Getting lost in the lightness of being while communing with rose petals in the sand. Evidence of a life well lived: The beauty that the rose once held, now nearly faded. Change remains the only constant I’ve ever encountered. It’s been quite some time since I’ve poured pieces of my soul into cyberspace. Since I last wrote here, I’ve accepted and started a position in San Diego (county) California, I sublet my previous place, was hospitalized, found a place to live in Oceanside, flew across the country, and bought a car. Thankful for all the divine guidance throughout this process, as I don’t think it would have happened otherwise.
It’s been the hell of a journey to get here. The past nine months, I lost complete track of my beingness. I was working 70-80 hours/weeks, spending 90% of my time completely alone, and living in a constant state of panic and anxiety. Within a few months, I found my self in an extremely dark place I thought I would never get out of. Whenever, I had “down time”, I would furiously apply to jobs because my soul knew the time had arrived. Opportunities began coming through my door – there was the UK (both Wales and England), there was Boston, Farmington (CT), Austin, San Francisco, and San Diego. As I started walking away from my previous situation and began to navigate towards a new one, I only made one promise to myself: “Go where it feels right.” I wasn’t being led by the external (like, “Wouldn’t it be cool to say you’re moving to London?!”), but rather was committed to following the call of my spirit. And my spirit was ferociously pulling me towards Southern California. Finally, on the 29th of August (2018), I accepted an offer from the amazing new company I now work for. I’m still in shock that such a unicorn of a place actually exists!
As I transition into this new space, I’m startled. It feels as if I’ve always lived here. It feels like home. The transition has been smoother than the rest of my life combined. This entire move has made me believe in fate and purpose in ways I could have never imagined. I’ve been met with nothing but kindness, love, and grace. My life is overflowing with beauty, with adventure, with abundance, and most importantly peace. Towards late 2017, I began working with a coach, Katie Pelkey (check her out!). One of the exercises she had me do towards the beginning of our work together was to outline my values – beauty, adventure, abundance, and ease. It’s Sunday, October 14th and though part of me does wish I could see my sister on her birthday, I feel entirely calm and I’m living by my values. I don’t have an itch to leave or go or flee. Life is moving as it’s supposed to. And I’m trusting that amazing things are yet to be discovered and uncovered. This is the beginning of a marvelous life adventure. The beginning of a new chapter in my life. The culmination of years worth of work. The payout as Saturn returns. In gratitude, in awe, with love, Wanda.
P.S. If you live in Southern California and are reading this, let me know what your favorite neighborhood to live in is. Once June comes around, I’ll have to find a place to permanently settle. I’m currently living in Oceanside, head over heels in love with Encinitas, but I’m open to suggestions!
In light of recent events, particularly the passing of Anthony Bourdain, I’ve become deeply reflective of my own experience. On the day of his death, I wrote this little blurb:
In November 2009, I attempted death by suicide. I failed. After the fact, I was angry that I had to live. Eventually (with the help of a village), I came to realize that even if I physically died, I would remain alive metaphorically – in the memories and words of others. In due time, I found a “why” for living. My first why was travel. Naturally, I gravitated towards Anthony Bourdain and all that he stood for – he was charming, passionate, attractive, curious, an explorer, a pusher of boundaries, a novelty junkie. From No Reservations to Parts Unknown, I was present. He represented inspiration and possibility. In him I saw that by sticking around I’d at least get to see the world. While I’m not exactly sure what led Mr. Bourdain to that edge, I can speak of my own experience. I know what it’s like to feel trapped. I know what it’s like to stare at reality eye to eye and feel consumed by the weight of its meaninglessness, by the magnitude of its emptiness. I’m not writing this to deliver platitudes of positivity that bypass pain, but rather to acknowledge that pain is very real. There are qualified people out there willing to hold space for you and your discomfort without trying to change anything about you. Mr. Bourdain, I hope your soul finds rest and peace. In your honor, I’ll be trying an adventurous meal at a restaurant I’ve never been to.
Ever since my own suicide attempt, I’ve held a space of reverence and curiosity for death. If you look through my writing, you will often come across it in some form – literal or metaphoric. I’ve read about death, taken classes in the realms of thanatology, and have first hand experienced its presence in my life. Over the years, I’ve also learned that rarely is anything in life black or white. I believe that death is life’s greatest transformation agent. It is for that reason that in this piece of writing, I’m going to write about suicide.
Suicide. Often people hear about it and will do everything in their power to avoid the discomfort that it brings about. The Western developed world isn’t the most death positive of societies. In my opinion, it’s a society that actively avoids death in all its many forms. In the past few months, I’ve been philosophically exploring death beyond our individual human experience of the the “self”. In my mental wanderings there were two mechanisms that surfaced that particularly caught my attention: apoptosis (“cell-suicide” or cell-programmed death) and “shooting starts”. Apoptosis comes from the Greek phrase “falling off”. This mechanism naturally occurs in our organism to quite literally keep us healthy. This programmed cell death is what allows us, as humans, to continue to grow and age. For example, the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body is called cancer. The body is so brilliant that it has developed a natural mechanism to keep homeostasis, balance. On the macro scale, there are shooting stars: meteoroids that fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn. I’m sure that if I searched for more of these mechanisms, outside of the human individual experience of self, I would find more. A professor I had once said, “The universe destroys itself to recreate itself.” It’s a phrase that has captivated my curiosity throughout the years.
So, if these mechanisms are present in both the micro and macro scales, why do humans have a built-in aversion towards suicide? Of course, you can argue that from an evolutionary stand-point, we’re hard-wired to want our species to thrive, to continue. Yet from a more real human experience perspective, I’d like to present the theory that perhaps our discomfort with suicide is yet another manifestation of our obsession to avoid the d word: death. Death is necessary for life. One without the other would be catastrophic. As I mentioned above, I think death is a change agent that although often unwanted it ensures the continuation we fervently desire. In recent years, the conversation around death has been slowly shifting including that of suicide. The concept of death with dignity or physician assisted suicide has come forth as a potential option for the terminally ill. If we get to choose how we live, why can’t we choose how we die? I’m not at all implying that suicide is “the answer” nor encouraging it, but I think under certain circumstances it’s another option. Now that being said, I’d like to explore the concept of context.
Based on my own experiences and hearing the stories of others, I’ve often noticed that my reactions towards death by suicide vary depending on context. For example, in the case of Brittany Maynard, a woman with terminal brain cancer who chose death with dignity (physician-assisted suicide), I felt an outpouring of respect and compassion. It was a decision that seemed logical, thought-out, and well-planned. She reached out beyond her experience, consulted her loved ones as well as professionals, and made the decision that would best suit her. Her experience seemed to have a different tone than someone unexpectedly taking their life. From my own experience, I feel deep love, empathy, and sorrow for the second scenario – for an unplanned suicide. Why the difference? I recognize that I don’t know it all. I can’t see all perspectives, all truths. From my own failed attempt to the sudden and unexpected deaths by suicide of others, what makes me ache for the scenario, is the intensity of silent pain and suffering the individual may have been undergoing. Depression is real. Accumulated psychic, emotional, and mental pain is very real. Unprocessed trauma is real. Mental health awareness is vital. Yet in addition to a sensibility to mental illness, I think it’s important that we recognize that the culture that we’ve created isn’t conducive to well-being. In the past two-decades the incidence of mental illness has increased. Is it possible that the majority of a society is pathological? Or is it the case that the increased rate in incidence of mental illness is a symptom of a sick culture, of a deeper issue?
In the case of Brittany Maynard, her pain, though not first-hand experienced by the people in her life, was made vocal. It was out in the open. This is not to say that her death wasn’t difficult for her loved ones. I can imagine that it was heart-wrenching as loss can be, but there was an understanding, a knowingness of the pain that was to come. Yet, there are a lot of people that suffer in silence.
So, if you suspect that someone is in deep pain or going through a difficult situation, or even openly declare that they are feeling suicidal, what can you do? Before I begin, I’d like to state that I’m not a licensed mental health professional. What I’m going to write in the sentences to come is based on my experience while being on the edge as well as my listening to the experience of others. First, I’d like to bring up the gift of presence. To be present without trying to change another is in my opinion the ultimate gift of love. I know it can be tempting to try to steer a suffering person to look at the “positive” side of life, but from my experience and that of sitting with others, the power of seeing someone and acknowledging their current reality, regardless of what that may be, is powerful. There is potency in being seen, in being heard, in being held. Secondly, remember why you love them. Remember the beautiful qualities you see in that person and tell them why you care for them and their existence. If possible, try to make it organic and authentic. Try to not make it sound like a “this is why I don’t want to lose you” pre-rehearsed speech. Remind them that they have worth and value by just being. Thirdly, extend invitations. Even if your invitations are not accepted, invite them to hang out, to grab a meal, to grab coffee, to do something they enjoy. Lastly, if you feel at a loss, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from someone that might be able to support you. Having difficult conversations can be one of the most intimidating parts of the human experience.
I haven’t covered the complexity of suicide nor explored all the little nuances that have exploration potential in this think-piece. From living, I’ve gathered that the human experience is grey and in technicolor rather than black and white. Over the years, I’ve learned that even if you have the best of intentions and put forth an incredible amount of effort towards everything you do, sometimes you will lose. Failure is part of the human experience. I’ve also learned, that while you can hold space, love, and be there for another, you don’t get to control other people. We all have our own agency. We all have the right to make choices. And when the choices of another or others in general don’t seem to make sense to you, I invite you to try to make space for the possibility that there might be something to the situation that you can’t see. That there might be a bigger picture and hidden details that may never make their way to the surface. The human experience invites us to make space for mystery. Death, the unknown, is an invitation to reflect in the mysteries of being. Perhaps, there is more to this life than what the eyes can see. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say: in life, there are parts unknown.
I’ve managed to ride through the swells of life with beautiful carving. I’ve fallen into the ocean, the depths of the unconscious, and nearly drowned, more times than I can count. I’ve done it all in silence. I’ve turned ruins into cities. I’ve transmuted pain into fuel and alchemized sorrow into power. I’ve sat with trauma, have sailed through chaos, and have surfed through life toppled by currents of despair. I’ve done it all in silence. With a near unbearable flexibility: The way of the snake.
On Sundays, regardless of where in the world I may find myself, I’m often overcome by a wave of gratitude and deep reflection. Through vagabonding and wandering, I’ve met many likely souls. I can see it in their eyes – the mountains they’ve conquered, the depths they’ve dived, the storms they’ve stopped with their own bare hands. They always carry a beautiful sheen in the eyes with a dash of unspeakable sadness. Their souls carry a reverent silence, though often they’re vibrant, lively, and penetrating. Travel has been the greatest tool to my awakening – awakening to my surroundings, to the magic that resides on our very soil, to our interconnectedness, our need for interdependence, our collective agony, the truth that’s found between the lines of the veil, a vehicle to the realization of my own humanity. Travel has and continues to provide me with a view of the bigger picture. It has shown me a deeper truth of the human experience – from our capacity to birth seemingly impossible beauty to our desire to destroy the beauty we worked so diligently to birth. And everything in-between.
There are days when I walk down memory lane and return to the once eager 15-year-old girl whom held a piece of paper on her hands with words that would change the course of her life. That piece of paper was a portal into a world of magic – little did she know. That piece of paper was a ticket into a world of infinite possibility, the world of science. She started working in a research lab thanks to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which led her to get into medical school at the age of 17, which then led her to her people, and eventually to travel – lots of travel.Regardless of the shiny surface, in the 12 years that have transpired since, she has been to the depths of the underworld and back. All in silence.
Silence: her faithful companion, her constant guide.
Contrast. Dissonance, change, and entropy find their way to inject their presence into my reality. I suddenly find myself peeking at the world through the looking-glass: Unspeakable joy cohabits with gut-wrenching despair. Ancient city ruins become adorned by modern metropolis backdrops. Conquered peaks are accompanied by all consuming loss. The double helix always unravels to replicate life. Meteoroids fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn; We call them shooting stars. A beautiful bird, spontaneously combusts – burning itself to ashes to rise again anew. In summation, the paradox of the human experience.
I move the glass aside and come across a sign. Adorned by neon pink lighting, the bold lettering reads – “Welcome to Reality: Where Truth becomes truths.”
“Distractions are to be avoided. A goal can be attained. Introspection and contemplation are required. The need for independence and self-awareness. One who may provide guidance or aid.” Steve Luca via Japaridze Tarot
“Thank you so much, Nico.” Selene said as she hugged Nico goodbye and headed towards the entry of Charles de Gaulle airport. “It was my pleasure. Don’t forget about me. Visit soon.” Selene nodded and walked away to be greeted by automatic parting doors. As soon as she was inside the airport, she felt the sensation of electricity possess her body. There was something so magical about these portals that allowed humans to get from one place to another with the use of what you could call a mechanical bird. At the security checkpoint, she showed her the clerk her passport as well as the boarding pass on her phone. She walked down a hallway and made her way to the gate heading towards Dubai. Prior to arriving to Colombo, there was a layover in Dubai.
Selene looked around, took a deep breath, and had opened up her laptop. Quite some time had passed since she had felt the inspiration to share her journey with the cyber world. Selene was the writer of a blog and would often update her readers with photographs and stories from her travels. Though she mainly used the platform to share poetry about heartache and triumph, the paradox of the human experience, and controversial topics, at times she would show her readers the places and spaces that had inspired the pieces in the first place. However, while in Nice, something had shifted. Selene found herself being very selective, which what she was willing to share. Furthermore, her relationship to travel had begun to take a different form.
Words had always been Selene’s favorite healing potions. When she wrote, she felt as if she could alchemize all the internal confusion within into something easier to make space for. Words allowed her to contain the intensity of her emotions. They allowed her to experience emotions without becoming them. Though there were times, when she recognized that allowing oneself to fully feel was the best medicine. To feel without words. To feel without containment. To become so submerged in the emotion that there was no like of demarcation between what it was and whom she was. While those moments of complete absorption were cathartic, Selene knew that she had to conserve her energy for what lay ahead. It was one of those moments where she had to tame her feelings with words.
“I’m currently sitting at Charles de Gaulle airport headed towards Dubai. Tomorrow, I’ll be arriving in Colombo to spend an indeterminate amount of time. I just spent the last three weeks in France. Mostly in Nice with the last day and a half in Paris. As you may have noticed, I have been largely disconnected. This is because I have been reflecting on what travel means to me. As a result, I have also been interrogating myself in order to determine the direction in which I want my life to head towards. For the past few years, I have survived off of running and blog and writing feature articles for online and paper publications. From having the opportunity to do such remote work, I have been gifted with the flexibility travel widely. While in Nice, I met a cast of colorful characters, that I can say with certainty have changed the course of my life – Giuseppe, Ms. Laguerre, Tristán, and the Flaurberts. These individuals have inspired me to live with more depth, with more truth, and with more authenticity. All of these human beings have traveled the world, yet in the present moment they lead what you would call a more ‘settled life’. None of them are nomads. At the core of all which they shared it appeared as if what was truly important to these people was the quality and strength of their relationships. Every single one of them has endured soul-shattering heart break. Yet every single one of them appreciates life in a manner that is near indescribable. While I have enjoyed (and continue to do so) writing on this platform as well as all the monthly publications I’m allowed to contribute to, there is a part of me that knows that there is something more. There’s a part of me that recognizes that I have more to give. A part that can only be shared once I explore it on my own. As it stands that part of me lies deep within uncovered in the shadows. Here’s to my favorite activity: exploration.”
“Mesdames et Messieurs, nous sommes prêts à embarquer.” A voice spoke over the speaker. It was time for Selene to say goodbye to Paris to head on to the next wonder space. As she made her way to her seat, she thought of all the moments she shared with others while in Nice. Ah – a window seat. Selene settled in a observed the workers on the tarmac communicate with each other. In her gut, butterflies increasingly took flight as the scene was familiar to her mind – it was time for takeoff. As the plane sped on the runway, Selene’s heart began to race. This was the sensation that she lived for – what she continuously craved. Once the aircraft had lifted off the ground, she waved the Parisian landscape goodbye through her peephole window. Twenty minutes later, Selene was soundly asleep.
In Selene’s dreamworld appeared a dark scene, unveiled. The canvas of the scene was painted a dark, midnight blue decorated with textured orbs. In addition to the orbs, there was the planet Saturn, a diamond, and a lamp. In the center of scene there was a triangle partly overshadowed by a rectangle. The inside of the triangle base was painted black. At the center, there knelt a woman holding a child – highlighted by subtle pink hues and a yellow undertone. From the upper part of the triangle, right where the triangle and the rectangle met, there was a hand holding an oil lamp. The top of triangle was decorated by a rectangle. The background of the rectangle was that of a blue sky with wispy clouds. In the lower portion of the rectangle, right above the mother and child, there was a circular kaleidoscope containing smaller versions of itself with varying visuals. From the circle, protruded a black, plastic arm holding a head which bore an indifferent expression. The face of the head was decorated with chalk and carried a small lamp in the center of its head. Suddenly, Selene awakened as her body recalled the sensations of landing. In a little under seven hours, they had made their way to Dubai International Airport.
“Realization and recognition of success. An end to hardship or suffering. Luxury and refinement. Gracious living with appreciation for the arts and the finer things.” Steve Luca via Japaridze Tarot
That evening was the last where Selene, Caer, Sofia, Dmitri, and Nico would all be together in Nice. The following morning, Caer, Sofia, and Dmitri would make their way back to the States, while Nico would head back to Paris. Though Selene still wasn’t feeling at her best, she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she didn’t spend at least one last time with her friends. They made their way to the Tramway and once they got off, they were en route to rue Chauvain for a restaurant called Le Boudoir. As they entered, their host walked towards them. To Selene’s disbelief, it was Tristán. “Tristán!” Selene exclaimed. “Great to see you.” Caer, Sofia, Dmitri and Nico all remained silent. “These must be your friends.” Tristán added. “Eek! I apologize about that. Yes, these are my friends. This is their last night in Nice so we thought we’d get something to eat to spend some time together without the fuss and messiness of cooking.” Tristán chuckled. “Follow me.”
Dmitri had called ahead of time and they were seated near one of the restaurant windows. Selene, Caer, and Sofia sat on a large leather upholstered seat against one of the restaurant walls. Across from them, Dmitri and Nico sat in purple cloth upholstered chairs. While the bunch ordered away with decadent meals, Selene opted for a small salad and some tea. Though she was feeling well enough to be present with her friends, she didn’t want to jeopardize the moment by making adventurous food choices too soon. Tristán bid the crew farewell prior to his shift ending. They all talked, laughed, and reminisced on moments of a near and distant past. After the meal they headed back to the flat in preparation for departure.
The following morning, Selene bid her friends farewell. “Thank you all for making your way out here. It’s been replenishing to reconnect and see you all again. I apologize for not being able to spend as much time as I wanted to spend with you all. If you feel the need to head to a more tropical destination and join me in Sri Lanka, please do not hesitate.” They all laughed. They hugged. They kissed. Then, they were gone. The silence their absence left in the apartment was slightly haunting. Though Selene had spent the days prior in silence, knowing that the days’ end promised their return was comforting. Today was different. She knew that not only was their lack of return guaranteed, but she didn’t know when their next reunion would occur – well, with the exception of the few days she was going to spend with Nico in Paris. Their communication would become a series of impersonal exchanges via phone applications, web teleconferencing, phone calls, and the occasional exchange of gifts for birthdays and major holidays.
Without much hesitation, Selene grabbed the apartment keys and made her way to Promenade du Paillon. As she walked through the 12 hectares and 1.2 km space, she admired the palm trees, the assorted greenery, the fountains, and the reflecting pool. Along the way, she stopped by a sculpture that resembled an opened horseshoe. There were two friends sitting in the middle basking in the warmth of the sun. She made her way to a nearby cluster of trees and sat under a palm tree in the shade. After a few breaths of reprieve, she got up and continued to walk. Finally, she made it to the ocean side and stared out into the breeze. Shortly after, she felt a tap on her shoulder – Giuseppe.
In excitement, Selene jumped off her feet and hugged him. “Giuseppe! What a pleasant surprise. How is your brother?” With a sad expression in his eyes he responded, “I don’t think he’ll be with us for much longer, but he appears to be holding on. He has pancreatic cancer and the prognosis looks rather bleak. How are you, dear? I heard you weren’t feeling stellar.” Selene nodded. “I’m sorry to hear it. Eh – you know, healing.” Selene responded as she felt a chill up her spine. “Thank you, dear. So goes the cycle of life doesn’t it? One day you’re young and doe-eyed ready to take on the world. Crafting and scripting dreams on parchments only to realize that the ink runs out in the end and there’s not way to replenish it.” Giuseppe and Selene walked and continued to talk about the cycle of life and death that’s intricately woven into the human narrative. “Most of the time, these cycles occur in their metaphoric form. I’m sure you’ve experienced multiple – when you left graduate school, with the loss of a lover, illness, when you no longer click with friends, the change of jobs – metaphoric death riddles our existence. And I have an inkling that you know how necessary it is order for life to continue flourishing. What do you say we pay some proper gardens a visit? Selene nodded.
They boarded a bus route headed to the airport and got off on Boulevard René Cassin. Upon entering Parc Phoenix, they were greeted by a fork in the road – to the right hand, they had the museum of Asian arts and to the other a walkway around the lake. Giusepee headed towards the walkway and Selene followed. They didn’t walk very far when they stopped at the Fontaine musicale. As music played and Giuseppe told Selene about the history of the park, her attention shifted to what appeared to be the statue of a woman. The statue stood tall amongst the beauty of the garden. The statue’s skin had a blue hue with beautifully lavished decorations, which blended with the orange sun- blue clouded sky in the background. Her garments were brightly colored, textured, and intense. Fuchsia and magenta silks were interwoven with pieces of light red tulle. Towards the front of the dress, a scene painted of the gardens with a night sky called to the attention of all those whom walked by. Throughout the skirt of the dress, there were flowers accentuating the beauty of the surrounding garden. There were red roses, white bell flowers, and pink carnations. She wore Sienna-brown shoes. At the top she was covered with an assortment of flowers and wing patters. On her right shoulder, there lay a flamingo who sat on a bright pink ball. In her hands, she held a mirror in the shape of a shell. Upon her head, there was a large headdress made of Japanese kimono silk and a large orange english tea rose. Suspended in the right air next to her, flew a monarch butterfly. Coming from the flowers in the her shoes, an olive green snake walked with pride – head lifted. “Selene? Are you still here, Selene?”
Selene looked away from the statue and up to Giuseppe. Giuseppe smiled and continued to talk about the hundred birds that lived near the lake, the Green Diamond greenhouse, the caimans, the iguanas, the exotic birds. They continued walking and made their way towards the Pyramides. In front of them, exposed, was the Grand Pré, serving as a stage to the Gran de Serre Diamant Vert, one of the largest greenhouses in Europe. Upon Selene’s eyes encountering the sight, she intensely asked Giuseppe, “Giuseppe, how come you never told me of Freya?”
“Resolution can only be achieved through determination. A need for action or taking responsibility. Immobility from feelings or powerlessness and victimization.” Steve Luca via Japaridze Tarot
The scent of peppermint and anise overtook the apartment. A couple of days had passed and Selene had to stay behind from an overall feeling of malaise. She lay on a long sofa and watched a television program where a woman was imprisoned. In this Spanish show, a young girl and her family had been wrongly accused of a crime by a very powerful individual in their community. The particular scene before her portrayed the young woman in a solitary cell. The young woman whose name was Catalina, had long, loose hair and wore a white gown. She sat on a bench, bonded by rope in the back. The cell had a small window opening with bars from top to bottom. In the upper left-hand corner of the room, there stood a bat – flying in place. The young woman cried has she wondered about the whereabouts of her family, the status of the love of her life, and the injustices of the world around her. It appeared as if with enough money and power, anything was possible in the world the show depicted.
Selene shut off the immobilizing scene and pulled the covers over her. Often times scenes of that nature were literal representations of how she’d felt during different moments in her life: a strict religious upbringing, in the realms of the destructive world of modern day academia. Selene identified with the Catalina character in the show. It was the reason why she had packed her bags and walked away from it all. She still clearly remembered the reactions of those around her: Selene had clearly gone insane. She was a year away from completion of her program and she simply walked away. What was she trying to prove? What were her exact goals? Did she really think that the skills she had learned in the clinical psychology curriculum could actually help others heal in the way she wanted? The constant anxiety and plagues of doubt had crippled her quality of life. The night prior to her making the decision to walk away, she had spent vomiting her fears into oblivion. The following day she awakened with the determination to let the program go. She had a realization: time was going to continue to pass whether she was in this program or not. Life was happening, although she didn’t feel as if she was engaging with it.
“Are you sure that this is what you want?” On that auspicious day, two years prior, she had been asked this same question by her advisor, cohort classmates (including Sofia), her friends, her parents, and even the staff that worked in the department that had never interacted with her. With a deep inner knowing and certainty, she remembers telling each and every single one of those beings a deep and true: Yes. That afternoon, she took a long solitary stroll down fifth avenue and thought of state of humanity – whom in their right mind would buy into the idea that we were meant to follow some true and tried rules, establish a career, find someone to share that with, and then reproduce? Why did so many buy into something that merely resembled true living? Couldn’t they feel the suffocation? Couldn’t they see its stark limitations? If there is something that Selene had learned in her explorations in psychology, it has been that humans were capable of brilliant and magnificent things in as long as they followed their own voice – their passions, their obsessions, their rules.
Selene got up from the sofa, wrapped the soft caramel-colored blanket around her, and made her way to the bedroom where she had been sleeping for two weeks. The bedroom where she stayed, opened up to small balcony that overlooked the street below. On the way, she grabbed a pack of cigarettes and a lighter that belonged to Caer. She slid the glass door open, lit up the cigarette, and sat on a chair – observing everyone who passed through the street. There was a dog walker with his golden retriever. There was an elderly woman racing after a young toddler whom she presumed to be her grandchild. There was a couple visibly upset on the intersection. There was an middle-aged man – walking rather swiftly. The scenes that were uncovered before her eyes made her question her commitment to travel. All she had witnessed suddenly seemed so ordinary. Where was the magic? Where was the bewitching energy she had found when she first arrived and had met Giuseppe?
As the sun began to set and the rain continued to pour, Selene closed her eyes and thought about the moment where she had made the decision that the pursuit of adventure, the path of the explorer was hers to follow. After working in a coffee shop to save money post-graduate school dropout, she headed to Hawaii. The island of Oahu to be exact. She made an agreement with the owner of a hostel that in exchange for her working the front desk and managing general processes in the hostel, she would receive free housing. Selene lived there for two months. While her time on the island was the epitome of mystical, her most fond memory was the one she created as soon as she landed. In an attempt to culminate her healing, to truly face grief, as soon as she landed, she made her way to Le’ahi (commonly known as Diamond Head). With little sleep, not having eaten for hours, she made her way to the top of the crater. On the way up, memories resurfaced – memories of loss, of joy – memories of her human experience. Upon reaching the top, she looked out into the surrounding spaces that stood below her. There was the city of Honolulu. Waikiki, the shore adorned with bright sand, hotels, resorts, that eventually opened into the downtown of the capital. In the other direction, she could see a residential area – homes lined up in the valley with other mountains in the background. Then on the other viewpoint, there was the open ocean. The deep blue of the Pacific calling her name. At a distance, she could see something lay beyond. Selene stayed at its top and took in the enchanting energy of the land – in the moment she remembers that everything made sense.
Everything made sense. She didn’t ponder the difficult questions of purpose and meaning. There were little thoughts about her former lover, her family’s expectations, or what she was supposed to be doing with her ‘potential’. Selene opened her eyes and returned indoors once her cigarette had been put out. She had already decided that she was to spend her last two days of France in Paris, then she was to head over to Sri Lanka.
the action or process of causing so much damage to something that it no longer exists or cannot be repaired.
Some time last year, my father went out of his way to cut a off a good portion of a tree whose branches extended onto his driveway. At the time, I remember making a comment about the birds that inhabited the tree. As autumn equinox graces us with its presence in the North American continent and the Atlantic hurricane season reaches its peak, nature is inviting me to make space for death and destruction. Over the past forty-eight hours, I’ve been watching the island of my upbringing, Puerto Rico, via media proxy destroyed by Hurricane Maria. My father’s actions of cutting the tree, when placed in a greater context, make sense. My father’s attraction to properties on higher altitudes, make sense. Though currently residing on mainland US soil, both my parents spent a good portion of their lives living on an island where hurricane’s are common, though nothing quite like Maria. From their perspective, removing the tree was a precautionary measure – an attempt to remove as much potential danger near their home as possible, in case that something ever occurs.
Just last week, I was in the serene glory of the sublime Rocky Mountains. Surrounded by alpine trees, rocky terrain, fresh water, and a crisp air quality that brings tranquility to the soul. Constrast. As of late, water has been calling me for healing, particularly fresh water. When in stillness, fresh mountain water has a crisp taste, a quality of clarity, and induces a sense of calm to all those whom approach it. Yet, it also has the capacity to cause great change, to increase speed, to be in a state of ferocity, and to destroy. The dual nature of water gives it mystery and evokes a deep reverence from its surrounding ecosystem. The elements always arouse a sense of curiosity within me. All elements are paradoxical in nature, having the capacity to both sustain life and annihilate it. Water provides nourishment, but also drowns. Fire provides warmth, but also burns. Air provides lightness and refreshment, but also roars, uproots and tears apart. Earth provides support, but also crumbles.
“The universe destroys itself to recreate itself.” – Douglas Brooks
During my undergraduate years, I had the privilege of taking a course with Douglas Brooks. If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of his lectures or conversations, take advantage of doing so. He’s a brilliant individual that has the capacity to weave storytelling, theory, and Hindu mythology, all while providing you with practical-modern day applications to engage with your world. You are every character in the story, he would often say. Kali. Kali is a Hindu goddess known as both destroyer and creator. She whom cleanses. She whom removes all that’s no longer needed. Fierce, protector, mistress of time. As I watched video and photographic evidence of destructive winds, flash floods, and mudslides, Kali’s presence sat beside me. She watched with a grin on her face. All will be made new, she kept repeating as she danced away. “Muerte y destrución en Aguadilla...La destrución en Moca es masiva.” Death and destruction. I closed my laptop and decided to shut my eyes for some sleep. Still no word from my family on the island.
“There are the tourists—those who seek temporary respite from their daily lives, and the glimpse of a famous landmark. There are the travelers—the wanderers, who journey without aim, for the love of being on the road. There are the explorers—those yearning for adventure, for the thrill of unearthing things rarely seen.
And then there are the pilgrims.
The magic of gazing out the window on long bus rides, the alluring call of foreign experiences, the pure, unfettered joy of unmarked locales and smiling locals: These are delights for the traveler, for the explorer with itchy feet. A pilgrim may embrace this ethos, but his itch remains unscratched. The pilgrim needs more than sightseeing and personal metamorphosis. It may be about a lesson to learn or a lesson to teach; it may be about preserving the past and enlightening the future. For the pilgrim, the journey is both purpose and project. Life may be the inspiration, but for the pilgrim, the journey becomes life itself.” Wanderlusted: Meet the Modern-Day Pilgrims
the action or process of bringing something into existence.
Pilgrim. Earlier this year, I spent about ten days on the island. Not only did I become reacquainted with those I hadn’t seen in over a decade, but I got to re-establish a connection with my ancestral roots. Visiting both my grandfather’s grave sites as well as the spaces where my family has spent a good portion of the past century was enlivening. It reignited a sense of purpose and direction within me – it further infused my bones with the spirit of the intellectual and the explorer, qualities which both of my grandfather’s exhibited. On a sunny late morning, I stood overlooking a cemetery in the the Northwestern Puerto Rican town of Moca. I vividly remember the sensation of the cool breeze that caressed my skin as I closed my eyes. In that instance, an urge to wander overpowered my body – in that moment I knew, I was to keep moving, exploring, discovering.
As Puerto Rico is riddled with metaphoric death and destruction, I sense centuries of trauma and pain manifested in visual form, coming to the surface for healing. From being under Spanish reign to becoming a modern day US commonwealth, years of suppressed abuse can no longer remain just below the surface. Centuries of using the Earth’s natural resources for our own gain can’t go without repercussions. Mother Nature is using her force to remind us of the bigger picture; to remind us of our interdependent relationship, our interconnectedness. As I browsed photos of ruination, I felt as if I too was uprooted – I too was to make space for endings in preparation for an incoming dawn. Mother Nature, Kali, Persephone, gift us with a clean slate to begin again, to begin anew. As I continue a long-term pilgrimage to uncover, discover, and create whom I want to be, I’ll trust water, fire, wind, and earth to guide me down a path of continuous cycles of death and rebirth, not allowing room to take anything for granted. The path of a Phoenix. The path of a Snake. In the words of Douglas Brooks, Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
It is my hope to travel to Puerto Rico this coming November to assist the people to begin again, in whatever ways I can.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times