Humble Beginnings

Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and I are hosting our own Reverb11, a series of prompts to look back on 2011 and manifest the new year.  Please check our Reverb11 pages for details, and join in!

Prompt for December 1:  Humble beginnings:  where did 2011 begin for you?  Describe where you were – be it physically, emotionally, or otherwise.

For me, 2011 began twice, both times in international airspace, which was a fitting and prophetic way for it to begin.  I rang in the New Year once somewhere over Chile, and then again, leaving Lima, Peru, en route to New York.  The pilot flashed the cabin lights in the plane, and someone played Auld Lang Syne over the PA.

And that was that.

In the airport in Santiago, I had seen a couple in evening clothes; half-walking, half-dancing through the airport.  You know that painting, the one of the couple dancing in the rain with the butler and the maid holding the umbrellas?  I was reminded of that as I watched them.

(The painting, incidentally, is by a Scottish artish, Jack Vettriano, and that too was prophetic, since I didn’t know at the time how travelling through Scotland would play a role in my 2011.)

The couple was on my flight and they rose from their seats a few times to dance in the aisles: slowly, romantically.  Their faces were serene.  Nobody stopped them.  Was it staged; was it planted?  Did they love each other; were they actors?  I decided they were lovers.  And in a moment of wonderful irony, Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War came on my iPod.

Love, it seemed, survived war; survived success and the casualties of fame and famine.  Love survived airport security, and passport control, and international borders, and realism, and surrealism, and maybe even marriage.

In the moment, these things were lost on me.  I was instead busy inventorying the casualties of 2010: And this is what I lost; I no longer have this…

But how do you measure a year in losses?  Furthermore, why would you do it?  Reading back, I was telling the world about the things I was going to do, and manifesting what I would have and achieve, all the while tallying the things I didn’t and wouldn’t.

I landed in New York on a cold New Year’s Day, waking up on the plane with a ferocious respiratory infection.  I’d been tossed out of a raft during a whitewater trip at the end of December, and I’d gone under.  I’d been rafting many times before — I’d known how to float, feet first — but for some reason, I’d been sucked under anyway.  I had come up, gasping for air, lungs filled with water.  The guide had thrown me a line; I’d missed, then missed again.  I finally caught the rope, but by then, I was in real distress.

That was how this year began:  in circles; spins; a travelogue of oddities continued.  I had been twirling in the air — that couple, back and forth up and down the aisles, in their slow and strange waltz — and then there was the washingmachine spin-cycle when I was pulled under the silty currents of the Maipo River.  Where it stopped, I didn’t know.

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