Puerto Rico

4 Apr

Birds wake me. It sounds as if hundreds of birds are congregating outside my window. I flip over in my bunk bed, right next to the window and look outside. All is green, but where are the birds? And where, am I? I then remember, working through the fog of sleep, that the night before, I arrived in Puerto Rico.

We arrived when everything was dark and only the smell of fruit and sounds of the ocean allowed me to outline the idea that yes, I was somewhere tropical. Only hours before I was in snowy, gray Michigan. Now, when I step out of the bunk area, I see what was before, drenched in dark. Sun lands on my skin and wraps itself around it, a lovely sensation. When I look out before me, I can hardly believe it. I squint. But they remain.

I’ve never seen anything like them. Mountains rise in front of me, so close it seems I can reach out and touch them. Really they’re miles away. Mist floats around their tops, frothy, white, an eternal cold shower. I drink this for minutes. I’m ecstatic, just looking at them. What should I do with these mountains before me? Take a picture of them? Put them down in words? Or maybe just stand here, looking at them until they become something real. I feel my synapses clutching around the sight, hoarding it for later when it might disappear from memory.

Behind me, I hear something. It’s not a sound I know. It’s not in my blood, though I soon understand how easily it gets there. Turning from the mountains, I look in the opposite direction. There, directly behind the bunkhouse, is the ocean. I am caught between two worlds: the lush mountains and the ocean, between two paradises of sight. How could I be so lucky, to have the ocean a few steps outside where I lay my head at night? I hardly know where to look, everything is so sensual, so pleasing. And it all overflows with color.

The sounds of the ocean are as varied as its waves. I feel it ebbing into my brain, pushing into the flow of my blood, and in two short weeks, it’s part of my equilibrium. An ocean is not placid like a lake. It is not peaceful. It is something wonderful and horrible to which you cannot say no. One afternoon I gashed my foot on a rock while swimming in it. Blood flowed. Still, I return.

Where you live absolutely affects who you are. And I think, who would I be if I lived here, along the shore of the ocean in Puerto Rico? Who might I meet and how would I spend my time? Spend too long here, and I’ll never be able to say goodbye to the ocean. I pocket a seashell, dig my toes into damp sand and throw my face fully upwards into the fullness of the sun. Here I am, for now, and no one can take away pure moments.

A few mornings I walk down to the beach and sit on an enormous piece of driftwood and write in my journal. I am overwhelmed at the thought of even writing. I want to capture this place in words. I use big words, and when I look back at that journal, I read abstraction.

Maybe now, I’ve done a little better.

 

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