Just as I'm sitting there, drifting off into not-paying-attention-to-rapidly-spoken-Spanish land, the twins walk in the door with their mother. I'm immediately uprooted from my food-induced daydream to two, huge, beautifully beaming smiles. They sit down as they're told, fidgeting with excitement to see me. "Elizabeth! Elizabeth!" I round the table to greet them, each holding out a tiny hand in eager anticipation. Light, honey, electricity, warmth, tenderness, humbleness, longing, wishing, tumbling, leaping joy...this is what it is to be the recipient of adoration and love from a child. Right then, everything I was worried about, apprehensive of, tired from, and mulling over vanished.
You know that line from Meet Joe Black? The one where Anthony Hopkins looks into his daughters eyes from across the airplane aisle and with that sincere locution of great fathers says, "you never know, lightening could strike." Just a few times in my life have I been so lucky to feel what those words mean. Tonight was one of them. True love should feel exactly like lightening; it should shock you into an awareness you didn't know existed, make tangible the unknown and burn a flame of peace and utter contentment in your heart.
To evade an out-of-control physics analogy, I will be plain: people put up barriers to avoid being open to love. They erect lightening rods to protect themselves from a lightening strike. I'm guilty of this. However, if there is one single lesson I have learned the hard way this year in 2010, it is to never erect such a barrier. 2010 has taught me to be the eternal optimist, the "prometor" of clichés, the swooner of public displays of affection, the encourager of heartfelt belonging, the champion of love; to love, and therefore to live, is to seek out the storm.
A review in pictures of my year in love with people, places, and fascinating events; thank-you, 2010, you've been good to me:
Love in Dublin: My two good friends Keith and Melissa on an afternoon walk in the Irish countryside in June.
Love of childhood friends: Reconnecting with my "lightening" from our rug-rat years, Marina, in the University of Washington, Seattle campus this July.
The love of a mother: Doña Rosa waiting for her tortillas to bake over an open fire, September.
The love of a father: Dancing with his daughter at her birthday party, October.
Cross-cultural love: Matt (the volunteer I replaced), and his Guatemalan wife Meli watching the sunrise at the summit of Volcán Tajulmuco on Dia de los Muertos, November. These two really love each other. Really.
Love of children: The twins bundled up against the cold to watch me and their mother play basketball in Tejutla's winter tournament, December.
Love on a boat: I ran across this couple at 6am fishing for shrimp. She has been paddling his boat for a long time. Monterrico, Santa Rosa Guatemala, December.
Impatient love: I took this picture after watching this woman nervously wait for her significant other for 15 minutes in the hectic 5pm Antigua rush of tourists and vendors. They were ecstatic to see each other :)
Young love: A teenage couple sweetly touching in the afternoon sun. Antigua Guatemala, December.
Old Friends: I took this picture as the sun was coming down in Nebaj, El Quiche (Danny's site), a region also known as the "Ixill Triangle." This part of the country is where the majority of civil rights abuses and genocide occured during the 27 year civil war in Guatemala. These men are old enough to remember it, I wonder what their stories are...
The Love of Belonging and Courage: My beautiful sitemate, Amanda "dando palabras," to our honest and loving host-family (to all three volunteers in Tejutla, really), at our Thanksgiving celebration, November.
Listening: "Hay Amores," Shakira; "Truly, Madly, Deeply," and "Big Boned Woman," Ray Lamontagne; "Everybody's Free," Quindon Tarver.