12 noviembre 2008

a tourist's view of place

thought one:

"“…I feel carried away tonight with soul-excitement. Nothing bad- just nothing good.…

Strange place, this soul of mine.

I think it is more place than person. It rings with whatever enters, be it high thoughts of the seated Christ or idle rhymes from any poet. The soul does not seem to mind what it is occupied with, but only cares that it be kept occupied. It is passive as to choice. I choose, my soul responds, with ringing laughter, emotion or pure worship. It is a tool, not a craftsman, and must be controlled. …

Son of God, purger of the inner parts, Discerner of my sittings down, my risings, wilt Thou hallow this soul of mine? The choice is mine, you say? Ah yes, the choice is mine.”

~J. Eliot, Shadow of the Almighty

thought two: a woman from where?

i have many good memories from these, uh, two decades i've been given, but roots, i'm not sure.

my first 1/10 century was spent in the ghetto: not slums, but the barrio. immigrants and working class. we sold lemonade and picked onion flowers. i remember playing kick the can and sitting on the neighbor's roof. sometimes i rode my bike to school. there were scary parts, but that was because, really, i was a tourist, not because there were knife-wielding fiends hither and yon. so now, when i do a drive through the South Side with my windows down (of course), my hands still get a little sweaty but my heart is happy to see occupied front porches. of the ghetto i am fond (when not furious), but not exactly attached.

after that spot, we moved to three different places in the country. lovely, in all. some of my most aesthetic North American experiences took place near a small white clapboard house (paint peeling exceedingly.) there, i began to love space, the eye-straining, cattle-specked kind, not the gaping, airless, planet-hung one. i have a scar's memory of barbed wire, and can remember how muscadines burn, even sweet. beautiful recollections, but on the whole, it was a very solitary beauty. deep, but solo. [that which is solo, however lovely, is only temporarily hard to trade.]

now, here in Easternish, Texas i reside. our town strings up... lights... on half a thousand oil derricks downtown when it's feeling festive. i've walked this town, so i'm accustomed to it (in the warm, affectionate Spanish sense of accustomed.) here, i at last have community. "social capital," if you will. my "Miss Hernandez!!!" assailed Wal-Mart trips prove it. in South Side of a nearby town, i know the kids and billboard grammatical errors by heart. i'm beginning to know [rabbit trail: in Spanish, you can say "i am knowing" very naturally] the dozens of soccer aficianados that claim the fields near the school where i work. they scamper around their dark and light soccer moms, dads, and tios. it's nice. my nephews fish like a compulsion, an Easternish habit if i've ever seen one. their mother and i have great talks while they do. and we don't speak of Easternish.

...because, you see, i hate walmart, i've never played soccer, and i'd prefer to eat a fish (with lemon and squid, preferably) than touch one. the pines and the wind are grand, but when away, i don't cry. i like texas, but i don't combust for it.

but there is one place i know whose very name starts me thinking in haikus...

take a wild guess...

thought three: "bloom where you're planted" is great, but what if you're a potted plant?

it's funny, because, umm, i'm a stranger there. i barely get the jokes, i stammer more often than not, and it seldom brings out the best in me. but i'm mesmerized because i can't see it by rote. every time it's beautiful. when it's familiar it's beautiful. when it's new, it's beautiful. more than beautiful, it's soulish. [fyi: when i can't find the right word, i start talking about the soul. take note.] the people, not just the scenery. the poverty, not just the riches. the cold, not just the breeze. the dirt. the grime. the graffiti. the dusty soles. the eyes. the hands. the work. the songs. the houses. the paint. the trees. the brush. the fruits. the mountains. the rivers. the taxis. the vendors. the children. the ignorance. the wit. the hunger. the Presence of the Living God. it's not a light interaction.

i know, i know, infatuation is not a bond. just because i like it doesn't mean it's in me. i'm a foreigner there...

but if i'm going to be a stranger everywhere, Peru is at least the place i want to call me strange. if i'm capable of growing roots, i already have the soil picked out.

roots. home. allegience. loyalty. love of land. place. region. am i even qualified to write?