Da Nang, Vietnam: May 1 – Sept 8, 2020 | Lock down II: July 28 – Sept 5, 2020
(including trips to Hue and Hoi An)
Waves run aground in their never-ending dance with the sandy soil. To the naked eye (outside of changing tides), the shore generally appears absent of turmoil.
Yet, it’s nothing but an illusion, as it’s always in constant change. From second to second, it’s never the same.
The smattering of feet, the wind, the waves, and curious hands, all make their mark to alter the perceived balance of the innumerable pebbles of sand.
Such is the shore a representation of self – constantly changing and evolving as a result of that which is felt.
Tourists take flight from the shores and glide across the city as night falls, families wade in the water building sandcastles that shall only last until nature calls.
These same waves that bring change from the sea to the shore, will prove to awaken emotions and beget challenges that will rock the core.
In the same city where free-throws were shot from rooftops two years before, a storm (or two) is brewing that will create a sudden shock followed by a tsunami of tears amidst the downpour.
Years of experiences wrapped in a single season, give rise to a good mourning that hopes to define reason.
100 Days of Bliss
“Give us eyes like children, so we live each day as our first.” – Lamb – The Little Things
Nearly 100 days before the last tourists took flight, the country emerged from its initial period of COVID fright.
Slowly the fears subsided and the worries relaxed, allowing for a 100-day period of bliss that was simply unmatched.
Sunset river walks, after coffees and engaging chats; weekends spent enjoying the core of an emerging city with the weight of an unknown future on its back.
Dreams of days soon spent in Spain, quickly become drowned out by reality, though the ambitions remained.
Instead, trips to local ancient cities with a friend anew; walks along a plethora of picturesque landscapes creating a monument of memories that settle in the mind as softly as morning dew.
These same moments that created immense insights, joy, and laughter, would soon become visions that stir up a tidal wave of emotions in the abyss that followed soon after.
Conversations and challenges began strangle the soul, opening fissures across many dynamics amidst the ice and cold, for the purpose firing up a spirit to live life in a fashion a bit more bold.
Like Chinese bamboo, much work has been done below the surface, but patience only last so long, and eventually the tree must flourish.
Whether the eye can withstand the wait and all the rain required to nourish the miracle to sprout, the arrival fallacy maintains that by the time the change occurs, the mind is already without doubt.
In the eyes of children, one experiences pure joy, sadness, and fear, but with the mind and experience of an elder, we learn to not always take things as they appear.
Time is arbitrary, it is but a figment of the imagination, but time is also fleeting when it’s taken away without hesitation.
In just 24 hours, the city shut down, with everyone fleeing and hoping to make it out of town.
That included one, who shared in the 100 days of bliss, and then set off on an unexpected journey to address questions of the soul that were previously thought meaningless.
Gone with the intent to ask questions without the expectation of answers, the departure created a void that time had allowed to fester.
As the city closed the curtain on its season with a quickness that initially seemed to defy reason, a butterfly took flight, aimlessly fluttering its wings in a desire to stave off its fright.
40 Days in an Abyss
“Have you ever wondered why those days exist,
When life just seems to be a conspiracy against you.
I don’t know where the answers lie,
But I try not to get hung up on the questions.” – Lamb – “Bonfire”
Though the sky is sunny, the city is dark, entering a period of stillness and uncertainty for the next 40-plus days that leave an indelible mark.
Like a typical mourning, the stages flow the same – fear, loss, sadness, wonderment, and internal rage – typical feelings when one feels locked in a cage.
Yet, all around nature continues as it has, for in its much longer history than humans, this too shall pass.
The sudden tsunami caused a wave of emotions, that simply required patience, practice, and a strong desire to remain open.
Open to new ideas, thoughts, and ways to pass the time – time that is but an arbitrary measure of the length of moments fixed in our minds.
With freedom expunged for an unbeknownst amount of time, the mind quickly recedes to memories buried deep inside.
Random walks in cities experienced far away, days gone by in areas of the world now in disarray.
So the mind goes quiet and remembers the free-throws shot two years ago – a valuable lesson learned to take life out of cruise control.
Shaken by the events and left grasping for a faint moment that matters, and images flooding the mind, leaving it in tatters. The sprouts from the Chinese bamboo begin to burst through the ground and the doubts, fears, and anxieties are soon shattered.
The process is simple and often well-known, yet in the moment the mind takes over, prohibiting the brightness of light already present in the soul to be shone.
Once it shines, the butterfly again takes flight, yet this time it’s not aimlessly fluttering lost in the light.
It’s guided by its own instinct and innate reason – determined to make its impact before the death of the season.
As the butterfly settles on the stem of the bamboo tree, the initial storm passes leaving precious moments to seize.
Now the real work begins to regain balance, which is not a single action but the culmination of much practice.
Micro focus allows the mind to fixate on small actions, which ultimately end up creating momentum and traction.
For when the outcome is released, the anxiety becomes shattered, making it much more obvious that it’s the process and the progress that truly matters.
Like muscles that need to be broken down to become stronger, the mind can’t continue to hold on to feelings that are no longer.
And life, in its time, will present to all deep questions to ponder, so we must already have a solid foundation built such that the tears that eventually fall as bricks do not leave us somber.
Footsteps return to the shore after the period of the abyss has ended, and the waves rush in a question previously left suspended.
The words that are uttered are rather unimportant, yet the storm they set off rains bricks of tears the following Tuesday morning.
“Some people turn to pills and things
To help them through the day
To take them up or down or just
To ease the blues away
But me I really want to feel
The ups and downs of life so real
Happy or sad emotions reign
My tears flow just the same.” – Lamb – “I Cry”
Words can serve as fuel or flames, the outcome is up to the individual to tame. Yet, images also conjure up vivid emotions that can do the same.
Emotions buried deep for years returned, elicited by loss, fear, relief, and unraveling stones far too long left unturned.
Darkness returns but is lit by a full moon, a symbol that life will return to normal in a time very soon.
But not for all, as the question begets answers, that create a shift in life experience for those left in tatters.
That fateful morning, the butterfly once again took off in flight, only to be blinded and lost in what it thought was light.
Instead, it’s a fog and sight is unclear, so it must flutter around while the fog passes – allowing the bricks to fall as tears.
And fall they must to relieve the pain and allow clarity to return and desire to reign.
“Words are tears that have been written down. Tears are words that need to be shed.” – Paulo Coelho – “Aleph”
Change is constant and a process of regeneration, that keeps the soul firing and the beautiful landscape of the shore, a miracle of our imagination.
The irony is that miracles require openness, patience, and dedication – what is seen as a simple moment is actually a culmination.
Though moments pass, our memories remain, and it is with those memories we are left to mourn the loss of moments that may never happen again.
They hit like bricks at times unexpected, but the key is always ensuring that the internal foundation is strong and protected.
To mourn is to miss and that’s a good thing, for it means that the power of those experiences blossomed in the soul like a butterfly floating along the shore in the spring.
“I had a dream that all of time was running dry
And life was like a comet falling from the sky
I woke so frightened in the dawning, oh, so clear
How precious is the time we have here.” – Lamb, “Wise Enough”
Behind the Pen: Writer’s Notes
This is perhaps the most personal piece that I have written in years. In doing so, I purposely removed my being from the center of the story and instead focused on scenes, imagery, and analogies. There was intent and significant challenge in not using “I” (first person) throughout the piece. However, I believe that doing so allows these words to bear the weight of connection, not to a single being but all human beings.
These first six months of the COVID-19 era have taken a toll on everyone, everywhere. Our norms, perspectives, and persons have been challenged. For those fortunate enough to have the time and space to reflect and reset, this pause has provided a profound period of introspection. It’s not lost on me the lessons that I learned in this same place in the world two years prior that provided me with the skills to overcome my deepest challenges during this period.
It’s also not lost on me, the dear friends who have lost loved ones during this recent period and their mourning. My purpose in titling this piece in such an oxymoronic fashion (“Good Mourning”) is simply this:
To offer the perspective that amidst all the trials and challenging emotions that life presents, for those of us still here left to enjoy it, it’s best to tap the strength of memories and moments as fuel to feed our remaining passions and desires.
My intent is illustrate that if we dig deep and identify that which truly gives us energy, we will discover that we are ‘wise enough’ to find ways to enjoy the precious time we have left here.
Inspired by conversations with Mo, the many songs from the musical group Lamb cited herein, the chapter titled “Chinese Bamboo” from Paulo Coelho’s book, Aleph, stories shared in the book titled “Mating in Captivity” by Esther Perel, the songs “Good Morning” by Black Thought and “My Mind” by Sweet Velvet, the Arrival Fallacy mentioned in the World Athletics Podcast interview of Dalilah Muhammad (World Champion and World Record Holder in W4x400 MH), and the marvelous writings of “Tianna Bee” (World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist in Track and Field – Long Jump).
Read more Tales from the Nomadic Adventure and find out where we’ll be in the coming months.