Gold of the Morning

I love the gold of the morning, those scintillating flecks of light peppering the ever-changing canvas of the night sky, as the latter slowly fades from view; mystical dew-filled cobwebs dotting the grass for reasons unbeknownst to me; birds’ cheery songs greeting the world, welcoming the dawn; the sensation that everything is new and fresh, has been rebirthed overnight–and yet, I dread the raw truth of day, the sharp wind slicing my thoughts to pieces, intimating that I am not enough; the clock on the wall ticking away the minutes, rhythmically chanting that I have wasted my days; the brooding thoughts that creep in, carrying the baggage of yesteryear, a lifetime ago.

I live all of these thoughts in the space of a few seconds–and reflect, at last, on how divine is this, the textured quilt of human emotion and experience. The swelling wave of emotion crests and washes onto shore: a new day has arrived. I exhale the past and inhale the present, and thank God for the opportunity to put pen to paper. I don’t know why, but writing is a therapeutic release.

Dune Grasses

Droplets splat against the windowpanes and our bare heads as we hurried to pack the rest of the vehicle. Nearly every material thing I owned was jammed in this crevice or that: from an old pair of sneakers, a faded teal sweatshirt, and plastic tubs of books and papers ad infinitum; to Chinese scrolls and souvenirs from trips abroad, a Nutcracker figurine, iron dancers, and a cherished crocheted blanket, it was quickly becoming clear that I was only an aspiring minimalist, and not one in real life.

Thoughts of ultralight backpacks and regret swirled through my mind. I could have decluttered more, should have tossed the crumpled napkins and mountain range of post-its, would have donated the bags–so many bags!–… but ultimately, didn’t. Better to let go and move on to this new stage in my life, than to dwell in the past.

I jumped in the passenger side door, scanning the horizon–the storm was approaching from the south–just as the skies opened up. Release. How appropriate! Nature and I were finally in sync again. There was something cathartic about the rain, its steady rhythm, its fluid movement, its awesome, natural power.

Torrential rains poured down on and off for the next few hours. We drove and drove, and talked and drove, and then–uncannily–the process repeated itself at our final destination: unpacking, rushing to carry box after box inside as more storm clouds welled up outside, and a barrage of tears arriving only after the SUV had been emptied of its contents.

Why was I remembering this now, eight months later? A faint pumpkin scent wafted through the air. I had forgotten about the candles.

To be continued…

The Clouds Are My Friends

Feeling carefully with my sneaker, I take another step up. Dizzying swirls of green mock me from below, but I stand resolute in my insistence not to make eye contact. Just keep going, a voice in my head directs. But whatever you do, do not look down. Looking down is not an option, absolutely non-negotiable. I stare straight ahead, eyes glued to the horizon. I am feel-climbing each stair one by one, one hand gripping the cable, one clenching the iron handrail, focused on above and beyond, and not left, right, or below. It feels like a trance. Just do it, no thinking.

I reach the sixty foot high, wooden platform faster than anticipated. And immediately burst into waterfalls of tears. This was a bad idea. My body starts shaking uncontrollably. The ascent was unnerving, for sure- but this, this physical response is unexpected. Jeff and Dev seem caught off guard with my outburst. Well, this is the real me, I think: I am slightly afraid of heights. Slightly. I will not deny it or make any more excuses. Lord knows I spent half of the holiday break thinking up excuses not to go, and the other half with positive self-talk, imagining that I would be in ‘discovery mode’ and a Lara Croft ninja-warrior superhero for a day. Now, I am staring in only one direction, mainly because I am not convinced my neck knows how to turn anymore. “The clouds are my friends.” This is my new mantra. So much for Lara Croft.

My lips continue to quiver, hands trembling, legs shaking. And my eyes, my eyes won’t stop filling with tears. Erika patiently deals with the death-grip I have on her hand. She is breathing intentionally, trying to slow down my breaths, bring me calm. The mantra is not helping, but I repeat it silently anyway: “The clouds are my friends.” They are white and puffy, punctuating gaps of deep blue. My gaze shifts slightly to a lake in the distance, rays of sun glinting off the smooth, glassy-like surface. The water brings me a sense of peace, quieting my soul.

“Your turn now.” Oh, God. His words command I do something about the fact that my feet are currently glued to the platform, held in place by a strong magnetic force. I am not certain they will move on their own. Somehow, they do, and I find myself clenching a new hand–that of the instructor’s. He is calm and patient and supportive, and has a comforting, teddy-bear type quality about him. He will not let me go until I am ready. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” he says. Words I have repeated my entire life to others–and just now realized I am not sure I believe them in action. I refuse to look down, and focus instead on the goal: the next platform. I can do this. Maybe.

I let go and am flying, really flying. A gentle breeze pushes me along as the forest below zips by, no longer mocking. I am free from its taunts. The clouds are my friends. The forest is my friend. The world is my friend–and suddenly, a tiny bit less scary.

Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately. I went to the woods to conquer my fears–and fly above them.


A thick fog hangs like Spanish moss in the air. The air is cool; blurry palms stand quietly in the distance. Winter. Hibernation. Emerging from the cave–my cave–I squint as the first rays of dawn light up the horizon. How long have I been asleep? What did I dream?

We hibernate for myriad reasons. Sometimes this hiding away is a natural state: our energy slows with the seasons as we slide into a deeply restful period, refreshing and rejuvenating body and soul. Other times, we use hibernation as a means for safety or self-preservation, a sort of escapism, where–mandated or not–we become recluses to the world, avoiding and turning off a part of lives until we feel strong enough to reawaken, until we can face whatever it is we were running away from.

“Hibernation: a dormant state in which no food is taken; here, there is no need to nourish ourselves; we are already full and recognize the necessity to take time to digest thoughts, feelings, our past, present, and potential future. As animals–only occasionally rational, I would argue–hibernation is healthy; but rising from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix, remains imperative, a vital, compulsory, requisite aspect of living. So rest and recuperate, and hide away from the world- just don’t forget to come back! We return to the same place, but it is suddenly brand new, brilliantly alive and sparkling like the ocean waves on a hot summer’s day.

I stretch, and memories frozen in a past long ago begin to melt, ice sculptures suddenly visible, now vanishing: Platonic Forms. Bears are both powerful, herculean creatures and cuddly soft, a beautiful tension and delicate balance. Good morning, world.

“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot

Black Sands

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Iceland

THE SADNESS rolls over me in waves, intermittent pulses gradually washing away the shoreline. I reach down for a handful of the volcanic black sand, and marvel at its odd grainy texture. Farther on, the sand turns pebbly—small, smooth stones pepper the ground mosaic. It is difficult to grasp how this ash was once part of a mountain: hot vapor, rock fragments, lava, and gas have transformed it into a bewitchingly beautiful landscape.

And yet, I also understand completely. It isn’t merely a matter of transportation, that of moving from one place to another—magma inside to volcanic ash outside; but rather this activity of an internal explosion, a pregnancy of creation, a fiery process turned cooled product. These constant bursts are my ultimate composition and makeup at my deepest level. They are me.

I cannot move away from or flee the sadness, for it will remain a part of me always in varying forms–memories etched into basalt columns of the heart; but I can transform the ache into something beautiful. Drowsy numbness, Keats? Begone! As the sadness cools to ash, I feel stronger. Lighter.

Nearing the shoreline, white frothy ocean spray nearly knocks me down this time; but I respond gleefully now, jumping in the waves.

The day is a cold, smoky gray, but I am warm inside. Just like the mountain.

Favorite Shirt

RAINY DAYS usually felt cozy, comforting: grayness squeezing her in a tight metaphorical hug, drops pelting the windowpane in a steady rhythm, staying inside with people she loved. But today was different. She was frustrated. Overwhelmed, perhaps. And for a seemingly nonsensical reason: her favorite shirt didn’t fit anymore. But everyone had one. You know the kind. It was the soft, stretchy, steel blue one, the one made of rayon that never wrinkled or shrunk in the dryer. It was the one that had a history all its own—one that had survived spaghetti sauce, Sharpie markers, long runs through the woods, and even a short bout with a toner cartridge that exploded when she shook it one summer afternoon (whoops). It was the one that made her feel loved, even when times got tough—one that helped her through tears from ex’s, a hypochondriac phase, and infuriating drama-filled emails and texts. And it never made her feel fat, even after she gorged herself on Chipotle and a pint of ice cream. No matter what day it was, she always felt good in it. That’s what made it her favorite shirt.

Except that now it was getting a little tight, and it itched sometimes, and even though it was her favorite, she had worn it to shreds. She needed a new one. Badly. But she didn’t want to let go. She needed to; she just didn’t want to.

The grayness squeezed her with doubts, consuming and strangling her thoughts: what if she couldn’t find a good replacement? What if the new one was only good, and not great? She had already gone shopping at several stores, but returned home exhausted and miserable. She couldn’t find what she was looking for.  Everything paled by comparison. Perhaps she didn’t know what she wanted. And yet, she knew that when she saw it, there would be no indecision, no question, simply a gut feeling and intuition that this was her new shirt. Sighing, she surrendered to the metronome-like pulse of raindrops outside, and decided to hope for the best. She would find a new favorite shirt. She had to. She would still keep the old one forever, and always remember it as her favorite shirt, but she had to go find a new one now.

My throat is parched and dry.  I thirst for adventure. مكتوب (Maktub, “It is written”).

River of Joy

She took one last, lingering look around, slipped into the canoe, and pushed off. Aside from a few light water ripples, it was quiet that morning. The birds must be tired. She was tired. A coral sunrise painted wide brush strokes over the placid waters, bringing tears to her eyes. The woman wouldn’t admit to crying, though; she preferred thinking of it as, “liquid sunshine” [rain] rolling down her cheeks. It had been a wildly memorable year thus far, with extreme emotional roller-coaster rides for even the most even-tempered of characters. The quarantine seemed to have sped up life’s timeline, urging people to make difficult decisions and pursue projects they had been delaying or procrastinating on. It was probably for the best, this urgency, albeit an odd way to push the universe forward.

As she paddled, a light breeze wafted past, clearing the thick molasses of air for a moment; this was a humidity southerners knew all too well. She was going to miss this place. But in time, she had realized that she would miss the people much more: and yet, people didn’t simply frequent a place, they became the place, and the place became them. It felt like pieces of her were simultaneously spread out all over the world and also held deep inside. She kept a piece of everyone she had ever met in her soul, and she also left a piece of herself everywhere she traveled, somehow. It was an oxymoron of sorts, a puzzle–but also a comforting thought, that she was never very far away, and neither was anyone else.

In fact, she was exactly where she needed to be, and always would be, flowing on the river of joy. The stop on the bank had been longer than expected, but now the winds were picking up; it was time to get going. But oh, what a lovely place! Blue skies, fields of green. A true gem. A diamond. A rose. She would never forget. How deep the river runs…

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” -Rumi

The Struggle

I stared at it from across the room. It stared back, refusing to blink, trying to lure me into the game, stubborn as all get-out. Why were we at odds again? The gray mist had descended a few days back: tornado skies, sucking me into the center of their dangerously calm vortices: like the penny chutes at the airports, round and round went the coins, sans control and yet perfectly controlled, under the power of centripetal force until pfff–they were spat out, minus their dignity but exiting the funnel at last. Except that I was still swirling, furious at it. Emotions rocketed through my body. I won’t. I shan’t. I can’t. I refuse.

The pen eyed me, its gel tip shining ever so slightly under the lamplight. I shifted my gaze. I could be obstinate, too. Its sleek body called out, longing to be held, for the embrace of a century: Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth; Hepburn and Peppard; Anna and Declan (Leap Year). Much like the omniscient narrator, it already knew the end of the story, knew how I would come crawling back, yelling, ranting, in a fit of rage–but returning, nevertheless.

I suppose, though, that was precisely why I came back. The story had to be told.

The pen had won. Yet again.

Winter in Brussels

The flakes fell fast and heavy, quickly transforming the city skyline into an incomprehensible, wintry blur. She stood still inside the moving tram, watching silently; there were no words in her mind; she was absorbing the scene into her being.

Icelanders called this, “window-weather” (gluggaveður)—beautiful from a distance, provided the distance was indoors, adjacent to a fireplace, and within arm’s length of a hot mug of cocoa, of course. 

To be fair, none of those were really true at the moment: the tram tilted and jerked from time to time; invited cold gusts in at every stop; and failed to provide beverages of any kind to its passengers. Yet, it felt cozy somehow, this unpredictable, shifting stream of strangers, strangers passing through the Narnia-like portal of window weather, strangers brave enough to touch another world. They were traveling souls; this was the common thread—an undeniable sense of camaraderie and understanding.

Arriving at last, she stepped out into the blizzard, cold rocketing through her body, fingers numb within seconds. Wo ist das Atomium? Where is the Atomium? Someone answered, but the words froze in transit. She squinted into the flying flakes. Surely it was close by. After all, a 102-meter high structure could not hide forever.

What was she doing? Window weather demanded an observer, someone on the inside. Buying a waffle and cocoa mit slagroom/with whipped cream (Dutch), she let the wintry scene sink into her mind and body from a sensible distance. Looking through the window once more, the massive iron crystal “magnified 165 billion times its size” stared back at her.

Maybe the point of gluggaveður was just that: when you stopped to look through the window instead of blindly charging out into a snowstorm, you had a clearer, less obstructed view of the world. Perhaps it was tinted—in that you hoped palm tree temperatures accompanied the large, wet flakes—but life always took on varying shades; that was what made it interesting.

The Atomium- Brussels, Belgium

Language Cities

Let’s imagine for a moment that languages are like cities. There are the Preposition subdivisions, the Noun suburbs, the Direct and Indirect Objects kicking around a ball out in the countryside, the Subjects floating like Bohemian rhapsodies from this place to that… and then the hardcore Verbs, who hang in the barrio and treat the Adverbs like second-class gang members–commands and no respeto.

The Punctuation Police try to keep things orderly, with Commas encouraging citizens to pause; Semi-colons forcing a respite; Quotation Marks making announcements; Periods demanding that everyone STOP; and New Paragraphs introducing off-beat ideas every chance they get–but ultimately, the Verbs occupy a no-go zone, where Punctuation dares not enter. Why do you think the general public hems and haws about splitting infinitives?

Nouns decline and can get an attitude from time to time (e.g., German capitalization), but Verbs conjugate irregularly, and frequently insist upon having Cases, lots of Cases. They live in and for the judicial system, but remain unpredictable and unruly, behaving as though in a lawless society. Constantly in flux, no one really knows them.

But I digress. Today was the day I would swallow hard and muster the courage (foolishness?) to visit the rough side of town. Yep. El barrio [Arabic root, بَرِّيّ‎ (barriyy, ‘wild’)]. Whether they liked it or not, I was coming to the party. Sure, I could bother getting an Invitation from the Noun Suburbs, even spice it up with something Official from Adjective Headquarters, or have a Pronoun accompany me for protection… but really, this was a solo job.

Verbs versus Me, round one. I hoped they liked me. Icelandic was tough enough without any extra drama.

The Mental Labyrinth

I used to be quite good at mazes. I could see where to go and how to get there without much effort or thought. Getting from start to finish was very clear in my mind; intuition simply led me there when I was younger. Lit by imaginary crystal chandeliers–sunlight filtering down through the leaves [komorebi/木漏れ日, Japanese]–the path was covered in soft brown pine needles. My best friend, it kept me safe, calmed me, gave me confidence to travel.

Imagine my surprise, then, when someone sold off part of the land to a developer. Suddenly, the path began to change. Loggers chopped down spruces and evergreens by the hundreds. I didn’t know or recognize where I was anymore. My spatial abilities disappeared like an exhalation–gone, sucked into the void. New buildings and boulevards began popping up everywhere: popcorn kernels jumping in a pot of oil without a lid. Real estate took off, and much like the old-school version of SimCity, I watched as sidewalks replaced grassy fields, neighbors moved in next door, and skyscrapers and restaurants littered the world. My world. Except that I was not in charge of this urban development, and didn’t know who was. No one had asked me. Couldn’t I at least have been paid off?

The mental labyrinth, once an easy, back road cornfield maze and my dear friend, mocked me when I reached “No Outlet” signs, let out an evil cackle when the chandeliers broke, wouldn’t reveal who or what forces insisted on such radical changes. I felt abandoned and alone: Me separated from Myself and I.

As we grow older and wiser, the labyrinth also grows and expands. Emotional layers develop, becoming cloud forests on the path: we squint in the face of heavy water droplets but see no further. What was clear in childhood is no longer so transparent. So we move on, step by step, and trust that “Sometimes our lives have to be completely shaken up, changed, and rearranged to relocate us to the place we’re meant to be.”


I wander through a foreign land, searching, forever searching. Tantalizing smells waft past, weaving in and out and around the city like Aladdin’s magic carpet. Do I follow my nose? Is Jafar (جعفر) lurking close by? “Fears, begone!” I hear myself say aloud. Words have power; but do my words have power? What control do I have over their creation, over my thoughts?

On the one hand, I live in and around them. They are my neighbors, my family, my arch-nemeses. When I seek the lake’s stillness, they hover—patiently waiting, or with a child’s stubbornness, refusing to leave? Ready to strike? Words I cannot escape. They follow me wherever I go, a pack of lone wolves: loyal, until one is not.

This cloud, this “linguistic nebula” (Saussure) into which I am born, evolves throughout my life. My vocabulary grows; my understanding of cultural nuances deepens; my eyes are opened to loanwords, those asylum seekers whose skills are so adept we forget from whence they have emigrated: “How do you say, ‘taco’ in Spanish?” I am constantly influenced. I constantly consume the world.

And yet, my thoughts on this battlefield of sorts fight to create and maintain their space. They push and stretch and pull words in unexpected directions. It is a vicious cycle and fragile ecosystem: they must consume in order to create, and create in order to consume, lest they be absorbed into the system, lest they lose the “I” of creation, the one who ultimately powers Thought. It is a stick-shift vehicle, where both man and machine are necessary.  

I continue wandering, staring blindly at dust-coated street signs as I amble past, feigning comprehension in a world so different from mine. Another linguistic layer. Tres leches cake. Tiramisu. Double Ninth Cake. Mochi ice cream. Silver spoons clank against plates and bowls. “Abu, hands off!” Yes, let’s follow my nose. Oh, Genie…

“Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula.” -Ferdinand de Saussure


A very specific coldness crept into the air, one reminiscent of pumpkin spice teas, axes chopping wood in preparation for what the Farmer’s Almanac predicted, “the worst yet”, and home-cooked stews with warm bread and butter. Ever more bizarre costume designs appeared in stores, urging the collective consciousness to reach its full creative capacity; runners fretted about how to dress appropriately in layers; and that orange, gray, and white spotted cat started hanging around again, eyes longingly pleading to step inside, just for a minute. Fingers almost numb, she typed the words slowly, letting them sift down into her subconscious mind, adjusting to the idea:

Fall had arrived.

Not gradually, not with clues or banners or RSVP’s announcing its arrival, but tout de suite–a super-ninja martial arts master landing in the middle of a city street, origin unknown. She liked its style. No false pretenses of maybe there, maybe not. No teasing gusts of autumn winds on a ninety degree day. Just suddenly there: raw, unedited, real.

Materializing out of thin air, air descending from snow-capped Machu Picchu mountains, air breathing new life into the world, air requiring slippers for bare feet, the seasoned martial arts master was smart. It knew what it was doing. After all, super-ninjas encompassed the wisdom of the ages. They intuitively understood the matrix of the world’s modern technology. They embraced a mental sagacity others could only dream of. They were always two steps ahead. Of course, this was in part due to the fact that they could also run and leap and bound and somersault and do splits in mid-air.

But even super-ninjas got cold. And boy, was it cold today, she thought. Fall had definitely arrived.

Let Project Super-Ninja commence.

The Day of the Eucalyptus

A deep sadness seeps into my bones. The Camino is coming to an end. This adventure—as with so many trips—has passed by too quickly; I have not yet begun to absorb it all.

A cloud of cigarette smoke wafts through the air: the ephemeral taking on a physical form. Gallego (Galician) starts and stops abruptly, pausing in odd places, bursting with an irregular cadence, yet familiar like déjà-vu: bits and pieces slipping, distant and nebulous memories, reminiscent of times from long ago, past lives, Portuguese echoing against the walls, Portuguese reflected in the mirror, writings on the wall, but here we look and do not see—Gallego is a different beast. Thoughts resound, metaphorical trumpets blare; am I a different person than when I started?

I have traveled to France; all across northern Spain; to Iceland; Ireland; Belgium; to NYC and back to Spain; a day in both Germany and Portugal; I have learned about web design and been sucked into the allure of the digital world; I have refreshed my knowledge of French and regained my excitement and energy and enthusiasm for teaching. I have grown tremendously, personally and—this coming year—professionally, I imagine. I have felt at times that my Spanish was close to native and, a few hours later, that I was a beginning student. I have processed my life up to this point in a matter of weeks, recalling distant and close memories in a sort of verbal-vomit cleanse, purifying and cleansing my soul for this next phase of my life.

The Spanish sun begins to beat down on the sidewalk, a relentless, constant force of nature, harsh and yet beautiful; God’s wrath suddenly makes sense. The air is dry, still. I seek stillness and it arrives, invisible like the heat. I close the French patio glass doors to keep the heat out, the cool in. There will always be the daily Camino to walk, but I am glad to be here, living it, breathing it, being, just being. Life is a beautiful work of art, a white canvas of possibilities—brush, paints, and instructions not included. What will you paint today? Suddenly excited and unsure: Santiago!


Kesäyö. The linguist was tired. Her brain had morphed into a glob of jelly. Or perhaps jam. Something squishy and clearly unable to function. What did it mean? She craved just a pinch of the artists’ inspiration, a formula to recall the word, a starting point to bring its life to the surface, make its meaning known. Letters merely signified geometric nonsense lacking dimensionality. Eh, what was the use? 

Pen in hand, her mind wandered… fingers slowly releasing the tension, muscles relaxing (could tendons loosen on command?), jaw unclenching, imagination gaining control… Suddenly, she was flying over snow-capped mountains, squinting and shivering as the sun radiated blinding rays but only a dull warmth. A light mist began to shower the land: Mellow and refreshing, the cleanse was just what she needed. Landing quietly, as though wearing fuzzy slippers, she entered the castle.

The castle invited joyful persons inside, persons fully alive, persons desiring to share their enthusiasm and passion for life with others. It was peace of mind and inspiration itself embodied—truly, a happy place. She skipped stairs, three at a time, allowing the energy to penetrate her weakened state, already feeling rejuvenated. Kesäyö. The sound pattern reverberated through her skull. Meaning: Unknown. She turned the corner, arriving at her destination, and placed the small package carefully on a table. She felt a surge of energy, the high-frequency kind, and knew that everything was going to be all right.

Back home, she turned on some music. After a drink, noting her altered mood and feeling considerably more focused, she scanned the neurons, the axons, even the synapses. There were so many files. A note stirred something in the intellect, and at last, a definition emerged—Kesäyö: Summer night. She thought it was brilliant how music could transcend language, at least enough to suggest a translation. After all, summer nights were all that and more—kesäyö felt like radiant light, sounded like rain, seemed mellow and refreshing… was comforting and lovely, like a true friend. Or a fairy. Now, if only she trace, or rather, Finnish her original thought.

Translation HERE.

Finding Meaning

Tiny particles of cinnamon swirled through the air around her, pulling her into a scented, Fantasia-like dream. She began to drift away—far away, to the most nebulous of states—and felt the strength of the oneiric vacuum increase as she approached. Entering required an official signature, a ‘no-return policy’, a promise with the universe that could never be broken. Should she stay or should she go? The Clash. Literally—between two worlds. Although a fan of British punk rock, she didn’t care for the lyrics, hated making decisions, choosing, eliminating possibilities. It was all so… finite. The cinnamon was falling faster now, diving into the funnel that led to everything ethereal. 

A light bulb exploded, and she became conscious again of this world. Reality, she scoffed. What was that? Shattered glass covered the carpet. It was a mess, that’s what. And that dim-witted poltergeist, always messing with her, destroying a perfectly good meditation. She sighed, repeating her mantra: Everything happens for a reason. Believe the words, internalize them. She curled up on the couch, not believing, not internalizing, not feeling. The breaking point had arrived—overindulge in Brie cheese, crackers, and strong wine, or do something—as in, productive, worthwhile, meaningful. She desperately craved meaning in her life. While imagination would always guide her, this vicarious living in fantastical worlds merely exacerbated the situation.

Opening the door with purpose, she marched confidently up to the desk. A whiff of incense passed by her nostrils, and she zeroed in on the source: Skinny bamboo twigs. She watched, distracted, as the smoke twisted around a small Buddha statue, curly-cue style, much like the Hindi letters on a nearby sign. Ten minutes later, she was there. That is, literally speaking, though perhaps not quite yet ‘present’ in the ontological sense—but at the very least, situated on her mat. 

The lights dimmed. A woman in her thirties, evidently the master yogi, began with a soft exhalation. She followed along, closing her eyes, connecting with the universe. Slowly, the airways opened. She was breathing. How long had it been since she last took a breath? A real breath? Too long. Her body flowed along with the motions, leg forward, arms upward, lunge, repeat. Upward dog and then downward dog, accompanied by other fancy unidentifiable sounds in… was it Sanskrit? It felt old, grounded in something with a history, something real, something meaningful. Her body emptied itself of the toxins, of the apathy that had tried to destroy her soul, and a joy emerged in its place, imprinting a permanent smile on her heart. The ecstasy directed her walk; she was floating, really floating. With purpose.