Monday, April 23, 2018

Last Night in Cuba

It’s our last night in Cuba as I write this, and I really don’t know that I am ready to leave. I miss my family and I am anxious to get back to them, but I cannot believe what an excellent trip this has been. I love traveling and I love the Caribbean, but there is something about Cuba that is so distinctly unique and special, it’s almost beyond words.

Cuba is relaxed in a way that is unlike anywhere else. It isn’t just an “island time” kind of relaxed. Cuba is relaxed in that the people who live here are not stressed and worried about life all the time. They are neither starving to death, nor rushing around to get everything done all the time. Cubans are not worried that someone will rob them, or shoot them, or about where they will find their next meal. Above all, the people of Cuba are the nicest, most welcoming people on Earth. There is virtually no crime here. Women are generally very respected, and there is minimal racism. Also, it’s warm and beautiful, and we have seen no mosquitos.

This week I have hiked in the mountains and swam in the cleanest river water I’ve ever seen. I dove into the turquoise blue of the Caribbean and danced to the twirling hypnotic rhythm of salsa with talented partners who brought me back to my early 20’s in Miami. I climbed to the tops of tall old castles and took in the endless miles of stunning landscape, and I absorbed the deep, meaningful history of this island that is so remarkable in its triumphs. I spent a week with my mom and didn’t have one argument. In fact, we have had a fantastic time and I would be more than happy to do it again.

This week we have been unplugged from all of our outside lives. There is minimal wifi in Cuba and when you do find a connection it is spotty at best. I managed to find a signal for about 20 minutes on Tuesday, so I could call home and check in, but other than that I have no idea what’s going on in the world outside of this island and I love that. I have read an entire book, I can’t remember when I last put my phone down long enough to do that. I have used my iphone to take pictures and check the time, and nothing else, and I do not look forward to picking it up again. I do not remember the last time I felt this relaxed, it may have been the last time I was in Cuba. I need to make some adjustments to the way I do things at home and the way I prioritize my time, because I would like to feel this good more often.

I think everyone should come to Cuba. It is magical here, and it sinks into your bones slowly and without you even realizing it, until, as my mother announced a few days into our trip “I really love it here”. Every single person we have met this week has treated us with unwavering kindness, from the hosts at our casas particulares, to the people on the street who we asked for directions. I have asked multiple Cuban people if this is their experience with everyone here, and they tell me that yes, it is. Someday I will come back and bring my kids to experience this slice of paradise and hope that they feel the magic as deeply as I do.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Saying Goodbye With Love and Hats

This weekend we laid my grandfather Nathaniel Harrison Hartshorne to rest. Our family gathered together and donned his many hats to parade in a line (in order of our age) to the Blawenburg cemetery and bury his ashes. We held hands and took turns throwing dirt into the spot and saying a few words of thanks or "love you". My grandmother started it off with a smile saying "save a space for me!" Tears were shed, then we shared a moment of silence on a cold, crisp, spring morning that he would most certainly have loved. It was short, sweet, and a perfect send off. We will have a large memorial service in the summer, with the many friends and extended family members who were touched by Bumpy's life, but this week it was just us, and we all needed that.

My grandparents' house feels so different now. It is cozy and warm as always, and my grandmother is the most adorable and hilarious person in the world (putting things away in the most bizarre places, plates slid in among the cookbooks, orange juice on top of the washing machine) who is still able to laugh at herself and see the joy in life. But it is so strange to have spent the past 37 years coming into a house and now suddenly not find Bumpy in his office writing, or out chopping wood in the barn. Death is the most unsettling of situations, because even when you understand it and are at peace with it, you still find yourself looking around for that person and feeling the hole they have left in you. We each took one of Bumpy's hats home, and I will hang mine in my closet and look at it daily when I get dressed, to remind myself of the pride Bumpy took in getting dressed each day. Forever a dapper gentleman, wearing button down shirts right up until the end, I will strive to take that kind of pride in myself.

Thank you, Bumpy, for always listening, and for teaching us all to be the best we can be. Farewell.