Chapters, Changes and Nude Beaches
Recommend listening while reading this: "Magnolias" by Tomo Nakayama
Chapter 1: Introduction
This trip to Europe had the makings of a good story: significant hardships contrasted by pure bliss and awe; what some may say is the peak of human experiences. We endured cancelled flights, broken luggage, abandoned luggage, caught twice in pouring rain, and purchased tickets to the wrong evening of Mozart's Opera which was performed in the same concert hall Mozart himself premiered the opera in. We even accidentally went to a secluded nude beach (twice) after a long hike to find this said beach, caught off guard when we arrived greeted by an elderly, tan-gentleman with a smile and all his glory out, unashamed, and seemingly unaware. And this brings me to the setting of our story. It was everything. It set the pace, the energy, the catalyst between relaxation and commotion. And lastly, the additional characters: Miles and Philippa. They deserve an essay of their own filled with words of admiration and gratitude.
If life is a series of chapters, this was one of our best ones. We explored. We got lost. And lost track of time. Dinner occurred when we were hungry, not because it was 6pm. And four times that happened at 10pm. Actually, often we forgot which day it was. As if there was no difference in the pace or responsibility of a day; Mondays became Saturdays as names blended into one.
This is my attempt to capture said chapter. To unpack the emotions; the fragmented sentences; develop the roll of photographs in my head and print them here.
Chapter 2: Görlitz, Germany
The moon light entered first. Then the sound of the guitar. It swam with the cool breeze through our open windows, soaking our room. The curtains swayed. The sounds of shoes across the cobble stone below joined in. And magic was a word I repeated to myself, lying across the bed with a glass of wine, trying my best to take it all in. This was our last night: our final evening in Görlitz, Germany. Prior to ending our visit in the hands of the ever charming Hotel Börse, Michele and I sat against the water fountain in the courtyard watching a guitarist play on the steps of a restaurant. People strolled by, drinks in hand, without much of a purpose. And I wondered if such an evening would have looked the same in a past age.
We began and ended our mornings in this courtyard. Either with coffee or wine. After a good hour of slowly waking up, Michele and I would begin the day walking around the town. We observed. We were quiet. It was quiet. They were quiet. And so we listened. We walked until we found a cafe or butcher shop or bakery or a window selling bratwursts. Then we would find a place to sit, stop, and enjoy whatever was before us. That was how we spent the days: allowing Görlitz to be Görlitz. We followed. And found. That said, I do hope I remember Görlitz the way I experienced it: the way she presented herself to us. It will, in a way, always stay with me. It's one of those places that stopped me in my tracks, clasped my hand and said follow me.
Chapter 3: Menorca, Spain
Our dear friends from London, Miles and Philippa, met us in Menorca, Spain. This might have been the highlight of our trip. And not only because of the beauty Menorca put on display for us. Miles and Philippa epitomize friendship. They exist for the other. Not for what they can get from you. Their love is an action and never selfish. And I always walk away a better man because of them. Well, I could go on. But I won't. I'll probably get emotional and I'm writing this on the plane. Seat 18C watching reality television on her phone would thank me.
So, nude beaches. I now feel grown up. Had you asked me before this trip, I would have said no to visiting such a thing and expressed some level of discomfort. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps that's my sensitive, introverted self a little too much at work. Perhaps it's just not something the cultures and communities I've known all my life take part in. Regardless, I loved it. And by the end of the trip, went looking for more.
The four of us hiked to a beach on our second day together. Hiking to a beach should tell you already it was removed for a reason. We were too far gone in the turquoise water to think about it. Well, you already know how we were greeted. It was a shock as I turned to Michele and whispered "penis" wide eyed. But we had come all that way, so there was no turning back. We pitched the umbrella. We removed minimal clothing. We felt out of place.
There's something beautiful about a lack of shame. Confidence, some people might call it. Being who you are, perhaps. Or just a lack of shame. No one was protecting him or herself from judgement. Likewise, no one was looking for a compliment. There was no flaunting of oneself. No sexuality. It was a level of honesty I have never witnessed. And it was contagious. It got me. I fell in love with this version of humanity, both overweight and supermodel together: free. There's also something beautiful in the freedom in accepting one’s own naked self; more so than the self one may manufacture for others to find beautiful, acceptable, or worthy of attention. Regarding a nude beach, I haven't quite got there yet, but I've started. Swimming naked with my wife was something I'll never forget. We were like kids. We swam and laughed and enjoyed the cold Mediterranean Sea. We were alive for a moment; intertwined in the essence of shameless play.
Chapter 4: What I learned
We're making something of ourselves. Beyond the routine of reaching the end of a comfortable life with minimal pain. We're trying, at least. I guess it started with following the heart: falling in love, establishing our home (that is, our dog, Hank), and learning how to enjoy the many versions of ourselves we each have. It has grown since; especially through our many travels together. Even when we didn't enjoy a certain city or was scammed $50 by a taxi driver in Rome. Our travels have brought us closer. They've expanded, destroyed, and wrecked our world views. They've done a number on one another and always left us changed.
Here's something I learned: we're building a life of stories and memories to pass down to our children. We want them to live life, not waste it. One spent chasing their hearts; knowing their own inner being well enough to serve it well. My hope is we're living the lives we want our children to live. We want laughter. We want curiosity. We want adventure. We want love, art, instruments played poorly, conversations on rooftops, late night drinks on the kitchen floor, and friendships we hold onto; closer friends than money, an imperfect family allowed to be an imperfect family.