Breathe in and feel that breath open up your body…
Breathe out, and feel that breath take with it all the stresses you are holding.
♣ ♦ ♥ ♠
I’m pretty sure those were her words.
I’m lying on a yoga mat, trying to concentrate on what Frieda, my instructor, is saying. She tells us to close our eyes, but I sneak one of mine open so I can see what all the other women are doing because, in fact, I really only understand half of Frieda's gentle monotone.
And of course, with tranquility as a goal, my mind is spinning. Ironically, I’m thinking: this is exactly what I need. I’ve been so tense when I try to talk to anyone, so focused on trying to communicate, I haven’t been able to relax into any connections. Will I ever connect? Will tomorrow be any better? Breathe in.
I peek at Monica next to me. Her poses are perfect, so she’s the one I mostly keep my one eye on. She’s my neighbor - an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, or house cleaner if need be, and a single mom. She has short, midnight black hair and startling blue eyes under dark eyebrows. She comes across as ferocious, independent, and rugged and has little patience for my bumbling Spanish. So, of course, I adore her. She has a thick, thick Monachil accent that I’m only beginning to penetrate. She’s really good at this yoga thing. Obviously she’s been doing it for a long time. Breathe out.
I hear something about brazos and manos, so I look back at Frieda to see that we’ve moved on to the next pose. But my mind is still spinning.
Every time I talk to someone new, I get a deeper insight into this town. Just yesterday, all the pieces I’d been collecting and trying to piece together swirled around and settled themselves into a new pattern. A healthy dose of aha! mixed with a bit of cha-chunk. Whoa.
This yoga group, for example, peopled with women that I identify with and admire from my side of the language barrier. The building we're doing our yoga in is the town's small rec hall. It had a dirt floor until Easter, two weeks ago. In what worldview and with what power does the need for yoga transform a dirt floor into laminate?
Or this... Charlie and Coby picked up our first Community Supported Agriculture box Wednesday (I was in Granada at a language exchange, practicing my Spanish). It was truly a community gathering, at La Chistera cafe. Charlie reconnected with Kathy and Raffa and others, and learned that the eggs in the CSA boxes come from Raffa's cortijo up the valley. Everything in the box is organic.
Or this... Thursday was Benito’s 3rd birthday. So Ana and Jaime had a party right on our terraza. Kids and adults played games like red light/green light, hopscotch… Ana served great, organic food, some from her own CSA box.
I only had to wander outside and connect with some new folks. Wonderful.
So... Juan and Anna live a few houses over. Anna homeschools her girl, Violeta, which is not entirely legal but she’s committed to it. She’s trying to make a living cleaning houses and doing cualquier cosa. Juan is blind and has a guide dog. The twisting, cobbled streets… the many other dogs and cats… the piles of dog poop left every day before the poop patrol comes… the challenges for a guide dog are endless here. Juan has an air of contentment and trust. He seems to always be smiling, and laughs easily. Anna has an earth mother look about her. Long straight hair, an open face, an easy self-confidence. She holds her chin high when she talks and reaches out a hand to include whoever is close to her.
She’s talking about an espiritu, I’m circling her Spanish, trying to land on her meaning, and finally settle into her story… They’d found a hole on a back wall of one of the rooms in their house, and opening it a bit, discovered that there was a cave behind it. Caves are not uncommon here. The first people to settle the valley built caves into the slopes, and many people have them as part, or as all, of their houses.
With excitement at the discovery, Anna and Juan pulled down the wall to access their new living space. Shortly afterwards, though, Anna began to get sick. She got tremendous pain through her neck and down her arms. She lived with it for a while, then frustrated, began to think it through. Her obvious conclusion… a ghost had been living in the cave and, once freed, had entered her body. She downloaded an app for her phone, walked into the cave with it, and sure enough, the energy readings were strong. On her body, the energy readings were strong, too. So, with the evidence supporting her theory in hand, Juan found her the Spanish equivalent of a ghost buster. The healer did a ceremony and got rid of the spirit.
When was that?
Whoa. Ghosts? Spirits? When I told this story to my Granada language exchange group, they were skeptical and dismissive, scoffing at the idea of ghosts. They looked at me as if I was a fool to think it’s true.
They've entirely missed the point.
For me, the story is not about ghosts. It’s a story about me stepping back and understanding what people believe and seeing the power in those beliefs. It’s about these people and their ideas, ideas that they have woven together into their personal, local, cultural world view. And it works. The power behind that is the power that transformed a rec room dirt floor into laminate. That same power is transforming a valley from conventional agriculture to organic agriculture.
Where in that is there room for judgement or derision?
Instead, I feel my own world view, my own personal bounding box, crack open.