July 12, 2011

Independence Day. ~ Ashley Mulligan

Photo: Fraiche Ash

I missed celebrating Independence Day 4 days ago…

I had traded my American ice cream cake for a large copetta of fresh mint gelato in the company of a man and sat in a Piazza of Florence versus a hot asphalt avenue of a California block party.

Though I did think fondly of it as I skimmed through favorite food blogs, as images and recipes for cold cranberry cocktails and butterscotch popcorn, to whole hog barbeques, corn…. Hamburgers…. Red bikinis… and cocoa bars alongside hand churned ice cream, came to mind.

All strung a together to give me a sense of being almost… dare I say it? Homesick. But I am not writing a post of nostalgic American summer traditions. I am writing about freedom.

I am writing about an adventure. About a bag with my things in it, and only my things. A passport with my name on it, and only my name. The ability to go where I want, when I want, and with my hair up or with my hair down. A phone number which 5 individuals have. Limited Internet access. Helmet or no helmet?

I have come to realize that this life is a choice. And in choosing how to live in it, I choose to live it alone. And that sense of space, air, and unknown around me brings more authentic pleasure to my being than words can describe.

Photo: Peggy Markel

Sweet Darkness, by David Whyte

When your eyes are tired
The world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
No part of the world can find you

Time to go into the dark
Where the night has eyes
To recognize it’s own.

There you can be sure
You are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
Further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all other worlds
Except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
Confinement of your aloneness
To learn

Anything or anyone
That does not bring you alive

Is too small for you.

He arrived unexpectedly. Bought me flowers. And has loved me more than any man may ever love me. Such authentic expression and exchange. Devotion, if you will. To a girl. A girl without a home, and no want for one. With one bag of things, her things, and only her things. I admit that for the past 4 years (very primitive years of loving mind you) I have been seriously plagued by a love affair with geography.

I have been in love, on a few occasions – on the right, we have the perfect man, and on the left, we have a perfect, purchased ticket to freedom in the form of a foreign country. A choice to imprint stamps on my passport, instead of my heart. I’ve considered the insensitivity of this within myself. Why I have chosen to not leave bread crumbs, in my wake, like travelers used to do.

I dropped him off at the station. Unknown when I will see him again. I walked with a fierce step, maybe even a slight gallop, through the herds of church-gazing tourists. The heat of July rising up from the cobblestones. I walked as fast as I could possibly walk. I could not get away fast enough.

With each step, nudged by a slight breeze, I had transported myself to an enduring recollection, one of riding on the back of an Indian motorbike. Long, curly hair caught up in a helmet-less wind, a wind that wicks away any and all hot, dead or negative energies on your body. Weightless and worriless, you ride from curve to curve, allowing the wind to clean you and bring you alive.

I returned home, pressed the flower between a large book which read: “Made in Italy, Food & Stories.” The stem and green leaves stuck out of the bottom like that of the green legs of the Wicked Witch of Oz beneath the white house.

I made a coffee, took a shower, sat in a white linen robe and felt genuine happiness in the silence and aloneness around me. I swam in that feeling for hours. I still have not opened the book.


Ashley Mulligan is a self-named gypsy-chef and world traveler. She balances her time between her two equal passions of food and yoga, teaching and cooking all over the world, privately and with Peggy Markel’s Culinary Adventures. A true nomad, she lives out of a suitcase with no one place to call “home,” her only constant companions being her camera, journal and well traveled yoga mat.

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