Four days before leaving for Mexico
The driveway, tree-tunneled, winds it’s 450 feet toward the house. I always slow down, to take it in: my log house, gnarled old apple trees, and glimpse of laughing river. Anxiety, sadness, worry, disappear for a brief moment as the reality of this place, my sanctuary, slips over me like warm, strong arms around my shoulders.
Upon unlocking the door and entering the house, I’m greeted by a frantically joyful Bea. It’s hard to tear myself away from her sweet moans of joy and wriggling happiness. She has a hilarious and meltingly-endearing habit of putting her head onto the ground or couch, as though she were about do a handstand (pawstand?) or somersault, and wagging her tail wildly, she emits vocals that express her delight clear as words. It’s a wonderful welcome home, especially living alone.
When we’ve completed our greetings, I move on to the next undertaking: getting the fire going. If it’s gone out completely, I have to rebuild it from scratch. The “Wonderwood” is unattractive, as it looks like a furnace, but it’s fairly efficient. Some days, the ashes need emptying, which is a precarious and potentially dustily disastrous task entailing tiptoeing through the house, out the door and across the yard, to pour the ashes into the fire pit. The over-loaded tray is always just a sneeze away from an ash cloud descending on all the furniture, but I’ve found just the right ratio of cautious tiptoeing to forward movement—so far so good.
Once the fire’s going, I change out of my “town shoes” and into rubber boots. I slide out of my nice jacket and into my grub coat—taking one aspect off and replacing with another.
Before I can relax, wood needs to be brought in. It’s dark outside, raining on a slushy inch of this morning’s snow, and the temperature’s dropping.
“There’s no warmth like a wood stove, dear, heart-friend Dorothy always says.
I linger around the stove like a cat, loading in wood until the house is like a sauna. Taking off clothes. Opening windows. Reading, grading, writing, basking naked on cool sheets, the fire’s warmth evaporating layers of heartache and chilling cold until my skin glows.
After I load the cart with chunks of wet, heavy wood, I trundle back to the house. Load arms, open door, through the house, stack wood by wood stove, repeat. The wood is heavy, but something in me relishes the work. It satisfies a primal urge—I am doing what humans have always done: wood to fire. Working to generate warmth.
Once the wood’s been brought in, I return coat to hook and take off black rubber boots. I’ve tracked in dirt and wood detritus, so I sweep the entryway, bathroom, and living space. It never ceases to surprise me how long it takes to sweep such a small space.
It takes a little while to be fully present. I putter, doing small chores and checking the fire.
A drawback of this life, is that it’s often difficult to relax. There’s always so much to do that moments spent in activities that aren’t “productive” can cause anxiety. Even writing and reading feel like luxuries these days, and I mostly take them up at night, when household chores can be put off until tomorrow.
It’s the life I’ve chosen; a life I love: a life I’ve always known.
This is it. The first.
my jump- leap -journey
Here, is where I start. Layered in all the firsts and beginnings that came before. What will come after.
The flight. All the other flights that came before.
Remove belts, jackets, shoes.
To release, lift buckle.
Stress, lack of sleep, worry
clouded takeoff. Now, breaking through atmosphere, into sun.
Can it be?
Am I doing this?
Did I make this happen?
My window shade is open. Wheels coming down. Landing.
Life here’s come on so quickly it’s hard to sit down and document it all. I lounge on my second story balcony, watching the local world of Isla Mujeres pass below. It’s a plane ride and a world away from my cabin and woodpile.
It’s a strange feeling—my white, American self, watching from above as local Mexicans go about their day to day. I try to immerse myself, but the language barrier remains frustrating. However, I’ve learned that making an effort and a smile go a long way.
As it gets closer to Christmas, music and parties ramp up. There’s always music bumping somewhere, and it creates a layered, thumping cacophony of sound that fades into the background as you get used to it.
My week has been a blur of meeting new friends, poker night, delicious tacos, walking, hot sun, beach, ocean, writing, cleaning my room, staying out until four, and laughing until my stomach hurts.
I look at the photos of me a week ago: exhausted, worried, anxious, and running low on the kind of buoyancy that generally sustains me.
Travel. That old cure for the apathy and lack of perspective that accumulate like dust and dull your awareness of the greater world around you.
“Travel makes you modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” Gustave Flaubert
This trip has also reminded me of strength pockets within myself I’d forgotten about. Reminded me I know how to be a confident woman of the world, not just a confident woman of the woods. It’s reminded me what it’s like to be the only American at a table in a room full of new friends. I’m humbled daily by some lack of cultural knowledge. I appreciate the humbling, because it reminds me how gloriously different other cultures experience the world.
Being here fuels a distinctive kind of life within me than I experience at home. It reminds me to be aware, thankful, and brave.
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are,”