sue and i swam in the sea. we did this every day. and every day it was this holy shit feeling. we are swimming in the ocean. i could see it in her eyes. the awe. the gratitude. the bliss. i’m sure i had a similar expression. i felt so buoyant. and free.
sometimes we giggled like children. so much was fresh. so much was new. like the flying fish jumping. i yelped in delight every time i saw one. when they hit the surface, not far from where we swam, and descended back into the water, a spray of smaller silver fish glittered. sue had lost her prescription sunglasses in the water the day before, but still i continued to shout: “can you see all the little ones flying up? over there! wild!” we stayed in the water until the sun was low in the sky and our fingers were puckered. i licked the salt around my lips.
newness was driving on the other side of the car, on the other side of the road. this newness was awkward. worse than a sloppy first kiss at 13. on these daily car treks i sometimes shrieked, but not usually in delight. sometimes i was grumpy after a day of bizarre (to me) round-a-bouts, narrow roads, and steep climbs with blind corners. i argued with paul, my dear friend, about the meaning of straight. no way seemed straight. nothing seemed like going forward. it was all rough and curvy. and i felt lost. i slowed at every passing car. and almost froze when buses came near! i could not enjoy the view! but a dip in the sea was all i needed to wash away the stink of fear. and i tried to tell myself that i was getting smarter. all this other side business. all this switching it up.
i was always excited to see fresh papayas and avocados being sold on the side of the road. thrilled to pick a lime fresh from the tree. happy to find kale and mizuna and mustard greens at the holder’s farmers’ market. i enjoyed the smell of freshly brewed bay leaf tea. and was deeply saddened by the mangoes, falling on the road near paul’s house, never to be eaten. and just the other day, back at home in guelph, i saw dozens of neglected apples on the roadside half covered in fallen leaves. same same. but different.
my travels don’t often take me far from home. but for the past few years i have been journeying to barbados. once a year. and for the last two years sue has joined me. this year she was my sole retreatant! i was her personal person! and she was mine.
traveling with sue was a gift. a gift of giving and receiving. i offered yoga and food and adventure. she presented me with grace and surrender. and trust. we offered as much of ourselves to each other as we knew how. we shared stories. we listened. we watched the moon grow lush and full. we laughed. drank from coconuts. swam. and swam. we napped in the shade of beach umbrellas. and then we swam some more. we celebrated sue’s 61st birthday. ate chocolate for breakfast as often as we wanted. and then we cried. we mourned the death of her son. we honoured the 10 year anniversary of his passing. we looked at his photos. his little boyness. his young manness. his eye twinkle. his 25 years of life. sometimes we held back our tears. i could see it in her eyes. the ripeness of her sorrow. the holding it in. our travels brought us back again and again to the joy and the sorrow. the two holding hands, never far apart. the warm sun against the deep loss. the loss highly contrasted by our joy.
one day, tired after a full day of trekking, we swam in rough waters and were taken by the current. it came upon us so suddenly. one moment we were laughing in the waves. the next we being being whisked away! we were terrified. i saw sue stuck. unable to swim against the pull. i followed her not knowing if we would get smashed against a rocky shore. but unwilling to leave her. in my haste i made my way, desperately, for rocks. thinking i was at home in different waters with different rocks. the waves smashed me against the jaggedness. but i made my way to the beach with only a few sea urchins embedded in my shin, and fingers, and feet. sue let the current pull her around the rocks and managed to find a small patch of beach upon which to land. we looked at each other in shock. and relief. and we never swam at that particular spot again! later, after a long nap and supper, sue took photos of me trying to dig out the hard urchin bits with a needle.
ever morning, at 6:30, we faced the ocean on our mats. and almost every evening too. we sat side by side looking out and breathing in. our meditation was to receive the sound of the ocean, and the birds, and the music at the bar. our yoga to be with the dogs that liked our mats as much as we did. to stretch and strengthen even when people were walking by. our practice, i think, was to be together.
our retreat offered us the possibility of being, just being in all our wildness, by the powerful sea.