“It could be a meeting on the street, or a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing.”
― John O’Donohue
Sitting at the iWash Laundromat, I watch my clothes swishing around in an industrial size washer and am struck by the simple act of water washing away the dirt and grime of this place. Feeling the heat of the day sticking to me like a wet coat, I let out an audible sigh wishing I too could be washed clean. One must always respect the sweltering heat of a desert summer day, if not the heat can cripple even the toughest of souls.
The anticipation has been mounting and I wake up each morning wishing I was anywhere else but here, as if my life is a movie set on pause. Knowing that my travels begins in August, I try to fill my days with the tasks at hand. Planning has always been a strength of mine, to the point of distraction. Now I focus on letting go of all the material things that weigh me down. Everything must go, it is all just so heavy both physically and spiritually.
Only three weeks until I leave for Harvard, my last academic obligation before beginning creative leave in earnest. It is a limbo of the worst sort. My mind is longing for the tranquility of nature and immersion into deeper ideas and I struggle to redirect in doing homework for the course I will be attending. The banality of academic dialogue is more pronounced in this limbo, a bad song playing on repeat over and over. The only true music calling me is aesthetically soothing and filled with the mysteries of the universe.
Watching the clothes spin in the machine, I ponder this place and all that it represents. The dust of the desert is unrelenting, a veritable Grapes of Wrath scenario. I find it in my shoes, my hair and even in bed. I glance up and notice a young couple stopping in with their week of dirty laundry. They too need water to wash the desert out. Even though the heat is oppressive, they smile at one another, make small talk and even seem to enjoy the ritual of the laundromat.
“Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.”
― John O’Donohue
Expanding my perspective, I see an elderly man with skin worn deeply by the heat and poverty of this place. He sits quietly on a bench enjoying the air-conditioned respite before he too must go out once again facing the wall of 1000 suns. The woman behind the counter has a look of resignation, as if to say “Yes, I work at a small-town laundromat and life is not how I expected it to be.” She too has the look of wear and tear with deep wrinkles on her face from years of smoking and a raspy voice to boot. “Can I help you darling?” she asks. “No thank you”, I say wanting to be left alone in my thoughts for at least the spin cycle.
Finishing up my clothes, I load them into my dust covered car and head back to the RV, my temporary sanctuary, parked on my boyfriend’s lot until our voyage commences. The heat is stifling, and the RV air conditioner simply cannot keep up. Spontaneously, I take off my sweaty clothes and decide to use the outside shower to cool down. The heat has a way of letting all inhibitions go and before I even have a chance to think about it, I am outside, stark naked, letting the cool streams of water wash over me. I think about the iWash washing off the desert and feel as if I am in my own laundromat begging to be purified. The water pours over me and a desert breeze gently brushes my skin. In an instant spirit is here, yet another moment of discomfort in which spirit reminds me I am never alone. The breeze dances across me as if to say, “Let it go Lavinia, let it all go. I am with you.” As I finish my shower and wrap myself in large beach towel, I feel a freshness that permeates my very being. Taking a deep breathe, I pause to look up at the sun acknowledging the symbiotic relationship of heat to water. Nature is truly amazing.
Later, my boyfriend lights a bonfire in front of his house. This is something that people do out here in the desert, especially when the coolness of night settles in. Once again, I am struck by the dichotomy of this place. The heat of the day is as repellent as a bad cold, but in the coolness of a desert night, the heat is a welcome visitor warming my legs as I sit mesmerized by the dancing flames. I lean my head back and look at the night sky. The stars flicker like thousands of jewels lighting up the darkness. I catch my breath for a moment stunned by the beauty of this desolate place.
Even in the harshest of environments beauty can be found. I may be riddled with anticipation but must not ignore moments of serenity as they present: the iWash with its plethora of interesting people, the absolute freedom of an outside shower as a breeze dances across my skin and the majesty of a desert night sky canvasing the glowing flames of a bonfire. These all offer moments of serenity in which spirit reminds of the connection to all others in the most beautiful of ways. Limbo will pass, and I will soon be on my way. The desert will stay with me, yet another piece to the universal puzzle of this world. Blessings to this place, the people and even the dirt. You all have been my teacher in the most harmonious and unexpected of ways.