Into Something

A month or three ago I began growing orchids.  No, growing isn’t the proper term for buying, repotting (according to the instructions on a packaged block of orchid bark) and misting the mysterious blooms with room temperature water each morning.  It makes it no less true my wish that everything could be so easily protected from the upcoming day.

There’s a whole garden, really, in my sunny island apartment.  There’s lettuce in a windowsill box, deep belled calla lilies in a terra-cotta pot, a whole assortment of wide-leafed flowering plants arranged in my Yard Butler Hanging Garden System that because of its 17 pounds and island shipping restrictions I had to have it sent to my parents’ house and brought over as checked luggage.

I don’t know what birthed this recent plant obsession, but I’m starting to believe it isn’t a bad way to go about life.  To pick an interest, explore it, enjoy it, exhaust it.  No matter how many hobbies we take up, or drop, they’ll always be so many more we don’t.

There’s a man I admire, a good family friend.  Other adults sort of chuckle because he’s always into something.  I’ve known him as a Native American aficionado (with Tipi camping and hunting for food), a Harley enthusiast (on cross-country rides), an interment preservationist, a genealogist.  One can spend their whole life learning every possible thing there is to know about one thing…or one can learn a whole, lot about it and then turn their attention to something else.

A stick-to-it-ness attitude has been so perpetuated in our culture that human curiosity (and the pursuit of it) is often dismissed with adjectives such wishy-washy, flaky, maybe even lazy.  But aren’t both approaches equally valid?  It certainly takes perseverance to choose a craft or area of research and set about dedicating an entire lifetime to it, meticulously becoming an expert.  It also takes commitment and guts to jump into something new, to learn how to hand peel and preserve tipi poles or countersteer a Harley to safely take corners.

Think when you were a kid.  What did you get into?  I can think of igloos, Prometheus moths, Amelia Earhart, showing pigs at the county fair.  I took a round of tap dancing lessons, a session of gymnastics, joined the swim team.  There were no accusations against my character, no worries I wouldn’t develop a solid career.  Why all the fuss once we’re grown up?

My hypothesis for the preference in today’s dogma will be no big mystery:  good old fashioned fear.  Because the orchid died.  I over-misted it or under-sunned it…not so easy to protect after all.  Like any life.  Explaining our tendency to hang on to the things we know and the people we love.  The latter reaction makes sense, I think, because people are not dancing lessons and love is beautiful, rare, delicate even.

But wanting to protect something can also obscure the fact that it can be pretty while it lasts and fun to try anew.  After all, the new sprawling pink-leafed Caladium I have in its place is really cool to look at even if it does tend to spritz my tile with flora matter each day.

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Lost and Found

Yesterday, in Mayo County Ireland, a small dog of no distinguished breed but with distinctive tufts of white belly fur was found.  Also in the classifieds was a senior citizen’s bus pass, a flip phone, a St. Christopher medal on an old neck chain and a “right smart” leather satchel.

I went to Ireland once hoping to find something.  I met a man who as a boy trying to stay the fears of an uncertain life, read religiously the Lost & Found section of his local paper.  Believing “found” meant the same things as “reunited”  he took comfort in imagining overjoyed owners opening their arms to returning pets, frail women re-clutching St. Christopher medals in spotted hands.

“It’s a good world, isn’t it, if it’s one where folks take the trouble to return your man’s satchel?” he asked.  I can still feel the disappointment, deep, when he spoke of the teenage moment he realized that Found was just the other side of Lost.

There are different ways of losing everything and different ways of knowing its gone.  But it happens the same for everyone: in a single instant.

People die in phone calls, hopes fall to moments, friendships break on choices, things are lost among confused seconds.  We are left altered, baffled at how anything could ever have been as it was just before.

Why write about loss when I’ve found so much in this island life?  The warm touch of sun that lifts me from slumber, the full early morning glow that fills balconied view, the freedom to lie back down in cooler shadows.  Friends and dance classes, writing partners and camping trips, seashores, possibility, new language, love.  I guess against all this life, loss contrasts even more starkly.

And helps me realize, despite what’s gone, despite what will still surely go, I prefer to believe in a world that finds things.

P.S.  Sometimes I write in silence, sometimes while walking, sitting or daydreaming.  But other times I write immersed in a song, pressing repeat over and over again.  Since today’s post was musically inspired, I’ll share song with you as well.

 

Helium Heartbreak

Part 1
The balloon was of a light heart, not minding being tethered by a string to the boy’s arm. It danced anyway in the wind. The same lake breeze flipped and flopped his long-cut hair, half covering his eyes and accentuating his smile. He stood locked-kneed in a wide spread stance and watched every move of the balloon. Complete absorption, total delight in the simplest of phenomena. And then the balloon broke free. The boy wailed and reached after it with hands so outstretched he became unbalanced and fell backward but his eyes remained fixed on the balloon’s retreat. His tears were thick, his cries full, wrenching the hearts of those around him. This boy was not deprived, underfed or unloved but none of these things kept a balloon from taking every joy he had ever known higher and higher into the sky.

Part 2
Prior to my attention being caught by the boy, I was a part of this scene: on a blanket littered among hundreds which marked the space for us to gather. Salad was served, crackers spread, wine poured, friends and new faces coming together in generosity. Evening breeze with a temperature so perfect it enveloped us, harmonious almost to the point of going unnoticed but saved when Cindy said, “It is absolutely beautiful out,”. Murmurs of agreement extended to the food, the company, the floating music of the symphony, the glittering cityscape.

Part 3
Has already been mostly told in part one, except that my watching of the boy took me out of my surroundings and into his world so deeply, it carried me to the end of the concert.

Part 4
I watch as the park and its crowds disassemble. Slowly people stand, smooth pant legs, stretch. Blankets are shaken out and casually folded, chairs packed away in their sling over the shoulder carrying bags. The park that was crammed with energy slowly fades to black. Grant Park to myself. I mount the massive stage and celebrate with cartwheels and singing. I sit on the edge and dangle my feet. I soak in the humbling, exhilarating feeling of having the whole world stretched out in front of you, with its eyes on you. I think of the boy. I think it not a bad way to live. To love completely the balloon that is filled with nothing but air which is so close to being nothing at all. To grieve until you collapse into loving arms, fall swiftly into healing sleep. To wake full of wonderment and little recollection of the thing that broke your heart just yesterday. I decide I will live this way, decide it is what living is, and then saunter towards parked cars and empty streets.

Part 5
My first capturing of this scene was when it happened in 2003, or maybe it was 2004. Years later, I expanded upon it to make a written gift to my dearest writing coach. Now a decade later, sitting on my ocean-breezy balcony, I find myself struggling for the right words to describe life’s fullness, and thinking again of the boy and the balloon.

Do I tell you about Maraton San Blas, a day that began at 8:00 A.M. at my girlfriend Michelle’s house? How I didn’t know that thirty or so other folks were also going to gather there, then load into open-top rented jeeps, turn the volume up on the Reggaeton, and begin an all day and most of the night climb up a windy mountain road? The destination (a.k.a. excuse) was Coamo to cheer on the racers from over 50 countries as they run “the best ½ marathon in the world”. It’s true we never made it, but there’s still a story to tell in the why. I could take you along all the stops at Chicharones to fill up your cocktail, order some fried food, talk trash and do some Salsa dancing in the heat of the day. But how to capture the pace, the fun, the wild?

Or do I tell you about the Bike Polo Tournament I attended with my newly found photography club? How I learned new camera settings while watching some 20 teams of tattooed men and women (including the reigning world champs) on a most gorgeous Puerto Rican day to play the common man’s version of the fancy horse sport. (Nah, I’ll let GQ tell you:http://www.gq.com/entertainment/sports/201401/San-Francisco-Beavers-Bike-Polo-Championships.) But I’ll share one of my shots (of park art since I wandered off and got fascinated with it).

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Maybe I tell you about my writer’s group: six fantastic women committed to supporting each other in getting words on a page. Or poker night with friends that ended in a midnight dip in the rooftop infinity pool. Or spin class with Larry who makes torture actually tolerable with his singing, dancing, joking, and great music. Maybe you should go to the birthday party I reluctantly decided not to attend tonight in order to come down to Kasey’s apartment for a writing session.

Part 6
Or maybe you should just sit here on the balcony with me. I still manage to spend my fair share of alone time here; I can use the company. Go ahead. Slip off your flip flops, stretch your toes over the edge, listen for the waves that you can’t hear but imagine you can. And dream little boy balloon dreams.

San Se

No philosophizing today…it’s time to play!  Which, if Thursday night is any indication, playing at the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián is it’s own form of meditation (since there is a deep philosophical case for saying that the present moment is all there ever is, from moment to moment).  I arrived early (though the buses were already too full too board) to experience the calm before the storm, to meander among police barricades that weren’t yet closed and mounds of extra supplies being loaded into restaurant corners while harried city workers completed last-minute preparations.  Then allowed myself to get swept up in the evening as more and more and more people joined the festivities. I floated among the blue stone cobbled streets (made of adoquine brought over as ballast on Spanish galleons) sometimes squishing through gaps between people, sometimes twirling down the center of empty ones.  I danced in ancient plazas filled with modern techno music blasting from 2-story stacks of speakers.  I watched parades, talked to strangers, and strolled through La Perla—a “slum” made shiny and inviting by Heineken-sponsored stands and stages, but more so by a common celebratory attitude.  The entire time surrounded by fortress walls 18 feet thick, their garitas (dome-covered sentry boxes) hanging stark against the sunset-painted sky.  Come with me (click one image to watch slide show)…

Hours and Inches

The oldest known calendar, found in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and constructed around 8,000 B.C., demonstrates human’s long-standing insistence on devising ways of keeping time.

The New Year, as now marked, was established in 46 BC, when Julius Caesar replaced the Roman calendar’s ordinary year of 355 days with 365.25 days per year.  This reform corrected how the previous system would drift out of alignment with the tropical year and the Julian calendar indeed proved useful.  For example, Varro used it in 37 BC to fix calendar dates for the start of the four seasons, which would have been impossible only 8 years earlier.

In later years, the Roman Catholic Church considered the steady drift in the date of Easter (since it was tied to the spring equinox) undesirable, so they refined Julius’ calendar in 1582 with a 0.002% correction in the length of the year.  This Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar, is now internationally the most widely accepted and used civil calendar and has been the unofficial global standard for decades.[1]

So that’s how we got here, huddled in expectant groups beneath lighted balls, mistletoe, and fireworks, counting down the seconds in whatever time zone we’re in to reach the moment, the relative instant that one year ceases and a new one begins.

Failures, victories, confusions, clarifications, loneliness, comfort—a year’s worth of us—are condensed toward a single second: 10, 9, 8, 7…

Great pressure builds to take stock, quantify, evaluate: 6, 5, 4…

By the time you get to 3 you’d better be headed toward epiphanic conclusions: 2, 1…

So you can erupt into utter happiness, your anticipation of THE BEST YEAR EVER pure-hearted and not at all put on; not at all glittered with doubt.

I say let’s try something different this year.  Just before it gets all the way dark, go outside and lay flat.  Wiggle and nestle into the sand or grass or snow until you pat down some comfort.  Pick a spot and stare.  A black one, one that’s good and black.  Wait.  When a star appears notice how difficult it is to say it wasn’t always there.  Wish yourself a happy new year.

Because this is more often how life is.  As if things get put there before we’ve noticed so that it’s like they’ve always been there and will always be.  Our jobs, our local hangout, our friend, our age, our weight.  Can we pluck out the moment, the very one, these things illuminated from dark obscurity (unimagined and unforeseen) into a given fact of our lives?  Just as we won’t be able to find and freeze the star’s fade to morning sky:  the exact moment something we’d thought permanent is lost.

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do,” and Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

An hour is not a vast sky, it’s a small unit.  It’s not light years away, it’s now.  Small enough to be aware of, to recognize what you put into it, and give to it your conscious energy.  So rather than grand resolutions for 2014, I’ll be paying attention to my hours.  To concentrate, as Al Pacino says, on the six inches in front of my face because being willing to claw with our fingernails for the next inch of our lives, well that’s what living is.

In fact, he says it better than I!  Check it out:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b7bgtu2O4E


[1] Research as gathered from Wikipedia.

Trading Shores

I woke up this morning to the same sun, the same North Atlantic Ocean, the same hue and grit of natural sand, only I was 1,140 nautical miles north of my island and 40 degrees cooler. 

On my sunrise walk of which I’ll share a grainy, dumb-phone snapped photo, I was thinking about a phrase, one I bet you can’t even read without hearing it in a particular Southern drawl.

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Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.

Did you mentally preface it with “My momma always said?”  So popularized, it is difficult to speak the phrase without slipping into an imitation of Forest’s accent.  Try it.  It’s engrained.

A few months ago, my parents and I were picking through a candy sampler we’d received as a gift.  I’d select a shape, take a small bite, wrinkle my face at the unwelcome taste of orange crème or mint, then pass it on if mom or dad were willing to eat it, or toss the piece into the highway ditch if they weren’t.

We profess to suspect variety from life.  We have lots of platitudes like “you never know.” There are 3,000 quotes on Goodreads tagged as “living life to the fullest.”  We’re always hoping to get something else.  We’ll have more, make more, travel more, love more, be more…someday.  While what we actually do is reach back down and grab from the same box of life as if we know exactly what flavor we’ll grab.

That people we love won’t die, jobs we work won’t end, health we have won’t fade, friends we make won’t stray.  We are shocked, indignant even when it gives us something other than the almond nougat we wanted.  Why me?  How could this happen?

My latest reading kick has taken me to Oak Ridge, Tennessee in the early 1940s.  Fresh-faced farm girls recruited out of high school from places like Shenandoah, Pennsylvania and Auburn, Alabama moved to an undisclosed location to watch dials and turn knobs for gauges which they didn’t know what controlled.  The scale of operation and patriotism is unfathomable today.  75,000 people secretly living in barracks, trailers and hutments, being transported by an 800-bus fleet on 300 miles of private road, performing tasks they didn’t understand without asking questions.  All that sacrifice and willingness based singularly on faith in the government’s promise: it was important to the war effort.

Can you imagine a country girl’s reaction to the first image of a person’s melting skin?  Could she recognize her own fingers that for two years turned a dial she now knew helped produce atomic destruction?  It may be true she was part of a top secret war project, but she’s still unprepared to wake up to a different day.

It’s impossible to say how long war would have raged or how deep the world’s psyche scarred.  The morality of the atomic bomb will perhaps be forever debated.  Its creation though, is an undeniable testament to what can be done when a chance is taken and believed in, and proof there is always consequences to taking chances.

We can’t go back and undo a choice no more than we seal back the bitten chocolate piece.  We can’t assign reasons to why our piece turned up coconut when we wanted caramel.  We can’t ever, really, know why.

What we can do is reach out, grab a piece of life, take a big bite, and see what flavor we get this time.  What a waste some people might say as you try, taste, and spit out another experience.  If using life is wasting it, I say waste away.  Don’t leave it wrapped in foil afraid of what’s inside.  The sun, the sea and sand are only the same if we leave on the lid content to admire its calligraphied surface.

In Nick Hornby’s novel A Long Way Down, a character is on her way to commit suicide when it occurs to her how silly it is to be fearful, in that particular moment, of walking in the city at night. Later she reflects, “There isn’t so much to be afraid of, out there.  I can remember thinking it was funny to find that out, on the last night of my life; I’d spent the rest of it being afraid of everything.”

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Scavenger Hunt!

My sister and I used to take whole days setting up elaborate scavenger hunts for each other.  We would each design and hide clues about the farm yards, that when solved, led to the location of the next clue.  I’m not sure if the most fun was in the creating, placing, or running circles around her to burn the anticipation while she tried to figure another clue.  In honor of my sister and mom’s spectacular visit to my island, I’ve put together a Puerto Rico photo scavenger hunt.  Happy exploring!

1. It’s what happens to your walls when you get the Loebick construction/art crew together!

 

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1   My new office.

 

 

 

 

 

2.  The whole city on a single wall.

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2  Mural by David Zayas (on my living room wall).

 

 

 

 

 

3.  These walls used to be the whole city.

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3 Castillo de San Cristóbal

(Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of San Juan National Historic Site, it is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. When it was finished in 1783, it covered about 27 acres of land and basically wrapped around the city of San Juan.)

 

 

 

 

 

4.  When you go under the walls, without the keys.

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10The vault, Triana Tapas & Flamenco Restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest park bench of them all?

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4  Small, public square in Old San Juan.

 

 

 

 

 

6. The place to go when you feel like getting beyond the walls.

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5  Unnamed beach along route 686.

A break in the foliage provides a private parking place along the North shore coastline.  Additional view below.

6  Yes, those are our footprints to the water!

 

 

 

 

 

7. What happens when you get the Ohio girls to a tropical beach!

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Death and Seduction

We are taught from a young age to both possess it and be ashamed of it.  Heroes in action movies and fairy tales don’t have it.  But when we step outside our doors to play we are told be careful, watch out: have fear.

So many of us are living scared and it’s costing us the world.  We fear not having enough, not being enough, not saving enough.  We fear sickness, aging, terrorists and acid rain.  24 hour news broadcasts a consistent message: you are not safe.  Store owners are held at gunpoint on live video cams, lab technicians are interviewed about the latest viral strains, multimedia presentations warn of economic peril, the government warns us against foreign travel.  We live statistical lives based on our one out of X number of chances.

Even if danger had one to ten odds—that leaves nine chances we’re safe.  Living in case of the one means living ½ a life.  Have you ever heard it reported how many people survived the day?

Think about bottled water.  It’s a mind boggling and fascinating maneuver to get people to buy what is already free.  Death is like that.  It plays a more prominent role in our pop culture than ever.  Any given television evening you can catch a couple of autopsies, a few surgeries, a whole handful of murders.  There are hit shows about serial killers and reporters clamoring for exclusive coverage of crime scenes.

And yet.  Death, actual death, has been pushed to periphery.  When Keith died, state laws literally forbid me from touching him.  Where once the family attended to a dead one, actually washing and caring for the body, it is now uncommon to even see it until it has been drastically altered and beautified.  People’s remains are whisked away by a series of paid professionals to be taken care of.  We spend a few hours at a funeral looking at a sleeping beauty version of a corpse that has been plumped, stuffed and blushed…then run back to the rat race as fast as we can.

Researchers Dumont and Foss say that by avoiding direct contact with the dead,

contemporary society not only avoids direct and disconcerting contact with death itself, but also, more important, permits its members to avoid close and disturbing confrontation with the inconsistencies inherent in their traditional theological explanations and emerging secular viewpoints.

So, we not only avoid the physical realities of death, but manage to avoid serious thought about mortality as well.  Death is sensationalized in our media, carefully constructed to remain in the realm of the unusual and unreal.  Media reports, TV crime scenes and newsprint depictions are racially distorted, impersonal, highlight high-tech criminal science and omit grief and its impact.

In my graduate thesis, I called it seductive death suspension.  As I envision it, this describes a brilliant strategy of power: capitalizing on the cultural attitude of death denial while simultaneously using death to sell and maintain the status quo.

Viewers can be fascinated with violent death as something that happens to others and not be personally, emotionally engaged.  Consumers are lured to media depicted death by it’s seductive qualities, but view only within the safety of an illusion that their own death can be suspended.  The presence of grief is omitted all together or represented only in brief, spectacle type forms because the viewer actually getting present to death has to be avoided for the entire mechanism of seductive death suspension to work.

Advertising’s largest project is to use the fascination/fear of impending death to sell the comforting fantasy that death can be suspended by actively filling your life with all the signs of a life well lived:  beauty, success, stuff.  Prescription drugs, body creams, vitamin cocktails all promise eternal youth and are at the same time careful not to promote critical engagement of death since such reflection would actually undermine the capitalistic mechanism designed to encourage us to concern ourselves with looking good and accumulating more.   Because when people are personally faced with and forced to deal with death as a lived, real experience, they quickly turn away from these priorities.

The entire strategy results in duping us into fear:  I don’t think I can die but each day I fear death enough not to live the life I have.  In other words, life is like water: it’s free yet we’re scared to drink it.

What do I intend to do about it?  Obvio!  I believe I have some dancing to do 🙂

A Family Essay

P1020661I wrote my last entry from the sky as I departed Puerto Rico 5 weeks ago.  Returning, once again 27,000 feet high, I’m collecting thoughts in my notebook.  I’ve written my way into a three part essay in effort to express the feeling of living three lifetimes in five weeks,  yet finding something same.

Being Family

Over and again, Claudia said “more leaf please” and I plucked a wide, spade-shaped one from the bush growing next to the creek.  She’d reply, “thank you, up please” and I’d lift her above fence level so she could toss it down to the flowing waters below.  Each time, her face was pure anticipation, then concentration, then satisfaction as the leaf tumbled out of sight.

My heart was at the same time broken and filled with all the joy there is—a surge of emotion that altered vision: crisp edges, blurry hues.  It was like knowing a “secret to life” was inside this moment, but being unable to grab onto it.

I suspect it is this that inspires people to have children and love affairs.  As in fairy tales, we imagine love as total protection and bliss.  We want love to be floating leaf boats down river, clasping our hands in joy, magically producing leaves for as long as we want them, ensuring we clear fences, and protecting who we love from everything, forever.

Which is why this moment at the same time held tragedy.  The heartbreak when we fail our children, our lovers, our parents, our planet…or feel they’ve failed us.  But failing an illusion isn’t really failure is it?

Having Family

Taking Claudia to the farm and assembling a host of friends and family there, reminded me (emotionally) of a five day hike I took in Northern Thailand.  I located a native guide to take me to visit some remote hill tribes; an unsponsored, unchartered “tour”.  Of this experience I wrote:

Then there is your first village arrival.  Older children who have not seen white people for years and younger children who’ve only heard stories rush down the trail to greet you, flitting in and out of a safe distance.  You feel like royalty escorted by fireflies.  There are skirts and head cloths—dyed brighter than the flowers from which the ink was leaked—wrapped around women insisting you eat the dinner they had been preparing while they beat clean the mats of their children who will double up to make you sleeping room.  There are men so wrinkled they seem older than the tradition of the opium pipe they offer.  There is smoke, curling off cone, the smell of earth macerated in time.  You perceive how many worlds there are and in how few of them you’ve lived.  You exhale and lay back under a new sky.

Gathered at the farm were generations of people whose lives have been intertwined for decades.  There we were—young and old—dancing through dew-damp grass, chasing fireflies and waving sparklers.  I was a child again: full of curiosity about how bugs glow and fearless to chase after them in the dark because I’m surrounded by people who’ve loved me as long as I’ve existed and others who haven’t loved me as long but whose love is no less.  And when the night finally grew quiet, the very sky I’d grown up under stared back at me.  Not a new sky, but a new you that lies beneath it.  A steady sky is more like what love is.  Many of the stars we see at night have died long ago, and may have since been replaced by new galaxies that we can’t yet see, but it always feels like the same sky.

 Choosing Family

I returned to Ireland to go about with my hitchhiking-acquired, adopted family I met last year.  Mum and Da (Gráinne and Danny), Sisters/Aunts (Deirdre, Una, Bernie, Eimear, Aine, Niamh, Breda, and Angie), Brothers/Uncles (Dee, Declan, Bob, Tony, Eddie and Toss).  Can’t forget Auntie Betty over in Castlebar, plus the younger generation of Ailbhe and her French husband, his parents, my ex-fiancé now brother Diarmuid (the joke that started it all), and our best man/brother Conor with his fiancé Victoria and new baby Caroline.  And these are just the members of the clan I got to visit with!  There are more in Galway, England, Australia, America…

It’s been ten years since I travelled through Northern Thailand and “perceived how many worlds there are and in how few of them I’ve lived”.  Despite visiting another dozen or so countries in that decade, I’ve only kept discovering more.  Worlds in which people eat different foods, behave in different ways, wear different clothes, believe in different things.  But I’m becoming less and less convinced that the world changes much at all.

Whether it was with my Nicaraguan family who materially have very little, my Irish family who have more than that, or my Moldovan family who’ve suddenly found themselves with more than many; I have yet to spend time with family—blood or chosen—where we didn’t talk politics, reminisce, complain, voice hopes, have heated debates about the “system”, tells stories, share heartache, have sessions of gut-clenching laughter about nothing at all.

Storms pound the earth with wind and rain.  The sun shines.  Power operates to concentrate wealth and privilege.  People love and people die.  Flowers bloom in all kinds of colors.

My Aunt Deirdre and I were discussing this phenomenon, how so much of a peaceful life comes down to acceptance. She proposed that country folk have a better relationship with acceptance because Mother Nature if often at cause of their difficulties and they have no illusion of being able to change her.  She gave an example: if it rains too much and your crops don’t grow, or your cow dies, you don’t spend a lot of time and angst asking why.  You figure out how to feed your family that year; or you starve.

It struck me how often modern life has us primarily dealing with people (institutions, regulations, public policy, the price of gas are all a result of people making decisions) and so we develop an illusion that fighting against another’s point of view will result in changing the world.  What’s the saying?  What we resist persists.

It had gotten late at Deirdre’s house, and we realized we hadn’t logged in to buy my train ticket to County Mayo.  Advanced purchases are significantly discounted.  On her smartphone, I fidgeted with small print screens and Irish Rail apps.  The website wasn’t working and we only had until midnight to make the deal.  Our perfectly good feeling conversation was interrupted; we both began, instead, to take up a slight level of stress.

Until I remembered: each of us views this whole thing called life from our perspective, and that’s the only thing that really changes.  I swiped the phone off and set it down.  Deirdre looked surprised, apprehensive maybe.  I shrugged and said, “It rained and my cow died.”

Our laughter carried us into the dawn, at which time we opened the curtains before heading up to bed lest the neighbors think we were still sleeping!

Asopao de Camarones y Lunas Súper (Shrimp Stew and Super Moons)

On flights like the one I took to begin this week, I play a game.  Looking down on fluffy puffs against rich blue sky I imagine hopscotching from one to the next.  A jump to the right, a straight skip, a little hop left, then launch.  Would I land on the big one: the one I could nestle into, an armchair in the sky?  Could I lie back, call the names of people I’ve lost and spend the rest of the day, or the rest of time, learning all that cannot be known in in this world?

I surprised myself by feeling sad to leave the island.  As excited as I was to enjoy my family and friends, hug my niece and hear all her new words, celebrate another year in my amazing father’s life, return to the Irish soil and people I fell in love with…it felt sad to pull shut my massive windows against the ocean breeze.

It’s just that over the weekend I’d been eating shrimp stew at 4:30 in the night (or morning if you prefer) underneath a super moon after an evening that included most every avenue of debauchery (casinos, tattoo parlors, drum beats and dance clubs) though none of that mattered as much as the freedom I floated upon, and the connection I felt to the life I had right then.  I suppose I’m finally daring to glimpse at what life might feel like to Puerto Rican rhythm if I were to let every last grief float away with the clouds.

So what a beautiful opportunity the next month presents.  Immerse in love, in joy, against the backdrop of already having my own little version of island paradise carved out to which I can return, and once again, begin again.

Moon1 Moon3