Updated: May 22, 2020
AFTER NAZIM HIKMET
I didn’t know I loved the scent of rain before a tropical storm, nor the sheets of water that cut a straight path across the ocean as they race to land. I didn’t know I loved the engulfing.
I didn’t know it then, but I love the lightning bolts that announce the Earth’s shaking. When the strikes criss-cross like swordplay over the Pacific, splitting the water like titanic electric eels, I know that Zeus rules above us.
I didn’t know many things that seem obvious to me now.
I didn’t know I loved the courage of the baby Olive Ridley turtles as they stumbled to the ocean, their shells—Atlas’ globe—a load for their stumpy rhinoceros flippers. I didn’t know I loved the song of whales nor the gentle lapping of arctic waves upon a barren shore.
I didn’t know I loved the sound of emptiness of the Patagonian tundra, or of the Sumapaz Páramo—plains hidden in Andean clouds. I would like to know if when the Earth decides to die, the absence of sound will herald the end.
I didn’t know I could love inanimate stone walls built by a conquered race, but that still stand. I didn’t know I would love the precision of the invincible stones.
I didn’t know that I loved the way a man’s eyes roll back in his head at the impact of ecstasy. I didn’t know I loved that instantaneous blindness. I didn’t know I loved the coming together under mosquito netting, its silkiness touching skin like many hands. I didn’t know I loved the dew drops formed by the friction of entwined bodies.
I didn’t know that I loved men who were prepared to die to change the world. I also didn’t know that I would love the invention that captures light more than I loved the men who were prepared to die to change the world.
I didn’t know I would love trees like I love the tree outside my autumn window, its fiery leaves pummeled by the wind until they fall to their death like feathers.
I didn’t know I could love the majestic Guanacaste that reigns over the plains of the dry tropical forest like an African lion, or love the coquettish Malinche with its vivid gypsy red flowers. I didn’t know I could love the Matapalo, a boa of a tree whose branches wrap themselves around other loveless trees until they die crushed within. I didn’t know I loved the Matapalo even after its murdering limbs dropped to the ground like anchors.
I didn’t think I could love a whiff of turmeric (pollen that fills the lungs), or pepper ground beneath my nostrils—a sweet tickling—, or roasted coffee beans (the aroma of my country.)
I didn’t know that I would love the gold-tipped eyelashes of my bald newborn boy, or the tiny beauty marks under my daughter’s slanted dark eyes. I didn’t know I could love as much or as fully.
I didn’t know that I could love children, men, trees, rain, lightning, whale songs, baby turtles, time, emptiness, stones, memory, love.
I didn’t know I could love all with the same unbound fervor.