By David Haldane
May 28, 2020
Want the latest “Expat Eye” in your mailbox every week? Sign up here.
It seemed like a simple suggestion.
“Hey hon,” my wife said, “let’s take a walk before dinner.” So we did, and in that walk lay our salvation.
It’s not like these are ordinary times. In fact, it had been 8 weeks since I’d left the house and then only for the sterile environment of a hospital hallway to await the birth of our new baby girl. At the time, I would have said that we were in the middle of this damnable Covid quarantine; now it seems like that was only the beginning.
“Should I take my mask?” I asked.
“We’re just walking down to the beach,” she said, “but why don’t you take it just in case.”
The route was familiar; out the front door, down the driveway, out the gate and then a hard left. For a while we walked uphill, pausing occasionally for breath as our 9-year-old son and his cousin pranced jauntily up ahead. It was an unusually humid day, even for the Philippines, and standing on the pavement I literally mopped the sweat off my brow as Ivy comforted the baby resting snugly in the pouch on her chest.
“This is her first walk,” she reminded me, emphasizing the historic significance of the day.
I paused only an instant before formulating a reply. “Mine too,” I said and with that we moved on.
Forgive me, but the rest of the story stubbornly insists on being written in its own way. I have argued but it won’t budge, so here’s this story’s telling of itself:
The pebbles on the beach were shiny, polished by the surf. The only others there were fishermen, who got that way by birth. And as I watched our little boys just playing in the sun, I thought of what we’d all been through and just how far we’d come.
As the great sickness bore down on us we’d cowered in our homes, too nervous to come out and clearly frightened to our bones. Some had stayed inside for months, just staring at a screen. Others emerged only with masks, concerned that they stay clean.
And yet the sun had shown its face, still shining and so nice. How majestic its reflection looked, sparkling on water like ice. It seemed as thin as ice is too, as if you could cross it in a canoe. But beneath that ice lay a great vast stillness, the kind that calms one’s soul. And firmly anchors it to earth, like a deeply rooted pole.
Later when we got back home, a housemate manned the gate. He told us that the police were out, and we better not be late.
I don’t know when I’ll return, perhaps not for a while. However long it takes me, though, I know that I will smile. Because now I’ve seen the sea, the sun, and the smoothness of that stone. And however long I have to wait, the ocean will atone.
David Haldane is the author of an award-winning memoir called “Nazis & Nudists.” A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an American journalist, essayist, and broadcaster whose radio work was awarded a 2018 Golden Mike by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California. He currently lives in Mindanao with his Filipino wife and their two children. This column tells the unfolding story of that adventure. http:///www.davidshaldane.com
Published originally in Mindanao Gold Star Daily