July 22, 2009
Ah. The good old US of A. And I am here in it once again. It feels strange and strangely good to be back – I’ve had the moments where it’s felt like I didn’t leave, but better than these moments are those where the familiarity and comfort of this place are partnered with my sense of wonder and renewed energy after three and a half magical months in Nepal. Now, I want to make sure I’m clear that not every moment of Nepal felt magical, not every moment rose-hued or sunny, many moments hazy with dust and grime, accentuated by pain in my sprained foot or uncomfortable rumblings in my belly, frustration, sadness, anxiety were also a part of my journey. But the overall effect was one of magic, where the trip seemed charmed, almost, even in the mishaps. My sprained foot resulted in me checking out an acupuncturist and having her treat the poor circulation in my body a bit. My bout with tummy sickness in the field meant that we had to hire a porter the next day who danced the sun over the horizon, took Jitna and me to a yak herder’s hut where we huddled around the fire and drank the most delicious hot milk I have ever tasted and who talked us all the way to our destination that day. Moving out of one living situation into another one gave me the opportunity to make two incredibly dear friends, two friends I hope to have in my life for many many years. And constant water shortages, electricity blackouts, strikes that caused road and shop closures, and extremely bad traffic jams helped me to appreciate the little things in my life all the more – they gave me time and cleared space for me to read and write by candlelight, to practice conserving water, to walk across the city and to be patient with the people and world around me. Wry smile. When I wasn’t just being impatient and wishing things would shape up. Isn’t that how life is? Full of opportunities to be frustrated and impatient OR to practice presence, to practice grace, to practice seeing beauty in the world around us. It is there, we must choose to see it.
So I am back in the USA. And the subject line, by the way, is from an old song (I think from the 60s or 70s) that my brother once lip-synced to in a school talent show (he was awesome – a born performer for sure!). I arrived at the airport yesterday around 11:30, made my way through orderly lines, used shining toilets equipped with toilet paper and sinks with running water, and exited into a sunny but cool San Francisco day. Shawnrey met me at the airport BART station and took me back to Faxon House, the house where we lived together last year. We spent much of yesterday afternoon visiting a friend’s grandmother who is approaching the end of her life (although it is unclear whether the end will be sooner or later, as I suppose it is unclear with any still-living person). I could write about this, but what I want to write about is the summer. The things that make me joyful today.
I am currently staying with my aunt and uncle just outside of San Francisco. Their home is ever a refuge for me and a place where I can go and relax and be quite pampered. Today it has given me the chance to think about this time that I am in now. Around 3 pm, I ventured out for a run. It’s the first I’ve been on in months, and even though I ran occasionally last year, it was with neither frequency nor any sort of regularity. I quickly found that while my body and lungs are in relatively good shape, I’m out of practice running, so it took me a while to fall into any sort of rhythm and pace that felt comfortable. The sky was brilliantly blue, the sun strong (the thermometer outside the kitchen window read 94 when I returned at 3:40), and the air deliciously dry. Summer has full hold of San Mateo, CA, and the neighborhood where my aunt and uncle live smells like jasmine and magnolia, the latter of which bloom like white over-sized dinner bowls, opening up to the sky to be filled with a serving of sunshine. Smile. I tried to keep to the shade where I could, but the winding roads led me in and out of it, and since much of my run did not have sidewalks, I chose the left side of the road over protection from the sun. I ran down into town, going straight as much as possible so that I, with my relatively poor sense of direction, would reduce my chance of getting lost. I crossed through a park, San Mateo Central Park Japanese Garden, the sign told me, with tennis courts on one side and on the other a lawn dotted with tall shade-giving trees. Sprinklers defied the afternoon sun sending streams of water across the grass, daring the sun to take what it could before the moisture soaked into the soil. The sprinklers made me feel like a small child, and I smiled, imagining myself running through one. I ran on the damp sidewalk beside them, then realizing I wasn’t going to get wet that way, veered over to the grass and, grimacing a little, unlike the eager child I imagined myself being, dashed through. When I got to the other side, I had a streak of wet across my middle, and a grin on my face. What fun to be silly! When I made my way back through town, I got a thumbs up and a well-done by a man sitting on the sidewalk promoting something or other (I didn’t stop to see), and that got me smiling again. These are the encounters that remind me that it’s not just far away and in foreign cultures that strangers reach out to one another and exchange encouragement. Smile.
I returned home, hot and sweaty, to run a bath with bubbles and get the cleanest I’ve been in 3 1/2 months. Wry smile. I’m not sure that’s true, but it is good to be clean. And to eat good food and drink good wine in the company of my ever-loving, so generous aunt and uncle, who are hosting me once again.
It was good to be gone. And it is good to be back. I feel ready to “shake ’em down,” I reckon. I’ll certainly be doing some shaking these next few weeks as I attempt to memorize the Hebrew alphabet while traipsing across the country and back. And August 25th takes me to Chicago. How very very exciting!
Love to all of you. And much peace,