Live Where You Fear to Live

Yesterday the rain started in San Blas, the temperature dropped and the breeze picked up just enough. After six weeks in the heat of the Phoenix desert followed by nearly three in Mexico with very little reprieve from soaring temperatures, the relief we felt at the shift in weather was tangible. As we walked into town for dinner last night under a light cool mist of rain, the streets were filled with glowing puddles and, maybe it was just me projecting, but a sense of relief - a slowness for once not precipitated by the imposing heat and humidity.

Last night, I slept under a sheet for the first time in weeks and I even woke up once at dawn to turn off the fan and cover myself up because I felt a bit too cool. The amazing pleasure of feeling cool - I cannot tell you! Happily the weather has held and after a long dozy sleep-in, we've spent the better part of the day inside the flat reading and writing to the cacophony of birds who seem to be singing more persistently today. It feels like a quiet celebration.


There are a few authors that I've been obsessed with over the years; some of these have stuck and others have fallen away as I find new sources of inspiration. I've loved Sylvia Plath since her Ariel poems and journals sustained me about ten years ago. I had embarked on a misplaced romantic adventure to Northern British Columbia to go to university in a town that literally made my lungs close up from the pollution churned out by the local pulp mills. I'd imagined it would be like living in a Margaret Lawrence or Alice Munro book but instead it was a strange kind of nightmare; we were poorer than I've ever been in my life (or ever hope to be again), I was constantly sick with sinus and bronchial infections and the town and university held a deep hostility towards women and girls that I'd never experienced before. The town was located along the highway of tears and we were always aware of the young women who disappeared - some of them found, their bodies mangled alongside the highway like discarded refuse, others just vanished. Within the town and even the university, women were afraid. I worked in the Women's Centre and so many Monday mornings were spent listening to crying women who had been drugged or raped over the weekend; on one occasion a girl had been chased into the woods behind the school by her boyfriend who was wielding an axe he'd broken out of an 'In Case of Emergency' container in his dorm. She hid in the woods until he finally gave up looking for her or until the police came, I can't remember which.

Over the Christmas holidays that year, I was called at home by a representative of the student's union. He wanted to know if I would participate in a search of the isolated woods on campus for a Russian exchange student who had been missing for over a week. We set out under a cold, steel December sky and finally found her, hanging by her neck from a tall fir that had been felled and was leaning over a big rock. It was declared a suicide, but I've never been able to work out how she managed to get herself up there.

It was a dark, long year. For weeks the sun barely came out and most days, it was through a thick cloak of fog - partly natural and partly pollution from the nearby pulp mills. Sylvia Plath got me through that winter.

A few years later, back in Saskatchewan, I came across Rumi . I think my interest was piqued by the Kate Winslet film Hideous Kinky (story of a young mother played by Winslet who moves to Morocco in search of something meaningful in life), which had a few scenes with whirling dervishes. I've never been a religious person and definitely don't relate to the tangible Sharia laws of traditional Muslim society, but here I was drinking in the words of this mystic poet and completely transfixed with the notion of whirling dervishes - dancing their feet off in ecstatic celebration. I haven't thought about Rumi in awhile, and today I came across this poem quite randomly, on a blog I've never visited before:
…We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.

Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.
From now on, I’ll be mad.
I feel like I've been trying to find ways to live more fully for years; even though romance has been the excuse for so many of my adventures (to Northern British Columbia, to England), it has really been an excuse for tumbling, albeit a bit naively and blindly, into the world. When my lovely fiancee and I made the decision to begin this around-the-world trip months and months ago, we were on a train between Cardiff and London. We were exhausted and unhappy with so many things and ground down by unkind acts by a few negative, ruthless people (at the time it seemed like there were so many of them, but with distance, I can see that there were actually only a small handful); as it became a real possibility, this journey became a way of finding places and experiences to remind us of how exciting and fresh life can taste - to reconnect with the possibility of life as an ecstatic and slightly crazy celebration.

I don't know where we are going to end up or if we'll find any answers this year, but more and more, I am beginning to believe in this notion of reckless abandon mentioned above by Rumi. Even in the darkness of my year in Northern British Columbia, I came away with experiences that continue to change me, in ways that I couldn't have imagined or planned for.

Here's to a little bit of madness, with gratitude for the rain fall, the birds songs, this quirky small Mexican town, and for the sighs and keyboard tapping of my love working away in the adjoining room.

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Neil Cocker said...

Great post, Amy. Enjoyed reading that a lot. My knowledge of the northern parts of North America are almost exclusively informed by cinema, so I will tag that post as "Fargo-esque" in its tone... :-)

Amy said...

Thanks Neil - that means a lot.

There are some really beautiful parts of Northern BC - it's a pretty intense, rugged and almost Gothic landscape. But some of the towns are hopeless. It was definitely an experience, though one I'm happy to have behind me. :)