Dreaming in Spanish, dreaming of Spain
This evening at Barnes and Noble, I came across a book entitled Dreaming in Hindi, written by Katherine Russell Rich. It is the memoir of a woman who spent a year in India studying the Hindi language. After telling a funny story in the introduction of wrapping herself in a sari incorrectly and having it fall to the floor in front of several people in a temple in her adopted home city, the author wrote: "This book is about what happens if you allow yourself to get swept up by a passion. The short answer is this: inevitably, at some point, you come unwrapped."
Oh, the joy and danger and beauty and nakedness of being swept up in a passion.
And there are so many passions to get swept into.
Here are a few of my personal favorites.
* journaling - with scissors and stickers and magazines and glue sticks and markers nearby
* Spain - the language, the food, the art, the architecture, the people, the land itself
* travel - packing, the airport, flying, arriving, discovering new vistas, adventures of all kinds
* reading - non-fiction, mostly. Art and artists. Travel. Journaling. Making travel sacred.
* love - doesn't love, in all its forms, sweep us up and away? The love of spouses and lovers. The love of family members. The love of friends. The love of the ones who defy explanation and definition, the ones who live across the country or across the ocean and carry with them a significant chunk of your soul grafted onto their own.
Picking up that book tonight reminded me of that fateful morning in the fall of 1986 when I awoke from a night of deep sleep in Madrid and realized that I had dreamt in Spanish. In another language. I think that was the same day that I realized that my soul had found its resting place right there on the Calle Irati.
When I was in Spain this past September, I walked back to that tiny street, only one block long, and stood across the street from that house, staring, smiling, remembering, feeling very much at home. Again.
I remembered walking to school many mornings because I didn't have enough money to take the bus, but I loved every minute of it, every step. I remembered sitting on park benches early that semester, watching children play, running, shouting to one another in a language I had yet to understand, nevermind master. I remembered that as the semester drew to a close, I had the thrill of being able to give directions to passersby, some tourists and some locals, who were lost. I remember one person asking me if I'd been born in Spain. Who, me?
Now that I think about it, I was born in Spain. Born again. Born anew. It was in Madrid that I came unwrapped. My identity as an American, as a New Yorker who happened to attend college in Massachusetts and happened to have chosen to spend a semester in Spain, was pulled off and thrown away. What I saw when I looked beneath the wrapping, what I saw when I looked in the mirror, when I looked at the pages of my journal, and when I looked deep into my soul, was the truth that I am a Madrilena, a Spaniard, who happened to be born in Brooklyn and to have spent most of my life in the United States.
It was in Madrid that I began to dream in the language my mouth, heart, and soul still turn to whenever I am angry and in love and most happy and most sad. It was in Madrid that I recognized that I am most happy when I am alone. Alone walking. Alone eating. Along looking at art. Alone looking at people. Alone - knowing that no one who knows me knows where I am or what I'm doing. Alone - and at peace. My soul came unwrapped.
It was there in Madrid in the fall of 1986 that I granted every single one of my passions space to grow - travel, journaling, reading, walking, solitude, and love. That fateful, life-changing, soul-awakening fall. And it is to Madrid that I return as often as possible - which has added up to more than 20 trips since that first one. When I cannot return there physically, I pull out photos and journals and momentos of other kinds and I remember who I am and where I belong - and for just a few moments, I go home.
I dreamt in Spanish for the first time nearly 24 years ago.
I have dreamt of Spain nearly every night since.
And all it took to bring all that back to mind was the title of a book on the Memoirs table at a local bookstore: Dreaming in Hindi.