The other day as I was walking in viejo San Juan, my mind whispered to me, “Adios to all that” as in, Goodbye to all that. These words have a familiar ring, so I checked. Robert Graves wrote an autobiography by this title in 1929. In 1967, Joan Didion published an essay with the same title. In 2013, a book on writers loving and leaving New York used this it as well. More recently still, in 2014, a movie was entitled this way. For me, however, it is just more Adios than Goodbye.
My time in Puerto Rico is coming to an end. We arrived in 2001 when Paul had just retired. All these years, we have been able to spend several months with our older daughter and her family (this left our younger daughter somewhat in a lurch; we found other ways of spending time with her). We discovered a small apartment in viejo San Juan, facing the ocean. What fabulous years we spent there!
Ten years ago this month, we both left on our first Camino, the longest one, from Le Puy to Santiago. It took us 68 days to walk 1,500 km, or 900 miles. We had trained for it walking around the Laguna in Condado. We caught the Camino bug and went back pretty much every year, seven or eight times in a row. During these years we spent our time in Puerto Rico, in France, and walking the Camino. How fortunate we have been.
More important maybe, from 2002 until 2010, Paul and I worked at Las Duchas with Ramonita and her crew, receiving the homeless and drug-addicts living in viejo San Juan. We got to know pretty much everyone of them, loving some more than others, getting to understand their story, their hardship. Jesus was one of us at all times. This may well have been the most intense time in my life.
Still more incredible, we left our life in Geneva, Switzerland, heavily involved with Ignatian spirituality. Right away, as if by chance, we found ourselves invited into a CVX (CLC) small community of Puerto Rican women and men. All this thanks to two couples: One who invited us to their Tres Reyes party that first January. There we met a Jesuit father who invited us to a CVX day with theologian Maria Clara Bingemer. At that same workshop, another couple invited us to join their small CVX community. With all of them, we have shared our life in prayer every time we come back to the island. Our CVX involvement led us to retreats in Barranquitas with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, then to Manresa, Spain, for its Ignatian Immersion Course and more recently a 30-day retreat.
When we returned in February, we found out that our children are leaving the island for a while to take care of an elderly relative. Our grandsons will go to school on the mainland. In the coming years, we will return to Puerto Rico, of course, but for much shorter visits.
Life transfers us. Once again. With Paul’s UN job we grew accustomed to transfers. They were both sad and exciting. Saying goodbye to lovely friends and hello to new adventures. It’s still a bit this way now.
Like the boat above (all the way from Stockholm), on the beach, waiting for the tide, we too will sail off in a few weeks.
I have so many reasons to thank Godde for all that we have received here. For this wonderful island and its wonderful people. For its culture, its music, its beauty, its fantastic coffee. For the friends who welcome us, again and again.
It does feel like the end of a chapter, with the knowledge that I don’t have that many more chapters left. Next year, I will turn 70 and this feels both wonderful and awesome. On the horizon, faintly, I can guess my final transfer, a liberating take-off into eternity.
I have not written much in recent weeks. My heart and mind are usually at peace, something odd for me. I don’t feel particularly drawn to ‘religious feelings’ as I did in past years. Organized religion, right now, irritates me more than inspires me.
Like the sailboat on the beach, I bask in the sun, waiting for the wind to catch my sail, wondering where it will now take me…
(While I know where my future will geographically take place, I wonder where my inner life will lead me.)
Where the Spirit will blow, I will go.
Photo: A Swedish sailboat on the beach