When I was 8 years old, my father and I had to ride a motored outrigger boat to get to another town. A few hours after we left the shore, we noticed a sudden change in the way the boat was rocked by the waves. The sea suggenly got angry. I looked around us and saw no sign of land. It seemed to me like we were in the middle of nowhere. Around us all I could see was the line where the sky and sea meet. Above us the clouds swelled. The boat struggled through the raging waves. But after a few minutes, it’s motor gave up. The boatman tried hard to revive it but did not succeed. So we were left floating in the turbulent sea, praying another boat would pass by. The other passengers seemed worried.
I looked at my father and he just smiled at me. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Come, let’s sing.” And we did, softly. We sang children’s songs, most of them in our native language. The other passengers joined us in singing and we made beautiful music together in the middle of a troubled sea. After a while, a boat passed by. We transferred and were safely brought to the nearest town. The passengers who were strangers to each other when we left the shore parted as friends after the storm.
I look back to that day in the middle of the sea with nostalgia. I remember how singing had changed the spirits of the passengers on that boat, how singing had turn strangers into friends.
So today I sing, even if I am not a good singer. I have always been self-concious about my voice because I know I can’t carry a tune. Sometimes I massacre Vonda Shephard’s “Chances Are” and “Could I Have This Dance” or Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This.” I have never sung in public. I had once read a quote which says, one of the bravest things a human being can do is open it’s mouth and sing out loud. I guess I’m just not brave enough.
But I still sing. I sing even if I can’t come close to being brilliant at it. Most of the time I sing when I am alone. For my own amusement. For my own entertainment. I sing when I’m happy. I sing when I’m sad. I sing when I’m troubled. I feel there’s something in singing that can’t really be found in anything else. It’s a relief. It’s a catharsis. It decreases my sense of isolation. It feeds my soul. It restores my bouyancy.
There is a fundamental human need to sing. It is primal. It is an expression of the human species. Players sing to celebrate after winning a game. A jilted lover sings to express his heartache. A mother sings to calm her baby into sleep. Singing weaves the content of human heart and mind, and it is its intimate form of expression. Singing is a blessed thing. So I sing.
While on a day off, I didn’t know what to do with myself. The house didn’t need cleaning, the dog didn’t need washing, and I didn’t have blog yet at that time thus no blog needed updating.
In utter boredom, I decided to go out of my comfort zone called home and stop by a coffee shop to try their famous frapuccino. (This happened before I quit my addiction to coffee.) I chose to stay in a cozy corner by the glass wall. A few sips later I found myself carefully observing everyone who was in the coffee shop and everyone who walked by. I became an amateur social scientist for an hour or two or three. I can’t remember exactly how long, but I can remember that I tried to study my subjects well: I guessed who they were, why they were there at that moment, what they do, what they were thinking, where they came from and where they were going.
From my nook, I have observed that my subjects exhibited varieties. They looked different from each other, they didn’t have the same taste in fashion , they walked in different manner and pace, they had different mannerisms, they had different facial expressions, they had their own ways of greeting each other, they belonged to different groups, and so on and so forth.
Some of the people I saw were couples with their hands joined. A mother holding her baby dearly. A couple kissing. Children happily clinging to their dad’s hands. A group of teenagers laughing and poking at each other. An old man and an old woman walking hand-in-hand. A dad buying cotton candy for her daughter. A little girl having a birthday party in a fast food joint just across the street. And a happy teenage girl and her mom who looked fresh from a shopping spree.
I must say that my short stint as an amateur social scientist was fun. I realized that watching people from a distant is fascinating. Far away, people tell stories with their unguarded actions. And from where I was, I saw an intimate view of a universal truth: that even though we act and look different from each other on the outside, we are all the same on the inside. We all have the same desire to love, be loved, be happy, and make our loved ones happy.
I feared the mighty sea when I was young, especially after a tragedy happened: a passenger ferry collided with an oil tanker. Within minutes, the tragedy claimed almost 2,000 lives, including some of my distant relatives. The event has been dubbed as “the worst ferry disaster and the worst peace-time maritime disaster in history.” As the years passed by, the fear of the sea waned and I began to cherish a love story with the sea.
I love the days I spend so close to the vast sea. In the morning, before the sun rises, I would head out to the beach for a walk, barefooted. I enjoy the gentle breeze caressing my face and playing with my hair. I love the feel of soft, moist sand between my toes. I would happily create a path with my set of footprints. And I would be delighted when a stroke of tide erases the marks I had left. I often wish those marks were the mistakes I’ve done with my life.
When I get tired of walking, I would sit on the white, powdery sand and wait for the sun to stretch out its rays as if to say it already has awoken from a deep slumber. It is amazing to watch the sun rising up, little by little, from the horizon. It is soothing to hear the sound of the surf. The distinct crash and return of the tiny waves becomes the laughter of loved ones. It rekindles so many moments I spent with family and friends.
The gentle breeze brings the salty taste of the sea, and almost instantly I see fishermen in my mind. They are on the seashore, pulling out nets from the sea. I see people waiting in line to buy fish, children playing on the shore, and small crabs frolicking in the now heated fine sand. When the sun’s heat start to hurt my skin a bit, I know it is time to head home.
The sea and I are one. I take the passion and drive from its waves; the hope, from the sun that constantly rises from its edge; the calm, from its white, powdery sand that never fails me; and the happiness, from the memories that it draws from my mind. Each time I look out to the sea, I see my life laid out in front of me.