A two day journey by plane, tear-filled.
Leaving with tears streaming down my face... the longing, the love, the people, the pain, the Experience of being in Gabon and seeing its rainy shores shrinking away from the airplane window.
I listen to Bwiti music over and over and over again in my headphones... trying to make it stay.
I land in L.A., and am picked up by old friends. No strangers to culture shock themselves, they know to head straight to the In-N-Out Burger drive thru; seeking something hearty, familiar, and warm. French fries and the comfortable poverty of Long Beach, old cars, tiny apartments, orange city lights, greet me. I don't stay long enough to get sentimental... we are leaving for Mexico the next morning, going out to a place in Baja where the river meets the sea. Three women, and the quiet resident of a beach house, cooking beans together, walking near the ocean, trying to heal from the stress of life. Going to somewhere quiet, and clear.
My third day there, I go walking alone along the banks of the river, startling occasional sandpipers and water birds resting in the reeds. I get as muddy and leaf-covered as possible, letting the fresh air seep into my hair and clothing. I lay there alone and silent among the dry grass and sagebrush, watching the changing light of the sky. Longing hits. A gentle wave of reality re-adjustment. It is peaceful here, it doesn't smell bad, or make my ears ring or my ass hurt... no one is fighting or honking, no chickens are rifling through dumpsters, no Afro-pop is blaring out from speakers... it is calm...but still longing comes, seeping up from somewhere deep within me.
I watch it inside me. Like watching a spider spinning a soft web. Like watching a single feather float down through the air. I recognize it as being those things... a longing for Magic to be Real. To be surrounded by those moments always.
I sit there realizing, that is what it has always been about-- the longing for travel, for the sacred, for the intensity of foreign experiences, for contact with something beyond the forced routine of my life. The longing that drives me is my self trying to make my life mysterious and golden in that way. To increase the moments of awe, of universal connection, of seeing the sacredness of life. Chasing signs and bird calls. Listening to dreams. Aching for a way to live wild and alive outside, barefoot; to have nature answer me back. To have it not be just a story in my head that gets overrun with modern distractions. To connect with others through a deep, beyond-me and expansive kind of love... where the light in our eyes matches up. Where the other being is fully Seen. I Seek this.
This happened to me in Gabon, in Ossimba village. More than once. Life in the rainforest, living deep within the heart of diversity and creation, makes people cognizant of it. Grandmother Francoise and I would just look at each other in the eyes and laugh, and laugh, and hug each other, and keep on laughing. Just because we realize we are here, and life is strange, and we both love and depend upon each other to survive. Because we know the truth about the forest... that it is both a source for life, food, water, shelter, beauty, and at the same time holds the most terrifying animals, diseases, poisons, and sources of death. You love it anyway, because you can't help it. Because there are metallic blue butterflies, and cool mountain streams, and forest elephants, and luminous stars at night. Because there is unbridled beauty constantly being produced, imagined, grown, within its green depths. Because it is intense, and terrifying, and wonderful.
And then there is America. Modern cultural expectations. Business. Work. College education. Mandated tax forms. Executive decisions. Unreasonable laws, motivated greed, absurdity, total and complete disconnect lit by the glowing screen of an Iphone. I make eye contact with people and they wonder about me. They get uncomfortable.
If I were to stand in the university library and scream that, “You are all asleep and dreaming and you don't know what you are missing out on!” I would be hauled away. My passion, knowledge, and lack of desire to contain it would become a liability somehow. Cultural shock. Maladjustment. Insanity. Overly-emotional. You could label it however you want, but I doubt anyone would call it what it is: Heartache. Knowing what is possible, then returning to what some people call “normal life.”
The thing about magic, about the reality of creation, is that with it comes great danger. Once you see it, you can not un-see it. Once Pandora's box is open, you can't stop what comes out. It tails you the rest of your life, whispering in your ear, pulling at your heartstrings, urging you out, out, of mundane routine, of self-avoidance, of pre-occupation with the inane. Like a hungry beast it demands to be fed, to be recognized, to be honored; for in the seeking of it, in the Seeing of it, you have made it real and cognizant of you, your Self. Like a child, a pet, a partner, it wants nothing more than to be loved and recognized in the same deep way that you do. You and this force have something profound and un-ignorable in common: the ability to recognize the sacred in each other, and the longing to have that acknowledged-- the heart-wrenching, unquenchable desire to have someone know that you are Real.