Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Back in the USA, lost and fractured, but oddly found.

We are back in the US. Entry was bumpy, but it always is. The wide open streets, the lack of people, how clean everything was, the lack of cows, chickens, geckos, goats, oxcarts, rickshaws, and sound left a hole that both Bodhi and I felt profoundly. We stepped off the plane in Chicago, and while we were both happy to see Ethan and Tom, we both realized that our journey, our incredible long adventure, was over.

I still feel a little hollow, I wonder what it means, after all the deep connections we made, the incredible friends, the incredible love, the intense experiences, is it true that we will be able to return? I am an eternal optomist, I have strong intention and desire. Tom is on board. The kids want to give it a try. The reality of being able to raise and save about $25,000 to relocate us and pay for school is daunting to say the least.

But in Bali, my body doesn't hurt. I slowly became stronger, stronger in a way I had been fighting for here in Aspen. Because of the climate, because of my teachers, Prem, Dylan Bernstien, because of daily Ashtanga, because of being outside, because of choosing NOT to go surfing, but to walk on the beach while Bodhi surfed, I healed. My frostbitten toes came back to life. My shoulder, partially atrophied since my car accident, with limited range of motion, began to open up and get strong, strong in a way that I didn't think was going to be possible for me.

And then I tripped on the stairs and got a hairline fracture in my tibia and stopped practicing, about six weeks before we left for India.

I didn't screw my courage up to go hug Prem good bye and tell him how grateful I am for opening the door for me, and how sorry I was for the loss of his incredible daughter. I dug into denial that we had to leave, I pulled Edi's son Gede into my arms and kissed his sweet cheek, and watched the sun go down over the rice fields at my friend Lisa's house, where she had let us live for the last month.

And still my body didn't hurt. I have a tremmor and weakness in my left hand, especially in my thumb, that won't go away, but other than that, my body hurt much much less than it does every day in the cold.

But eventually, its time to go. And here I am, back in Aspen. We came home to the incredible crisp scent of the mountains, it hit me hard in the heart, how could I have forgotten how much I love and crave this place? The clean high mountain air, the scent of the pine trees, the sound of the cold creek flowing by our house, the canada geese, the mass of Pyramid Peak stretching toward the impossibly blue sky.

The smell of it was from my childhood, the crisp sharp air catching in my throat. Bodhi began to cry in the back seat, he hadn't realized how much he missed it, either. I stared at the wide, perfect pavement, and I missed the cows and ducks and roosters. The chaos, the motorcycles driving the wrong way. And at the same time, I didn't miss it, I saw in front of my my home, our tiny cabin tucked into the shadow of Aspen Highlands, that incredible place where so much hard work happens, where I trained for so many days, where Cindy fixed my bump skiing, where Weems's smiling face is, where I tried and failed to keep up with Megan, where I competed in the powder 8's, where my kids skied their first double black, completed their first hike.

It snowed the next day, about six inches, and the yellow and orange leaves, so incredibly riotous on our return, began to fall, the bushes and trees bending under the early season snowfall.

Everything I know about how to be in Aspen, how to be in skiing, is challenged momentarily by seven months in flip flops with my child by my side. How do I put up a slack line? Who do I slackline with?

The one thing that seemed to make sense to me was the inevitable pull of the yoga studio. I didn't know, for some reason, how to take myself on a walk, how to hike up Buttermillk, how to go up Smuggler, how to ride up to the bells. How to slackline in my back yard. These things all seemed tied to a before that I was not ready to navigate again. I sat in the living room and celebrated my birthday by looking at photos of Bali and India with my family. I struggled, with Bodhi, through intense Jetlag, and the intensely confusing feeling of being so happy to be home, and at the same time, missing home intensely, because Bali had become home.

How can we be so happy to see Ethan and Tom and still feel so empty?

I thought about the hot room, I would go tomorrow. I needed to go to Denver anyway.

It stayed with me, I rolled up my mat and put my towel nearby. Somehow part of Aspen is the dogged, grinding, unending, relentless routine of stepping into the hot room. No matter how tired, sore, happy, sad, present or fractured I feel. I have healed so many aches and pains in that room, in this place of shock, the only thing repeating itself, sounding with conviction and ringing true for me was the Arjuna Yoga Studio.

I went to Denver. I took my mat. I didn't use it. After all, I haven't practiced in two months, my belly has come back a bit, I've been at sea level, I haven't done the Bikram series in 8 months, I am not used to the heat.

(Those, by the way, are all the reasons to go.)

I came back and found myself checking the schedule again. But I should be stronger after practicing so hard in Bali. I should be in better shape. I will be judged by my friends, by my yoga community. They will expect me to be stronger.

(And going makes you stronger, and leaner, and happier...)

I packed my bag. I was literally shaking with fear in my kitchen, filling my water bottle with ice, trying to remember how to do this. Trying to remember how incredible I feel for the rest of the day after sweating everything onto my mat.

I pulled up at the studio, and walked inside, like I've done a hundred times before. In the distance, Aspen Mountain, covered in a spectacular show of orange, yellow and green, rose invitingly. The gondolas, like candy strung up the mountainside, glinting in the fall sunlight. It still felt strange to look at them, to reconcile who I am now with who I was when I left, to know ultimately, I am the same, that it will take a while to find myself back in space here in Aspen.

I walked into the studio, watching my legs carry me. I missed my sister, my yoga partner, intensely.  I wondered who would be in class. I wondered why I had sold all my bikes, I had nothing to ride now that I was home.

I walked in, the studio has changed. It is painted a beautiful soft blue, Caroline has changed, she is softer, too. She smiled at me when I walked in, and suddenly, I felt a collision of my worlds, stepping into her embrace, I knew I was home. Back to the room where I healed my broken neck and my broken heart. Back to the mother, the womb, the heat, the routine, the discipline.

I rolled out my mat, and found myself standing amongst the bodies, each imperfect, each perfect, and took my first breath in eight months. Fifteen minutes later, drenched in sweat, with a huge grin on my face, I was brought to my knees by the altitude and the heat. I sipped my water, let the blood flow equalized, listened to the buzzing in my ears, and felt the energy all around me.

I get to be a beginner again, I get to find my feet again.

When I left the studio, I recognized this place, some strange high that only Bikram does to me. As strange and weird and wild and disappointing as he is, his series is a lifeline to sanity for me. I walked into the sunshine with my bag over my shoulder and knew, no matter how incongruous my two worlds have become, I love them both. I am looking forward to putting my boots on and plugging back into PSIA, and skiing and training. And in my heart, the sun is sinking over the sawah and Gede's bright smile is glinting in the last of the evening light, and I know I will see it again.

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