JP Alipio

October 2010


Dead air.

Heat of the noonday sun with warm heavy air rising about, there are tiny flies and everything is green and brown, the constant buzzing of insects in the background broken only by the chirping birds. I sit and wait by the dirt road reading a book on american nature writing. Only moments before, my feet  strangely reawakening to the feeling of the earth as they flexed and plodded up the mountain path, my skin warm and wet from a morning’s exhertions and sunbeams falling into the deep layers of cells reawakening to the primal energy that fuels the earth and all the organisms within it, i may not -but the cells have a memory of that ancestral energy that now only exists in the green.


There is a cow on the road, and I stop. We look at each other, sizing each other up –it has been awhile since. He moves towards me, I move back –it is a dance we sidestep and look at each other’s eyes shift our gazes and run. I turn back and thank him for my passage and ask for his leave as I pass through his dining room table.


Up –only up. There is no machine I am the machine I walk with the breeze I feel the earth as it bends beneath me, it is dirt and rock and the living beings that crawl through the ground, they yield slightly to my footsteps, that I leave my mark, albeit temporarily. Yet I am amazed that even with its age and the countless eons it has stood here it yields and allows me to pass. My feet are thankful for this comfort and long conversation. The cement path that followed was not as kind, the rejection travelled from the soles of my feet to the bones of my body, bump and thump. Unwelcome vibration, unyielding, impatient to get me past, no time, not even for simple banter or a chat about the weather. Like its age it was impatient and juvenile and as quickly as I got on I jumped off into the grass and earth that still poked through in the center and resumed my long conversation with the old and the wise.


Into the jungle, crunching earth replaced by the muffled sounds of life as I walked into the shadow, water flowed down through the rocks and life seemed to flourish in the darkness, their shadows hid a wealth of life that reached for the sun and hid from its power. It was soft and my feet after a day’s climbing were welcomed –it was not as old and yet it yielded and sprung back just as a child bounces at the discovery of a new friend. It allowed me to walk in its shadow and pass through its home. My hands touching their bodies as I climbed they held out their arms and pulled me up while still playfully letting me slip down on their carefully placed droppings. It was a game and we played pulling up, sliding down, poking, and tying and every so often you would hear them giggle.  And the old and wise would be happy enough to pull a prank of its own letting you slide down with a little bit of itself as he watched her children play.


I sat in camp high up on the ridge of the old and wise, and looked out to the sea. The sun was setting over the coast and the shoreline dotted with the juveniles. Still it was beautiful; the clouds cleared just enough to provide contrast to the colors that the setting yellow globe created and I watched the sea from the grass of the mountains and said goodbye to the sun.


Earth Shadow, the land had lost its color in the night and yet as I watched the light from behind the trees grow into a white glow above -it was deep gray whose shades seemed as vast as the night, it was both simple and more complex at the same time. Shades of gray more infinite than any artist’s canvas or black and white film could reveal. Shadows upon grey and black but not so black so there was nothing, it was the night, it was still and yet it moved, black but you could see. Familiar while still feeling like an undiscovered country –you had to trust it and take the first step into the shadows and become part of the gray –and then there was the moon.


The morning the sun would once again reveal the undiscovered mother I wake up and smell the scent of wet grass as the morning light sends off the dew back into the sky. I walk out in my bare feet into the wet earth and grass -and it tickles me.


Into the pine, the shadows are not as dense as the jungle and yet they stand tall as they have for many years bending with the winds from the sea and watching over this patch of the old and wise’s skin. The wind blows and like the jungle they play, only, slightly older games much like chess and checkers you could almost hear them think as you walked up under their largeness, they stood with such grace and dignity that touching their skin you could feel they were of the same substance as the old and wise.


I sit on a rock perched on a cliff at 2000m even on this granite it is not without life. The precursors of forests grow. Lichen and Moss, it had taken years for them to carve this home into the rock and I carefully avoid demolishing their life’s work. I notice on my leg a forest leech has latched on walking delicately up the skin searching for a vein. They have to eat but once in a year, and I thought to myself as we have taken so much from the forest what was a little bit of my energy worth, a small donation to the energy that flowed on this patch of earth. And I let it have its fill, knowing a part of me now flowed through this landscape in perpetuity.


I have always believed that how a person treats the earth and other creatures is also how he treats his fellow man. We have become so detached from the earth’s skin that finding our way back and finding that we are in fact products of the same substance is a stretch even for the imaginings of the best of city dwellers. Yet when I walked up the mountains again after a long time away -it was at a speed that seemed completely natural, and with sprightliness I had forgotten as I zipped through the rocks and mud, substituting my feet for the knobby rubber of my wheels and sprung by coil and oil -we had grown apart.


It was here walking again that we had touched as I held the trees, my skin on hers; soft and forgiving she took me back and schooled me once again, and I remembered.


An old African saying goes, “if you want to go quickly walk alone.” -as I have done many times, “if you want to go far, go together.”  I thought of this as I once again held on to the old and the wise -and we walked together she and I.