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Published: August 7th 2015
It's been a while, a long while. Where to start? I've left New Zealand behind, ending my trip surrounded by the love of new friends and the golden kiss of sunset off the Christchurch shore. I remember the chill warmth on my face and the sweet taste of wine on my tongue and knew, way down deep where all true knowing lingers, that despite the hardships and the disappointments I'd faced during my stay, this country would forever be a part of me, both of who I am now and the woman I hope to become. They say the sword remembers the heat of the fire and the pounding of the hammer and in the same way I see New Zealand as the forge that broke me and reassembled the pieces. It stripped me down whilst lifting me up, set me on paths that I'd avoided for ten years; and it deflated my spirit, freeing it of the hot air I'd once depended on completely. New Zealand broke me, but then again it's only after the breaking that we can begin to rebuild.
"When a bird is completely broken and still, it gets removed from the snare." -Rumi, "The Elegance
of the Ermine"
The Love I have for that country, with its ever green fields, mysterious forests, pristine beaches, and daunting snowcapped peaks is a Love intermingled and contradictory, but it's a Love all my own and I will cherish it.
Now I'm in Australia, land of eternal sun, and although we've had a fair few days of torrential, soaking rain, overall it's been smooth sailing with calm waters. From New Zealand I hopped over to Melbourne, which is like the Australian version of Paris. Cafés squeeze into little laneways, the maitre d's beckoning you in like it's an exotic destination. Smells of espresso, pasta, car fumes, and an odd scent of body odor blend to create a surprisingly not unpleasant aroma, the type that reminds you you're breathing the air inhabited by thousands of people. The river Yarra lazily divides the north and south bank and depending on your level of snobbery, you know where you fit in best. The outskirts of the city are where true Melbournian character resides, from the grungy, cannabis loving hippies in Fitzroy to the suave Italians in Carlton and the beach bodies of St. Kilda. Though the overall feel of the
city is distant, every-man-for-himself, it's a city that loves life, and buskers serenade those who rush along at the unstoppable Melbournian pace, hoping they can hear the music and take the time to appreciate it, even if just for a minute.
Melbourne was beautiful, but it was not my city. Something felt off, and whether it was really a bad fit or if the city just needed time to warm up during its winter moods I decided I wasn't going to wait around for a change that don't come. So I slunk away, taking the night bus 13 hours to sunny Sydney and despite the lack of sleep and the greasy been-on-the-bus-all-night hairdo, the city was for me like the open arms of a friend after a long journey. Somehow it felt more like home than any place I've visited thus far on this trip and I decided in a matter of a few hours that this is where I'll stay.
Sydney is a port of call, hailing to the older days where ships anchoring in the harbor carried with them tales and adventures of far distant, wondrous lands beyond the imagination. Sailors held magic in their words
and set people dreaming about endless possibilities, where a man could challange Nature herself and discover his true worth. It still retains that feeling despite the modern strappings and the hustle and bustle of a urban life. Energy pulsates, the heartbeat of the city vibrant but solid, open and breathing where Melbourne's felt restricted. Bars and cafés soak up the sun, preferring the open streets to the cramped laneways and though the pace is fast, there's a lift to the chin, a chassé to peoples' walks, almost like a dance and you don't feel rushed along the streets. The Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge are just as stunning in real life as the pictures show, and people drink, dine, jog, and snog in their shadows. It seems the world came to Australia and settled in Sydney, with every second person you meet sporting a different accent than the one before, the rhythm and melody of a hundred different languages making the streets bubble like champagne. You can taste India, Korea, Ireland, Thailand, Italy, and Spain all along one street, with ice cream shops and cafés dusted in for varience. And the water, a constant, soothing presence draws you like
a man dieing of thirst, eyes drinking in the blue of its depths, wondering if you've ever seen something so enticing. It's a place filled with the energies of a new adventure, where your ship can launch into new, undiscovered waters.
My spiritual journey continues, though lately it's been pushed to the back burner in favor of finding work and establishing financial stability again. But even so, one of those crystal clear moments came upon me, the kind that embeds itself into your consciousness like a flower coming up in the hard rock of the mountain, thriving against all odds. I was walking along the shore in Sydney, between Bondi and Coogee beaches. It's a path that hugs the cliff side, a popular tourist stroll in the daylight and eerily deserted after the sun goes down. It was just past sunset, when the sky is a deep blue, not yet black, the moon bright and almost full, its light glinting off the ocean below. I was rushing home, visions of bathing-suited, barefoot robbers making me see shapes in the shadows, when I was suddenly stopped by the scene around me. A graveyard, the white and grey headstones catching the
moonlight and shining like crystals in the dark rose over the hills behind me. Below I could hear the waves crash against the cliffs then be sucked out only to return with renewed velocity. The moon hung out over the water, so bright it took luster away from the stars and with the distant lights on the horizon, ships or stars it was hard to tell, it was like being caught between worlds. I have no concrete opinion of the afterlife, a subject I have yet to tackle, but I all at once saw the end of one journey and the beginning of another, there in that place. The people buried behind me faced an open sea, mysterious in the night, a place to launch a ship out into the next adventure. What they left behind wasn't riches or glory, even the bones they once adhered to were of little importance. They were in the memories of those they Loved.
I felt like Rumi had somehow painted his words into the very fabric of the scene around me, all the while softly whispering in my ear,
"Don't go anywhere without me. Let nothing happen in the sky apart
from me, or on the ground, in this world or that, without my being in its happening." -Rumi, "In the Arc of Your Mallet"
I understood his meaning conceptually but I hadn't felt it until that moment, like a radiant warmth on a winter's night. When I first read the lesson, I took it as a challenge to face an unfeeling world, where Love was difficult to see and people were cruel and selfish. My interpretation put me as the martyr who didn't receive the Love and appreciation she deserved, with the world as my unjust persecutor whom I would rise above with the strength of my pure and tested Love. But in that moment, with the silent empty graves behind me I suddenly understood that I had been desperately wrong.
Love is not something I deserve, and I choose that word specifically. Freedom, fresh air, food, even a Starbucks here and there - these are things every human being is entitled to (well, maybe not the last one). To exist in this world, with others and individually, means there are some things which we must provide for each other, help when we can, prevent when we must.
As for Love, well I don't think we were born deserving it. I believe it must be given freely, without any call for reciprocity or reward. To expect a return reduces the importance of what it means to Love. We leave this world with nothing, and wherever you think we go afterwards, whether it's the pearly gates, the disco dance of hell, empty space, where the rainbow ends, to meet the aliens....wherever, the only thing you leave behind is your Love. However much you put out into the universe will determine how you are remembered and who will do the remembering.
I wasn't the sainted martyr, alone against the cruel world, the image my narcissism had created. People in my life did not have to love me. It was nice when they did, don't get me wrong, but the level of their input did not have to equal mine. Because it wasn't a competition and it wasn't a challenge; I would Love them the same either way. It didn't mean I wouldn't guard my heart when romance came around or that I'd suffer abuse without standing up for myself, it just meant that the defence I had built ended
up being a straight jacket rather than a shield. In my moment of clarity I felt the cords loosen and a freedom of spirit and of feeling escaped in my breath, and I sighed like the last rains of a storm, tension released and blue sky on the horizon. I felt free to give my Love without holding back, to truly put it into every step of my journey.
"Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." -Rumi, "Let the Beauty We Love"
It's been weeks since that moment, and still I feel its intensity inside my heart. I've shared it with a select few, working out the kinks, with mixed reviews. Expressing the truth felt by a physical sensation usually gets me a few raised eyebrows and one or two eye rolls, but it doesn't dampen my new resolve. I Love this giving I find myself in and I no longer worry about how others feel about me. When I do receive the same unconditional Love in return, it is that much more precious because I know it too is freely given. I don't know
if any of this makes sense, or if you too are giving me the proverbial eye roll, but it's been a light shining in a world grown very dark of late. It has reaffirmed my path towards Love and reminded me that I left home to discover such moments as these and, eventually, they will expand and multiply till they fill my life instead of just peppering them.
"You dance inside my chest, where no one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that light becomes this art." -Rumi, "Sometimes I Do"
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