Of Sirens and Muses


It was the fall of 1997. Revacomm, the design studio where I was employed, was throwing their annual retreat. We were treated to a cabin on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. We setup a campfire in the evening by the beach. Huddled by the fire, we got business out of the way and started telling personal stories, while eating poke and drinking beer. During that Fall I decided to apply to the graphic design program at the California College of Arts and Crafts. I shared the news with my fellow AIGA officers who we invited to our retreat. I had a copy of my admissions essay, which I handed to my friend Alvin to review. It was the very first time I formulated my thoughts and my intent to explore what Vizjhanti means to me.


Later in the evening, the fire settled down, and the warm glow from the charred wood slowly dimmed. This allowed us to appreciate what the night had to offer. The clouds were absent, and the stars were in full attendance. The moon, not fully ripe, was also present. The ripple of waves from the sea caught the light from the moon, allowing me to follow them as they marched towards shore. When the waves disintegrated into foam, and released the light from their grasps, my ears took over where my eyes could no longer follow. I could hear the water rush up close to us, then wash back to sea. I remember thinking that this could possibly be the last time I sat on this beach, a defining moment that I would freeze in time to remind me of home. I continued listening to the rhythm of the waves, washing to and from the shore. With every cycle, they carried away a bit of my conscious thoughts back to the sea, until I finally fell asleep. This rhythm was my lullaby, a song that would always carry me home.


I woke up the next morning and found a peculiar looking piece of driftwood lying next to me. The body was made up of several wooden reeds, held together by a nest of fibrous roots that formed a head. The parts of the roots that became untangled from the head flowed like hair. I was compelled to keep it as a memento of my final thoughts from the evening before. The following summer I got accepted to CCAC, and the driftwood made the journey with me to San Francisco. One evening, while I was formulating the story of Vizjhanti, I looked up at the shelf above my computer and took notice of the driftwood. I was reminded of the lullaby. This inspired the concept of the Song and the Dreaming Sea. I imagined the driftwood as a relic in the form of Mother Aria.


Sirens-Muses-Cover illustration-03


Several years later, after I graduated from CCAC, I met a girl named Marjo. She was a gifted singer whom I watched perform at a dive bar in Pacifica. I learned that she had an affinity for the sea, and considered herself a steward of it. One day I took her to the Sutro Baths. Looking towards the western horizon, I explained to her that this was the closest I could be to my home in the islands. Marjo countered that thought and offered to take me to another location that she claimed would take me even closer. And she did. We followed a trail that led us down to the shore. Close enough to actually touch the cold waters, and close enough to hear the rhythm of the waves. My lullaby. I would find myself returning to this location, Lands End, whenever I needed to be close to home. Marjo, who I call “Siren”, brought me here. I wove this story into Vizjhanti. The Siren lead Truth to the edge of the Waking World, Lands End, to begin his journey back home to the Dreaming Sea.


There are muses all around us. I used to believe that they only presented themselves when we were ready to see them. I’ve come to realize that I can imbue meaning and create wonder from anything / anyone I come across, for they inspire and call forth what I already have inside.


What muse has inspired you today?


Edited by Mei Li Ooi


About Zaldy Serrano

Five-time Emmy nominated art director for KQED. Scrounging for pockets of time. Working towards "Building a Mystery."

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