The 27th Love Letter

I was recently asked by a stranger if I would write my 27th* Love Letter to him.

He wrote that he is deflated, and I believed him, because, who hasn’t felt that way at times? I know I have.

He wrote that he is ready to stop missing out on things, and thus, he’s starting fresh. And I understood completely.

With a move across the country pending, I pictured him standing at the edge of the canyon that we all stand at when we’re about to make a big change in our lives. It can be scary. It will be uncertain. It takes courage.

And because I couldn’t think of a single reason not to write this stranger a love letter, I closed my eyes and began typing.

So here is my 27th Love Letter, and it’s as much for you and me, as it is for him.

Dear Stranger,

When the slope is steep and the butterflies all seem to be flying away when you wish they’d stay, just remember that the view from the top will be a fresh and beautiful beginning; a new start. A door is waiting and your knocking is the call; don’t stop just before the lover opens the door! Stay awhile; press your ear against the wooden grain, run your fingers across the handle, and smile, because this mystery of unlocking life and love is the gift of the wind in your lungs and the dreams in your mind. It is all working out perfectly, believe it or not.

Let the soft parts of your heart be seen. Too often we wear our armor and yet, we hope our shoulders will be soft and glowing and nurturing enough for the butterfly to pause and rest awhile. Vulnerability, as unpleasant the sound of it, is the trail, the door, and the knocking. It is also the mountain. If your words are the expression of your truth, then your hands are the doing of your love. With these two together, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving your happiest life. It all comes down to trust.

So hear this dear stranger: trust that the view from the top will be greater than anything you can picture now, because it’s the journey that changes your eyes. The alchemy of the journey is absolutely fool-proof. Follow it, breathe it, believe in it. And by it, I mean YOU. Trust your heart.

Love,

A Friend You Haven’t Met Yet

Heart

Please note: several lines in my letter were inspired by the Rumi poem, “The Sunrise Ruby”.

No Better Feeling than a Traveler Sleeping on My Couch

Something bulges out from the sides of her back and hovers above her head like an extra body part. Shoes dangle from laces tied to a piece of webbing. Her body is weighted, but her spirit cheerful.

I recognize the outline of a traveler before our eyes even meet. We hug and I welcome her inside. She unbuckles the waist strap and swings her pack to one side; it rests momentarily on her right hip, then slides down her side and onto the floor.

I put fresh linens on a pillow from my bed and prop it at one end of our small black leather couch. I hand her a glass of water. We chat amiably about her day, and my heart swells just hearing her speak. It reminds me of being in Spain. It reminds me that my heart now holds countries, and street corners, and seas, and friends, and cities, and beautiful moments in it from many thousands of miles away.

Seemingly from a dream.

But then again, so real.

I can feel them in this moment more than ever before, and hosting her, Nuria, the couchsurfer from Barcelona I’ve just now met, is like being reminded of the sky’s color or the smell of rain on concrete. I now know I have to return.

Europe is forever a part of me, and I want to forever be a part of it.

Nuria flops on the couch, tired from a day of hiking and exploring. Then the familiar routine of settling into a new place; home for the night. I watch as she ruffles through her pack for the essentials — toothbrush, cell phone charger, pajamas and sleeping bag. My housemate hands her our Wifi password on a piece of paper, and I can see the relief as it moves across her face like a cloud uncovering the sun.

She relaxes a bit more now that her means of communication to the other side of the ocean is whole again. I know this feeling. I felt it so many times in foreign places when I had no bridge to home, aside from the internet and my own thoughts.

I tell her “My home is your home,” and a warmth blooms somewhere beneath my ribcage.

We say goodnight, and I fall asleep smiling.

In the morning I make coffee for two and leave a cup and an orange on a little table in the living room. I write her a note and tell her to enjoy the day and that I won’t see her until later that evening.

Tonight is her last night in Oregon. I call and arrange a taxi to pick her up in the wee hours of the morning to deliver her to the airport.

In the living room, me sitting cross-legged on a chair, and her on the couch, she talks about life in Sweden, where she is working on completing her Postdoctoral. Then we chat about love. She tells me how she met her boyfriend. It took two years for their paths to cross again by chance on the subway. And even then, they didn’t exchange contact information. But she found his email by contacting a mutual friend — she was determined.

He replied right away and they met the following day. And then the day after that…and again the day after that. It was as if there weren’t enough days to spend together, so days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and months turned into years — 7 total now.

When she speaks about him, her face shows the calm and content knowing of love, the kind I imagine is as real and as alive as a mountain that withstands windstorms and rain.

Mountains are as forever as we can hope for in a lifetime.

We let silence hold us. And I think of memories of all the couches I’ve slept on and of the people who took me in and welcomed me as family, even though I was a lone woman traveling on the tail feathers of wanderlust, easily excitable and unsure of what came next.

Suddenly, she looks up from her book and asks “Who is Jerry Garcia?”

I play her Touch of Gray by the Grateful Dead, and we grin at each other, nodding to the song.

Eventually, it’s time to say goodnight. She says if she leaves anything behind, I will need to return it to her in person. We laugh and I say “Deal!”

She invites me to both of her respective homes in Spain and Sweden.

I get the feeling, as I sometimes do, that we’ll meet again.

Backpacking Europe: morning in Prague.

Backpacking Europe: morning in Prague.

The Art of Traveling In My Own Neighborhood

My olive-green stocking cap hugged wet curls. I was showered, fed, and ready for the day. I pulled on my jacket and slipped my camera into my purse. My hands found my pockets as I stepped outside my door to see what I could find. It’s Sunday and I don’t have any other plans, so why not be a traveler in my own neighborhood?

As a new transplant in Portland, OR, I’m determined to connect with this new place I’m living in. The rain had let up and it was the perfect timing for a stroll. I walked with eyes attuned to small details and opened my mind to a state of wonder.

Before my walk, I was thinking of backpacking through Europe and the way things – people, synchronicities, purposes – seemed to find their way to me ease-fully. It was affirming to feel the spirit of adventure still well and alive in me as I set out in my own neighborhood, and to realize that the world provides endless discoveries for those who want to discover, regardless of how far – or how close – you travel.

In a tree just a block away from my front door, I was thrilled to find a bird’s nest and nearby that, an unpaved alley with large puddles, currently doubling as a local bird spa. A few blocks further, I found an adorable Patisserie and was brought back to Belgium when I took a bite of a chocolate macaroon that melted as soon as it touched my tongue. Mmmm, I closed my eyes and savored the rich, smooth texture of one of my favorite European treats. Past the bicycle shop and several bars, I stumbled into a coffee/pie shop, curious to try their espresso, clueless that I was about to make a new friend in a very special way.

As I stood waiting for my latte, leaning against a lacquered wooden bar and breathing in sweet scents of berry baked goods, a wrinkled New York Times next to me caught my eye. Then two large hands picked it up. I glanced up and saw a tiny blue spiral tattooed on his left earlobe. That’s interesting. As his face came into focus, my gaze was met with two green eyes, smiling at me. “Hello,” the stranger said. “Hi,” I said with a shy nod. We started chatting about the crossword puzzle and then about the status of the world. I sat down next to him and sipped my hot drink as we moved from topic to topic, eventually landing on travel.

It turns out he has also traveled through Europe and he commiserated with me over the less-than-comfortable transition from backpacking freely to working and having a steady routine again. Berlin came up, and then Spain, and we laughed at the fact that we had been to many of the same places, equally impacted in a profound way through our experiences there. I learned other things too, like he has an eight-year-old who he describes as the anchor in his life. The same swirl on his left earlobe is also tattooed on his right one. When his fancy drink came, he offered me a sip, and it didn’t feel strange at all to take him up on it.

What was meant to be a quick stop at the coffee shop had turned into a nice conversation, and unknowingly, I had stayed until my cup was empty. Then it was time to go. He opened his arms and hugged me like an old friend. We didn’t exchange numbers, but decided we’d run into each other again. After all, we live in the same neighborhood.

I walked off, smiling, headed to explore the cooperative grocery store up the street. I grabbed a planner that caught my eye in the section where calendars and candles were on display. By chance, I flipped to a page with a very fitting poem on it. Huh! Life never ceases to amaze me…

Here are some of my favorite shots from my wanderings today:

Bird's nest

Bird’s nest

IMG_0017

Bird Spa

Bird Spa

IMG_0034

Free stuff

Free stuff

Keep Your Chin Up

Keep Your Chin Up

Water Tower

Water Tower

Dreamy dresses

Dreamy dresses

Puddle portrait

Puddle portrait

The Poem I found that was very fitting

The Poem I found that was very fitting

Mural

Mural

Movies are all the rage

Movies are all the rage

Random pretty tile

Random pretty tile

Empty lot

Empty lot

For the love of God

For the love of God

Graffiti

Graffiti

It's true

It’s true

Art

Art

Skater dude

Skater dude

Interesting trash sculpture

Interesting trash sculpture

Neat tree

Neat tree

Money box

Money box

A new view

A new view

Reflection

Reflection

Skeleton dancer

Skeleton dancer

Broken

Broken wall

Latin Grocery store

Latin Grocery store

Front view

Front view

Glittery puddle in tree root

Glittery puddle in tree root

Water tower

Water tower

Community Supported Everything

Community Supported Everything

Bunny

Bunny

Moss

Moss

The Know

The Know

Bike Shop

Bike Shop

Corner space

Corner space

Co-op grocery abundance

Co-op grocery abundance

Railing art

Railing art

Texture

Texture