Roots

The Ivory Hut: Roots (Chiang Rai photo)

 
I think I’ve been wanting to write a book since I was six years old.

(I almost said five years old, but I’ve been noticing that five seems to be the default age my memory coughs up when I want to replace the tired “as far as I can remember” phrase with an actual number. Not that nothing ever happened when I was five. I know for a fact that I began playing the piano at five. I probably also told my first lie when I was five. “Yes, Mama, I practiced piano today.” Five is a safe age to use because it feels believable to have been at least marginally self-aware at that age. But if I keep using five for all my “since I was a child” stories, I’m afraid I’ll wear it out. Only so many things could have happened when I was five, I know. No kid could have been that busy. So today, I’ll say that I’ve been wanting to write a book since I was six.)

I’ve always been fascinated by words. Words and numbers, really. But especially words. I suspect it’s in my genes. When my parents first met, what drew them to each other was the fact that my father would begin quoting a random and obscure passage from his favorite author, and my mother would so effortlessly continue where he left off. Growing up, I read every book in our library, many of them twice because we owned two copies. Later, I learned that when my parents married and merged libraries, they realized their collections were almost identical. So what they thought was fate and immutable destiny was instead the result of having shopped at the same bookstore.

I loved words and how they made me feel. Words in love songs, singing about the kind of love I couldn’t wait to feel. I must have been seven or eight years old when I wrote my first love letter. His name was Romeo (I kid you not), and everyday after lunch, we left each other little gifts: stickers, rulers, drawings, letters. I remember liking him so much that I was certain this was what the songs were singing about. Yes, this was the truest of true loves, and I believed it with all the conviction of a second grader. So I found my favorite Anne Murray song and wrote those words down for him. I remember the concern in my parents’ faces when they read the letter, and I couldn’t understand what was so wrong about telling a boy that I was just another woman in love, a kid out of school. In hindsight, the song probably wasn’t appropriate for my age, but what did I know? I was seven. And I was in love, like I heard on the Mellow Touch radio station all the time.

From that early age, language served as my refuge, my outlet, my best friend and advocate, my favorite companion. I wrote more as I grew older. I wrote songs and poetry that I knew would probably touch only me, but I wrote them anyway. I had to. It was probably the mathematical side of me, wanting to somehow defy the immeasurability of emotion. If I could only identify the parameters defining whatever it was that tugged at my soul, then maybe I could explain myself to me. And even when that didn’t happen, maybe it was enough that I could string some words together in a way that made my insides jump, or twitch, or at the very least sit up and take notice.

I love many other things, too. Like photography. Music. Just about anything that has to do with food. But it is writing that brings me the most … contentment, I think, is the best way I can describe it. Happiness too, but mostly contentment. It’s the same kind of contentment I get after solving a very difficult problem. When I was a programmer, I always strove to write efficient, elegant code. Code that other people can read and immediately understand what I’m trying to accomplish. And I guess that’s how I strive to write, too.

So before I veer too far from what would be considered efficient and elegant, let me just say that I’m working toward contentment. Yes, I’ve been wanting to write a book since I was six, but maybe that’s just because, back in the ’70s, blogs didn’t exist.

This, in a sense, is a return to my roots, if you will. I created this space for the primary reason of writing and somehow, along the way, that intent was cluttered with expectation and meandered along the side streets of diversion. My favorite posts remain the ones I wrote for the sheer pleasure—or painful necessity—of writing. So I will write more posts with just words. Sometimes a few words masquerading as poetry, and sometimes a lot of words. Whatever it takes to express when something old is remembered, or when something new grasps what already is inside me and pulls, pushes, twists, and tosses it about until the change takes. Because, if you allow them enough space, words have the insistent power to transform you.

And maybe, just maybe, when all the words have been tallied and collated and printed on odd-sized pages stapled together, maybe I will have written my book after all.

 

7 Responses to Roots
  1. Paula
    May 5, 2014 | 1:44 pm

    I am so going to enjoy reading everything as *you work your way to contentment.* I’m happy that you have made this decision and that you are going to share the results of that decision right here. Sincere best wishes as you continue (so eloquently) to put your thoughts into words and transform all of us.

    P.S. I thought it was so delightful to read that when your parents combined their libraries that they found they had almost identical collections.

  2. Cheryl
    May 5, 2014 | 6:50 pm

    Yes, as Paula said, I too love the line about your parents’ identical book collections!

    God, I am blown away. Your elegance extends far beyond code, Erika. If your goal in writing is to string together words to make your insides jump, please know that we readers are twitching and jumping right here alongside you. Keep stringing this story. I beg of you.

    You’ve got a new forever-fan. Into my Feedly you go so I can keep track of this new book-in-progress.

  3. Pam Anderson
    May 6, 2014 | 2:06 pm

    B.F. (before fire) I remember your burning (pun only realized after I wrote the word) desire to write a book. I take your renewed interest in writing as a good sign. Maybe, just maybe, that awful trauma is behind you.

    BTW I haven’t forgotten my offer to help you with your book–it still stands, my friend.

  4. Maggy
    May 6, 2014 | 2:24 pm

    Erika, just keep writing. Maybe a few sentences, a few lines, a few pages a day – but keep going…because this is definitely your gift to give the world. XO

  5. Ilke
    May 7, 2014 | 2:06 pm

    Just found your blog but I am already knee-deep in your pictures and writing. I have good timing I guess :) Welcome back! Looking forward to reading more.

  6. Cookin Canuck
    May 12, 2014 | 2:56 pm

    There are so many things that I love about this post…the story of your parents’ matching collections, the fact that your first love’s name was Romeo and the Anne Murray mention (I may or may not have memorized every word of the Best of Anne Murray cassette tape…yes, tape…when I was 9 years old). As for you writing a book…well, I’ll be first in line to buy it.

  7. Natalie
    July 8, 2014 | 12:13 pm

    I’m a little late to the game (I stopped checking my feed reader ages ago. Oops.) but I just wanted to tell you how glad I am that you’re blogging again! I so enjoy our little email chats, and I love learning more about you. Your writing is beautiful. And I love that you play the piano. (I do, too :)) xoxo

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about me

I write, cook, play music, and make pictures. Not necessarily in that order. I was born and raised in the Philippines, and it shows. That means I eat rice with every meal, love my cousins like my own siblings, and firmly believe that avocados are best eaten with cream and sugar.

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LOST AND FOUND

One summer night in 2010, our house burned to the ground and we lost everything we had. This is the story of what happened and how life and hope can always rise from ashes.



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