31 May, 2021 ·
Notes on Hummingbird
31 May, 2021 ·
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— "The Peace of Wild Things", Wendell Berry
It is my first time to experience spring. I arrived in Texas on the tail-end of winter, which was one of the coldest the state has experienced in years. On the day of my arrival, roads were still banked by snow from the past week's historic freeze. Day by day since I watched as once bare trees began to show green; as wildflowers began to color swaths of fields with blues and yellows. All the metaphors I've read of spring were absolutely justified in their romance; the surprise and resilience of life is a marvel I think I do not appreciate enough.
The apartment I am staying at with my partner is in the country, a stark change to the scenery I'm used to in Manila. The moment I walk out the door, I hear a chorus of bird songs, both glimmering and faint. Sightings of these birds, perched or in flight, are everyday, allowing me the grace of their fleeting presence. Vibrant cardinals frequent the tree that leans over the apartment balcony. Rust-chested robins bathe in puddles in the yard. A great blue heron, majestic and tall, often flies over the nearby pond. At my partner's grandparents' house are bird feeders busy with hummingbirds in the morning, and a number of other small birds throughout the day.
Observing these birds simply be without frantic urgency was a surprisingly grounding practice. In these attentive moments, the noise of past and future fall away like dust in the breeze. Anxieties about the climate and my long-term plans still linger, but in that pocket of time and space, all that matters is the silhouette of the hawk overhead, the pouring sunlight, and the divine space between our bodies, different and one. And things are as they were.
When Monica and I dreamed up Water Lily last January, we deliberately followed a vision of calm and clarity, one we felt hopeful to begin the year with. We wanted to imagine a graceful emergence from a rough year, even as that emergence was, in actuality, messy, as reality tends to be. Sustaining that momentum then led us to Hummingbird, a collection that, a few steps forward, draws from our shared experience of learning to be present. Stoic indigos meet the grounding hues of beiges and neutrals this season in a curation reflective of our endeavor to weave spirituality and materiality together through vintage. Painting spring in these colors felt more apt given that, while there is much to be thankful for in the last few weeks, rebirth is always a deep and intense experience. The societal upheaval brought about by the pandemic left us no choice but to adapt to drastic changes, a process that requires much inner and outer work. For both, I believe learning to be present — approaching what is right in front of us with openness and lucidity — is essential. Whether it's rekindling relationships, rebuilding businesses, restarting projects, or rediscovering one's calling (as we have been), Hummingbird honors this profound moment as we move from our reverie into something new; something better.
A destined encounter with a stranger turned soul sister taught me, truly, to take things one at a time; to have faith in what is presently offered to us. "We're not there yet," she would tell me, her smile radiant and blissful and sure. We're not there yet.
Working on this season with Monica — and eventually, our new Denuo sister Celine Mallari — from afar was challenging, to say the least, but I like to think it allowed us an opportunity to discover new ways of collaborating, of imagining a brand together. We kept asking ourselves, how can we continue honoring our values of artistry and fashion sustainability through vintage at a time like now? How do we approach vintage in the middle of a crisis? What is its purpose?
Even as I have been changed by my time here, I keep returning to this anchor. The three of us speak often, especially in the last few weeks, with the intention to exchange ideas about the brand and plan our months ahead. Without fail, these conversations would inevitably lead us into talking about our personal journey, which I think reveals how deeply entwined it is with our practice. Many may say this is folly, but it's the most faithful way we know to nurture Denuo: celebrating our own womanhood and the many lives interwoven with ours like infinite, unbreakable threads.
With the North Node in Gemini until early 2022, communication, experiential learning, and curiosity are our collective destinies. The pursuit of truth in a sea of doubt is paramount. In my own spheres, I am making the courageous leap to ask, to seek, to say hello. I am watching birds fly and regarding, too, the tremor of the leaves. It is in line with this energy that we share Hummingbird with you, as a point of connection — between us and its previous owners and you — and the beginning of a conversation.
"Flying is woman's gesture—flying in language and making it fly. We have all learned the art of flying and its numerous techniques; for centuries we've been able to possess anything only by flying; we've lived in flight, stealing away, finding, when desired, narrow passageways, hidden crossovers. It's no accident that voler has a double meaning, that it plays on each of them and thus throws off the agents of sense. It's no accident: women take after birds and robbers just as robbers take after women and birds." — "The Laugh of the Medusa", Helene Cixous
Another facet of this season is leaning into our impulse to play. With many of us having been in survival mode for months, we have sidelined our curiosity and aimless desires — understandably so, and yet I think it is only through regaining playfulness that we can learn to create again. In watching a hummingbird flit from one direction to another, how could I not have been inspired to fly? Recognizing the very real limitations I work within every day, I make it a point to allow myself a moment to say yes to something "frivolous"; something I commit time and effort to for the sheer pleasure of it.
Lately, this frivolity has taken the form of learning a new recipe every week, which the stricter side of me would judge as taking up way more time than is necessary to simply feed myself. Another is embracing, rather than refusing, my tendency to read books concurrently at the expense of finishing any single one of them — after a few pages of Unsavory Truth, I would reread a chapter or two from The Name of the Wind in a kind of palate-cleansing, or perhaps a winding down before bed. Without having danced in years, I accepted strangers' invitations to join them on the dimly-lit floor to dance salsa — and, yes, the exhilaration of swaying and turning in my favorite dress felt a lot like flying.
Now it is June, and the winter I met last February has been completely replaced by a familiar warmth. I have shed my coats and layers for loose cotton blouses and light skirts. Time seems to slip past us when we are not looking. One day we may gaze back in awe at how we missed the shifting, the change of color; the people we have allowed ourselves to become. For now, we invite you to take this moment to be perfectly present with us, like a hummingbird kissing a spring blossom, and grow the way we each need to with joy, and without fear.