Thursday, July 31, 2008

a passing away (my mother's)

Rosario Esplana Bucela De Los Santos
16 april 1926 - 25 May 2004

bernadette de los santos
11 may 2004

the sea welcomes me with open arms
beckoning, tempting.
the sound of the waves appeases my listless soul.

the sea swallows every tear i cry,
engulfing my unhappiness
with its immensity.

i face time cowering,
my hands shutting off the sight.
as i hear the clock ticks,
my grief meanders to sorrow.

why pass away now,
when i’ve almost reached my destiny?

my tears start to swell again,
to the rhythm of the waves.

my tears start to surge again,
as the rains reach out to touch my face.

making time for dreams

Bernadette De Los Santos
1 Sept 2000

I do crafts and I paint. I’ve always longed to. But with a diploma from Ateneo that says “Bachelor of Science in Management”, that dream had been tucked away for “someday”, while I busy myself “managing” my roller coaster ride of a career, as one friend puts it. I envisioned myself stitching and beading and painting during long mornings of uninterrupted time. . .someday. My current job (teaching arts and crafts) which was a wonderful surprise, arrived when I was thirty-six. “Someday” was fading, becoming increasingly elusive. Then I changed my thinking and created time to realize my dream.

Two years ago, in a sudden burst of spontaneity, I volunteered to apply for a teaching position in a school more commonly known to the moneyed and connected circle. My assignment was to think of a craft related to the subject matter and be able to “show” it to the class. Little had I known then that that would be the springboard for the path I am trekking now. I was not immediately hired – afterall, I was not a “teacher”, I was a “manager”. But I never allowed that to stop me from being one. I jumped at the first chance I got and earned my first units in education that summer, and the next semester and then, another surprise was in the making – an unexpected call from the school where I applied for that teaching position. And the rest is history.

My trepidation then was not having blocks of time to be creative. It was just in small pieces. Taking the education classes was part of my search for a way to express my creativity and see myself as an artist.

As a child, I had stood in art supplies stores and dreamed. The paints and brushes and paper made me wonder what it would be like. But I thought people had to be born knowing how to draw and paint. After I got hitched, I delved into crafts and began to experiment with color and cloth. I sewed, read and watched workshops – weaving, beading, stitching, pottery, baskets, decorating, gardening – and at thirty six, took my first art lesson in a university near home. The dream of crafting and painting lingered somewhere between my heart and my fingers, always just out of reach. Then I decided to claim a workspace in the dining room and start using those blocks and pieces of time.

Now I craft and I paint and I teach, working for periods from twenty seconds to a day. I can step into a classroom and lecture on the basics of menstrual care and walk into another to supervise the students while they wait for the paint to dry, and still enter another to help students add wings and tails to their projects. My students do my crafts with gusto.

I also find information and support in the internet. I exchange ideas, learn techniques and meet friends on line. Time spent on the computer can be captured in small increments.

Most of the time, I work on several projects at once so that I’ll have tasks that match the time available. I may do hand sewing in bed at night or while watching a show on TV. I’ll paint, then look over lesson planning, paint, then load laundry into the dryer. “Real life” and my arts and crafts are seamlessly woven together. While showing guests my collection, I bead. I never waste a second, yet I find serenity and feel relaxed.

For a long time, I did not show my creations or talk about my goals. It took me many years to discover that I can learn to be an artist – you don’t have to pop out of a pod with all the skills. I immersed myself learning to sew, stitch, weave, mold and paint. I have taken classes, read books, experimented and taken hints and tips from teachers and friends. Now my arts and crafts are displayed at home, at friends’ homes and in school. I now confidently label myself an artist. I have made my dream come true, five minutes at a time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

my seeds of passion

(my vegetable collage was done with great love by Ernst. these are pictures of the vegetables i grow @ La Huerta, taken during several harvests)

bernadette de los Santos
25 dec 07
many of my dreams take form when i trust the small seedlings buried underneath my heart. sometimes the seeds seem insignificant, not worthy of my hope. i can push aside the feelings that might arise, claiming to be weeds, but i know now that those little sprouts can be the very source of a passionate garden.

many times I have seeds buried within me that are longing to be watered, hoping to be unearthed, waiting to share their fragrant scent. my creativity is born from the smallest seeds; if i can nurture my dreams with the belief that i have something to give, i can learn to trust that my roots will spread into tomorrow. when a seedling of passion awakens, it can bloom into a never-ending bouquet of happiness for me to hold.

moving back to Baao challenged me to dig deeper into myself, it was not as easy as i thought it would be. even though i was in love with life and starting my journey solo, leaving Laguna was not taken lightly. my heart ached in the middle of joy. Baao and i were not instant friends, we didn’t click right away. no, ours was a slow, steady coming together. there were days when Baao seemed unbearable, cold and hard, and days when i struggled with the culture, and the lack of a cup-of-coffee friends. on those days when the different rules and customs curdled inside of me and grated against the free-spirited me, the girl who wore flowers in her hair, it seemed some sacred spirit would come and stand by me. in the midst of those blue days, something would always tug at my sleeves, as if to say, “here, oh here!” the heart on my sleeves would mend, a smile would blink away the tears, and the seeds started to open up in the town i now call home.

what i know now is that i must tend to my garden of desire; let the seeds take root, water them regularly with a symbolic gesture, create from the source of my interior life. i grab a pen, or a paint brush and create a splash; i let the river flow. i take a needle with thread and widen the seams, or knit together the parts of me that need to come together. i sing my song, dance in red shoes, write the poetry that is in front of me! today! now! be who i am! allow the seeds i’ve gathered to grow.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wild about Flowers

Art Exhibits
Summer 2003 Events
Walter Lee Avery Gallery
Seaside City Hall, 440 Harcourt Ave.,
Seaside, California

Sisters in Art: (2-27 June 2003)
Becky Olvera Schultz with native American Images,
Charlsie Kelly shows innovative and thought provoking compositions, and
Bernadette De Los Santos with brilliant botanicals

wild about flowers
bernadette de los Santos

“ for as long as I can remember, flowers have always been a passion and a constant source of inspiration. i have always been a lover of flowers. as a child, I would draw and paint them for hours on end. i would pick flowers from my mother’s garden and ‘cook’ them, when we play house. i would also pick flowers and offer them to the blessed virgin, during a month-long festival called ‘flores de mayo’.

“as an adult, I marvel at their existence. growing and tending flowers is an important part of my daily life. as soon as I had my own space to garden, I immersed myself to not only picking flowers but also growing them. i read books about plants and flowers and earned my calluses from hands-on gardening. a flower in my garden draws from me a prayer of thanksgiving, awe for the creator and a sense of commitment to nature.

“ i am drawn to flowers because they are symbolic of the most powerful of human emotions: love, life, passion, also color and fragrance. i try to accomplish the same with my images. if one of these paintings can evoke an individual smile, tear or memory, then my body of work, comprised solely of flowers, has continued to blossom.

2000 Flower Series - Private Collection

These two paintings I hold dear. I made this series while I was still teaching at PAREF Woodrose School, AAV. The rest of the series have been given as gifts to friends and family. I never had the chance to show my works to my students. I didn't have time to have them framed, and didn't have the confidence to hold an exhibit then.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

the gardener and my garden of dreams

bernadette de los santos
11 sept 04

my long journey, at last,
has seized the first step.

as the rains splatter and spray
and the cool breeze breathe
in this place i call haven,
i thank you for letting me live my dreams.

how could you have known
my heart’s longing?

as i watch every new leaf flourish,
i know i am a step closer
to my destiny.

the soft muffled sound of the rustling leaves
whispers your name to me,
and i feel your embrace,
your presence
amidst the green.

I miss you so much, ma…

1999 Flower Series - Walter Lee Avery City Hall Gallery, Seaside City, Monterey, CA, USA

Baao, my Love

bernadette de los santos
1 Sept 1996

Like with old beaus, I littered my life with mementos from my favorite places. But it wasn’t the souvenirs that bring Baao back to me, it was the mental promptings from my everyday life.

Once an annual ritual, my pilgrimages to Baao have been reduced to the occasional sojourn. Work and family have squatter’s rights to my free time now, but I pine for that place everyday. Like an old love, my relationship with Baao is sustained by well-worn memories and the occasional brief encounter. And just like with old beaus, I’ve littered my house and my person with its mementos – albums of pictures of my highschool days, newsletters about the place, a T-shirt with Baao boldly printed – to keep the place with me. Little did I know when I carried all those things home, hoping that I could bring with me Baao, that what would stay with me longest were the remembrances of things seen and savored.

Taste is the quickest conveyor of Baao. It’s as if there is a direct neuron path from the palate to the mind’s memory. When I eat a plate of nasi goreng in Kuala Lumpur, a bowl of kuew teoy in Singapore, the faint, familiar taste of “sili” brings the place back to me. A slice of shepherd’s pie in London, a bite of the famous Pizza in Chicago or a big chunk of hamburger from the Jack in the Box in Texas, bring back to my mind the “puto’, “linubak” and “biniribid” that I have for snacks in Baao.

When I visited the United Center in Illinois, or the Rose Bowl in California, I can only recall the Basketball Tournaments at the “munisipyo” where I usually cheered until I croaked, and the “agui-agui” along the paths of the “Ha-ha-ha” park.

But the things that validates my mental passport quicker than anything else is flowers. Particularly when I went to see the flowers of Holland. They bring to mind the “flores de mayo” I used to attend as a child, swaddled in white cotton dress, carrying a basket of hand-picked flowers to be offered to “Ina”, and awaiting the “ginalpong” after the Mass.

My collection of stamps, photographs and coffee mugs, may trigger the names of places I have visited around the world, but it’s the details of my life that beckon back the sights and spirits of Baao. A solitary flower, a sweet extract, a whimsical pastry grant mental wanderings to that vivid, fragrant, flavorful and unforgettable place called Baao, my love.

Life's Hills and Mountains

bernadette de los santos
27 dec 07

I just came in from a hike up the mountain near my house here in the Philippines. Funny thing about a mountain: It always looks easier to climb when you're at the foot of it. My goal was to reach the top of the tree line—about 3,000 feet up from my house—in less than an hour. I started out strong, with good intentions, two bottles of water, sunscreen, my hat, my 'bodyguard' Paul, and my 'askal' Gus.

A mountain, I realized more than ever today, is one of the great metaphors for life, reminding you that:
*Challenges are often more difficult than they seem at the outset.
*An ascent that at first looks smooth turns out to have unseen dips and ridges and valleys.
*The higher you climb, the thicker the weeds.
*You need a clear vision of where you're going if you want to avoid getting disoriented by the clouds that roll in and block your view.
*You have to be determined to make it to the top. Otherwise every slip, stumble, and fall (all of which happened to me today, within that first hour) will give you an excuse to turn around and head home.

But I made a decision: I was going to make it to the coconut grove at the top, no matter how long it took me. So I slowed down and stopped trying to meet a self-imposed timeline, forgot about how far the top was, and just focused on one foot in front of the other. Breathe in. Breathe out.

The result was that each step became its own accomplishment, and I took the time to look at the view from every level. Wow, I thought, I need to do this more often in the daily meshugas of my life.

I've been so focused on getting to the next level, I haven't enjoyed enough of the view from where I am. Years are a blur to me, and that's not just because I'm starting my 4th year at the farm, this coming New Year and have met hundreds of farmers / students / tourists along the way. It's because when you live life in the fast lane, as I had for most of my career life, you end up speeding through, just moving to the next thing, doing more and more and filling your schedule until there's no time even to think about what you're doing. And as busy as I was before, I often look in wonder at those of you who do all that you do and raise children and prepare meals every day and run a household.

I bow to your endurance.

As we're all blessed to witness the coming of another year here on planet Earth, I hope you're reading these words and thinking about your own life on adrenaline. And about how you, too, can manage with more attention to things that matter. Because with all that I know, today I added this: It makes no difference how many peaks you reach if there was no pleasure in the climb.

I'm going to spend more time enjoying the view from here.