• Erin Clark

Tend to the Aspect of Denial

In April of 2015, I was in Tarifa for my birthday. This was before I moved to Spain and I kept visiting different cities, flirting with an idea that had not yet fully formed. Tarifa is at the southernmost point of Spain, you can see Africa from the beach, the Mediterranean sea meets the Atlantic Ocean and it’s fairly tricky to get to. It took a plane and a couple trains and a bus. I learned the Spanish for "very windy" from the woman who sat next to me on one of those conveyances. An elderly Spanish woman who loved to talk to me even though I didn’t understand her. When I didn’t know what the word ‘viento’ was, she pantomimed being blown around, then she snapped her thumb against her pointer finger and whistled. Hace mucho viento. I had no idea I would one day live in Spain, learn to speak Spanish and surrender my fate to pretty much that exact wind when I learned to paraglide a year or so later in the same region.

I hadn’t thought about this trip in ages, but my friend Lisa posted the black and white photo of Frida Kahlo painting the chest of her body cast from her bed and it reminded me of a selfie I'd taken inspired by that photo. A few days after I arrived in Tarifa, my back gave out and I could not move. I was alone, stuck in bed, at the very tip of the windiest part of Spain. 

I decorated my chest in crystals and wrote in colored pencils in my journal. “I am my own muse," quoting my disabled foremother, Frida. At the time, it reminded me that I wasn’t really there because of Tarifa. I was there because of my own spirit. And it was still with me even if I was inside a cave listening to the church bell ring constantly and at inexplicable times instead of exploring the old, port town. When I could finally sit up long enough to leave the house, I wore the brightest colored dress I had with me and took a selfie with a caramel milkshake instead of dolphin watching in the straight of Gibraltar. 

It's strange to think of that trip to Tarifa sentimentally. I was freshly divorced, my stuff was in storage, a low hum of uncertainty about where I would land and if I would be okay infused every decision I made. Then I was in pain and stranded in bed in a place where I knew nobody. And I was very lonely. 

Maybe, it’s not just sentimental, but also sympathetic. This time of corona has a smilier feel. The uncertainty, the loneliness, the being stuck in bed when I’m yearning for outside.

That day, in my brightest and leastest fabric dress, sitting outside in a cafe in Spain drinking a caramel milkshake, I read a book called "Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World.” There has never been anything hesitant about my adventuring. But it *is* currently being denied. I will not travel for my birthday this year. I can wear my tiara and eat cake if I desire, but who knows what the world will be in three weeks? It aches to think in any kind of way that resembles a plan. The reality we’re living in feels like 'transaction denied' happening every 10 seconds. 

I scrolled through the posts from the time I was in Tarifa to show Lisa. The post I wrote when I wore my pinkest dress had a quote from ‘Phenomenal' that feels like I planted a message to myself for these times, however long they may last. Let me recap from a loose memory of what was happening in the book.

The author plans a trip to Australia. Primarily to see the great coral spawn, which is an event in which some kind of marine life lays so many eggs, you can see them from space. She finds out from a fellow phenomenon hunter that it also happens to occur at the same time as an eclipse will be visible in the same part of Australia. These are the kinds of natural wonders she is specifically chasing so she can write about them and she says some poetic things about the synchronicity in the timing and how synchronicity is a wonder in and of itself. Then, as she’s planning her trip she discovers that, while the moon is cycling as expected, it might not be visible because of weather and the reproductive cycle of whatever spawns in the Great Barrier Reef has been slowed down by cold water. She laments to her adventure friend that she might be traveling all the way around the world just for something she won’t get to see. And his reply to her is: 

“Perhaps you won’t see the great coral spawn. Such is the nature of Nature. Do not neglect the aspect of being denied…” 

The opposite of neglect is tend. Tend to the aspect of being denied. 

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