Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Life Upside Down

The fireball of a medicine woman stared into my palm and told me I had cloudy liver, bad circulation, and terrible anxiety from my monkey mind. But I had very good luck! She laid out an array of pills for me to take, had me chew and swallow a variety of bitter leaves, then proceeded to scrub my face with paste and a bunch of wet leaves. About halfway through the face scrub when it really started to burn, I began to wonder if tracking down this woman was the best idea.

It is one thing to attempt to track down the fictional, those places and people that will remain fuzzy on the ever distant horizon. It is quite another to track down the non-fictional, to come face to face with the real--as she shoves pills and leaves down your throat. But, this is why I'm here--to collect these stories and patch them together in that mysterious, unseen, unreliable place called memory.

Emily and I followed the steep and loosely etched path of volcanic rock by flashlight. We had left Ubud at 2am in order to reach the summit of Mt. Batur by sunrise, and we barely made it to the top in time--catching our breath as we watched the sky turn from deep red and orange to pastel pink and purple until there was nothing but golden light. Night to day, bottom to top. Volcano, summit, island, sunrise. I've been here before, on the other side of the world, Maui. My mind playing leapfrog on lily-pads of memory.

Steam rose from the inner edges and out of small hidden caves, and monkeys ran amok. It was suddenly cold. We warmed our hands between hot rocks then began our long, slow, sketchy decent. No wonder people hike up here before sunrise. If they could actually see what they were climbing, they'd turn back.

Canggu surfers, Bingin bliss, Padang rocks, Uluwatu sunset--I made my way down the southwest coast lingering just long enough to catch the vibe of each place. I squeezed myself between the narrow crevasse of the cliff and down the steep, winding, stone stairs that led to Padang Padang Beach. I sat in the sand drinking straight from a coconut and eating veggie fried rice from the only little food shack on the beach. This is how I want to remember Bali--fried rice, coconut, beach, sun.

In between island adventures and searching for the best gado-gado in all of Ubud, I spend my days upside down. I take yoga classes that focus on inversions and hanging from swings. In these upside down moments, I begin to see my life as an incohesive cluster of stories. Pull a memory every 5 years and you'd never know they were from the life of the same person.

I stitch together these memories, these incohesive stories and turn them right side up. My life is not a novel. It's a series of vignettes, a collection of short stories made of memories loosely bound by my natural inclination of curiosity and stubborn refusal to fall into bad habits and unhappy patterns.

Like the busy, relentless streets of Ubud--where you have to follow the narrow, seemingly dead end alleyways and unassuming business entrances to find mysterious never-ending jungle walkways and lush gardens and peaceful, quiet spaces--you need to fall between the words that trigger memories to find that big open space where the stories hide. Or maybe all you need to do is turn upside down and let them fall into place.

Do you see your life as a collection of short stories--a jumbled, patchwork of memories? Or a novel--a cohesive, unfolding story? Do you believe your memories are the sum of your life or do you see the sum of your life in other ways? Tell me about the lenses you see your life through. 


Miss Hollywood said...

Such an amazing post, Sarah!!! I sent you an email as well! Sending Big Hugs from Santa Cruz, Robin =)

Sarah Seymour said...

Thank you! Got your email & responded :) Big hugs to you too!