Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Last Writing in my First Notebook

I filled up my first little notebook I brought along on this trip in 2 months – faster than I ever have before. This is the last thing I wrote there.

I arrived on Lipsi when the moon was hollow, a blank shot into the sky and the stars were drunk on their own brilliance in her absence. On my first night as we walked across the valley to the little house where we stayed, amid the profound silence after so many cities, the three of us stopped dead in the road, dumbstruck at the constellations we couldn’t name. Above us the Milky Way was a clear road running northwest and the Big Dipper pointed to the North Star, but the rest of the sky was a mess of signs, maps and signals the ancients knew but we had no ability to decipher.

I arrived in Lipsi all out of words, my pens running dry, my back aching from trains and so many beds and the heaving and rearranging of the pack.

I left Lipsi the night of the full Harvest moon, unable to put down my pen on that silver midnight, sitting upon the porch, looking over the vineyard and valley. I felt clear headed and energized again, a little bit of nothing and a lot of everything. What a gift, I thought, both the time when my words run dry and the new rush of stories.

The night before Abby, Genevieve and I had walked up the hill to another party, this one at a neighbor’s farm. We rounded the crest of the hill top and the bright lights reflected the smoke rising from barbeques and dust rising from the ground where everyone danced. The same band played, several pigs, goats and fish had been roasted up for guests, wine was being poured generously by the host and the singing, dancing mayor made another appearance, with that same winning politician smile and clean button-down shirt look.

There were hours of dancing: the same simple circular steps we learned the week before, faster, jumpier jigs, dances only for the men that involved the singer calling out silly things the young men had to do while an old man who wasn’t pleased with their performance would whip them. While the men danced, the three of us would sit to the side, sipping wine and appreciating a place where young men were willing to participate in folk dances, jumping lightly to steps they’ve been practicing since they were toddlers.

I had to work in the morning the next day, so at 1am I stumbled away from the party alone, kissing my new, sweet friends goodnight on their sweaty cheeks. The music followed me, echoing through the hills, but the lights were gone as soon as I turned the corner around the top of the hill. And suddenly I’m alone in the silver light of the nearly full moon and I could cry again, this time for the delight of it. There was nothing I couldn’t see here – the sheep and goats maaing quietly around me, each rock on the gravel road before me, the island of Leros across the water threading waves through the moonlight – it was like a winter night in Minnesota when the snow reflects the light of the moon and you are immersed into such a state of silence by the silvery, gentle love of this rare light.

My heart was so full as I waked home that night, breathing in the fresh, warm air, watching my shadow drift behind me on the road, seeing my freckles change colors in the moonlight. Everything on Lipsi, all the joy, newness, swimming, late nights, long walks, moonlit scooter rides, all of it had lead up to that moment of complete fullness and contentment.

Sitting on the porch on my last evening, I thought about how I kept saying as I was leaving Los Angeles that I felt a part of myself was missing and I needed to go reconnect myself to it; though I couldn’t say exactly what this meant. I still don’t know, but I suddenly realized I don’t feel disconnected from myself in that way anymore. The act of shaking and changing my physical circumstances so thoroughly, all the quiet time, getting my hands dirty with soil, writing nearly every day, seems to have brought me back to a part of myself I drifted away from. Or to a new side of myself at least.

Neale Donald Walsch, the author of Conversations With God, says that the point of life is to continually be striving to create ourselves anew in the grandest version of our greatest vision of who we are. If this is true, and I believe that it is, life is a continual kneading of the dough of ourselves and pulling the insides out into fresh air, finding experiences that rhyme with and enhance our pasts, though don’t repeat them. I’ve been allowing a new version of myself to arise these last 60-odd days, speaking my truth in a new way in so many new places. Come to a new side of the prism of my life, a new shade of light after all the last delights I’ve felt and reflected.

And thank god for it: my insides pulled out to breathe a little in this clear Aegean air. Turning, pulsing, meeting new eyes, finding new electricity and connections. New versions of the story, written and re-written at another table at twilight, another valley sweeping before me as the wine glass shivers with the movement of my pen upon paper.

My porch on Lipsi

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