Wednesday, December 19, 2012


January, 2001
(everything changes, but somehow it always comes back around again...)

I always seem to think best with my fingers in hot, soapy water.  As the water rinses over the clean dishes, words start pouring through me, and I pause to watch them melt together into now a story, now a harmonic progression, now a poem, as my fingers mindlessly play with the bubbles.  I love college life, but it feels so good to be washing dishes again.  I still haven't found any other context quite so suitable for dreaming.  So as I shape these words, on an un-Arizona-ish-ly cold January evening, I'm washing dishes.  And I'm home.

I went down.  It really wasn't as profound as I had hoped it would be.  I was hoping to hike, strangely enough.  As a child, I always hated hiking.  Every trip was a horrible ordeal, although to be perfectly honest, the hike itself was usually a lot of fun.  It was only the anticipation of misery that was actually miserable.  Dreading hard work sure takes a lot out of you.

It was a bit ironic.  I had hoped and longed and begged and wished to take the helicopter so many times, but almost every time, we hiked.  Eventually, though, I learned to love the hikes.  And sure enough, just about every trip since then, we've needed to take the chopper for one reason or another.

Even when we've only been out for a little two week shopping trip, flying into the canyon is usually bizarre and disorienting. It takes me a long time to figure out where I am, who I am, and what strange world this is.  The hike gives me time to adjust, but when we fly, I always spend the first day back in the village in a bewildered daze.  This time, I'd been away for a whole semester, and much had changed--for me, for my family, for Supai. It should have been much harder than usual.

But it wasn't.  I was home, and everything else was just a dream.  Ida was there; apparently she'd come in on the flight before us.  She smiled at me, and amid the wrinkles and wisdom, she looked just like a delighted little girl.  We shook hands.  For one brief moment I thought that I was welcoming her home.  After all, she was the one who'd been gone . . . right?

After a semester of Plato and Bach, here I am again in this place of Jesus Loves Me, Hot Cross Buns, and Jingle Bells, more than a little off-key, and tiny fingers twining through my hair, covering my jeans with hominy and kool-aid.  After four months of sophisticated dialogue, I am back where life is simple, where everything is stripped down to a few basic truths. After pondering the abstract concepts of food and water and forgiveness and shelter and love and hate and hurt and hope and anguish, here I am again, where they are as concrete as can be.  After working everything out into tidy little syllogisms in my head, I'm back to the place where reality is very, very complicated.  Because this is where it matters.

Just a ways beyond the place where the rubber meets the road is the place where my bare toes crunch through the dust.  This is the place where sky touches earth.  This is the horizon, the age-old now.  And this is where I live.

The light shimmered through a particularly magnificent bubble, and colors danced and wove through one another.  Mom interrupted my reverie, and the bubble popped, leaving me staring at my own hand.

"Oh, Elena.  I know that the textures of the water are fascinating, but if you stand there and dream too long, you'll never get anything done."

So I plunged my hand down beyond the glorious bubbles, picked up the rag and a cup, and began to scrub.

1 comment:

  1. I love this just as much now as I did back then. Many people ask about you and your family, and wanted to know if we'd be with you for Christmas. Home is still there.