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4 days ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Blog GHOSTS OF MANILA PAST. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, awakened after a hundred years in the city of my youth, only to find the old playgrounds and playmates are gone, and in their place lie strange dominions manned by the new guard—a millennial people who’ve taken the art of worldly shopping to otherworldly heights, reframed the art of living by the windows of cars forever stalled in traffic, and I have thus become, like the ghosts of my past, a multo that haunts the soul of this city crying, “Where have you gone, my Love?” ... See MoreSee Less

#Blog GHOSTS OF MANILA PAST. I feel like Rip Van Winkle, awakened after a hundred years in the city of my youth, only to find the old playgrounds and playmates are gone, and in their place lie strange dominions manned by the new guard—a millennial people who’ve taken the art of worldly shopping to otherworldly heights, reframed the art of living by the windows of cars forever stalled in traffic, and I have thus become, like the ghosts of my past, a multo that haunts the soul of this city crying, “Where have you gone, my Love?”Image attachmentImage attachment

 

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Reminded me of Thomas Wolfe's 'You Can't Go Home Again'

Mumu!

#Blog Dear Readers and Friends, sharing my April 2018 VIA Times column, "Notes from the Sound":

Of Gods and Humans

One could say that the goal of religion is to find, and be united with God. In this connection, some of the holiest days of humankind have recently been celebrated—Easter for Christians, the Passover for Jews. (If I’ve missed mentioning other religious celebrations, apologies, for this was not meant as a comprehensive list.) The Christian Easter message particularly preaches the hope that human beings could achieve resurrection, like Christ did, by believing in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior, and thereby be united with God in the afterlife. In my personal spiritual faith journey, however, I’ve evolved into the belief of the yogi that God is already inside each of us, and that any belief of separation between God and his creation, especially sentient beings like humans, is a false belief; thus, the path to salvation could be found in spiritual practices (like yoga and concentration through meditation) that help clear our minds and souls of this false belief, thereby learning the truth that God is truly in us, indeed, is none other than we—the Atman, also known as the underlying Reality or the Real Self. It is in experiencing this Reality, our Real Self, that we thereby experience union with God.

April being National Poetry Month, it is fitting to cite the following relevant poem of the great Hindu saint, Kabir:

I laugh when I hear the fish
in the water is thirsty.
You wander restlessly from forest
to forest while the Reality
is within your own dwelling.
The truth is here! Go where you will—
to Benares or Mathura;
until you have found God
in your own soul, the whole world
will seem meaningless to you.

To me, the message of above poem is no different from that of Christ in the following Biblical passage: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’” (Luke 17: 20-21).

But what causes our false belief in our separation from God? The yogi believes that this is caused by our false identification with our ego-sense (our mind and senses). And that it is this false identification with our minds and senses that creates the “I” who is separate from God, which is the cause of all humankind’s misery. Therefore, the yogi’s goal is to unlearn this false identification of the ego-sense by mastering his or her mind and senses—to calm the mind by controlling one’s thought waves, and to free the senses by freeing one’s self of desire through the practice of detachment and non-attachment. It is in the state of perfect yoga—when we’ve stilled our thought waves and our minds are completely clear, that we come to know we are none other than the Atman, and it is in liberating ourselves completely of desire that we free ourselves of pain and of the compulsion of the senses to be driven toward the painful cycle of birth, death, and rebirth—the desire to return and plunge once more into the sense-experience. When we’ve achieved this complete liberation of the mind and senses, we thus enter into the eternal, unchanging peace and happiness of the Atman.

That all sounds very good, doesn’t it? Yes. But as humans—guess what? We have the freedom to choose to achieve or not achieve the state of perfect yoga. At this stage of my mortal life, I acknowledge I am not yet ready to completely liberate myself of all desire and passion. Why? Because I believe that my desires and passions, or more accurately, my compassion, are what motivate and energize me to continue fighting against the injustices of this world—to help make a better world for my fellow human beings through my power of creativity, so that they may be positioned, if they wished, to achieve their own perfect state of yoga and thus be freed from pain and suffering. While I know this kind of concentration without non-attachment on my part will fail to completely liberate me, thus retaining me in partial ignorance that will continue to bring me pain and suffering, I am consoled that such pain and suffering will also necessarily come with intervals of their opposing forces of ecstasy and joy—in other words, keep me completely human! And I confess I am intrigued and fascinated by the possibility that such a condition of intense concentration without detachment, as the Hindus believe, could bring one into the state of a “disincarnate god” and/or become merged with the forces of Nature, thereby making one a “ruler” of parts of the universe (page 47, “How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali” by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, Vedanta Press, 1981).

I think I could be content to live in such a state for a while. After all, I’ve already been called a “force of nature” a few times, and they certainly don’t call me “the Queen V” for nothing. (Hashtag “tongue-in-cheek” grin emoji.) Nirvana can wait.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Reading good thoughts on a night when sleep eludes me.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." - Proverbs 3:5

#Blog Dear readers and friends, sharing my February 2018 "Notes From the Sound" Via Times column:

Life Maps

Have you experienced being in a situation where you felt continuously challenged by feelings of unease, despite having made the best decision you could have made under the circumstances you were in? Then you began to question whether you made the right decision? I’ve had a few of these in my life. And I’ve been in one recently. I have to tell you: If you’re in one of these situations right now, don’t quit! You’re merely going through the challenges that come with adapting to change—but change that’s meant to be, that’s necessary in your life. You’re outside your comfort zone. And that’s a good thing. Because that means you’re evolving—as you should.

It’s easy to get confused in a case like this. We’re often told to go with our gut, to let our instinct guide us when making an important decision. What they don’t tell you is that such “gut” and “instinct” are in fact informed more by facts than feelings—specifically, by life experiences that have shaped or transformed you. That’s why Ed Sheeran’s hit song, “I’m in Love With the Shape of You” means so much more to me than its obvious sexual undertones.

Don’t we all wish that life came with a map to lead us where we’re supposed to be? To show us where we’re going and what pitfalls to avoid? To avoid costly detours, and inversely, costly short cuts? To know what true happiness means, and therefore, to claim it? This is why I read great literature: they are my life maps. I explained this in the Preface to the First Edition of my poetry collection, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey”, as follows:

“All over the world, people in all walks of life continue to struggle to make sense of their lives—that age-old challenge—especially those driven from their homes and native countries in search of a better life. Having lost the anchor of their homeland and, along with that, much of what is familiar and dear to them, immigrants struggle to re-create and redefine their individual and social identities in their new environments, sometimes in the face of much persecution and discrimination. Their struggle is compounded by the immediate material necessity of establishing viable means of livelihood to provide for themselves and their families—literally to keep body and soul together. It is in the midst of such great suffering that many might question the purpose of their struggle, until they are reminded of the soulful aspect of their exile: their desire to support their loved ones, many of whom are still back home in the motherland, desperately relying on them for their most basic necessities. It is in moments similar to these dark nights of the soul that I rediscover the potent—and thus necessary!—power of poetry to soothe, heal, and enlighten. The literary masterpieces I enjoy most in this regard are those of writers and poets who seem to have succeeded in decoding some aspect of the great mystery of life and left their work as maps to help us navigate a meaningful path to a way of living and being that aims far beyond mere existence.”

Thus, whenever I’m tempted to bemoan the cold rains and strong winds of a Puget Sound winter, I remind myself: spring is just around the corner. I know—because Shelley said so!

“O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”
(from the poem, “Ode to the West Wind”, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822)

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Very helpful advice. Thank you Victoria.

#Blog Dear readers and friends, sharing the maiden publication of my new VIA Times monthly column (January 2018):

Notes From the Sound
By Maria Victoria A. Grageda-Smith

New Year, New Home, New Column

Welcome to the maiden edition of my new VIA Times column! Its name, “Notes From the Sound”, was inspired by my and my family’s recent move to a beautiful island in the Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington State. Our daughter organized a family vacation here last spring. Being an avid mountain hiker, she likewise organized a hike for us up Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park, which introduced us to some of the most gorgeous natural sceneries we’ve ever seen. Walking through lush pine and Madrona forests, our steps cushioned by pillow-soft moss, we passed small yet picturesque waterfalls trailed by bubbling brooks and shallow streams. I immediately imagined our family picnicking by the idyllic banks of those hospitable waters. Our hike culminated in magical views of the layered San Juan Islands peeking out of the calm, silvery-blue waters of the Puget Sound, which looked like a lake that wove around the islands, but was none other than the Pacific Ocean. In the background, majestic views of snow-capped Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic Mountains framed this surreal setting. Need I say more to explain how our whole family became so enchanted as to immediately decide we were all moving to the area?

For myself, apart from the most joyful feeling I’ve ever experienced in hiking up that mystical mountain with my children and husband, I knew this was where I could write some of my best literary works. It also occurred to me what a great spot it was to write my love letters to you, dear readers! Yes—this, in a nutshell, is what this column is about: a monthly love letter that reflects upon our shared journey as human beings, inspired by beautiful nature and great literature.

While I am grateful for your kind reception these past six years of my old poetry column, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul”, I’ve been feeling in the last couple of years an urge—a call, you might even say, to evolve my column into its next life, just as I sensed the Puget Sound was the place where my final evolution as a human being might take place. I felt as if all my life was a pilgrimage toward arriving here. It’s quite a bit like coming home. Perhaps this is because the natural beauty of this place reminds me of the natural beauty of my native land. As many of you know, my beloved Philippines and people inspire much of my writing. Take this excerpt from my award-winning novella, “Faith Healer”. It describes a scene from Mt. Banahaw:

“They entered the mountain trail through Pintong Lihim—the Secret Door, past gigantic, moss-covered boulders and rows of ancient trees twisted and bent low, as if kneeling before goddess Mother Earth herself. Victor saw in the shadows the vigilant eyes and serene countenances of sages, the tormented faces of restless souls, and the monsters that forever bedeviled them. They followed him in the façade of rocks and stones that jutted out of the mountainside or peeked above the foliage of flirty ferns, swaying palms, pliant bamboo, and slithering vines. He heard the songs of nymphs in the flowing crystal waters of the mineral springs, whispering their secrets to him as he and his companions satisfied their thirst from the pebbled banks and washed themselves off of the prickly heat and humidity. He heard the cries of crows and maya birds call out to him, “Be worthy! Be worthy!” Then, at the crest of Santong Durungawan—the Holy Window—Victor felt he’d glimpsed heaven itself through the view of clear, blue, open sky. There, the air was cool and refreshing at last, as though one had reached a different clime altogether.”

Re-reading above paragraph of Chapter 8 of my novella, it was as if I was also describing my new home! No wonder I felt moving here was like coming home: it reminded me of my childhood land. I’m coming full circle in my life, as I’m arriving at my beginning.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2018 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing my November 2017 VIA Times column:

Elegy for a Housewife

When I am gone—
no songs shall be sung,
nor passionate speech extol
this solitary life
lived for others,
buried and forgotten
by all.

Poet’s Notes. We celebrate and remember our beloved dead at the beginning of November, and towards month’s end in the United States, at least, Thanksgiving. Thus, it seemed to me appropriate to hit these two birds with this one poem. How so, you might ask. While it’s obvious this morose little ditty is certainly about death, how is it connected with Thanksgiving?

I’m reading M.M. Kaye’s epic novel, “The Far Pavilions”, at this time, and came to this statement by the novel’s hero: “The years had gone so fast . . . so fast.” And there, for a while, I lingered, agreeing with, and compelled to reflect upon this otherwise overstated cliché, seeing it in the light of the nuances of my personal experience. I thought about how funny it was that when I was a child, a year, a month, a week, indeed—even a day, seemed so long. I had spent many a Christmas Day lamenting how next Christmas was an awfully long 365 days away! Contrast that now with how I, at middle age, lament how a year feels like a mere blink of an eye, and how my children grew too fast . . . too fast. I wish I could bring back those years when they were infants, toddlers, and schoolchildren so I could enjoy my children more fully—for those were years I’d regrettably spent focused, it felt like, on merely rushing from one chore to another: feeding, bathing, dressing them; driving them to, and picking them up from school, and in between: doing groceries and cooking; washing endless dishes and clothes; and cleaning as much of the house as I could, before I then had to pick up them up from school, only to drive them again to, and pick them up from an infinite variety of activities that ranged from arts and music lessons, sports games, birthday parties, playdates, and recitals. I remember those years now mostly as one, big blur—a fog that took away my children and my youth, and along with the latter, some of my dreams.

Thank God for Sear’s portraits—for they’re practically all that remain as indelible proofs of those years! I amaze myself in realizing that, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of my life as a young mother and housewife, I apparently had enough wisdom, foresight, and discipline to pause our busy life as a family and corral husband and children to the nearest mall photo studio, while withstanding much whining—justified, I’m sure, on the part of the little ones who complained that their dress-up clothes were too scratchy, tight, loose, or uncomfortable and unacceptable in some other way, and often, during the freezing climates of November and December, just so we could double purpose those family photos as our holiday greeting cards.

It was during one of those years that I wrote above poem. At the time, my frustrations at what I saw as my inadequacies as a mother led me to think of my own mother, wondering how she did all that I was doing then and more—and not just for a couple of kids like I had, but for ten who’d ranged in age from infancy to the teens! Unlike me, my mother got married relatively young, at 24, barely out of college, before she gave birth to me the year after, and like clockwork, to a new baby every other year thereafter. (Yes, my parents were staunch, conservative Catholics.) She thus did not have any career apart from mother and housewife, nor did she have much of any kind of life outside the home. The poem above was my way, albeit by way of satire, of recognizing and thanking her for all her sacrifices as a housewife and mother. Now that she is gone, it remains my tribute to her, as I remember her on All Saints’ Day every November 1st.

While I’m also thankful that, unlike my mother, I’d at least experienced how it was to have a profession (as a lawyer) outside the home that enabled me to enjoy earning my own money (and some freedoms this gave me) before I got married, this gratitude did not stop me from regretting the fact that despite having trained and expended precious time and resources to achieve a profession outside the home, having kids did tie me down to the home eventually. And although it’s true I always say it was my choice to stay at home to raise my children, it’s also true that at that time there really was no other reasonable choice for me (based on our family circumstances and resources then)—if I were to be a good mom, that is, or so I thought.

I resented and railed against the myth propagated to us young women in the 80’s that a woman could have it all: a great career and a wonderful family at the same time. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now. Something always has to give, and some heavy sacrifices have to be made—usually on the part of the woman—to have either one or the other. And some of those sacrifices were far too dear for one choice versus the other. Thus, like a good soldier, I fell in line and did my duty. This was what I did, and what my mother did, and what a sister who also trained for a career outside the home (as a physician) did. I thought about us and all the other women like us throughout human history. Are we Sisyphus—condemned to carrying mankind and the burdens of mankind for eternity, with no real relief, reward, or recompense from mankind for our self-denial? I’m told that my sister who had given up her career as a physician to raise her five kids burst into tears when she read above poem.

How many men can say they’ve experienced the pain of facing this dilemma that invariably yet inevitably strikes most women at some point in their lives? If not to take care of their kids, then it’s to take care of aging parents or some other ailing family member that many women have had to give up careers outside the home for. While many more men today attempt to carry this burden equally with their wives, sisters, or partners, much of the problem remains systemic in society. Isn’t it ridiculous that we’re still talking about this as an issue in the 21st century? It is gross injustice that any woman, indeed anyone, has to make such a choice or sacrifice. A human being is not complete unless he or she is able to attain the fullest freedom of self-expression. This, to me, is what Maslow’s Hierarchy of Values ultimately teaches us. How could we keep asking women to keep living as half human beings—to be Magdalen or Madonna, motherhood over other vocation, and vice versa?

Underlying all the social commentary on women’s choices is that word, “respect”. While social conservatives laud a woman’s choice to be a stay at home mom, romanticizing her supposed heroism and nobility as a mother, I, like some women who unapologetically lamented the fact that I gave up a career outside the home to be a mother, questioned it all. Did people truly respect women for choosing to stay at home to raise their kids? How does one then explain the repeated condescension I experienced from men and women alike when I told them I was a housewife and a stay at home mom—a far cry from how people reacted if I told them I was a lawyer? Likewise, there’s the attitude, mostly from misogynists and many full-time mothers who fancy themselves the gold standard of motherhood, that throws the unrivalled criticism and condescension upon women as being “not good enough moms” when the latter have the temerity to pursue careers outside the home while also choosing to become mothers. A woman, it seems to me, still can’t win: She’s damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. I can hear Hillary Clinton agreeing wholeheartedly.

What then, my poem asks above, is the reward for a woman, like my mother, who’d spent most of her life taking care of others almost to the point of self-annihilation? I seem to be hearing voices again, for I’m here hearing well-meaning friends and family quickly responding with, “But Vicki, just look at how great your kids are! Isn’t this more than enough reward for choosing to stay home to raise your kids?” My answer: yes and no. While I agree there is no greater reward for a mother than seeing her children grow up into great human beings, I also believe it’s high time human society found a genuine and realistic way to support, compensate, and equalize the playing field for women who, by reason of their anatomy and biology, have been almost wholly bound to the sole function of being humanity’s life bearers, givers, and caretakers to the very end—so that women could have the real opportunity, perhaps not necessarily at having it all, but at the very least, having a reasonable chance of juggling it all, yet still be able to stand solidly on their own feet. The last criterion is crucial: Unless women are given the financial freedom to make their own choices, such choices aren’t truly free. Thus, the high cost of trustworthy childcare and senior care lays bare society’s lip service to women’s equality with men as just that: a facetious though romantic tribute to a principle practiced more by its denial than its realization.

This Thanksgiving, how about thanking, respecting, and honoring all women for the choices they’ve made and choose to make in their lives? And after that, how about we all work to compel Congress to pass legislation to ensure affordable child, senior, and health care, including equal wages for equal work, to liberate women to make genuinely free choices as complete human beings truly equal to any and all men?

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Touched me here!!!

So true...

#Blog Sharing my October 2017 VIA Times column:

Actor

Man of a Thousand Faces they called
him—I wonder if he also had a thousand
feelings to go with them, or was he
merely a master of disguise?

Did his heart wear a mask—made him
laugh when he should have cried;
smiled when he should have frowned;
cursed when he loved
completely, though foolishly?

He wore the faces of all men,
and for a few cents an hour,
also bore their burdens for them.
And they adored him. For they saw
themselves in him and made
him an icon of an era.

He showed them what a man could
do to adapt to this world. And they
sang songs to human spirit after that.
They wept when he died with
their memories of themselves.

All actors since—they wear
many faces too. Mostly the mask
of happiness—urging the audience
to do the same: To smile though
your heart is breaking. Isn’t that
the way the song goes?

How many faces do we wear?
Which one are you wearing now?
We’ve become a nation of entertainers—
amusing ourselves with our selves,
never knowing which face is real;
which, false. The show must go
on, after all, no matter
what goes on backstage.

We’ve desensitized ourselves
by sensationalizing the trivial.
We’ve even invented games for that,
and made ourselves millionaires
for knowing little facts of little value
to the larger picture of living.

We’ve become a guessing nation, gambling
on the chance that behind some mask
is the true Man of a Thousand Faces.
To remind us of who we are.
So we can throw our burdens
upon him once more.

We’ve always needed scapegoats
for our baggage, a sacrifice to the altar
of our egos. We hate ourselves so much
we have to kill ourselves
through another.

And that’s why we had to have
the Christ.

Wasn’t he the original Lon Chaney?

Poet’s Notes. This being the Chicago Filipino Asian American Hall of Fame Awards month, I’d like to congratulate all the honorees and wish them more power in pursuing their respective passions and professions wherein they’ve distinguished themselves. I remain grateful for having had the honor of being the VIA Times Woman of the Year last year and the 2013 Outstanding Writer and Community Volunteer, for I couldn’t think of a more empowering way to be recognized and supported in one’s accomplishments and endeavors as an immigrant in this country. And so I say to this year’s awardees: Savor and enjoy!

At the time of this writing, I am attending the Orcas Film Festival. When this four-day weekend affair is over, I would have seen films from all over the world, such as those from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Sweden, Poland, Canada, Japan, and of course, the United States. Being mesmerized by the performances of the various actors in the featured films inspired me to republish above poem.

The value of art for me has always been how closely it imitates life or evokes its many shades of reality. Life is messy, and thus truth is complicated. Good art is particularly effective in imparting this insight. Indeed, nuance is something I am trying to master in my own writing. It isn’t easy to achieve, just as it isn’t easy to understand how opposites could coexist in one space, one time, one person.

A fairly recent film, “A Monster Calls”, has amazingly undertaken this task—amazing, since the film is a work of animation and thus presumably addresses a young audience. This is unlike any fairy tale we’ve been told, where people and events are usually depicted in clear, uncomplicated black and white, within the usual “good versus evil” theme. The film’s narrator tells the story of a handsome young prince who grabbed power by resorting to cunning and murder, yet ultimately became a great king who was good to his people and wise in judgment. Moral of the story? How no one perhaps is completely bad or absolutely good. The film was courageous because it trusted its young audience to grasp this complicated truth. I say, it’s about time—time to stop telling our children lies about what it means to live with each other as human beings, in the name of keeping and protecting our youth’s innocence.

Purity and innocence should never be confused with ignorance and naiveté. One could remain pure and innocent while being wise to the ways of the world. The most memorable heroes and heroines in the history of cinema have been those who had kept their purity while having had to wrestle their antagonists in the mud of life. And it is those actors who are able to depict such complex characters that are the most successful in holding our attention for the full two, sometimes three hours of a make believe world. Make believe. It occurs to me how powerful these words are!

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing my September 2017 VIA Times column:

Sculptor

He walks the shores for corpses
of trees seasoned by time, stripped bare
by salty fingers of the ocean—ghosts
of limbs, branches, and trunks
that whisper their true shapes to him.

He gathers them like lost children
crying “Pick me! Pick me!” desperate
to live again as dancers and lovers,
deer and dolphins, and eagles that
crave to soar toward the light
from the shadows of his mind.

His hands are delirious hands
of a lover: caressing and coaxing,
pushing, and pulling, chipping
away at the walls that imprison
the heart that throbs deep
in the wood, until it sings.

Elsewhere, kindred spirits work
their magic on clay, stone, and metal.
Their hands are refinisher’s fire
birthing forms which, till then, only
existed in the womb of the soul—
shaping, molding, polishing raw
contortion into fluid lines of Perfection.

Poet’s Notes. It’s only been three weeks since my family and I moved to an island in the Puget Sound, but it seems we’ve been here forever. That’s the magic of a home that was meant to be: you feel as if you’ve always belonged. It’s so beautiful here with the calm Pacific, so calm it looks like a lake weaving in and out of the surrounding islands, mirroring mountains lush with majestic pine forests and the curvy trunks and limbs of graceful Madronas that shed their brown barks to reveal a couple more underlayers of skin—first red, and then green.

While the beaches here are minimal strips of pebbled, even rocky, gray sand, and thus quite different from the marvelous miles of white, fine sand beaches in our former home area in the Monterey Peninsula, they, too, are beautiful in a mystical, intimate, almost haunting way, not only because of the stunning Zen-like stillness of the ocean here which I’d not before associated with the Pacific, but also because of the notable piles of driftwood upon the shores—the remains of trees shaped and seasoned by the ocean and bleached by the sun. These are some of the more splendid specimens of nature’s sculptures I’ve ever seen. And thus above poem, which I’d written many years ago, came to mind.

The theme of sculpting permeates my imagination as my family and I carve out a new life in our new home. Yes, “carve” is the right word. For in my experience, it isn’t so much that we “find” our place in the world. It’s rather we create it by carving our little niche under the sun, which, through the abiding comfort that comes with a deep sense of place, blesses us with lasting peace and joy, making it possible for the love within us to renew itself everyday: my formula for an infinitely beautiful life.

(All rights reserved. Copyright ©2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing My July VIA Times column:

Journey

The bus revs up, taking me
away from where I’ve been.

I have become a multo—ghost
haunting from the tinted window,

watching the world of the living:
cars, trucks, joggers, cyclists,

mothers with strollers, dogs with owners.
Everyone seems to be going somewhere,

impervious to my existence. Even nature is
complicit: birds fly away, leaves dance

with the wind, grass shimmers and sways,
squirrels skitter—climbing towers of dominion.

I am the lone still
life in this moving landscape.

Poet’s Notes. That I should choose above poem for this month’s column, considering its last line ("I am the lone still/ life in this moving landscape"), may strike one as ironic in the context of my family and I preparing to go on another big move. Yes, I move, but I feel I am standing still as a helpless observer to all the insanity now happening in the U.S., the Philippines, and the world. While I have written and spoken on all platforms, including all manner of social media—quite eloquently, many have kindly noted—about the issues of our time, I feel strongly that the time for talking is past.

Not one extra word from me or anyone else—no matter if they are more learned and more eloquent speakers and writers than I—seem to matter toward changing the minds and hearts of those who have elected the likes of Trump and Duterte into office, to awaken them into seeing that by such leaders’ short-sighted and self-absorbed words and actions and their followers’ maniacal blind following, the long-term viability itself of the human race and our planet is at stake.

What was I thinking, thinking my writing could make a difference?

Nothing appears to come through to those who stubbornly refuse to see how they may have committed a big mistake in voting such false leaders into power. Their prideful egos refuse to acknowledge this, preferring, they seem, to be willing to put us all in mortal danger of extinction rather than humbly admit they were wrong about certain critical choices they’ve made. It’s fine to say that one made the best choices with the information he or she had at the time, but truly, all the information we need to make informed and just choices today are at our fingertips. Yet many prefer to stay in a bubble of their own making, refusing to hear the other side. I could honestly say I’ve heard the other side as fully as humanly possible, and it doesn’t make much sense at all, considering all the information available both to that side and what I represent. All my listening only seems to confirm the other side’s ignorance, selfishness, bigotry, prejudice, and fear driving its self-annihilating choices—that, because they affect all of us, thus threaten all of us.

For this reason, I question why I even continue to write. A young friend challenged my assumptions here. “Yes,” she said, “you may not be able to convince those who are absolutely close-minded, but we who stand hopelessly mute to the outrageousness around us—you give us a voice. You express what we could not express well yet feel strongly in our hearts and minds. You rally us to continue fighting for what’s right.”

Really?

My Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages remain silent.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing my June VIA Times column:

Pilgrim II

The certificate arrived in the mail.
I’m now a child of Uncle Sam.
Many years of toil culminate in this:
the remains of dead trees.

I look at the badge of my new allegiance,
feeling strange lack for my betrayal.
I ask myself what
this paper has given.
The answer eludes me:
the ultimate irony.

Surely not freedom: it comes
with a price in this land;
Surely not equality: it applies
mostly to white men;
Surely not social security: there’s
hardly any, nowadays;
Surely not safety: these are dangerous
times for the U S of A;
Surely not the American Dream: many are
trapped in its nightmares;
And surely not the surety of keeping my beloved:
sometimes, love is not enough.

What, then, did I sacrifice loyalties for:
foregoing with patriotic schemes
in leaving the Motherland—and
with her, my childhood dreams?
What life have I bartered for hard
earned vocation forsaken?
What joys of the heart gained
in place of family abandoned?

Tell me, Uncle Sam.

For I’m the same as before:
No freer: true liberty comes
from freedom of the mind;
No more equal to any man: equality comes
from the human soul;
No more secure: this is the gift
of faith and hope;
No more the dreamer: my dreams transcend
political boundaries;
No less vulnerable to love’s loss: Love, alas,
is its own master—it comes
and goes as it pleases.

I’m a traveler in search of new frontiers,
and find:
The only ones left are those
in my mind.
Why bother with outer space?
Capitalism’s generals have rocket-
launched its schisms.
I wonder if anti-globalists see
their fight is quite obsolete?

And now, what’s this?
To spread democratic bliss?
Don’t you know you can’t make people
free, unless with their own
blood, they pay for it?

One of your sons said not to ask
what this country can do for us, but
what we can do for this country.
That was nice,
back then.

But today we say:
No more to human sacrifice
before altars of corporate gods and states!
No more to paying the king’s ransom;
ransom, rather, the people’s fate!

And oh, by the way,
I don’t mean it in the way
totalitarian Communism does.
Nor even Fascism, disguised
as moralism.
Nor radical religiosity—
that dark den of bigotry.
For they too have bared
their ugly heads to us:
They’re as frightful as
the monsters they seek to oust!

Call me left wing, right wing, reactionary—
as you please.
But I call the shots here—
here, in my mind.
I don’t have to submit
to an ideologue’s world.

Truth is: Peoples are real;
states are not.
Human life, priceless;
greed, insatiable.

Geographical lines are contrived
walls against our failure
to hug humanity as one.
So we continue to walk
the earth as wandering
strangers, never arriving home.

Nonetheless, I am
grateful, Uncle Sam:
For you’re one place in the world
I can say these things,
and still keep my head!

For better or worse, you are now
my home; and your
people—mine, too.
Though I first came to you for love
of a man, now I stay for love
of mankind.

In this fight for elusive dreams,
this arena, I guess, is
as good as it gets.
I may sound apologetic, yes,
but I tell you I will not rest,
till your borders will divest
themselves of old precincts,
and you truly become—

Land of the Free!

Poet’s Notes. I wrote above poem sixteen years ago, soon after I became a U.S. citizen. It’s eerie to me, after re-reading it, to feel that it could have been written today, relevant as it is for the America we currently live in as it was back then. The poem speaks for itself, as well as it speaks for the immigrant American in me.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing my May VIA Times column:

Prejudice

I cannot fathom your resolve
to keep away from flesh and blood.

Could it be that your fear is greater
than your hope, your pride greater
than your love, your hatred
for their mother—a bottomless pit?

If so, I pity you then.
For we shall not pass
your way again.

I shall charge the wheels of Fate
to rip the loom of karmic cycle.
So I and my children,
and my children’s children
shall not have to bear with
the delusions of your small mind
made smaller by your persistence
in your ignorance, your constant need
to occupy our universe with your wounds.

And we shall finally be free
of your prejudice, your toxic shadow,
your unbearably common heart.

You’ve no idea what you’re missing.
Or perhaps you do.
And still.

Poet’s Notes. Sad to state, I really didn’t know what prejudice based on race actually meant or felt until I came to the United States as an immigrant. Having been blessed with an intellect that allowed me to have the best education in my native country (the Philippines) through full-ride academic scholarships that in turn allowed me to be employed in some of the best firms and companies allowed me to rise above my socio-economic class. Thus, as an adult, I was mostly treated as belonging among the elite of my people, which in turn opened a lot of doors for me. In other words, I was counted among the privileged in my homeland.

But after twenty-three years now in the U.S., I have learned to read both the subtle and unsubtle signs that some people may be discriminating against you simply because of the color of your skin, the shape of your eyes, or by your accent. Now don’t get me wrong. I truly believe and feel that Americans are still by far one of the most tolerant and accepting peoples in the world as regards immigrants. However, gradual changes in the socio-political dynamic of this country I’ve observed over the last ten years have alerted me to possibility of the seemingly radical developments we are now witnessing: the return to power of an extremely conservative white working class that appears to see all who are different from it in terms of race, culture, and religious belief as a threat against its economic and socio-cultural well-being. Its rise has been institutionalized in the election of Donald Trump, as the latter is likewise institutionalizing the prejudices of the electorate that voted him into power.

I wrote above poem as my reaction to a completely surprising personal experience of prejudice. At that time I thought, oh, this is what Blacks and Latinos must feel when they are faced with racism and prejudice. Now Muslims and immigrants, too, seem to be fair game to this type of persecution.

There is yet hope in that the socio-political pendulum always seems to swing to extremes in cyclical precision in this country. Thus, I say to my fellow Americans so approving of Trump’s racist policies and acts now: You reap what you sow. Besides this, my poem above says the rest.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing my April VIA Times column:

After Dust Settles

I sit before my kitchen table, sipping
morning coffee as walls shake and floor
trembles, jackhammers at work already.
Dust covers everything—each surface,
nook, and cranny—filling nostrils,

filming beverage. I am breathing,
drinking this old house: my home
that was home to others before me—
ingesting the shadows of their lives?
I examine my skin, note the throb

on my wrist, feeling for sensation
of past lives swimming inside me.
This house is going to be the death
of me. The life of me. The mark of me.
I feel I have forever been chasing

a sense of being from a sense of place
buried deep inside me—a forgotten
memory that’s still etched in the folds
of my brain: a scar from some fight
with Fate that won’t fade? How can one

explain that brick, stone, and wood speak
—whispering secret designs of rebirth?
This house is renovating me as much
as I am it: we are, together, evolving
into each other. I walk around the rooms

and see what they were, what they are
becoming. I hear the sound of living
that dwelt in them and the sound
of music that will fill the air, instead
of dust, after dust settles. After dust settles,

I’m going to pick myself up where I dropped
myself off before this house possessed me.
After dust settles, I’m going to edit
the excesses of my life out of this home
and prevail over the dust of my life.

After dust settles.

Poet’s Notes. It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since we bought this old house in Iowa that we’ve since made our home. And now we’re selling it. It’s said seven is a mystical number. Perhaps “mystical” inherently includes challenges because so far, this has only been a difficult time for me. It’s not easy for me to let go of this home. I’ve literally given it, including its landscaped gardens my heart and soul, having personally redesigned, furnished, and decorated them in three phases within a long and laborious three-year renovation period. There is no square inch of this home and its gardens I do not know intimately. Since their completion according to my vision, they have reigned as a much sought-after site that proudly hosted some of the more notable civic and charitable community events in our city in recent years. Those closely looking at our home and gardens’ features often express admiration for the meticulous attention to detail I’ve devoted to them.

But I have accepted and resigned myself to a new phase in our lives. It is time for my husband and I to execute our retirement plan: to simplify our lives and live essentially on what gives us the most joy in these golden years of our lives—to travel while we still can, and to retire in a place where no home could be grander or more beautiful than the natural environment it’s in. In other words, to hit our bucket travel list and live close to the beauty of nature which for us means moving to another state that could give us our long-desired majestic combination of sea, sky, and mountain. An elder woman friend of mine inspired us to get started on these dreams last year when she said, “I am proud to say that no house no longer owns me.” To be free of possessions that no longer serve our remaining life’s goals—that is our mission as a couple now.

I will miss this beautiful home that has changed me as I changed it during the renovation process. Now that it no longer serves my growth, it is time to let it go. As above poem has foretold, “After dust settles, / I’m going to pick myself up where I dropped/ myself off before this house possessed me. / After dust settles, I’m going to edit / the excesses of my life out of this home / and prevail over the dust of my life.” Sadly, the house itself has become an excess that I have to edit out of my life. But I am consoled by the thought that this house and I could never truly leave each other. I know my spirit will continue to live in it through the beauty of its structure and architectural details, and the flowers, plants, and trees in which I had thoughtfully framed it. Moreover, the house itself will continue to live in me through the precious memories we’ve created in it with beloved family and friends. If a house has a soul, this one is it. It will haunt me forever, as I will remain its resident ghost.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing my February 2017 VIA Times Column:

Old Letters

Another move, another house,
not yet a home. All around me:
the scraps and souvenirs of a life
stuffed in boxes.

How does one measure how far
we’ve gone on this journey?
Or depth of being?
Or success or failure?

First there were two hundred, then
four hundred. Now eight hundred?
A thousand, perhaps? A thousand
boxes—the accumulation of years.

Projects begun but never finished,
vacation snapshots, milestones reached;
The turning at the crossroads,
where the fork stared us in the eye:

Did we choose the road less traveled—
the one that made all the difference?
Or did we, like many, pick the safer path,
rode the bandwagon of mediocrity?

Is this what it all amounts to—
this counting of boxes as proof
of our lives? Are we simply
the sum of a mover’s list?

The house is full, yet emptiness
echoes through its rooms. Until I see
them—the old shoeboxes. I hesitate.
Intent cowers before Pandora’s curse:
What does the accused plead?
Guilty! Guilty! My accuser screams.
The verdict lies within.

Old letters sing to me—some old,
forgotten melody. And one by one,
they tell my story in haunting
strains of raw symphony.

My mother reaches me across
the sea in the cherished slants
and loops of my youth.
I caress the writing as if it were
her hand, as if she were here.

I remember them dearly:
her love notes of instructions
to survive life away from home.
Reminders of family gatherings,
prayers for safety and blessings.

And then—those fateful ones she sent
post my exile to this foreign land.
It was no use, Mama.
There was nothing left for me there.

Half the story lies between
the lines; the other half, here.
Take courage! Keep faith!
Rejoice in second chances.

And from sisters, sweet sisters!
Diaries of parallel lives—
of college things and first loves,
invites for weddings I never witnessed.
So far away from home, so far away.
Can’t return home now. Can’t.
I wish it were otherwise,
but life’s a pretzel, my dears.

And then—the fabric of new life
in new friends and new places,
a new loving husband, and beautiful
young children. Life goes on.

Seasons marked by greeting cards,
hallmarks of celebration and strife.
And in between, the stuff of life:
lamentations on weather and the times.

Gratitude, anger, recrimination,
comic relief, momentous occasion,
plans, dreams, tedious rhythm of days,
hope and frustration, peace in resignation.

But look here,
yes, here.
Don’t you see?
There has always been,
always will be—love.
Precious boxes of life!

My accuser stands silent.

Poet’s Notes. I wrote above poem in 2005—more than a decade ago, during the thirteenth time we’d moved across North America in the then eleven years my husband and I had been married. These moves were compelled by my husband’s career, and like most immigrants, I did what was required of us to go where our livelihood dictated. Now, after two more moves (these times voluntary, as they were in conjunction with our blessed realization of our dream of living in not only one but two dream homes) and twenty-two years of marriage, we’re empty nesters—with our youngest in college and our eldest thriving on her own with her own career and independent life elsewhere. And we’re finally doing something what all parents should do in their golden years—saving our children this one tedious, potentially painful task when we’ve passed on from this life: cleaning and editing out the unnecessary stuff of our lives.

It’s amazing how much junk one accumulates through the years. If I were to give one advice to a younger wife and mother, it would be this: Do NOT buy anything unless you need it, and try to engage your whole family—especially your children—to commit to a yearly spring cleaning of each family member’s accumulated things. But like most mothers, I felt too busy and exhausted with the everyday management of our lives to make time for this major item of household management; and like most Americans, I fell into the trap of consumerism; and like most immigrants from a third world country, I was hesitant to throw anything away, thinking we were going to need something later, until that something multiplied into hundreds, even thousands of things that proved to be unneeded in all these years. Truly, possessions weigh you down in every sense of the term, and thus, my husband and I have made it the theme of these golden years of our lives to free ourselves of our possessions.

But this business of freeing ourselves of the stuff of our lives has also bore down on me the weight of the burden of the years and decades that have passed, and along with them, family and friends who are gone. For as I go through our things, I run across letters, cards, and photographs of such beloved people in my life, and I feel the acute loneliness they left behind by their seeming abandonment of me. It is indeed a time for feeling old. I have lived long enough to experience the passing of eras with the passing of beloved personalities. And as I encounter my children’s kids’ things—their toys and little dresses and sweaters, even left-over and now dried-out baby wipes, I struggle to remember them as little children. Where have those sweet years gone? They seem to have faded into the fog of rattled and harried confusion that to me sums up most of a young mother’s life as she struggled to cook, clean, shop for groceries and the kids’ needs, drive them to and from school, drive them to extracurricular activities such art and sports lessons, orchestra rehearsals, performances, and dance recitals, and the all important ingredient of their young social lives—play dates and friends’ birthday parties. Now that I am finally ready to enjoy maximum quality time with my children, they aren’t around anymore. It is indeed a brave thing to be—being a parent. It seems to be an unending journey into the brink of loss of that which we love. How does one hang onto what’s beloved to us and what’s important in order not to lose them?

These reflections prompted me to return and re-read above poem I wrote during the unpacking of our moving boxes in the great move of ’05 as I encountered letters and cards from my mother and siblings from the Philippines—which made me keenly homesick. The poem now strikes me as a message to me from the younger me. Ironically, the younger version of me appears wiser, as she gives me the answer to my question of how we hang onto the people and memories we love. She tells me that love truly never disappears—that it merely evolves, its energy remaining with us long after its mortal manifestation is gone.

Thus as I continue to face this gargantuan task of going through our accumulated things, I choose to see it all no longer as a burden, but a blessing—the blessing of having so much love to remember. This February, the month especially dedicated to celebrating romantic love, let us take time to celebrate the other kinds of love in our lives. And may they be plentiful for you all, too!

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Can't believe the new year is almost upon us. Seems eerie yet still relevant to share my January 2017 VIA Times column:

Family

I bless you, and you bless me:
this is as it should be.

Families aren’t made by accident
of birth, but by designs of the heart.

Were we transient passengers
in this journey, it would suffice

that we travel as ships passing each
other in the night, yet we’re a symphony

of souls—an orchestra of heartstrings
colliding in perfect harmony,

playing the music of the gods.

Poet’s Notes. It is yet again another new year. Our defeats and losses as honorable Americans, immigrants, and refugees stare us down as our new Congress’ first act was to attempt to demolish the independent congressional ethics committee charged with investigating their malfeasances. True, the president-elect tweeted against it, thus bringing pressure to bear down on such brazenly shameless move on the part of the Republican-led legislature, but one could not help but wonder how far this seeming show of integrity and leadership would go when Trump’s own interests are at stake, for his past actions and words likewise do not bode well for the country. It is the same for my native country as Duterte continues to prove he is just another macho-talking populist tyrant—the Philippine counterpart of Trump. My heart is rent with the thought of the deaths of almost six thousand of my people that have been brought about by the current Philippine president’s unenlightened policies.

Yet, I have resolved to cease to react to each and every feckless word and act of both my American and Philippine presidents (for they are far too many!), and have retreated into the attitude of resignation to what I cannot control, to focus on where I trust I still have some real influence. Not the least among the latter is my circle of family and friends. I invite all to do the same. Nurturing, educating, and counseling one another into being persons of integrity and principle not only for our self-interests but for the long-term greater good of humanity and our natural environment is our best weapon against the ignorant and dishonorable.

It takes courage to take a stand, especially among our intimate connections. Recently, I have had to reflect on how to communicate to a friend how I’ve been disappointed by her actions, or more accurately, her acts of omission. Her negligence. It takes courage to speak one’s truth, while choosing to offer unconditional love for the person who has wronged you—to resolve that if there’s a break in the friendship, it would not be because of you, but by how the other chooses to react to your act of integrity. In this, we see that our encounters could be either a blessing or curse to each of us. May we all choose to bless others with our presence in their lives. And may this count among our resolutions for 2017.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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#Blog Sharing with you all my August 2017 VIA Times Poetry Column:

A Love Song For My Husband

He sleeps beside me:
my beloved. His chest
rises and falls to the music
of his breathing. The years
have given, and they have taken—
yet still, he lies beside me.

He is man and child,
all at once; friend and foe,
all at once; lover and stranger,
all at once. We dance
the dance of ages—he and I,
as men and women have,
since dawn of time.

The heat of his flesh
grafts my body to his.
Listening for his heart, I plead,
“Long and steady, beat!”

My fingers indulge in the silk
of his hair. Inhaling him, I lose myself
in the musk of his skin—drinking him
in, flooding my senses, locking
memories in my heart, preparing
my soul: Take courage! As though
he won’t be here tomorrow.

How fleeting is time,
how precious its graces!
How does one return
to living half a life?
I have loved completely
into sweet forgetting.

Poet’s Notes. I wrote this poem for my husband many years ago. Today, we celebrate almost a quarter of a century of marriage. It is fitting to choose to feature this poem during our anniversary month.

One of the most gratifying things about being a writer is when a reader tells you just how much she or he appreciates your work or how it made a positive difference in her/his life. I have the good fortune of having had just such a reader again tell me so, as regards above poem. At a time when I wasn’t feeling too inspired to write due to my increasing jadedness over the commercialization of the writing market that seems to mostly reward the fad of the moment—like some cheap novel about the sexual pleasure that could be had from either inflicting or suffering physical pain during what should be a loving act, or the latest work from a poet who happens to be the darling of some academic or ivory tower publication or of some big shot in the media—and in the midst of my frustration over an electorate that has turned our democratic processes into a personal vendetta machine instead of listening to reason and science to judge what’s sensible for the common good, a self-designated “fan of your poems” wrote to me saying just how much reading my poem above (that appears in my book, “Warrior Heart, Pilgrim Soul: An Immigrant’s Journey”, which she apparently bought sometime ago) enriched her and her husband’s recent celebration of their wedding anniversary, and how it has inspired her to write her own poem for him. This also reminded me of another time a few years ago, of how a college friend likewise read this poem of mine as her eulogy to her own husband. Boom! I felt the universe hit me on the head—again!—for being so foolish as to second-guess my life’s mission, which is to write.

I recall that as a high school student reading about the great men and women of history, I was inspired to attempt greatness myself when I grew up. Thus, I plowed through life thinking my life would be most meaningful if I could create a great legacy to leave to the world, just like those great men and women of history. However, I was discouraged many times through the years by the realization of how small and potentially meaningless my life is to the larger picture, and how ultimately inconsequential—that is, until another soul reached out to me and told me it wasn’t so for her or him because of my work or my presence in her/his life.

Here’s the thing about the ego: It judges itself by size. Yet who is to judge that the extent of greatness isn’t equally one that could fit in one grain of rice as much as it could occupy the whole world? Who’s to judge that to affect just one life in a positive way is not worth the weight of that single “bang” that led to the creation of the whole universe?

My husband and I celebrate our anniversary today, looking forward to our move to what we hope would be our ultimate retirement home on an island among the San Juan Islands in the Puget Sound. I come from a country with more than 7,000 islands. Thus, I think of this move as somehow returning to my roots, at the same time I’m now inspired to go back to the root of my writing, which I’m grateful a few caring readers reminded me of: I write not to achieve personal greatness for myself, but to affect, in a great way, one soul at a time. When I pass on from this life, I’d like my memorial to say, “She was, by her works, a thousand angels who dwelt in a grain of rice.”

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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Comment on Facebook

Happy Anniversary!

Happy anniversary. So moving , makes me miss you more. Take care and God bless both of you.

Happy 25 years atse

Happy Anniversary

Happy anniversary! I loved the poem as well! It is so very relatable for all those who are deeply in love. Happy 25th!

Happy Anniversary to you and steve.

Happy anniversary to u both ate! ❤💐

I guess the Carmel French Chateau will not be your retirement place after all?

Wishing you ❤️❤️❤️ and more on your anniversary!

Lovely poem! Glad to see you back, sis! Wishing you and Steve continued happiness and blessings! 💕

The best way to shake off the doldrums is to go into party animal mode. Happy anniversary lovey.

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#Blog A ROSE BLOOMING IN THE DESERT. Dear Readers, sharing with you my March 2017 VIA Times Poetry column:

Speck of Dust

I’m floating between what came
before me and what comes after me.
I’m but a speck of dust
whipped up by the wind,
occupying spaces between—
if there are still any.

I look for greatness in myself,
and find only ambition for it.
I am nothing,
yet I am everything.

When they finally hear my songs,
I will have long gone
and sought the comfort of the earth—
returned to it,
as dust is to dust.

My labors will shine their glory
on those who least deserve it,
and I shudder at my dreams’ mockery
by those whom I rebuked in this life.

Thus I pray to my Muse,
"O, Source of All Creation, grant
this humble mortal this one wish:
To create that masterpiece
of which you are inspiration.
Grant in my lifetime what few
are given: Blessed gift of witness
to love’s labors won."

Only silence replies—echoing and
slithering around me, driving me
deeper into the shadows
that smother the exiled lover.
And when my Muse speaks at last,
it is through a dream
veiling my vision of her.

She says,
"If you seek only the glory
of mortals, then you shall live
their hell. But if you can find heaven in
every word you write, then you need not
the glory you seek; it has
already been given you."

The few words come at last—
tentative, shy.
They are coaxed, one by one,
and arrive—wary,
but not before
I empty my self
of myself,
drop by drop,
freeing space
for the Beloved
to inhabit.

Poet’s Notes. We celebrated the Oscars a week ago. I was happy for Viola Davis when she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Fences". But that part of her acceptance speech that passionately declared, “We’re the only artists who know how to celebrate a life!” gave me pause. “But how about writers?” I protested telepathically. “Without writers, actors have nothing to perform.”

Surely this marvelously talented actress simply misspoke. I suppose her exuberance for many Black actors and filmmakers winning many awards this year in stark contrast to last year’s “Oscar’s So White” surely led to this misspeak. But I wonder. For compared to all other art forms, the art of writing is the least visible to the public. A case of out of sight, out of mind? I must admit when I watch a particularly moving film, I sometimes question why I do what I do: exiling myself to the lonesome confines of a world that could only be seen on the page—that is, if someone else would even go through the effort of actually buying my book and reading it!

It’s easy to be seduced by the power of fame and celebrity and hype. And I am occasionally taunted by it. When those times come, as when Viola extolled actors’ great, loud, violent power to emote the truth and beauty we writers quietly write on the page, I ask myself: “If no one ever read what you wrote, would you still write?” And the answer that screams itself from deep within me unequivocally cries out a resounding, “Yes!”

That’s how I know I am—like Viola, surely—living my life’s purpose. And that, even though the whole world might be completely indifferent or oblivious to what I create. And that, even if the truth and beauty embedded in what I do were seen by no one else but me.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a beautiful rose bloomed and died in the desert un-witnessed by anyone, was it still beautiful, and did it even live?

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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1 years ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Blog It's one o'clock in the morning, and as usual, I'm wide awake. As a night owl, I'm cut out for a writer's life. It's when others are sleeping that I feel most alive. I harbor delight for a secret conviction that night time reveals its magic only to the one who stays awake long enough to perceive it--insights that are the source of my writing inspiration: the night's reward for my loyal company.

In the past few months, I've been dogged by another conviction: I'm undergoing another phase of change in my life, and I'm beleaguered by an amorphous yet undeniable anxiety. Having lived long enough to recognize and accept that change is the only constant in life, one would think I'd know better than to allow myself to be anxious, but anxious I am. Our mind's natural tendency is to reject uncertainty. It's always looking for answers, fixes, stability, clarity. It basks in the crisp blacks and whites in light of day; suspicious of the grey shadows of night.

But tonight, there's a glowing almost full moon that shines through the skylights of my bedroom ceiling like a car's headlight on full beam. It calls to me like a petulant, precocious child that demands my attention to her brilliance. To her, a lack of witness means wasted glory. And so I get up from bed to peer up at the sky that's conquered by this braggart's show. And I remember parts of Rumi's ghazals:

"Because I cannot sleep
I make music at night.
...."

"...
Life's waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don't run from it.

...
The moon appears for night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full."
("The Pocket Rumi", edited by Kabir Helminski, Shambala, 2008)

Tonight, my full watch begins.

(Copyright 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. All rights reserved.)
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#Blog At this, the culmination of my life, I breathe and live, not just realize the truth that each life is given to us as a gift to experience love, and that we're each called to do good for a cause larger than ourselves--that "good" qualified by whether it was done out of love, and if we're lucky, our good acts survive us, immortalized in ripples of love stretching into eternity. (Copyright 2017 by Victoria G. Smith. All rights reserved.) ... See MoreSee Less

#Blog THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS. Dear readers, forgive these less than joyful reflections on a Christmas Eve. And please remember not to shoot the messenger. With the impending renewal of a nuclear arms race with Russia under a Trump presidency and other likely scenarios in the next four years, I cannot help but pause for some sobering contemplations during this otherwise so-called season of "hope" in our "Realpolitik". Despite this, I do wish all of you all the blessings of hope, peace, and joy this holiday season! Meantime, I share my December 2016 VIA Times Magazine poetry column as a way to prepare for the new year:

Reconstruction of Lost Things

I don’t know what triggered it:
Karen Carpenter singing Silver Bells
on the radio, or the vintage colored
light bulbs framing a display window.

I pull over and stop the car
till I could see the road again.
I want to see, touch, smell, taste, hear
Christmas again! But where to begin?

First: a galaxy of white lights around
the house, the tree trimmed with treasures
of Christmases past, nativity scene
where, they say, lies the reason for
the season, mistletoe prompting
kisses, wreath on the front door.

In the kitchen: steaming hot cocoa and
apple cider, muffins and cookies
rising in the oven, a flickering
cinnamon-scented candle,
a blazing fire, a serenade of carols.

But still, I cannot feel it—that magic
embracing the innocent,
anticipating what’s possible,
listening for hooves on the roof.

The neighbors lost their daughter in a plane
crash last summer—she was my daughter’s age;
around the world, still, children are starving,
women are raped, men kill and get killed.

All these broken lives—how
does one recover joy?

Not too soon, my son scurries down
the stairs as my daughter arrives
from college, and my husband’s feet
make a sound like thunder as they
shake snow clumps off his boots.

Deep from the well of my gut, I hear
a rumbling not unlike Old Faithful
makes before it unleashes its gift.

Poet’s Notes. Above poem was last published in the December 2015 issue of Elite Critiques Magazine. This is also not the first time I’ve shared this poem in this column. However, with the election of an unapologetically anti-immigrant U.S. president, it seems only fitting to republish it—for this certainly appears a time of loss, of prospective other losses not only for immigrants and refugees but for all Americans, if one is to believe Donald Trump would pursue his staunch anti-immigrant campaign promises and unabashedly racist, misogynist, and nationalistic protectionist stances. On the morning after the election, I posted on Facebook, “I feel like someone died, like I'm missing somebody I can't even remember. As though a part of me was excised but I don't know which because I feel a void where something used to exist. Oh, I know! I just remembered: I was under the illusion that America was the land of the free and the home of the brave, and of the just, and of mainly decent, kind, and compassionate human beings. Now I've awoken in the land of the Manchurian candidate, free of my illusion yet missing it like a phantom organ, where my spleen used to be.”

Now, we’ve darned done it. The grim results I anticipated in my column last month are coming to pass. Truth is, everyone lost something in the recent elections and everybody will lose a lot more in ways many have likely underestimated—especially those who voted for Trump. I’m not a doom and gloom soothsayer; I’m merely stating a rational projection. There are studies and statistics that support the prediction that if Trump’s economic and political policies were to be implemented, they would cost the U.S. economy much more than the gains they promised, and in fact, spiral the whole economy down into trillions more dollars in debt. And who would pay for this? All Americans—including the predominantly white working class citizen who would carry much of the burden of Trump’s pro-rich tax cuts and policies geared toward protectionist foreign and international trade policies (that—for those who went to college might remember, and for the benefit of those who did not—the basic college Econ 101 class teaches was the singular cause of the Great Depression of the 1920’s). As usual, the rich will only get richer; the poor poorer. Nothing will really change—except for the worse, especially for the marginalized sectors of society. Trump’s transition team is also notably filled with Washington lobbyists and Wall Street icons, contrary to his promise to “drain the swamp” and declare his administration’s independence from big corporate America and the finance industry giants’ interests. His candidates particularly for health and environmental protection heads, national security director, and defense and treasury secretaries all look like the fox that was assigned to guard the chicken coop.

But enough of pointing fingers and playing the blame game—question is: What are we going to do about it? In the face of all these prospective gloom and doom, what is there to look forward to in the new year? In this season of hope, is there really hope for the hopeless?

For good reason, I am averse to echo the customary mantra in times like this that hope is eternal and such similar fatuousness. Truth—another one, a grounding one—is that hope resides in action, not some airy Pollyanna fantasy, but in action informed by experience, wisdom, and a bold streak of selflessness, an antidote to the brazen act of misguided self-interest demonstrated by the typical Trump supporter who voted for Trump out of a mistaken belief that Trump would save their obsolete jobs and make them rich—again, which was what was truly behind their election campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again!” As it appears, they were only after their own myopic self-interests—in the vain hope of stemming the great tide of history and economics.

Already the taxpayers of Indiana are realizing the burden imposed on them by Trump’s Carrier deal, for example. They would end up picking the tab to artificially keep Carrier within their State and allow a mere less than half of Carrier workers (800 out of the original 1,800 who were going to lose the jobs to Mexico) to keep their jobs in the meantime, but clearly, not for long. For the numbers don’t add up enough to keep U.S. manufacturing companies like Carrier in the U.S. long-term. Federal and state tax incentives save companies like Carrier only about two per cent (2%) of their cost structure. The overwhelming portion of their real costs is in their labor costs, which amount to about ninety-eight per cent (98%). And labor rates in Mexico are still much lower than in the U.S. In the meantime, Indiana would be denying itself about seven million dollars in tax revenue over ten years, subsidizing each of the eight hundred workers who get to keep their jobs in the meantime at about $875 each yearly. (www.forbes.com/sites/eriksherman/2016/12/04/trumps-carrier-deal-means-nothing-for-future-jobs/#17...) Imagine and consider cloning such a deal across the nation over several states!

For once, I agree with Sarah Palin. She called the deal “an example of government intervention that could lead to ‘crony capitalism.’” One can’t arbitrarily stem the tide of the market economy without creating worse problems. Palin additionally pointed out, “Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail." (www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/sarah-palin-calls-out-trump-s-carrier-deal-warns-against-n691426) And this was exactly where the great mistake of the white working class Trump supporter glaringly lay: They had the asinine expectation that they could hang onto to their obsolete jobs without creating bigger problems for the whole country. And this is also where their inane selfishness could be clearly seen. For a segment of the population that had unilaterally appropriated what true American patriotism means, they are looking very unpatriotic indeed. They ranted against immigrants getting a free ride on their jobs, their taxes, and their country, and yet here they are—exposing themselves to the whole world as just another wanton group wanting a free ride themselves on the backs of all of us taxpayers—tax-paying immigrants, included.

All reason, logic, and math tell us that Trump can’t keep making artificial deals like this without causing more serious and grim consequences for the whole country, and that one can expect more companies to demand similar tax incentives to extort their way into suspending the relocation of their manufacturing facilities elsewhere in the world, where, by the way, lest it be forgotten, there will always be lower labor costs than in the U.S. “Suspending” is the key word here: They are merely delaying what is inevitable. Which squarely suggests that the solution lies elsewhere, as in working, perhaps, with—not against—the natural workings of the global economy, technology trends, and the needs for preserving and harnessing the energies of the natural environment in which all our resources are rooted. Trouble is, many white working class Americans frankly project themselves as clearly incapable or unwilling to reinvent themselves and their skills in order to adapt themselves to the new realities and needs of the U.S. and global economies, and seem to prefer to cast the burden of their inability to evolve with the rest of us—upon the rest of us, unlike most immigrants and refugees who had to reinvent themselves one way or another in order not only to survive but also thrive in the U.S. after being uprooted from their native countries. Talk about who’s lazy now or being a free rider! What political brownie points Trump earns in the meantime through the goodwill he builds with the relatively few workers whose jobs are temporarily saved will soon enough be erased when the greater majority of U.S. taxpayers start to feel the pinch from the significant costs and subsidies they have to carry to keep up this pretense.

Thus, back to my question: Is there hope for the hopeless in this season of hope? I bury my head in Pollyanna sands, desperately digging for a reply that could even make an iota of sense, hoping against hope. Oh, Santa—where are you when we need you? Or the Tooth Fairy? Or the Easter Bunny? Or Superman? Or Captain America? Anyone of you mythical yet otherwise great heroes—please? Cross my heart, Santa Baby—I’ve been a good girl this year.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2016 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)
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2 years ago

Author Victoria G. Smith

#Blog Due to its immediate relevance to ongoing socio-political discussions in the aftermath of the recent U.S. presidential elections, I'm herein posting my November 2016 poetry column in advance of both the printed and on-line publications thereof, with apologies to VIA Times Magazine.

"Turning A Corner

Let’s lick our lips and kiss each other’s wounds;
let’s not speak of fear or transgression,
but scent of orange blossoms in the spring.
I want to push the hyacinths to break the ice;
I want to smell the roses sleeping in the bud.

This winter has gone on too long—it’s tearing
the skin of my longing apart. What’s left is
form of being—slave to the past, jester of hope.
I am not this being. I am not the sum of my parts.

I want to hear the music of children playing
in the streets, but the fat, juicy notes of their
laughter were swallowed by crows preying
from wires burning with groans of dragons
and dungeons in little Pandora’s boxes.

My mouth is a cocoon of winged words that can’t fly,
stitched shut by silken threads of political correctness.
Are we to be tied down by fear of offending
or bound by common passion, righteous anger?

Look: The wolves have gone wild with the hunt!
There lies the scattered carcass of a nation.
But America is not the sum of its parts!

Call forth the spirit of those turning in their graves,
the souls of those to whom we owe tomorrow.
To the first, say: Remind us of our beginnings.
To the second: Show us a corner on which
to turn, together.

Poet’s Notes. By the time this article is published, Americans would have elected their new president, but the aftershocks of the current election cycle will be felt long after the elections are over. I wrote above poem during the 2008 presidential contest between then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It was a sharp rivalry, but neither that campaign nor anything in all other previous presidential campaigns could have prepared us for the acrimony and deliberate resort to shameless falsehoods that can be witnessed in the current competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This is partly due to the unprecedented type of virulence of their respective passionate supporters, particularly on the part of Trump supporters. This is not a simple matter of ideological differences—it evinces the extent to which a large segment of Trump followers are willing to go to force their agenda. Their acts of violence against Trump protesters during their rallies, their threats of staging a “revolution” from which a possible civil war may arise in case their candidate does not win, fueled by their candidate’s absolutely unsubstantiated and, therefore, irresponsible allegations of a rigged election and his bold and brash statements of intent to reject a result in which he is deemed the loser definitely promise continued vitriolic conflict after the elections, as it all undermines the very foundations of American democracy.

My poem above expressed concern about the unintended consequences of extreme political correctness that restricted freedom of speech. One can say that one of those extreme consequences is the other extreme—manifested by the current unfettered mordancy of Trump supporters who appear to have completely abandoned political correctness altogether, and along with it, basic civility, decency, respect for human rights, and adherence to logical and truthful premise that underlie the principle. One might also say that the current socio-political milieu is merely in self-correction and balancing mode. But I doubt this is all there is to this.

No matter how many times it’s been said before, it can’t be overstated this election is truly the fight for the soul of this nation. It also seems to be symptomatic of a larger struggle for humanity everywhere else in the world, as though signaling a turning point in the evolution of humankind itself. It could go one way or the other, determining accordingly, the very survival or demise of none other than our own species and planet. This, to me, proves once again how short human memory is, how impervious to lessons of history it is. I’ve said it before and I say it again—echoing the philosopher George Santayana in his work, Life of Reason: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Deceptive fascist-like thinking and sentiments marked by extreme and irrational suspicion and scapegoating of minorities, immigrants, refugees, and anyone perceived to be an outsider have never before more greatly influenced our global socio-political dynamics since Nazi Germany.

It’s time to wake up, unite, and join in the fight against this monstrous Hydra that has begun to rear its many ugly heads again. Let’s turn the corner together in this critical turning point in human history.

(All rights reserved. Copyright © 2016 by Victoria G. Smith. For updates on her author events & publications, go to VictoriaGSmith.com. "Like" her on Facebook at Author Victoria G. Smith. "Follow" her on Twitter @AuthorVGSmith)"
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