And so I am home.
On the day before Thanksgiving, just one week shy of a year, I rent a loft, have my POD delivered and hire a couple of guys to empty it. In celebration, as I sit on the floor waiting for the movers to arrive, I smoke one last cigarette and throw them away. Okay well, actually, I put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, just in case I want one later... But it will indeed turn out to be my last cigarette.
Smoking the cigarette is symbolic. A year ago, I sat on the floor of another loft in just this way. That one I had just emptied. All of my possessions were in the POD, the driver had just picked it up and carried it away. I was alone with only my thoughts about the coming adventure. Now I am alone again and the journey is behind me.
I have been imagining this moment. In Salamanca, began to long for home. Oh, I was still having an amazing time; going to Spanish classes, culture classes, living immersed in a city and culture I adore, but I was travel weary. I began to envision myself with a home, surrounded again by friends, family, my books, paintings, my own bed... And while I envisioned and began to think about where it would be, I would imagine myself sitting somewhere just like this, smoking this final cigarette as the end-cap to an incredible year.
And it has been a marvelous year indeed! Sitting on the floor, I allow my mind to simply wander...
Scenes from the past year flow; magnificent, ruined Ayutthaya in the sunset... Angkor Wat, melting into the jungle in the rain... the myriad temples of Bagan materializing out of grayness as the morning fog burns away... diving into the water on the Great Barrier Reef and laughing aloud to find myself surrounded by a perfect helix-shaped rainbow of colorful fish... watching the lights of Okinawa appear over the horizon after eleven days crossing the immensity of the Pacific Ocean.. sailing on a sunny afternoon in Phuket, racing to reef the sails as a squall comes churning toward us across the water... dining on the patio of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok on the banks of the Cho Phraya river, watching as a parade of ferry boats decked out in fairy lights passes by... sitting in the golden light of the Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, drinking red wine and pondering the souls who burned on this site... weaving through afternoon traffic in Bangkok on the back of a motorcycle taxi, wondering if the driver will make a single mistake and smash my knees into one of those cars passing only inches away?... wondering what possessed me to climb on a motorcycle taxi in Bangkok in the first place?... quiet lazy days floating down the Mekong River from Thailand into Laos, and riding a bus out again through the mountains, a continuous series of hairpin turns on a single-lane road no more than half paved... a dreamy week in silence on a sunny plain in Portugal...and on and on...four continents, seven seas, ten countries... They drop into my mind like jewels as I sit in stillness, watching, one after the other, each memory a wonder.
And what now? I am exhausted and completely disoriented - in a very good way - for what I have done, seen, and experienced has changed me and will change many things about the way I live in the future. I have been busy accumulating experiences. I have not even begun to assimilate them. Returning to the United States during the gearing up to the Christmas holidays and its attendant exuberant celebration of 'capitalism goes crazy', is disquieting. In truth, I had forgotten about the holidays. And I had forgotten what it means to be an American. Soon, I must engage with the practicalities of setting up a home, create some structure, begin giving some thought to earning a living in America.
But all of that can wait, and for this one moment, I have no needs, only to sit here in silence, in gratitude, in wonder....