MEMORIES (First Installment)
©Edward R. Close 2018
I’m sitting here looking east, watching gray clouds scurrying from left to right, reversing the flow from the Gulf of Mexico, that brought us unseasonable warmth and rain just yesterday, and tomorrow may bring us ice and snow again.
I love the world of contrasts. I suppose that’s why I have traveled around the world, living and working in climates and civilizations nearly opposite to those into which I was born. I’ve experienced temperatures form - 32° F to 134° F, (-36° C to +57° C) from Iowa to Saudi Arabia. I’ve lived through tornados in Missouri, hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico, a storm in Egypt, and several earthquakes in California. I’ve visited Australia, Africa and Europe. I’ve flown the polar route, and over the sun drenched Greek islands, and visited Eve’s Tomb in Jeddah; the Pyramids of Giza, the Ancient City of Petra in Jordan, the pyramids of the Toltecs and Aztecs, and the caves of the Mayan Civilization; and I’m not through yet, there are still places I’d like to go if time and resources permit.
I’ve climbed high mountains and explored deep, dark caves. I’ve explored families of languages, from the Teutonic roots of English and German to the Latin roots of Spanish, Italian and French, to the Semitic roots of Arabic and Hebrew, and the Indic roots of Sanskrit. I’ve teetered on the brink of death and reached for the intense ecstasies of life. I’ve explored the logic of math and science and the wonders of human consciousness. And yes, it has taken a while. I’ve been blessed with a long and healthy life. I started this journey in 1936 in Arcadia Valley, in the heart of the Saint Francois Mountains of Southeast Missouri, one of the oldest pre-Cambrian igneous intrusion exposures on the planet, replete with minerals, ores and crystalline stone.
A descendant of European adventurers from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany, my journeys soon began from the isolated hills to St. Louis, and later to Arizona in 1949 when my father returned from World War II.
Synchronicity in San Juan
One evening in 1973, I was walking along a street in the Candado, a part of San Juan Puerto Rico, between Santurce and Viejo San Juan, enjoying the cool ocean breeze, when I thought I heard someone call my name. I looked up and almost directly above my head was a sign reading: ‘El Centro de Karma Yoga’. Intrigued, I followed a short path down from the street toward the lagoon on the landward side of the Avenida Ashford. The path ended at a flight of stairs leading to the second floor of a small building sitting on the bank of Laguna Condado. At the top of the stairs was small porch-like room overlooking the lagoon through louvered glass windows. The louvers were open, allowing the aroma of flowering Flamboyan and Flor de Maga trees to waft through the room.
Several pairs of shoes and sandals were lined up along the wall, so I removed my shoes and sat on a bench facing the door at the opposite end of the room. The door was obscured by strings of colored beads hanging from the ceiling almost to the floor. I could hear soft voices coming from inside but couldn’t make out any words. My plan was that I would wait until the class, or whatever it was, broke up and talk to someone about meditation meetings. I had been a meditation group leader in Washington DC for about three years, and it would be nice to be part of Yoga meditation group while working and living here.
I was sitting there quietly, with closed eyes, when I heard the beads stir and a small dark-eyed woman with long black hair done up in a large knot on the top of her head, poked her head through the beads and beckoned to me, saying:
“¡Adalante! ¡Estamos esperando!” (Come on in! We’re waiting!)
I followed her into the inner room where several people were sitting on pillows in a circle on the floor. She said something to the group in Spanish, that I didn’t catch, and then turned to me and said in English: “I am Aury. Please explain to us how you meditate.”
Over the next two years, I attended weekly meetings at the Center, and at the request of Aury Moya, the founder and Director of El Centro de Karma Yoga, I taught monthly classes in meditation techniques there. After a few months, friendships developed with several of the Karma Yoga Center students, and one of them, Carlos, invited several of us to his cabin, up in the El Yunque Rain Forrest one weekend for a picnic and swimming in a mountain stream which they called El Rio Sangre de Los Santos. (Blood of Saints River). Conversation got around to that first night when I climbed the stairs to the Yoga Center, and I asked about the strange way Aury had invited me into the meeting. I mentioned that I thought that she may have been expecting someone else, and I just happened to show up. Carlos looked at me quizzically, and said:
“No, man. She told us for several weeks, that when the class got to the point of discussing meditation techniques, someone would be here to teach that part of the course for her. The week before you showed up, she said ‘next week will be the meditation class’.”
“But, I had never met Aury, or talked with her, before that night.” I protested. “How could she have known that I would be there that particular night?”
Carlos laughed, and said: “Aury knows a lot of things, man! She described you to a ‘T’, and even said your name was Eduardo! And, when we were all there that evening, we asked ‘where is that meditation teacher?’ And she said: Be patient, ‘he’ll be here in a few minutes’ and then you showed up!”
In the fall of 1981, I stepped down from a bus in the yet-to-be-built industrial city of Yanbu 336 kilometers north of Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. The bus driver, a Somali, leaned out of the bus and said: “Company man be here soon.” After which he closed the bus doors and drove off toward the Yanbu-Jeddah highway. I was alone, standing beside what looked like a boxcar in the middle of the desert.
As the dust settled on my shoes and my suitcase, I stood looking toward the black peaks of the Hejazi Mountains. Dust devils swirled across the desert between me and the mountains, and I wondered: “What have I gotten myself into?”
...To be continued.