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I was born in July, and one day has never felt like enough to celebrate the marvel of existing in this form, so for years now I have been having adventures – my favorite gifts – on many of the days in the month of my birth. Some of the best, and occasionally the worst, are documented here.

2010 McLeod Ganj, India
It rained buckets for 24 hours, and for today’s adventure I watched the steep hill beside my apartment disintegrate. I loved the sounds of little trickles of dirt dislodging, and every now and then a big muddy thud. I knew that a darling pine tree was on its way down, but I didn't expect the sound it made, or that it would wait until the rain was over and I was home from school. Don't worry, I'm on the third floor.
Spinning prayer wheels yesterday at the Downtown Temple, I saw some of those clay objects that pilgrims leave in sacred places, and I wonder if it was another sign that this year’s key word is to be Yatra. “Pilgrimage” in Hindi, a new language, as these key words often are.
I hear the delicacy of the monks’ tea bells, like in the old days – the original bell ringer must have returned – and birds, and the steady pouring of rain. It’s chilly. Is that a cloud covering the hill to the east, or could it be snow?
A message on my mobile phone yesterday: Accept what you cannot change and change what you cannot accept.

2009 Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The unemployment rate here is nearly 50%, and I suspect it’s the current hard times that make it seem as if “everybody was happy” under Tito. I’ve heard two people say that. I wonder if either of them had been born when Tito died. But it’s their country and I honor their perspective on it.
The part of town our hostel is in is very hard to get oriented to – in fact we got thoroughly lost on our way home last night – but as soon as we found the river, we began to find our way.
An industrious burek-seller used his two or three words or English and natural skill at communication to welcome us to breakfast, which we couldn’t resist. Apparently only the meat concoctions are called burek in Bosnia, and the others are called pita. The importance of this distinction is revealed in a story the town guide told us about a Croatian man who ordered a burek with cheese and got the latter on top of the former.
According to one of our tour guides, there was really nothing complicated about what I have been calling civil war, which he calls genocide. The country was under siege for 1400 days, unfathomable now, unless you stumble upon a ruin like the National Library, a magnificent building targeted for destruction early on because of its collection of Bosnian literature. There were tales of malaria medicine sent by the UN to a country with no malaria and a cow painted blue and white with the letters “UN” smuggled under the noses of snipers. There was also the urging I’ve heard in other countries that many people think of as wars: This is a beautiful place; please recommend it for that reason.
We saw the high school Ivo Andric attended; wonder if The Bridge on the Drina still lurks somewhere among my books.
When we took note of a cat sitting on a grave in a Muslim cemetery, our tour guide – who is Muslim but attended Catholic school and has an Orthodox girlfriend: “This is Sarajevo,” he said – explained that no one troubles the cats, who move from tomb to tomb as the day progresses. Apparently they are “a little holy” because Mohammed had a cat. “If I did that,” our guide concluded, “they’d beat the shit out of me.”

2008 Riga, Latvia
I didn’t go to bed last night until the time I usually wake up, and now I’m the first in my dorm room at the top of the spiral staircase to rise. I seem to be pleasantly hung over after deep conversation with Inga, who served me the beer I wanted more than anything and talked about the dark side of Eastern European hospitality, wherein the recipient is expected to behave in kind. I am marveling at Riga, whose nighttime streets I have already walked with Frankie, whose name is also Martin, a tour guide who apparently wanted nothing from me but the sincere admiration for his city I voiced early and often. The bus from Sillamae was an hour and half late. “Get me out of here,” I prayed, then had to race across the street as someone let me know that it was my bus beginning to pull away. It seems I was supposed to be watching for the bus coming from St. Petersburg.
The ride itself was uneventful, especially the Estonia/Latvia border, though Latvia looks a little more wooden than Estonia.
I had read that Latvians are reserved, so perhaps I have met only uncharacteristic Latvians. A taxi driver at the bus station told me I’d do better to go to my hostel on foot, and a lady in the underpass firmly corrected my pronunciation when I asked directions.

2007 Granada, Nicaragua
El Tepeyac was an adventure for Miguel as well as for me. Though he took a census of the surrounding community two years ago, he had never visited the retreat center itself, an astonishingly peaceful place where he decided even the birds and monkeys knew not to make a lot of noise.
I don’t know if I’m recalling the citizenry of my native country correctly when I think of them as largely jaded - I hope not - but the raw enthusiasm expressed here in Nicaragua, for a new vista of Mombacho or a gigantic wasp nest dangling in a tree below sleeping monkeys makes me feel more at home here than there. And in a desperately poor country, these delights cost nothing more than pedalling up a long grade. Then, afterwards, you can glide down, like Miguel, no hands, peeling and eating a mango on the swift descent.
It’s going to rain, I kept saying, and it did while we searched for the holes near the dump, strange volcanic dips in the earth so covered over with greenery that we could only imagine their bottoms. It spattered a little here as we waited for the bicycle wizards to grease my front axle, snacking on their stash of mamon, a fruit I am finally learning to do justice to, like a Nica, spitting out a pit with only a few strings of flesh attached.
I had a delightful exchange with a professor Miguel knows way up in Tepeyac or beyond. He spoke of gringos buying land, building houses nearby, then realized with whom he was conversing. “Disculpe,” he giggled, already clear that it was no big deal to me, grinning as I was from ear to ear. In fact, I took it as an inadvertent compliment, a way of letting me know that I’m not exactly included in that category. “I’m sorry,” he was saying, while I was telling him, “Thank you.”

2003 Blagoveshchensk, Russia
I asked Slava what he thought about hell, and he said he thinks its purpose is to frighten stupid people. “I’m not afraid of God,” I told him, and he said, “Tak derzhat’,” which Misha interpreted in colloquial English as “Hold that thought.”

1999 Portland, Oregon, USA
I am so exhausted lately. I got up at 6:15 this morning and felt virtuous. It think it’s partly how long summer’s taking to get here this year. For my adventure yesterday I went to sleep with a pillow between my knees, as a friend had recommended. It was exactly the low impact micro-adventure I was yearning for.

1998 Portland, Oregon, USA
This is one of those mornings when I linger over the keys and I’m not sure what to say. I’m not shy about anything; I’m just quiet. What do you write about when your mind is still?

1996 Coos Bay, Oregon, USA
Gary and I have this morning been having a wonderful fragmented conversation about commitment and knowing, and I haven’t determined the shape of the thing I’m connecting the dots around as I explore this. Perhaps commitment is to knowing what art is to life, something that approaches it asymptotically, but never quite gets there. Or perhaps commitment is practice for knowing. I recall a different Gary telling me he knew he wouldn’t leave his wife. I asked him how and he said he just knew. I didn’t think to ask whether he knew before or after he made a commitment to her.
I don’t have to make a commitment to breathe or even to drink coffee in the morning. It is difficult not to drink coffee, even more difficult not to breathe. Do I have to make a commitment to go to work or write or exercise or meditate? I don’t think so. Though I occasionally lapse, these all feel like default settings. So is commitment the stage prior to the default setting? Is it letting the computer know that you want Bookman Old Style for your font unless you tell it otherwise, not Times New Roman?

1993 Coos Bay, Oregon, USA
As I sit down at the computer this morning I am thinking about figure-ground relationships. I concentrate on this screen, and not on the blue folder with the letters I owe in it, not on the lamp from Toppenish, not on the preying mantis card, not on the photograph of Indian pipes, not on the Department of Entropy cartoon.
I feel like a child on her first day of school. I don’t want to stay in my seat, I want to learn by wandering around.

1991 Barview, Oregon, USA
Another of the last precious mornings in Barview is already drawing to a close. I rode most of the way to Charleston on my bicycle in hope of catching a glimpse of a freighter that was insistently sounding its horn. I can still hear it, though I did not see it. I guess I don’t know the lie of the water well enough to find a freighter headed for the ocean. But it was a good adventure and I will learn.
Long after I had finished hoping for any surprises from my mother’s small estate, I looked through her packet of recipes and found several in my handwriting. They were full of silly comments. I must have sent them to her fifteen years ago.

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