Captivating pictures titillate memories – and inspire poetry

Often, writers look for pictures to fit the subject, or underscore the thrust of the article. In this case, I scratch my head for ideas or thoughts that can fittingly relate to spectacular photos that my grandniece Kim recently sent me. Not to use her scenery shots would be a waste.  And beauty is not to be wasted.  So, I share the photos with you here.

But first, I quiz myself — what is significant about these pictures beyond their alluring artistry?  I then engage in a process, and for a moment, I keep still – like listening to my soul.  The calmness is refreshing.  The quiet is purifying.  An overcoming feeling, something of nostalgia, edges in as I remember.  There really is so much to say, as prompted by the lovely pictures.

Kim, the teen-aged daughter of my nephew Chito and his wife Benita, took the pictures from the balcony of her home in La Union, Philippines, a richly charming place I made a point to visit during my vacations. The draw for me was not just the incomparable beauty of a home built on the fringe of a narrow shore, but especially it was the comfortable warmth of a loving family – of my brother Albert and his wife Cecile (both recently deceased). With unwavering tug at my heart, I look at these pictures, reminiscing the happy vacation days spent in that exquisite place.

The sceneries in Kim’s photos show the “backyard” of that beach home.  These pictures summon up flashbacks a few of which I shall share with you.

“Backyard” of a beach home in La Union, Philippines (Photos by Kim Chua Pandes)

The large balcony built back of the kitchen and the gazebo beside it hold wonderful memories.  They were regular hangout spots most favored for outdoor eating.  Gatherings, usually over meals, were almost never without animated chatter, lengthy storytelling, lively discussions, boisterous bantering, or even spontaneous karaoke singing. Albert, habitually seated on his highchair in a corner by the kitchen door, would contentedly survey the scene as his wife Cecile busied herself with ushering food in and out of the kitchen, making sure there always was ample supply of munchies or delectables on the tables. It was from that balcony that I would curiously watch the children brave the ocean waves, Kim navigating with expert strokes, and her brother John Albert stalking her like a floating sentinel, making sure she was safe. I so admired them both, not being a swimmer myself.

I remember that night when my sister Alice, her two sons and their kids visited.  My nephew Chito suggested we wait for the fishermen to row back at nine that night, and of course, we did.  We were not disappointed.  Shrimps galore!  Fresh catch from the ocean, pinkish, large and succulent.  I could have eaten them raw.  After a hearty dinner, Cecile brought out a large platter of shrimps that were quickly warmed on the  stove.  At first, my sister and I refused because dinner made us feel very full, but the platter sat tantalizingly between us as we continued to chat and tell stories.  To our surprise, that platter was absolutely empty the hour after, and a bowl beside it heaped with delicately pink shrimp skins. And all that munching and chatting happened over the sounds of ocean waves lashing against the cement balcony walls below, our voices growing  increasingly louder and louder as we tried to beat the repetitive thud of water below the balcony.  A pale moon that night refracted its dancing beams on the ocean’s dark surface. Just mysteriously and eerily beautiful!

In the gazebo next morning and before my sister, her sons and their kids left for Manila, we feasted on freshly caught crabs steamed lightly to perfection. Though we ravenously cracked shells and pinched meat from fat and skinny crab legs, we were not oblivious of the ocean that receded farther from the beach and spumed thin white laces of waves on the shore, so very unlike the waves’ aggression of the night before.  And looking around the gazebo, we delighted in seeing the sprawling garden behind, spotted with pots of bonsai plants cared for by my nephew. The best of the bonsais he placed between the balcony and the gazebo, where it stood on a pedestal like a showpiece of majestic, engineered artistry. A skillful and cleverly nurtured work of art.

At twilight, when the fishermen hauled their boats back out to sea, when the tide crept up on the shore, and the sky turned its brilliant streaks of fiery orange to mysterious deep hues like dark paint generously splashed on canvas – all these, before the ocean reverted to its bass drones from waves that matched the wind – we settled back in the gazebo for bubbly conversations.  The babbles turned to singing when someone switched on the  karaoke machine.  The impromptu program couldn’t have been more pleasurable and entertaining.  Especially when a young married couple rendered a fabulous and moving duet of The Prayer, a la Bocelli-Dione style. The pathos of it all — that married couple grew apart.  But I shall always remember that spontaneous musical gig in the gazebo that evening, sadly because of them.  It was getting late that evening, and the rhythmic monotone of the waves was slowly lullabying us to drowsiness.  It was a grandiose night that started from a dramatic twilight.

Notice that Kim’s pictures did not just prompt memories.  They also cast a spell that wove some pseudo-poetry into my prose – oozing from lush beauty of scenery.  Try this.  Enjoy lovely, scenic pictures that inspire memories.  Delightfully indulge.   You, too, might find yourself in the allure and ambrosia of poetry … or at the very least, revel in remarkable  memories.

Linda P. Jacob