The sunrise created a world that was stunning; it created a feeling of satisfaction. On the horizon, there were faint shades of pinks and blues and purples, creating black silhouettes of the mountains surrounding us. My head turned from the horizon to the sky above me, still black as night with a shimmering blanket of stars still keeping it warm. I exhaled, seeing my breath, proving to me that this was no dream. We were silent, not taking our eyes off of the ever changing sky. We didn’t want to miss any of it. There was an understanding that silence was the best way to experience these moments.
I found my mind wandering in these silent instants.
I’m talking to Liz who is sitting across from me. We are sitting in a cluttered restaurant that is no bigger than my bedroom. We are both sipping on the sweet, muddy coffee we had become accustomed to in Indonesia. Liz is small but her freckled face shows both passion and strength that seems to overtake her small frame.
We discuss our experiences in the United States and traveling. “In a way our culture is beautiful. From a young age we are taught that almost anything is possible. We are taught to make our dreams big and that they are likely to come true. The American Dream.” Liz and I differ in many ways but with these differences come many moments of insight and clarity.
The stars above me have disappeared and deep reds and blues have taken their place. One star remains on the horizon. A wave of regret floods me as I watch it fade.
She is a tall, thin lady. Her hands are strong and elegant. She does not let the white kitchen she stands in take away from her presence, her posture straight, her clothes simple and her salt and pepper hair neat. I watch her long, graceful fingers as she takes a half spoon full of brown sugar and sprinkles it on a bowl of oatmeal she eventually hands to me. I look down at the bowl. At 9 years old I am not a fan of oatmeal unless the core taste is the brown sugar. The bowl she has presented to me will most definitely taste more like oatmeal than brown sugar. Shyness is also a character of mine at 9 and so I see no other option but to act as though I enjoy every last bite. I am transparent. My Nana looks disappointed. I can feel her disappointment, but I don’t know what else to do. I jump off my stool and leave the room.
She commanded respect.
She earned love.
We sat in her living room, much of the family that she has. This room is filled with books and her collection of rose tinted glass on her shelves, giving a snapshot of her history and beliefs. She sits in her chair closest to the window, the rest of us occupying every other spot there is to sit, some of us standing. She is a quiet woman, but the words she does say are thoughtful and said with feeling. My 14 year old brain is becoming bored and antsy as the adults discuss current affairs and the adventures of my older cousins. My quiet nature allows me to hide and listen, rather than actively participate. At that time I looked at this transparency as a gift.
The last star is gone.
I curse my silence, my meekness. Leaving mainly my observations of her rather than conversations and experiences.
The sky has turned to a different kind of beauty. The reds and purples, and pinks, and blues surround us. Looking down at the mountainside town the feeling of flight was difficult to ignore.
Knowing her has been a priveledge.
My regret turns to celebration.
A celebration of a strong, beautiful, tumultuous, full life.
The sun peaks over the horizon.
Photo taken my Liz Meyer.