As Mike and I walk by the beach on the outskirts of the sleepy beach town of Puerto Armuelles on Panama's Pacific coast, we watch as a group of fishermen ready themselves to go out to sea in the evening light. Painstakingly they take turns carrying heavy logs and lifting the canoe unto the logs as they roll the weather-worn boat from shore to its launching pad at the edge of the water.
They gather their fishing gear; one fisherman carries a large dead iguana which I assume must be for bait; the more seasoned sailor gives instructions, the heavy engine is carried to the scene and carefully attached as the last act of commitment to their vocation. With a few final pushes, the boat floats out into the bountiful ocean and the last of the pushers jump in. It takes several pulls on the engine before it roars to life; I suspect that engine has seen younger days, much like the older fisherman and the audience watching and taking photographs.
The scene reminds me of the Bible story of how Jesus' disciples had spent the whole night fishing close to the shore and having caught nothing, returned to shore dejected. Jesus told them to launch out into the deep. The deep is where the bounty is. That's where you will find the bigger fish that will not only fetch more money but will feed more people.
As we contemplated our lives in 2021, the accomplishments, the extensive body of work we have amassed individually and as a couple, we found ourselves exhausted and dissatisfied. So much more to do; more to see; more to accomplish. more, more, more! Whats this obsession with always needing or wanting more?
The toll of two years of covid with no end in sight, the heightened racism and scary political climate in the USA coupled with the alarming crime rate in Jamaica and the general need to fight ones way through life has drained us of any desire to continue along the same path. We were united in that feeling. For me it was simple. Life kicked my butt six ways from Sunday and it was time to make a change.
I spend a lot of time talking to my family and friends about the subject of change. Those who know me best have heard me repeat "I'm not a tree, I can move" on a regular basis. I consider it a blessing that I can embrace change with such ease and that for me change does not always mean doing something new or different. For me change is just continuing on. Everything must change. This is a reality they don't really teach us growing up.
As we get older our tastes, change. Our bodies change. The cities we grow up and live in change. Change is the only thing that's constant. Yet when I express my desire to move on from one thing to the next, I'm often told that I'm unstable. I've been called nomadic, free-spirited and a host of other things that I guess are meant to make me look a little nuts or are there to explain my every action. I embrace these titles with a smile for I am none of these things. The real fact is that I am simply living my life the same as the other person. We're just living in different ways. None better or worse than the other.
The myth of stability according to JFR
Who made the determination that we are meant to settle in one space, buy the dream house, the car and 2.5 children with the dog, cat and white picket fence? Whose dream was that? And what gave them the right to declare that this was the way, the truth for all people. And why were we all forced to accept nothing less as the benchmark for how we are living? Is it possible that I am not a free-spirit but rather that others are captured spirits? Or is it okay that we co-exist without labels?
As I continue my walk along the beach, I come upon a river emptying into the ocean. It's the dry season here and this river is but a trickle now. When the rainy season comes it will rage and may even change its course, I'm told. But for now it trickles gently along. Even the river knows when it's time to change and has the gumption to make that change.
I send pictures of my spectacular sunrises to my family and friends and the oohs and aahs combined with the "wish I could live there" comments make me a little sad. I get it. It's hard to uproot lives when you have invested years into creating that "stable" environment you've become so comfortable with. If you're happy and your statement is just a momentary sentiment, then I'm happy for you. But, if you're one of my friends who are genuinely dissatisfied with going through the daily motions of your life, then I'm sad for you. Sad because you can live here. Here, on this beautiful Sunrise coast, or almost anywhere else you choose.
You just have to understand that even in your "stability" there are still no certainties and your life is already changing all around you everyday. Start reminding yourself, everyday, that the power to change your circumstances lies with you. That you too are not a tree and that you can move. You just have to take the first step. You have to launch out in the deep.
"How do you start over so many times?" I am asked on a regular basis. "I've never started over," I reply. That's the truth. I've lived in too many places and set up house too many times to count. yet I never think of it as starting over. For me its a continuation of living - not a new beginning. It's the moving forward daily with breath and a sense of wonder at each sunrise. To start over I would need to return to my mother's womb as an egg and my father's seed - but both are long gone to their spiritual plane and alas, such a feat is impossible. If I could start over, with the knowledge I now have, I certainly would prefer to go that route but again eso es imposible.
So, I sit here watching the sun glisten golden through the coconut trees happy that somewhere along this Southern Shore we will make our home. We too will launch out into the deep as we make a conscious decision to leave behind the stresses of living in Amerikkka and finding a more peaceful, affordable way of living through the Autumn of our lives.