5. Stopping for Peace

WHEN DID YOU CHANGE YOUR PATH UNEXPECTEDLY?   

Blog 5: September 21, 1996—Spanish poet Antonio Machado once wrote, “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar,” (wanderer there is no path, the path is made while walking). The truth of these words became reality shortly after I arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the fall of 1996. I was passing through this sleepy city on my way to the West Coast, but my path changed as I listened to the still breath inside the high-desert air.

“Go on,” I told my friends when I visited with them in Santa Fe. “I’m staying for a while in New Mexico.” My travel companions, Jane and Geri, bid me farewell as they set out for San Francisco to build a new life. I drove down to Albuquerque, to a sense of peace awaiting me, along with vast emptiness. “I’ll meet up with you soon,” I said. “I just need a bit of time in the desert.”

Now, it’s one day at a time—or at least I tell myself, as I stay in New Mexico, uncertain of what is next. Life is about getting over addition—addiction to the way I’ve learned to live disconnected.  I don’t know anything, I realize. This is all. I surrender every day and yet each day I feel moments of yearning for something more.

I hear a woman on a radio show talk about the earth and finding God. I almost tear up. Pachamama, mother earth, is tired and her children are losing her, I feel.

Then at night, I dream that the wife of our portero (the man who maintained our apartment complex in Spain as a kid) comes to me and says, “You’re back. I waited two years.” (I had visited New Mexico briefly two years earlier). I wake up with a sense of awe about NOTHING. It’s like waking up every morning to a lover and an ease that I have never felt. I see where I belong for once. I am home. My challenge is to keeping coming home to the home within the home, because home isn’t in one place, but inside different layers of places and spaces. All the possibility is here because I am in a place that nurtures me.

In the morning, I sit looking out the window, out at the front yard, and I feel like crying again because I experience peace. My body is curled up inside this earth. I feel mother holding me, and I know there is love, great love inside me here.

WHEN DID YOU CHANGE YOUR PATH UNEXPECTEDLY?

Caminante, son tus huellas              Wanderer, your footsteps are
el camino, y nada más;                      the path, and nothing else;
caminante, no hay camino,              wanderer, there is no path,
se hace camino al andar.                   the path is made by walking.
Al andar se hace camino,                  Walking makes the path,
y al volver la vista atrás                     and on glancing back
se ve la senda que nunca                   one sees the path
se ha de volver a pisar.                       that will never trod again.
Caminante, no hay camino,              Wanderer, there is no path—
sino estelas en la mar.                        Just waves in the sea.

–Antonio Machado

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11 thoughts on “5. Stopping for Peace

    • Si, Antonio Machado. I imagine you know his work, right? I’ve been reciting these words all week, ever since reading Spanish poems to my 7th and 8th grade students. What’s your history with Machado?

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  1. Hmmm. Don’you know Machado. As if I need anything else on my towering life syllabus at this point, but of course I will. It seems that the earth and the ancestors are calling out to many of us (the figure in your dream from childhood, waiting for you in your new Meseta, the voice of the ancestors speaking for the land). The strange beast does not slouch toward an irrelevant Bethlehem but rather toward some noble mountain, rock, tree or bayou–unique to each of us–to be (re)born.

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    • Beautifully shared, once again. Thank you. The ancient ones, the tribes of long ago that have become a part of our amnesia, knew that God was in the mountain, in the trees, in the rivers, and every time they walked to these places of home, they knew they were coming home to themselves, coming home to God. Yes, our ancestors, the ancient ones wait for us in these places that we now call home because aren’t they these places after all?…and Machado, you know him well? Wondering what you meant by those words.

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      • Ah, I know Machada not at all, but imagine I will end up making time to look into him and see what is online, and whether he will be piled onto my tottering syllabus of what I want to read. That poem strikes me as being of the metaphysical modernismo school I never dived too deeply into: Dario, for example, and BANG, poetry.org’s brief guide to modernismo places him smack at the top of the list of the “generation of 98”. I’m still working my way through the generation of ’27, at least what’s available in translation, along with a dozen other threads of reading. Im reading more contemporary, English-language work at the moment but always in search of the music, the land, the Duende.

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  2. The first time I made an unexpected turn in my life was when I felt cornered in my life – nothing of what I knew was working anymore, and no amount of logical thinking would yield a way forward. I threw up my hands and said “f*** it, in the absence of anything logical to do; I shall do what is illogical. I sold everything I had, closed up my computer repair business; tidied up all my affairs in town; called up my friends and clients to tell them I was leaving California and my entire life behind and head East. Nobody understood what I was doing, and one person was telling me that I seemed to be putting myself into exile. I had no idea what I was doing either, except it was a lot more appealing than all the “logical” things I could do.

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  3. I really appreciate your writing and sharing, and I love how you were completely irrational but true to yourself. It reminds me of a comment Carolyn Myss once made. She said if we can rationalize why we are doing something then it’s probably not your true course…the one of your heart and soul that often are not rational, but are deeply true. Ole to that!

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