Travelogue #3: Water Stories

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Water

falls, runs, rushes, gushes, gathers, laps, trickles, carves, digs, advances, retreats, holds, shapes, reflects, destroys, moves, wanders, travels, covers, reveals, smooths, softens, breaks, bursts, begins, ends.

Water

will have/make/work

its way

without asking.

 

 

*These photographs are part of a series, all taken in Iceland, June 2019. ©edifiedlistener

Travelogue #1: At Your Own Risk

 

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Seeing danger, they fled.

Fleeing danger, they saw.

Feeling danger, seeing flight, fleeing feeling

Their imaginations were too powerful for their own good.

 

 

(Deadly sneaker waves…imagine!)

 

 

 

*Photographs in this series, all taken in Iceland, June 2019. ©edifiedlistener

 

 

 

On Travel

Away from home we may be asked why. Why here? What made you choose this place.

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Ah, to see what we can see. And in a city like Glasgow, we saw historic buildings. We also took pleasure in magnificent street art.

 

We travel to both get away and to get closer. We leave home behind and create little pieces of home as we go.

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Or in this case, little pieces of home are created for us.

Our travel comprised a tour. We moved from city to town to town to city and back again. Lots of movement punctuated by two-day stops along the way. Our bags were never unpacked, only opened or loosened, with contents shifted as needed. To my surprise, this came as an organizational relief. Our objects never strayed far from their appointed containers. We apparently left nothing behind.

 

The things that caught my eye: Distance and detail.

Distance and detail

 

Distance and detail

 

While on the road with my 10 y-o companion son, it occurred to me that travel involves managing an ongoing tension between public and private, between out and in. To move from place to place we took buses and trains. In one direction we flew business class and economy in the other. Trains were less crowded than buses. Conversation with strangers, however, could happen almost anywhere. I notice that being able to choose when, where and with whom we will converse can take some extra practice while traveling. Our personal boundaries can shift, be poked or become oddly elastic.

After a day of being “out,” both of us appreciated the close and comfortable confines of our guesthouse rooms; of being “in”. The boy could zone out on his Switch while I dipped into Twitter for a break. It also allowed me time to step back and reflect on the intricacies of culture we were experiencing. I developed a fascination with doorknobs, knockers and the like.

 

Landscapes. Green, broad, rolling hills. Tremendous expanses of land occupied only by sheep. Boulders seemingly caught mid tumble – stuck indefinitely onto the side of the mountain. And next to no people. Relief. On my next trip to the Highlands, I’ll be walking.

 

To travel necessitates spending time with ourselves. Spending time with our vulnerabilities, fears, deeper desires (i.e. for rest, privacy, silence, or action). Patience will be tested. Sooner or later. Definitely at one point. There will be surprises.

A quick story: because we could only take an afternoon train back from Mallaig and we had time on our hands plus the boy’s swim gear, we found the local indoor pool and he swam.

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This is what is looked like when we arrived. He spent 90 minutes, swimming and diving to his heart’s content. Along the side were all sorts of water equipment – goggles, fins, kick boards, noodles. He tentatively asked if he could borrow some fins. “Sure!” came the answer from the teen life guard on duty. I was struck. What if we all had a similar understanding of the commons as this community pool? The least touristy attraction turned out to offer the greatest value that day.

As the photographer on this trip I have few pictures of myself. But as the times have made common, I snapped a couple of selfies. And I’ve written about doing that to prove that I was there; that I, black middle-aged woman, was on that trail, that beach, in those mountains. Because travel ads will never show me a comparable facsimilie. Plenty of middle aged and young white women, but not Black women or men. So I take the selfie to preserve evidence of having been there, of having traveled, of having had the means and gumption to travel to a country I did not know before. Maybe this didn’t matter so much to me before. Now it does and I behave accordingly.

 

The first pic is sitting outside our delightful hotel in Forres after a great day at Findhorn Bay. I am relaxed and I am also thinking deeply about what I’ve been reading in Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. The second pic is from our cool weather trip to the coastal town of Mallaig. Smiling selfies are the ones I take with other people.

So travel, I note, belongs in my repertoire. Travel, navigate, traverse, cross, cover, move, advance, go.

 

 

 

Five Days in Cairo

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I’ve spent five days in Cairo and I feel nearly speechless
Because I am so full of emotion,
So amazed at my experience,
So humbled by ALL OF IT.

Yes I visited the Pyramids and the Sphinx,
Toured the museum of Egyptian History,
Rode on a camel’s hump
Without tumbling off.

But the joy of seeing the people
I call friends
Is unmatched.
To hug them directly,
To look in their eyes,
To ask all the funny questions,
To share the relief that
No, we were not mistaken:

The care is real,
The warmth is genuine,
The trust is grounded,
The love is what we thought it could be.
Yes.
Yes, it is.

With love and gratitude to Maha and Paul.

Returning American, Fresh Remote

I hold US citizenship and always have. I have also lived abroad for the majority of my adult years. When I enter the US anymore, it is as both citizen and visitor. This is both strange and normal at the same time.

I don’t consider myself much of a traveler. I like to go places and stay there; observe the people, try the foods and then come home again. I have been to some places often but not to tons of places. Even if I am resident in a country of my choosing, I remain a foreigner, an immigrant. Living in a foreign country is what I do. It’s a big part of who I am.

When I return to the United States I no longer return home which would be Cleveland, Ohio. No, I go where the people are: to see family in Georgia, to conferences where they are happening. And though Atlanta’s freeways have become familiar, I am always turning up in new places, never before visited. This is how Southern California feels for me this time: New, strange and yet roughly knowable.

I prefer paper maps to GPS, and I also make use of my phone’s maps when necessary. I prefer to read where I’m going, to make sense of the 2D representation of the road unfolding before me. To trace it with my finger. Like my mother used to say, I don’t get lost, I get ‘turned around.’ So I left LAX southbound in search of Disneyland’s Anaheim.

It shouldn’t have taken long but it took me longer. I drove along with false assumptions. Going south through LA on I-405 I was sure the appropriate signage would guide me towards the mecca I was seeking. It never appeared. No nudges towards the land of Disney. I was feeling my way, not entirely false, but also not accurately. No matter. I had time, no pressure (beyond a bit of sleep deprivation thanks to a 11hr long haul flight), and a kind Walgreens cashier provided just the right dose of corrective hints to set me back on track.

It seemed a little thing but her kindness reminded me that really the majority of people want to be helpful most of the time.

Freeways – they make a city navigable by steering you above, below and around it without actually touching it. They make it possible for someone like me who can read a map and maintain a reasonable sense of direction to find her way almost anywhere. Freeways adhere to patterns and those patterns repeat themselves over and over again in LA, in Denver, in Atlanta and Seattle.

The LA freeway signs apply to people who already know where they are going. “No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions…” comes to mind. I found my way to Anaheim anyway. And, for what it’s worth, off the freeway I appreciate how accommodating most major intersections are of U-turns. That means something.

In my hotel room, the remote control for the big flat screen TV is kept in a cloth sleeve which reads: fresh remote.

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I can think of no better metaphor for my recent arrival as a returning American: fresh remote.