It seemed like she was waiting for someone. By the bench, at the top of a hilly lawn, the bottom of which met with the narrow gravelly passage occupied by the late morning joggers, she stood there, barely noticed by others. An iron railing stretched on the other side of the path, and the bright blue waters of Monterey Bay seemed calm. A forest of boat masts kept swaying in their metronome rhythm. They clanked against each other with the hollow sound of empty water buckets or rusty church bells. The shallow waters by the shore were navigated by a couple of paddle boarders and glossy baby seals.
Was it her beloved heading home? Or was this just a mid-stop where she’d regroup for the next glorious flight of her freedom loving soul? She stood like she belonged to no one — but the call of her nature, immune to the voices of fear or doubt.
The Northbound wind frolicked with her straight white hair. I didn’t expect to see that texture on her body, but when I saw the handful of silky strands fly up on the side of her head, I stopped. She remained motionless: still and proud, slowly scanning the horizon with her focused eyes.
Just a few meters down, I myself had rested by a statue of a woman. I couldn’t tell how long ago I had left my room without having a preplanned route through this small town by the Bay; for I myself had come here to rest in the unlikely lack of my own expectations — my fears, worries and doubts — and I had let the movements of the sun determine my activities that day. So in its highest zenith, I departed from the four walls of my inn after the laughter of children — hyper way too early and fearlessly attacking the nearby pool — woke me up.
I began to run slowly at first, crossing through the traffic of drivers used to the unpredictable characters of pedestrians. Not once did I resort to my city habits of negotiation by scowls or passive-aggressive gestures. I bypassed the elders slowly walking, in groups, along the streets of boutique stores with hand-written signs for Christmas sales. The smell of caffeine and caramel popcorn would trail behind young couples on their romantic getaways. The joggers of the town were few and far between; so when I reached the narrow passage of the tree alley along the shoreline, I picked up my pace.
The wind kept playing with my fly-aways and untangling my tight hair bun. A couple of times I turned my head in the direction of its flow and saw the mirage outlines of my most favorite Northern City.
“By the time I get there, I shall be free of fear,” I always think but then return to the predetermined pacing of my dreams.
I noticed the statue’s back at first: A colonial dress peaked out from underneath a cape, and both were captured in the midst of their obedience to the same Northbound wind.
“A statue of a woman. That’s a rarity.”
And I walked up to her.
It seemed like she was waiting for someone. Up from the pedestal, she focused her gaze on the horizon. Her face was calm but gripped by prayer. I knew that face: It belonged to a lover who trusted that the wind would bring him back to her, unscathed. And even if he were injured on his odyssey or tempted by another woman’s feasts, she trusted he would learn and be all the better for it, in the end. Against her shoulder, she was leaning a wooden cross made of tree branches.
Santa Rosalia: The Italian saint of fishermen. She froze, in stone, in a perpetual state of beholding for other women’s men. Throughout centuries, so many freedom-loving souls must have departed under her watch, and I could only hope that most of them returned. But when the sea would claim them, did other women come here to confront her or to collect the final tales of their men dying fear-free?
I walked while thinking of her face. And then, I saw the other awaiting creature.
When she began to walk downhill, she’d test the ground with each step. With a balletic grace she’d stop at times, and study the horizon. The wind began to tease her silky hair. It took figure eight routes in between her legs, and taunted her to fly.
And so she did: On a single rougher swoosh of the wind, she stretched her giant stork-white wings, gained height and began to soar, Northbound and fear-free.