Thursday, June 9, 2011

THE freeflowing, living room-feel of MariJo Moore’s reading/group conversation at Crystal Visions in Hendersonville on a Saturday afternoon (June 4th) was very conducive for instant reflection. Ms Moore, a townmate in Candler (12 miles to downtown Asheville), draws on her Native American roots in her poetry. I could easily relate—since most, if not all, of my work take immediate, convenient access to my lineage.
MariJo read and discussed a few excerpts from her new book, “A Book of Spiritual Wisdom.” The part that caught me was her exploration of humanity’s connection—or, if I may, “connectedness”—with the past… Suddenly, I was thrown in reflective memory.

I WAS already on midlife age when I decided to live in America. Tons of heavy baggages clogged my chest as I nonchalantly, albeit willingly, immersed myself in the heartland, so to say. At first, I wanted escape from my past—a long history of relationship struggles and loss of self-worth. More significantly, I was fleeing from gaping wounds of my long work as fiery supporter of the organized Left in the Philippines—which, at that time, was in the process of correcting errors that created huge organizational crack on the revolutionary movement for more than a decade since its founding in 1968.
When I flew to New York City in 1998, I hadn’t an iota of idea what’s in store for me—I just wanted to leave. I felt lost and “spiritually homeless.” The private battle within me that almost cost me my life in 1995 when a near-fatal lung ailment befell me was still crawling in my system like an insistent spider pushing its way out.
Quite naturally, my logical impulse—being a writer and artist—was to write and create work that speaks beyond my personal experiences. I wanted to run and forget—and eventually, regroup somewhere far as a new person. I planned to maybe pen my own “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” kind of stuff—some diversionary excursion that is beyond my realm of realistic immediacy. Or maybe an Elmore Leonard noirish crime caper set in Brooklyn, or why not tackle a subject that is way off my cultural background and geographical reference—probably an Appalachian-inspired mystery thriller?
So I tried…
While in New York City, I cranked out volumes of words—in between editing a weekly Filipino newspaper in Manhattan—and spent most of my non-working days detained in an Ozone Park, Queens basement studio, writing like an avenging crow, painting like a serpent on fire. It was winter of 1999. I was consciously pushing myself to forget by banging my head on just about any idea that popped in my head—while intermittently attacking canvases like a madman. Spray paints, scrounged latex, found objects etc. As a result, I ruined my lungs and had to subject myself to surgery eight months after when a toxic lump accumulated on my right lung.
Then I flew to Asheville, North Carolina a few weeks after being discharged from a Secaucus, New Jersey hospital to recuperate. I purposely schemed to be in a place where no one knew me or nothing reminded me of my past. It served my purpose pretty well. No one knew where the hell I emanated from in the backwoods of Weaverville, a few miles to city proper.
But that was just temporary. It wasn’t about the people around me. It was about me. I was struggling to create, to write—to make sense of my life. But I couldn’t craft anything new. Nothing made sense. The thousands of words that I produced in New York amounted to rubble, so I thought at that time. I wanted a continuum, but I couldn’t move on—there were so much to remember. The more I ran, the more I kept coming back. I couldn’t get pass 2,000 words of focused writing. Just when I felt I was on a roll, I started hitting bumps and humps. I get derailed so easily.

IT WAS then that I came to accept that it’s impossible for me to write a totally make-believe work of fiction or a story that is beyond the parameters of my real existence. There was so much to deal with in regards my past… I was and still am connected to those days—where my spirit emanates and palpitates. I have to let go and find release to all the wounds, joys, misery, and celebrations that traversed through my life’s roadsides and alleyways and then gather them on the middle of the highway or desert isle. And, like spare parts of a giant puzzle—I’d like to rebuild my life, piece them together, through those memories… those words, as I write them.
The memories aren’t just linked to my own personal realities. These were attached to everything that I was born into, grew up with, and evolved as a human being: those endless monsoon rains, destructive floods, unmitigated hunger and sickness in urban slums and rural towns, senseless killings. All these crisscross with tiny details: a creaking Underwood typewriter that pierced through the nights, half-naked kids running around streets, endless Christmas celebrations, festive chaos during fiesta seasons, my beaten-down pair of street sandals, my grandmother chopping up onions and garlic for arroz valenciana, my grandfather gesturing around like the way he was at war in Bataan and in his mind, my mom and dad fighting over silly jealousies and insecurities, my 4 brothers and 4 sisters before fate took me oceans away from them.
I have to let go off these memories before I sit down, write a new book, and find peace and quiet. It’s a journey within. I am still struggling—but I am almost there… I just have to keep on remembering the past than running away from it.

[MariJo Moore’s new book, “A Book of Spiritual Wisdom—for all days,” is available at Crystal Visions, 5426 Asheville Highway, Hendersonville, NC 28791, (828) 687-1193, and Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801-2834, (828) 254-6734. / PHOTOS by Jimmy Ancheta Domingo]

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