by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
August 11, 2002
SOLITUDE CREATES ROOM FOR COMMUNITY
SAN DIEGO -- One of the most important things caregivers can do is take care of themselves. That is often the hardest for us to do. Taking care of others comes naturally. Taking care of ourselves, now that is a more difficult task.
Sometimes one can do that with even a small journey.
After a particularly brutal week, I headed north for the weekend along the California coast towards Santa Barbara. Not until we came up over the hills and down into Camarrillo did I see the ocean and start to really breathe.
Going north on 101, Oxnard, Ventura, Sunland, Carpenteria, Montecito and finally St. Barbara's, flanked on the left all the way by the Channel Islands: Anacapa, San Miguel, the others. Their presence more constant to me than aunts and uncles, these igneous land masses formed the backdrops to the blue dolphin childhoods lived in them.
Islands, real or imagined, can simply be places where you go to get away and gain the energy to re-engage. Islands can be books, places, people; anything that has the power to renew. Only a few real islands have I visited in my life. Mostly they are luminous places with some mystical connection in my mind: The Marquesas, written about in an elementary school report; Bali; Isla de Mujeres off the Mexican coast; and Peter Pan's Never Never Land figure prominently.
I rediscovered some new islands though this weekend. Islands between the covers of a book called "The Country of the Pointed Firs," by Sarah Orne Jewett. This book has been floating in the oceans of my mind for years since a patient many years ago, Mrs. Moon, a Claremont College professor of literature, introduced me to Sarah Orne Jewett's masterpiece of early American life in a Maine seacoast village.
I'd all but forgotten about Green Island, a place off the coast of Dunnet Landing where the narrator in the novella discovers herself as part of a community. She is no longer an outsider looking in, she finds a sense of belonging to a particular place and people. Going to Shell-heap Island, she discovers another part of herself in solitude and discovers that going to both places has helped her return to her life.
This weekend, I realized I was going to my Green Island and to my Shell-heap Island. We are at once a creatures of community, of tribe and family but also of lonely, wild and windswept places.
I need to sit in a circle with family members and tell stories. The same stories we've told a million times. It doesn't matter; the storytelling is our ritual, our oral tradition, our tribal maps marking places of emergence, hieroglyphics on the walls of our shared memories marking meanning. We remind ourselves around the campfires of the heart who we are in blood and bone. Who we are together gives us strength to go back out and face the wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers of existence.
But I also need to be alone walking in starlight, being quiet enough to hear the crickets hum and enjoy the secret joys of my heart. I need to be that anchorite who lives in the desert on grassphoppers and honey, and that Indian girl who swims with the dolphins off the coast off Santa Barbara.
These public and private inner springs must be attended to, protected and nourished frequently or we will have nothing to give either ourselves or each other.
I return from my islands this weekend with gifts of sea foam, Abalone shell and pennyroyal of the heart. I think I am ready once again to join in the dance.