Into Yellow

Forward: For a little more background to this post, please first read Meanwhile in the Amazon. For those of you who care to skip this step, here’s the synopsis: I went to Peru to become yoga teacher and trek such things; Corona hit and Peru closed its borders; I moved to a farm in the jungle with four other women. Since then I have made my way to upstate New York, first traveling (with much difficulty) from Moyobamba to Lima, Lima to Miami, and finally Miami to New York. Great, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s dive into it.

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Sitting down to write at the kitchen table of my new home-for-now, I am tasked with writing a blog post about my experience in Peru. Coffee in hand and aspirations in mind, I’m at a complete loss for where to start. Overlooking the waves of Lake Erie, I feel at home but am reminded that I am not. Do I start there? Dive into my new understanding of “home” after fighting so hard to get back to mine? Or perhaps I start with an overview of the series of events I took to get here. Or maybe I let go of the itinerary of what happened and jump to what I learned and the spaces I grew into. If I get too spiritual will people stop reading? I don’t want to be the girl who goes to Peru and comes back all spiritually woke and won’t let anyone forget about it. But I also want to be authentic and share my story in a way that someone else might see a glimpse theirs. For someone who has turned communication and identity into a career, telling a personal story is really freaking hard. Maybe that’s why it fascinates me so much; we’re all just trying to find ourselves and shine our lights, and as much as we tell ourselves we figured it out, no one actually knows how to tell the story that reflects exactly themselves. We create virtual worlds to exist in, journals to pour into, art mediums to flow from, all in attempt to release the story of ourselves and to understand the mystery of who we are; but the truth is that this mystery is only one we can chip away at, with no right or wrong answers of how to best do that.

Huh, would you look at that. It appears that I have started. Great, let’s take another step.

Aside from a brief period in 6th grade when I was obsessed with pink (we all go through phases…) my favorite color has always been yellow. It’s happy, cheerful, and little 5-year-old me looked pretty cute in it if I do say so myself. My favorite outfit back then was my pretty yellow dress that I found suitable for all occasions, including finding frogs in the back yard and making forts in the woods across the street. Over the years, although my “look” has shifted from pretty yellow dresses and skinned up knees to oversized sweaters and, well, skinned up knees, there’s still something about the color yellow that feels like a piece of me; the piece that holds my childlike wonder; the piece that confronts any situation with a smile; the piece that feels like a big warm hug; the piece I cherish the most and lose sight of the easiest.

(Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the task at hand soon. I promise.)

The narratives we tell ourselves and explain to others hold great value. In many ways, they create the mold for our future reality by solidifying the angle of our memories. By rehearsing certain narratives, our brain memorizes these dictated pathways and files them in a cabinet of perceived truths. As I return home and begin to schedule check-ins with friends and family that I have neglected to keep in close contact with throughout the past few months, I already find myself caught in the narrative of what happened, largely leaving behind the narrative of how it felt. And while there is a degree to which the what and the how are products of each other, losing sight of the emotional “how” is a common danger of normalcy I am fearful of setting as my default.

Selva Mayo, Peru
Lake Erie, New York

It’s a long story as to how exactly I got home. Perhaps we’ll meet one day and exchange stories over coffee (or has meeting for coffee already become a thing of the past?), but for now just know that it involved, in no particular order: copious amounts of organization with too many governments, 5 bananas, a smartphone with no reception and dwindling battery, vomit in my waterbottle, a really beautiful moon, persistent and intelligent women, a military hanger, and a LOT of hand sanitizer. Unlike in Miami where the only precursor to traveling the entire US coastline was to rent a car from Hertz, our world in Peru was on lock down and required special papers to move us from place A to place B. So we rode our carefully orchestrated vehicle through the empty streets and through the night, stopping only for the armed policemen to show them sufficient proof we could be there.

Every good treasure map leads you to the final destination of where X marks the spot. If there is one way I can summarize how I have come to understand the trying, cosmic tumult of my time in Peru, it’s that when we follow our path all the way to our hard-earned X, we find that there is no freaking treasure chest. Rather, the treasure is finding the universal truth and beauty in the bridging of chaos and order. In other words, the grand X we are all sweating for is the juxtapositions of our living existence. It is here, at the center of the X, that we realize it is the simple truths that are most forgotten, and the ubiquitous obscurities that are most unseen. I guess sometimes it just takes a worldwide pandemic and a solar-powered Eco farm situated between 350 acres of Amazon jungle and a power plant (yeah, true story) to see the world in light of its beautiful obscurities.

One day while still on the farm, I was caught in a downpour while attempting to run. Pro tip: when running in the jungle, if it starts to sprinkle…run really fast. It won’t stay a sprinkle. Anyway, during my moment to duck under shelter, I wrote in a note on my phone: “Life has a way of throwing something at you that makes you toughen up and rise to the occasion. We call this growth, and it’s something our culture applauds. But there’s another kind of growth, a truly special kind, that we tend to skip over; it’s the kind you fall into. It’s not something you put up your armor for, but the kind where you have your armor stripped. It can feel something like walking off a cliff, or maybe even being pushed off it. The idea isn’t the cliff, but the fall itself. Surrendering to the fall is an act of love, and love is not something you rise into, but that you fall into. In this way, the growth doesn’t come from a place of toughness, but from a place of kindness. It comes from a place of love. And if you ask me, growing by loving is a pretty special way to grow.”

Rereading this old note now, I have to chuckle at the girl who wrote it in her sopping running shoes and surprisingly undamaged AirPods. Oh, how little she knew of what lay ahead. But I think she was onto something – something I’m still trying to fully excavate. The feeling that lingered with me then, and the one that lingers with me now, is that as we sit and observe within the space of beautiful obscurity, we begin to grow from a place of awareness – a place of curious love. And it is in this space that we begin to grow into ourselves. Maybe even, into yellow.

Thanks for reading, and as always: life fully, live graciously, live wild.

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