It is six in the morning. It is snowing outside. I think of the market keeper who usually opens the market at this time. It is hard work and yet he constantly keeps up with his job. I feel lucky for being in doors writing this memoir in the warmth of my home.

I can hear the rain, or rather, snow dropping on my rooftop. Raindrop. It is used to be the source of my happiness – I loved listening to the rain dropping on a roof top whilst snugging myself cozily in bed reading. However, recently it has become the source of my worry. I had water leakage into my building. I have just only recently finished the renovation of this building after two years of hardship – the hardest experience in my life. A lot of internal structure had been rotten due to years of neglect by the previous owner. This project took a toll on me. At times, when it rained, I cried out loud: “I cannot face another problem!”.

Since I live on the roof extension, I can hear everything on my roof. At first it was great; then it became unpleasant. First of all, the seagulls, chirking and flapping about. They used to evoke the romantic feeling of a seaside town in me; now they have become a source of my annoyance. They land on my root, pecking and skipping about and their creaking sound wakes me up in the night. Then, the rain. Sometimes it rains for days and days. The raindrop which used to be the music to my ears has become a constant worry for fear of the leakage. The constantly dripping sound of the water can become so monotonous that it drives me mad.

The word “monotonous” reminds me of the image of a North Vietnamese soldier hugging himself in his raincoat forlornly watching the rain beating on the green wilderness of the vast jungle in the famous novel called The Sorrow Of War by Bao Ninh. He described the suffering of North Vietnamese soldiers living and fighting along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Vietnam war. But to other people, the jungle and the rain conjure up a happy and beautiful image of nature. A friend of mine emailed me a while ago telling me how much fun she and her boyfriend had when they spent a couple of days in the jungle. On many occasions, they played hide and seek, running naked in the rain.

Jungle, rain… happy, sad… Nature remains as it is but whether it is beautiful or plain depends on our feelings and perceptions. Our sensations, feelings and perceptions are interbeing. And most of the time our perceptions are not wholesome as they rely on our limited experience and knowledge. Letting go of our perceptions is the first step toward happiness. To do that, we first have to acknowledge our feelings – our sorrow, our pain. Then we look deeply into our suffering to understand its causes and transform it to peace and happiness.

The rain can be the source of my joy or the source of my worry. The birds can be the source of my love for the land I live in or the source of my annoyance. It is up to me to choose how I feel. And I choose to be happy. Instead of bemoaning about the seagulls, I have found ways to scare them away from my roof, nurtured my love for them and held their romantic symbol of Brighton in me. As to the rain, I have tackled the water leakage to protect the building and it does not worry me any more. I have felt and continue to feel happy and blessed for all the wonders that the universe gives me.

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