“This isn’t a farewell party,” says Catherine, holding our embrace. “It’s a welcoming party. Welcome to our lives. It was so great getting to know you.”
With a smile, she turns and walks out the front door, giving Kesh and Nikko a last hug along the way. Catherine is an incredible woman, a water desalination professional and owner of Shangri-La, the forest property where Kesh and Nikko have been farming and where we have had many a spontaneous dance party.
Kesh and Nikko are the most beautiful couple whose relationship seems like a chapter from The Cloud Atlas. Their connection has transcended lifetimes. From Liberia and 16 years older than Nikko, a 20 year-old LA native, they are an unlikely pair. Yet I’ve learned that connections of love are like the thread that string together individual stitches of lives.
“I was at first scared by how instantly my feelings for him developed,” Kesh says on his first few months with Nikko. “Then I had a dream where I met my old teacher from India who answered all the questions I had and told me about our relationship in our past lives. That explained why it felt so natural to love him. We were just picking up from where we left off.”
Kesh lived for about 8 years in a temple in Vrindavan, India, our next destination.
Sitting next to them are Sam and Travis, whom we met during the fire ceremony and later at a meditation with Nadira. They have welcomed us with open arms since our first meeting.
“I made the pink, heart-shaped pie because I love pie and wanted to say, ‘I love you,’” says Sam. Earlier, Travis noted that the pie looked like the vomit of a unicorn.
Raucous laugher brings my attention to the marble island. Our three sages are gathered and roaring with laughter; Danny, our gracious host, Al, our Tai Chi grandmaster, and Guillermo, another Tai Chi master from California with whom we shared an instant bond.
Of course sitting at the table in excited conversation, stoking the already-massive flames of their ideas are Liz, our constant source of support, and Tyler, without whom this experience simply would not have happened. Tyler was the one who led our daily Tai Chi classes and drove us all around the island, he arranged the entire boat trip and introduced us to all of our new friends. He was our keystone.
For our last night here on the island he told Gabriela and I that we were going out to a nice dinner. When we walked into his home to grab the car keys, however, he looked over his shoulder as he lead us out to the patio, saying, “I have a little surprise for you guys.”
Thinking he might have a new Tai Chi form to share before heading out, we obediently followed and were caught completely off-guard as Kesh, face beaming, stood with his arms open.
“KESH?!” I exclaimed, meeting his embrace. Then lights on the deck below caught my eye. I glanced down and my heart skipped a beat. Standing under the strung lights, with the waves behind them was everyone we had met during our journey in St. Thomas. Everyone we had laughed with and learned from, swam with and grew from. They were all there, the glow of the lights illuminating their faces as they looked up at us. I was speechless. For it was in this moment that I truly saw, felt, understood the richness of the tapestry of community before me.
In this moment I understood that each trip across the island to visit a new friend or step into a new experience was like pulling a single strand across a loom. With each trip, we wove strand after strand together, allowing the richness of our tapestry to form itself. We loved the process. And now we were done.
Like the weaver who steps back to appreciate their handiwork, Gabriela and I stood on the patio looking down and, for the first time, saw the fullness, the texture and the detail of the tapestry of community we had woven. It was beautiful. And it wasn’t going anywhere. After a piece is complete, the weaver hangs the tapestry on a wall as a physical manifestation of a process that can be revisited at any time.
Tyler brought everyone together to celebrate not a farewell, but a welcoming. We also celebrated the summer solstice. On the summer solstice, June 21st, 2015 Gabriela and I left St. Thomas to begin our journey to study fire. There are no coincidences.
Refreshed by the water, we are ready to step into the heat. India awaits.