This I suppose is the final post of the official fellowship. This weekend I doubt much writing will occur. Monday will be officially 8 months since I left home, that evening I'll catch a flight to Monterrey, from there a bus to Piedras Negras; the town black stones, my point of return. A return twofold and for a sentimental person like me an indeed profound moment in this journey.
But as of now (four days ago) I sit below two mountains surrounded by hills, just at the foot of Itzaccihuatl and Popocatéptl. I never thought I'd find myself at an Ashram, but here I am. A mother and daughter are the only company. They do yoga in the sun and eat vegetarian meals; tobacco, alcohol, and meat are prohibited. A seemingly unlikely place to fine me, admittedly. At least I had coffee, otherwise I may have lost it. I prefer the Hunter S. Thompson or Anthony Bourdain approach to health and wellness.
But that's not why I came here, I left my beloved city to write and for five full days I have written, read and walked.
The valley mist never quite dissipates and the pointed hills to the north staccato the horizon serrating against each other, creating a profile that is utterly other worldly. And damn beautiful, if not the most beautiful country I have come across. Walking along the dirt and intermittent asphalt, the blue sky and swirled-stretched clouds tease the tops of mountains, the campos, the fields roll out like patchwork blankets reminded me of home in the Midwest; the scenes I so often whizz past along M-14, or US 23.
And here I walk along towards the little pueblo Santa Isabel, dogs sleep under the shade of low walls; un abuelo y un niño montaron un bicicleta down the country road; a man in a blue hat winks 'buenas dias'; two women sit en la plaza watching the the extranjero moreno; small roads shoot off into daily conversations- I pass through. It is as if I could be in perú or nepal again, the forms, the same painting colors that brush the landscape and the people, reflecting off shadows and in the rays of escaped light in shadowy store fronts- all so familiar and yet distant by miles unseeable.
Walking through the bramble, sage brush, small yellow flowers that remind me of cota, and lavender I am reminded of where this journey began, down on that pueblo in New Mexico. A shepherd and his flock pass by as they have every afternoon. The sheep bleating, grazing and crossing this same familiar path- the Shepard rests under a pine.
Walking southward the great mountain that lays out against the sky and frocked by clouds appears like a sleeping woman, her face waiting the south. What she will see across that vast expanse when she awakens I do not know. But I can imagine it would look something like the view from the top deck of the Henry II floating up the Ucayali river on a summer evening.
The sun rises beginning that long descent into night. I take the encouragement of my uncle and begin to write a novel. Concerning probably the only thing I'm qualified to write, a sketch, a collection of notes and stories of love, travel, and passion. Such a task seems the only appropriate thing to do for a hedonist SOB such as I on an ashram. Although a reprieve from the city& smog& vice is not so bad. I just don't care for hippies. They ask if I'd join for yoga, I point to my writing and tell them this is the only yoga I do.
Just for kicks I went back over my memories of the past 8 months and wrote down all the names I could recall, I filled 5 pages with what I could remember.
Walking back I counted 40 towns and cities I've traveled to, not including airports and bus stops. Now THAT I never imagined. Nor did I imagine 5 continents in a year- considering for the majority of 23 years were spent between Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Chicago.
I cannot deny, how indeed drastically my life has altered in the course of this journey. My goals are new, my vision further, and I have undoubtedly changed, but I'll wait for those who know me to be a judge of that. But life has gone on, for me, for others, for the world that I have seen; travel, the blood of this journey now pulses in my heart. That is for certain.
The night before I left for Ameca (the closest town to the ashram) I met a young woman from Lyon, France. We took a long walk around the upscale stores of Condesa and ended up at a Cuban bar listening to live son. (Son is traditional Cuban music) I mention this because she asked what it was that I like about travel, that I could do it for eight months. The response I gave was that I liked to be in environments that were new. Slightly due to my limited Spanish but more to do with not have really have thought about the question, this response was more or less inadequate to what I really think.
On the bus ride the next day I thought about that. What did I mean by that response? As I've thought about this for the past 5 days I realize why I like so much the song 'Streets of Fire' by the Boss- the refrain: "I live now only with strangers, I talk now only to strangers/ I walk with angels who have no place, yea don't look me in my face...I'm strung out on a wire cross streets of fire." It's that being in new places, lugares extranjero, unknown places- walking, talking, living among strangers who sometimes cease to be, who become friends, lovers; brothers or sisters. On these 'streets of fire' you discover broken pieces of your self, parts of you scattered across the earth like a creation myth. I replaced old parts of my soul for pieces that fit. I've shed some hate and kept my rage.
I've crossed the roads and rivers that haunted my dreams. This journey is barley a beginning. This fellowship has been written as a prologue, my life before a preface: a cast of characters set.
Otis Taylor and Big KRIT fills my morning as I write. I'll take a walk before starting back on the novel.
This is my last day below the mountain. A short watch of desolation peak, reminding me of Kerouac and the Novel my brother gifted me 'the sea is my brother'- of which all remind me of J. Baldwin's novel I just finished, 'Another Country'. A true master of expressive power.
The end is only a beginning