Video Skype, Adventures and Our Friend Maya

Monday, we had a long video Skype chat with our super hip friend, Maya Stein. For those of you unfamiliar with Maya, she is a feral writer, poet, chef, diorama artist and lip sync maven. She has traveled across the country doing feral writing workshops…and she is constantly dreaming up new crazy things to do.

Conversations with her always make me want to go out and spray paint our truck…make our front yard a giant diorama…pack Tina and the kids up and travel around the country in an RV. There is an undercurrent of “What’s next?” with her that is contagious.

The conversation came around to the paradox of how to live the wild life while also recording it. There is something about being in the middle of a grand adventure that makes it hard to record. It is often hard to get enough distance from the middle to actually write anything that communicates what is going on.  You know how it feels to be the one on the vacation with the camera and having to decide all the time if you actually want to participate in the activity, be in the moment, enjoy the scenery…or take pictures of it? It always feels that way for me, except that, on the bigger adventures, I’m also not completely understanding what I’m looking at anyway. So, I wait for the story to unfold a little. Wanting to capture the whole of it, rather than the snapshots.

But then, when do you stop the adventure and take time to record it…in whatever way you choose to record such things. It is a little disorienting to come off of something life-changing and stay still long enough to let it soak in and become something to tell. But being slow and solitary, there is not much to tell about.

It’s an addiction, being the adventurer…being the one in the peer group who is unpredictable. As much as I am loath to admit it, I like that I am introduced now as “the one who just returned from Haiti.” I like how that defines me instantly. And I would be lying if I did not admit that I’m not crazy about the fact that it is wearing off, and now I am just me again…writing.

It is a quieter life…but the truth is, I really love it when I manage to pour out a single sentence or paragraph that truly tells where I am or describes what I experienced. I love watching the story emerge in words. I dig how my life now is reflecting some of what I learned back to me, and that, the more I write, the more I understand of my experience there. When I am actually writing, it is like the whole experience is happening all over again, but with context this time. And that is kind of cool.

Maya is in the planning stages of her next big thing. I can’t wait to see how it organizes and becomes something bold and epic. And we will follow her along in her adventure…or hear about it afterwards…and delight in the unexpected bits that always accompany an out-of-the-ordinary experience.

And, in the recesses of my brain, I will be putting the pieces together of my own next adventure. I’m thinking it might include passports.

Swimming in Haiti

I wrote this as I sat in the restaurant in the Kinam Hotel…downtown Petionville.  The heat, lord the heat…my primary occupation was to find a way to escape it.

Submersion

The woman meeting me for lunch today was late.

But the larger faux pas was mine.

I leaned my chair further back from the table

Until it pushed against the railing

At the edge

Of a balcony,

Overlooking a crystal clear

Sparkling

Pool.

And the day smothered me

In heavy blankets of heat,

Just like every day in Haiti.

 

I removed the linen napkin,

Placed deftly onto my lap

By someone who apparently had not noticed

That I had lost interest in lunch.

I just wanted a closer look,

Just a little closer

To the vacant

Glistening

Pool.

How cool it must be in there.

And clean.

And familiar.

It was the familiarity that moved me,

Of course.

So suddenly common

Amidst so much uncommon.

 

Without missing a beat of the siren’s song

Of water lapping on tile,

I slipped out of my sandals

Onto the railing

And leapt into the water below.

So that, when my lunch companion finally joined me,

Late,

My carefully chosen ensemble

Was drenched

And single beads of water slipped over my brow

And into my hairline

Following the line down my neck

And tracing my spine.

 

I shook her hand as she apologized and sat down.

Wishing I had acted on the impulse

Instead of imagining it

As I had

So vividly

That I could taste the chlorine in the sweat

That ran a river

Down my face.

Fort

Some days, I wish my kids were very small

Like today.

Because today I want to do things that grownups just don’t do.

Like build a fort.

With blankets and chairs.

I would put it against the wall so that I could have pillows to lean on.

Only they would be beasts I had tamed.

And have little pin lights hanging from the chair backs.

But then again

The kids would want to play their games

And make it too much like a movie they saw

Or a campout

Or the jungle.

My tent would be in the middle of a crazy network of caves and tunnels.

And there would be no maps

Because the openings keeps shifting

And the tunnels move.

And, only I can find the way in

Because I am magic.

But I would bring a friend.

One friend.

Because she gets me

Even when I don’t.

She will say

“Oh, perhaps we shall have some tea then!”

When the roof starts to sag and I can’t figure it out.

Or

“Look! A new door! I wonder where that goes?!”

Because she knows that adventure

will get me all excited again.

And maybe I would have to get new chairs

And blankets

Because maybe that corner of the living room would always be a tent

In a cave

At the end of a wild trek through mysterious tunnels.

Living Dangerously

“The voodoo priestess can kill you
And she does not even need to be anywhere near you.”
I am sitting in the back of a pick up truck
Against the tailgate
Because here I am in Haiti,

Living dangerously.

“It is hard for you to understand their magic.

Because you are not of here.”
The women with me in the back of the truck are American too.
They are skeptical.
We are always so skeptical of things we don’t understand.

“People in the rural areas,” his English perfect,

his accent perfectly Haitian, “they believe everything is voodoo.
But it is not everything.”
One of the women in the truck bed with us speaks up,
“Maybe they can kill people,
because people believe in it.”

Our young host looks down as if trying to find a connection

In the grooved floor of the truck bed.
There is none there either.
“You are probably safe,
you are not from here,” he decides.

“But we are of this land,

This soil is in our bones.”

A car pulls up behind us and the headlights frame the dark outline of my head
And shoulders
Until my reflection in the back window of the truck
Looks like I am
The absence of light.

“Yes, you are probably safe.

Still
If you see a white woman on a horse
Or a black dog that is unusually large,
Do not go home.
Do not go to sleep.
Just in case.”

A Love Poem

I can feel you slipping away again.

Though I still cannot resist
And reach out every time I pass by you
To see
If we have another couple of days together.
And though I take you home
I am not fooled
You are not as sweet to me as you were even a month ago.

I am such a fool.
It’s not like this is the first time.
You always show up when it’s time to play,
And remind me of picnics,
And exotic holidays,
In far away places.
And every year, I am swept away.

I resent even the slightest suggestion that I share you with others.
You are here for such a short time.
And I have waited all year.
You make me feel like a child guarding her things.
So, I share.
And make sure no one takes too much
Of what is rightfully mine.

It is hard not to feel justified in this
Right now
As you become a paler version of yourself.

You will be totally gone soon.
Though pretenders will still appear
And try to convince me they are every bit as good as you.
But they are not.
I know this.
And I will wait.

I can wait for the next watermelon season.

xo,
Kimberley