I arrived on the coast after spending Tuesday night in Arequipa – a beautiful city that has a much different feel than Cusco. It is far more modern, with a European spirit. One of Edwin´s close friends, Flavio, helped me find a hotel and joined me for dinner on Tuesday night. The following morning, I boarded a bus to Tacna where I commissioned a taxi to take me across the Chilean border. For the past two nights, I have slept in Arica on Chili´s far northern Pacific coast.
I spent almost the entire day Friday walking along the shore. I walked about 2 miles south of town to its southern most beaches which were mostly rocky with rough tides. I then retraced my steps and followed the beach another 2 miles north of town to wider, brown sugar beaches with tamer surf. By the time I arrived at the northern beaches, the sun had finally burned away the morning clouds, and the day turned beautiful and mild.
I had carried a lot from Oregon´s Coast to Arica. And much like that huge bag of vitamins, I felt like what I had carried needed to be seen safely to its final destination. I, like so many, find the ocean to be particularly restorative. The sound of the tide, and entertainment of wind-bucking gulls, the salty breezes that sting your eyes, and the grit of sand under bare feet — a pure painting come to life under a white bright with sky.
As I walked my miles along the shore, I tried to collect all of my thoughts from this trip. Part of that exercise involved revisiting the loss of Paolo only four weeks ago today. I have relived the passing of his last breath in my ear, and the wails of sorrow suffocated into a pillow that night. And through the tears, through the heartache, I arrive at that curious little feather that came out to play on the beach my last morning on the Oregon coast. When I get there, my teary eyes and smiling mouth don´t agree with each other — but my countenance arrives at an equilibrium…a balance of feelings. It is a tight tether when released leaves me exhausted.
I move, then, from that tiny white feather to here. To now. To the girls. To Edwin. To Vanessa. To red dirt hills and painted cloth against weathered faces and ink black hair. I am consumed in gratitude.
And again, an equilibrium. And an occurence.
What we treasure most is not ours to give or receive. It is something we simply carry. Everywhere.
We don´t possess it in such a way as to take it from one to give to another. Or to distribute it in equal or unequal parts.
It is ominpresent, and sheds light on darkened corners and casts warmth into chilly canverns. It brings us shade and curiosity. It brings in the storms to nourish the fields where our sprits get to run wild.
It is what turned red to black and brought stems of roses through impromptu tunnels. It´s what cried me to sleep in a bed gone suddenly too light.
It is what rose up from my gut and turned into a song only one could hear. It is carving lines against my eyes like those on a map that show only the places I´ve passed, but no direction ahead.
It is what was born in me on a cliff against lips pressed against a naive wish. It is what landed on me within early sight of mountains gone dry from an April full of rain.
It is what saved me at a Delhi train station, a Colorado puppy rescue, and again in Ollantayambo.
It came to my rescue on a bus in Cusco and again on a high dry plain.
It is what appears as my reflection in an orphan, a refugee, a monk, a bushman, an Andalusian ghost, copper colored streams, and memories of a meadow.
It is what was painted around my neck by tiny brown arms, and what was held up as countless mirrors held heart-high.
All of this is what I was thinking about, all at once with no space between letters, as my eyes followed the water´s lines. The wind was kicking up from the ocean, and starting to turn cold. The tides were extending further up the beach, and it occurred to me the sun would be setting soon. My vision was blurred by salt and a lazy focus, and my heart was still strung up by my arguing eyes and mouth. I was tired from my spirit´s cargo, carried all this way down the shoreline. Then, just like in Oregon, something appeared on the beach.
It was as if the tiny white feather didn´t trust my having received its message, and had morphed and evolved into something far more obvious. A heart. With wings. Carried and shaped by the tide, etched by wind and water, and placed at my feet.
I see. I see what it is. I see what it all is.
It´s the final destination of what I carry.
And it´s been love all along…
I´m coming home, now. Until then, and especially then…