How Ya Goin?

Wollongong Local Rockstar

Halloween. A holiday met with resistance here in Australia. Many people scoff at the idea of dressing up and asking for candy, not fully realizing that only the kids (usually only the kids) go trick-or-treating in America, and the real draw of Halloween is to dress up as adults and hang out with each other. It is just another excuse to celebrate life with your friends, and given that Australians love holidays, I was baffled to hear how they brush off halloween. 

Granted, I am still unsure of exactly what halloween is.

I wish you could hear this wind. It’s 3 AM and the wind is blowing with such force the whole house is shaking. I can only imagine the halloween decorations outside and their current whereabouts. Winds like these have always reminded me of fall, which is comforting given the fact that it is fall back home. Here, Spring is passing its time off to Summer. Storms roll through with a quick and poignant ferocity, leaving just as quickly. The wind blows with a strength that makes me want to get out of bed and run down to watch the sea. I have always loved the way wind howls as it blows through spaces. Tonight is no exception.

My current location is in my new house. I haven’t learned the sounds yet, and the novelty of renting a room as a traveler in a foreign country is bizarre to me. This is the first room I have rented in a house with less than 5 people in it. Maybe I’m finally growing up? The yearnings for home have their fingers delicately balanced on my heart strings. I didn’t realize how much I would miss fall, with its warm winds and crisp mornings. The contrast of the leaves back home turning to orange, vs. the flowers blooming purples and pinks here summons a strange nostalgia for the familiar. I do not know the seasons here, and my body feels backwards with its cravings for the cozy, chai drinking, pumpkin carving, warm scarf days of home. 

My New Home

Then pops in the age old question, “What is home.” Home is where the heart is… Home is wherever I’m with you… Home home on the range… home… Well if you ask webster dictionary, as a noun, home is “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” That is fair, I suppose, though the definition of family seems to be constantly in question as well. There is blood family, and then there are those people who you happen upon in life that make you feel a little more you. Both are equally important for creating the person you identify yourself as. I like the “permanently” part of the definition because that is a word I rarely frequent. Nothing in my life is permanent. It seems that things are coming and going constantly. 

The definition of home that seems more suitable for me comes in the verb form, “(of an animal) return by instinct to its territory after leaving it.” Now I am not sure that I have landed in my territory, but some of me believes that I need the separation from California in order to feel her calling again. My instincts pull me back to the sandstone mountains and Santa Ana winds at the same rate that they push me towards everything else in the world. The freedom of being a human echoes across the escarpment, through the turqouise waters, and into my heart as I bury my feet in the sand and walk home holding hands with strangers and swimming in the ocean with the moon bright above. 

Currently, Australia is a beautiful home. I have fallen in love with the gumtree forest and the way the people here talk in their round lazy slang. I’ve learned that when people ask “How ya goin,” not to respond with how I am doing, but rather just to say hi. I now know that they call squash, pumpkins here and that capsicum are bell peppers and Cilantro is called coriander. Australians put cocoa in their cappuccini, a flat white is made of heaven, and that “afternoon” can be shortened to Arvo. When someone asks “You alright?” It isn’t because you appear to have something wrong, but rather it is just a nice way of saying “All good?” Banana is pronounced with the long A sound, and no longer rhymes with Hannah unless you pronounce my name with a british accent.

My name is maybe the most endearing part of being in Australia. You see, Australians inherently nickname everything and everyone. Shortly after introducing myself as Hannah, I am called “Han.” I have never liked that nickname before, but the accent here softens it up, and the sweetness of having strangers call you by a nickname brings a level of closeness I have only found in a select crew of humans back home. I have never had a nickname that stuck before, and I love the novelty of having one here. For now, this home is one of the best I have ever had.

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Bones

Elk Bone, Montana
Skeleton. A frame work holding something together. The legs on a chair. My legs. Her legs. The legs of the buffalo, strong and sturdy. The stem of a flower, holding the colors up to the sun against gravity. Water flowing in a river bed. The bones in her head. Her head, an entire universe expanding on itself. The clash of past with present with future simultaneously. And stories… So many stories forming on the lips of the musicians on the stage and the limp in the store clerks gait and that fleeting glance of a stranger. She felt her own bones creak under the weight of her sadness and happiness. She was in flux and slipping down the rabbit hole as she opened to her own gifts. 

She had always wanted to be a writer. She had always been scared. She loved run on sentences, that had a million commas, and led into Infiniti because she didn’t like endings; they always meant something that was wouldn’t be. Like the animal of the bone that she held. A plate in the spine of a creature that moved and breathed and danced in the wind. And loved. Maybe this creature loved another creature. Or loved the way it felt when it ran over long hills and the river water splashed on its belly. She loved the way water held her when she lay back and floated off to anywhere in the world. I love the way that water holds me and makes me feel less like my bones and more like everything else. 

She spent her days trying to decipher what was her and what wasn’t and she realized that everything she experienced was her in what wasn’t. So finally, we decided to let them all run free. It was dangerous. The game of depicting the world around you in sounds and smells and sights and feelings all separately in order to piece them together again. Noticing things comes at the cost of awareness and awareness comes with responsibility. Once the bones become an animal, it is impossible to see the bones without them. Her meals had become hands. Hands that planted seeds and hands that harvested them and hands that moved them and cleaned the food and hands that bought it and the hands that cooked and cleaned. The hands that did all of this loved other hands too. Hands love other hands.

The human hand has twenty-seven bones. Fourteen of these are in the fingers. She clasped her hands together around the Elk bone to feel her own. “I am small,” she said to me as I peered into her eyes, watching her slip away into a million other words. We sat together in our bones, growing and decaying at equal rates. She drank a sip of water that slipped through her rib cage and danced through the rivers of her body. I left her there thinking. I could tell the bones were becoming her, and she needed space to fill in all of the words that clung to her own spine and kept her contained in one vessel. She has been fun to travel with. I have never seen the world in such a clear and cluttered way before. It is as if everything has new life again. I ask myself, “Is this what it is to be alone?” often, noticing it is the first time I have been for years. I am alone with her as we learn each other again. She is kind and confusing. She is still mad at me for ignoring her while I tried to play along with ways of seeing the world I didn’t understand, while she sat outside explaining everything in poetry behind a window. 

She always knew how to explain everything that no one else seemed to understand. I just didn’t know how to listen. I didn’t know how to bring her around my friends, though she always drank with us. 

She has known me all along. I feel her slipping back into my bones.

Believing

 

Desert Primrose

 

She sat in the sand to say hello to the flowers. She didn’t expect to see them there amidst such extreme heat and mobile sand. The dunes sang, she could believe that, but for some reason the delicate flowers bursting in humble shades of white and yellow seemed alien to her. She smiled at their bravery and lay back in the warm sand to feel it all. She was happy without him. She was ready to move forward. She was willing to believe in love again. “If the flowers can wait for the rainstorm, so can I,” she said to the sky. Love was a part of her always. It rode on her shoulders where the backpack dug in a little to deeply, and in her shaking hips that moved with the moons, and in the way she held strangers’ eyes for just a moment long enough to show them she cared. Love for her was the desert.

Even though it hurt sometimes, fluctuating between too hot and too cold and none at all, she believed in it. When others would try to warn her that nothing was there, she held onto the hopes knowing a Desert Primrose, or a Diatura was just behind the next Creosote Bush. The sand in her toes reminded her of the sand she would become someday. And all of it was terrifyingly expansive, all of the nothingness was a bunch of small somethingness that transformed daily. Love thrives at night when the truth of itself can dance among the moon, and the light is just light enough to mean something. She believed in it all because she believed in the desert.

Her love was a desert. It held onto itself against all reason. What grew there, grew strong enough to handle the full force of the wind of her emotion, while providing other life shade. She had spikes that protected the places where she grew soft and succulent, and it was rare that she would let people see the delicate parts of her. Lovers had to search for those places. The places where the blossoms sprouted up immediately after a storm, and the timing had to be such that the lover could not be too early or late. Timing. Time. To time. To wait. To be in time. Time moves slower in the desert. As if the places just far enough from the equator and just far enough away from the mountains revolved at a different speed. As if her heart actually sped up and slowed down as love came and went. She believed in it without reason.

She believed in it knowing she would always be thirsty. She believed in it knowing she would have to wait for the storms and wait for the water and wait and wait. She believed in it because the blooms were more spectacular and curious than anything she had ever known. Her love, a desert, was waiting, knowing the secrets that it kept.

Tuning in. Tuning Out

A Mama Buffalo

Always leave the banjo tuned and a full cup of coffee left in the pot, and never look down at your phone while walking over tree fall. The next person who comes along to sing to the sky, holding a warm cup of coffee, just might surprise you with their ability to learn everything from nothing. When that first pitch of their breath hits the cool air around you, you might find yourself shaking a little with the unexpected. Always leave the banjo tuned so they can sing on key.

You sip your own coffee, standing on the edge of a bluff looking over a prairie nestled in between mountains. It nearly aches, the way the river bends through the willows and reminds you that your body is a series of rivers moving from the mountain of your heart. Another note, higher than the Osprey slips into the coffee cup and into your mouth. Warm, it slides out to your fingers and toes in a smile. A small group of buffalo walk along in a seeming dance. They move quickly, slowly, leaving land behind them covered in footsteps. You put your feet in their steps, feeling the flex of their muscle moving their two ton bodies moving your two toned body, pale from winter. 

The banjo plays on, a tinny vibration blooming in the countryside grass. You notice a buffalo never eats an entire grass plant. The world has natural lawn mowers. They are gentle. Gentler than you are. You find yourself wistful for a touch so gentle to take only what it needs, while leaving enough to grow. There are bare places inside of you, forgotten and hidden, where others were not kind. Where you gave more than you had. Then you slip away back into the cup of coffee. The patches of sadness you carry aren’t heavy anymore. They have become scars tucked into the folds of your existence.

But the buffalo keep walking, and the banjo keeps playing, and you are tuned in. 

(Meaningless Meaningful Musings in Montana)

Falling In Love With Strangers

Ojai Farmers Market, Roots Organic Farm

In the blank spaces, imagination rushes in to create what it will. It is as if there is no choice but to fall into the void left by unknowns. That first time your eyes meet another’s, their color flashing into yours and staying a moment if you are lucky. Opia n. “The ambiguous intensity of eye contact with a stranger,” pours a warm rush of adrenaline to spike your heart rate and make you gulp. At this moment the other person is pure potential. They are everything you ever wanted and never wanted simultaneously, and you are not sure whether to approach them or let your fantasy be the only reaction you ever had. There are unexpressed parts of you that begin to bloom, hoping someone will notice them and honor them. This stranger could be their scapegoat! Though the fear of not being accepted had an equal weight of dread attached. So you sit there stuck in the middle of a “what-if” and decide to walk away. The final “what-if” lingers on your fingertips as you create stories that you trail behind you. 

I realize the stories you and I both write. I, maybe more so, end up designing narratives so vast and detailed I end up loving people I have never met. My weakness is the men who write. Whether it is songs, or essays, or letters, words are the way I process my world. I find myself writing to strangers, waiting for the response that triggers me and keeps me close, and pulls me closer. Closer to them and closer to myself. I find myself opening unintentionally, as if my inner world has been begging to be seen. Maybe we all have inner worlds that have been hidden because we don’t think they are safe in the open, and the attention of a stranger ignites hope in those worlds. Our stories end up with new potential to run in a completely unpredictable direction.

The unpredictable becomes an addiction. And the lines across the screen from a stranger you don’t know, and the words on the page from a friend you are learning, and the random shirts and orchids left on your bed, and all of the art of the dance keeps you dancing. Though you would love to find a partner, you are happy with the ones you have had. There hasn’t been one yet who could pick up on all of the tempo changes and wide ranges of emotions that are within you. So you wait and dance your own dance, flailing limbs and all, hoping that you might booty bump a stranger accidentally that can climb the mountains, and sing the songs, and love your friends with you. 

Falling in love with strangers can happen daily, monthly, minute by minute. It hits you at the moment you feel recognized. When it does you’ll find yourself running, either to or away from whatever caught your attention. If it is that glimmer in their eye, or the way they used the word “Ranunculaceae,” lean in and breathe. For all of the negative “what-ifs” there is the what-if of never trying. There are the good maybes and the bad maybes. Maybe the human on the other side of the hemisphere has a thing or two to teach you about hard to get Or maybe you feel so cherished and loved, you aren’t sure you care about how they loo. Or maybe your stranger snores, and maybe they can’t carry on a conversation in public, maybe they are so caught up in their own egos that they run on chasing strangers to achieve a storm of raining hearts falling behind them. But maybe they’re the ones with rain buckets out waiting to catch you and your storm where you are dancing. 

This is why I fall in love. This is why I don’t mind admitting it. This is why I run and jump for that triple spin pirouette and end up falling and bruising both knees only to get up again. This is why I let love go. I hold onto the hope that one day there will be that crazy stranger who understands. Because I understand that no one really understands, and the gentle door left open in that stranger’s curiosity is what will keep you alive. This is an invitation to all the strangers to go find the other strangers. Whether your connection is through words or music or punching in numbers for the boss man, let it shine out so that glimmer in your eyes means something.

When you get caught, don’t fight it. If you can’t dance their dance, run to get a breath of fresh air and jump back into your own. There is only one thing you really have to remember. No matter what, no matter how long you end up staying strangers or lovers or friends or anybodys with your stranger, never never lose your curiosity. Each person is a universe that you will never know fully. So jump dive and dip into that longing glance. It is yours.