Just try not to wax nostalgic this time of year, I’ve already given up. Holidays are everywhere, and perhaps I should be occupied with gifts and tinsel and all. And I am, partly. But I’m also always aware that this time of year marks another anniversary of returning from one of the great adventures in my life: an ill-conceived, if well-intentioned, jaunt to life in Lima, Peru.
Many very long stories short, I accompanied a friend on quest for aboriginal healing and transformation of partial parapledgia through traditional medicine. Yes, it was a gamble, and yes it only partly worked, if we’re measuring physical results. True to form, and because I’ve never been one to not write things down, I recorded a good chunk of our journey here, if you’re feeling like a glutton for prosaic punishment.
So what does all this have to do with Christmas? I think its not uncommon for us to take stock sometimes, reflect over the past years of our lives and those of our loved ones. And so, as I’m taking stock, thinking back, to the sticky way the air felt on my morning runs through Miraflores many years ago now, I am grateful. And damn if that doesn’t feel more like the holidays than anything I’ve yet come across. Being grateful for the folks who made our trip possible, the ones who wrote us letters of encouragement, the ones we met along the way, the ones who were on the other end of frenzied phone calls and Skype sessions, the ones who took pity on us, and the ones who saved us.
We were fortunate enough to come by a trustworthy cabbie early on in our time there, which now in the scheme of things doesn’t begin to cover what Diego was for us. So much more than a reliable means of conveyance through a strange and sometimes scary city, he taught us about Lima, Spanish, patience, gratitude, the value of mirth in the face of trial, and -very important- how to actually get and retain a cab in the city. “Siempre, espirar.” He would tell me, so that I would be able to tell other cabbies not to drive off without one of us, or the wheelchair (as happened on more than one occasion).
In my head at the time, I translated it to “Always wait,” meaning always tell the driver to wait until you’re ready. It stuck, cemented to the folds of my cerebellum somehow, “Siempre, espirar.” I come to understand now, although my Spanish was, and remains, barely conversational, it can also mean, “always exhale.” Maybe I misheard him, a lot was lost in translation. Good advice I think, either way.
More than waiting, more than resonant lessons in exhaling and letting go, maybe most of all, Diego taught me about faith. Fe. I can still hear him say it. Not a kind of faith attributable to one particular deity or other per se (though there was no shortage of that, Lima being Lima and all), but faith in the deep-down decency of other folks, and faith in our abilities to do things, and believe in things, we’re not really sure we can. And if that’s not Christmas, I don’t know what is.
Now, here to say Happy Holidays from me is a shot from a run: