14. I Promise to Return

DID YOU EVER LEAVE A PLACE PROMISING TO RETURN?

Blog 14: November 13-19, 1996—I made a promise to these wide-open lands of New Mexico that I would return to them if I took off to California for a short visit. After all, I didn’t want to get into another car accident as I had done when I had tried to leave this state during my first weeks in Albuquerque.

So, with caution, I bid my new Santa Fe home a temporary farewell, and flew out to Los Angeles. My plan was to visit the City of Angels and then to travel up to San Francisco, my planned destination home prior to staying for an extended time in New Mexico on my cross country trip from the East Coast in September. I needed to find out what was there in California, and get it out of my system, if nothing else.

Los Angeles felt like one big haze, all cars moving through fog, through pollution mixing with the sea air along multiple highways. While it looked nothing like New York City, it felt like the Big Apple I had lived in for a year. Where was everyone going? I visited a friend from high school, but there was no ground for me there. Nothing tangible to connect me to the land.

In San Francisco, I saw Jane and Geri, my two friends who had been partners in crime on our cross country trip. They were settling into life in the Bay Area as they had planned, but they understood my call to spend time in New Mexico. I looked at schools, at programs, at jobs, but didn’t settle on anything. With potential job offers, and a possible home to live in with a woman moving into the Oakland hills in several months, I had options.

I would be back to California, I figured, but only after spending the winter in Santa Fe under snow-filled skies and slow-moving days and nights that would give me a chance to be still in a way I had long desired.

DID YOU EVER LEAVE A PLACE PROMISING TO RETURN?

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23 thoughts on “14. I Promise to Return

  1. Michelle, I honor your connection to the land that you touch and touches you.
    For me, I often burn bridges so to speak and do not think of returning to a place once I decide to leave. The place I “return” to again and again is my soul. And yet as we never step into the same river twice, the concept of returning seems fixed. The future beckons me to to move and flow .
    Love and blessings for this privilege to express. Thank you Michelle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing, Alorah. I know what you mean about leaving a place and moving on. I have done that as well, many times. Yet, there was something special that happened for me as a child in Spain, and some here in New Mexico, that has been a part of me like family is. When I was a child in Spain, and then left, a part of my soul still belonged to the land there. A part of me carries her with me where I go. She was and is my mother, and something about her relationship to me in that place, that part of her belly, her womb-like love in the high desert mesa of Spain held me as a child, and taught me my indigenous ways. Ancient peoples used to migrate in patterns of infinity, my teacher Martin Prechtel used to say, and they cycled back and forth through time honoring the mountains and rivers and lands that journeyed with them. These places carry the echo of their footsteps and love. It is that kind of returning that I have done…and as you say, it is a returning to my soul, my soul that carries the origins of its journey with mother earth inside her, because I am her. So I remember and come home in remembering. I appreciate your words, Alorah. They inspired me to sit with this place of returning or not returning. I feel we are all parts of the earth when we are here, and we carry parts of her inside of us. It is our origin, our way of being embodied, spirit inside form, while being here.

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  2. Reblogged this on Michelle Adam and commented:

    Have you ever felt that a part of you belongs to an ocean, a mountain, a river…that you are that place, and her spirit lives in you wherever you go…that you are made of that essence as you travel the world bridging the love of one far distant mountain to another, or of rivers seeking out the ocean? This Equinox, I was blessed to host a Peruvian Despacho in my home, with Sally Moon leading this earth-honoring, life-giving ceremony of renewal and balance. In honor of this time of planting seeds of love into spring’s softening earth, I didn’t send out a new blog. But instead, I ask this question, which came from beautiful comments by Alorah and others, in my most recent post, I Promise to Return. I share it again with you, looking forward to your experiences. Blessings of Spring and new life!

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  3. I have often visited a city more than once, and I never say never. I’m lucky enough to have made friends in most of the places I visit, even if only briefly. Some of my happiest times were spent with strangers in local bars, beaches and cafes. I’m lucky to have travelled as extensively as I have since my job has never taken me far from home. The two cities I would like to revisit are Los Angeles and Paris (the French capital). But there are more places I would like to visit for the first time before going back to my spiritual home.

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    • What specifically did you love about Los Angeles and Paris? I’m curious. I’ll always remember the week I spent in Paris when I was a youngin (okay, about 19 or 20) and I walked the streets every day, taking in the immensity of this city that was one big masterpiece of art–every balcony, every doorway, stone chiseled to form a city that has no end to its beauty. And like you mentioned, the cafes–they were on every corner it seemed, with men eager to sweet talk a young lady walking alone in Paris. Join me for coffee, tea, they’d say while they’d try to divine what language I spoke so they could convince me to sit down with them. Where else would you like to visit?

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      • I’m still in love with Paris, I loved the sights and sounds of smog and cars full with the driver. The people were warm and the days filled with buildings so crazy and cute. Venice was a great place to visit with the huge street painting of Jim Morrison to welcome you in. Muscle Beach I tried to avoid, not interested in muscle men (or women) even though I’m bi. I still want to visit Athens, Rome and Vatican City, Morocco and New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Paris, Texas. On the other half of the planet I would like to visit New Zealand for the scenery, Australia for the deserts, Peru and Brazil just to drink in the culture. Argentina for the people, Cuba for the cars before they get replaced. I love travelling but by and large avoid most of the touristy places. Apart from Paris where there’s so many interesting things to see and do everywhere.

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      • Dave, you have so many places to visit. What are you doing on the computer? Just kidding. To live with a sense of adventure is key! My father’s family is from Argentina, and he travels back to Buenos Aires tomorrow after six months of chemotherapy that kept him from the country he loves and feels at home in. It’s a South American Paris of sorts, with lots of personality and Italian Flare. I may go at the end of May, so if you go then, we’ll meet up!

        Morocco also carries a rich history and is a stone’s throw from Spain. I traveled there are a little kid and still recall the marketplace; the many colors and dyes that the local people dipped cloth into and then hung along the walls of the canyon inside which they worked; the eternal and pungent smell and taste of mint tea they served us children as a local shop keeper tried to sell my parents rugs for hours; and then those carrying baskets on their heads, walking along the sides of the roads.

        I hope you are able to visit all of the beautiful places you mention, and feel, when it is time to go to your spirit’s home, that you have soaked yourself in the richness of this earth voyage.

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  4. New mexico was that for me. The enchantress captured me years ago on a Christmas eve… The full moon rose over the mtns as I drove up over 7 mile hill. The beauty of that full moon and the mtns was so big I pulled over to watch. I felt something seeping into me but I continued to drive. I was moving to florida to be with my dad who was given a year to live,and help my mom thru that transition. I wanted to spend what might be the last holidays with him. As I got to the exit at Rio grande an exhaustion hit so hard I stopped for the night. The man at the desk asked if I was here for the luminaries, a Christmas eve tradition in olde town. This was pre internet, so I answered no. I told him of my exhaustion and he told me the enchantress was beckoning. I laughed thinking he was silly and started for my room, when he said “I’ll take care of these. Go walk a bit, enjoy the lights”. As I did the place seeped into my soul. Lights lined walkways, houses and churches. People walking saying hello, wishing me a good holiday. Each wish nicked another spot in my heart…a spot of desire. I returned to the hotel and the man behind the desk looked at me and said,”you look rested from your walk, I know its Xmas eve. Please come and have breakfast with my family. We are simple and you need family for the holiday.” His word touched me strongly and I shared why I was going across country from Arizona to Florida. He said to me, “I won’t keep you but you must return, as I see this place has rejuvenated you in a short time.”
    The promise was out of my mouth in the next heartbeat….”I will”. It was 20 years before I unhooked myself from the east coast and came back to this place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz, what a beautiful recollection of moments that imprinted themselves on you and brought you back here! I like the imagery of nicking another spot in your heart as a beautiful love, as a courting that this place, New Mexico, did to win your heart. And here you are. And I’m glad of it. Thank you for your rich words, as delicious as your photographs. For some reason, it reminds me of when I was in Santa Fe with the luminarios and the simplicity of the candles in the crisp winter air, and the warmth of the people gathering around fires, together singing, There’s a simplicity, a love, and depth that is here if we slow down to be with it.

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  5. Michelle, thank you for your beautiful and very much heartfelt account of infinity as expressed through and as you. It is as if Mother Earth is speaking. . . .and She is.

    Liz b – tears in my eyes and fullness of heart as I journey with you. Yes, the lights in Old Town on Christmas Eve. Before moving to Albuquerque from very cold and snowy Berkshire Mountain region, my late husband and I were exploring where we were to move. I wrote to the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and received a packet. When I saw the picture of Old Town on Christmas Eve, a clear YES resounded within my body. And now I live within just a few minutes walking to Old Town. I am blessed.
    Liz b – also your account of the full moon reminds me of the evening my late husband passed away. I was driving home from the hospital and looked out the window. The moon was full and pulled me in. It was magic. That night my grandmother visited me in the dreamtime. I loved my grandmother dearly and she died when I was 8 years old.
    Her presence was a deep comfort in my time of deep grief.

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    • Alorah, it is sweet how Liz’s recollections awakened your own. It seems we remind each other of the simple love we have felt or feel for a place, for a person, for a spirit. It is tender, and returns us to ourselves. I realize as I read what all have shared and reflect on this, that returning to a place is about remembering that this place is eternal, carried by our soul, and has become a part of us to share with the world so life and our mother earth can keep living and being honored for all she gives. When I returned to Spain years ago, and walked the streets I had known as a child–where wild fields had once been and were now covered up with pavement and homes and walls–I felt as if I were there to help the land remember her wild self…that I was there carrying a piece of her and awakening a dormant part of herself in my walking, as she reawakening that part of me that knew what it felt like to feel connected and to belong and to be held. We keep the seeds alive in us and the earth does.

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  6. You make me think: Can we ever really return to what we have left behind?
    The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said you can never cross the same river twice.
    Lao Tzu said that if you understand that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
    In an old Flamenco cante, the singer says he and his lover cannot return to each other, for he is not the man he was so long ago.
    I’ve longed to return to Andalucia, to sit by the sea, and wander its bald hills, and breathe in the pungence of countless acres of olive trees. I’ve longed to walk again the streets of Malaga’s old quarter and feel the bones of that ancient city beneath my feet.
    I’ve longed to lose myself in the thick, wet green of the Honduran rain forest, to the place where my mind and heart turned a very difficult corner. And while I thought it might be nice to walk forever deeper into this wilderness and become one with it, I left it behind, but took with me the renewed passion for life that it gave me.
    I’ve longed to return to the woods of my boyhood, to walk the old trails, and sit by the whispering streams, and listen to the wind give voice to the trees. I’ve longed to sit up in the old tree my brother and I once climbed, and fall asleep to the soft symphony of the forest.
    I’ve longed to return to the land of my parents, to see long-parted relatives, and visit the old sacred places where my forebears lay, and feel once again the distant-yet-present connection I have to the land and the sea of the Netherlands.(In fact I am going back in a couple of months. . .)
    But even if these places have not changed—and it is certain that they have, in ways both small and large—I have changed. I am not who I was, nor who I will be. And so, being who I am now, these places I long for exist only in my past. And I can never return—not to what was. In returning, I can only forge a new relationship between the changes in the place, and the changes in me.
    I can only move forward, toward what it—and I—will be.
    Isn’t that both the pain AND the beauty of this journey we call life?

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    • Paul, I love your reflections that come from deep reflection and the change of seasons that teach us what only time can teach. I love the images, the richness of the places you describe and imagine you there, once. Life is definitely about change, and when we return we are different, as are the places we visit. I find in writing my novel, I returned to that place within me that carried the spirit of Spain, of the land. I did it through my writing. And while I didn’t return physically to Spain until later, the words I wrote took me on a journey home to my soul, as Alorah described. They took me home to that spirit that I had felt and experienced as a child, but had yet to live. So, as you say, these places that hold a place in our heart give us a gift, and yet, sometimes, I’ve discovered, it takes time to truly receive that gift and live those gifts into the world. That spirit of duende, that fire and passion of the land in Spain that I felt as a child now has a chance to dance its spirit into form, and my longing has become a creative life force that gives back that gift I was given. It reminds me of this beautiful song I was taught:
      “Return to what you are, return to who you are,
      Return to where you are Born and reborn again,
      Return again, return again,
      Return to the land of your Soul…”

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      • Yes, there are always gifts to receive. Often we can’t perceive or receive them at the time, and they only become apparent later–when returning, whether physically or spiritually. I remember being very uncomfortable during the trip to Granada we took together with Arturo. And yet, our talk with Jose Lopez Bellido in his little lutherie shop planted a seed that took root and bore fruit several years later. The Sevillanas dance classes also took root, as did the Flamenco singing of a group teenagers outside our beach house one warm spring night. And every now and then, I still dream entire dreams in Spanish.

        You may remember that the day we left Spain together, I wept. The words “I promise to return” were on my lips, but my tears spoke the truth–I was leaving a place and time behind that would only exist in my heart from then on.

        I often wonder where the land of my soul is, and how to return to it — only to remember that the land the land of my soul is anywhere that has opened my heart and given me a gift–even if that gift doesn’t become truly apparent for many years.

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  7. You know, Michelle, I am loving the blogging format you have established so far! What I see is a moderate length piece that pares down all but the most important of story, that begs a question, a question that engages the reader. I tend to talk about all the surrounding stuff, because I see so many connections in a web, everything is inter-related to one another, or a previous story I experienced leads to another story I experience. What I read in your writing so far is – yes, everything is indeed interconnected, but why spend so much time telling all those stories when its the most important ones that will make the full impact on us, without the extra effort?

    Anyways, when I left California, many people hoped I would someday return after finding what I was seeking. I thought that I would someday return to California – why not? I grew up there, it was my home, all the ups and downs of it. I fell out of love with California in the last year before I left because it felt too materialistic, too crowded, full of pollution in paradise, and the smaller, quieter areas were all agribusiness wasteland / hellholes for the people living there. It has been nearly 3 years since I have been in CA, and when I think of it, I feel sad. I miss gazing upon that cool, blue ocean, surfers carving their way across that watery landscape. I miss the drive through sleepy beach town after sleepy beach town full of retirees that have their lives set. I miss year-round farmers markets (though NM has an amazing growing season and enthusiasm for SLO foods, that top California for their often wholesome approach!!). But the truth was, I fell out of love with California because people seemed to be losing their way to being bundles of stress, hurriedness, survival, and encased in liberal amounts of planned-obsolescence-materialism, and distracted by all forms of media and technology. I hated how expensive and unsustainable everything became, and the cycle of people discovering a unique and charming town, only to try to grow it by turning it into like the problem-filled places they moved FROM.

    The more time I spend away from California, the less desire I have to return there. I still miss the things I miss though.

    I am beginning to ask that return question as I dream build my year walking the Caminos in Europe and Asia Minor. Will I return to Albuquerque after my time in Europe? I like Albuquerque quite a bit, although I am seeing some of the California problems slowly manifest here as more and more transplants come here from various magazines and online articles talking about how great Albuquerque is. I have also been getting mixed messages about going in the first place.

    Ahh, such is the Mystery, yes?

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  8. Thanks, Peter, for your kind words. When I write the stories I have lived I don’t always know what question, what reflection, will come out of it. But I like being able to hear from you, and from others, and share and find depth and heart together inside this this maze of living. I was curious what you meant by this (wasn’t sure how to relate it to the blog format you wrote about earlier): What I read in your writing so far is – yes, everything is indeed interconnected, but why spend so much time telling all those stories when its the most important ones that will make the full impact on us, without the extra effort?

    So, you are having second thoughts about Camino de Santiago? There is something about Albuquerque, I must say, that will stop you in your tracks… nor good or bad…and churn up the stuff that in other places may sit there, quietly, waiting to be heard. Hmm…I wonder about your journey.

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