I came to D.C. this past weekend for the Hawai'i Cultural Festival at the NMAI, and my goodness, it was wonderful! It was kind of crazy to take off and drive for hours and hours just after 3 days of post-grading school work (2.5 days of meetings and a half day of other chores). But I really wanted to see the events planned around the theme: The Journey of Pele and Hi'iaka.
This is the epic tale of the Indigenous people of Hawai'i, around which so much of their culture revolves. I enjoyed everything the museum presented--craft demonstrations, children's stories, food, and of course music and chant and hula. My goddess, the hula was healing. Within a few hours I was remembering what it felt like to be in Hawai'i, and able to recall words I learned last year. Much of what I saw was very moving and inspiring.
I also decided to stay a few days extra but not really tell anyone (except Mom, of course, and brother Tom, whose place I've been staying at, and Patrick and Dexter back home). I felt like I needed a few days to myself--alone in the city, retracing some of the steps of my old life here, walking places, noticing and observing, looking for beautiful things. But not meeting with friends.
I felt like I would not be good company. I've been feeling a little crispy around the edges after this year of teaching, and I'm in need of some quiet time. As much as I love my friends, I did not feel up to interacting. It kind of hurts me to admit this, as if it is a kind of weakness. And I don't want people to think I'm being cold. But I felt I had to go with what my gut has been telling me.
Part of all of this, too, is facing some questions that have come up in mid life (right on schedule, or maybe even a few years late). Nothing surprising: what does the next chapter look like, after retirement? Where will we live? What will I do? My job, which I love, also takes so much out of me, to the point where I wonder if I can do it for another 15 years. But what would I do if I didn't teach? How could I not do the job it took me so many years and so much hard work and a lot of luck to get? How could I live without that feeling I get when I know I have helped someone grow and learn and see things in a new way?
Today is my last day here. After two days of sweltering heat and humidity, it's beautiful. I will go to the National Gallery of Art; my goal is to sit in front of some of the landscape paintings and... just sit. And look. And try not to worry. And give in to my not knowing.
Wishing you beauty and love,
P.S. Later on I will update this post with some pictures. It looks kind of bare without them, but I wanted to get this here in a hurry before I head out the door.