Tuesday, February 16, 2016

2015 June 6: The Secret Garden and Other Places

One of my favourite things to do when I am traveling is to get up early in the morning, just as the sun is beginning to rise, put on my running shoes and head out the front door. Not to run - I don't run! - but to explore. Most times I have no idea where I am going, and rare is it that I follow the exact same path twice in its entirety.

In 2002 I spent the summer in Beijing. Each morning I would leave my hotel at the crack of dawn, often not returning until late in the evening, bone tired from walking fourteen kilometers or more in the searing humidity - ground temperatures were often 50 degrees Celsius.

This was back before the era of digital cameras, and I still managed to take forty-two rolls of film! I saw sights that few Westerners have seen. For example, I visited one tiny little museum that I stumbled upon one morning that used to be the home of a very famous - to the Chinese - author. As I was leaving, the curator told me that while I was inside she had looked through fifty years worth of visitor logs, and I was the only Westerner to have ever visited the museum.

One of my favourite areas to walk in Negombo was among the myriad little streets and alley ways just to the north and east of Cemetery Road where our house was. I grew friendly with some of the people who live along those little streets, and never tired of seeing the abundance of flora and fauna in the middle of a big place like Negombo.

On June 6, 2015, I was walking along one of my favourite streets, listening to the singing of early morning birds and chattering people and blaring radios and squeaking bicycle wheels as children went off to school. I was taking photos of some of the flora on my way, when an older gentleman I had waved to and exchanged pleasantries with on several occasions asked to see my pictures. He was very impressed that I was so interested in flowers, and invited me into his yard to see his and his wife's beautiful garden - not visible from the street, all the while regaling me with tales of when each was planted and why they had included it.

True gardeners, we exchanged flower stories for quite some time as I took pictures of this hidden tropical backyard paradise. It was a very nostalgic experience for me, as many of the flowers that grow year round in Sri Lanka are ones that my mother plants every year as annuals back in Newfoundland..

I left his garden with handfuls of fresh roseapples, one of my favourite Sri Lankan fruits. With a texture like an Asian pear and a taste reminiscent of cardamom, I could not get enough. Steve and Elanor did not share my enthusiasm for this pink fruit with white flesh, but I ate them as often as I could. When our friends found out that I liked them, rare was the Sunday that one of the women from church did not bring me some from her garden.

As I munched along that beautiful morning, I stumbled upon a faint path that led down to the canal, where I was greeted by this gorgeous view, little seen except by the locals who use the makeshift footbridge to go to their homes in a poor neighbourhood hidden from sight from all who pass by....unless like me, they stray off the beaten path to discover the secret beauty all around.

2015 June 10: What Might Have Been

Last year at this time we were in Sri Lanka, having arrived two days previously on my husband's birthday. We were looking forward to a grand adventure - five months in beautiful Sri Lanka, one of my husband's favourite places on earth.

The first four months were wonderful without question. We traveled, we visited my husband's old friends, we ate the local food and in many ways immersed ourselves in having a grand time. I wrote many blogs during those four months to keep family and friends up to date on what we were doing. And since we have been back many of them have asked why I suddenly stopped writing before our trip was over.

The truth is...I just didn't have the heart.

At the beginning of our fifth and final month in Sri Lanka, I had a miscarriage, one with near debilitating complications and where I thought for a short while that I was going to die. After spending several days in hospital, and most of the two weeks following that in bed recovering, we attempted to put it behind us and to finish our trip on a high note.

But it wasn't the same.

This was the second miscarriage that my husband and I had had in five years of marriage. And to be honest, I have spent a lot of time since then wondering and pondering on the purpose of it all.

When I think that instead of holding a new born in my arms at the beginning of this year I just have memories of leaving a very small part of us behind in Sri Lanka....

Two small bricks that mark the place.

I cannot help but think of what might have been.