I have been asking for Nudges. Gentle Nudges, to be specific.
As my time in the US comes to an end - for now - I have been feeling a tiny bit of anxiety about returning to the intensity of living in Mexico. My house is not completely finished, the summer heat and the monsoon rain are still in full swing, parked cars are sliding into the ocean, and then last week an earthquake to top it off.
Meanwhile here, the weather is silly perfect. And life is soothingly calm and predictable which, I remind myself, is one of the reasons I have felt the pull to leave.
Anyhoo. Nudges. Gentle Nudges. Por favor.
In my mind, I imagined the weather turning dark gray and drizzly, making walks unpleasant and keeping me stuck in a slowly vanishing home. Something like that. Because hey, sometimes I try to be the pilot and the co-pilot. So I humbly ask for Nudges and then I describe how they should look. Silly me.
But also, to my credit, I am pretty good at catching The Nudges when they come my way.
In the last ten days or so, pretty much since the day I asked, I have received three.
The first two were clear and fun and I thought I would eventually write about them, but then came The Third Nudge and really, this is the one whose story must be told.
I had decided to treat myself to one more Seattle day. I wanted to buy some Indian tea at The Market and also pick up a couple of tiny bottles of fragrant oils at the special Tibetan store I like. The weather was once again perfect and the drive was soooo lovely, Spanish music and fresh air swirling in and out of the car, I was fully intent on harvesting every speck of pleasure the day was promising to offer.
Once in Seattle, I left my car in one of the fancy parking lots, trying to ignore that it was going to cost me two of my Mexico daily food budget. Then I stepped into the afternoon, filled to the rim with gratitude. I stopped at the Greek vendor and bought a little lunch, sat down at a turquoise metal table to savor it. Then walked some more, talked with a couple of people along the way, ducked in and out of shops, taking it all in.
As often in the last few weeks, I was feeling the lethal "need-to-compare." This stuff is bad because it takes us out of the moment and instead puts us in the this-or-that mode. Which often, is a terrible trap. Can I both be high on the lush jungle road that leads to my house over there AND be so in love with this Market and its international vibe?
Well yes, I can. And I am.
Pike Place Market is where I fell in love with the PNW decades ago. A long-ago boy had been smart enough to take me there one winter night as I was visiting him from Chicago. The air was gently cold and the vendors, with their rows of shiny tomatoes, flying fish, and friendly banter spoke of France to my DNA. That night we bought fresh pasta, a hunk of cheese, and some dessert, and before the water was even boiling I knew I was going to move here. Like I said: smart boy.
All these years later, even as most of the city's vibe has been affected by the pandemic, The Market remains one of my happy places and I am so grateful to have helped myself to its magic many times this summer.
Moving slowly, I made my way to the underground wooden-floored Tibetan store and bought my tiny treasures, then continued strolling until I reached the famous Market Spice. There I bought a few teas to take with me, and just before handing out my debit card, picked up one of the delicious-looking apple bars that were sitting by the counter.
Back in the street, I made a right turn at the De Laurenti Italian deli and munching on the apple bar, walked a few blocks south, taking it all in. Soon it would be time to get in my car for the drive back to the island.
That apple bar was something else. Like a thick square of dense chewy apple pie with pieces of granny smith hugging buttery oats. Dreamy.
It was also gone too fast, and I wanted a little more. Since I had declared a pleasure day, I turned around to go buy another apple bar for the road.
But as I was about to pay for the second piece of yumminess ... I could not find my wallet.
I stepped outside to sit on a bench and go through my whole backpack and its many pockets but nope... the little tiny grass braided wallet I had been carrying for months, the one that my friend Olga had made back in Mexico was gone.
Woa. This was NOT fun. This was not at all a good thing. Pretty soon I was making a mental inventory of the contents of the wallet and I concluded that while thank goodness some important papers (such as my residency card) were not in there, there was enough stuff that it could take me hours to make the calls needed to fix things. Not to mention how the heck was I going to get my car out of the fancy parking lot with no ticket and no card? This was not good.
Also, for anyone who has spent time in this area, you may agree with me that the chances of getting my wallet back were purty darn slim.
And meanwhile, because I do what I do, I was having a conversation with Life, god, myself, whatever we want to call it.
Me: "What the heck is this?"
Life: "You're okay. We've got this."
Me: "But whyyyyyy? This has been such a great day. I really don't see whyyyyy."
Life: "Because sometimes, you need a boost of faith."
Then radio silence.
Back to the spice shop, Max who has sold me my first apple bar kindly offers to talk to Lost and Found. I give her my phone number and decide to retrace my steps with my eyes glued to the sidewalk.
I walk the two and a half blocks I had walked minutes before. Maybe, just maybe I would find my sweet little wallet on the ground. Seemed like a very slim chance since I had not stopped anywhere, but I needed to at least try.
Reaching the end of where I had walked, all that was left to do was to turn around, find my car and invent a way to get it out of the parking lot.
Halfway through the block, still looking down and feeling pretty bummed, a store catches my eye. My heart, really. The door is open and the walls are painted in rich hues of deep orange, magenta, and lime. Everywhere, pieces of Mexican art. The name of the store is painted outside: Milagros Mexican Folkart. Milagros means miracles and "Milagros" are small religious charms, often beautiful.
You don't say.
Without deciding, I find myself in the middle of the store. I find myself held by the colors, the ... whatever that thing is that is just right in my soul. I feel as though I got teleported. And then, senselessly, I ask the man behind the counter if he has found my wallet, fully expecting him to say no - and look surprised since I have not been in his store before.
That's when he turns around, reaches behind - and holds out my little grass wallet.
"Someone just brought it in," he says.
Tears coming up, I try to thank him. I try to explain it all to him. The Nudges, the parking lot, my friend Olga. It makes no sense and I know it makes no sense. But also, I think he catches some kind of sense because he is smiling really, really big.
Back in the street, I am shaken up. I don't even really wonder how the Mexican Wallet found its way home to the Mexican Miracles Store.
The radio silence is suddenly broken by a cosmic smile. "See?" it says.
I am really affected, trying to take it all in. I walk back to the spice shop to tell them the story. Max gives me a generous discount on my new apple bar.
As my friend tells me on the phone from Mexico a few minutes later, this is not really a Gentle Nudge, this is "a push to get your booty back here."
Mexican Miracles, indeed.
In a world of Googlable everything, I love that there are still things we can't explain. Mysteries. Sacredness.
In the last couple of months, my son has been sending me photos of miracle places in Greece where he is studying. Monasteries carved out of rocks where men still live and learn and from where - I am making up - they beam down swirly puffs of peace to us down below. Breathtaking places. I love that they exist on the same planet as traffic lights and drugstores and ferry rides. I love that we can't explain them all the way, too.
And I love that magic and sacredness also live in our everyday lives.
Many years ago, in my era of young children and not a lot of money, I was blessed with the presence in my life of a fairy godmother. She calls herself My Jewish Mother, even though she is not at all Jewish, just incredibly caring and generous. She saved my butt more than once in those years and I am lucky enough to get to still hug her regularly, although not often enough.
For a while, the while when it mattered the most, she and I were neighbors. She was my safety net, my security blanket. When my flowery VW Bug died a not-so-early death, she lent me money to buy a Subaru.
I cherish the memory of the winter night when we were about to run out of wood for the stove and all of us had the flu. Laying on the living room floor under blankets (darn it's hard to take care of little ones when we are sick ourselves) I saw her maneuver a wheelbarrow full of logs right by our glass door and stack the logs as close as she could get them to the inside of the house, so I would just have to reach to keep the fire burning. Her snow hat, her gloves, and her quietness warmed more than the house, and still do twenty years later.
One of the ways that she and her husband lavished love on my little brood was by showing up at Christmas time and stacking mountains of festive presents under the tree. A tree which I think she bought more than once.
It is during one of these Christmases that she brought over The Big Roll of White Paper.
The Big Roll of White Paper was just that. Feet and feet of blank invitation ready to be doodled on, painted on, made into banners, or whatever grabbed the muse that day. It was the perfect complement to our overflowing stash of markers, pencils, stickers, and imagination. Because it was so big and because it felt as though we could never use it all, we never skimped on it and used it freely.
For years, as we moved from one sweet home to the next, The Big Roll of White Paper came with us.
Eventually, the kids grew up, found other things to do and other places to do them, and when I opened The Center for Happiness, The Big Roll of White Paper climbed up the 55 steps with me and took up residence in the Ballroom.
There its job was to provide a place for many more kids to doodle, for new big colorful banners to be made and also to cover the many inches of the Center's many tables for many art classes.
And that's when, in the early days of the Center's nine years, while I was once more covering the tables and not skimping on the paper, I first noticed that something funny was going on.
The Big Roll of White Paper was not shrinking. In fact, I don't know that it had at all in the past ten years.
How was that possible? I tried to think. Had it started way bigger than I remembered? No ... it couldn't have because it was still quite heavy and the kids would not have been able to carry it around. Was it a new roll of paper? No. Just the one. Was it ... what the heck was it?
So I kept an eye on it. Continued using it freely, letting kids pull out lengths of white goodness on which to spill their creativity, covering more tables.
I could not see it shrink.
When we moved out of the Ballroom, in August 2020, I took The Big Roll of White Paper back to my home, and there it sat, looking pretty much as it had under the tree that Christmas long ago, when it had become part of our family, part of our story.
I stopped trying to understand, I stopped trying to look at it from the corner of my eye to somehow "catch it," I just thanked it.
Two days ago, a young friend of mine was in need of distraction while her mama was receiving a life-changing surgery. I walked to the garage and invited The Big Roll of White Paper to come play and share some of its well-honed magic. I made a pot of tea for the little girl, her grandma, and myself. As all three of us women sipped and talked and waited, a colorful Welcome Home Mom Banner was created from the smooth, still brand new-looking paper. Of course, I shared with them the story of The Big Roll of White Paper and loved being reminded once more of its generosity, its seemingly never-ending abundance.
Then a few hours later, because Life likes a really good timeline, colorful markers put away, and closer to receiving the phone call that would let us know that all had gone well with the surgery, I left them to go have lunch with My Jewish Mother. As we sat across plates of Mexican food, I told her of the events of the morning, and I told her of The Big Roll of White Paper. The one she had placed under a Christmas tree more than twenty years before, looking pretty much the same as it had today. Our hearts touched across the table and even though neither one of us looks as we did back then, our love for each other has not changed, has not shrunk.
Some things we cannot explain, we cannot Google, we cannot "catch."
We just get to say thank you.
In the next few days I will carry The Big White Roll of paper to my tiny storage space where I know it will wait for me until I return.
It has been the sweetest summer of togetherness in the sweetest little home.
It has been a summer of love and also a summer of goodbyes - for now.
Little by little, the beloved birds have flown to new nests. Yesterday I took the last one to the airport - for now.
And here I am.￼ Meals are going to be different.