June Ride: A (Happy) Fish Out Of Water
The handsome man with the dark skin and cross-legged-lotus-default-position made no sense at my friend’s kitchen table.
He spoke slowly, moved gently, thought deeply.
He said he was half German, half English, but grew up in South India.
We played backgammon and I couldn’t work him out.
He was like a fish out of water.
(A Happy One)
As autumn blew into that year, the man returned to India.
I flew to Chennai and took a cab south to see him.
After a clashing, kalidascope journey on the mad Mahab Road and an endless dry-mouthed walk through a tangle of dust red tracks, I found myself at a guesthouse.
This was where he lived.
A woman led me through to the dark wooden room where the man was smoking and drinking chai.
“Hey,” he said when he saw me.
He smiled a very long, slow, deliberate smile.
Leaning forward, he rose, unfolded his legs over the coffee table and reached out his arms to pull me in and hug me.
Against the slowness of his energy,
against the pace of the sweltering air,
against the underwater heartbeat rhythm of the people gazing at us,
I felt like an electric eel.
a jumpy cricket,
a flickering, wired mind that had been plugged into some sort of Fast Forward Your Brain Machine.
My rhythm was completely at odds with the place.
I was a fish out of water – a fish charged with electrical speed.
And as bizarre as it was to have had him – a fish out of his own water sitting at a kitchen table in my cultural tank – my BEING a fish out of water in someone else’s cultural tank was far more weird.
Aged 18, I became aware of how oblivious we are to our own immersive culture.
I realised that like fish, we literally can’t detect the water in which we swim.
Only when we have a contrast to our own inherent ways, do we realise how our culture infuses our minds, bodies and souls with an accent that we’re utterly oblivious to.
Last week, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, I had a similar experience.
In this place the pace is slow …
Slow as the lengthened call of a seagull
That rests on the lull of the ocean
As it rolls dice
With the shoreline and tanned hands play backgammon on the beach.
A very beautiful pace.
A pace and a place so present that all time is fulfilled within it.
This time I recognised the energy difference and was able to slow myself down, ease into the waters, be in the space but not of it.
A fish out of my normal water (and a happy one).
Sculling in the slow waters, I was able to reflect on what I’d left in the UK.
I looked back at the whirling, dancing, manic carousel that I’d been pinned to for goodness knows how long.
I considered the deep soul calling for quiet and desire for retreat from the digital world.
In these lapping waters, I was able to see clearly how FAST we are required to be in the mainstream Western culture.
I could see the endless to-do lists, the on-going attempts to multi-task, the pressure to be everything to everyone, to continually stay in contact and be accessible to all and sundry.
This content bobbed like plastic debris, bottles and cylinders, in a polluted sea.
I saw the Facebook feeds displaying lives we aspire to, the sponsored ads that shout about how to have a six figure business, a six packed stomach and a six foot, thin blonde on your arm.
I saw how we are fed fast.
We are living fast.
We are on fast forward.
And this is the water we are swimming in, so we don’t even see it.
I realised that I am now on the brink of slowing this 2016 carousel right down.
It is what I have needed for ages, yet I couldn’t have known how to do it without going to France and visiting The House and The Hill. The whole experience gifted me some wisdom that marks the start of a brand new chapter and life is going to become undoubtedly deeper, richer, vaster and more beautiful because of it.
It’s so funny to think that at the end of this post I was wondering what my next 2016 Carousel Ride would be!
Who would have thought?
From bird, to dragon, to horse, to golden elephant, here is June – a blissful fish out water who believes she may have discovered the secret to happiness.
Have you ever had an experience where you’ve been totally out of your cultural norm?
How did it feel? What did you do? Were there elements of that culture that you wanted to bottle in a jar and take home with you?
Different cultures don’t just exist in other countries. They might be in a different part of you country, in a different region of your region, or even simply around another person’s kitchen table.
What sort of culture would you like to see the children in your life swimming in?