Sisters in Spirit, by Island Girl

     A unity exists between the traditions and the customs of my country and of those where I live. My country is far, far away while I have chosen to live here. My spirit can grow here and I can determine and walk freely with whom I wish and where I want to go. Yet, sometimes, when my sister in spirit crosses my path, the fire within me lights my passion for sisterhood.
     I recently crossed paths with another of my sisters in spirit, and unfolded another cosmic unrehearsed story of unquestioning befriendment with a sister in spirit now glowing in life.
     Driving to the airport I adjusted the tape to play string music to calm the motion in my nerves. The ride wouldn't be very long. Besides, the music would soothe myself as well as the passenger I would soon be picking up.
     I'd spoken to her on the phone not more than 10 minutes ago. She had the warmest accent and very soft spoken English. She could melt a man's mind into most anything, I thought. Blanca was her name. I was so confident in being able to locate her in a crowd that I found myself picturing the color she said she would be wearing.
     "Olive green, ah, 'n pants."
     "Oh Blanca! I will be driving a blue car. It has a feather on the antenna."
     Why did I say that? The feather was fraying around the edges and she most likely wouldn't be able to see it.
     I don't ever see myself posturing for any of the other positions at work without being real with myself. I say what I want to say. I go on saying what I feel most times. A mom with a job, kids and a lover as my best friend and husband. Stacks of laundry to do and dishes in the sink. The house needs a good cleaning and the bills need to be paid. Which bills will be late and which will be later yet.
     I turn into the airport terminal. I don't see anyone with olive green on. I park curbside, she can see me. I feel funny as I close the door to the car. Looking back at the feather on my antenna which to my surprise is quite noticeable. I walk towards the entrance of the airport, I'm now laughing at myself about that feather.
     It gave me such good memories about Big Sur last summer. We spotted a whale pod off the coast and parked for hours just enchanted by watching them. It was magic that we had even noticed it as we drove home from spending an impromptu excursion up the coast early on a Saturday morning. The kids were at Oma's and Opa's and we of course hadn't any money to spend on a big vacation that summer. We were laughing at all the spots we were going to hide out in and the memories of getting high along the Pacific Coast Highway. When we stopped at turnouts to stretch and scan the horizon, I would find, both of us, eyes to the ground looking for single hit joints under cave-like canopy dark Monterey pines.
     I see a well dressed, short brown haired woman flagging me. Yes, she is in olive green.
     "Hi, Blanca! I hoped that your trip was well?"
     "Ah, Maria! Yes it was."
     She was dragging a large Samsonite bag along behind her. A purse and a carry on. She was all smiles. Yes, she brought with her the same warm friendly manner I heard on the phone.
     "Listen Maria, could you help some girls with directions?" she said. "You know the area?"
     "Sure, I would be glad to help if I can."
     Blanca motioned her arm towards the two gals. They came forward slowly, moving hesitantly.
     "Hello, can I help you. Where do you need to go?"
     "Yes, hello! My name is Wiljam and my friend is Carolijn. We are looking for a bus to take us to Capitan Beach to camp and hike."
     An excited numbness came over my arms. Like a deja vu but goosebumps. I saw in her features the high thick cheekbones and the laughing eyes. Northern traits, like those of my country, along with the soft natural coloring of clothes they wore. With the types of transportation open to them for options, I spoke myself into giving them rides all the way to the campsite that very afternoon. Blanca I knew was laughing at me.
     I had an intoxicated happiness. Thoughts of work removed from my mind; I started to relax and enjoy the company as I quickly pieced the new afternoon in my instant diversion from work. Blanca could be off at the hotel while I drove during my lunch hour to El Capitan Beach and recreation park with the girls.
     At the hotel, I made pleasant short goodbye wishes to Blanca. Packed Blanca with two 3-inch ring binders full of information and the next morning's training itinerary. She wanted to join the drive and afternoon with us as well. But a lot of technical reading was in store for her the entire afternoon for her. Now I was going to enjoy the afternoon.
     Wiljam, who was sitting in the back seat with Carolijn, was soon to move to the now empty seat in the front of my car. I was glad not to feel like a chauffeur. I drove the shortest route to the Pacific Coast Highway leading to the campsite north of the county.
     Soon Wiljam began speaking to me in accented English, happy eyes and her spirit and Carolijn's drugged me back into the 1970's, my early twenties when I too traveled, a free spirit soaring with the way the wind blows. It was great and you don't pass this off when you are already in your mid thirties. Not that I wasn't happy, life was still adventurous for me.
     I wanted to caution them about the vagrants traveling through this area and yet I didn't want to make them feel they had to be overly cautious. They had sufficient equipment from what I could see. The backpacks were on frames with the typical sleeping bag balanced just under the foam roll pad and the compartments all full and snug.
     But I was feeling the excitement that these young gals had in store for them as I listened to all the places they had yet to reach. Some of them included the National Parks and hiking that I had done when I was 16. The highway was empty and you could cruise on the road while enjoying the landscape.
     The hills roll into cliffs along the ocean and give the impression that you are riding the waves along the highway as you drive along. The colors of the wild grasses and rows of avocado trees on the farms play into the illusion of waves. The wind was gently blowing from the east and enabled us to keep our windows open to enjoy the warm smells breaking over the hills to the road we were traveling on.
     The exit to the campground was closer and I moved off the highway. As we passed under the train trestle Carolijn sighed amazed breath to the trees that aligned the road. Wiljam couldn't believe the fresh smell of the ocean. They had both loved to see the ocean on the west coast and had only seen it from the airplane. Now on sea level, they could feel it closely.
     The ranger's station was just up ahead and they spoke to each other about where they should be let off. "Don't worry, I know where to park."
     The ranger poked his head out from the protective privy enclosure. "What can I do for you?" Surely he was asking Wiljam, with her happy eyes.
     "I'm just unloading some hikers today!"
     "I had better give you a 10 minute pass."
     "Okay, if you have to." I was turned and laughing while the gals thought I was being serious with him.
     "Look Wiljam and Carolijn, it's only $3 dollars per day to hikers camping."
     "Oh, wat a goud deal!"
     "You will need to hike back and pay later when you get settled." I added. The camping was spit into trailers, tents and day use. So I drove ahead to the day use site which had a store for them to use. It was after lunch time so they might have gotten hungry.
     "I'll tell you something." I felt like I was telling a secret to a close friend. "Would you be interested in sailing tomorrow?" Wiljam immediately replied.
     "We both taught sailing in Holland, and we would jump at the chance to sail here. What size boat?"
     "It's only about 42 feet long and I'm sure you would enjoy meeting the crew of about 7-8 people. Call me tomorrow at work. I will ask my husband if he can take you sailing tomorrow. But you have to be ready near 3:30pm to be picked up. Are you interested?"
     I saw both Wiljam and Carolijn jump at the same time.
     "Ja, sure! You would do this for us?"
     "Ja, sure!" I repeated back. "Give me a call and you can go."
     "We will call you. That is something we would sure like to do." Carolijn handed me a piece of paper and a pen and I wrote down my home number, as well as my work number.
     "Okay, have a great day tomorrow on the beach and I shall wait for your call."
     "Ja, you will be sure to hear from us. See you tomorrow."
     "Ja, see you tomorrow." Carolijn repeated.
     As I drove off and returned the 10 minute pass at the ranger privy. I smiled. That was good. This was something fun.
     I drove onto PCH and reflected on my friends. I should be on that beach. Maybe I should invite them over for dinner afterwards. They could spend the night. Santa Barbara would be a fun day for them after that. But when do they have to catch the next plane? I suddenly felt that I was imposing upon these two nice gals. I'll find out later tomorrow.
     Returning to work I pressed the last three hours of work and didn't have to pry away from the computer to go home that night. I was excited and couldn't wait to talk about the gals, and if the boat had room for two more to go sailing!
     "No problem! But can they sail?" My husband always has to ask. Of course, they taught others to sail and they are from Holland.
     Something about Hollanders makes me feel that I can always trust them and that they tell the truth. However, if someday, someone lied about it, they would deserve to take the punishment of the green curse. They would get seasickness. That is a curse that you only endure once if you couldn't help it. Surely, these gals knew. You don't lie least the curse take hold of you. Then you never forget it.
     The next day zoomed. Busy with wanting to do everything that was more fun and interesting, but having to complete everything beforehand left me yet another 12 inches of paperwork yet a week late to process. Phones being extra busy didn't help. Yet another caller rings. Go away I thought.
     "Hi, Maria?"
     "Yes, can I help you?"
     "This is Wiljam. Is it all right to go sailing with your husband?"
     "Sure, I'll pick you up at 3:30 at the ranger station."
     "Okay, see you."
     Great, yet another escaped route to paradise.
     I jumped when the phone display read 3:10. I flew out without telling anybody. I never do that, I always notify the others when I have to leave for awhile. But not today. Maybe I won't come back on time. So I took my briefcase with me and locked the computer up as well as my desk. Carefully, I placed papers and a few pens around to allude to the appearance that I had indeed left for the day. Ah haa!
     The same route to the campsite has always given me the satisfaction of traveling north, every time I have the feeling, the jubilation of the travel north. North has always given me the feeling of home, secure with the thoughts of fire roaring in a wood stove with a cast iron skillet melting butter for the meal while tea water boiled in the kettle. Pines touching the sky so you couldn't see the blue atmosphere and you could only tell the weather by fixing your eyes on one point to see if you notice any drops of water or heavy mist saturating the ground as it fell. You would be wrong, but had prepared by layering your familiar slicker or poncho over the favored flannel shirt and sweater that Oma made.
     At the ranger station the gals were very happy to see me. I asked them if they had brought any warm clothing in case it began to get colder. On the water it can become cold quickly in the afternoon as the sun sets. They had each packed a small bag with a change for cool weather, but of course!
     I drove them to my husband's work. I was so excited I wanted to embarrass him by honking. But he was quicker and began waving. He wanted to have an excuse to leave early this day. Sensing that, I would let the gals know that's what was really the reason why I left work as well.
     We laughed and Carolijn wanted to know why I couldn't go along with them. With the way these types of races ended I was sure I did not want to attend the event. Men hooting and yelling, deck ornaments. Gals being passed around from one poised position to another on the boat partially to keep them out of the way and also to keep them in view to show off. Usually lots of drinking afterwards at the docks.
     The parties held afterward left remnants in everyone's mornings the next day in the form of gossip and scandal in true Santa Barbara soap opera style. But the girls didn't stay and party, they returned to my home, enthusiastic and sprayed with blessings from the Pacific.
     We sat down to enjoy a evening together with stories. Memories of times past, stories of the 30's in Holland, I was just as interested in them as they were interested in me. This sharing of stories always lifted my spirits in delight of the traditions and customs which make them so dear to me. The little black holes of memories hazed were pieced together with Wiljam and Carolijn giving me the missing parts of my puzzle of heritage.
     We shared the love of the wilderness and adventure alive in all of us gathered that evening. Traveling with them in their minds I envied them. They are the very euro-student that I wanted to share stories with. Being from the same country I could feel comfortable with myself as opposed to exposing myself and become defensive. That is the difference with most Americans and that is what differs the most with the people here and with those of Holland. This was confirmed by the remarks of how different Wiljam and Carolijn were and they in turn remarked on how I was very much like them.
     Wiljam had served as a foreign exchange student. An opportunity which families sacrifice daughters and sons to the United States for opportunities to connect with families that might someday help each other out in the future for education, support or reference if they venture out into careers which take them to America. That type of education is so valuable that I begin to dream of my children being able to obtain that same opportunity. Our kinship with a homeland and language as well as all that is real made it possible for us to become quickly sisters in spirit. It makes me very happy.
     Giving up a bed for my nine year old boy made him experience caring. Caring at that age for a little boy is difficult to teach. Example works best. Caring become confused with commitment for boys as they reach maturity and girls confuse commitment with everlasting love. It just fit the situation that evening. Wiljam and Carolijn could have slept in the living room or the little girl's bedroom. But, my son wanted to extend himself in caring by letting these gals use his bedroom. Unknown to each of us, we were sharing special gifts and exchanging precious values by enabling each of us to gain from the experience and letting each other care for each other.
     Carolijn then suggested that the following night they would make the meal. A special meal for us. I was glad I didn't have to cook for a day.
     They took a local bus the next day to tour Santa Barbara while we worked during the daytime. We left the kids at home while we went to work. I made a simple rice breakfast meal and took off for work.
     The day became a snail's pace at work. My mind would be better off if I had joined the gals as they toured Santa Barbara. I wanted to show them all my favorite hiking spots and viewing sites.
     When I spoke of the evening to my co-workers I was surprised to find that not one of them would consider taking in anyone as a stranger into their home. Especially if they had children, which few of them did have.
     I must have looked shocked at their cold attitude and reaction. Immediately after my amazed look they listed all the fears and precautions they would have with strangers. None of those fears ever entered my mind. Not that it wouldn't happen to me but because I had a reinforced strength in trust. Trust with myself to trust my choices to hold out my hand to people. They didn't and couldn't approve of that type of trust. I feel that they simply hadn't practiced helping strangers. Maybe that is what is missing with people touched with so much mistrust and fear of others.
     Wiljam and Carolijn waited for us to pick them up from Sterns Wharf near the harbor that evening after work. We enjoyed a nice meal of the biggest macaroni salad I ever had. It lasted for three days and one potluck later. That evening we enjoyed pleasant conversation of stories again and I started to get sad thinking about the plans they were making to leave the following morning. I would drive them to the airport in the morning on my way into work. Everyone was going to miss them.
     I almost went into a grieving stage when I had to say goodbye to Wiljam and Carolijn. Something inside was sparked by this visit of complete strangers.
     These are my sisters in spirit. I cannot find any other reason for my acceptance in people I know nothing about but leave me knowing everything I need to know about their yen. They are good people.

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