I have been meaning to post for a while, recognizing that the me who started this journey (not just volunteering in Jamaica, but redesigning my life to allow for that and so much more) is still me even in double layers of wool socks and huddled up to my fireplace. I’m still me even though the path I thought I was starting out on in September 2014 has taken a slightly difference route. I’m still that me. But when one takes on a persona as “the Tropical Canadian” it seems important to spend some time in the tropics to keep that persona thawed out. And, well, that hasn’t happened.
Every so often – once or twice a year, I suppose – I get into a mindset that only salt water can heal. On those days I awake with Isak Dinesen’s most famous quote ringing in my ears:
the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.
Luckily for me, I live on an island in the Pacific with easy access to rock-hewn beaches and stirring sea breezes. Continue reading “An Isak Dinesen kind of day”
Since getting home everyday – without hyperbole – I’ve thought about how to redesign my life so that I can work from anywhere and balance making an income with making a difference. I’ve read several books on the subject, ever more blog posts and a growing number of tweets. While it’s nice that so many people seem to be building a tipping point of freedom from the expected life path, my concern about the conversation is building.
I’ve been home for six months today. At last I can say home without using quotation marks, as Victoria once again feels like home – not like forever or an anchor, but as a friendly and knowing place to rest and reset. I still miss Jamaica. I miss the sea; I miss the people; I miss the experience of being a contribution through my daily activities. And, I miss who I was there – active socially and physically, healthy, nourished, free – I don’t know why those things feel so much less accessible here. Either way, the missing has less ache and more sweetness in it these days.
Thirty years ago this week I was bitten by an incurable, tropical bug. As I stepped from the plane onto the tarmac at Lilongwe International Airport, the destination of my first trans-Atlantic journey, I felt the hot humidity of air spiced with flamboyant trees, heard the earth say ‘welcome home’ and breathed it all in. For a teenager from a small northern town, six weeks in southern Africa was unimaginable. Even when I emailed my parents this week to recognize the passing of time we agreed it was one of the best trips any of us have been on – perhaps because it was the first off our continent, but also because of the miracle of it all. As my dad said, “it was an amazing and in hind sight almost unbelievable journey.”
Since I got home I’ve been consumed slowly, like the last log in the fire pit turning to coal, then ashy dust. I have lost warmth and light. This week hormones held a match to the tinder-pile of stress, loneliness, guilt, fear, and shame I’ve been stacking, and it’s been all I can do to imitate a functional human being. My parents visited. My older son stopped by. Friends messaged, and the whole while I’ve been burning from the inside out.
My dreams are the colour of the waters off Hellshire.
Echoes of soca bounce down the street to sing me a lullaby.
Scents of coconut & sweetwood smoke drift towards me as I drift towards sleep.
The memory of your warm skin is blanket enough.
Even at this cold distance.
Because of Jamaica. Because of the people and the heat and the noise and the colour. Because of warm water, sunny skies, spicy fish, caramel rum. Because of 160 days. Because of encouragement and support from behind and beside. Because of lessons learned in tears and laughter. Because of good work and deep leisure. Because of Ocho Rios and Port Antonio, Runaway Bay and Falmouth, Montego Bay and Negril, and escaping to Barbados. But first and last because of Kingston …
For my final week or two in Jamaica I couldn’t find words. I couldn’t find words for all I appreciated in what Jamaica had given and taught me. I couldn’t find the words to articulate my dread of leaving and returning to ‘life as usual’ in Canada. In the quiet darkness of midnight or the insular safety of a road trip with only two other ears to hear I could speak of one or two things – a fear, some specific lesson, a concrete blessing – but the total. The total remains largely inarticulable.