I went back to see BraSibi again two days after our first visit, which also happened to be Christmas Day (a holiday I was confident BraSibi would not be observing). The night before, on Christmas Eve, I had gone to a local group’s drum and dance performance at Big Milly’s, the old guesthouse, and I had stayed out way, way too late afterwards because, well, as much as I had kept to myself during this writing retreat… it is impossible to not make friends in Ghana. (The show itself was pretty fabulous – I was especially impressed by the acrobatic and contortion portion, during which I witnessed a few young men doing very advanced yoga postures – but while also balancing atop another man’s head!) Now the physical exhaustion I felt from staying up ridiculously late was added to an emotional exhaustion that lingered in the wake of all the intense crying I had been doing after my first visit with BraSibi, and since it seemed he had been the key to unlocking my emotions here, I was steeling myself for another potent experience.
But in this second visit, it seemed our emotions had already been spent and settled, the shock of seeing each other having passed; and, having already communed over the past we both knew, we did not dwell on it now. I found myself able, now, to share with BraSibi all the things I had wanted to say upon first meeting with him – the assurances I had wanted to give him that I was ok, that my life was good – but that I had not been able to express due to the rising tide of emotion keeping me from speaking openly, for fear of being thrown by an enormous wave of tears. Now, dry-eyed, we agreed that “all is good,” and we smiled softly, easily, as we talked about what had been happening in our lives over the past eighteen years. And even after we finally did talk a bit about Koro and some of the less fortunate things that had happened back then, the summation of our experience was still that life is indeed good. “You can’t help it,” BraSibi sighed, remembering the way things ended; things are the way they are; and “we give it to God…”
BraSibi and I talked plenty, but after saying all I had originally wanted to say, it really didn’t matter what we talked about – it just felt good to be in his presence, to be in each other’s presence, to be standing there communing with the one person on this earth who maybe knew a little bit what it was like for me and Koro, the only person who ever really saw our life together out at the shack. BraSibi had loved us. And I still felt that love now.
As we talked, I watched the sun sinking behind the little mountain, as I had loved to do every day out at the shack. And by the time true darkness was approaching, it felt that there was nothing left to say, and that I could leave Kokrobite feeling complete. I could go now. I was satisfied. “All is good.” When BraSibi and I said our sweet goodbyes, they felt final, and I knew, finally, that, while one never knows what the future has in store, I did not feel a need to ever return to Kokrobite.
…To be perfectly honest, and perfectly blunt, by now my journal was becoming filled with profanities concerning how much I now hated this place – because of ALL THE F***ING NOISE. This had been another topic of conversation between BraSibi and me – the changes that had come to the area and the fact that Kokrobite had become far too loud now – too many people and just TOO MUCH NOISE. The main issue was that the guesthouses on the beach and the bars on the road all pumped out the music so loud that it was beyond my understanding how it could possibly be enjoyable for anyone; and at the AirBnB, I was located right in the middle of it all, in a cacophony of sound, which even my best, freshest earplugs, shoved as deep as they could go into my ears, could not completely block, and which had been increasing in intensity as the days built up to Christmas. It was a pretty extreme situation – I was lucky if the blaring music (and never music I actually liked) would come to a close by midnight or one in the morning, and occasionally, on a weekend, it would go all throughout the entire night, until the birds began to sing their own songs to the sunrise, the thumping bass sometimes even interrupting that, bright and early in the morning. …For someone who loves peace and quiet, and who is also an extremely light sleeper (I tend to sleep with earplugs even in quite quiet environments, if there’s anything electrical going on in the vicinity), Kokrobite was not at all a good fit for me.
I still loved Ghana. I loved the way I could live there. I loved the way I could BE there. But as for Kokrobite… while a week before, on a blissfully relatively quiet day, I had been considering staying longer, by now I could not wait to get out; and while I was very thankful I had finally made it back, I did feel, quite definitively, that I wanted to leave it behind me, and to not come back again.
On my last day in Ghana, I took one more walk down to my old neighborhood. I walked through the property of the old, abandoned hotel, AAMA, where BraSibi had been a night watchman; and happily finding myself completely alone there, I wandered down to its private little beach. And there, by the ocean, where I always feel Koro so strongly, I said my goodbye. Loving my life, and loving Koro, always, I knew that it was time now, for me to move on more fully - always a bit more fully, it seems, as we continue along our way...
It took a full night as well as the following morning to drain the fountain of tears that had welled up inside of me upon seeing BraSibi. And all the while, as I cried and held myself, I wrote.
The following is some of that writing, which came through in the morning. I feel I should just give you this one raw, straight out of my journal – no rewrites, no cleaning it up, no additional thoughts – just the flow of emotion, in all its bare honesty, finally pouring out.
What can I say? I love honesty. And when people are 100% real. And 100% open. So… my turn – here we go…
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Monday, 24 DEC 2018
Ok. Must get out of bed and try to get a lot of work done today. And 3rd Series before it is too too hot…
There’s still so much to do here, particularly with the writing work, but I am eager to get through my time here… And just go experience Guinea. And see what happens there. And then go home.
My life has moved on. Right? Are you starting to doubt that? Are you starting to doubt all you felt earlier, just last week? How much you have moved on?
It just all came back so hard-core upon seeing BraSibi.
I don’t know that I will ever “move on” completely. What does that even mean?
BraSibi reminded me how there’s no one like Koro, there has never been anyone like Koro around here, “so clever, so bright…” And it’s true, I have never met anyone who comes even close to being like Koro. And I loved him fully, and I lost him, and I can still feel the absolute vastness of that loss. And in order to keep living, and to keep finding joy and contentment in this life, I have to be okay with that. I have to simply be okay with that. And as BraSibi also reminded me (and as the people of Ghana assured me again and again last time I was here, when so many villagers approached me, knowing of my loss, knowing of Koro – people I had never met before, all consoling me, all telling me… that it is God’s way – “give it to God…”), I have to trust that this is “God’s way” – because what other way could it be? God is in All. Even in the hardship, the suffering – it is all the Divine unfolding, whether we can see it or not… whether we realize it or not…
Again it is the same as before – yes, there is the vastness – an eternity of oceans’ worth of vastness – of loss, and yes it is still there inside me, popping up from time to time – full force yesterday upon seeing BraSibi. But also it is the same as before in that I wake up every morning, and I am still alive.
It took a very long time to find contentment. I have never again experienced a love so deep and full and WHOLE as that I experienced with Koro, have never found anything that has come even close. I can see that so clearly in this moment because yesterday BraSibi brought it all back for me – just seeing him, talking with him, feeling also his vast and deep love for his friend Koro… it reminded me more than I have been reminded for a very long time of who Koro was, and how utterly vast was the love I experienced with him. …But while Koro lost his life and I lost my life with Koro, again… just as it was before, I still, unavoidably, have my life. So what can I do but do something with it? You wake each morning, you continue on each day. You do your practices, because they bring you joy. It is enough because it needs to be enough.
Oh yes, it’s all coming out now – the fountain of tears…
Geez louize, now I wish I brought more handkerchiefs…
I thought if anything, I would feel so much out at the land. But I was not expecting to see BraSibi. And the land was changed – the land has moved on – nothing is the same but the foundation of the shack, and that damn “fridge.” Everything else has grown and gone its own way. My friends the trees do not remember me – they have grown too high to see me, or to be able to feel me on them. The little paths we used to traverse through the site have been overgrown through lack of use, our tomato beds are gone, the papaya trees are gone, and to boot there is a big house now and a road crossing over where our path up to the shack used to be – in short, all – almost all – has changed.
But in BraSibi’s heart, nothing has changed. His love for his dear friend is as big as ever, it has remained unchanged, and seeing that, feeling that, brought back my awareness, full force, of the same inside of me.
My life has gone on – and now I have “a life,” where I had none before, but still, for me, deep inside, nothing has changed. Because Love, this Divine Force, LOVE – it is the one constant, the One, Unchanging, the Divine Element, the Divine Force, the Divine Creation, the Divine. The Divine was all that remained when I lost Koro, when everything changed for me – the Divine was the one thing that remained unchanged, a constant, still there for me. And that Divine Force, that Divine Element, that Power, is Love.
Today, Monday, the day of Christmas Eve, I will do my work. I will meditate and practice Third Series and pranayama; I will give my body some orange juice and most likely some fruit; I will work on some of the blogs I have open about my experience in Ghana, will try in particular to come close to completion with the first one, “Arrival in Ghana, Then and Now,” now that I am nearing the end of my stay here; and I will try to go back down to the beach outside Big Milly’s to thank the Rasta who brought me out to meet Ernest yesterday, whom I found myself too exhausted to visit and thank last night like I should have done. I will go to see BraSibi again probably tomorrow, not today, I will feel what I feel, I will write about it and will most likely shed more tears, and a couple days after that I will pack up my things, have a predictably sleepless night, and then leave for Accra at the crack of dawn to catch an early morning flight to Guinea. I will wait through my five-hour layover, and when, God-willing, I arrive at the airport in Conakry, I will be predictably so very happy to see Alisco. And then a new adventure, a whole new experience, will begin…
And God-willing I will also eventually go home to the warm embrace of my mother and her house, and then on to feel the love of my community in Santa Cruz, the members of which I know will be so happy to see me and to have me back in class with them. And though my fountain of tears is springing forth anew as I write these words, I know I will be so happy to see them all, to see Kris and Oumou and Rachel and Randee and Lilah and Kumiko and SARITA and Roman and Aaron and eventually Cici and Tomoko and Andrea and Paige and so many others that I will stop listing them now or else this will go on for ages… I will feel their love and maybe, just maybe, all those pieces, all those bits and pieces of love that come at me from so many sources, from so many loved ones… maybe it will add up to enough, to fill that vastness, to keep me afloat in the sea of my heart, riding the waves of love from one day to the next, finding the joy and the contentment to continue on in this life, in this same life, as I have done every day for these past 18 years…
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…I know I said I wanted to give you this one raw – no rewrites, no additional thoughts, etc., but I do want to add just one more thing, one more thought/feeling that was put into words after this was written, which is that, by the last paragraph of that outpouring, I was feeling a deep ache that I could only interpret as a painful joy of moving on… It felt as if love, bright and fresh, was finding its way into that very vulnerable sore spot lying in the deepest, darkest depths of my heart, and that the contact it made produced a good pain, a healthy pain…
Aharona Shackman has used writing as her primary practice for connecting with the Self pretty much since she learned to write. With the commencement of this blog, she is now beginning to practice the sharing of some of her writing...