March, 2015: As their hands went over their hearts, the sun came down

For the next few weeks, I'll be reposting highlights from 2015. This post was originally published March, 5th.  
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Our first night in Lima, I went for a walk. I was exhausted and under-caffeinated and I was dying to explore Barannca, where our Bed and Breakfast was located.

I grabbed a coffee and walked west toward the ocean where the sun was starting to set and the local people were taking their seats on blankets, spooning against trees, riding their bicycles around the sharp curves that hugged the bluffs. In the distance, a spattering of islands. An illuminated cross...
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I was alone, and as it so often happens in moments of solo-missionness, everything happened. There must be a word for this -- for moments that happen while wandering or waiting, going left instead of right, ending up somewhere, someplace... 

Like stumbling upon a treasure and having nobody to share it with, but, like... in a good way, because you realize as it's happening that you probably wouldn't have noticed the magic had you had shared it with someone else. Because... that's how these things work. I used to travel alone and that's what it was like -- I would turn to a friend because "DID YOU SEE THAT!? ARE YOU SEEING THIS!?" and realize that I was the friend.

I was the only person I knew on the subway.

Or on the bridge.

Or on the Spanish Steps when all of the people suddenly held hands and sang We Are the World in five different languages.

And so. The stories live on in my journals and blog posts... in the suitcases I refuse to unpack in my heart.

The last time I left North America was 2003. I spent the first five years of my adult life traveling, mainly alone. I had forgotten what that felt like until those brief moments on my walk to get coffee across the street.

There was music playing as I set off to explore. I followed the sound to a party being held down the road...

...When I stood on my toes I could make out the band, their instruments slung across their chests as they sang from the balcony overlooking a makeshift dance floor.

I kept walking...

...toward the trees and a coastline that resembled La Jolla. The sky was beginning to change and the music, though faint, still bumped with a bass it would have been impossible not to walk to.

Bam and step. Boom and step. Bam and step. Boom and step. 

Bikers rode and mamas pushed strollers. Couples held each other from behind, pinned each other against trees to kiss... A woman stood with her face against the sun. Voices hummed quietly. Everything glowed.
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We're all the same, seems to be the takeaway of travel. Even when we're not. Even when lives look so completely different to the ones we have in our worlds, we're all the same. We all marvel at a day's end. We all glow under the fading light. We dance... 

The light was heaven and I made my way down the winding path, past the bougainvillea which blooms in Lima in the most unlikely places, draped around walls and fences, pink and gold just like the sky.

It was on this path that an older couple, arm in arm, caught my eye. They were deep in conversation as they slowly walked, not to the beat of the music but to their own rhythm, left together right together, left together right.

I followed them, of course. When you're alone you get to do that and it doesn't seem weird. You just make it seem you're on a mission... to... the... fence? I mean... the tree? I mean... the... here. I'm going to stand here and pretend I'm invisible...

And I did.  I followed them down through the garden, where tulips grew in patches, and I watched the light change as the sun fell through their hands...

Which were lifted. High above their heads as the sun came down.

And then, the moment the sun disappeared, they pulled their hands from the sky and placed them over their chests. Inhaling the moment, digesting the day, pulling the last bit of light into their hearts.

I tried to remain invisible, although I did manage to get a few pictures. I watched in disbelief. Turned to my... self and said, "THIS."

And my self turned back and said, "DUDE."
It's been three weeks since that evening, and for every sunset seen since, I've thought of them. I've thought of their hands and their hearts and what it feels like to watch a day end. To stand back as the light passes over the horizon, becoming someone else's dawn.
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I think of all those years traveling and how many times, since, I've wanted to crawl back in time and pull at the heels of old adventures. How frustrating it is to get old and to commit to staying put. To standing in one place as the tides taunt us with their breath, in and out and in and out and back and forth and everywhere. But also, how rewarding.

Because for those few minutes, standing behind the couple, I watched the sky become a dozen different versions of itself. I would not have noticed how quickly and how different everything looked had I turned around, crossed the street, climbed down the mountain.

Standing still can be just as adventurous, for the fading light cannot help but change our tones.
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It is perhaps the most poetic time we have in our day, the end of light, the beginning of darkness, the collision of color that occurs between scenes. The magic hour exists in every day -- and it isn't day or night that makes it so but the in between. And everyone gets that to some extent because every day, our reminder is painted across the sky.
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Moments after the sun came down, as the sky slipped out of its blue jeans and into its violet evening gown, the old couple, removing their hands from their hearts, joined arms and turned around.
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"Don't ever forget this," I whispered.

"I won't," I whispered back. 
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