Sunday, August 14, 2005

Like Many Colored Fish

Ha! And so I begin. Let's see where this leads...

My personal theme these past months has been: BE HAPPY. Maybe the word 'theme' doesn't quite capture it. Perhaps the word 'struggle' is more appropriate. Hehehe. It's not like I'm some depressed zombie walking about with sagging eye bags. Hahaha. But seriously, in my heart of hearts, I do desire a deeper experience of joy in my life.

To summarize what my spiritual director and I uncovered some time ago, it seems that what would be good for me is to get into a spirituality of allowing. As I look into my life and see all the different movements at play, I cannot deny how truly blessed I am. And yet sometimes--amidst all the many gifts I have received--I find myself still yearning, still unsatisfied, still hoping for some happiness. Psycho-emotional issues and hang-ups aside, can I allow the many gifts I have received to just sink in deeper? Can I relish these many blessings and allow them affect me more intimately? I guess part of this is asking for the grace of gratitude and joy for all that has been, and continues to be, given.

Perhaps, at times, I have ventured too often through shallow waters when most of the many bounties I have received come from the deep.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to live with a fishing community in Zamboanga Sibugay. For the first few weeks of my stay with my host family, I noticed that most of the day's harvest consisted of small silver-colored fishes, which the locals would call sapsap. Quite ordinary, the largest among these sapsap would just be as long as a finger. Some would be sun-dried and turned into tuyo. The rest would either be stewed or fried immediately.

Day in and day out, we ate sapsap. Sapsap for breakfast. Sapsap for lunch. And oh yes, sapsap for dinner, too. A question came to mind, along with a palate that was already looking for some kind of variety. With the wide-open sea before me greeting me each day, how is it that only these sapsap seem to reach the table?

Maybe my host family could read my mind, or perhaps they noticed my changing eating habits. On one of the holidays, they decided to treat me out to a little excursion. We rode the little wooden pump boat used for fishing and slowly made our way along the coast of the neighboring islands. After some time, though, I noticed that the color of the water was changing. It was at this point that I was reminded to be careful and not to move too much, less our wooden pump boat roll over. We were entering deep water. Funny that when you're on the island, with your feet firmly planted on earth, you don't always see that beneath the waves, a whole landscape of depths are at play.

After an hour, we were out in the open sea. I felt so small. As I peaked over my left and my right, deep blue waters surrounded me--very unlike the greenish waters that went only a few meters deep before one hits the sand.

But lo and behold--wonder of wonders--in the middle of the deep blue, we came across a little island, all of it sand, virtually all of it submerged in water, and only less than a kilometer wide. A sandbar, some may call it. My surprise was evident in my face. My companions, on the other hand, had their knowing smiles. They got off the boat, waded through knee-high water, and started setting up a simple tent. They called this place pulo, which simply meant 'island'.

I took many pictures that day. But my favorite one had to be of the fishes that we caught for lunch. The way fish was caught in the deep seemed to be very similar to the way fish was caught in shallow waters. The net was lowered, and the pump boat would go in a circle around a fixed point, hopefully trapping some fish within the circle. The difference here would be that the nets are lowered deeper. And unlike shallow water, the nets would never really touch the sea floor. Wouldn't that let the fish escape? It was pointed out to me that with so much fish in the deep, one cannot help but catch fish just the same. As the nets were raised, I saw our harvest. Different kinds of fish. Various colors. Many shapes. Wow...

The fish was excellent. All of it fresh from the sea, we cooked them on a makeshift stove above the waters. Some fish were sweet; others were a bit salty. Some had delicate textures; others were more firm to the bite. Each fish we tasted was an experience in itself. And I enjoyed all of them.

We spent the afternoon on the pulo, eating fish, exchanging laughs, telling stories... I felt happy.

The afternoon drew on and the tide was coming in. Soon our little pulo would be totally submerged in water. I took the opportunity and spent my last few moments here seated on the sand as the water level gradually rose to my waist. The deep blue that surrounded me seemed even more blue this time. The breeze was very gentle. Such calmness. Such peace.

Every so often I try to remember this scene. The afternoon sky. The light breeze. The deep blue waters. I remember the pulo, sitting on the sand, with the tide coming in. I remember the bounty of fishes and of its variety of colors. I remember. And I try to imagine...

I imagine the many blessings that fill my daily life. Of talents and gifts. Of persons and places. Of memories. Of hopes. Of desires. I imagine them dwelling in the depths of me. And I imagine casting the nets. Such bounty abounding with each harvest!

I imagine these blessings surrounding me. Not so much that I gaze at them. But that behind these, there is a gaze upon me. A loving one. A tender one. A patient one.

I say Thank You in deep gratitude for so much that has been and is being given. I experience this with much joy and much peace.

Every so often when I forget how much I am loved and how much I have been given, when the daily grind of everyday concerns forces me run around in shallow waters, when my sights are weakened and I fail to see the deep blue that surrounds me... My silent prayer is this: That I may remember. So that I may find myself once again on my little pulo, with the deep assurance that grace dwells within me.


Blogger sonoftheprodigal said...

Wow! Multicolored fish! Welcome to the bloggin world, TC. I hope that you will find the journey an adventurous, fun-filled and meaningful. May you reap a lot of "fish" in the vast ocean of knowledge. And in turn, may He, the FisherKing, catch you in all your struggles, pains, joys and triumphs. Happy fishing!!!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Neil G. said...

With all that you've experienced, Bro. TC, I think you're much closer to happiness than you even realize.

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds funny when I try to imagine you saying "pulo." Hehehe ;) The word seems too simple for you. Teehee. :)

Like you always say,


- little girl

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Enzo, Jubs and Chel said...

Cute Fish!! haha..
Parang rainbow... Asan na yung pot of gold..?

Ang haba ng article ni Bro..
Pero ang cute ng fish =)

9:36 AM  
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