Mellow Tone In

Oy. Melatonin. You know the stuff. Available in any health food shop, it’s supposedly great for jet lag. And it is relatively good for getting one back in a standard sleep cycle, let us say. Problem is, I travel just enough to sort of forget. I must have been taking melatonin since my January return from the UK, deciding that to ensure that I continued to sleep well through February, April, and so on…right into the premarital zone of June…why not keep taking the stuff? Apparently there are all sorts of reasons why not to. Nevermind. In Pembrokeshire, in August, I had the general sense that it was time to stop. What better time? I was on holiday in Wales, so, what the hell, no more melatonin.

The first night I was up until about 4 AM. The second night it took me about two hours to get to sleep, and then, 5 AM was my wake-up call. In short, I appear to have been mildly addicted. And surely there is a lesson in all this. But actually the lesson is already learned, so who cares? No more melatonin…that is the lesson. Thus, travel. Always surprises. So one keeps flexible, adaptable, adaptive.

Two waves of family, my family, have blown in within the last couple of days. Such a pleasant change to simply await their arrival. The job of travel within the UK has shifted to other shoulders. Which may explain why my own shoulders are so much more relaxed these days. And this is no metaphor. Quite literally, half of my weekly California massage seems devoted to shoulder tension. Not only do our family visitors do all the driving – as much as seven hours from London to Southwest Wales in holiday traffic – but they arrive with fresh eyes.

One does not have to go far here. Various manifestations of the Atlantic abound. The Bristol Channel. The Irish Sea. Not that the mind really drifts in such a vast geographic sweep. No, really it’s the pebble beach at Wiseman’s Bridge, the Internet café at Amroth (you know, the one with the terrible coffee and the good bandwidth), the harbor at Tenby…. And it’s all more or less a stone’s throw away. The scale shrinks in Britain. Things get down to, well, cripple scale.

And each wave of family visitors discovers the same things, visits the same places…and this is something of a surprise for me, for they are natives. But none are natives of Wales, it becomes clear. So we are all strangers in a strange land. So damned if we don’t find ourselves eating, once again, outdoors at a bad tourist restaurant in the main drag of Tenby. Seven of us, including my cousin Bob from Paris, someone I see only every few years. And family conversation is so compelling that no one says much even as the sound increases, drums. The Welsh natives are restless. Then they appear, a drum corps, tapping out a festive rhythm for the tourists, and followed by someone in robes. Identified by my cousin’s daughter Alexandra as the burg’s Lord Mayor.

And why not rediscover the same things with successive waves of relatives? In fact, it’s a good Zen discipline. Seeing the same thing with fresh eyes. Which, inspired by Abram’s book, and has me reconsidering my own eyes. The eyes have it, or they had it, one of them, anyway, when I tore my retina. Eight years ago? Seven? So like many people my age, I have floaters. In fact, I have a flotilla, a mass of little thingies adrift in my field of vision. Always, at any moment.

But on this particular Pembrokeshire afternoon, damned if I didn’t set myself adrift, closing my eyes to appreciate my own eyeball pollution. A mass of drifting ink spots. A jellyfish. A scaled down Milky Way. Although, truth be told, most of the time, I see my very floaters as a sign of bodily decline, death’s advance. Or, probably worse, an indicator of my own personal failure. When they first appeared, why didn’t I realize what was happening, stop my daily exercise which may have exacerbated the retinal bleeding, etc.? But the floaters do float, after all. They have a pattern. Everything does. And appreciating it, that pattern, maybe that is the essence of holiday.

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