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”.

Tonight I Needed to Remember the Magic of Things, so I Visited Italy up the Street

Tonight I needed to remember the magic of things so I dressed up in the lace wrap I brought back from Tuscany and the earrings gifted to me by an artist and friend I met in Southern Italy.

Feeling the joy of wearing such sentimental items, I slipped a book into my purse, walked out my door and headed through the cool night air to the Italian restaurant I have passed so many times on Alberta Street. Tonight, I’d open the door and stay awhile.

Sitting at the little table alone with a large glass of red wine in my right hand, I smiled, savoring the familiar feeling that became so common while traveling – the feeling of peace that comes from enjoying my own company and living solely in the moment, taking in every detail with curiosity and forgetting about anything that happened before now, or that will happen after now. I stared at a map of Italy while the perfect tomato sauce danced on my tongue and the creamy mozzarella melted into the warm pasta on my fork. Oh how good! And then a pang of longing – realizing my heart still yearns to be back in that country painted on the wall across from me in blue and green.

I ended up spending a total of 2 hours drinking wine from Puglia and talking about life in Italy and the U.S. – the similarities and differences in culture and philosophy – with the owner of the little restaurant. With a smile, Enzo explained “In Italy, we see our children as a part of us, that is why we don’t mind that they live with us – we don’t want them to go. There isn’t the need to be alone like here; we keep our family near us.”

And after the final espresso had been drunk and the last spoonful of whipped cream licked off the spoon, I felt as if I could cry when Enzo stood up, outstretched his arms, and shouted “Come here! Let me give you a bacio (kiss)!”

I’ll definitely be going back for Italian lessons and more chats about life over espresso. I love life’s little surprises. And I’m so grateful that the magic I sought was revealed to me tonight. Feeling a mixture of emotions with missing the people I love in Europe and feeling certain I’ve found new ones to love right here in my own neighborhood.

The place I called home in Baia, Campania, Southern Italy. Looking outside this window became a sort of ritual - the view gave me perpetual feelings of awe.

The place I called home in Baia, Campania, Southern Italy. Looking outside this window became a sort of ritual – the view gave me perpetual feelings of awe.

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