“The Weight”

This is a blog about traveling. There hasn’t been much travel for the past 10 months, which leaves me plenty of time to dream about both past and future adventures. Or to ruminate on things. Heavy things.

Sometime last spring this video appeared in my social media feed. I watched, and by the end I was sobbing on my sofa. I chalked it up to the newness of pandemic life. The isolation. The worry. The fresh grief of separation from people, and places, and traveling. The weight of life – it was heavy.

Give it a watch and then we’ll talk about it.

Well, what did you think? Have you seen it before? Are you crying?

Months later, the video reappeared. I watched again, I loved it again, I cried again. I felt homesick, for places I’ve only visited briefly. I felt as though the musicians were people who I longed to see again, even though of course I don’t know any of them. They appeared on the screen like old friends, and my gut feeling was “oh, how wonderful to see you, how I’ve missed you.”

Last week, 10 months into this pandemic way of life, I looked it up and watched, and sure enough, could not get through it without tears. 10 months, and life keeps piling on more weight, doesn’t it. But this song?!?! What IS the power of this particular collaboration of this classic song?

I sat with it, trying to get to the bottom of my intense emotions.

I don’t know anyone in this video, but I know many of the places where they were. I haven’t met them, but I’ve met other people in those same places. People who have shared with me their cultures, their histories, their art and music, their beautiful landscapes. People who have generously welcomed me into the way they see the world, into the pride and love they feel for their little corner of the planet. I don’t always love a place as soon as I arrive, but almost always, I love it by the time I leave, and I attribute that in large part to the people who I’ve encountered.

I may not know names, but even as I write this I am remembering the Indian bartender who taught us about cricket, so excited that his team was in the playoffs.

The Somalian cab driver who proclaimed, “I am a winter man now!”. The Nepalese musicians who were delighted to have us as the only dinner patrons listening to them perform that night.

The Arab men bellied up to the airport bar (are they supposed to be drinking beer?). Hawaiian ukulele players giving a free lesson. The Thai tour guides who mesmerized us with myths carved on the walls of ancient temples.

Our Sikh guide in India who was fluent in at least 4 languages, and helped us understand with so much gentleness things like the value of arranged marriage, and the caste system, and seasonal eating – “we only eat fish when it’s cold”. It was 114 that day. So no fish.

I remember porters and guides, singing and talking and cheerfully carrying heavy loads as I dragged myself breathless up the same trails, panting behind them in the thin air. I’ve been humbled by porters in so many countries, including Peru, Nepal, and Chile.

Here in my cocoon at home, it’s easy to feel worried, and heavy, and isolated. Watching “The Weight” – by Playing for Change reconnects me. This song, 50 years old, and performed “across 5 continents” reminds me that we are here together.

In good times and bad, we are not all separate, not nearly as much as we are all one.

And when we work together, not to be too corny, but look what beautiful music it makes. I’m going to keep watching, and keep crying, because somehow, it lifts the weight.

Be well. Stay safe. Share your thoughts.

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