A month ago, my wife and I went travelling out to Eastern Canada. It was a first for me, going further than the interior of British Columbia. I had only heard tales of climate, nightlife, and people. Stories of majestic thunderstorms, the pounding rain lasting a few minutes if not hours, followed by tear jerking sunsets filling the sky with colours artists dream of capturing as they paint.
Now B.C., it has it's beauty as well. Honestly, where ever you are there is beauty to be found. It's in the eye of the beholder - you know? The thing is, as many people who travel learn quickly, your heart expands as you travel. Whether you keep it open or not, now that is a whole other story.
I am the middle child of three, born to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. Bless the souls of my parents for their courage, strength, and determination to endure the cold environment of the Pacific Northwest. It's important to mention that the climate of the four seasons, which are 90% cold in the eyes of most Caribbeans, isn't the only chill my parents faced. The cold went deeper then their bones, it was also felt in their hearts. People from the Dominican Republic are generally known to be lively, warm-hearted, loud, and joyous people. As poor as they may be, their hearts seem to be quite rich. Flying half way around the world, to a country within its own identity crisis, while trying to meet new people and speak another language, in a space where drinking is limited in public spaces, alcohol is almost exclusively in liquor stores, dancing seems as robotic as the latest hoover, and it is cold as fuck during most days, is not a warm welcome to say the least.
My parents have moulded and adjusted to the Canadian lifestyle as much as they feel that they can. Ultimately, they have done quite well. As for myself, I too have been adapting to my climate. Not so much to the Canadian culture, but to humanity as a whole. Dominicans, generally speaking, are genetically a combination of the native Taino people of the Caribbean, Spaniards, and Africans. They are Spanish-speaking people who generally identify as either Latinos or blacks, or simply “Dominican”. However, many Dominicans pick and choose their cultural identity based upon their own internalized racist beliefs, regardless of historical facts. During my teen years I juggled with this to the point of exhaustion. Was I to be a Latino? A black guy? Or a “light-skinned brother”, judged by those darker? All the while fulfilling the Dominican stereotype: dick in hand, hips ready to swing at the sound of an accordion, with spousal abuse and crappy parenting all lined up for my future?
Then came Yoga. No not a down dog, that came later, way later. I mean the whole-hearted practice of uncovering the knowing within the heart; Truth. The remembrance of the Self. The practice of uniting with the beauty of all that is. The ultimate dance with my greatest dance partner, Shiva. The joker of all comedians, the artist of all artists, the lover of all lovers. Once I opened my heart to Yoga, I dove head first into a lifestyle that gracefully unwinds with joy.
To this day, a great piece of contemplation for me is the need to identify. The desire to belong. I feel the struggle within the boundaries of my being and I admit, it's not enjoyable. Travelling to Nova Scotia, tasting delicious wines, eating incredible food, listening to stories of new friends and old, whose hearts I will forever cherish and carry within mine, was an adventure I look forward to again. It has imprinted into the deepest layers of my soul. I dream to travel all around Canada; to listen to the stories of my elders, the land, and digest the sometimes hurtful history of this nation. I dream of meeting as many Canadians as I can, whether their skin is various shades of white, brown, or black. Thus far, in the little amount of travelling I have done and the beautiful people I have been blessed to meet, I still feel the cold my parents have described Canada to be. But, I have also learned that within the frigid temperature of the people, land, and air, is a warmth the goes far beyond our mind’s imagination.
It is said within Yoga that there is a fire that burns within our hearts. Commonly, it is hardly noticeable. More often than not, some will try to convince me that it does not exist. Rarely, will I meet someone with their heart blazing with love, and seldom have I met a soul whose heart encompasses you as walk into their presence. Regardless of who it is, I am aware of the flame that lives inside, and because of this I feel the warmth where ever I am. Canadian or Dominican, black, brown, or white, my bones do not ache, my heart is not cold. My blood does not cry to be of black, brown, or white, and although my words at times may reflect separateness, I see you my friend. I see you my family. I see you.