Pearls (Back Home)

The blinds flap lazily against the open window like seafoam lapping at the shore.  The morning light of late California summer pours over the warm sheets and I can hear nothing but the faint hum of passing cars and children at recess.  It’s a blended soundscape as familiar and sweet as honey forgotten in a cellar.  It’s been a while.  

I sit up in bed and rub the sleep from my eyes, checking the time.  11:15 am.  I think I fell asleep around 10 last night.  Another night of over 12 hours.  I never sleep this much.  But since we landed in Portland a few days ago my sleep cycle has been so erratic that I can’t seem to shake the fuzziness that clutters everything, like static on an old TV.  I’d love to give a solid smack to the side of the TV to make everything clear again but I’m not sure how.  I’m not sure about a lot of things at the moment.

For starters, I’m sitting in my childhood bed, in my childhood room, in my family’s house in California.  If I look around, nothing has changed.  My old comic books are still stacked next to old lego dinosaurs and soccer trophies.  The soundscape blend of lazy, late-summer mornings is as sweet as ever and my dogs snoring at the foot of my bed could be a snapshot from 2007.  What in the world just happened?

I reach over to my journal from the summer and flip through the pages.  The scribbled entries tell of fantastical tales of faraway lands, of spiritual exploration and soulful apotheosis.  What I have in my hands feels more like Avatar Wan’s travel diary that I somehow must’ve stumbled across.  This couldn’t have been me.  After all, I don’t feel particularly changed.

I toss the sheets back and lumber out of bed.  I’d like to keep the morning routine I learned in China so I stand up straight, place my feet slightly apart and prepare for Qi Gong, 5 animal-style exercises.  I close my eyes slightly and slowly raise my hands as I inhale deeply.  Immediately I am back in front of the Yuxu Palace at the Wudang Mountain, Taoist priests in white robes lined up before me.  I bring my hands down, exhaling, and stretch my feet wide to settle into the dragon form.  As I turn my body and brush my right arm in a wide arc, the Mountain melts away to the Kamogawa river in Japan.  There, I practiced this form while wearing white Indian robes (a gift from Delhi) after our private afternoon with an esteemed *Cha-do* (Tea Ceremony) master.  As I continue to step through the forms, memories continue to drift upward like clouds of puff brushed off a dusty book found in an attic.  They swirl around, weaving impossible tales that could only exist in a dream.

And, perhaps, that’s exactly the point.

The idea to travel around the world to four locations to learn the four elements began as a dream.  Then, with the support and will of many, many people, this dream passed into reality, like drops of rain from thick clouds.  After finishing its fleeting adventure through the atmosphere, the rain has landed and begun to evaporate, regaining again the consistency of clouds as ethereal and intangible as a dream.  

With a final inhale, I bring my hands in a circle above my head and pull them down vertically past my head and toward my waist.  Exhale.


Interesting.  In the sweet-honey soundscape of a lazy, late-summer California morning in my childhood room, I note that my breath has gotten deeper, especially around the area just below the navel that the Taoists call the Tan Thien and the Zen Buddhists call the Hara; the center of your spirit.  I can’t help but laugh.  After 91 days of non-stop adventuring around the globe, the only things I brought home are my clothes, torn and ripped, a few gifts for friends and family, an empty bank account and a journal full of dusty memories.  The ways I changed?  My hair is a bit longer, my beard more scruffy and I breathe a bit more deeply.  

          I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Perhaps, I think as I fold up the warm sheets to tidy up the bed, the process of adventuring through one’s dreams is similar to the process of an oyster buffeted by the currents.  The shell doesn’t change terribly much over time.  Yet it is the pearl nestled within, hidden from view that is the real treasure.  

I put on a pair of shorts and as I’m walking out my bedroom door I pause, hand on the knob, and inhale, passing from Earth to Water, Fire to Air.  Exhale.  Air to Fire, Water to Earth.  A smile ripples across my face.

Then I walk downstairs to the familiar smell of mom’s morning cooking on a lazy, late-summer California morning served on the same dining room table we’ve had for years in the same house we’ve lived in for even longer.  Nothing has changed.  Except now, there’s a small pearl growing with each deep breath.  This is a treasure that will remain for a lifetime.


BY: Tomás Quiñonez-Riegos