Because I managed to write down a couple of chapters the other day, I decided to continue the novella I started writing and abandoned last year, and join NaNoWriMo. I’m posting the rough drafts as they come along on another WordPress blog, Maginhawa Street Crawl. I hope I finally finish this thing, haha.
This is to say: I am glad this month is just about over. All I remember when I think about the past five weeks are lists of to-do’s and a flurry of constant activity. Not that I’m complaining–on the contrary, I’m grateful, because I am able to do what is meaningful to me.
Aside from the usual teaching and checking, I copyedited some articles, from which I learned a lot, for our department’s journal, including a paper on the iterations/subversions of the marriage plot in contemporary spinoffs of Jane Austen, and what they say about how women negotiate desire and relationships with postfeminist consciousness, and a paper on fictocriticism, which is a kind of writing that merges academic discourse and creative writing, a mode I’m interested in exploring, given my emerging preference for nonrealist writing. I also hurdled my GEC observations, and was told that my teaching has improved a lot from when I first started, and that I just need to work on patience (I have to give the students more time to think, they said, given that the questions and concepts I discuss tend to be difficult/take some time to process) and I have to prepare more accessible examples to concretize the concepts I discuss (I look forward to getting my lecture notes in better order over the Christmas vacation, I’ve already bought a lovely notebook with thick, creamy paper to write expanded outlines and essays in, hehe). I also helped with our department’s recently concluded international conference on translation, which was by all accounts a success (Prof. Aileen Salonga, the head of our secretariat, is a superwoman!), and I got to listen to a few (because secretariat duty huhu) very interesting presentations on such topics as the politicization of happiness (by Jeremy de Chavez), compositional practice and the value of neoformalist poetics in a deconstructed world (by Paolo Manalo), and a “new” model of communication as perpetual translation from reality to experience to expression and reception and reconstruction of reality (by Doug Trick).
The day after the conference concluded, I went hiking to Maranat Falls in Rizal with Trail Adventours. The trail was, as it often is, a long, rolling mud slide, but lying in a stream with only my face sticking out of the water, feeling the currents make their way around the contours of my body, listening to bird calls and the steady churning of the falls, and falling slowly to sleep was a prize worth rolling in mud for. I also enjoyed the company of our guests, particularly C., from Australia, who teaches at The School of Life in Melbourne.
The School of Life, based in London with seven other branches in major cities around the world, is a project founded by philosopher Alain de Botton that seeks to direct people “towards a variety of ideas from the humanities – from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts – ideas that will exercise, stimulate and expand your mind” so that one may be able to “address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world.” It’s another of de Botton’s projects, like The Philosophers’ Mail, that seek to bring philosophical discourse from esoteric academic study to everyday application by making it more accessible (C. said that some classes at The School teach hardcore philosophy, the rigorous theoretical stuff, while some are more in the style of Brain Pickings, comprehensible to anyone curious enough and literate). I know some people dislike the oversimplification that sometimes attends this popularization of ideas, but I think profound understanding often begins with a dip into shallow idea-pools and learning how to swim there, eventually seeking out and enjoying more strenuous mental exercise.
Though I am almost always tired because of them, I love my work (teaching and editing) and my other work (mountain guiding) because they keep me curious and constantly whet and satisfy and further whet my curiosity and desire to learn more about and communicate my beliefs and interests. I am so excited to study again, to go back to my MA classes, apply for graduate programs abroad, get into one that explores the intersections of literature and philosophy, write papers, contribute to the ongoing scholarly conversation… I like dreaming up titles for potential papers yet to be written, the way some people think about what to name their future children, haha. But all things in their time! For now I need to finish checking four sets of papers for my two college writing classes.
I loop my body into knots in the morning, right after I wake up and gently rise in a hot pool of light pouring in from the east-facing, gauze-curtained window. I draw the curtains close against the buzzing, rumbling world, peel the powder-blue pashmina with a spray of white stars off my mat, stow the pillow in my closet, and begin salutations to the sun. There are few sounds more satisfying than this: the cracking of my spine, bending and twisting, of ligaments pulled and joints rotating as I move into each pose. There are few sensations more gratifying than feeling muscle stretching over planes and ridges of bone, or feeling the full force of my weight on my crown and forearms, or on the flat-pressed breadth of two palms as I kick my legs up, abdomen tensing, struggling to keep myself from bowling over, trusting my arms, trusting the wall, hearing my breath rush out of my lungs, my pulse throbbing just below my breastbone, between the ribs, counting softly before the inevitable slow fall—all for this end: to drop dead-tired on my sweat-strewn, storm-blue mat after practice, unraveling in a warm bath of piano notes, my mind lighting up and my body deliciously aching for the rest of the day. Every day.