Two feet pinched

Volcanic rocks and snow in Iceland

Volcanic rocks and snow (Photo credit: kfcatles)

Tonight I have a room of my own and the man who took my krónur said I can check out late. I said goodbye to my friends at the hostel. I think we were being polite, but they are men with fine aspects. One of them had a nice smile when he smiled, which wasn’t too often. I cooked and ate alone here, and came to my room. I sat at my computer and when I looked up the sky was pink and the sun was setting, which means that it’s late.

The other guy last night said this idea of right and wrong is pretentious and self-obsessed. I’m not sure what specifically he meant, but it reminds me, the right thing and the wrong thing are the same thing, and then there’s everything else—which is life.

I walked by the fjord when I left them in the morning, mild sunlit day, and sat down on the far side on tufts of grass to eat hazelnuts and read a few chapters of Ripples from Iceland. But I felt tied somehow to them at the hostel and little kernels of conscious about how we will part. I wondered if my new hiking boots were, in fact, a size too small.

On the bus the landscape is the colour of an orca, black and white in daubs. I looked around the bus and an old man was sitting in the seat across the aisle, with white eyebrows and stubble, and pale rosey cheeks, and he seemed ok with whatever he’d done in his life.

Last night the S— guy was telling me places to go, and then he bought beers for us, and later a C— guy sat down and talked nice. As my friend says, with travel is loss.

Rilke writes only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being.

And on writing poetry, he writes Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance. – And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: for you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it. A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it.


Into the desert, heartbreak at the halfway hostel

Train Wheels

Train Wheels (Photo credit: i am indisposed)

I’m on the train in the Nevada desert. The sky is a shimmering blue through polaroid on my glasses and the window like the sky from an aeroplane. The plain is everywhere the same brown-green, everything: the grass that looks bitten down though there are no cattle, the bushes. Parallel to the tracks is a highway with miniature trucks. On each side is a low mountain range touched with white snow. My sister and I left San Fransisco in the morning. First the landscape was the bay, coffee-coloured, mud silted waves; then conifers in the mountains, and snowbanks.

We stayed in a kind of halfway hostel which smelt very particularly and had a high proportion of single, male residents. One nipped out for a joint in the laneway pretty regularly (we were sitting in the front stair well on account of the lounge being closed past 11pm for staff sleeping quarters). A toothless European worked there, changing the faux satin sheets. It was kind of cozy after all, the beds were good and our room was quite warm for some reason, and there were other backpackers to laugh with. We switched to a former luxury hotel for the last two nights though and the vibe was more congenial. We stayed in the Tenderloin quarter, famous for its local flavours. The second hostel had a brochure advising to ‘use street smarts’ when walking around: ‘the TL is not so much dangerous as it can be ugly sometimes’.

A lady wearing leather pants walked along Market St and sternly called to her little dog ‘Lesterrrr, Lesterrr, C’mon, Let’s roll’, before she strode off.

I went for a walk along the lonely piney shore to look out at the Golden Gate Bridge, and surfers at the base of the cliff. The air near the bus stop smelt like blue gum.

I found a book in the Goodwill: The Creativity Book; a year’s worth of inspiration and guidance by Eric Maisel. The first exercise was to write an autobiography. I wrote it on the train. Eric said it transformed his college students: Writing a 2500 word autobiography is its own kind of creative act and looking back at one’s life is a revelatory experience. It can be hard work, intellectually taxing and emotionally draining, but it’s invaluable work and exactly the right kind of work to inaugurate our religion [of creativity]. I did find it taxing. I focused on my most shameful experiences in the hope of catharsis, and afterwards I felt, bad. But it’s done. If I was reading it and it was someone else’s story I would think, Alright, it’s a story, it’s someone’s life. I wonder if I told the truth.

My sister told me she thinks I’m more withdrawn than before; that from the time we quit our share house in 2010 I haven’t wanted to talk as much, my sense of silliness has gone, my strong will ‘evaporated’. I can account for this time, but it’s a long time to have turned away from the world, and I’m sorry for it. It’s made my head ache.

The railway line is complete, and must be good all the way along. Even in the night, that’s where we are, still going on the track, nothing visible out the black window in Nevada. Just our reflections in the lounge car. And when I put my face up to the glass, one little white light away off in the distance.


The space and the silence is what

blue agave

blue agave (Photo credit: linsuehoo)

In a passage from Jessica Anderson’s Tirra Lirra by the River, Nora has written to a friend from the confinement of her parents-in-law’s house in the suburbs, where she lives. She says something like, these letters were boring, but if I had really told the truth about what my life was like they would not have been boring. This is not what Jessica has actually written, but this is how I always remember it. So.

What happened was I waited for my friend twice, the second place in a passageway outdoors, near a grim man sitting outside a shop. Then he came bounding up, and tried to give me a present but I didn’t know it was a present. We ate and sat in some churches, and plazas.

We went on a walking tour of the city, which I didn’t understand, and then I left abruptly to meet someone else for no good reason. He wrote the next day which means it should be ok. But since then I am wretched.

Then, I ‘graduated’ from my school.

G and I saw the movie, in English The Life of Pi. She said she thinks the message was: in life there will be suffering, so it’s better to choose a nice story.

We took the bus to Guadalajara, stayed in a hotel and talked by the circular pool in the evening with our feet in the pool.

We took the train in the morning to Tequila township, toured a tequila factory and tasted the steamed agave. The plant takes 812 years to mature, and along the train line they were planted in any little pocket of space, as well as marching up and over hills. A buffet lunch and many ‘cultural experiences’.

This day, I traveled alone to M. The city has a reputation for being dangerous (los narcos). At the bus station for this particular route they searched hand luggage and scanned persons with a metal detector. The city itself is soft and romantic looking. I went for a jog, then a walk, and all the plazas and streets have people sitting and walking. The hostel is tranquil and almost empty. All the doors open to the open air. I think I might be lonely.

I could watch scenery change all day, and think. The colour, the vegetation, the shape of the land. It is almost one month. What was left / the world in one thousand pieces / and one of them this pile of stalks / and one of them this pile of stones. I am distracted, and then there is what is left, which is simple but in the space between things.

(What was left is an album by Clare Bowditch)


Why write a travel blog when you could be having fun

Still Life (35mm) - Typewriter

Still Life (35mm) – Typewriter (Photo credit: flakeparadigm)

Before I went away friends or acquaintances often asked if I would write. Some knew I have writing aspirations, some didn’t. They suggested a travel blog. Well, of course I would write. I always do. For the last one and a half years I have written in a journal once a day, I also tinker about at poems and short stories at least once a week. But The Blog seemed to be a part of The Trip. So I started to casually suggest a blog myself when I got the writing question. ‘Maybe’ I added. ‘I might.’

But there’s the trouble that I’m secretive. I want to tell everyone about my life, but also I don’t. I want to say something quite intimate, and temper it by withholding something else. I want to tell the happy, mundane details of my itinerary, but I also think this is boring.

I am not attracted to the ephemeral nature of a blog. A part of me considers this high-output writing as disposable and undermines what I feel to be the sacredness of writing; how writing can speak the condition of the soul; how writing allows you to say exactly what you feel and believe. For me, the ideal to write ‘properly’ always requires some meditation whilst I write, and lots of time.

But as I mentioned in my previous post, I have been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. One of Gretchen’s goals was to start a blog, and one piece of advice she received was to write in it everyday. I had thought *if* I started a blog, once a week would be good enough. But ok, everyday (at least during the week) is possible right now.

Seeing as I’m walking down a foot path or sleeping in a bed half way around the world, I want to understand the experience of travel, the compulsion to travel. And through writing, a process of thinking, I want to think about thinking about travel. I want to think about being a traveler as a metaphor for being a traveler through life.

So here are my reasons:

* I’m going a month-long hike and I don’t want to carry loads of notebooks

* The discipline of writing publicly each day is interesting

* I’m scared that I have nothing to say, so as long as my goal is simply to say something each day then it’s ok; some day something worthwhile might come out

* I miss writing and thinking about things in a disciplined way since my uni essay days are over

* If you are my friend or family, then I am keeping in touch with friends and family

* I think I enjoy it.

PS. I thought initially that I wanted to explore different styles of travel writing: my favourite Bill, the gourmet adventuress, the Eat, Pray, Love seeker. I’m not sure now. But I admit, this post is modeled on Gretchen Ruben‘s style of disclosure.