I spent most of Sunday at the airport with my family, waiting to see if my flight back to the UK was going to go or not...and after a five hour delay, I lifted off. My 19th trans-Atlantic flight. Not many it seems, compared to how many it feels.
And while we were in the air, the plane flew over an amazing lightning storm, the first I've ever seen from the air. There was so much turbulence I didn't get out my camera, so today went onto Flickr to see if anyone had taken a photo of this phenomenon. And I skimmed through the photos to find the one most like what I saw, and I found this one. Originally posted here. An amazing photo, no doubt. And as close as I could get to what I'd seen. Except on my flight the storm we flew over lasted nearly 40 minutes, and I'm sure it was the end of the horrible tornado weather that swept through the south and killed 10 people in Mississippi this past weekend. I knew it would be somewhere out in the Atlantic, and I knew we'd have to fly over it.
In the dark, on my own again, my family left behind on their home ground, we flew over this amazing quiet landscape of light, the clouds red and orange from above, and sometimes it looked like bolts of lightning flashed upwards out of the clouds. And all the while other planes flew in the distance just within sight, parallel to us but only flashing dots. And as we flew I fixed my eyes on a reference point, like I always do during a night flight, a sort of horizon line in the dark to navigate by. And even though it wasn't me navigating our plane, I felt the star I found to stare at, and come back to again and again during the 8 hours, was a point for me to navigate my way back across the vast expanse of water and cloud, back to the UK and my life here.
One day at a time, one moment at a time, the mantra I kept saying over and over this past month came back to me during the flight each time the turbulence got really shaky. And I realised that there is no rush. There is no end point I must hurry to. Even though I know this, I forget it as often as not. This journey, my life, and that particular flight were and are steps on a path, and the path so much more important than the destination. How terrifying Sunday night's flight was. Scarier than any since my third trans-Atlantic crossing (maybe one day I'll write about it here). And how beautiful the sky was, the light streaking below me, the colours in the clouds, the stars in the dark dark sky. How beautiful my life is sometimes, even when it's tough and I'm exhausted and worn down.
And I forget in these breath-taking moments just how linked physical and emotional journeys can be. In fact, one of my students reminded me of this today, her final paper for the term on just this topic. And I mused on my own life journeys after reading her paper and thought, yes. Why do I always forget how linked these two types of journeyings are? The goodbye and the flight back. Closing the door and leaving. And here on the other end, finding my home just as I'd left it. England just as gorgeous as the trees and red clay in the US southern parts. Each in their own ways. Each ground able to hold me when I'm there. And the long flight between like a bridge and a place where I can do nothing but surrender, let go and look out the window at the sky. As far as I can see in every direction.
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Monday, 19 April 2010
I'm just beginning to sense the winds of change, I can feel them starting to tug at my ankles and pull me away...in another direction, away from where I am now. It's my final week in the US (already changed my flight once due to the volcanic ash, so I could be writing this again, still here, in a few weeks time!). Each time I visit I learn something new about myself. Last time I was here, I started to get a niggling feeling about wanting to return here-home soon. I have so many homes now and I remember my days as a young adult where I felt I was flailing around searching and not finding any place to call home. Home now is in the UK, in the town where I have lived for nearly 9 years. And it is in the Carolinas where my family now live. And it is in the city where I grew up, with people I love. In the music and movement of the South. And, like many times before now, I am on the verge of leaving this home and thus arriving somewhere else again. Somewhere I also call home too.
This leaving is not yet upon me and in some ways it feels uncertain and far off still. This, I'm sure is due to the volcanic ash situation but also to the recent busy and chaotic events of being at home. Illness in the family awaiting uncertain outcomes, visits with friends who are going through difficult times and the flip side of all this, the desire to stay stay stay for a long long time and just eventually (though not without a lot of work) meld back into life here in the US.
For now it is not to be, unless that is, Eyjafjallajokull continues to spew. I have important things to do back in the UK right now. I'm not sure if they are any more important than things I might have to do in the US, but as of this minute only, (one at a time) I am hoping to go back and do them. Do the writing that needs to be done, the work that needs to happen, the return to studying so I have more options one day... and maybe then I can return
to the place I have found in the past week
the one that surprisingly said to me in a clear voice, yes
this is home. Here it is, stronger than before.
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
I'm just surfacing now from a sweaty and wild weekend in Tampa. On Saturday my fabulous co-dancing friend and I went to Cajun Cafe on the Bayou's 13th Annual Crawfish Festival. Except we didn't go for the Crawfish, we'zuh went fo de zydeco rhythms. And after a glorious 7 hours of dancing to such wonderful bands as T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers, Zydeco HouseRockers and (my favourite by far) Dora and The Entourage, leg muscles I'd forgotten I had started to ache. And then my arms started to throb too. This reminds me that my new year's resolution is to get in shape...well Saturday helped me along that road again!
Being here again and feeling those clicking thumping thwacking beats of zydeco and feeling the floor vibrate with heels and stomps made me incredibly homesick and hungry for more, more time to dance and listen to frottoir, here, in the heat and buzz of the now-too-rare, Tampa Cajun scene.
And not one but two, two breakfasts at the best place in town, La Teresita (I'd fly all this way just for their black beans and cafe con leche!) kept me going all weekend and into the beginning of this week. Last time I was here (18 months ago) I had breakfast at Teresita's and it was so unbelievably orgasmic I dreamt about it and compared every breakfast with it all these months. Nothing came close, until I returned...
Tomorrow I'll be moving on again. I truly feel like a migrant this past week, visiting so many people I love in such a short space of time. Go where the wind takes me. And this visit, there is a lovely warm-and-not-too-hot breeze. Just perfect.
Laissez le bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Week 2 of my US Spring Break tour (how long is this spring break I can hear you asking yourself...) and I'm home in my native Florida visiting a friend of mine in north Florida before heading even further south into the Bay Area. Youth revisited as usual while I'm here and this morning I woke up thinking I wanted to do something new today, something I've never done before. And much to my surprise, especially because I didn't so much as utter these words aloud, my friend exposed me to two experiences I've never had: the first was visiting the Alachua Sink and though I lived in Alachua County for five years during my early adulthood, I had never been to this alligator-infested swamp area.
My friend's mother told us over breakfast how she took a group of her students there once and there were hundreds (or did she say thousands...?) of gators all over the place. So as we get ready to leave this morning, I casually ask my friend what footwear I should don for the occasion. I was already beginning to sweat slightly from the potential of encountering gators in their millions (already their numbers had multiplied in my mind). Even though during my childhood I had numerous encounters with alligators (in my grandparent's pool, the local lake etc), I had never technically been 'surrounded' before. Part of me was very curious and in tourist-mode ready to 'see me some gators!' but the other half was terrified. So we went, and whether it was breeding season or just too hot or too busy or the fact that there is now a boardwalk round the Sink so you don't actually walk right next to the lakey area, we only saw about 7 gators. 7. S e v e n! A totally acceptable and un-scary number of them compared to what I'd anticipated! In fact, isn't 7 my favourite and most lucky number? Exactly. So that was new experience number 1.
So then after lunch at Satchels my friend wants to know if I wanna get a DVD. Sure thing. So she gets on her iPhone and twiddles with some App and lo and behold she says we're going to the local redbox to pick it up. And I think, but how do you know which redbox vending machine has the movie we want? Aren't we going to have to drive all over town and try all different machines to find the one with the film we want? (again, cue slight sweat and panic)... And this oh-so-savvy friend of mine assures me that it's all going to be okay and the world will not end and in fact her iPhone App tells us which box has which films.
CUE TOTAL AND COMPLETE MIND-BOGGLING HEAD RUSH...
And then I garble on and on about how in the UK we don't have such things and oh my god and oh lord how odd this is and by the way, how many DVDs could one vending machine hold anyway? And by the time we get to the redbox, which is in fact red, there is the fix-it guy with the machine opened up and HOLY SHIT there are tons of DVDs in there and OH MY GOD if you swipe a card, for only $1 it spits out your DVD of choice (which, I'll just remind you, you already know ahead of time that they have in stock).
It's truly at times like these that I feel I now return to the US, my native ground, as a foreign country. I get major culture shock returning to the US from the UK. So much has changed and yet not changed. My friend and I still hang out like usual, we still talk about life and relationships and zoom around town in her car and stop for drive-thru coffee (another invention we need more of in the UK, the drive-thru that is...) except while I'm here I'm in that weird, limbo, in-between zone that I now characterise as just part of my normal life. That dual-citizen privilege--not really being 'of' any one place, yet being part of two worlds at once.
And I like it, but it's disorientating to say the least. The redbox, a normal part of life here, seems like the infamous, British, Dr Who Tardis, and if I get too close it might swallow me up and spit me out in the future somewhere. These two worlds now feel like they each make up half of me. I am whole when I contain and live in both, and if I remove one, no matter which one, I am only a half-version of me. Would only be half myself now that I am dual, two, two parts of one whole. And being here again, especially in Florida, as always, helps me feel deeply seated in one of my halves. And no matter which half I'm in, the other is always 4,000 miles away waiting for my return.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Here in the US on a quick Spring Break visit. My highlights so far include searching the local grocery store for some vegetarian options (no, chicken is not a vegetarian option!), watching House Party 2 (Kriss Kross'll make you jump jump) with my sister and brother-in-law's monthly film groupies, and enjoying the prematurely roasting spring-but-more-or-less-summer weather. Today it was 22C / 72F though it was another 10 degrees hotter in the house, especially while we were cooking pizzas and brownies for film night (no complaints there). My first week here has been great and I'm carrying my camera with me for as many photo opportunities as possible, though I couldn't bring myself to take a photo of the nazi flags I saw at the local flea market, just in case I got mistaken for an third reich enthusiast...onward to week 2.