.

I’ve dove with sharks, turtles, sea snakes, stonefish, barracuda and territorial triggerfish that gave me a punctured fin as a memento.

I’ve eaten python and live octopus and rancid fertilized duck eggs. I’ve slept in bus stations, cabs and vans, on beaches and planes, in jungles and boats.

But the most important thing I did in this land of wonder was grow. I grew into the kind of person that I wanted to be, shaped by the example of a people who know what it means to have fun and who look at the world with a child’s sense of wonder and a sage’s lifetime of wisdom. A people who will throw party if all they have in the larder is a cup of rice and a bottle of beer.

I miss this home; the road not taken. I made other choices that have led me down a most successful path. I am happy and content and all that I have I owe to this experience. I will be ever grateful for the love that I have in my heart for a tiny necklace of islands in a faraway land and as happy as I am, I will always wonder what might have been. Pag-ibig ko sa inyo ang aking matamis na lupain…

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