Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries: Bliss

As many of you may recall, Dan and I have each been chosen to be sling diarists for the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume V: All the Love. This is the fifth of six posts that I will be sharing here on the blog (you can find my first post heresecond post herethird post here, and fourth post here), and Dan will be sharing his over on Instagram a little later on. (You can find his past posts by searching #danslingdiary over on Instagram.) Today's post is all about the theme of bliss. I can't believe it's my next to last one! Where has the time gone?! Thank you all, new readers and old alike, for following along on this fun journey with us. 

My sweet little Oswin,

As I sit here, drinking my coffee while you nap, I think back to all the things that your Papa and I have done over the last five years of living along the French-Swiss border, the area that as you know, we like to affectionately call SwitzerFrance. And what stands out to me about this month's theme of bliss, is that my most blissful moments while living here have been the ones that were a bit left of center. The everyday, the seemingly mundane, or the times where things went seemingly wrong, and yet we were able to make things happen, despite consequences or circumstances. Europe has been good to us, but living on one paycheck means that you sometimes have to get creative when it comes to living and traveling just outside of one of the most expensive countries in the world, Switzerland.

Oswin, before you were born, Mama and Papa didn't have a car. Well, that's not entirely true, but it took us almost three years to be able to afford one. That can get tricky when you live at the foot of a mountain. When you get older we will tell you stories of when we used to walk uphill, both ways, 2 miles in each direction, in the snow, just to get baguettes, milk and eggs, and it will be completely true. We will tell you of the time Mama rode her bike 11 miles to bring home a large potted fig tree in her bike basket. We will tell you of our first year in SwitzerFrance, the year that Papa carried our Christmas tree on his shoulder well over a mile in the freezing cold. And the large slices of lumber that he carried home on his shoulder from the aforementioned 2 mile uphill each way in the snow walk, just to make us a Christmas tree stand, using a really cheap saw. There are so many stories like this Oswin, of a time before you were born, of a time before we had four wheels and a clutch. And though these stories may seem silly to some, they bring me so much joy and nostalgia. We were propelled by our ideas, and didn't want to miss out on life because we couldn't yet afford a car.

The truth of the matter is that we loved those walks, and those bike rides. Not everyone has to (or gets to, as I often told myself back then) walk 4 miles for food: to be in the fresh air, to have that connection to what they're eating by bringing it back through (sometimes) blood, (always) sweat, and (sometimes) tears. And though it might have been easier to borrow someone's car to drive to the Christmas tree market, and buy a pre-made stand for that tree, it was a lovely, albeit cold, walk back to our house. The stars were out, we could see our breath as we walked and talked, and when we came home we put on Christmas movies, poured ourselves glasses of wine, and proceeded to make our own salt dough ornaments (in case you're wondering, that explains our Star Wars and yoga businessman ornaments, as those were the only cookie cutters we had). We found our bliss by taking chances, and making things happen, even if it was difficult at times.

Now I know that living that life at this point in time isn't feasible, at least not everyday. But you and I, we do that shopping trip every once in awhile. It's nice, it's quiet, it's empowering, it's exhausting, and it reminds me of a time when we could take 3 hours and 4 miles to pick up our daily bread. But more often than not, we go for a hike on the mountain behind us, look for birds, check out trees and wild shrubs. Sometimes we go a little further away to do that, like on the day we took these pictures while hiking on Mont Blanc, in Chamonix, France. We had an unexpected glitch on that day's plans: you were apparently too young to take the telepherique up to a higher point on the mountain, called Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi (2317 m.). We could have hiked with you up to that point, but we started too late, and we'd lose the race against the sun. So instead we spent a little time hiking, and then, for the first time ever, walked around the city. We had an amazing day, both unexpected and exploratory. Who knew there was more to do in Chamonix besides hiking? Not this family, apparently. We strolled the streets, sat at a cafe and had some frites, you made friends with everyone who happened to look in your direction, and I swooned at all the shop windows. Sometimes it's the unexpected glitches that give us our most memorable and blissful days, and this was one that I won't ever forget.

But everyday bliss isn't just about making lemonade out of lemons, it's about who you're drinking the lemonade with. When you're with the people you love most in the world, even the most mundane acts, or the unplanned glitches, can turn into moments of pure gold. One of my favorite memories of living abroad has been when Papa and I road tripped to Pisa, Italy for a physics workshop. It was January, and like all of our road trips to Italy, we would have to go through the Mont Blanc tunnel. As we approached the line to go through the tunnel, we were told there was an avalanche warning, and that we would have to wait until the officials gave the all clear to continue forward. We were stranded, with a whole lot of angry skiers, in our cars, in a whole lot of snow. So what did we do? We had an avalanche picnic! Baguettes, cheese dip, berries and espressso in a thermos, while listening to the radio and occasionally getting out of the car to stretch our legs and throw the occasional snow ball at each other. Yes it slowed up our travel plans. Yes it was a little scary. Yes it was really early in the morning and cold, but because I was with my bestie, your Papa, I couldn't care less. A glitch in our plans turned into a fun hour of hanging out and appreciating not only the majestic scope that is Mont Blanc and the French Alps, but also appreciating the fierceness that is Mother Nature.

The avalanche warning wasn't the only glitch in our plans for that ten day trip. There was a small earthquake while we were in Pisa. There was an Italian train strike, which forced us to cancel our Florence portion of the trip. This was a bummer, but it led us to actually signing up to go to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which we wouldn't have had the opportunity to do otherwise. It also forced me out of my comfort zone to take one of the last trains before the strike formally began to Lucca, a small medieval town about 45 minutes away, to explore solo. There was also a freak blizzard that hit the Mediterranean while we were heading to our last stop on the trip, a monastery turned spa in Monchiero Alto, where we somehow made it through a foot of snow with our old-and-lacking-snow-tires-or-chains-car. We were snowed in and forced to spend an extra night. (That was a great glitch.) What I'm trying to say, Oswin, is that the bumps are what make life interesting, and that trip, that ten days of all plans falling through and drinking a whole lot of lemonade (or in this case, Limoncino), turned into one of the most memorable, most blissful trips/times/ten day periods of my life. That will always remain one of the greatest times I've ever had, ever. There were scary moments, there were uncomfortable moments, there were moments when we just looked at each other and said "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!" And it was the best. Road trip bliss, with my best friend in the whole wide world. Plans are meant to fall through, and the true test is what you do with that adventure as a result. We found the bliss in our logistical disaster, and we did it together.

I hope that you learn to turn the glitches into gold my dear. Because life is what you make of it, and if you make it blissful, it will be. Every moment won't be bliss, but if we keep trying, we can find the fun in most things. Food shopping without a car, carrying Christmas trees over a mile along a mountain, making the best of a freak blizzard or train strike: all have bliss hidden in those moments if you choose to see them. Find the happiness in the bumps in the road or the avalanche warnings, whichever the case may be. Appreciate all that your body can do, everyday. Appreciate the food you're putting into your body for fuel. Appreciate your health, which I can't stress enough. The mere fact of waking up and finding that you are healthy is bliss enough in itself to make the day go well, please don't ever forget that. Find the happiness in every act, because it's there, it really is. Even in walking four miles uphill both ways in the snow for groceries. You just have to look hard enough. And I hope that one day you'll find a partner in crime to appreciate those moments with. But just know that Papa and I will always be here to have an avalanche picnic with you, whenever you want, all you have to do is ask.

We'll even bring the lemonade.



Sling pictured: Essential Silk Sling in Shadow Tart, by Sakura Bloom