And so we watch and so we learn/With eyes wide for our dreams to yearn

Posts tagged ‘life’

Resolution

It’s August. August September October November…time is creeping closer. Diwali is nearing. The time to fly back to India inches it’s way over the horizon and into the periphery of my visible future. 

And I am scared. 

I’ll be flying alone this time. No family, no parents, no grandmother watching my back this time. I’ve flown alone before, but never so unshielded, so without established structure and shelter. And that is thrilling. But…it’s new. Daunting. India is dangerous, especially for an 18 year old, for a white woman. So many bad things could happen. This goes against all the conventions of safety. I don’t even know how well I will be able to cope amid so much unfamiliar, without anyone guiding me. If I’ll even be able to make enough money to afford the full trip. There’s so much uncertainty, trepidation, unfamiliarity and yes fear, of the unknown and quite possibly life threatening. 

But I have to go. 

It’s not a want or a whim or a fleeting dream anymore. This isn’t 2012. This is need, this is the moon calling ocean tides, tugging them closer, dhanyavad, shukriya and nandri being mixed with efcharisto and gracias in my mental responses, to my predominately greek and spanish speaking co-workers. This is the familiarity and trust and joy, established in the three days I had with my friends there, last time, demanding to be built upon. I need to come back, and find familiarity in the sound and sight of friends laughing beside me in person. I need to see the cities they all speak of, the beautiful and the ordinary and the ugly, the reality that created so much that I love. 

And it will be a risk. I am trusting myself to stand alone and strong, beside those who may permit me, in your India. Things can and probably will go wrong. But I have made too many plans to bail now. And I know, I believe with absolute certainty, that it will be worth it. 

Before and After

Nostalgia is such an odd thing. We forget sometimes, how much we live in it sometimes. I know I do. 
But not of the past. The past has always been something to move on from, grow from, work past. People say they find comfort in the past, but I don’t. I find comfort in the future. In dreams. 

In planning and yearning and imagining and making true – in wishing and hoping and trusting. It’s a bad habit in ways, but it also makes life…when your dreams come true – and yes, they have and they do – there are never enough words to describe how incredible life feels. How overjoyed and euphoric and brimming with exhilaration, because this is what you dreamed of, and it’s real.

I felt that when I flew to Argentina. When I walked through a South American rainforest. When I had lunch with my boyfriends family. I felt that hour after hour in India – those three days where I spent time with people I’d never heard laugh before, when I hugged them and watched them smile in real time. Reality became surreal, my brain barely able to process anything that wasn’t directly related to this wish unfolding before my eyes, as naturally as if to say ‘Of course they’re right there – where else would they be? How else could the universe be, but this?’
And yet, what they don’t tell you about dreams coming true, is that there is an After. A time and a place where this present has passed, gone, moved on. Life is not still, stagnancy is poisonous, and so change just happen. And so your dreams do happen, and then sometime else must. Your dream, once so vivid in your imagination, and then so breathtakingly alive – they’ll be gone. Their hug cannot last forever, the ice skating rink will finish the session, you’ll have a plane to catch. And it’ll be gone. It’ll be past, lost in the depths of time again – not to go too Disney princess on you, but when you’re faced with your wishes coming true, and …What if it’s not everything you dreamed it would be? And when it passes, what if it is? What do you do then?
I guess Eugene is right. You just gotta then find a new dream.

Handprints

When I was in Rajasthan I stood in a temple and held my hand against a print on a wall. The village had been abandoned for centuries, lost and forgotten, save for the story of their disappearance, tourists clambered over old stone houses and posed amid the ruins. All we knew now, was that the village was haunted. 

IMG_0716

But I stood. In that temple. With that handprint. It wasn’t the only handprint, but this one was in my reach, close enough that I could stand on tiptoes and press my palm to match hers. I knew it was a ‘hers’. Another woman, just like me. 

But she was a woman of long ago. Who’s language I could not understand, even as today words stood carved on the pillars of that temple. Who’s life and culture differs from mine so greatly it takes whole books of ideas to understand. A woman’s handprint, henna red against sandstone. Bu I had been told, I knew what that means; a woman condemned to die. 

In my world, our world, we tell stories to each other, to explain feelings and ideas and what mere facts can explain. We share lives and fantasies as easily as the sun shares sunlight, as the breeze shares coolness with our vividly alive skin. Just think. To be alive. We weave our stories as immortality, armour against our world of fleeting life, held onto with every passing second. Because without them, we forget. What can we remember, but the stories we spin our lives into? Does this make us more substantial, documenting every moment of our existences, with diaries and momentos, Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. Clinging to our nows and making them forever. 

But we forget. 

We forget that lives happen, lives are lived and loved and lost in the hopes of so many, desperation and joy repeating like the seasons. That a woman once stood where I was, and grieved. Not just for the loss of her husband, but the loss of her life. Having tied all her worth to a mere mortal, her life was to be cut as surely as his was, be it by her jumping or being pushed onto his burning body. Cremation for two, because surely love burns eternal.

The real forever lies not in our tweets and saved MP3 files. It lies in handprints, scattered across the globe. It lies in carvings, not in rooms of wood and stone, but in time. We are as old as the universe, truly, and each moment we breathe merely adds to the compilation of time we barely know ourselves. 

Every inch of our planet is layered with the past, of stories and lives told over and over again. Searching for something greater, never knowing if we’ve found it. Will we find it? Maybe, one day. But until then, we can only feel. We can only remember.

We remember for those long gone, what their worlds would have been, when lives ran so alien to your way of now. They weren’t as different as we imagined. They felt wonder and curiosity and fear and pain and joy, just  the same. They died, just as their forefathers did before them. And as feet tread this well worn path, again and again, baby steps of change incrementing us forward imperceptibly, blinking under the sun, one handprint comes to mind. Red, small, thin. The handprint of a wife without a husband. The handprint of a woman about to die. A piece of humanity amid the wreckage ensued by time…more than what is left for so much more if our past. As obscure as our future and as alien as martian life…and yet, her handprint fitted mine, so perfectly, perfectly…

Elemental Extremities

They say when you’ve reached
The farthest constellations of despair, just breathe.
They say when you’re stuck, improvise.
Get creative, do something new.
There I was, knowing every variation of new.
I thought I could understand it all, before this began.
Life made sense – it did!
I fit in the world.
Live it all now. Grow, change, explore.
The greatest achievements are the ones expected by no-one
I suppose by my rules, that makes us spectacular?
Except, by you
You play by a very different game.
Dedication and sacrifice, focus and discipline.
You knew where you belonged, where you were going.
Achieve, fight, thrive.
Stone when I was air,
Fire when I was water.
Work hard and plan, you say
Smile and laugh, just live, I say.
And I’d warn you, of your pride too proud
You’d chide me in return, my ideals to loud

Between a rock and a hard place
A roaring, clashing chaos, the ocean met land
Swirling water and unforgiving stone
We were always two worlds, fighting to coexist.
I puzzled over you, fought for you
Fought with you, in excess
Too much, hours of time
An avalanche and an onslaught
Clocks struggled to stabilise, as with the rising of the moon
The tides would turn,
The sea would rise to meet stone again
As new ground, old ground
And ever changing terrain was swept over

“Never healthy”, you said
“Don’t care”, I said
If opposites attract, then maybe we are the same?
Magnets of the same polarity
Drawn together inexplicably, pushed apart violently
Too close and yet not at all
Each bound to their tethers
Never truly meeting
Never truly parting
Alien textures of the other, explored with curious fingers
Of words, snatching what we can in each interaction
Taking and giving and sharing and baffling…

You are more than I ever imagined was possible to exist
And you are less tangible than any cloud to sweep my horizon.
I am too different to function in your world,
And you are too defiant to function in mine.
But I know, that one day
You will burn your name onto every stone on your path
That ever lead you, to greatness and power
Just as, in my own way,
I will seek to weather and round the edges of my paved journey of curiosity
Just a hop, skip and a jump away
Along softened stone, my feet will tread
A very different path to yours, this we have always known

So yet,
Even if we never speak again
Even if I never hear your voice, or shake your hand
I think maybe, just maybe
I’ve helped, to smooth out some of your edges
To soften your path, no matter where you go
Just as I know you have helped forge me
And
Your name will always be burnt, on the inside of my skull
Long after you have left my present and future
Each taking a piece of the other with them
Long after the ocean leaves the rocky shore.

New World, New Delhi

Messy, dirty, madness. Breathe.
Don’t breathe – cover your mouth, filter the fumes
Ancient carvings, airtel ads, cows and pigs roam wild 
Madness here, seeks to push you out
Who are you and why are you here?
What are you doing here, with your blue eyes and red hair
Every face questions you, follows you
Watch your back, watch your purse
But not always. Too much to see
Flashing by in the gap between flapping plastic
Three wheeled madness on unregulated roads
Too many cars, too many people
Each glimpse a question
A sewing machine being used on the sidewalk?
Rows of shiny kitchen utensils?
Piles of fruit, mysterious street food 
Unfamiliar letters painted along walls
Cricket in abandoned constructions…

You wonder at the people here.
At men wandering the streets – where are they going?
No footpaths or signs that make sense to your eyes
The girls here are mythical
Brightly coloured, draped in textures
Or exactly the same as immigrants back home
Here, you are the immigrant
Here, you are the strange one
In a world scarcely policed.
Too much to do
(Baksheesh ma’am? Chai panee please)

Humanity overflows here
Vultures selling services circle;
Hesitation? They swarm
You escape by the hands of a stranger
Kindness pushes between hands that reach out for what’s not bolted down
Tapping at your window when traffic halts
Weaving between shiny cars and men pulling carts
Pressed between sky scrapers and crumbling constructions
Life here fights, in each tangle of power lines
And the scrawny dogs who still droop with lactating teats

Order surrenders to chaos
Though not entirely, never entirely
You can feel the tide tugging, reaching to drag your feet out from under you
There are pockets though, dusted squares
Of organisation – frustration resulting in mediation
‘This inch of land is predictable!’
Proclaim the planners, the pedantic
While piles of dirt heap at roadsides
Remnants of plans forgotten 

Weeds do not exist here
The vegetation fights in armies, or not at all
Tangling and darkening undeveloped corners
Or sprawling between cement patchwork
Until you stumble across tranquility
Serenity in a room, a garden, a cafe
You almost forget what the car horns mean
Abstract notes become background ambience
Reminding you relentlessly of where you are
Reestablishing life’s motion here
Of hassle and noise and unmarked roadways

Until you stumble across beauty
Delicacy in a colour or shape or smile
Or the taste of hot chai first thing in the morning
Sweetness, like everything here, is potent
You lose track of the days and dates
Only feelings matter, only endeavours
Adventure subverts the ordinary
And turns the simplest of tasks Herculean
And the Herculean tasks reform unrecognisably
Because what else could to expect?
Within the dazzling, befuddling world
Between the drama and the dismal and the drastic
Fluctuating between gorgeous and grotesque
The capital of the country, the city of djinns
Here you are. Welcome

Flight

We’re going to fly.
I know it.
Can you feel it too?
In my heart and my lungs and my throat, I know
That the world is outside waiting

And I am going to soar
See it all
Feel the wind and the salt and the spray
See wide smiling faces rushing past
Everything, everything
It’s all humming and thrumming and thriving with life, out there.

Out there. Somewhere anywhere
I swear I’d be content, just to see
Just to feel that sun on my skin
Reaching out with uncertain hands
Filled with my ideas, bright as bubbles
Wide fingers.
If I grasp tight enough to life, will it take me out to see all of it?

Just get me out of this tiny little pocket.
Get me out of this grotto of idling weather
Where the celestial storms of the swirling, raging, singing planet of people are
Oh people! Give me people
To smile and to hug, to be confused and enthused by
To hate and to bait and to wait by,
To wait for and worry for, to love for but most of all live for

Let me live, that’s all I ask for.
Let me fly and be free, let me roam and truly be
Entrench my toes in foreign sands
Stretch my eyes upon new lands
Lands which eyes like mine have never seen
Only dreamed and wished and longed to know
For the world is far greater than any satellite can show
Each inch of earth not merely there
But like dimensions, folded inwards,
Crumpled papers of time tossed together

The tale of our Earth is told
In leaflets, the greatest book of them all
With each fallen autumn leaf
With the petals of fading flowers
With the multitudes of sea shells washed upon our shores
On every forgotten coastline, our history is written

And
My fingers itch to turn these pages
They seek to trace, the ink that narrates our stories
Leads from then to now to what will be
A sight I refuse to never not see!
For I cannot live but to look
To breathe each breath this new air
Of recycled nitrogens, that once long ago
Bore breaths to even the greatest:
Deep rooted trees in their soil, steady and strong
And wandering wondering thinkers, in their days long lost

But this today is mine, and I claim it
My life stamped with each beating pulse
Onwards, forwards, backwards and sideways
Slipping between the souls of others
Lingering on the beauty in each fragment I see
For what else can we become?
But refractors, absorbers, reflectors
Putting piece by piece of ourselves together
With each piece and puzzle we find from each other

And by everything that was ever holy, my pieces are scattered like the stars!

Travel: It Changes You

You know when people ask you how something has changed your life? And expect a nice, 100 word answer? Hehe, sometimes it isn’t so simple 😛
Because the thing that people don’t realize is,  is the fact that travelling has been one of the defining elements of my entire life. Literally, I had crossed 2 continents before I’d reached my second birthday. The first few years of a child’s life massively influences them in every way, studies have proven it. Babies imprint on people, things and places, whether they remember or not. My feelings towards a Russian refugee who helped my parents with me during the first 6 months of my life are inexplicably deep, tenderness to that only a handful of my blood family share. In the way some kids grew up in a city or rural town with their close family, I grew up with misadventures across Hong Kong and China, St Petersburg and Amsterdam, Turkey and Portugal.

Winter in Edinburg Scottish Highlands Loch Ness Edinburgh Castle

Kids start primary school with a few friends from the neighborhood, I began feeling foreign and strange, missing my best friend from Edinburgh. In the way the old folks have kick-knacks on shelves that “No, don’t touch that, it’s fragile” we have Zambian wooden carvings, Russian dolls, Indian drums and Moroccan cushions. It was much as part of our family as religion is to others’. Just as my family settled down, and Time in Oz > Time Overseas, and our world shrank to ours and the neighboring state and travelling became a distant dream, we took off for 2 months in Indonesia. My sister and I, who barely remembered more than lingering fragmented memories of Before, truly discovered budget travelling with a backpack. It completely opened our eyes, our conscious minds, to how wonderfully easy it all was, to catch a plane or a boat or a bus to wherever your finger landed on a map. Especially if you took the cheapest option and paid attention when the locals started haggling. Not only was this incredible adventure more economical, it was more real. We learnt the language and met people and went to the least-visited tourist sights. I think it had the most effect on my littlest sister, who was 3 the first time, 6 the second. We made sure to show her, when we flew over the coast of Darwin, to explain how we weren’t in Australia anymore, and she took to it all like a duck to water. Watching your country fade by, with the scuttle of clouds under sky more impossibly blue than you’ve ever seen before…it gives you a profound message of exactly how small the world really is, how easy it is to find your place in a brand new city with fragmented communication – smelling and hearing and seeing things more vividly than you thought possible. Your senses go into overdrive when you travel, you learn to drop ingrained expectations and habits, to adapt to new (or less) road rules, to manners and reactions in everyday interactions, to savor everything that is new, different or even slightly the same.

Kid by the Boats Lush Greenery at 70 km/h Classic Architecture in Bali
And this is doubly the case when one travels by oneself to the other side of the world. To be completely alone, and completely free, in a completely alien environment…it is one of the most incredible and indescribable life changing experiences. When everything, down to the weeds in the cracked pavement, the direction of traffic, the language on the tv’s, the clothes, the music, the buildings and the weather are utterly brand new, the metaphor of soaking things in on a wonderful family holiday is akin to playing in the rock pools and then being swept out to the ocean in a storm. You see so much, you don’t have time to absorb a fraction of what you’re hearing, everything that was your bedrock of support – lost at sea. It’s a psychological onslaught combined with an ecstatic sensory input. The textiles and aromas from crafts that are a blend of Incan and European worlds, ocean, sierra, rainforest and desert climates – waterfalls and glaciers that went thousands of meters in every direction.

Living with teenagers who only knew a tiny square of the universe, so small and yet so rich with heritage and history, showing clearly in their eyes and their blood. And then there were others, explorers like myself, who understood the joy of flight and the thrill of travel – and bonding with them, sharing our adventures with like-minded spirits, together from so many places in a moment of coincidence. It was 12 months of magic, 2012; a Balinese Christmas and a germanic Argentine Easter, India on the phone and Bolivia across the river, where I never stayed in the same place for more than 8 weeks solid, travelling from almost the Antarctic circle to within the tropic of Capricorn…and when I went home, my world shrank to a 50 km radius. Ire turned back to my secure family, friends who had never left the city and going to the beach 15 minutes away a special occasion.
Skyline of my beloved Cordoba The Igazu Falls. Sheer awe-inspiring magnificence. 300 year old remnants of spanish missionaries Buenos Aires at night Bariloche, in the foothills of the Andes Los Caballeros celebrating in the Intersection La Boca, Buenos Aires The Puerto Marino Glacier, in all it's icy glory Northern Markets in the Hills of Salta Guitarists that we were, in a cross-cultural group session

When you travel, you are bombarded by the majesty of the chaotic life on earth, until you learn to adjust your sails and navigate the winds of the universe. Your mind expands more, than you ever thought possible, to span oceans and languages and cultures – you see how much more there is to the world. How much more there is to living.