I’ve been sidelined from CuencaHighLife and nearly homebound for the last few months due to a medical condition requiring ever increasing doses of morphine. I am quite foggy-headed — disorientation and exhaustion reminiscent of how I felt while waiting for my ears to quit ringing and a sense of normalcy to return after attending a Flaming Lips concert.
It is not soothing.
However, I manage to get out occasionally, just long enough to catch a glimpse of what I’ve been missing.
Just up the street is a new tapas place owned and operated by a very cool couple. He is Basque, she is Jamaican. They be jammin’ “old style” to sardines, olives, eggplant, crusty bread, and hearty red wine. When I walked by the pickle-packed place, it was lit with sparkling laughter.
A single minute later I peered into the dimly lit foyer of a large colonial home where three young boys huddled on stairs. The oldest sat in the middle with a book in his lap; he was reading aloud as carefully as a sea captain guiding his crew through Icy Straits. His mates stared up at him, or down to the pages, but most often their eyes were closed. They were sailing on the ancient cadence of the tale and their own imagination.
A baker, weary from the heat, was kneading his bread by an open window next to an open door in one of the many bakeries in my neighborhood. Romantic music flowed through the shop at a volume that encompassed the rhythm of his knead and his desire.
I watched the tranvia cruising along its tracks with the same satisfaction I had when streetcar service began in Portland, Oregon. And, I expect it to be just as successful. It will be fun to ride, and popular with residents and tourists alike. My only surprise is how well it fits into the cityscape, like an already established landmark. It is a perfect complement to the city of Cuenca.
Finally, I saw a parade of children chafing underfoot in their rush to see everything and be a part of it too. I noticed fathers lovingly carrying their kids like sacks of rice, and mothers instinctively holding out their hand for a tiny model of that same hand to grasp lightly, but securely.
I watched old folks bent over the burden of time, a few softly chanting, others stoically walking towards home after a lifetime away.
Of course, there were dogs. Everywhere and often. Some rested comfortably within sight and scent of their own warm home while others commuted from meal site to meal site, always with determination, and ever vigilant to the markings of their world. They care little for us and less for our approval.
And then I am home again.
I usually feel a little too groggy to write anything other than poetry, or dream-state recollections, which is, as one might imagine, far too cerebral (read weird) for posting here, although I am keeping my hand in CHL in other ways.
I will add as well, that even as my stalwart friend, David Morrill, editor and founder CuencaHighLife, patiently saves a perch for me to return to in mid-March, I am compelled to today to make a guest appearance in support of the storyline that has already been covered in my absence.
My friend and fellow reporter, Roxi Guerrero, recently wrote in CHL that kindness is vitaly important. I do not agree.
It is more.
It is not everything; it is the only thing.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
staring out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the wearied Canari in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans and dreams
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it until your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth from which it is drawn.
It is then that only kindness makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes,
and sends you out into the day,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say,
It is I you have been searching for.
And then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend