Two weeks ago, I returned from late fall in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to my small casita inside the intense heat of New Mexico. Quiet. No city noise. All the rich moments of being with family and friends in honor of my recently deceased father, and sharing my novel Child of Duende with so many inspired souls, had come to an end. Just me now after four months of all of us, my family, caring for my father until the end, and then celebrating his life and taking care of logistics in the world he left behind in Buenos Aires.
When I returned from Buenos Aires to the silence of my home, an immense grief welled up inside of me. It didn’t even feel like the kind of grief of missing someone. Instead, I sensed my father’s presence intensely, that part of him that had so loved his small apartment in Buenos Aires … and especially his favorite room with the computer, television, and small sofa bed where he had tossed his pistachios shells all over the floor in an act of freedom from his earlier self-imposed constraints. Back then, two years ago, he was already showing signs of leaving soon, and I could feel that preciousness of each moment as if it could have been his last.
Upon returning two weeks ago from Buenos Aires, I cried often, sensing my father still there in his favorite room, his place of paradise where nothing now blocked him from a freedom he had long sought…the same freedom he had imagined of the gaucho, the cowboy on the wide-open grasslands, las pampas, of Argentina. I wanted to join him, be free like him to roam, as spirit, into new lands, into open fields of eternity.
As I went to ordinary places—the gym, the supermarket—I felt my spirit half in my body (the other half was above me somewhere, wishing to take that expansive journey with my father). My longing to fly was as strong as it has been in the past. I didn’t want to leave this physical existence because I hated life, but because I’ve always known a much bigger place of spirit than this one I’ve seen here. I had come here, to this earth, as a big spirit and heart, as a kind of nature spirit, a duende, not knowing quite how to be inside a confined body and to walk this earth the way humans have been doing for millennia.
That morning, two weeks ago, I knew I couldn’t stay in that space between the worlds. My chest hurt too much, and the grief for my father, of wanting to join him, absorbed me. So I stretched, felt the soft contours of my body, and returned to meditation, pulling my spirit back into my body. I returned back here, but with a heightened awareness that I am here to share this light of my spirit in the world… that my ancestors, including my father now, are present to help me be this gift in the world.
It’s been months since I sang like I used to do. Constricted lungs, I suppose, or more likely grief. I haven’t sung to the mountains, the trees, to this precious life like I used to. And I haven’t sat still in meditation in a while. I’ve been busy doing earthly things, like working, resting, and writing as I do here. But, there’s this place inside me, inside all of us, that is like the midnight sky, open, still, waiting for us to return to a place of expansion. No purpose. No goal. Just feeling her presence.
This morning I sat in meditation, tall ceilings above me, a view of the mountains in the distance, returning to myself. Where do we ever go from here?
When I was in Argentina, I shared my novel with a Flamenco guitarist to an audience of 80-plus people. The reception was magical, unexpected, with more people cramming into the old bookstore than had done so in a while. I was later invited to tell my story to an English-speaking audience at a retirement home. There they asked me to sing a Cherokee song, one that calls out to angelic beings, which I had sung to my father two years earlier in his apartment.
By the time I had left Argentina, family from Argentina, Chile, and Germany, and dear friends of my father, had gathered for the first time in a long time to celebrate my father’s life. I also offered one last writing workshop at the same bookstore as earlier to top it off.
So much life, sharing, and being together happened for all of us in Buenos Aires, that when I returned here to New Mexico, it was time to sit with all that had happened—all the death and life—of the past five months. And now, here I am, ready to more fully embody this essence that I am, to be duende, “dueño de”, owner of this body and life I am here to live and celebrate. I am ready to dance, to sing, to give and receive the love and light that comes from spirit, from our ancestors, from life itself, that is inside us all.
Michelle Adam is an experienced writer, teacher, and healer. She recently published her novel, Child of Duende, after twenty-plus years as a magazine and newspaper writer. Her articles have appeared in The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine; Hibernia Magazine, an Irish magazine; Vista Magazine, a Hispanic insert of major national newspapers; and multiple other publications.
Michelle has also been a photographer and artist; has taught middle school students Spanish for the past dozen years; and has worked as a healer and shaman. Michelle has created healing and teaching circles of song and sound, assisting others in awakening the spirit of the earth, “duende,” within them, and creating a space for the celebration of life.