I returned from a trip to my childhood home- to a country, I discovered, which had marked me indelibly. I am still assessing the effects.
I had forgotten so much: how the color of the water in the rivers is like strong black coffee; how the very air comforts you, holding you in its warm moist embrace, clinging and mingling with your sweat until your skin seems to dissolve; how the rain comes when it promises, in large warm drops compelling you to push your face skywards in sheer pleasure; then, how the sun and air reclaim the moisture from the clothing pasted to your body -and suddenly you are dry.
I had forgotten the particular brand of Guyanese hospitality “Oh, you’re a friend of Frankie’s, come in, Darlin’, eat something, drink!” and the contagious talent for enjoying that very moment, each moment.
My eyes did not remember the impossible colors of country-houses, stitched together by the deepest greens of the rice fields and flowering bushes; the hand-sized butterflies so blue that you question your perceptions; the luminous miracle of the night-blooming water-lilies.
I had forgotten the audacious kiskadees – wings at the ready and little yellow heads bobbing, waiting to kidnap any unattended fruit from your plate; the night-long sawing of the beetles; the rain-song of the frogs; the joy of coaxing the manatee to the pond’s surface with clumps of grass and watching her nostrils plug and eyes squint as she slowly disappears below the surface with her feast.
I did not know how much I had forgotten!
I had been so dedicated to adapting, to becoming local to wherever I was living, that I had forgotten how deeply imprinted I am by Guyana, my childhood home.
After we suddenly left the country, I kept my heart-break at arm’s length. But who could have guessed at the unlikely healing of an unrecognized sorrow when silently propelling a kayak through a tunnel of trees amid mangroves teeming with life energy, in dark waters punctuated by flashing hints of the life below?….
What is a heart to do, but wake up when it is called?