It was like this, two summers ago on the beach of Zahara de los Atunes, the winds from Africa picked up and caused the sand to pelt us all in the face and Tin, then three years old cried out to us all, “What happened??!!??” The winds are called Levante, they come from the east, where the sun rises, and are smokey hot and make the beach miserable when they are strong. No way to get to the cool ocean because the sands are a battleground.
Zahara is a beach community, an ancient fishing village, and not really on many people’s destination list because of the fickle winds – the levante or poniente – the winds from Africa – coming from the east or west – they bring cooler temps than beach life requires and hotter temps than anyone can afford especially without mod cons like air conditioning, much less ceiling fans.
This year, our fifth in Zahara for summer vacation, poniente dominated the weather forecast making the temps and water colder than usual – meaning that I swam less than usual. In this Andalusian village though, the weather was ideal for walking around, hanging out, and sitting and walkie/talkies on the beach with friends.
And it all happened so fast. “What happened?” was coursing through my brain last night when we arrived from our two day trek home, with only a slight airport delay, but included a four-hour train ride from Cadiz to Madrid, where the a/c system broke and we rode with sweat pouring off our body in coaches that had dogs, cats, and whatever anyone else had decided to bring to their summer vacation from Madrid.
“What happened?” was also on my mind when we touched down in New Orleans and I lugged the heavy suitcase up the stairs noticing the jungle that replaced my otherwise lush garden out front. What happened was a continuous loop as I went through mail, bills, news, dirty clothes, sandy flip flops and tried to find my iPhone that I haven’t used in over a month.
I woke this morning at the unnatural hour of 4am and meditated and felt eternally grateful that I woke in my bed, with clean sheets, after a hot shower where the water pelted me rather than dribbled out of a handheld faucet. I woke to my dirty clothes piled in neat color and fabric coded piles to be washed over the course of the next two days. I woke to the mail partially sorted.
I woke to green tea and gluten free granola, my friend’s cookbook finally arrived (Flourless – more on that later). I woke to a feeling like wow, summer happened once again, and I had the good fortune of spending time away, in Spain, with summer friends, with Tin, on the beach, living in Spanish, Andalusian style, a parallel universe to the one that is here for me in New Orleans.
As usual while I stepped out of my life, the world continue to blow up – Iraq, Ukraine, Gaza and Israel, Nigeria, and right here in the U.S. of A. in a place called Ferguson, Missouri. What happened indeed.
I stood in the airport terminal in Atlanta and watched a huge flat screen television show the protests in the streets while Tin danced around under my skirt. Michael Brown. Another boy’s name to add to the growing list of young Black men killed by white police. There are times when you just want to walk off the planet, like Robin Williams did, to escape the pain and destruction that is constantly bearing down on you.
But we had just returned from unplugging and the beach, and our getaway was not meant to last forever, it was a respite, a recharge, and now, SNAP, back to reality. Which means you get up hopeful the next day, that today is a day when the world will get it right.
And as Flower, my Russian friend is want to say, hope dies last.