Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brains work harder.*
Even travel that takes us only a short distance from home.
When I travel with my camera, even just across town or into the woods, I look at everything differently. I focus on small details. I see patterns and contrasts. Mundane items have new appeal. I make connections. I remember.
*Quote from Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. This book was a perfect reminder that creativity is earned and learned. It's a habit. The blogging I used to do was more about unfolding ideas and sharing pieces than a day-to-day account of my life. It was not facebook.
One of Kleon's suggestions is to "give away your secrets." I think that's what I try to do by sharing ideas and pieces. These aren't dirty secrets. They aren't even big secrets. They are small, but still worthwhile.
Sitting on a park bench in Dublin, writing in my journal about the wealth of green in the grass and shrubs and damp trees. "The smells of fall and decay and cold are everywhere I love to come out of variously odd-smelling buildings into the crispness."
Taking a break between museums.
Enjoying a respite between colds.
Probably better rested than in previous days, after buying earplugs to drown out the sounds of Temple Bar glass bottles being sorted at 11 every night and metal kegs rolling down the cobblestone street at 6 every morning.
Contemplating the course of our group's travels at that point, north from London along the eastern edge of England, all over Scotland and most recently on a long, rainy three-bus trip from Belfast to Dublin.
Realizing an appreciation for the art of Jack Yeats.
Still high on the wonders of Iona, and yet to encounter the glory of the Aran Islands.
I've never lived anywhere else that felt that way. In every other place, I have driven or walked or biked to the edges, and known where things ended and the rural places began. Even living in Spokane during college, I knew the city well enough to know where I was in it. I had been to the southerly ends of the South Hill, and far beyond the north end many times. I knew where it ended in the west, and how it gradually melted away in the east, toward Idaho.
Part of this is geographical knowledge, and part of it is having control and freedom. As a kid, I was free to bike and wander all over the small town where we lived. I knew all the edges. But as a teenager in Olympia, I didn't have the time or the freedom to wander so widely. Also, it was often rainy, which is not the best for biking. I walked a lot, in our neighborhood and downtown, but that covered only a small portion of the populated areas.
I always enjoy visiting cities, even enormous ones London, Paris, Mumbai, New York, Toronto, Quebec, Seattle, San Francisco but I have no desire to live in one. It would take so long to wander the streets and find the perimeter, and meanwhile things would keep changing before I had the chance to memorize them. I enjoy walking the same streets each day, seeing the same houses and sometimes the same people, never being more than a few miles from woods and fields and empty spaces.
In a city, it's easy to blend in and just observe, but a city is also
"this place of endless intersections where people never meet."
Underground Time, Delphine de Vigan
I'm having one of those too-much-freedom weekends. The weather isn't nice enough to go out and play, but I did dig in the dirt for a while. The birds are carrying on like they might die soon which they might. My classes are suddenly done for the semester, with finals canceled due to Wednesday's horrible tornado in Tuscaloosa. It is possibly the only benefit of an otherwise awful situation.
Wes and I almost adopted a dog last week. We picked him up one evening while eating dinner out. He had no tags, so we took him just for the night...which turned into six nights. We even named him. But his owner finally saw the fliers and called, crying and relieved. Both she and her young son had been missing their doggie, so we were happy to return him.
Springtime in Wyoming is curious. We have daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, sun, wind and snow. I've got the spring itch to be outside, but it's not always pleasant out there. Today I spent a while digging in the wannabe-garden beds, getting rid of weeds and cat poo. I found a (diamond?) ring, which I'm now wearing on my index finger, it's that big (or my fingers are that small). My hands smell like garlic from making guacamole.
I should go for a walk while it's still sunny and 50.
You groan internally at the approach of certain regulars, because you know it probably won't be a pleasant interaction.
You have secret code names for them, like The Clacker (old lady with dentures that clack when she talks) and The Grapes of Wrath (family with many members of assorted ages, who arrive in a group and varying stages of dishevelment).
The words "Wolfgang Puck" as a greeting make sense.
Two years ago, Wes and I went to Thermopolis to soak in the hot springs. I got hungry and grouchy (for me, the former usually leads to the latter). Otherwise we had fun. I had just found out that my car had rod knock. (My mechanic made it seem like the doom was impending. However, two years later, Elmer is doing just fine. Ha.) I got bangs and quickly realized that wet spring snow and rain did not agree with my curl-prone hair. (Hey, that was a big step for me. Me and my huge forehead never tried bangs before. Or since.)
Three years ago, I had just returned from a hectic trip around India. It took me at least two weeks to recover from whatever weird stomach thing I picked up over there. The eve of my birthday was spent mostly in the bathroom. And I still went to work the next day. (Crazy, I know. I'm too old and smart to do that now.) And still, I would do it all over again. India was totally worth it.
Four years ago, I had just moved to Santa Fe. I was wandering around town and soaking up the nonstop sunshine, taking pictures of funky little architectural details. Wes gave me a fly rod, and soon thereafter we went to the park to practice casting. Thus began our tradition of his well-meant advice and my resultant frustration. Him: "Just cast right there" (pointing to a very precise spot in the river, right under a bramble and next to a rock). Me: "I'm trying! Stop telling me what to do" (as I cast and recast in vain toward the golden spot, efficiently scaring every fish within a ten-yard radius).
Five years ago, I didn't have anything particular planned. I went to work. I think that may have been the year that my co-workers all brought chocolatey and peanut buttery foods. I had dinner with my family. Then my new friend Wes, who I had recently taught to play disc golf, took me out for a glass of wine...or two glasses. He gave me a mug with Shakespearean insults on it. Nice inside joke, not too personal. It was all very friendly and not date-like. Little did we know what would happen to our "we're just friends" mantra.
Six years ago, I celebrated myself with silliness. As usual. My co-workers celebrated with circus-themed foods. I went to bed early. After all, I was just turning 21. No biggie. I was more excited about my retro bubble umbrella than getting drunk.
I'm not going all the way back. Whew, right? See, the way I remember things that happened way back when is to A) Look at photos taken around the time, B) Scan blog entries or C) Check my journals. But I've only had a digital camera since 2003. I also began bloggin in 2003. And my journals are not especially comprehensive, so there's a good chance I missed a few things...or a few years.
I will, however, end with a particularly good birthday memory. I'm not sure what year it was, but I think I was turning 7 or 8. I was wearing my favorite birthday dress, which I wore more than one year in a row. It was blue and sort of silky, with a crinkled skirt that did wonderful things when I spun around. We went to my grandparents' house and played wiffle ball in the yard. Granny even ran (or walked) around the bases. There was cake with candles. I remember most of this from a photo of me and Granny posing with the wiffle bat. But then, maybe photographs are memories.