Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Posted on August 03, 2013 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 4, 2013 – 12:00am

I have been doing a lot of housework the past month. I’ve put some deal of effort fixing our little patch of garden in our modest home in Glenwood, NSW. When I arrived weeks ago, the grass was high and the weeds had taken over. They have been lording it over the other plants we had previously bought and put in the long plant box.

Garden work is a huge industry in Australia. You can always call someone to cut your grass, trim your hedges, decorate your garden, take out the weeds, landscape your entire lawn but all that will cost you. The Ilocano in me decided that I could do a lot of that by myself. I just refuse to spend 40-plus Australian dollars to cut the grass when I can very well mow it by my lonesome.

The day after I arrived, I spent an hour bent down pulling out weeds at the back of the house. The next four days, I had a terrible backache. When the pain had subsided a few days later, I went back to do more work taking out more weeds but decided to do some body stretching first. It worked. I also got the mower going and cut the long grass.

Surprisingly, I found solace and enjoyment doing all this. I admit, it’s not my favorite chore. Maybe it’s the idea of being in touch with ground soil or grass which some people say is a “balancing” and even healing experience. I have a friend in the US who encourages everyone he knows to walk barefoot on grass, or beach sand or any soil to get the magnetic energy we need from the earth. Or maybe it is the fulfillment I get seeing something chaotic and ugly turning into something more simplified, minimalistic and beautiful. Whatever it is, it works for everyone here. The garden looks better and I feel good because I fixed it. And Lydia is happy.

I experience the same peace and solitude when I manually wash the dishes. I feel I actually “liberate” each plate. It can have a somewhat religious feel to it, like forgiveness and the washing away of sins. I wash each plate and utensil in peace with full devotion, freeing it from whatever has sullied its surface and restoring each to its original state. If I were a priest and dishes were people, I should have saved many souls already.

It’s the same with vacuuming and mopping the floor. I comb every space, nook and cranny and free it from toxic substances and dirt. By doing so, I have driven away the infidels and restored the kingdom.

There is really no end to housework. That thought may get some people depressed, but for me, it is a perfect metaphor for living everyday life, or maintaining a relationship. Nothing is ever static. Dust gathers. Rust never sleeps. One must respond to situations. One must always try to clear the obstacles, stop the decay, fight the tendency to slack off, preserve and protect what is valuable, enhance the beauty and value of everything around us, and throw out trash and what is not needed or harmful. In short, one must always hold the sky up. Otherwise, things turn chaotic, confusing, depressing and even toxic.

In this country where labor is expensive, a lot of citizens have learned to do and fix things by themselves. The D.I.Y. (Do-It-Yourself) culture is alive and well here. You can go to a store called Bunnings and buy what you need to make anything. When you watch TV, you will notice that aside from cooking shows, there are a lot of programs about home repairs on primetime. That’s because everyone can relate to doing repairs or building things by themselves.

D.I.Y. is practiced here more than in Manila. In the Philippines, despite people complaining how very busy they are, many have maids, drivers, househelpers to free them from a lot of chores. People are available to help you 24/7. When you live abroad, you notice that time is more precious and rare. People work hard and do things themselves, so much so that you need to plan and set aside time to see friends, take time to enjoy yourself, do housework, and get everything done while working to keep body and soul together.

Life is hard, and the only way it becomes easier is to accept it as it is. That’s what writer M. Scott Peck once wrote. Every time I come back to Sydney after a long stay in the Philippines, I remind myself of this as I struggle to figure out and do even the simplest of things. When I stop resisting and just surrender to doing it, I am able to do things well and correctly. Then I feel a sense of satisfaction.

Aside from housework, I have also been working on my next album the past two weeks. I have been listening to the musical accompaniment of the songs I have made and already arranged and have been studying how to phrase my lyrics in the most natural way. That involves some rewriting and trying new approaches to how I sing the lines. I am also exploring new musical and vocal inflections, putting in new subtexts or meanings to how I will interpret my new songs in the studio.

I have been writing and recording for decades now. I have been doing this for years but now I see the whole process I have been doing with greater clarity. Songwriting is like giving birth. It doesn’t end after the child has come out. One must feed, care for, nurture and enhance its capabilities so it can reach its full potential. In short, one must love it for it to shine and love you back with its beauty.

From the mundane to the profound tasks of life, it’s pretty much a Do-It-Yourself endeavor. Other people’s lives can and do encroach on ours but we all have a lot of living to do on our own. We are all answerable and responsible for our own plant boxes and gardens.

The singing duo Seals and Crofts wrote a line years ago that still rings true for me. It goes, “My life is but a song I have written in many ways.” In short, it’s a D.I.Y. life.

In a somewhat tragic-funny, sardonic kind of way, it is not surprising that people have gotten killed while singing My Way. It’s a song about how one has lived and those singing it do so with conviction, and understandably so, even if it irritates others and provokes them to violence. After all, it’s a song about how one has lived life, D.I.Y. style.

But on a more serious note, we may as well do things well and as best as we can. We must so that the good we do can later on speak louder for us than the bad we have done.

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