Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Dec. 20
- Community Blog
Baptisms and Tapestries
As I am known to say often, it’s the simple things. As the sun faded with the yawning day on my final night housesitting in Coronado, I turned on the hot tub. While it warmed up, I poured myself a Hennessy and grabbed myself a cigar from the humidor.
It was a cool evening on the Mexican border as I slid myself in the hot tub and watched the blue solar lights strung in the trees and throughout the walled garden come on in the fading light. Nestled down deep into the frothing warmth, I was in fine spirits listening to Cat Stevens since it had been eons since I’d last heard him. And because he reminded me of when I was young, growing up. Because he reminded me of home—of where I had came from. 'Tis good to remember this from time to time and I have come so far that I often forget.
Sitting on the edge of the tub is a red-capped, white bearded garden gnome I had found tucked under a jade hedge. Setting him poolside, I raised my cognac and my cigar to the traveling tinker and sang along to “Hard Headed Woman”.
It had been a relaxing, productive and enjoyable week. I had read each book that Cally, the home owner, in her infinite wisdom had suggested I read: A Woman’s Word: Travelers Tales; The World’s Wickedest Women; and the Griffin and Sabine Extraordinary Correspondence Series. And, I had done tons of writing.
Looking out across the attached pool, I was aware that I hadn’t swum in it the entire 13 days I had been at there. Setting down my cigar, I pulled myself out of the hot tub with my palms planted on the tiled rim where hot water flowed into cool and slipped over the edge into the still blueness in a single silent fluid motion. There had been a rare thunderstorm in the late afternoon and there were many pine needles and eucalyptus fronds floating on the surface. I swam to the far edge and back before slipping back into the warmer water again. It is often in moments like these that a universe of truths is revealed to us and I was opening myself to once again receive them.
A small thing, I know, but important for me to have done it before leaving. As important as filling in the blank portions of last year’s travel journal had been over the course of the last few days. I’d be embarking on new adventures over the next few months and had felt the impulse to finish writing about past ones before doing so.
Sounds easier than it was. I spent days staring at the computer screen, immersed in memories, choking on the feelings and revelations that came with them, stunned to silence by what I learned about myself with the benefit of retrospect.
I think often of that trip and of the comradery I shared for 120 days with a former schoolmate. It was the best trip I’ve ever taken and the best season spent of my life thus far. But, as with most reminiscence, the memories unearthed so much more than thoughts and awakened my dormant unconscious.
As I wrote, my vision cleared as I saw more clearly behind the memories all the fears and insecurities we had tucked deep into our pockets, the human aspect of ourselves that we held preciously private lest we repel one another. I saw our frailties, our sweet succulent delicacies. Our sheer awe at the incidental things we found spontaneously and symbiotically humorous and at the smoothness of being in synch with time and place and each other, the ease and lightness of just BEing. Our starved souls simply hadn’t a clue as to what to do with it—this gift that we had been given, this unanticipated and unprecedented wonderfulness. In retrospect, I saw us fumbling with our oh so human self imposed unworthiness. Like Griffin and his muse Sabine, I had begun to doubt whether it had all been real or whether it was a figment of my own imagining.
As easy as it may appear to you, this is not an easy thing I do, this remembering, this writing, this putting into words the often indescribable. But, it must be done--for me--I must do this. Admitting that took years; granting myself the permission, even longer. I don’t scribble just for the sake of “the story”, but rather to gain some sense of it all. A seeker savoring souls and secrets, yearning for oneness and connectivity, I write to learn, to understand--myself as much as those around me, life and the forces behind it--as futile as that may be. I know, in truth, that there isn’t really anything to grasp more than what I’ve a grip of at any given moment. Never-the-less, I’d be lying if I led you to believe that the writing doesn’t in some way bring it to me on a platter…understanding, or at least, a peace I hadn't realized I needed with the past. It isn’t always a neat cognitive or logical process, but rather a messy holistic and organic one. It's difficult work, not the technical aspects but the inherent emotional and spiritual ones. A weaver of words, I write to untangle the nest of yarn left in the basket on the table, to roll it into neat skeins that are then stacked in a cupboard by color and texture, closed in a closet for future possibilities.
I write, too, to feel an acceptance of myself. Like in castle hung tapestries with pictorial exposed woven by catacombed queens cloistered behind stone walls--each stitch, each color chosen for the sake of personal pleasure and artistic sensibility, cognitively without the fear of editorial censure or the restraint of self annihilating criticism. I write because sometimes it's all I can do to buffer myself from the outside world, from that which is out of my realm of control. I write so that I may live; so that I may express that which might otherwise forever be repressed.
The lion headed rabbit sat in his mesh tunnel watching me as he did every night. Venus shone above. The doves were cooing in their cote behind me. I had written about what was difficult for me to remember, painful for me to relive. My unfinished business had been completed, loose ends neatly tied. I had been baptized into a renewed faith that I was a woman of value above and beyond those I love, above and beyond the inked words I stamped onto blank pages, above and beyond plans and aspirations. That my life thus lived has had purpose and that my life not yet lived did too. That in the unknown there is potential looming.
I could and would face tomorrow’s horizon with a serene smile and a sigh in conscious comprehension that no matter where I traveled next, no matter where I would next rest my head, I would savor each delicious moment as I had when I was a child licking watermelon sherbet off a wooden spoon. I am old enough to know that hind sight makes gratitude easy like breathing and sweet like July cherries, and that the best of who I am is in my living liquid.
As I later packed my bags to leave, I could see that in the morning with my load secured on my back and my hair flying in warmed wind I would relish the solitary sound of my footsteps grinding the slate flagstones and I would again embrace all the universe would send my way. I would live lustily without the storm of doubt and without the rug burn of resistance. I would live as a woman who is a mother and is a lover and is so much more with faith in her fortune.
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