Right now I’m staring past Megan’s foot. It’s atop a weathered 2x6 rail that could so easily be the rustic studio on Matinicus. If it were, I would be looking past her foot into the scape of frisking horse tails of white surf, granite fortifications shaped by molecular structure and the last ice age scraping through, sharp salt breezes, brilliant blue gray water and endless spruce trees. I would also likely be huddling with watery eyes and cursing the wind chill, and her foot would be wrapped in smartwool and rubber boots Instead I see lush fields, triangular mountains piled high with jungle trees, massive airborne humidity and a flat ass calm ocean. Ears are filled with free range chicken talk, an occasional moo, goat blat, bird, and passing Puerto hip hop from car windows.
If you are traveling, I can heartily recommend a light dose of 5htp, a version of tryptophan available over the counter without the necessity of stuffing, gravy, family dynamics or pant size changes. It is especially helpful at keeping one’s adrenal and irritability glands in check if you’ve had a 9 hour layover in Newark and arrive in western Puerto Rico at 2:30 in the morning and have to drive up into the rainforest to meet your Airbnb host, without much in the way of road signs or brain function.
I’ve always loved maps, and so looked a bit before we left Maine, then followed my nose for a bit to find Sur 107 out of Aguadilla.
I can also heartily recommend the GPS lady inside of Verizon android phones. My nose was good for getting out of town, but she made it possible to navigate the twirly up and down switchbacks once we left the main roads. She was spot on.
After picking up Brandon at the Casa Linda restaurant parking lot , we shoehorned into side roads and driveways where it seemed the car would need to bend in the middle to make it. Our host hopped out to swing the gate so we could pass by the shredded carcass of a Hondoyota and into the manure spotted parking area. Several (fortunately) friendly dogs and an elderly gentleman who muttered in some vowel rich and tooth-free version of two languages greeted us. I shoehorned and bent my 3:45 a.m. brain into not thinking about how we could possibly turn around the next day, and embraced the shanty in the mountains.
Now after a day of finding grocery stores, walking the Rincon beach, listening to all the goats, chickens, car horns, turkeys and other profusion for the ears, we are able to relax.
I am always emotionally thrown open by travel. It’s exhilarating and scary and the sight of small children saddens me a little until I remember traveling with small children. Being out of my usual tracks puts my own life tracks right in my face for reflection even as I’m soaking in new sights and sounds and getting away from those grooves and ruts.
This time I was struck particularly hard by two things. One was my prejudice, the other the great ordinary beauty, love and daily function of a stupefying number of people you encounter traveling.
At the bus station in Maine, two obviously Islamic gentlemen were praying in a corner; one a very tall and unsmiling and bearded older person and the other a dour 20-something. They prayed and parted and the young man, looking tired and vacant, boarded the bus with us, stuffing his back pack in the overhead bin.
The logical brain first says, ‘don’t be a dick,’ but then says ‘there’s no security screening of any kind on buses, this bus is full, passing major bridges and tunnels, groups claiming association with Islam have publicly and repeatedly promised to strike the United States, this would be a great way to wipe out people, stifle the economy through fear of buses and costs of increased security screening, and paralyze a major Boston artery, and whoah, I need to not ever watch Homeland again.’
The ‘don’t be a dick side’ lost. The fear was powerful and physical.
The irrational brain was plain scared and thought of finding another way to Boston.
All this coursed through me in 45 or so seconds.
I realized as we got rolling and Megan handed me a swig of wine, that staying on the bus, and trusting was actually- in this day of slickly marketed fear campaigns by ISIL, presidential candidates and news outlets alike- a radical act of peace and brotherhood.
Coming out of the old white cocoon that is Maine, I am overwhelmed by the shades of beauty, young and old, that I see in airports, on city streets and in stuffed subways.
The big lie, the really, really Big Lie is that we live in a dangerous, bad world. Yes, there are horrible things done to innocents. There is poverty and corruption.
But how many times in a 36 hour travel process did I see- just in my tiny little perceptual scope- Dads and Moms loving and caring for their babies, older couples sitting together, janitors doing their jobs, baggage check staff making the effort to help with a smile, friends walking together, those alone going in the direction that was right for them in that moment? In my 36 hours, I must have seen tens of thousands of simple, loving, decent good things done. Multiply that by every place that wasn’t in my little world view and what do you get?
Fear gives control and these days fear is a red hot sales vector for ISIL and presidential candidates alike.
Mr. Rogers, help me out here, but isn’t love and ordinary life so much, so astronomically much bigger and better? How come we don’t see it?