Excerpt from my upcoming book “Descent Into Paradise” / Chapter 1: This Waking Dream
This waking dream, drenched with warm, salty air slinks its way around me and seduces me, quietly emptying my pockets of my sense of time, my taste for progress, and my penchant for order to the last detail. I am the converted, enraptured by its gentle sway, as its sensual rhythm woos me, unnoticed, into its enveloping glow. Days begin to lazily slink by, almost imperceptibly, like the thick fog that rolls onto the shore from a sea too laden to bear a single drop of moisture more.
Skimming across the road, dodging frogs, moths, and potholes, I venture deep into the cross-island highway, far beyond the pinkish gaze of the streetlamps that staggered and gave up as the jungle flexed it muscle on either side of me. Now, my only guide is the intermittent, self-conscious light gleaming from the machine that feels agile and confident under my feet. The sky is as vivid as the tropical air that delights my nostrils and seeps through the plush, polyester sweater I’m wearing as a bumper for the hummingbird size moths that smack into me as if I were nothing more than their nightly target practice. It’s no wonder the people who first inhabited this paradise looked up and were convinced that the gods lived in this azure sky.
As it has happened in the past, a boundless joy as thick as the tropical air peeked out from the darkness, gently crept in from every angle, teased me at first, and then exploded into a million tiny suns inside me, entrancing me with the inexplicably vivid bliss that leaves me wanting nothing more than that perfect moment and nothing more than the desire to have that moment last forever.
The island awakens to a new reality in the night, as sights beyond compare enter and exit my view. There’s a girl holding a flashlight as her dad pedals the tricycle to out of the darkness, there’s a homemade, but beautiful, tattered shrine of Mother Mary enshrouded in reddish glow as blinking Christmas lights announce her presence, there are churches in small shacks, complete with a preacher and an attentive congregation of five or six, there are groups of people wearing smiles and beers, all seemingly unaware of or unconcerned with the world beyond their tropical paradise.
Life exists in so many different guises, and no matter which one I find or experience or see or touch or feel; outside of these moments, other choices woo me with unrelenting enticement. What is my place and where am I meant to be? Words, lavish and crystalline, abound with little effort but so much passion, yet they fail to capture the essence of any of what I soak in. These pocket-size moments flit from view as fast as the little girl with the flashlight or the Christmas light Mary, yet I never fail to take complete delight in each as they enter my vision.
And it is because of these moments, that I want to scream so loudly that my throat tears into a million burning pieces, or shred apart every last remnant of this body, to destroy every last cell that binds me to this sensation. And it’s not a desire for the pain of any of it, but to simultaneously ease the joyous, agonizing intensity that threatens to dissolve any fleck of lucidity that might remain, and the unbearable desire to somehow let everyone know that these moments exist; that they are real beyond their wildest imaginings, that they are not only palpable, that as Rumi said; ‘just one breath from this lover truly could scatter this insignificant universe like grains of sand.’
What a cruel joke, to hide this bliss in such unexpected moments, to convince me that I am privy to something that most are not; that I have had the privilege to taste that which most are unaware. Could this really be true? If so, who am I, and why I am wasting these moments on myself? I know of such but feel impotent to share what I know with anyone. Is this the ultimate irony? ‘ To know such joy, but unable to unbridle it from the deepest parts of me, to linger on its sweetness like the kiss of a lover, but unable to pass it to another?
As dawn breaks, the sun is not content to stick to the trees, thick like honey, or to tap its balmy digits at my window to gently tickle my nose. No, dancing with ancient abandon, it instead crashes through every crack, crevice, and glistening pane, soaking every morsel with its golden glow, alive in its tropical playground, commanding all whose bodies it touches, to arise.
Mesmerized, I am content to fall prey to any sinister plans it may have in store for me, desiring not to seek refuge, but to dance with it, in dizzying delight. My plans, once to numerous to count, have shrunk, to the quiet contemplation of a beach, an ocean, a garden, or a jungle path.
These words flit from my tongue, plump, with delicacies impossible to contain, but rotted the moment they leave their haven. The moon, glistening across the water, momentarily diminishes my discontent, but whether it’s enough to temper the growing insurrection, is impossible to know. The sea sky, an embarrassment of riches, melts my body into its depths, but whether it will it be enough for the body to never beg for form again, is impossible to answer.
The gauze that enshrouds these wounds could be cleverly cloaked in the guise of paradise, splayed in directions too numerous to count, making me believe that the dream has truly come to fruition in such laziness and reflection, when, in fact, there is no true solace, only momentary diversion.
Outside of this tropical paradise, the nightmare extends into every nook, as I am forced to narrow my vision to the morsels that are within my reach; a job, then a car, maybe a house, and a white picket fence that surrounds a plot laid out with such precision, that the one hundred ninety-six million, nine hundred thirty-five thousand miles of the Earth’s surface can be cordoned off down to the inch.
Powerlessness and discontent continuously seep their way into my private landscape, coloring and flavoring every quiet moment, usually unseen, gathering like thieves in the night, waiting to strike at my most unaware, my most vulnerable.
On this side of the island, the ocean thrusts itself against the beach with reckless abandon, in a landscape where buildings are nothing more than an occasional itch on this sleepy giant’s back. Everything here, often pounded unmercifully by Mother Nature, is untouched by human hands, so serenity oozes from every nook, as palms sway to the steady pulse of the ocean and sand lightly coats all it can see.
Along an outcropping of rocks along the ocean’s edge, an unfamiliar clattering fills my ears. From the corner of my vision, there’s a mad dash of crabs headed for the comfort and security of their homes in crevasses under the rocks as the vibration of my arrival sends them scurrying. Amused and intrigued, I decide to find a comfortable place to sit…and wait.
Perfectly color coordinated with the stones they continue to clack sideways on once again, the crabs no longer gave me a second thought, making me feel privy to that which most are unaware or simply don’t care about. A deep love for this planet fills my belly with butterflies and then weaves its way into every corner of me, as I observe the architects to my own eventual existence, wondering if there was no them, if there still would have eventually been a me. They never question their place or their purpose, and know nothing of the world beyond their microcosm; something I, in moments too numerous to count, have wished for myself.
The ocean breathes deeply and rhythmically, discontent with lazily rolling onto the shore like the tourists who randomly trickle in, and instead prefers to crash noisily against the outcroppings of rocks along the beach, exploding like fireworks in a display for no one except the sun, the sky, and the attentive ears of the dwarf palms lining the shoreline. It is too wondrous to resist, so I make my way to the most spectacular of displays, and surrender myself to it.
Within seconds, a wave, more powerful than I anticipated or calculated exploded over me, around me, and through me, knocking me off my feet. The taste of salty water on my lips, barely noticeable under the roar of the ocean bearing down on all sides of me, swaddling me in Mother Nature’s most delicious of inventions, reminds me that this splendor surrounding me is also uninhabitable by my present form. Undeterred, my cells unbridle and shriek awake with a joy too intense to cage, as they remember their home and soak in the place I find only in those moments when my mind ceases to desire.
Dissolving into this splendor seems so effortless, and in brief expanses, I dream of such delicious embrace. Why not lie down, fall fast asleep, and let the ocean carry me away in its eternal dance? In this moment, my insignificance heaves under the weight of my solace, and my place in this universe awakens into a clarity more vivid than words could ever show. Without question, something inside me is screaming for home, and I do my best to resist, as I have become attached to this frame and am not ready to give it up just yet.