Riding through the desert of Patagonia is when I’m struck not by the color of the sky or the dust picking up from the ground, or even the mountains looming in the background, but what moves me is a woman sitting two seats ahead of me on the bus.
From El Chalten to El Calafate it is a three-hour trip. The route runs down what seems to be a one-way road. Maybe there is a turn or two that happens, but nothing too complicated. There’s water to my right and low dry bush to my left, but in front of me is a woman with blond hair and beautiful pearl earrings. She is also sporting a large fleece, rain pants, and hiking boots. She looks around 70.
There are many reasons why she fascinates me.
– The first being that she sits alone with a wedding band but there is no husband sitting next to her.
– Her hands are swollen, but her legs seem fit.
While most everyone around me is sleeping, she is going over pages of material she’s cut out of guidebooks or magazines. All are in German, but seem like informational text on where her next stop may be. There is something exotic about a woman in her 70s, a widow, traveling alone reading information from a guidebook.
She puts the pages down and picks up a stack of postcards. Postcards. When was the last time I sent a postcard? It reminds me of when I was younger and traveled through Spain and e-mail wasn’t so common. It reminds me of receiving postcards from others as they traveled and how wonderful a feeling it was to think that that piece of paper had been in the person’s hand in another country. The distance that piece of paper traveled just to show up for me to read and to smile, to feel loved.
I look over at her stack of postcards and I see her handwriting is similar to my mothers. She writes in cursive, and the letters look like she received A’s in calligraphy class. I watch her start to read one, and when she is done she places it behind the others, and reads the next.
Postcard by postcard she reads what she’s written to her loved ones. When she is done, she opens a notebook and begins to write. She drafts new text and then pulls an empty postcard to fill.
I miss this kind of influence in my life, the kind of woman who reminds me of my grandmother, my mommo. I miss the class and the elegance, the care in appearance, the nurturing of relationships, the priority of a postcard.
Simply by looking at this woman I feel that she could teach me a lot about life’s pit stops and gems. What is it about people that make me wonder – there is something in her shoes – there is something in her posture – there is something in her face that I want to capture. That I feel if I capture it, I can figure something out about my own life, about my own essence.
She is fiddling with the seat now, trying to figure out how to put it up higher so she can see to write. She leans across the aisle and asks for a pen, hers has run out of ink. Then I watch her. She looks out the window, takes a breath, and then drafts another postcard.by