Finding sanctuary in a foreign culture and climate
| Humidity seeped into the marrow of these brittle Alaskan bones and eventually turned pain into song.
Torn tendons and shredded ligaments were forced to find forgiveness in the soft, heavy air permeated by fresh ylang-ylang and moringa blossoms. Numbness came alive, rejuvenated by the tender warmth, protected under the dense tropical canopy.
Never had I wanted to leave the land of winter, but there came a day my body protested to the point of death and I had no choice but to obey.
Salt waters and hot sand thawed me inch by inch, layer by layer.
Days turned to weeks, months to years under the Guanpan nut and avocado trees. Mangos, mandarins, limes and chinolas, coconuts, pineapple, guayaba and plantain filtrated my psyche. Thick dews of morning cleansed and forgot unwanted parts of the past.
How easily the days passed, despite the weeks of agonizing pain, unable to leave the bed while my dislocated shoulder found its way back to its proper placement.
A decade unraveled.
Island vibes encompassed my tropical sanctuary among the coffee and fruit trees.
It was impossible not to reflect on the all-American way of life and wonder why and how our society became so complicated.
The general sense of Dominican happiness is infectious among the simple country people living with so little, whose hearts and lives are rich with family and time. Happy to eat together and listen to music, the children play, pigs roast, pots of goat stew simmer. No day is complete without dancing. In the street, on a porch, a stone wall, the steps, on every corner, Meringue and Bachata are King, their beats resonating through any type of speaker available.
The silver bearded man sands his handmade chairs to sell, while a robust, bronze skinned woman flattens dough that will fry into an empanada to be sold at her street stand. A leather-tanned grandfather makes the village rounds, checking his livestock on an archaic donkey, complete with his colorful knotted cloth saddle. A pack of elated, barefooted boys with sticks, run up and down the street pushing their cut out plastic oil -jug race cars on bottle cap wheels. A stunning Haitian woman rhythmically walks wrapped in purple and orange cloth, balancing a heavy tub of the days income on her head; bananas, avocados and homemade candies of caramelized coconut, peanuts and almonds.
This is the life pulse that beats 'round Mt. Isabella. Surely something sacred,
magnetic, that not only managed to keep me, but continues to call me back.
In this time of in between, those attachments lost to me back on American soil, were somehow replenished by the simplicity and directionless of this place.
A day is complete enough when a perfectly ripe fruit is found, and the fresh chicken is cleansed with limes from the tree. Coffee is shared with the morning ocean breeze, under misty clouds running through Isabella's cloud forest. The mountainside village wakens with scents of butter, garlic and sweet bread. The milkman sells well before the heat of the day, calling "leche, leche" down every street. Laundry appears, hung to dry over barbed-wire fences and motorbikes rumble their way to the city. Feasting on insects, the graceful, long-necked cow-birds find home on the spiny backs of cattle. Haitian men, young and old, bodies of stone soaked with sweat, wander down from the high sugar cane fields in black rubber boots, machetes in hand, on their way to the village for the one meal of the day, chicken and rice for 150 pesos.
I refused to go the hospital, despite everyone's recommendation, knowing full well that aside from surgery, there was nothing they could do for me.
Only time would heal the injuries. Time away from the life I had passionately carved, the brutal winters and endless work. Time far removed from the things that had strangled my heart.