Monday, 4 July 2011


THE DAY'S WORK DONE, I drag my tired self to the balcony, my private haven for meditation and relaxation. As my eyes rest on the blue and misty hills in the far horizon, the words of Psalm 121 spring to mind:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

To my right a solitary coconut tree sways gracefully in the cool, gentle breeze. The setting sun looks like a luminous oversized yolk from a fresh and healthy egg. Night will soon be here; twilight quickly ends in the tropics.

The swallows hurrying home are flying in the direction of an abandoned mining pool whose calm and limpid waters conceal great treachery; already it has claimed at least half a dozen young lives. None but the foolish or the ignorant would venture to swim in that pool. Among the superstitious, it is said that the woeful spirits of the drowned are ever in search of new victims to take their place, for until they can produce a proxy, they will know no freedom, nor can they reincarnate.

I have tried many times to explain where the danger lies: the long waterweed that undulates with the undercurrents can entangle the legs of swimmers. The harder they struggle, the more entangled they get, and sometimes the uneven bed of the mining pool produces unexpected whirlpools...

My reverie is interrupted by the sharp bark of my dog, Ciro. I peer down into the garden and am just in time to see a green snake ringed with bright yellow slither into the bamboo clumps.

"Oh, those accursed bamboos, lair of snakes and iguanas!" I have so often uttered under my breath, but the old dame, our cook, simply refuses to have them cut down. "Where are we going to get poles for drying clothes; leaves for wrapping rice dumplings when the Fifth Moon comes around; or switch-brooms to springclean before Chinese New Year?" she will retort. And, as usual, she has her way. She has always had the final say as far as the back garden is concerned - and rightly so, since it was she who transformed the patch of unruly undergrowth into the fruiting and flowering miracle it now is.

Bananas, papayas, guava and sugarcane grow in such abundance that friends have facetiously suggested I export them. Start a factory, the price of sugar is going up! The Chinese view it as a crime to leave good land idle; hence every usable square foot of our garden is planted with fruits and beautiful flowers.

Ah, the flowers! They grow not only in the garden but also in the fields beyond, in a hundred glorious hues and patterns. God has indeed dressed the fields with greater finery than Solomon was ever able to adorn his mistresses. Chrysanthemums, roses, lilies, bougainvilleas, hydrangeas and cannas galore! At midday the scorching sun tried its best to subdue them, but now in the evening cool, their flowery spirits revived, they are lifting their fragrant faces towards heaven in praise and thanksgiving. And they will do the same tomorrow, and the day after that, and ever after...

The night fairies will soon be home! All Chinese girls are taught never to pick flowers after sunset.

I offer a silent prayer of pure joy and gratitude for the daily blessings the Lord showers upon us.

It is now more than three decades since I had to move from my home in Pesiaran Ampang, but the tranquil view from my balcony passes before my inner eye each time I find myself adrift in timeless reverie.

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