We leaned against the chrome railing overlooking the beach and watched dozens of surfers wobbling to their feet, toppling over, shooting boards at each other through the foam. The waves looked nice again, as they had in the morning, but just the sight of the bright ocean puckered my sunburned eyes and lips. My left knee ached and whined when I moved, and I realized that I was all surfed out. No afternoon session today.
I turned my thoughts to the cozy yoga cafe I found while taking an unusual route to the beach. Like everyday, I thought of writing. My blog is waaaay behind (still back in Ireland), and that article I’ve been working on for months is a jumble of inconsistent paragraphs copied from my journal. My reward for finishing the article was supposed to be a surfboard…but I already bought the surfboard. Not that I’ve lacked inspiration, just focus.
Finally I’ve found a place to nestle in a bit. A hostel near the surfing beach in Las Palmas, Gran Canary. Instant friends, dancing, surfing, running on the beach, all I’ve been wanting. I stay and play while I search and wait for a boat to carry me back across the Atlantic. But writing, or creativity in general, is one of those sensitive creatures that requires all of your calm patience and attention when you sit with it. Otherwise, dejected, it will silently close up and slip away.
I’ve made attempts to sit, to block out the noises of the 40 other people in this hostel, and dive in deep. But deep is tough when there are light, airy buoys tugging you up and up. ‘An afternoon surf perhaps? Thursday is Tapas night. Are you going to Salsa?” Maybe I should walk to the marina. I can hear my friends talking in the kitchen. Someone is asking about my day. ” You have to go to the Womad festival!”
Not a bad problem to have, of course, too much fun and love, especially for a cold, lonely traveler. I’ve surrendered to it, a lot…got all filled up…then overflowed and retreated. Oh, elusive balance!
So I made a firm decision today. No afternoon surf. No afternoon anything, just cafe and write. And how excited I was to have found a cafe. I’ve been trying to write in the chill-out room of the hostel, or the roof terrace, but inevitably some other guest who has much less free time in their life and no qualms about enjoying it (understandably), comes to have their social time or cigarette, and pulls me up once again.
“Oh, what are you doing?”
“That’s cool, what are you writing?”
(Well, nothing anymore…but I appreciate your interest.)
The homey wooden tables and benches of the cafe were first to catch my eye, followed by the bejeweled hanging lights, and the mural of vibrant fruit on the wall. Then the yoga posters, and finally the gluten free brownies. A yoga cafe! I’ve been here two whole weeks…I just found the eco grocery store two days ago. Surfing really does take it all, leaving you with just enough energy to eat and sleep, but barely.
As with every shop in Spain, the cafe would close for two hours at five, said the intriguing barista with wavy black hair and a septum piercing. She regarded me and my Spanish requests with a compassionate, attentive humor. Gotta love them yoga people. I decided to wait for the gluten free brownie and order a Matcha Latte with soy milk. I could see myself coming here often and wouldn’t want to use up all my treats at once.
I’d never tried Matcha. I’ve heard it’s some sort of green-tea concentrate superfood totally in fashion now. I imagined inspiration springing out of me like a bean sprout from under my loamy surf washed brain.
I set up all my electronics to pump out the next chronological installment of the blog, Valli’s House. Propped the IPad against the silverware bucket to maintain good posture, popped headphones into my tiny ears, opened the document with transcribed journal notes, set the cursor, and started to type…nothing. I checked my settings, another program, and then pressed some random power buttons on the Bluetooth keyboard. A white light next to the connection key blinked on and then faded, like Tinkerbell in the broadway version of Peter Pan, slowly dying. Two year battery life my ass. Thanks Best Buy. But then again, the fine print probably sets a daily usage limit…yeah, that’s it, I just write so much!
My latte came. Hot sugary soy milk, mmmm, and a nearly imperceptible sprinkle of green Matcha powder resting in the foam on top. I tasted a couple of bitter bites, but mostly just milk. I’ll call it a soy steamer, actually, and not my first Matcha experience. But in my perpetual search for the perfect post-surf-exhaustion food, sweet steamed milk now ranks near the top. I downed it in a few gulps and came up with a new plan to make this cafe trip productive.
Last night I walked from the Marina (where I was meeting other crew looking for boats), to the old part of Las Palmas, for Tapas night. I hadn’t tried tapas yet, and a few of the crew were heading that way with the intention of catching Captains in “social mode” and talking boats. I had the intention of eating tapas and going home to sleep, as I’m more of a “correspondence over writing than over beer” kind of girl.
I fell in stride with blond Scottish man named Mike and we talked about our plans. Unlike the dozens of other hitchhiking crew, he is headed to Africa, not the Caribbean. He would like to do some fact-finding to decide if he’ll try to build a theatre/dance-training center in Sierra Leon. It followed that he is a dancer, musician, writer as well. We talked about it all, but finally about writing. He kept a blog during his first trip to Sierra Leon.
“What did you use to write it?” I asked
“Internet Cafes,” he said. I blushed under my skin thinking of all the electrical gadgets I lug around. “I would just write it in my journal and then type it up at a cafe.” That sounded so nice, I thought. Looking at a piece of paper that is not buzzing with light and electricity, moving your hand in swooping strokes, sitting on a beach, in a hammock, where ever. As we walked I envisioned the perfect little journal I might buy to scratch down first-drafts. Like I need another book.
With my keyboard out of power, I was tempted to just dive back on line and peruse more boats…internet dating of the sea. But I was here to write. So I pushed aside my empty mug, packed up my keyboard, and took out the paper-clipped pages of article notes. I would write an outline, with a pen, on paper. I dug in my bag for my pen, and dug some more…nowhere. Not a pen to be had. What gives? Change plans yet again…not supposed to work on the article either I guess.
Scottish Mike and I had also talked about meditation, and our respective styles. He spoke of striving for enlightenment, when it’s actually just all around, available for us all the time. I interpreted this as relaxing the push, especially against the grain. I asked the attentive barista for a pen, explaining my ironic situation. She asked if I might like a more special pen, as she is very particular when she journals. No thank you, I actually like the simple ball-point Bics and how they write. So I settled back to my notebook and the last 20 minutes before closing, well, siesta. A weak attempt at an article outline, and some personal journaling, then I paid and walked back to the hostel.
I hadn’t even turned on my music, though I sat with blue wires slung from my ears. I stopped my finger hovered over an album selection, realizing that music from home is great for homesickness, but not great for integration. Listening to Bob Dylan in a cafe in Spain feels like an odd contrast. The delicious, new, foreign songs that call out from cars and bars completes the experience as much as speaking the language. And I am not homesick so much, but in some suspended version of home.
And here I sit, isolated in my bunk room, determined to write something today, to push myself just a little, feel accomplished, centered. I’m hoping it’s like getting back into exercise after the holidays. Today is slow, more for show, just to try on the new shoes and leggings, to assess my fitness and my ability to focus when I put myself in the right, committed situation. To determine what kind of routine and discipline I actually need.
I just know that surfing, traveling, and writing can be the perfect marriage…the perfect three-party union (is that legal yet?) I want it to be so bad. I just know I can make it happen.