Travel Stories

Arriving Home

         I begin the day in Madrid, a city I’m in love with.  It’s the ham.  When I arrive "home" after these ten or twelve weeks away it’s not like I imagined it would be, but then I'm not sure I spent that much time thinking about how "things" would actually be when I came "home."  I’m still a man in search of his narrative plot lines.  (Can’t see the forest for the trees, Big Guy?) 
         The view of Boston approaching as our plane glides into Logan over the harbor and the Harbor Islands, over Deer Island with it’s sad history of abuse and Winchester is one of the most beautiful landing approaches anywhere on the planet.  My fabulous 26 year old son meets me at the airport.  We go for coffee, catch up a little - friends, ladies, football, basketball, work, money - the important things in life - explore the purchase of a car for him now that I’m home and need my ride back, what his short and long range plans might be …  playing semipro ball in Europe?  going to a grad school where he might still eligible for NCAA D1 competition?  It's another plot where the main character doesn’t know what’s gonna happen next. 
         Sam treats me to dinner, good Vietnamese food.  We see a fascinating violent allegorical movie about slavery - Django Unchained - that we both like.  I wrote a brief review, posted on this blog site under "Other Writings."  I predict Jamie Foxx’s line, “The D is silent,” will enter our vernacular like Eastwood’s, “Make my day,” did.  We hang out after the movie with his mother (my lovely ex, Lynne) at her home in Jamaica Plain.  It’s comfortable - at least for me it is - and everything I feel about her remains the same … how worthy of love she is, what a nice person she is, what is and isn’t there, how I am freer to pursue what I want absent the ballast she provided, how devoid I am of anger and resentment free of the constraining anchors and dissatisfactions I felt I had in the marriage.  Lynne is said to believe we just "drifted apart."  I’m okay with that explanation … although in my narrative I did the drifting and she did the more or less honorable holding fast. 
         When I finally take my leave and begin my drive down to the Cape it's around midnight.  My good son has filled the car’s tank with gas.  Was it really me down on my knees inside a church in the Ethiopian town of Debre Libanos less than two weeks ago, me who climbed to the cave where good Saint H hung out all those years in the thirteenth century standing on one leg and being fed one seed a year by the nice bird who supported the good saint’s efforts, the guy who was just in Mali, Senegal, Madrid, and is now back home … whatever home means … on the sandbar shore with a view of the frozen bay?  The house still in renovation mode on a little project that started when I left and should have been long ago concluded.  But I get over that fast when the painter and plumber appear.  
         Snow on the ground.  Walking barefoot to bring in firewood and get the wood stove going.  Starting to clean up.  Writing memos to clients whose trial begins in about six weeks.  Doing laundry.  Watering houseplants.  Measuring out pills for the week.  I hang out my new shingle - “The Writer is In” - and the write.  I play at being the housekeeper and even the cook.  I listen to a lot of music and don’t criticize myself for not doing yoga or taking a walk.  I clean things, organize and put away things.  Rest.  Spend a lot of time feeding the fire.  The house smells of smoke, incense, and paint.  I don't drive the car or make a phone call.  I barely step outside except to bring in more wood.
         Joy arrives by midnight.  We seem/are so comfortable together.  I love how she loves me and how I love her.  Someday I’ll try to explain my experience of this love better, but it too is not what I imagined it would be … and as I said, I’m not sure I spend much time thinking about how things will actually turn out anyway.  I like that.  I work hard on being a good person.  On being a person I really like, here and now. Workin’ it, hard.  And there’s soooo much to “do.”  
         So I bow in gratitude and reverence - as I do every day I do yoga - gratitude to -
                  - to “isness” - to existence, to the “original” act of creation, where existence comes into existence, to creativity, consciousness;
                  - to the “heavens,” to infiniteness, stars and planets moving away and toward one another, being born and dying;
                  - to father sun – the provider of light and heat – the solar source without which there would be no livable earth, nuclear explosion after nuclear explosion, hundreds of nuclear eruptions on the surface of the sun every minute for six billion years thus far and six billion predicted to go.  that’s a lot of energy, only a fraction of which comes our way;
                 - to mother earth – the planet on which we live … to gravity, to air, water, earth and soil, to the creatures, large and small, animal, vegetable, and mineral who help sustain us, sometimes even giving up their lives for us, to Mother Earth;
                    - to the ancestors – literally, back to grandmother Dinkinesh (aka “Lucy”) whose 3 million year old bones are available for worship in Addis Ababa, and occasionally on tour, even now I believe coming to a museum near you, back beyond Dinki to the origins of life on Earth, forward from her to grandfather Idaltu, also resting in Addis, a fully modern homo sapiens who lived in the area around Afar, Ethiopia only 160,000 years ago, a mere 8,000 generations ago, our mothers’ and fathers’ mothers’ and fathers’ mothers and fathers, who lived, loved, suffered, bore young, and died so that we may live, pieces of their biology and their "spirits" within us; gratitude to the ancestors;
                  - to the 5,000 year long lineage of yogis and yoginis whose “practices” have come down to us without books or manuals of instruction, but solely as practice, of being seated on a mat, practicing asana, breathing, spiritual focus, the wisdom of the teachings, gratitude for the Yoga, unity as best as we can perceive it; 
                   - to those we share our practice with this very day, those in the physical space with us, whose energy and intentions impact each of us, as our energy and intention impact them, it can’t be avoided, it’s how energy “works,” and even gratitude to those persons we thought of in our yoga practice today, which in the highest mediative world would be no one, but gratitude for those we thought about as we practiced this day;
                   - and, of course, to one’s self, to loving how sincerely you, yes I'm talking to you, are trying to be the very best person you can be, kind, gentle, strong, trustworthy, engaged, interested, curious, active, grateful to yourself for the effort you extend, grateful for your/our/my commitment to doing the practice, to a grateful awareness of what good, loving people we actually are.  Yes, gratitude. 
         And Namaste to you too.  

And since the sign on the door into my office now reads, “The Writer is In,” herewith 2 last vinettes from Madrid ... and then perhaps good-bye to Africa for a while. 

Random Travel Notes

1.      I’m walking late at night through the somewhat busy streets of Madrid when I approach a very chunky obvious woman of the night in short skirt and tights standing on a street corner with her eyebrows.  She catches me looking at her, her excess makeup, her sad alert face, and says to me in Spanish, “Come on.  Let’s go.”  And I say, “No, thank you.”  Yes, I really do say, “thank you,” ever the well trained, polite, courteous if not courtesan older man.  And she, of course, says, “Why.”  And I can say, in Spanish, which gives me immense pleasure, “Because I have a woman I truly love very much.”  And, although I know this is purely my projection, she looks at me admiringly, respectfully, acceptingly, as she smiles and turns away.

2.      I am on the Metro headed for the Madrid airport and my flight home early on Sunday morning.  Across from me seated alone on the train is an African woman staring at me.  Very odd for an African woman to be starting at me, especially since she is obviously not a “business” woman, and when she sees me looking back at her she points to my shirt, a lovely purple T shirt I bought for three dollars at the Monastery of Debre Libanos in Ethiopia that has Amharic writing on it saying “Debre Libanos,” that I already deeply prize, but has faded with multiple washings very quickly, as has the obviously Ethiopian Orthodox cross on the front of the shirt faded, such that the shirt appears old and well worn. 
         “I am Ethiopian,” she says smiling broadly at the mystical and unlikely possibility of connecting with Ethiopia - and an Ethiopian guide - as she heads for church of a Sunday morning on the Metro in Madrid, “and I couldn’t help notice your shirt.  Are you from Ethiopia?”
          “No, I bought this shirt when I visited the Monastery at Debre Libanos,” I say laughing and pointing to the lettering on my shirt. 
          To which she says, “It must have been a very long time ago.” 
         And although at the time, it had been actually less than two weeks, it did already seem like an eternity, and I said, “Yes, it was.”