- this is a tale of striking out alone - learning to dance with fear, to march barefoot and bold, and to trade comfort for wild and brutal dreaming and living. It's about wishing and hoping, longing and trying, and whatever I choose to write about in between. It's about social justice and the struggle between marveling at the beauty of life and opening my eyes to hell.
Good bread crust bread french bread
for breakfast, creamy salted butter, slather of jam, raspberry, strawberry
oranges falling off the trees fresh lemon le
chocolat croissants thick cuts of cheese molded hyphae branching delicate
arches tiny trees, green and blue through yellowed sagittal slices.
Le vin wine wine
red wine white wine sweet wine dry wine old wine new wine rows and rows names I
can’t pronounce but are oh so delicious rolling arching off the tongue fresh
salad crisp salad green salad perfect crunching circles of onion round juicing
spurting tomatoes red red oil serous oil huil
d’olive sauces and crèmes and
rainbows of vegetables á le dejouner
pleasure pleasure oui, avec plaisir,
madame slow down, an hour for lunch, for the French, sometimes two.Savor it enjoy it roll it around your tongue
like cool firm summer cherry enjoy life taste life touch life feel alive
Quality food, fresh ingredients, local produce, take two hours
to cook dinner be starving ah! first bite, two hours to eat dinner, slow down slow down vivre!
La vie est belle!
J’ai tombé en amour
I could live here, I can be here, I can breath here.
It’s about taking time for the beautiful things in life, for
the things that make you happy, for the tiny moments that slap and caress and
lull if you stop for them.
Let the sunshine fall on your face, let your ears ecouter la mer let your eyes linger on
the mountains on the ocean on the on the trees groaning with citrus let your
toes curl in warm crust of sand let the sound of the ocean roll over you let
the flakes of a steaming fresh croissant melt
like buttered snow in your mouth
open your pores your mind fling out the tendrils of all your
senses and absorb absorb
let your eyes and your ears and your mouth dance and sway
and smile and twist
and let your surroundings overwhelm you
the way the lace falls in the gentle billow of curtain
the way the wind lingers over your cheeks
the way the music tingles and thums in the deep of the ears
and winds swaying down the spine and into the belly
the way an orange peel waxes and curls ragged in your palm
the spurt of each tiny citric burst on your lips the way you no longer crave
sugar when your tongue swims in cream
the way a chocolate smears dark and silken into the crevices
of your fingertips and spreads like heady lava through your teeth the way steam
rises phantom grey from the aroma, aroma the coffee, the heat, hands curled hot
cupping mug of groan fresh morning
the way a cigarette burns slow and curling into the zesty
musk of your wineglass at dusk sunset stain pink and tint orange faint to the stark
kiss of red lipsticked rim
the way the city glimmers and burns in the wild eye of the
full plump moon the way the night hums wild lullabye and forgotten shadows come
out to play
sentir: to smell, to feel
je sens, I feel, I smell
I you he she it we they fell, smell, touch
the forgotten sensuality
of life of life of ordinary life the way there is no longer any such thing as
ordinary when you live in awareness of the vibration that surrounds you when
the five senses are no longer a definition but are the breath the crux the eyes
you – no longer IN contest but ARE context
when you realize the senses, that they
are porous that you are porous when you slow down when you stop when those
five magic creature friends are allowed to be sponges yes sponges and you howl yowl growl to
the heavens to LET IT RAIN and suddenly you are filled you are bursting with
the fat the gristle the moan the opera the clap the perfume the tang the fire
the prick the bruise the sneeze the of swollen fruit and golden glory and
thunder thunder thunderstorm vibration of not five elements but the energy, the awareness, the BEING of six.
you are arched by a rainbow
allow your eyes to marvel, to open, to blink, to tear
you are saturated by the waft of humanity
allow your nostrils to flare, to inhale, to ingest
you are nourished by what you eat
allow your tongue to zing and savor, your teeth to crunch and gnaw
you are ever in a melody
allow your ears to perk and tune to the frequency the chirp the opera
Once again in the twilight zone of moving trains
planes buses blurring faces clicking shoes thunking bags accents and languages and people
streaming and teeming and swirling.
I love airports.I really do.They are a comfort
zone.I know where I can sling my back pack
down and lean against it, I know where I can pull out my sleeping bag and crash
out, I like waiting for flights or spending the night or people watching.Being in an airport is like being in a lost
pocket of time, being in no man’s land, neutral ground everyone a stranger with
only travel in common.It is a unique
space in time, a world that belongs to no one and everyone at the same time.
There is love in an airport, sopping goodbye’s and
devil-may-care-who-sees-me kisses hello – couples bumping heavy bags and
careening towards parked cars and buses, stopping in the middle of nowhere tile
laughing and locking eyes and lips and smiles in the moment of you you you-again.
There is the trepidation that often comes with any
journey, the when do I check in and where and is my flight on time and who will
meet me on the other side and am I really doing this and will my world change
when I get back will I get back if I get back. Of maybe it is leaping and there is no back at
all.There are the ones that never flew
before, that circle anxiously studying departure boards, ask everyone with a
name tag the same questions, hold up the line in front of you.I hope to never be angry with that person.Doing anything for the first time should be applauded,
respected, admired.They might not move
with the same finesse but they are moving,
they are seeking, they are going.And compared to the way I handle subway
navigation they look like seasoned champions.
There is the man in the Stetson and snakeskin boots
holding a dozen red roses. The young one in the black business suit
holding a neat white black lettered sign – who is he meeting, where have they
come from? is he wishing with starched posture that he is curled up in bed, away
from the world of suits and ties and smooth glass tables and men that sit in
circles?How do the pressed suits
walking towards him stay so…wrinkle free?
I wonder who they are in their free time, what do you drink? are you a whiskey man, do you prefer scotch? where would you go if you had a week to be anywhere? who would you take?
There is the couple with the bright colors and odd
instruments, squatting against the wall with their backpacks, the girl with
wild hair and billowing powder blue genie pants.There are the mothers with sensible haircuts
and rolling bags pulling packs of cheese crackers and juice bottles from thin
plastic shopping bags, the sleepers with back to the milieu shirts slung over
eyes spooning luggage.There is a garish
smooth trimmed mammoth of a Christmas tree, angel-less tip almost touching
ceiling style, silky red and dull golden bulbs and lights locked in a slow jerking
mandala of twinkle.I like it.I hope for the tree’s sake it’s a fake; trees
should be wild and tangled and windblown and sunlight, cloud dreamers with root
fingers twisting gentle opened deep in the belly of the earth.
There is relief in an airport.Relief to be back.To be home.To be off the flight.To be
finally here, to be at the beginning of the first sentence in a new book, to
wander a new chapter, to buy a different ticket and change how the story
ends.Relief: to walk back into air
conditioning or come home from a war or a mission or a trek, to re-enter a
world you weren’t sure you would live to see again.There is culmination of long and impossible
journeys of suffering, strips of sacred smooth tarmac a universal Statue of Liberty.
Or relief to enter these doors, following signs to “departure,” to have crossed
out that list and tied up and buttoned down and passed on all those things that
bound you just moments before. In the
airport you can take a deep breath, it can finally be real. You can allow yourself to be excited, to be scared, to meditate or wrap your head around what it means to change your life.It can finally be just YOU – whoever you want
or need to be.Relief that whatever it
is – it is finally happening.There is
magic in beginnings.
I have met life-long friends in airports, or strangers I still keep in touch with, people that are in my life because of a simple "hello." Hikers, writers, dreamers, madmen - passionate humans that went where they wanted to go. People that long to see the world - and are seeing it. Backpackers that summited Kilimanjaro, a couple from San Francisco that stayed in a tent in the Kenyan bush, booted up and on Safari, tourists that traveled travel willtravel. Awe and respect. For them, for anyone, that in any way, stepped outside of their world, and moved towards a dream. These are my greatest teachers. This is the shiver of alive.
So now I’m sitting in a great room with a winking
cone of a Christmas tree surrounded by sleepers and families and readers,
cleaners dragging clattering/chugging thump rolling yellow carts, strange
fingers tapping laptop lullaby, crinkle of sandwich wrapping, murmured French
and the floor is looking goooood. mmmmm sleeping bag and voila bed.It’s the
middle of the night and in the morning I’ll be on a plane to Nice, couchsurfing all weekend and school at the Institute de Francais on Monday morning......
The numbers show people are still reading - who, I do not know. And it is because of that that I keep trying to post things, keep trying to haphazardly keep this journey alive in the space I have created for it.
But I feel like it isn't what I want it to be. I am the only one that can make it better, do better, spend more time, write more often. But the crux of the problem is that the writing I did in Africa was fervent. It was passionate, words flew like raging mud from my fingers, everything was exotic, most things were hard, many were unconscionable. I miss that raw flow of honesty, that exploration of a harsh and different world and how I tried to find my way in it. I am missing that now.
I could be much more forthcoming here of course. But I can't. I have to find a balance, to try to write something that won't shock my grandmother and that the wildest of my friends can dig and identify with. It seems like an impossible task. I have thought many times about quitting it, frankly because I am tired of putting what I consider to be rubbish waxy plastic writing out into the universe.
I guess right now I am taking a small jab at honesty.
Within the next 6 months I will probably be some place hot again. I will probably work long hours, feel entirely unequal to my tasks, will be in completely new environments and again be faced with situations that make it impossible to suppress what I have to say. I will be exhausted and invigorated and will be able to document what it is really like.
I think in some ways my blog has worked because I showed what it was like to take a risk. I talk probably too much about this main theme of terror and loneliness, how I don't really want to do any of it, how I am so scared to go to new places, to start over, again and again. And how I keep proving to myself over and over again that its the only way for me to live a vibrant life. I don't make it rosy because I want that one person who is just as nervous and scared as I am for radical change to know that they can do it to. That maybe they don't need comfort. That there are always more choices. But even this sounds like total bull**** to me at this point because really, what do I know about a hard life? about discomfort? honestly, not that much.
The new undisclosed chapter is exciting and sobering. My life is about to change because I fought for something. Now, facing everything I ever wanted, the initial excitement has worn off. Of course I'm going to do it, I'm going to go. But the weight of what I'm about to jump in to is weighing on me. I am about to embark on a lifestyle from which there is no turning back from, at least for me.
It is the simple things that bother me the most, that hold the gravest personal consequences for me. It's also things I whine about here ad nauseum. It is hard to maintain close friendships when you are gone for 3-9 months out of every year. It is nearly impossible to find a life partner. That unknown person I wish on every pummeling star for just in case. But I have decided to take the consequences with eyes wide open. Life is bitter sweet. You have to pick your poison. I have picked mine, it is amber and liquid gold and I'll tip it back with the greatest of knowing, firmly cementing my place on the glorious fringes.
I know, I KNOW that MSF will be different than volunteering in Tchad. Of course it will be. But I only have my first experience to draw on, so still I am asking, do you really want to get malaria again? Do you really want to crawl around on the dust, puking up the lining of your stomach? Do you really want the culture shock, the relationship forming with national staff, the leaving of the place you've come to love, the reverse culture shock and impossibility of true re-integration? Do you really want to be sweating in 110 degree heat, do you really want to be the white minority? Do you really want to look into the living breathing human faces of injustice?
...... I guess
.....yes really, I do.
but there will be ground rules this time. I am different now, I have a radically different perspective. I have completely flipped from caring about he individual to wanting to maximize the greater good. I would rather bring my education to training national staff in a country and participating in research and data collection than having my own patient load. I hope to be conscientious and careful of not having a negative impact.
I don't want to make any promises to the people I meet. Because I will not keep them.
I don't want to form close relationships with kids, with women, with families. Because I will not see them again.
I don't want to go the hardest place I can possibly find on the earth anymore. I want to go to any place where the capacity I have to make a difference with my particular skill set is maximized.
I don't want to spend time living out in the community anymore. I want to be behind high walls in the evening, I want a gate to cross through, I want to be able to "get away."
When I went to Tchad it was with the explicit purpose of opening my eyes, my ears, my heart, my soul, my every fiber to the suffering and experiences and colors and beauty around me. I wanted to live like that. And you may find this horrible - but once was enough. I still want empathy. I still want passion. I still want to be loving. But it will not be at the price of myself.
And I apologize to no one for the hardening of my heart.
It is so I can still have one.
But as always, I am ever grateful for the opportunity march this great path, to have this great journey, to walk in the footsteps of the great and stand on the shoulders of giants, to leave a few dust particles and ripples in my wake.
I am just trying to figure out what it means to be human.
to be human. the awareness of a collective longing.
longing for food, for success, for fame, for survival, for adventure, for wanderlust, for romance, for roots, for connection, for the sacred, for spirituality, for belonging, and most of all, for meaning.
We all package our meaning in different wrapping. We all climb in and out of different boxes, gaze up at different stained cathedral ceilings or towering redwoods, try on different crutches and shoes for size, kneel on numbed knees or position our after the great yogis or Buddhists to move from the carnal into a higher state of enlightenment or worship.
at the end of this life, when we are wasted and waning, when tattoos and lips and cheeks have faded, when skin hangs loose and cells betray us, when the last touch we feel is from a stethoscope, we all want to look back and think that it mattered. That the moments meant something. That something, a love, a memory, a life, will survive us. be it a spiritual, a written, a breathing legacy - we all want to leave something behind to make sense of why we were here.
for some the answer lies clearly in an omnipotent, omnipresent, loving God. For some, their legacy is not of the world but of the "next." For others, the answer lies in connectedness in the now to other beings and to themselves, in awareness of individual impact on the collective. There are millions of thoughts and prayers and paths and beliefs that surround the crux of this longing for meaning, that make try to make sense of the need to make sense of it all. For some, simply being alive and returning to dust is all the beauty that they need to exist.
For me, meaning lies in social justice. Meaning lies in fighting to reduce suffering. Meaning lies in human connection and global awareness. Meaning lies in never forgetting tiny old man faces and fading heartbeats and the hope that maybe more children survived than died because of me. I don't think for a second that this is unselfish. It is the opposite. But it is what it is. It has taken the place of religion or G*d and become the sacred.
And so in my little life I'm going to go out again. I'm going to cement my feet to this path, I'm going to squinch my eyes and dive into this great river of knowing and serving and traveling and seeing and fighting from which there is no turning back. I knew from the moment I worked my first solo shift in the pediatrics ward in Bere that I was eternally damned by the horrid need to be amidst great suffering, touch great evil, and wrap my arms around exquisite fragility.
In Tchad I both found and lost humanity. It was a dark and shadowy line. And I need to walk it again. I don't pretend this is healthy. So I need a rigid structure and perspective and balance this time . And so I'm going to work for MSF. And it will be hard. But I will be back in the primal grind of chaos and survival and a life that is stripped down to that which matters most. And I can't wait to be back. I'm ready. I'm going.
And no matter what happens or who I become may I always remember to cherish. May I always try to love. And may I never, ever forget the faces of the forgotten. And may their memory fuel a knowledge and passion that results in one person, somewhere, living to see another day, another week, another year, or perhaps even a lifetime.
to live. because it is life, not my privileged quest for meaning, that matters most.