Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alcatraz.

I've been meaning to write about our little journey for a few days now. It didn't help that our internet was down for one of those days.

I don't really even know where to start...? It was awesome!! I have been there once before, but it was Nathan's first time. I was in 8th grade when I went and I remember (as long ago as that was) that I absolutely loved the place.

What's so great about it? An old prison, with some famous prisoners, and a bunch of dilapidated buildings.

Meh. NOT!

The landscape alone is enough to make me fill with excitement. It's an island in the middle of the bay- so of course it's already cool enough. It has history passed the civil war.

I didn't take the audio tour- I toured with the ramblings in my mind. I feel like I was a part of that place in it's history- especially in the recreation area. For some strange reason, the most boring part is my favorite part. When I stepped through the narrow door leading to the rec area below I was just about knocked on my bum from the force of the wind.

On the "main land" it was windy enough to whip your hair in your face but nothing like being knocked on your butt. I squeezed passed a few tourists while walking down the narrow and steep concrete staircase. They were holding the guard rail for dear life- and I was bouncing down the stairs with a huge smile on my face, letting the wind help me down the stairs rather than fighting it.

Once I reached the foot of the stairs the wind seemed even more powerful than on the way down. I have never felt such a beautiful force in my life. Every once in a while I would lift a foot to move forward and the wind would whip it up and away and I would be forced sideways.

I was practically walking with my eyes closed. I held my arms to my side with my palms facing out. The current of wind was amazingly powerful. I was in a riptide of electricity and I chose not to fight it. I embraced it. I have no idea what the few people brave enough to face the wind around me were thinking- but it was probably along the lines of "what in the world is she on?". Hah. I could care less. Those folks are mearly an after thought. While this was occurring it was just me and the wind.

I imagined myself with wings and what would happen if I just simply opened them up and held them there. How hard I would have to fight to stay on the ground- and how I would give up on purpose so I could be lifted and carried high into the sky. Oh that wind.

Icy, forceful, and perfect. I have no idea how long it took me to reach the ancient looking steel door, doused in rust, at the opposite end of the rec area. I was definitely not in any kind of hurry. My fingertips were the temperature of a marble cutting board left in the fridge, and my ears were probably somewhere close to snapping off my head. It. Was. Cold.

The door was held open by magic. Or it seemed that way- there wasn't anything I could tell keeping it open except maybe the wind. It wasn't gracefully swaying like me though, it stood motionless and grand. An entity of this island touched by hundreds of hands. A witness to many ball games, banter, and fights no doubt. If this door could tell me stories I would never leave.

Through the door there was an entirely too tiny concrete slab with stairs jutting downward like they were making a face at the shore. An ugly face, mocking the brown water and passing tourists. Sheesh. I decided NOT to descend but to stay right there- overlooking the water and clinging to the "support rail". There were two others on the slab with me devouring hot dogs, with mouths practically covered in mustard. I smiled slightly once, then noticed they didn't speak English and were wrapped head to toe in puffy mountaineering-style clothing... giving me the impression they originated from some where tropical. I had to laugh.

I closed my eyes once again, ignoring the presence of the others and listened. I heard nothing- but at the same time everything. All I heard was the wind. It was simply astonishing.

If there is such a thing that can be simple and astonishing, it was this wind.

I reluctantly turned back toward the door and trudged through it. Perfectly aware that within 30 minutes I would be leaving this place. This place I love so much.

I danced, literally, across the rec area in the wind toward the stairs. Taking in the entire scene like snapshots in a magazine. Feeling the...well...essence of the place like very few people probably do. I could have existed alone in that moment, even though in my snapshots there were bundled tourists.

I snapped out of my daze just in time to hear two [attractive] men behind me with thick accents giggling at my dancing. They were giggling. It's not every day you get to hear two foreigners giggle in absolutely adorable accents... and at your own expense as well. Let's just say I was lifted higher. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face if I tried. But why would I even try?

I took my time up the stairs, saying my goodbyes the the wind, and the rec area. Looking over the scenery once again- hoping to keep it my my mind forever. There were a few people squeezing passed me to trek down the stairs, and then I nodded and turned around. Time to find my family.

I walked as slow as I possibly could through the torrent of humans, lost in the audio tour, with out feeling claustrophobic. I walked passed the solitary confinement cells, shuttered, and turned away. Most people can walk in and out of those cells without feeling much aside from a flash of interest and curiosity... I can't even walk near them. It almost feels like MANY have died in them- even though I know that's not true. There are, on the other hand, still a lot of heavy emotions and fear left in them. Things in which I care not to let drag me down from my wind-high.

As I darted through conversations, picture takers, tour guides, and rangers, I finally found myself in the gift shop. I browsed a bit- looking for one thing in particular and of course, they didn't have it. I didn't see my curly headed husband, or intense two year anywhere- so I sent a text, and went outside.

The wind was barely a whisper compared to the rec area- even though it seemed like people were whining enough about the cold and wind. I found a "perch" of sorts and debated whether or not I felt like being told by a ranger I wasn't allowed to sit up there. I said to myself, "Hell with it," and hopped up. The perch was actually just a large cement...err...pole... with a flat surface that stood just below my chest. It held the last remnants of a cement guard rail in place at the top of the steep path leading to the main prison area. Chain link fences, antique barbed wire, and bird poop did not alter my opinion. This place is absolutely magnificent. I sat indian style atop the perch, and stared (for a mighty long time) over the water. To the shore. I counted sail boats. I imagined who the people were sailing, and wondered if they have ever felt as I did then. I hoped they had. I hope that every one has. Of course.

I meditated for who knows how long. I was called back to reality when my phone chimed with a text message. I really didn't want to check it because I knew it would darken my illumination. I did anyway. I have to. It's a compulsion... sort of like imagining myself with wings. It just has to happen.

The text message was seriously a random one, but still... it put me back in reality. I replied- then managed to dial the numbers to call my husband. I had no idea where anyone was. My fingertips felt like they didn't exist and my face was frozen in this sort of half grin, half pout face.

Before I knew it, I was purchasing a t-shirt for my kid, and then on the boat to go home. It ended too soon. At least it was everything and more that I remembered it as.

Did you know there is talk of tearing Alcatraz down and putting a world union center on the island? If that happened- a part of me would be lost forever... a part that is more confusing and beautiful than most parts of me.

I have no idea what it is that links me with The Rock. Yet, it's there and it is strong. Stronger than I have ever felt anywhere. It makes me wonder how I am going to feel when I see Machu Picchu.