by Diana Elarde
It is fairly desolate now without cars coming and going alongside me. My chances of catching a ride on a Sunday morning are not too high. Not until the local churches release their patrons in time for the traditional family dinner.
If I am lucky, a family will come along, pick me up, and invite me to their home for dinner. This experience is one of the most humbling for me. I could never imagine my own family bringing home a stranger. But village life in Argentina is different.
Always it is my hope, whatever family picks me up, that they will share my passion for Malbec, the deeply intense red wine from grapes grown at the foot of the Andes. I have diary of them all, rating and evaluating the ones I love best.
My life in Argentina consists of connections between chance meetings with people or places that come along at just the right moment. True to that thought, a tree with a wide girth of leaves and branches and, conveniently, a thick layer of grass below calls over to me.
My plans for a ride now on hold, I lie back in the grass and allow my eyes to follow cloud formations, watching the flow and change of two large clouds coming together and then parting. Two years ago, I had it all by American standards: two cars, a truck, the house, and the great job. My mother, only four miles away, was searching stores and catalogs daily to complete my perfect home.
Yet somehow, the end tables, kitchen stuff, comforter for the guest room, and other things on the list of items she acquired for me somehow became overbearing. Each started to feel like an anchor. I dragged them through my life, making my twenty-four years feel like eighty.
I shake my head at the thought of all the possessions I wrapped around my miserable life, seemingly for security. One day I was standing in my living room when the thought overpowered me: what the hell do I need with a $400 coffee table? The thought spread like fire throughout my house, claiming possession after possession. Mentally I began making notes, assigning each item to the same fate: time for you to go. And as I ranted through the house, my reality came to me. It wasn’t the things that needed to go, it was me.
The seed of Argentina was within me then, given through some long-lost magazine article from years ago. I remembered the pictures of the people along the beaches, village festivals, brightly dressed women dancing in happy crowds and the love of celebration. The pictures flooded my mind. And well into that night, I planned my escape.
What is my life now without my things? There is the freedom. From festival to festival I wander, catching the dancing and the celebration. Young people, old people adopt me for an hour, a day or so. It is life in this moment, encouraging me to be present in all I experience.
The sound of new traffic awakes me from my thoughts. I gather my things, all of which fit neatly on my back, and move to the road. I skip my step, getting into the rhythm of my hitchhiking and, with my thumb out, signal my desire to get picked up. A first car passes, then a second. No worries; it is only a matter of time before the right person or family will offer a lift to their village. And if I’m lucky, a glass of Malbec and celebration will grace my life before the sun sets.