Saturday, June 30, 2018

reality and memory

 Willa Cather,  My √Āntonia
“Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” 

Thursday, June 28, 2018


The heart's memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good. Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Sitting on the rocky beach in Aniloa, Batangas, calm morning. Janice Skivington 2018

While my son was at work, I wandered the seaside area with my sketchbook and watercolor set. Most people graciously left me alone although I am sure the americana was a curiosity. The little resort where we stayed was family owned, quiet, with a tight local community. The beach was rocky, not the tourist-attraction typical white sands which the Philippines has in abundance. This was a resort for serious scuba divers, the bay was world renowned for protected species and a bounteous coral reef. 
This was a pleasant calm place to muse and reflect on my memories. I have good memories and disturbing ones as well. Revisiting the childhood sights, sounds and smells can stir up those moments that you had forgotten. Homesickness when I was sent away to Manila to boarding school, although I never told anyone.  Being frightened or bullied and keeping it to myself. Always wondering where I really belonged.
  I sat there on the shore drawing and observing, thinking, warmed by the tropical sun, cooled by the ocean breeze and felt all was well, most well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

memory with us

“Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” Oscar Wilde

Stormy afternoon sitting on the rocks looking out over Balayan Bay, Batangas. Janice Skivington 2018
After visiting my old hometown of San Pablo City I found a small hospitable resort in Batangas province on the coastline looking out over the South China Sea. I was joined by my son who has been working for a company in their Philippines office. 
I was thrilled at the prospect of swimming again in the warm tropical water, so many of my best childhood memories were from our family trips to the beaches of Batangas. 
Everything was heady, wonderful, stimulating as I wandered the coastal area those days. I delighted at the mango trees, stopped to photograph every tropical flower, watched fishermen pull in their boats, and ate local fish and fruit with rapturous enjoyment. That first evening when I was served a bowl of rice I had a moment that took me away. It had been so long since I had tasted such delicious rice, cooked the way I remembered. I stopped and savored each bite, chewy nutty moist Philippine grown rice. 
Every little sight, the old men in the long afternoon shade by the side of the house, the noise of chickens and roosters, the smell of pork on skewers at a little roadside grill, stirred memories of happiness. I took photos but mostly I sketched to savor the experience.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

can you go home again?

I went home again to my childhood town this past March. I grew up in Laguna province on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.  I made a return visit to the city of San Pablo where most of my memories were formed. I found the street where our last house had been, the Baptist church that my father had planted, the same streets that I had bicycled so freely and found all so much the same. The plaza where the San Pablo Cathedral sat so solidly in the center, the open air market, the department store where I bought my first art supplies with my allowance, it was all still there nearly 50 years later.
I walked up the steep narrow street I had lived on, looking for my old address and at the top of the street there was an overlook to a volcanic lake. My brother and I had been so proud when we packed lunch and bicycled all the way around the lake. It seemed so large to me then. Now, serene and picturesque it looked unchanged with bamboo fishing traps floating on the surface.
I felt like I had come home again in that the sights, smells, and sounds that I loved were all the same. But I no longer had anyone that I knew or loved living there. No one to greet me or to welcome me for a meal. 
I realized that I was truly what is called a third culture kid, I didn't belong to the Filipino culture as much as I cherished it, and I have never felt completely at home in the American culture. I looked like an American visitor from the outside, my education, family and property now was in America, but something inside was tightly clinging to all that was Filipino. To my sorrow and shame I can no longer speak Tagalog, I have forgotten too much.
I'm writing some blog posts to put down my complicated thoughts about the pull of what was once home. I made a lot of artwork during and after my trip and wish to share in the next days.

Thomas WolfeYou Can't Go Home Again “But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again.” 
You Can't Go Home Again is a novel by Thomas Wolfe published posthumously in 1940

Sunday, June 24, 2018

flowers force me

"Flowers force me to live in the "now". That is at least what Jesus meant in commanding us to "Consider the lilies"." Makoto Fujimura 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

May showers

May showers, and showers and showers brought us June flowers. I have creamy yellow and white roses to paint.

Friday, June 22, 2018

magnetic pull of place

Thomas WolfeYou Can't Go Home Again “But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter,..."
I've heard the phrase "you can't go home again" for years. I was aware that it was the title of a book by Thomas Wolfe, but I also thought it was a platitude or folk saying that explained away changing times and places.
I made a trip to my childhood home recently and found many things that I had loved to be unchanged. I grew up in the Philippines, lived there for my first 18 years until I finished high school and went off to the United States for college. Something in me remains critically attached to the places, sights, smells, and flavors of this lovely country.
My Baptist missionary parents travelled with me as an infant to Manila in the 1950s. Politically the country was recovering from war, occupation by the Japanese forces, liberation by the American forces, and finally an independent government. My parents saw so much as they lived there for forty years. Their informed outlook and love for the Filipinos was influential in my life as well.