A sweet and gentle voice broke my concentration. A voice that has always reminded me of my beloved grandma.
As I turned away from the screen in front of me, my heart was overwhelmed with warmth, seeing a long lost friend.
"Writing," I replied. Well, that's what I call it anyway.
"Been a long time," I sighed. I felt a trace of guilt within me.
"Yeah, too long," she agreed. I was relieved not to sense any tint of resentment in her voice, one so trustworthy and soothing that I could feel the immediate dissipation of all tension and exhaustion away from me.
"C'mon up," she invited.
How could I resist.
Like climbing up the fire escape stairs to her window, I found myself ascending slowly towards her.
Suddenly, the tingling sense of excitement of my first ride years ago came rushing back to me. Although unlike the first, there's no fear diluting the thick of excitement this time.
As I rose higher, the change in the altitude was accompanied by the once familiar change of colours around me.
The harsh darkness ebbed, its void gradually permeated by the flow of gentle purples.
And the gentle purples slowly transcended into the comforting blue.
As I left my worldly bundles further below me, the clearer was the heavenly blue that engulfed me. With a warmth as cool as she, there's no room for any earthly weight in my heart.
A smile slowly curled up on my face, and it culminated into a shout of joy, "Oh, how I miss you!"
When I heard my happiness echoed through the vastness of the sky, I suddenly felt sheepish, "Oops..."
My embarrassment was met with a string of kind and comforting words, "Oh, how I miss you too!"
I felt as light as the floating clouds around us.
"So, tell me what've been going on in the past ten years," she inquired.
I started filling her up on my marriage, my kids, my changes in career, my constant fear of uncertainties of the future, my intermittent siege of loneliness, my mistakes and my regrets, my disgust towards the monotony of life etc, etc.
I was going on for so long I started to sense the "me, me, me, me, me ...". I then apologetically asked, "And how have you been?"
She smiled, "Oh, I'm fine." She then added, "I've learned a new trick. Want to see?"
"But you need to shut your eyes three times for this trick to work."
"Brrruu ..." I bursted, my lips didn't open fast enough for my laughter to come out.
Not really sure how to react to the smiley, I remarked, "You're many things, but you're not really a good painter. Hahaha ... "
"Yeah? I thought so too," she smiled.
"Yeah, what for?"
"You know, for dispersing the cloud of negativity," I said.
She smiled. I remembered that knowing smile.
"But surely, you have something better for me," I wasn't entirely satisfied.
"Of course, my dear. But you've got to prepare yourself," she said.
"Ooookay ..." with the biggest smiley face I've ever seen shown moments earlier, I wasn't really sure how to prepare myself this time.
The shine slowly expanded.
The brightness grew brighter and brighter. At a faster and faster pace.
And brighter. And faster.
And brighter. Faster.
Brighter. Faster. Brighter. Faster ...
Eyes ... Open!
As soon as the flares flashed to its brightest, everything fell sharply into darkness.
Trembling. I was trying to take in all that I could feel at that moment.
Then suddenly, a soft glow emerged.
The glow lasted for a few seconds and dropped back into darkness again. She reappeared.
I was overwhelmed by excitement and awe. I was "awe-ver-whelmed" - well, she had the smiley face ...
"Wo! What can I say," a murmur was all that I could manage, "that's like the loudest firework display I've seen, with no sound."
"You could say, 'Awesome'?" she smiled.
"Awesome!" I concurred.
We both laughed.
As the laughter echoed off into the deep boundless space, after the magnificent show, there seemed nothing better to do than gazing into the sea of stars beyond and just ponder.
It seemed we'd been admiring the wonders of the universe forever, but yet, it didn't feel enough when finally her gentle voice broke the silence, "Hey ... time to go."
I paused at the reminder.
"Already?" I was reluctant. But I knew she was right.
Just as slowly as I'd ascended, I descended. My eyes couldn't break away from her, and I could feel her giving me a soft hug.
Then suddenly Frank's voice sailed across the night, "Moon river, wider than a mile ..."
I respect Sinatra, but at that moment, I thought his voice was a bit too strong, "Sinatra?"
"Well, OK. Your choice," she offered.
Without hesitation, I requested, "What about Miss Hepburn?"
"You've got it!"
As Ms Hepburn lulled, my eyes were getting heavier with every word she whispered.
Moon River, wider than a mile.
I'm crossing you in style, some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going, I'm going your way.
Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end.
Waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River ...
... and me.
As she faded further and further away, I mumbled, "G'nite ..."
"Good night, my dear ..."
And I fell into complete darkness ...
"Hey, wake up. Rise and shine, it's good morning."
Last Sunday, when I drove past our town's public football field I noticed that our little fountain by the field was given its purpose of existence. Usually, it doesn't have jets of water spouting out to make it more than just a concrete structure, or so I notice. So that afternoon, wanting to try out my new camera and sharpen my photography skill, I returned to the place for a practice session on the fountain.
When I reached there, I noticed a couple was feeding a flock of pigeons beside the fountain, and my photographic target changed.
I was excited about the sudden and occasional lift-offs of the pigeons, which had its aural and visual impacts in real life. But through my camera? Clutters.
But that's probably down to my photographic skill.
As I was going through the shots I'd taken on my camera's LCD screen, suddenly I heard a voice, "Hey, stupid! You don't have a focus!"
As I looked around, peoples were playing football, throwing frisbees, walking and jogging so far away from me that the voice was too near to not arouse my suspicion.
"Hey, over here!"
This time, I managed to trace the voice, to a pigeon, balancing itself on a wire above me.
A talking pigeon?
Who cares. What really interested me more wasn't why it could talk, but what it was saying.
"I had a focus. The camera said so," I argued.
"No, dummy. Focus as in a subject for your picture!" the pigeon explained.
I planted a light slap on my forehead, "Of course!", and pointed my camera towards the pigeons and started clicking again.
"Gee, that's better," I sighed and turned to look for the talking pigeon to express my gratitude. But he wasn't on the wire anymore. As I was trying to locate him amongst the flock on the ground, he made himself seen and his words heard, "They could be better, you know."
"Yeah? How?", this time I was all ears.
"You're holding a Nikon D5100 with a multi-angle LCD screen, aren't you?", the pigeon inquired.
"Boy, you're good!", I couldn't hide my amazement.
"Well, perspective, my boy! Perspective!" the pigeon remarked.
Another slap on my forehead, and another round of shootings.
Well, at least I'm satisfied.
After another fifteen minutes of shooting, I was ready to go. As I was walking toward my car, the pigeon's voice rang again, "You know, what you called clutters just now weren't all that bad. Go through them and see what you can do with some image editing functions."
I nodded in appreciation. "Hey, a picture before I go?" I asked.
And Joe complied. Yeah, his name is Joe.
Joe was right. After going through the 'clutters', with my limited knowledge on image editing I managed to come out with these.
Not great. But they didn't turn out too bad, did they?
I was never into photography, until a few weeks ago. And that's because I'm a cheapskate.
We decided to get an entry-level DSLR camera a few weeks ago. Not too expensive, not cheap either. So I figure to get the most out of it, I would have to take as many pictures with the camera as possible to drive the cost per picture down, and thus diluting the digestible-but-still-hard-to-swallow investment in the camera. So, I dug into the camera's manual, and ploughed through photography web sites trying to empower myself to squeeze even more juice from the camera. And I was caught surprised.
My previous experience in photography was nothing more than taking a point-and-shoot camera (a term I learned only recently) and taking photos of the person or persons in front of me, while trying not to cut off their heads. As I was trying to get a clearer picture of what digital photography can achieve, I suddenly realised that photography is so much more than what I thought it was.
While I was trying to get my head around the concepts of exposure, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, HDR, D-lighting, bracketing etc, etc, I came to realise that most of these functions are not just trying to capture what we see, they actually allow us to transcend what we see into what we perceive. This goes way beyond of what I, a photographic ignorant, thought about photography before - to simply capture what we see. But there's probably a very good reason to the existence of these exciting features.
The camera is trying to emulate the sophisticated mechanism that is our eyes with these functions. While these functions fail to achieve the flexibility of our eyes, they actually open up a whole spectrum of creative possibilities by enabling us to inject our aesthetic colours and hues into what we see. I know, I know ... photography has been around for ages, and I'm probably the last one to realise this. But while I was gradually taking in the ideas of this art form of light, and thrilled to have found a new toy (much like what I have discovered with this blog), another thought slowly surfaced in my mind -
Photography is actually going the opposite direction of Buddhism.
If anyone asks about my religion, I would claim to be a Buddhist. However, if the knowledge of Buddhism is like an ocean, my understanding of it is only as much as dipping my legs into the river that feeds into the ocean. So not there yet. My grasp of Buddhism is that, without over-simplification, in life, an apple is an apple, nothing more, nothing less. To attain peace within ourselves, we should accept it as an apple wholeheartedly without any other thoughts like one apple is not enough, or I prefer a red to a green apple, or I rather have apple juice, or why am I not getting an orange, etc.
Having thought that, it dawned on me that when we're trying to paint our artistic vision of colours and shades over the photograph of an apple, we're actually heading away from the teaching of Buddhism, or rather my understanding of Buddhism.
Not a bad thing, but it's food for thoughts.
I just want to announce that in the future, there will be more photos being posted here in this blog. And hopefully, that's as delicious as an apple.