far too much writing, far too many photos

What often happens making the trip in this direction from Madrid: 22 or so hours of travel, getting home too wired to go right to bed, finally falling out sometime after midnight. My bod, still on European time, wakes me around 4 a.m. I surrender, drag myself out from under the covers, pass the first day back in this part of the world unpacking, digging out from under resulting pile of dreck, of clothes to be washed/ironed (ironing — SO MUCH fun, but a good excuse to crank the TV at an hour I normally wouldn’t go near it, search out an X-Files rerun or something), of bills and mail to be sifted through. Groceries get bought, details accumulated during months away get taken care of. (Lists of those details get made, quickly disappear amid the overall disorder.)

The hours sneak past, come early evening my body conks out without warning, awake one minute, losing consciousness the next. I come to in the early hours, slightly later than the previous a.m. Get to my feet, knowing my body is ready to be up and going, still working on European time. Continue digging out, a passing moment of clarity occasionally pierces the general tired blur. Come early evening, another sudden system failure, at a slightly later hour than the previous night’s crash.

Next morning: up early again, this time with a bit more sleep under my metaphoric belt. The living space begins to resemble an actual residence instead of rooms with trash strewn about. I begin re-connecting with people, start regaining the capacity to talk and carry on like a vaguely high-functioning human being. Stay up later in the evening before the system poops out.

And so on. The last two or three returns have followed that general layout. And when I go in the other direction? Not such a big adjustment. Don’t know why — life just seems to fall into place with less effort on the other side of the Atlantic.

Tuesday, first day back: I managed to pierce my personal fog, driving into town where I found myself engaging in the kind of massive grocery shopping I have rarely inflicted on myself in this lifetime. First at the mainstream store for a modest, restrained score, followed up by a trip down the road to the food coop for an insanely out of control spree, my cart foaming over with a swelling mound of excessively wholesome food and drink. Kind of amazing to watch happening, me tired (and famished, paying no attention to the age-old consumer’s dictum never go food-shopping when you’re hungry) enough that I was partially out of the body, watching the activity with a bit of vaguely interested remove. Resulting in a brief cardiac workout when the moment arrived to drag it all out to the car, then into the house post slog home, up the stairs, into various storage spots.

And on the ride home, I cruised by my uphill neighbor’s house — a family that passes most of the year in D.C. Saw a car in the driveway I didn’t recognize. Which put my inner busybody on alert, me picking up the phone once home, calling to see who was there. Turned out to be the husband of the neighbor family, up here on his own doing work before wife and daughter arrived for the holidays. Also turned out that one of our other neighbors was having a solstice bash that evening. I found myself invited, found myself walking along the road at 5:30, through snow, darkness, bitter cold (temperature that day at 7 a.m.: 10 below — the mercury struggled up into the teens during the afternoon, plunged back down to arctic levels as darkness approached).

Hadn’t expected to find myself going to a social do, didn’t expect the large, noisy scene that met us on arrival, living room and kitchen filled with people, a nice spread of food waiting to be wiped out on a table in the living room, more food cooking in the kitchen. My years in the theater world left me with a primal stimulus-response mechanism that overrides any other consideration once awakened: when presented with free food, begin eating, do not stop until the body can take no more. It’s a directive that must be obeyed and I did so, hoovering down an impressive quantity of chow, though at the relaxed pace of a socially-acclimated human with a facade of refinement and social know-how instead of the slavering frenzy of a primate on a feeding binge.

I quickly realized that I was too tired to pull off the socially-acclimated human thing, at least when it came to chat, found myself eating and listening to nearby conversations, occasionally swapping a few words with someone, mostly staying quiet. A Christmas tree adorned with candles got lit, conversation flowed around me, the hosts announced an actual dinner course (good salad, excellent chili). By the time I’d loaded up with food the only available chair was off away from the others. I claimed it, ate, watched, listened — enjoying the scene, despite fatigue. Stayed a couple of hours, when my bod began to fade, I thanked the hosts, pulled on coat/boots, said good-night. Before I stepped out into the night, people shoved a card and two gifts (chocolates! homemade chutney!) into my hands, underlining the benign feel of the event, me stepping out the door with a smile on my silly face, making the cold hike home in brisk fashion.


Sugaring shack, December afternoon — East Montpelier, Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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