Re-imagining Fireflies in Fantasies: What Travel Writing Isn’t Anymore
It was raining, and it was the day I envisioned a fantasy, a fantasy which remains, as of to date, a fantasy. From time to time, I would reminisce that scene when we were on a boat streaming along the river of Klias Forest Reserve in Kota Kinabalu. We were to witness star-like qualities of fireflies - blinking, alight, everywhere. Sometimes, one or two would land on our skin and the world we had known as adults fell away. Everything else would be pushed aside to the invisible corners, and yet, this very forgetfulness would pave way for unspeakable matters to be felt. To be remembered, at last. Imaginations precipitated with the rain, and as childlike as we were, played with them and wandered intuitively where visions could take us. We sailed from mangrove to mangrove, paused in the middle of the blackness, then once more waded towards and around, with boundless astonishment for what we were seeing. It was cold, infinite, beautiful, just like in a dream. We continued chasing these fireflies because they behold, not a promise, but a sheer beauty that could make us alive. It made me alive, only if for a time.
For all I know, that non-stop rain eventually washed away what once was pressed into the forest and the foreign kids and the wooden bridge and the memories of that night. There are some stories where we can sometimes rest, or reflect on, but there might come a time, they will be the same stories we feel the need to no longer tell.
It was my birthday, five years ago, and traveling with friends, we saw the thousand fireflies along a river somewhere in Borneo.
But I have a confession: I don’t want to talk about inner transformation in the lens of travel anymore.
Not today, at the very least.
Suddenly I was so angry I was screaming in my pillow and I didn’t know where this anger was coming from. I was mid-way in my 21-day cleansing period for Reiki Level I. My mom came to visit from the province. One morning, she woke me up. I was not quite ready to do so, and a heat from my body rose. The reaction was minimal at first, like when someone wakes you from a deep sleep, but later on it progressed into something else. I couldn’t stop it. My annoyance shifted into anger. I had to dump my face in the pillow and scream and release a suppression from deep within.
When I was a child, I would enter inside a big, varnished cabinet. I would sit on top of the piles of my mom’s clothes. It was like Chronicles of Narnia, yes, in the sense that I would be transported to another place, but instead of outside, I was being led to a closed shelter. The space, though closed and cramped, felt cool on my skin. It was dark, and this made the tranquility even vaster than the size of the cabinet. The hanging clothes grazing the top of my head would add up to the intimacy of the scene.
No one could see nor touch me. No one knew I was there. I would forget there was an "I" and all the peace/pieces would be redeemed.
It is like losing yourself, and that, in itself, is the period you have been your truest self.
For the past months, I have lost a self, some selves. (Though I didn’t enter into cabinets anymore.) I naturally melted into neutrality and eased my way into clearing. My vision reached a peak where no clouds fought for attention. There, I perceived how meaningful the attachments were so that one day, I could shed.
This marked a journey towards emptiness, and yet this is the kind of emptiness that nourishes.
Scheduling for writing days halted when my blog became irretrievable. Days were tinted with craving for long-form travel writing. While I admit that this could just be an excuse, because writing can be done anywhere and anytime after all, I guess it was necessary too, this pause, so I can come to the realization that at the root of it all, I am not any of my endeavors.
Events took a turn, and in the turning, I myself turned around, for I am the turning too.
Then after a year of hiatus, I found the courage and renewed inspiration to revive the Art of Movement, determined to sculpt all the words I had put on hold. A lovely human being who once helped me grow this desire to create more and to learn more has showed up again and spilled her magic in my creative life. The collaboration in revamping the brand identity and web design of Art of Movement proved then to be both a pleasure and a privilege.
After 11 months of working with Sofia, I re-launched this website on 2018 and felt happy and proud watching the existence of this platform sprung once more. It was a new beginning. I penned a list of topics to write, researched, pondered on the elements to add or eliminate, re-read some of my archived travel essays, and wrote fresh ones inspired by recent trips. I showed up. However, the drafts remained unpublished. They continued to come out from my fingers and my tongue, but along the way, stopped coming from my heart. There was something different, and yet I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, what they were. All I knew was I could not bear to shape anything out of insincerity.
And in the course of life, changes presented themselves one after another, not knowing then that they were preparing me for an imminent integration.
Goodbyes pained me. Books were rearranged and the walls got painted. Rituals evolved. But never did they happen without questions and discomfort. No matter how many centuries of exposure our generation has, children growing and leaving their nests to shape their own destinies are still hard to swallow. The colors of sun-kissed skin and summer skies and ombrellini open us up, but damn we curl in cocoons, sometimes weep, when roofs and roots suddenly get enveloped in white. More cars crowd the highways. Temperatures stretch into extremes. No, I tried but i just can’t eat meat anymore. I moved on. He moved on. I feel my body now and it took time to be here.
Lessons during travel are always treasured. May they never be lost in the swift and blurry passing of days. But even travel has shifted its meaning in my life. It stopped being the movement from one place to another or from movement from outer to inner. Travel has become another form of breath, and that meant a normality, a way of living, the learning passage, a type of sandwich eaten on lunches at the park. It is the fisherman setting out at sea all the dawns of his life. As we all experience, traveling intersects across perspectives and projections, and so now, it is less romanticized for me, but more taken in plain truth in the grand scheme of things. “It is not consolation. It is light”, as Simone Weil had put it, albeit she referred to love. Furthermore, she wrote in her reflections, “So we have to die in order to liberate a tied up energy, in order to possess an energy which is free and capable of understanding the true relationship of things.” Life in death.
I wonder, do the fireflies we witnessed that rainy night in June still reveal in the river the same fantasies for me?
I am in a state of neither here nor there. The fireflies blink in the invisible corners like calendar reminders of beginnings and endings. Declaring that I don’t want to talk about inner transformation in the lens of travel might be adapting to a different form of interconnecting. You’re right, it goes against the grain of the message of this blog: “Movement towards leads to movement within.” But does it really? Can it move the other way around? Isn’t this what I’m trying to convey after all these years anyway?
In this process of transition, I can’t bring myself to look back nor look forward. And there is neither excitement nor longing. There is just now. I am in a different dynamics, or at least adjusting to be, perched on a different vantage point, and wearing a different hairstyle. But a finality is dangerous. Perhaps tomorrow there’s going to be another change of heart. If that means an ever-belonging wholeness, then so be it.