The sky called to me, as it often does. So I answered, walking out into the open wheat fields with my shiny balloon-ball (“baballoon”). I could fly just as easily without it; I had been trained years ago. Sometimes I still like to take it with me just in case I hit some wild currents. The baballoon helps with steering and stabilizing, responding to currents with increased mass or increased central gravity that keeps me locked into it as the baballoon acts as a small vehicle. Today felt like the kind of day for wild rides.
My dark-haired, younger sister, a ghost of Alice Liddell, came out to greet me. Her orange-green, malachite-in-gold-dirt, iridescent baballoon contrasted my electric blue-pink, sunset-to-twilight baballoon. The winds picked up, and the wheat rolled like a golden ocean. There were no words between us, just smiles and nods as we mounted our baballoons and then shot off into the horizon.
We traveled our well-beaten path in the sky, over the wheat fields, beyond the neighboring towns, to the quarry and across the miles of woodlands. We hardly ventured much farther than the woodlands on the average baballoon ride. The thicket beyond, the jagged rocks, the old mountains, and the ancient ruins that all lay before the wild and turbulent Passion Ocean were all a bit daunting. We never saw that Ocean, only heard stories, old-wives tales about sailors that never returned, creatures that lived in the deep and voices released from the breaking waves that rode on the wind. Part of our caution was also due to the amount of daylight we had for traveling. Neither of us wanted to be stuck by that Ocean as the black of Night cloaked all. Who knows what happens there at Night. I do not dare tempt an angry Poseidon or his army of Tritones.
Today we moved swiftly. We reached the edge of the woodlands with plenty of daylight to spare. We lollygagged at the edge, bouncing in the sky apprehensively at the decision we knew we’d make. Without much exchanges or arguments we agreed to venture onward while the day was still young, far younger than we have ever seen it at this edge. Quickly we bolted forward, our baballoons like knives slicing through the sky. We passed the thicket of thorns and the jagged rocks in nearly a blink of an eye. Traveling so fast, it almost seemed like the journey had a purpose. Dodging the mountains proved to be an easier task than imagined. Traveling over the ruins, we could barely make sense of the desecrated clay walls and stone columns embedded in the sand. We arrived at the Ocean much sooner than we had originally anticipated. The sun was making its journey to the horizon again, but it still was rather high in the sky; we had several hours still to explore the Ocean.
We floated high above in the gray-blue sky, where the waves could not reach us. Seagulls and other sea birds flew about not too far from us; they talked amongst themselves while eyeing our presence. The waves were angry alright, twisting, crashing tubes and towers of dark green-gray angst. The white foam was the touch of beauty to this violent scene; they made beautiful patterns in the dark breaks. I found myself and my sister slowly lowering to get a closer look at the patterns. Were they words or messages? Were they fractal designs or images of the Ocean’s inhabitants? Why it was so important that we should know, I couldn’t tell you. Within only a few minutes we were at the top of the towering waves, the water licking our feet and splashing up to our knees. Our baballoons were almost buoys at the tops of the waves. And somehow, we slid down even further to greet more of the Ocean. Before long we realized that we were about to be “in it,” as the waves started dancing around us. They were no longer a friendly coax inward, but now a hungry push downward.
“We need to surf this,” I called to my sister. “It’s the only way we’ll be safe. We must ride the waves.”
I repositioned myself on my baballoon, and my sister mimicked me. “Ready?” The baballoon almost knew what to do. We sped down the waves almost effortlessly, which almost seemed to make it all the more terrifying. I realized that the baballoons were carrying us through this trial. We had to trust in them. It was as if they had a memory of the waves or else predicted the next movement of the water just before it occurred. I was immensely thankful to have my baballoon with me. My sister was having a bit of trouble. I kept yelling to her to “Let go! The baballoon will carry you. If you try to control it, you’ll be worse off.” Once she was able to relinquish her urge to control, her ride was smooth. What helped me let go to allow the baballoon total control was insane laughter in the face of my terror.
Shore was just ahead. The baballoons picked up speed, and before the waves broke on the shore, the baballoons lifted back into the air. My sister and I sat back down on our baballoons and floated quietly as we regained composure. My face was wet and wind-lashed, stinging from salt. My clothes were drenched and heavy. My breath was irregular but slowing as I watched in disbelief at our feat as the Ocean roared and writhed, pained by a missed meal.
We didn’t meditate on the shore long. Turning our backs to the Ocean, we headed off in another direction, to follow a different path home. As we moved through the sky at an even pace (though seemingly much slower than the pace to the Ocean), Time seemed to stand still. After traveling over and through some different scenery (Forests of Autumn, Dunes of Winter, Lakes of Spring), we realized that we were indeed traveling through Time. At this realization our speed of travel became strangely modulated. We whisked through seasons and years without stopping. We were no closer to home than we were on the shore. It seemed that we needed to make an arbitrary decision on When and Where to stop. Our baballoons would carry us where-ever and as long as we desired, but where we were headed was a Mystery to us.
(Transcribed two years later:)
Hiking the Inca Trail was one of the most inspiring and sacred experiences of my life. This post is not about that. This post is about the days that followed that mystical and exhausting trek.
We arrived back in Lima from Cusco; already upon landing, I could feel the change of atmosphere and climate, physically, socially and culturally. We piled in a bus and headed off to the coast where my uncle, his two high school buddies and his friend’s son could relive their youth in sand, surf and beer. Despite their winter season, we had hopes of mild coastal weather. In my mind, I planned to swim, run on the beach, relax, read, go to town for cerviche and take a surfing lesson or two in the days to come.
From the populated city with strange billboards, rogue dogs and tattered housing, we traveled to a sandy ghost town on the coast. The streets were practically deserted. Most of the restaurants and shops had closed. Locals kept a few businesses open, but nothing more than a few blocks were in operation.
We were met with colorful totem faces at the gates of the resort; sea green, bright blue and yellow extended a cheerful welcome, contrasting the grey skies and misty air. Stepping across the threshold, empty rooms awaited us. One of the owners met us there and escorted us to the unlocked room. Two were next to each other, close to the eating area and front gate; one was around the corner, closer to the workers’ area and the back gate to the beach. Each had two beds. Since I was the odd woman out, I inhabited the isolated room.
After setting our stuff down and getting acquainted with the perimeter, the owner explained that he would be absent from the premises most of the time. There were two workers that spoke very little English. The only other residents at the time were a couple, and they would be leaving shortly. Since the town was closed down for the season, we had only one restaurant from which to order food, and only one taxi driver that would deliver food and take us into town. The one and only day we ventured into town was to get cash, eat out at one of the open restaurants, catch up on email at a cyber café and to collect fruit, canned goods, and alcohol for our rooms. All other hours for those four days was spent at the resort with only each other, the rain, the wet beach, the gulls, rogue dogs and the limited contact with the workers who made us breakfast every morning and ordered our lunches and dinners.
The chilly air, drab sky and turbulent waves told me that I was not going to be swimming at all this trip. Since the owner that offered me surfing lessons over the phone was MIA the entire time, I knew I would not be surfing. I communed with the sand dunes and shells when it was nice enough to sit on the beach. I may have been fully clothed in a hoodie and long pants, but it was peaceful all the same. One of my wishes had come true: I had the beach almost entirely to myself. Listening to the water was such a pure and simple pleasure that if not for the chilliness, I probably wouldn’t have left the shoreline.
The days passed slowly. At nights we played cards and drank bland beer. We donned hats made from alpaca wool and blankets bought from the plazas at Cusco. With nothing of interest on TV, hardly any electronic entertainment and no way out of the resort, we were left to each other’s company, the beach and our internal landscapes. When the men were out surfing, my first inclination was to “busy” myself. So I read… until I wanted a change. I tried to write and draw, with little success at first. For some reason, it felt forced (probably because it was). There I was, unable to get wrapped up in a creative whirlwind when I had the space, the time, the peace and the quiet to do so. Of course, when I was at work just a few weeks prior, I longed for the R&R, and when it arrived, I didn’t know what to do with it.
The first day I felt unproductive despite the fact I had finished a book I had been meaning to read. That night was one of the most solitary that I can remember. The wind pounded against the glass doors as I lay in an unfamiliar bed on a deserted coast. In the morning I was greeted with grey skies and roaring waves again. It was difficult at first for me to give into the seeming “nothingness.” I paced and repeated old patterns of behavior to the best of my ability. As I begun to allow the time to fall over me as it would, I was graced with some slow inspiration; I let it creep into my sketchbook. It was of a different nature than which I had been accustomed. I spent more time sketching and reading in those few days than any other time in my life. Time was angled differently there, with strange and unpredictable periods of lengthening and shortening. Many things were different in that place. I noticed the difference in expectation, passage and association.
Dogs with no names came bounding through the center room as we played cards, perhaps looking for scraps or a temporary friend. Clouds rolled in a dance with the tides. The gulls called out messages as they landed on the shore. The night air was heavy with water and called us out for company.
Looking back, I should have taken some invitations from the Night to walk its beach. I am just thankful that I could drop out of the hectic world for a while to see another one. Without the people and the traffic of their on-season, I was able to really see that shore, able to experience it as it is. The isolation, once faced, was simple. The quiet, once appreciated, was comforting. The openness, embraced, was breath-taking. The grey, accepted, can be a gentle hand of inspiration.
The smell in the air is different today; it brings the spirit of campground fires, harvested fields, dried leaves, baking breads and root vegetables, the wet cloaking of drizzle, and the spice and warmth of mystery and magic. I hear the precession approaching: the Phoukas and Dark Horses, the Witches of Old and newborn Fae, the Night carnivals and moving statues, the lost Ghosts and wandering Sprites, the Scarecrows and Corvids, the Masked and the Dead, the Legendary and the Forgotten, the Visitors and the Stories from distant lands.
At 5:18pm EDT today, the Autumn Equinox will occur.
May all of you find what you are searching for in the Autumn wind.
It’s been 4 years since I left central Pennsylvania. In my final adios without grand gestures or a carload of tears, I sped off thinking that I would not miss the place. How could I miss the landscape that accompanied me through the awkward and tiring years of premature, rapid, reckless transitions? In the 5 years during undergrad, I felt like I was rushed through a handful of separate lives. College may be the best time of many young people’s lives, but for me, I don’t really regard 18-23 as a ‘fun’ time. Perhaps you may think this is a shame, or maybe you pity me in some way for not enjoying my youth. I’m not too concerned about it though; I have far much more fun in my adult years than many of my peers.
Anyway, back to my point: I never thought I would really miss it. There were a scant number of bars and clubs nearby, and most of them were not impressive or exciting. Nightlife was slow. We’d have to drive an hour to go to a chain that blared country music as the half-naked waitresses as young as I was served watered-down fluorescent beverages to drunken wanna-be cowboys. If we stayed on campus, it was almost a ghost town on the weekends since half to two thirds of the students were either commuters or termed ‘nontraditional’ (i.e. real adults with jobs and/or partners/families). Of the portion of the students left on campus for the weekend, most partied elsewhere with their senior friends and slept during the day. I was not interested in the partying as much as others were. I’ve always freaked my peers out a great deal with my preference for mornings. During college, it was difficult to find a work-out or breakfast partner. Consequentially, I sunshine-surfed on my own, and by the time the girls down the hall were singing and dancing as they dressed for a frat-tastic black-out, I was in my pjs watching Adult Swim. Like I said, I did some of the partying and late-night Denny’s run, but that is not what I miss at all. I miss what I took for granted: the space, the quiet and Nature.
Living at a campus not within walking distance of anything but residential developments and the woods, and having only a small portion of students with whom to interact, it forced me to entertain myself with what was available. I exercised, read, wrote, sketched, studied, and meditated. My memories of the campus on weekends was a big chunk of empty land for me to roam and explore. I got used to the space. I liked the lack of cars that drove by and the quiet of the air.
I visited the woods a lot, sometimes by myself, sometimes with a few others. I found solace by the river and among the trees. What was wonderful was that for the miles I walked in that forest, I never saw more than a couple people on the trails on any given day The golf course nearby was barely seen from the lower riverside and trails, and the golfers never had a reason to venture into the woods. I could feel as if the woods were mine. That is what I miss terribly. I miss having a forest to go to whenever the mood takes me, night or day, summer or winter, fall or spring. I miss being able to walk undisturbed at night by the river and skip stones or talk to spirits. I miss not being able to set up blankets on the green in the golf courses and watch meteor showers. Where we live now, the woods are guarded and watched at night, as are golf courses. They are also not within walking distance like the woods at the edge of my old campus were. I have had so many fantasies about venturing out at night to explore these woods in this area. However, cops seem attracted to my car, and there are not many good places close by to hide it.
I miss land, space, and freedom of wandering, exploration and movement.
Camping is a necessity, but it holds me over for only so long. My ideal is to be hidden from the eyes of humans, safe from the interruptions of cars and businesses and to have the open sky, green forest, and babbling brooks at my doorstep.