Mountains and Cathedrals
The other morning I sat on the balcony of our Airbnb rental drinking coffee with an insane amount of cream and sugar, sopping up the orangest of egg yolks with my very American bagel, and taking in the red roofs of a still sleepy city. Suddenly, the stressors of the past year and a half came to mind in a stark contrast to the moment.
The residual effects momentarily made my chest grow tight. I took a deep breath and felt the relief the past week has provided. We needed this break away from the never ending time warp and blur that we experienced as the mandates of our pandemic world wrecked our routines and slowly eroded our mental and emotional fortitude.
I don’t know whether we ran from the strain or toward renewal, maybe both.
Either way, we breathe differently right now.
My youngest talks again. The thoughts, ideas, and stories rush from her lips and her step has regained a bounce. She laughs and plays with our friends’ younger children without reserve. She races us up the apartment steps, and she beams as monkeys steal french fries from our table at the zoo. She is transformed from the quiet girl who lived constantly choked by the stress of hundreds (literally…don’t get me started) of online assignments into the vibrant, funny, and free fireball we used to know.
Our middle child thinks deeply about the meaning of life and relationships with her feet up on the balcony and the breeze of a foreign country kissing her cheeks as she reads in the open air. She talks about music and dances on the large tiles of the living room without an audience, comparison, nor the opinions of others. Her fingers linger over the fabrics and textures of the artisans’ shops, and she relishes the simple rhythms of vendors calling out offers for their wares. She embraces the beauty as it fills her lungs and her heart, and it shows in her easy smile and thoughtful expression.
Our eldest works out in a new gym. Instead of lifting dumbbells and bench pressing bars, he raises a two-year-old to his height, climbs the stairs on a mountainside, and pushes up against the peaks. The decisions of the future fade for a week or two while he makes a toddler laugh, poses for photos with those fascinated by his size, or eats almuerzo near a plaza. He struts and beams in a blazing blue patterned poncho as he passes the high arched doors and iron lined balconies. The edge of manhood waits as he inhales the life this old city offers.
I have had my breath taken away again and again, sometimes from the lack of oxygen in the Andes and others from the intense beauty of the vista of an overlook or the ornate and intricate design of a cathedral altar. And although I wonder at the beauty of it all, the most joyful views come in watching my children reconnect with who they are as they experience the world from a new altitude.