Thursday, March 6, 2014

mossy elbows and tumbleweed feet

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, 
pray that the road is long 
--Ithacas, Constantine P. Cavafy

Travel for the sake of traveling is no use whatsoever
Your feet grow more and more dissatisfied with stillness the longer you keep them in motion.
You grow addicted, overly dependent on the feeling of earth moving beneath your feet.
Staying still becomes a task that takes monumental effort.
When your entire body, your entire being is steadily focused on finding where to go next, taking a deep breath and focusing on the present becomes a monumental, Sisyphean chore.

I looked up at the mottled, stuccoed ceiling above my head.
Sometimes, the feeling of lying still is too much.
My blood churns with uncompleted tasks, unfulfilled desires, stacks of books that have yet to be read.
I am surrounded by a sea of sticky-notes with half-checked to-do lists.
Half of my heart is leaping outside the window into the night sky, dying to feel the rough burn of the night wind on my face.
Between the biting bursts of wind, you gasp in, gulp in the cold air and feel the sting of winter hit your lungs.
I am water-logged by memories of plane rides, smelly airports, the blast of the cold ac on your sweat-coated skin.

I think of the smell of Kraków in October, the bright yellow leaves that paved the deadly paths of Auschwitz, and the brilliant Church-lights shining against the night sky.

I remember the treasured few sunrises in Kolkata, the radiant colors of the sun peaking through the glum clouds, and the Himalayan peaks, that dazzled in the morning light, even the intimidating banks of clouds gilded by the fresh light of that pure sun.

I wish I could return to the small little country path stuck somewhere between Fakenham and Walsingham.
The sad thing about discovering a beautiful bridge in Norwich or a small little marigold-lined path in the middle of the English country-side, is that you know you'll never find it again.
Leaving Rome is sad to the extreme degree. But you have the assurance, the promise that just permeates the air that one day you will inevitably return. All roads lead to Rome, after all.
But the small little tea shop tucked under an inconspicuous awning in Stratford-upon-Avon, and the little hilly Cumbrian ridge where you sit down to eat some flapjacks, the random playground on the outskirts of Bologna proper, these are the places that you bid a permanent farewell to, as soon as you turn your back on them, and keep marching down the road.

In those peaceful little moments of stillness, of serenity, I think of that cavernous chapel. Which was really only the length and depth of my little townhouse's first floor.
But it seemed much larger than that.
It seemed as cavernous as St. Peter's, as dizzyingly tall as Kangchenjunga, as intimate and familiar as my mother's kitchen.

In the midst of constantly chasing the sun, sometimes a little bird's whistle, or the sight of warm golden sunlight on a snowbank, or the feeling of alighting from the bus into the misty, snowy evening, these moments of stillness are the reminders to listen to the symphony of music inside one's own heartbeat.
It's that heartbeat which compels us to stop, and pushes us forward, all at the same breath.

I wrapped myself in a cocoon of fuzzy blankets, and I listened to nothing else but the rumbling of the frat boys next door,  the rustle of snow and night creatures outside, and the thump-thump of my heart, marching to its own beat.

 Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage. 
Without her you would have never set out on the road. 
She has nothing more to give you. 
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you. 
Wise as you have become, with so much experience, 
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean
--Ithacas, Constantine P. Cavafy

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