And that’s okay.

As of late, this has been my mantra. Example: I wish I had more friends in this new place, and that’s okay. It is a friendlier, gentler voice in my head that reminds me to be patient. My first real lesson in patience came from an individual vastly cooler than myself.

His name was Dale. A Rastafarian, Jamaican-jungle man. His dark skin was so rich with color, like roasted coffee beans or bittersweet chocolate, it shined as both earthy, yet luxurious. Dreads hung from his head as a bandana decorated with marijuana leaves held them off his face. His mauve tank top looked weathered and dirty. He wore no shoes on the trails of sharp rocks and matted vegetation, while a machete laid relaxed in his right hand.

Dale had a quiet manner compared to his companion’s presence. A man with charisma, Lion showed off his athletic prowess with displays of headstands, incredible rock climbing and leg splits. Though Dale had a visibly equal build and strength, he lingered in the shadows of the group, observing from a distance. Once again, a kindred spirit appeared to me in the way they always do: magically.

These two men guided a group of American students (all girls) through the thick Jamaican jungle. This was truly the most anticipated part of the trip for me, a Midwestern college student with no real hiking experience. A real jungle! The exotic life that thrived in such places made me giddy. The time I could have spent picking up leaves, examining flowers, sitting quietly and absorbing the green life… Though humidity was suffocating at times, the jungle did not disappoint. I kept to myself most of the walk, savoring the sights and senses.

We were two miles from our final destination. I heard someone’s pace catching up to mine. I quickened my step, hoping to avoid more awkward conversations. But the ground was too wet; the damp brown leaves made me lose my footing. I gasped quietly as I lost my balance, but as I regained my form, I heard a smooth, knowing voice behind me whisper, Taaaaake your time… “Ha!” I chuckled out loud, trying to cover my embarrassment. I knew exactly who was talking to me. It was Dale, the quiet Rastafarian.

Suddenly, I found Dale walking along side of me and talking to me in his soothing voice. “Slow down, no need to move fast.” I was nervous. What could we possibly have to talk about? What could we have in common? But soon enough, we were talking about his abundant farm (Rastafarians are vegetarians and pot-connoisseurs.) We traded fishing stories. One time, I told him, my dad and I were crossing a bay when my rod bent so quickly, so strongly, and my line instantly snapped. That was a big fish, I said. His fishing story was better.

I’ve been lost at sea. You need two people in the boat, always. It’s so small, two people keep it stable against the ocean currents. Especially when there is a fish, a big fish, on your line. It can threaten your boat’s turnover. And when the fish is about the size of your boat, that’s when you need another to help you bring it in. Yeah, I’ve been lost at sea. A couple days. When the shoreline becomes out of view, that’s when you know. But I’m pretty good at finding my way back. I feel my way home… I love Jamaica. I am never going to leave Jamaica. Peace flows out of this land. Everything I need is here.

We walked in silence a while, and in little time, we were at the end of the trail. I waved goodbye to Dale.

Being away from home and my people, I sometimes wish for normalcy and the familiar. Undoubtedly, I feel a disconnection to my surroundings, the people I have met and the glaring sun. And that’s okay. Sometimes, I wish I was as grounded as Dale. That’s okay, too. Every once in a while, when I try to wish the present away, Dale’s three little words speak so softly in my mind, I have to listen really hard to hear them clearly.

Take your time.

all your impatience
comes from the push
for the gain of patience
let go of the effort
and peace will arrive

(rumi)

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