It was New Year’s Eve. The stems of wilted, white and golden roses washed up on the shore and tickled my feet, offerings for Yemaya (the Sea Goddess) from the people of Salvador, Bahia. Everyone was dressed in white. I watched as people threw themselves into the Ocean, some fully clothed. A pulsating Spirit permeated in the air…there was a sense of laughter and joy. I smiled, bemused that, in this moment, I was free. I was amongst these Children of the Sea.
I was standing at the shore holding hands with a Brazilian girl as she explained to me in careful Portuguese how to cleanse oneself of the past and “bring in the new.” She instructed me to jump over each wave seven times and afterwards, ask Yemaya for 3 wishes to be granted. After leaping together, I stood stark still whilst gazing out into the vast unknown that is the Atlantic Ocean. I inhaled deeply and took in my surroundings. Wow, I thought. I am in Brazil. It seems that Yemaya has already granted at least one of my wishes.
It all started three months earlier, after a particularly uneventful gig with my band, on a chilly New York autumn night. My mom and friends took me to dinner at a Brazilian restaurant named “Berimbau” and, upon entering, my entire body caught fire as I was instantaneously flushed and overwhelmed with nostalgia. I had visited Bahia, Brazil 4 years before that day to celebrate my 30th birthday, and I had loved it. But, I was startled by this visceral whole-body, whole-soul reaction.
Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, I began a lively discussion at the dinner table. “Why am I always doing what’s expected of me?” I asked no one in particular. “Why can’t I be the one to go and trek through some foreign country? Why do I need a ‘reason’ to do it?”
As these questions pervaded my mind, I had a rare momentary lapse in which my defenses were disabled just long enough to download a single idea: return to Bahia. So, after consulting with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones, the decision was made. I would sell and give away half of my belongings, put the other half in storage and I would move to Brazil for 3 months.
I had no idea what was waiting for me in Brazil. I didn’t know why I was going. All I knew was that once the idea made its way into my head, there was no getting rid of it. So, I moved forward with the necessary preparations and began the process of taking this extraordinary step. I didn’t even know where to start. How do you even pack for three months? I had never traveled anywhere for more than two weeks!
I began with the basics: I called, e-mailed and Facebook-ed every soul I had ever heard even remotely mention Bahia. I began Skyping with a language teacher to get my Portuguese game up. I got the necessary vaccinations. I called up a highly intelligent, straight forward, highly pragmatic friend and commanded him to drill me with practical questions and astute observations, hoping he would convince me that my plan is insane so I could abandon this absurd mission.
Of course, my ego (who does its job of maintaining the status quo quite well) berated me and tried to trick me into coming up with a tight-knit schedule to create a sense of “structure,” thus insuring some semblance of safety. I resisted and remembered a quote I read once: “a bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul.”
As the day of my departure grew closer, I grew anxious. I vacillated wildly between uncertainty and absolute sureness. I felt like a crazed lunatic, my head spinning at break neck speed on a mental roller coaster of my own making.
On a clear and cold December night, I flew into skies that didn’t feel too friendly at all. I gazed lovingly at the New York City skyline through the tiny window of the plane as a smiling crescent moon followed my ascent into the unknown, seemingly laughing at me. I silently wept, thinking, “What on Earth am I doing?”
About the Author: Stacie Aamon Yeldell is a Board Certified Music Therapist and an International Recording Artist. She currently resides in Venice, CA and travels frequently to Brazil. Visit www.stacieaamon.com and www.facebook.com/stacieaamon for more information.