Pages from my travel journal:
August 6, 2012
we walk, leaving
footprints in the sand
i stare at the horizon
i see your face
in the shift of clouds
* * *
Hotel stationery in the desk drawer. Taupe linen embossed in silver and blue. My fingers itch. I want to write a letter. An old-fashioned letter in the old-fashioned way. With real ink and real penmanship. With patience and mindfulness. What do I write in this letter? And who do I send it to?
It’s been so long since I composed a handwritten letter, folded it, placed it in an envelope, sealed it, pressed a stamp and a return address label onto it, and dropped it into a mailbox. The thought of writing a letter feels awkward… passé. The anticipation feels scrumptious. The dry touch of paper. The wet gloss of ink. The aldehyde smell of both together. The curvy ciphers of the alphabet. The simplicity of truth, written without fear of execution delivered by a single strike to the ‘delete’ key. Dark, bumbling ink spots scattered about, like purple stars in a white sky.
Human imperfection… it’s amazing!
August 7, 2012
I love islands. There is a certain magic about being on a body of land that is but a flicker of lava rooted into the ocean floor. There is also a beauty to being here and knowing I am completely anonymous. Nobody knows who I am. Nobody cares. From the random window, I’m just another speck on the shoreline. From the next beach bed over, I’m just another body sizzling in the sun. There are no needs… no demands… no expectations of me. There is only the lush fullness of life. And I am a diner at this banquet of plenty, indulging in the temptations that have spread themselves out before me, without the smallest hint of hesitation, yet knowing that if I could be this “without strings” all the time… for all eternity… if I had that choice to make… I would never make it.
* * *
This summer… like every summer… we’ve been talking about not going to the beach next year. We’ve been talking about Alaska… or Montréal. But we always change our minds when it comes down to it. We always end up saying, “Oh, but the beach… how do you compete with that?”
But … does it matter where we go?
I just love going to new places… and falling in love with them… and falling in love with the rediscovery of who we are. New place, same us… with a fresh twist!
August 8, 2012
A day at the spa: A watsu session. A nap in the sun. An algae wrap. A hushed and Spartan lunch of grains, greens, and coconut water. An eighty-minute full-body massage with hot stones and essential oils. A quick but hydrating shot of aloe vera. A peat bath. A warm cup of jasmine green tea. A carbonated bath. More coconut water. Another lazy nap in the sun. A visit to the hammam. A blast of eucalyptus. More aloe vera. A stop in the ultraviolet light room. A nod of the head. A final nap. A reverie.
This is heaven. I know.
August 9, 2012
I’ve never been a fan of Ernest Hemingway. Something about his writing style has always struck me as too sparse. Too clinical. Too distilled. But a couple of weeks ago, I was listening to an interview on NPR with Sean Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s grandson. I heard the interviewer say that she, too, had never been a Hemingway fan… until she recently gave A Farewell to Arms another shot. The wheels started spinning in my head, and I thought, Maybe I should try again. All the hype over decades… it’s got to be about something.
Sean Hemingway spoke about the release of a new edition of A Farewell to Arms, one that includes thirty-nine different endings his grandfather had written before choosing what was to become the definitive ending for his novel. I have always been intrigued by other writers’ rites and rituals of the craft. So I got online and ordered a copy of this new edition. I also ordered the Penguin translation of Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. I packed these two books and my journal into my carry-on.
And today, I have been reading Hemingway…
I had gone to no such place but to the smoke of cafés and nights when the room whirled and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop, nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you, and the world all unreal in the dark and so exciting that you must resume again unknowing and not caring in the night, sure that this was all and all and all and not caring.
… and observing the small granules of sand swept by the delicious breeze from the ocean and lodged neatly in the crease between two pages… and listening to the lazy sound of the surf… and feeling so very lazy myself.
I think I’ll close my eyes now.
* * *
folded sun chairs lean
against whitewashed walls
scoping the foamy slope
of the receding shore
August 11, 2012
How crisp the ocean, this morning! How shockingly, brilliantly turquoise! And how crowded the beach! I close my eyes and, suddenly, I am a participant in every conversation, a member of this circle… and that one. I am an active sharer in each person’s universe. I can hear even the most distant chatter between two… or three… or five. I sense the pauses between words… the breaths held in upper chests… the tongues pressed between teeth for discretion… the giddy smiles filled with sunshine. I feel every exchange as though it were mine, though I recognize these connections are external. Still… when I shut my eyes, as if to separate myself from another’s world, it is almost like I have stepped right inside it.
I feel like an impostor, a voyeur.
I crave for my own reality.
I open my eyes.
I curl inside myself
like a burning leaf.
I come to a realization:
It is when I am most
surrounded by people
that I am most alone.
* * *
i am at home
in water, inside
the liquid ether of
that primordial womb
August 12, 2012
I finished A Farewell to Arms early yesterday afternoon. The sun was bone white… almost invisible… as I read through the thirty-nine endings (actually, there were more than thirty-nine). While I will continue to maintain my “Not a Hemingway fan” status, I did find a few passages in the novel to be quite lovely. As for the thirty-nine endings, I was hoping to find one inspiring ending. Sadly, they were all so dreary… and abrupt. Rather than evoke emotionality in me for Henry’s loss, Hemingway’s style and voice evoked a sense of distance and detachment… and possibly even a bit of anger. Maybe that was his whole point, after all. Maybe Hemingway meant to evoke in his readers the feelings of emptiness Henry experienced when he lost Catherine. I’ll never know. The only thing I know for sure is this: Ernest Hemingway is not my cup of tea.
This morning, I started The Book of Disquiet. And something I read snared me inside its rawness:
To goldenly stagnate in the sun, like a murky pond surrounded by flowers. To possess, in the shade, that nobility of spirit that makes no demands on life. To be in the whirl of the worlds like dust of flowers, sailing through the afternoon air on an unknown wind and falling, in the torpor of dust, wherever it falls, lost among larger things. To be this with a sure understanding, neither happy nor sad, grateful to the sun for its brilliance and to the stars for their remoteness. To be no more, have no more, want no more… The music of the hungry beggar, the song of the blind man, the relic of the unknown wayfarer, the tracks in the desert of the camel without burden or destination…
Pessimism? Realism? Submission? Or… trustful acquiescence to the beauty of existence… and the cognizance of being alive? Whatever Pessoa’s truth, this is what resonated inside me as I read his words: Life is beautiful.
* * *
A brief kiss.
A light sleep.
A flighty dream.
A rhapsody of images.
The cawing of seagulls.
A soft awakening.
which dress shall i wear for dinner tonight?
The insistent calling of the waves.
A stop at the water’s edge.
eeny meeny miny moe.
another dirty martini… with extra olives, please.
The inebriating vibration of the universe.
Can I just say, though? I’m missing my house today. There’s something solid and grounding about waking up in the middle of the night and knowing exactly how to stumble through the dark without bumping into things and hurting myself. I know
precisely where the footboard of our bed is from where my toes rest…
precisely where you place your leg after you turn over and shift closer to me…
precisely how my hand moves in the dark, seeking succor from unquenchable yearnings…
precisely the sensation
inside my lungs as
our house loosens
its armor in the dead
of night… and breathes.
August 14, 2012
waves pull at my bare feet
sand gushes between my toes
anchor and release
anchor and release
* * *
Some mornings, I like to read poetry while we enjoy a slow breakfast. There is something about the blend of bread and butter with words that is sublimely elemental.
This morning… sitting beside the pregnant swell of the ocean… I want to share breakfast only with you. I want for no stranger’s words to separate us… not even the most lyrical words and phrases.
I want only bread.
And the benediction of salt on our lips as we kiss.