It’s 5:30 am and I am sitting on the porch watching the light broaden over the bay. The sky is that light blue, hazy pink color. The water is perfectly still. There are birds softly chirping. I am wrapped in a soft red blanket. My love still sleeps; I was somehow able to slip out of the bed without waking him––an unusual accomplishment.
I haven’t had much time alone in the past few months. With constant visitors, rented rooms, and a new relationship, I’ve spent very few solitary moments. It took me years to get used to being alone, and I came to like it. Was I just telling myself that or was it really true? I know I’m a pack animal and was terrified of being left alone, but gradually accepted it as a new norm. I convinced myself that it was a better way of life with no compromises. Now I’m glad to see I can slip back into the herd and be happy here. I just need to carve out time for myself, set limits, and stick to it.
Now the sun is a big red ball shining through the fir trees. Another few minutes and it will be above them. From my perch there isn’t a view of open water and makes the scene much more interesting and picturesque. I wonder what it would be like to live here all summer.
We leave in a week for Europe and a trek through the Alps. This walk is something I have always wanted to do. Well, always since I learned of it. I have been drawn to the mountains since I was a child. Growing up, we were on many a forced march up one peak or another and I remember being miserable much of the time. It is very possible that my father was reasonably happy then, accounting for my attraction to heights. Not sure. It might be why I love skiing so much as it was the only time my father and I weren’t fighting. Does understanding where things come from make them more valuable? Would I love the mountains more if I knew for sure the reason why, or would my fascination start to dwindle? I’ll push these musings to the back while I make lists of what to bring and all that needs to be done before I go.
One hundred miles between Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn. Small Swiss villages along the way offering supper and bed. This is not a remote route, nor a dangerous one (by hiking standards) and we should manage just fine. I’m anticipating days full of spectacular vistas and evenings full of conversation and good meals. Who knows if this is accurate or this particular fantasy will come true, but lately I’m on a roll. In fact, I’m starting to think I should dream big right now before the genie goes back in the bottle.
The sun has gone behind a cloud just above the horizon. It’s the only cloud in the sky. It looks like it will be another perfect day. Summer on this beautiful coast where fir trees make their way down to the granite shore and all seems peaceful and calm in the world. What a perfect place for escape. How easy it is to ignore the entire of humanity from here. But that’s because we have food and wine and fresh berries. I have my laptop to write on, good books to read, good friends to talk with, and a good man to be with.
We have been visiting with friends who were also Peace Corps volunteers, and last night, over a fabulous dinner, we had a discussion about happiness and poverty. Interesting juxtaposition, but it made perfect sense. Having worked with people who experience abject poverty, living day to day on what they could produce or collect from the earth, we felt like they were some of the happiest children/people we knew. Much happier than people here overall, and wondered what that means about our lifestyle and motives for helping them. I am not talking about those starving or sick. I’m talking about people who are devastatingly poor by our standards, but have enough. Just enough. Without access to information about the rest of the world, they had nothing to compare their lives with. They didn’t know there were other options out there, so were content with their fate. Is it moral to consider this good enough? Is denying them information, which could make them malcontents, ethical? In Congo, it people were only poor, we would have considered the project wildly successful. If they could live in peace and have enough to eat, if the women could live without fear of rape or death from childbirth, if the children could make it past their fifth birthday, we would have declared a stupendous victory. So what are our goals in life? When is enough good enough?
The sun is over the trees and a hummingbird sips at the feeder, it’s tiny wings beating away. I wonder how joyful it is to them to find the sweet water? The sun is already warming my face and the prospect of a hot day looms as a sweet feeder that draws me in.
Many people are asking me what I’ll do now that I’ve left my full time job. It is so unlike me to NOT have a plan. I could go back to Africa, and will in some as yet undecided capacity, but not sure when. Maybe next year. I still have to work on what I would want to accomplish there. Teaching is noble, especially when there are so many students eager to learn and grateful for the opportunity. It’s so different from here where we take it all for granted. That could be incredibly satisfying. Working on getting health centers going again in rural areas, yes, could do that, but need to figure out where to start.
I may not know exactly where my love of the mountains comes from, but I can accurately identify where my guilt comes from, and it is not the Catholic church. I can sit here and appreciate the beauty of my surroundings, give bottomless thanks for my blessings, relish the tea I’m drinking, but I couldn’t keep this up without sharing some of my good fortune by helping others. Now the question is, what is really helping?
Satisfying work. Another blessing and gift.