My old apartment, a ground floor studio, was carved from a centuries old patrimonial house. It looks out on a glass covered courtyard sheltering ancient auburn floor tiles. The walls are stark white, highlighting the raw-wood lattice of windows that defines each unit. It is serene, and I always felt at home in the twilight comfort of the ferns, vines and shade loving flowers that grace the patio.
However, the penthouse apartment of my building opened up recently and I moved there. It seemed like a good time to make a change that would provide much better light… and a little more exercise.
My new apartment has a bank of windows facing directly west, anchored on the right by the steeple of Iglesia San Sebastian. The left has a stand of massive date palms towering like billboards advertising how far south I had to travel to find my home in Cuenca. The alpine mountains that dominate the scene remind me of the northern homeland I left behind.
My routine is to rise early, often before the rooster that lives next door. By the time he gets around to crowing about the eggs his chickens are laying, I’ve already poached a couple of them, brewed a cup of coffee, and am sitting down to breakfast. I like to get out early and wander about the ‘hood with my camera to record the tender moment of sunrise, to glimpse the awakening, but it is raining as hard as glass today, so I’ll spend my morning writing to you instead.
I made my first foray into El Vergel Supermaxi the other day. Oh, my god! I thought the taxi driver had made a horrible mistake, had taken a wrong turn somewhere and dropped me off in a suburb of Muncie, Indiana. I tried to address my concern to another gringo shopper, but I could not complete a full sentence before he was ducking and backing away stammering, “I’m socially distancing! I never leave home. I am old. Please… Please back away.”
He was scared to be among the living and excused his behavior, cloaked in fear and anguish, by bowing and pleading to become invisible.
I wanted to hug him and tell him not to worry. Everything is going to be alright.
We all must simply be still for a few moments, take deep breaths, and then patiently sort through our dark closet of fear. This is not the end of our good old world: it is the beginning of a brand new world, and we are facing challenges no greater than the first pioneers of ‘The Old World,” who were tasked with harnessing fire, designing bridges to overcome obstacles and opening safe oases for weary travelers to rest in the company of others.
I pray that there will always be a place for the precious few chosen to practice quiet reflection and solitude for a lifetime; but the rest of us will be best served through developing new ways to express ourselves, making alliances, and falling in love.
There are many paths to follow. My oldest brother and I are an easy example.
Bill is a well respected doctor in Spokane, Washington. He is also a gym rat whose neck is buried under the levator scapulae muscles he over-developed lifting weights. He said to me one day, “Look, Buddy boy, you have to stop tumbling around if you want a secure future. The world is a dangerous place and you need to build a fortress like I am. I think you should start right here in the gym: Your body is your temple.”
I spent my time as a fiber artist, restaurateur, and working with marginal populations many people view with disdain. Our contrast was clarified when I replied, “No thanks, I’d rather be dining out, and chillin’ with villains. My body is not my temple; it is my amusement park.”
We were driving to the same place; becoming comfortable in our bodies and committed to the wellbeing of others.
It is time you join us.
The mask we wear is a tool and should be treated as such. Just as a jacket keeps us warm when it is cold, a mask keeps us safe when threatened with an ill wind. But, I would no more wear a mask while driving alone in a car than I would wear a jacket when it is sunny and warm — I studiously heed social guidelines because these simple requirements are essential elements of being a responsible citizen, however I do not condone allowing a bug to interfere with my basic need for love and communion.
I suggest we abandon wallowing in the mud of lost dreams and despair and jump aboard the ride of paving our way back to a firm footing composed of stoic acceptance, enlightened compliance, and a “let’s get this party started” zest for good times and progress. It is a new season in a new world and we should revel in it.
It is time we take what we learned from the old world and incorporate it into the new with renewed determination to build a better world…and have fun doing it. There are many roads to travel, but I suggest you consider pursuing at least one of these — kindling fires of friendships, building new bridges to overcome obstacles, and offering sanctuary to those who are in need.