I am coming to the end of The Artist’s Way, a creative self help book by Julia Cameron. There is a part of me that does not want to finish it. I get that way with books, feeling attached to them like a person, not wanting the relationship to be over. I remember reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a child wanting so badly to know the end, but not quite ready to say good-bye to the characters. Those last pages go so fast, and before you know it, the story is finished. The Artist’s Way is not a novel but a book to help you explore and embrace your creative potential, and while there are no characters to say good-bye to, ending this book is kind of like saying good-bye to myself as it is the story of my creative journey that will soon be coming to an end. I started reading this book after my travels in Europe, the recommendation of a young Irish woman about my age that I met at Dzogchen Beara Buddhist retreat center. Each week, the book contains reflections and tasks to be done to help you on “a spiritual path to higher creativity.” My weeks looked more like months, and I adapted the exercises to my own schedule pulling away from the book and returning to it as I felt drawn, but it always seemed that when I did come back to The Artist’s Way I found myself in a section that fit my current experiences perfectly giving me new insights. Reading this book was a spiritual journey for me of looking at my life and experiences honestly so that I could learn from them and get rid of the road blocks I had placed around me. I tapped into an unknown creative resource, drawing, and found that my writing opportunities blossomed as well. Most importantly though I realized that “discovering and recovering” my “creative self” was more than just an artistic experience but a spiritual path to healing and self love, an opportunity to forgive myself and those who had hurt me and let all the bitterness seep away. Part of the process towards the end of the book is rereading the daily “morning pages,” stream of consciousness writings done every day upon waking. Looking back on them, I am forced to come to terms with feelings and thoughts easily forgotten or left behind when traveling, but in reading them, I also come to realize how my travels have transformed me and helped me along the way as well helping me see things clearer and faster. I find myself wanting to return to Dzogchen Beara to send a thank you to this magical place and the people who inspired me there, especially the one who introduced such a wonderful source of growth and inspiration into my life. The Artist’s Way has become my daily companion, and I do not think ending the book will be the end of our relationship. I am sure this book will continue to encourage and shape me as I refer back to it and write my morning pages in the years to come.
The last couple of weeks have been a lot of fun at Casita Copan with adventures to the ruins and a movie and popcorn day. I love seeing their little faces light up. Literacy classes have begun for the mothers who are excited to be learning to read and write for the first time. Literacy and time for fun activities are things I often take for granted. I can’t imagine a life without words to express myself or not having the opportunity to venture out into the world and explore. Writing and reading are the doors to imagination. They make dreams and positive change possible.
I ventured out to Santa Lucia this past weekend to visit a dear Honduran friend and her family. The little town reminded me of some of my favorite places in Italy with steep cobblestone roads, quaint cafes, and breathtaking views. I love the endless forest and mountains; there are so many places to enjoy nature while still being close to the city.
I received a tour of the whole city by motorcycle, weaving around hills overlooking endless forest and the misty covered city of Tegucigalpa and its surrounding towns.
Right now is the rainy season, and while wandering around a Tegucigalpa park overlooking the city, my friend’s family and I got caught in a torrential down pour and were soaked in a matter of seconds. Outrunning it was pointless but it didn’t keep us from trying to escape nature’s bath.
I really enjoyed getting to know my friend’s daughters ,who are beautiful and sweet, while playing Monopoly and Bingo. While my friend was at work, they and their grandmother showed me around the city, and I got to see some great street art.
Pisco Sour night! We made our own…mmmm muy rico!
We went into Tegucigalpa for some dancing, and I had a blast. It was nice to dance without feeling like a piece of meat. In general the men of Tegucigalpa and Santa Lucia were more respectful than those of Copan, and it was such a relief not to be harassed. I sometimes forget that Copan Ruinas is not representative of all of Honduras. In Copan, my roommate and I have been contemplating making shirts that say “¡No soy tu bebé!” y “¡No soy tu muñeca!” and wearing them when we go running. In English, that is “I am not your baby!” and “I am not your doll!” Words that are used daily to greet us in the streets.
Most days in Santa Lucia, I did some reading while relaxing in the hammock. I am currently reading my first novel in Spanish which is a challenge but improving my vocabulary quite a bit.
My friend and her family were so generous and kind, and it was nice to be pampered for a weekend while exploring other parts of Honduras.
I was so nervous coming to “the murder capital of the world,” but the walls I built around myself are quickly crumbling as I fumble through Spanish with my taxi driver, a man of patience and smiles. I want to throw all caution to the wind; hitchhike on dirt roads; ride in the back of a truck full of hard-working men, the dusty wind blowing in my hair; sit outside a mud home with a tin roof drinking a coke-a-cola with a friend as I watch the day go by; to experience Honduras fully, not as a gringa. I am missing out in my fancy hotel and air-conditioned bus. This country with all its instability is made of people no different than you or I. There is something appealing in the uncertainty; an acceptance of life as is despite the craziness. I want to embrace it and the simple life of its people where less is more.
Siestas are important in Copán. The heat prevents any heavy activity in the afternoons. Cansada is my favorite word in Spanish because it is okay to admit you are tired here, and I realize how tired I am. When I say I am tired, I am encouraged to do what is natural. So I sleep and relax and feel like a new person in my bed, the first I have been able to truly call my own in five months. I spend four hours a day in school speaking Spanish. In the afternoons, I do my homework and will soon be volunteering at the local clinic. My first day at school ended in salsa dancing and with fresh squeezed juice. Each meal I spend with two strong, beautiful women, one my host, and the other, an American volunteer who calls Copán her second home. Every morning I start my day with these empowering females, and I am inspired by their presence and blessed with their conversation. At school, I am surprised by how much I remember from my Spanish classes so long ago and frustrated by how much I want to say and cannot. But perhaps it is good I know only verb conjugations in the present because then I can only discuss the present and not the past. Yo quiero is how I discuss the future. I can only say what I want, not how I plan to get it. There is a sort of freedom in this lack of words for the past or future. My life consists of now and floating through dreams.
“Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of the day. After all, what can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished?…What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and me at least try to make a small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.” ~Mr. Stevens of The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
While in Germany, a friend recommended the author, Kazuo Ishiguro, to me, and since then, his characters have been my companions as I travel, each person reflecting on their past, some memories more reliable than others. Their stories remind me that my own change over the years to adapt to my current feelings and experiences and are not necessarily accurate documentation of my life or those who pass through it. They are only ways for me to make sense of things I cannot understand. I find there is so much beauty to absorb in my new setting that there is little time to reflect on the past if I wish to take everything in. Each morning I wake to the music of tropical birds welcoming the sun’s return as it creeps up behind the lush greenery of the cloud forest. Here, in Copán, the remains of my day are spent in the company of new friends, whose experiences mirror my own, practicing Spanish and discussing life fantasies as the last burst of heat paints the sky pink.
It’s the quiet moments that make me realize my heart has a fortress around it. When I look out at beauty, my chest aches for reasons beyond my grasp. My mind is racing, and I don’t know how to slow it. So I close my eyes, and for an instant, I pause and all goes blank. Quickly images fill my brain again, past and future battling it out. Eckhart Tolle suggests the now becomes present when we can begin to observe the thinking brain instead of let it rule our body, so I observe. My mind runs over lists repeatedly. These lists are futile in that they never stop. As I accomplish one task, another takes its place. It is insane this list making I allow to rule my life. The pressure squeezes my heart, and I can feel it rise until it is welling up in my eyes waiting to be released. I push it back down though. There are people here, strangers. If I cry, they will want to know why, and I don’t know the answer, nor do I want to have to come up with a reason. Perhaps it is something that cannot be put into words. I simply am…? I am as I am and it does not need explaining. To feel is more adequate than to describe.
The trees here are so still. Their trunks sturdy and rooted. I look at them and find comfort in knowing peace is possible.
The constancy of movement, the repetitive ripples in motion, the gentle gurgle of waves in contact with land. Infinite circles. Spiral amongst spiral of presence. Here and now defined without words, in sand and water.
These trees know the power of silence. Humans in their pain bodies at war. Trees see our cruelty, but they do not judge it. Their peaceful protest will win in the end long after we have destroyed each other. They will wait, observe, accept, and allow, and life will go on with or without us.