I cannot settle to the work today.
The Fears have me by the throat.
Fear of Not Enough –
not enough money
not enough talent
not enough brains to save
myself from drowning
from the voices that cry out again and again and again
that I am not
I cannot settle to the work today
but Desire has me by the heart
and she whispers a question,
“Good enough for what?
To breathe this soft air, like the old man in the sea?”
Yesterday, I sat on the sun hot shore drawing pictures in my book of people selling oysters from wheelbarrows, offering silver and wooden carvings, woven bracelets, paintings and clothes, sticks of candied apples and mangoes and shrimp and colourful kites shaped like parachutes with plastic men dangling from them (so much bigger than the poop-a-troopers my sister and I threw off the garage roof at the farm when I was ten). Down the beach, I noticed people walking into the water. The waves were high and loud. They walked in fully clothed. A man in a red plaid shirt and dark shorts. A woman in yellow. Two young boys joined them. They lifted the children above the swells until the boys learned to jump the waves and ride them back to shore.
I kept a running tally in my book as I drew. 2 people, 4, 7.
Now there are eleven.
There are twenty-four people! All fully clothed, standing in groups – ankle deep, knee deep, thigh.
I set aside my book to watch them laughing and shrieking at the cold and chatting in Spanish.
Out with the farthest group, I notice an older man. His grey hair glints in the sun and I see that the guy in the plaid shirt and another man are holding him and, like the couple lifted their boys, these men lift the old man as the waves crest around their chests.
Then the old man stands on his own, knees bent and taking a small jump as each wave comes. The men give him space, but stand by to steady him as he lands. I can’t hear their voices over the crash of the surf, but their joy is clear.
The old man waded back into the shallows on his skinny old man legs, and his family cheered him as he passed. The women reaching out to him. The children taking his hand and walking alongside him to the shore.
And that old man’s face held so much joy that it cracked my heart and let me remember—that these things are free.
The joy in the rushing water.
The solid support of the earth.
The frigate birds riding the breeze.
The curious dog who lay near me on the sand.
The feeling of sun on my skin and the taste of salt
on my lips.
I cannot settle to the work today, and yet—
these words flow out onto the page
and the waves hit the shore
and this soft air
is ours for the taking.
~ La Penita Jaltemba 2.16.17