Tender

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I left my dog at his new home today. The lovely people who asked to take him have been waiting anxiously, their arms looking to pet and lead. I’ve kept hold, not wanting to let go.

I finally had to let go.

He needed to be in the home that will be his forever now. 

My dog now lives on a beautiful vineyard here on our island, overlooking the sea, his backyard rows of purple grapes and blueberry bushes. 

The goodbyes have begun. The letting go has started. 

This ex-pat life. This moving life.

So much letting go. 

I tell myself this time it will be different. This island is still ours, we will still come home to it. I can see my dog, no longer my dog, whenever I come home to my island. I have been welcomed there, at his new home. 

But this time, this beautiful crazy time alone on this island with my children is winding down, and will never look the same. 

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This island is full of artists who open their studios for tours.

I love to take the children to a pottery spot at the edge of an apple orchard where you can watch a woman’s hands shape clay. 

I love to take them to the weavers and watch their eyes get wide as the threads move in and out. 

Last week we took our first tour of a lavender distillery and learned the process that gives us the drops we scatter upon our pillows each night. 

Recently we happened upon a new gallery opening up, walls filled with explosive color on canvas. The kindest man walked us through each painting and when hearing my daughter is an artist he insisted we meet the artist of the work. He explained she was recovering from a stroke and tending to plants in her greenhouse below. Following him down a rocky path, past an ivy-hugged home, we came upon the glass house and met the lovely woman behind the work we were just admiring. 

What happened next was so beautiful, touched me so deeply.  This man’s tenderness to his partner was so sensory I felt I could reach out and touch it.

He explained to her, in the softest voice, that we had come to see her work.

He gently took her hand and walked her up and out of the green house, introducing us while smiling at her the entire time.

Life long loves and he was lit up completely looking at her as if they’d just met, and just that moment fallen in love.

He said he thought it would be lovely if she could come to the studio and do some art with my daughter, and would that be okay with me, as it would make this artist so happy to make art with my daughter.

Of course, I said, we’d love to.

And then he took his love’s hand and as he walked her through their garden he stopped to show her a new flower that had bloomed.

I watched them watching a single red rose blossomed in a sea of white roses, completely lost in their tenderness for each other and I thought, this, this right here is the most beautiful thing I have seen on this island. This is what I want to take away. To walk in that kind of tenderness. 

With my family. 

With my friends. 

With myself. 

I am holding onto the tenderness as I think of my dog, being gentle with my deep sadness. 

This letting go of this amazing two years.

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Parts Unknown is my very favorite show. It’s been a companion to me this last 2 years as much as my sweet dog has been, filling my nights with companionship. Night after night after night I have gone around the world with Bourdain. Night after night after night he brought me so much joy with his adventures.

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Let’s look to our neighbors.

Let’s all be tender.

Help someone.

Give them a smile.

Be patient in a store.

Be kind.

We are all trying.

We are all just trying to get through sometimes. 

Go to the dogs

California is hot. Then cold. Then hot. Cold. Nothing that  happened the day before can prepare you for the next. I’ve taken to wearing my swimsuit under my parka.

I’ve been back for 2 months. I felt a tug, or more like I was thrown overboard after attaching my anchor to a speeding boat passing by on its way to refuel and somehow landed here.

Americans are nice. So nice. And they’re everywhere here in America.

I’ve often told people abroad, when faced with not-so-nice comments about my birth country, to think of Americans like puppies. We’re new, young, inexperienced. We can be awfully cute and really like to play. Okay, so sometimes we pee on your rug, but if you just scratch us behind our ears you’ll see our foot stomp as pure ecstasy crosses over our face, and really all we want to do is ride really fast with our heads out the window, panting.

I didn’t expect the refitting to be so awkward. My summers in NY were a homecoming, yet I knew they were a short stop on a u-turn back. This California detour will be a little longer and I find my head doesn’t fit out the window so easily anymore. It’s thicker with the things I’ve seen, the difference I have tasted, so instead of the ride blowing back my ears, I remain in the passenger seat watchful, even as the air feels lovely.

Being an ex-pat is hard. You live alone, isolated from comfort, but it stretches you like silly putty and you start to be able to press against anything and find its image somewhere in the shallows. The more you stretch, the softer you become, reflecting even more, perhaps something now stuck deep within.

I am happy I am back for a while. But it doesn’t feel like a full stop. It doesn’t really feel like home anymore in a weird way. Just another adventure to be had along the road.