The unpredictable life

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I love this spot where the sky meets the sea. It is our playground. It is my heaven. 

Every day, rain or shine, bundled against cold, or shedding against heat, this is where we come. 

Living all over the world is so hard sometimes, but this is why we do it. Had Uganda not been so difficult we would have never found this. 

When we came back to North America I wasn’t sure what would happen. Would I settle back into the easy life and never want to go? Would I again want what I had left behind?

Then a strange thing happened. I got offered a job, to step back into acting. Then another opportunity knocked. My old career was there waiting, peaking behind a door cracked open. But I didn’t want to push it open and walk through it. 

I didn’t want to walk through it. 

As much as I love this island, as much as I love being almost home, as tempting as it was to go back and walk through that old door, I realized I love this crazy wild ride I am on more.

It’s one thing to visit a place, spend a week or more touring and feel like you’ve seen it. It’s so completely different to live for years and breathe alongside of another culture, within another culture. 

I realized that I’ll take the hard stops, and hopefully ride them out easier, and then breathe deeply in these perfect spots…

…where the sky meets the sea. 

I want to keep going. 

“The wild card. The unpredictable wild card that never comes when it should. Had it fallen earlier, years earlier, what would have happened to me? I looked at my palms trying to see the other life, the parallel life. The point at which my selves broke away…” –Jeanette Winterson, The Passion

Where did your paths verge, and what did you choose?

 

 

Spring

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It’s the beginning of spring. 

It’s spring break. 

The rhythm of schooled days have turned into a tossed windstorm of bike rides, beach combing, farm visits, field running, and play dough covered hands. Children who never seem to stop moving, eating, needing, loving. 

All day we play, run, eat, until we collide with our pillows at night. 

Today, I watched them laugh for a solid hour. Laugh so hard their cheeks became flushed, tears running down from the  joy of their secret shared language. 

Siblings. To watch siblings as an only child….

I love these days when time stops, where no one needs to be anywhere. When they find each other and become one in imagination. When play takes center stage and I am the audience and guide.

The kids carry me through the exhaustion of these non-stop beautiful chaotic days. I feel like their joy is the scaffolding keeping me up, keeping me going…to hear that laughter again.

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Our first sprouts have sprung. Green reaching, searching for the still coy sun. We are still swaddled in blankets. 

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A very sweet neighbor of mine walks down the mountain everyday to the village. She buys what she needs, then hikes back up. Sometimes she takes my offered ride. Every single day you can see her skipping down or trudging back up. I like the reliability of her. She’s part of my days without even knowing. 

Memories

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My son and I found this piece of bark on one of our long beach walks. It is completely whole, round, having fallen off and come apart from a tree without breaking. I imagine the log tossed in waves, smashed against rocks, water massaging and tearing at the bark little by little until it unhinged itself and floated back to shore. 

I’ve been thinking a good deal about memories now that the time for our next move is coming nearer and nearer. How we always have to start over, reinvent, find our footing, find our lives again and again and again. How this island that has been a stadium cry will become but a whisper. 

Moving from country to country, continent to continent, I have memories that have left me, others that have burrowed into my skin. I have felt like I was shedding each time, with each move, letting go of yet more things, saying goodbye to smiles that have touched my heart, and wanting so much to carry some of what I found with me, to not forget. 

Maybe it’s not a shedding we do when we choose to let go of something or have something taken from our hands.  Maybe the things we take off from, the people we leave behind, the lives we turn away from, the things lost, stolen, found are still there in the ocean of our life completely whole, surrounding us closer than we think, waiting for us to gather them up, piece by piece, slide ourselves right back inside of them. 

Maybe, even if we don’t find them again, it’s enough to know they are still there, floating by, perhaps to even catch a glimpse of, so that we can smile and wave and say, oh yes, I remember that so well. 

“But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long.”  –Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

The Unraveling

Uganda was familiar yet so much had changed. It still remains running in my blood, when I look at my daughter I am there, she wraps the county around me so I can still smell it and feel it, even long for it. I see in her the people I knew for 4 years, the people on the street, in the shops, walking along the road. I see them all when I look at her. And miss them.

How lucky I am to have lived in the country my daughter is from for 4 years. To know that part of her.

The city is choking. Day after day I found myself unable to breathe. When the rains came it was perfection and I loved it and then the dry would come and with each minute, day, week, month, as the moisture left the air turned brown, then grey, then dark.

My daughter started to get asthma.

My son seemed pale.

The dry season slammed us.

I started to pull in, worry. Shut myself up. Wait for the rain.

And in that waiting…

…there was the horrible food poisoning that laid my son and I down for weeks.

…the middle of the night emergency room run where no doctor was available.

…the yellow fever outbreak running through the villages coming closer to the city.

And then the election.

The president of Uganda, Museveni, was running again, his  86th term (or there about) and word was his main competitor was not going to let the election be “stolen” again.

I was hanging on when I heard phones might be shut off. I was hanging on when I was assured the UN would evacuate us if need be. I was hanging on.

And then my dear English friend who raised her children all over Africa, my dear friend who thought nothing of being in a car in the worst neighborhood without a cell phone, my dear friend who seemed to have no fear said, “Oh no, but darling you must evacuate. It’s not going to be pretty.” And then she left.

That’s when I heard the opposition was planning to burn the city down.

By the day of the election, with most of my friends gone, I was no longer hanging on.

Me, to my husband, “But how will we get out if we need to?”

Husband, “Don’t worry, we will.”

Me, “But if the city is on fire how will we get to the airport?”

Husband, “The UN will get us to the airport.”

Me, “BUT THE ROAD WILL BE ON FIRE AND THERE IS NO OTHER ROAD!”

Now I know my husband would have never let us be in a dangerous situation, but I no longer heard him. I had let go and 8 years of wandering came flooding out of me….

And then we heard the gun shots.  The walkie talkie comes on to tell of riots. The government shuts off all social media. We hear the opposition has been arrested, the streets are filled with soldiers, more riots, an occasional yell pierces through the deep silence and I felt adrift and lost and terrified! I ran to my bedroom and crawled under the bed and called my neighbor who was thankfully still there. Through sobs I told her I needed to know there was a way out. She told me she had the Irish ambassadors helicopter as her escape plan and no matter what the children and I would be on it if need be. She promised not to leave me behind. I will never forget her kindness. Those words soothed me, saved me and buffered me as we stayed by the walkie talkie and listened to it all unfold, my heart pounding in my chest while I clung to my children.

There were no fires.

The riots were very small.

I can safely assume no one else crawled under their beds with fear.

But it was clear that I needed a break. It was clear there was something more going on. It was all too much, too wonderful, too scary, too full of adventure, too much chaos to find a new center after I’d left all I’d known so very long ago.

I needed a break. I needed to go home. I needed clean air, and good food, and to just catch my breath, to feel connected. I needed to rest.

I could have never imagined when we made that choice  for me to come back that I would end up not at home, but in another country, alone on a mountainside, on a tiny island with my 2 children and nothing else and it would be nothing like rest, there would be snowstorms and power outages, my husband a million continents away. I would be more cut off than I’d ever been, more isolated and more vulnerable than I thought possible, and that it would prove to be the best and most wonderful 2 years of my life.