It may seem like we simply spin round and round in crazy circles, going nowhere in particular. But I really think that we are in fact, spiraling ever up or down, so that it may seem like we keep coming back to where we started, senselessly, when in fact we are moving along a stream through time and space, dancing upon a spot of earth, flying through moving air, gliding through blue water, and always, endlessly, blessedly, moving.
Tonight, a small story about a girl I know, named Mellissa. She was born with a pure, beautiful soul, a spirit light as fairy’s wings, and a heart as wide as the Pacific. She came to this life with many gifts, one of the most prominent being the gift of music. Music is like breath to Mellissa, it flows in and out of her in the most natural way. All of her life she has been singing, and giving her songs out to the rest of us who are lucky enough to be able to hear them. Mellissa blesses the world through her songs, and the world is more beautiful because of her.
Mellissa is 18 years old; petite, dark-haired, green-gold eyed, fair-skinned, with a bright smile, sparkling eyes and friendly demeanor; nearly everyone likes her immediately. She was born and raised in the USA, lived in several states and cities over the years, finished school and decided she wanted to take a year in between high school and college to go abroad. So she worked hard at the little local cafe in her small town her senior year, cancelled her mobile phone and sold her car, so that she could put away all the money she earned in order to go to Europe. By the time she was ready to leave in September, she had a few thousand dollars saved to see her through the next six months. She convinced her good friend Sidney, another musical, ukulele playing girl with uncertain plans after graduating from their same high school class that spring, to come along on their European adventure.
Last September, armed with their ukuleles, heavy backpacks, newly issued passports and enough money to get by for a while, they boarded a plane from JFK airport in NYC, to Rome. From the end of September until mid December, they worked at organic farms in Italy, travelled around singing and playing their ukuleles, while meeting all sorts of interesting humans from all over Europe and the world. They learned many new songs, taught a few to their new friends, picked saffron, stayed at hostels both nice and not nice, met some unkind Americans, (and also some nice ones) several sweet and funny native English speakers from England and Australia, went dancing, walked for many kilometers all around Rome and Venice, took it all in, breathed in the culture and history and tasted the flavors of that romantic land.
In mid-December they travelled to Denmark, to spend the Christmas holidays with me and my husband. (Mellissa is my eldest daughter, by the way.) In Denmark they mostly rested, ate a lot and drank a lot of tea and coffee, experienced a Danish Yule tree, real candles and all, and got to see thousands of fireworks exploding all over the city of Silkeborg on New Year’s Eve, an unforgettable experience for us Americans. When the New Year came, those hardy travellers strapped on their backpacks, kissed us goodbye and travelled down to Northern Spain, to work and stay at a hostel in Santiago del Compostela for a month. Then they went down to Barcelona to see what it was like. In late February they parted ways; Sidney returned to Rome to catch a flight back home, while Mellissa decided to stay on in Spain a while longer. Another friend would soon be coming, she explained through email, in the meantime she would travel to Madrid to wait for him.
By this time, Mellissa has used nearly all her money. Her shoes, those hardy doc Martins that seemed likely to last forever, have mysteriously become too small and are nearly worn out from all the working and walking over the past five months. Her clothes have holes and rips and no longer quite fit her. Has she grown, I ask her on Skype. Why would her shoes no longer fit her, and her clothes? She laughs,’ well I really don’t know the answer to that, Mom, I only know I feel different.’
I feel different. I’ll say. To be an 18 year old girl, away from your home, family, and everything familiar and travel thousands of miles across the ocean to another continent and culture, surrendering to complete homelessness and rootlessness, behaving like wandering minstrels for months on end, is an education in living that cannot be found any other way. Mellissa and Sidney have shown such a degree of courage, resilience, determination and good humor throughout their adventures, that makes me admire them very much.
In one of her recent emails, Mellissa writes,
Tim and Darwin (the dog) and I spent the day at the beach on Friday. It was unbelievably beautiful. I just danced around in my t-shirt and dress and played ukulele and basked in the sunshine. It was really wonderful.
a few days later,
Yesterday I made it into Madrid. Found my hostel, took a cold shower, found some food and made my way around the neighborhood to find a nice spot to have a little picnic. I walked towards some tree tops, and ended up in a beautiful plaza where the Rena Sophia art museum was! After my lunch, I played a bit of uke, and within minutes, several young girls ran over to me and started speaking to me really quickly in spanish. It was great fun, trying to communicate in what little spanish I know and what little english they knew. haha. But one girl was particularly intrigued, and I taught her a couple of chords. She must be about the same age I was when I first got my uke! Music is a wonderful thing, really, really wonderful.
Music, the great equalizer, and friendship builder. As my daughter has found out on her European adventure, when all other attempts at communication fail, you still have music, a song to share, a smile, a laugh. What is the lyric to that old song? Smile, and the world smiles with you. Sing, and the world welcomes you. Laugh, and you have made a friend.
The spiral dance continues. The crocuses are coming up now. The summer birds are returning. Keep singing, the world needs your song.