Away from New York once again. Like a lover, leaving it often makes me more appreciative off its charms when I return. Leaving gives me a chance to miss it.
This time I am heading to the city of New Orleans to celebrate my mom's birthday with a girls' weekend away. I will be my first time in this place, which I know so little about.
It is autumn now in New York. The building has no heat yet, sitting as we are in that vague in-between temperature where it is not hot anymore but also not yet cold. In the studio the dancers complain - it is too hot in here, it is too cold. Once we start moving it doesn't really matter.. we will sweat regardless. But when I go to visit Ben in New Haven, I notice that the tops of the trees are beginning to bruise with red and brown. The Canada geese are on the move; the most obvious sign that the seasons are changing. Starbucks launches their pumpkin drinks, and turns the heat on in their stores. I spread my sleeping bag over my bed sheets, but cling to the hope of an Indian summer - stubbornly refusing to bring my winter sweaters out of "storage".
Work begins to pick up again as families return from their vacations, Laly makes her long visit to the US, and companies begin to prepare their materials and mind sets for the 2013 reporting season. Between this, and afternoon practice every day, I am feeling balanced and purposeful.
My trip to South Africa was a strange one. We camped in the middle of nowhere, and then stayed on the outskirts o Cape Town. In contrast to the prior summer, we spent most of our time with other visitors. We saw the sights - a lot of great food in the company of good friends (old and new), a lot of landmarks, and a lot of South African and Namibian natural wonders.
I found peace many times: lying on the cusp of a towering red sand dune, watching a beetle scramble nimbly up and over in his quest for a mate; stargazing with Ben under a dark stage of sparkling confetti, the Milky Way writhing across the stage like a dancer's body in full ecstasy; sitting in the company of someone who understands my obsession with dance better than any one else I know, and seeing him so loved and energized amongst his closest friends and the love of his life, as he stepped into marriage.
Before big trips, I always write down beforehand what it is I want to discover by the end. This time, I sought perspective. I hoped I would reconnect with my friends, and in seeing how others live, come to understand my own life better.
Let me be clear. Before I embarked on this trip, I had been struggling with a deep unhappiness. It seemed nothing was going right, that I had sacrificed much to pursue dreams that were very much not going to plan. It exhausted me, the questioning of my decision... I spent too much time feeling tired, intending to do things and not following through, then feeling crushed under my own lack of ability to deliver. How unlike me!, I thought often, If only I could become again who I was!
And then, this: In Cape Town my camera was stolen on almost the last day. All the pictures I had taken were lost! My cool photos of the dunes, my unique way of seeing the world...all stolen from me.
It was a blessing.
In coming to terms with the loss of what I equated with memories, I finally saw this: Photos don't change the fact that I lived it.
In COLE, we made journey boards, representing where we came from, who we wanted to be, what we felt abouit ourselves as leaders and aspirational human beings. I have not been able to throw mine away. It became the representation of this ambitious, talented person I used to be and I dreamed, would someday be again.
South Africa and Namibia both went through some very dark times. In Namibia, people were driven off their land, their wealth raided, many lost their lives to civil wars and colonizers. In South Africa, a history also of loss, and apartheid (that also affected Namibia, then under South African administration). Do they remember forever, feeling bitter about what used to be, looking back at what was and lamenting how much better it was before the disappointments, the betrayals, the changes?
I used to think it was better to right old wrongs. But in "Country of my Skull", a South African journalist explores her revelations while covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's hearings. She posits that no amount of present compensation can change the past. We cannot go back.
I am not equating my struggle to the horrific experiences of those who have suffered in the darkest times. I am only one person, and a privileged one at that.
I am choosing to move forward. I'm going to throw away my journey board. This is my first real adventure with no camera. This is a weekend to celebrate my mother, the special bond we have, and to be fully the person I have become.