I’m no poet, but you wouldn’t know it. But look at my feet; they’re longfellows. OK, that’s an ancient, and corny line. But this week I gave it my best shot . . .
Our friend Pilar’s daughter, Lyra, is a third-year college student, studying to be a primary school teacher. She’s a smart young lady and a good student. The two of you in this audience who may have actually read my Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, might remember me mentioning that Lyra’s current studies deal with the meaning of art.
She had asked me to write a couple of sentences expressing my opinion of art and, without much in-depth thinking, I knocked off two lines and considered it my good deed for the week. I recall saying something like ‘art is essential for civilization.’ Not a profound thought.
Well, Lyra came back with another assignment this week, one requiring more than a tiny, half-considered paragraph. “What is Art”” was the challenging question, the answer to which had to be expressed in a poem.
“Can you write something for me in English?” she asked. I like Lyra. She’s a very likeable young lass. And she has a high opinion of me, which tells me she is also very smart. Naturally, this project piqued my curiosity. I am, as you know, a verbal exhibitionist, always willing to share my insights with the world, if I may humbly say so.
“But shouldn’t it be your own work?” I asked. She assured me that the source was unimportant; the only requirement was that it be an original, unpublished work. I jumped at the chance. If you reach the end of this essay, I have included for your entertainment, this important piece of poetry, a display of my only real talent, shamelessly showing off.
But back in the mundane world, it has been a soggy couple of weeks in the barangay. We can’t seem to break out of the northern monsoon pattern of cool winds and sloshing rain that seems never to stop. We have reached the no-go point on the corn planting. It has been too wet for plowing; there will be no corn harvest this season.
Farming, as I have said often, is a tough life. If things dry up by the middle February and we get some warm weather, the rice crop should be healthy by harvest time in March and April, but the rain, if it doesn’t let up soon, will ruin the harvest for those who planted early.
The planting schedule is always a crapshoot. Planting early means getting the harvest in while the prices are high. But the early crop attracts all the birds – and, if the rain lingers, the crop can be ruined. Those who plant later, escape the birds, but have to settle for a lower price.
We attended an intimate luncheon this week, the birthday celebration of Wilfredo, the husband of Felomina, the Sweet One’s niece. It was a family-only gathering. The only other attendees were Wilfredo and Felomina’s daughter, Letitia and her husband Ricky.
One would think that with such a small guest list, the menu would be modest. But this is the Philippines, and more specifically, this is Ilocano territory where too much food is never too much. Ricky and Felomina spent the morning preparing a feast large enough to satisfy a Roman legion. Ricky is an excellent cook.
There was pancit, of course, and caldareta (roast duck), lechon kawali (roast pig), chop suey, barbecue shrimp, pork adobo, egg rolls, minudo (a meat dish), pakko (wild ferns), steamed okra, mangos, sinuman (banana-leaf-wrapped rice dessert), and birthday cake. This was a menu for six people! It was necessary to be polite, of course. I was barely able to wobble home, and then crash on the couch in a bloated stupor. The doggie bag take-away will last us another week.
By the way, have you seen the latest studies about saturated fat? It appears that we’ve been sold a bill of goods for years, that saturated fat is unhealthy. According to the latest science, it’s apparently good for you. But we should be avoiding carbohydrates – which they’d been telling us were healthy. I am thinking of filing a lawsuit against the National Institutes of Health for misleading us in the past. I’m convinced their apparently erroneous findings have been a major contributor to this unsightly donut around my waist. (Donuts are also, I think, good for you if the carbohydrates are neutralized by the cream filling.)
So, to start my new healthy weight loss regimen, I have asked my Sweetie for an extra portion of bacon for breakfast and a thick slab of suet for lunch. The next time you see me, you won’t recognize me.
As I said, the rain has been unrelenting for going on three weeks now and we’re beginning to go into vitamin D deficit. The only good news is that I have to postpone my exercise routine. But my new high-fat diet should be enough to keep me healthy.
And here is that poem you have been waiting for:
What is Art?
A canvas landscape brushed in oil. Spray can colors on a wall
A pastel rendered mountain glen. A marble bust, a children’s doll
Adam on a Sistine arch. Poster prints of backyard pigs
Tattooed arms and studded brows. Sonatas, ditties, raps and jigs
Beaded gowns and shoulder bags. Flowers placed with careful hands
Chandeliers and rubber boots. The label on tomato cans
Domed cathedrals, Banzai trees. Spoken lines upon a stage
A pot of clay, a hand-blown vase. Words laid down upon a page
A gymnast’s vault, a ballet leap. A ballroom waltz, a jitterbug
A knitted shawl, a paper plane. A hand-made oriental rug
A photograph put in a frame. A story for a children’s book
An origami hummingbird. A dinner by a gourmet cook
TV shows with witty lines. Birthday cakes and lemon scones
Blue jeans worn with holes and tears. Dirges with discordant tones
Calligraphy and hieroglyphics. Enameled bracelets, sculpted rings
And if you ask me: What is art? The answer is: It’s all these things.