The desire to go home, that is, a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.
A labyrinth is an ancient device that compresses a journey into a small space, winds up a path like thread on a spool. It contains beginning, confusion, perseverance, arrival, and return. There at last the metaphysical journey of your life and your actual movements are one and the same. You may wander, may learn that in order to get to your destination you must turn away from it, become lost, spin about, and then only after the way has become overwhelming and absorbing, arrive, having gone the great journey without having gone far on the ground.
In this it is the opposite of a maze, which has not one convoluted way but many ways and often no center, so that wandering has no cease or at least no definitive conclusion. A maze is a conversation; a labyrinth is an incantation or perhaps a prayer. In a labyrinth you’re lost in that you don’t know the twists and turns, but if you follow them you get there; and then you reverse your course.
The end of the journey through the labyrinth is not at the center, as is commonly supposed, but back at the threshold again: the beginning is also the real end. That is the home to which you return from the pilgrimage, the adventure. The unpraised edges and margins matter too, because it’s not ultimately a journey of immersion but emergence.
Rebecca Solnit, extracted from The Art of Not Knowing Where You Are
I am loving this woman's writing. Reading her is something like devouring a beautiful feast. This one essay alone is truly exquisite.
She goes on and talks of empathy: The root word is path, from the Greek word for passion or suffering, from which we also derive pathos and pathology and sympathy. It’s a coincidence that empathy is built from a homonym for the Old English path, as in a trail. Or a dark labyrinth named Path. Empathy is a journey you travel, if you pay attention, if you care, if you desire to do so. Up close you witness suffering directly, though even then you may need words to know that this person has terrible pains in her joints or that one recently lost his home. Suffering far away reaches you through art, through images, recordings, and narratives; the information travels toward you and you meet it halfway, if you meet it.
Few if any of us will travel like arctic terns in endless light, but in the dark we find ourselves and each other, if we reach out, if we keep going, if we listen, if we go deeper.
...how places love us back, of what they give us.
They give us continuity, something to return to, and offer familiarity that allows some portion of our lives to remain collected and coherent.
They give us an expansive scale in which our troubles are set into context, in which the largeness of the world is a balm to loss, trouble, and ugliness.
And distant places give us refuge in territories where our own histories aren't so deeply entrenched and we can imagine other stories, other selves, or just drink up quiet and respite.
The bigness of the world is redemption.
I found these words over on a favourite blog of mine called Myth & Moor. It's the site where Terri Windling notes down, oftentimes, beautiful words and wisdoms she finds along the way.
Tonight I am sitting at Paola's kitchen table in Genova, again. My laptop and I are located next to an open window, one floor above the street and, after a 32 celsius day, I'm enjoying the softness of a breeze that carries rumours of rain.
Today was quiet after yesterday's strangely epic journey here. All went well till I landed at Milan's Malpensa airport. I picked up my soft cloth luggage, unzipped it to throw my camera bag in, noticing a wet patch as I worked ... and then the stench of it hit me.
At first I thought it was urine. I was horrified. Then I thought, okay, cat pee ... okay. I wandered over to Lost and Found luggage and explained. They were lovely. I love this thing about Italy. They remain human in times of deep distress and need while other countries in Europe have failed consistently. But never mind.
The woman came round to my side of the counter ... sniffed, and diagnosed Fish!. Apparently some people from countries that don't need to be named, pack fish in their luggage, gifts from or for relatives. This fish had leaked all over my bag.
The Lost and Found woman filled out the necessary insurance forms for me, so sympathetic that I couldn't help but thank her. I explained I had two trains and 3 hours of travel ahead of me. Was there some place in the airport where I could replace my stinking bag. She sent me up to Departures and eventually I located the only place selling anything like my bag ... and there were no sales inside the airport. Everywhere I been lately, in Belgium and Italy, there are sales. Probably this airport was the only place without sales.
I travel on a wish and a prayer. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person left in the worlds that I know who doesn't have any kind of credit card. I usually get by, even if I sometimes arrive home with just 10 euro in cash, or less. Yesterday I was in despair. I could do it but it would seriously impact on my desire to fund this trip by myself.
I can't even write the price I had to pay for the bag that could fit my luggage into it. And I had to have wheels because I am slightly broken in body and my equipment is heavy enough without having to carry the rest of my stuff too. The luggage shop assistant was lovely. She sent me off to another store, just in case they had something more reasonable but no.
I paid, I unpacked my luggage with just a few losses ... thank goodness for waterproofing I guess. I dumped the stinking bag over by the rubbish bins she pointed to and we laughed as she said not to worry, that she had a spray that would clear the fishy stench my bag had created in her shop. It stunk, so bad. So unbelievably badly. (But you got that by now, didn't you.)
I found a train to take me into Milan and it might have been okay with the stinky bag. There was A/C and lots of space but the longer train journey, the 2 hours from Milan to Genova, that would have been a nightmare. On that train I was seated in one of those little 6 seat cabins with 5 other people and a closed door. The A/C was weak and the temperature outside was 30 celsius.
I imagined how horrific it would have been to have traveled with my fish-stinking bag. Instead it was tranquil, people napped, helped one another with luggage, smiled, and were kind.
It could have been another story entirely ... I was glad I had spent the money.
However today has been a far better day and full of good people. And here's a glimpse of the flowers I found this morning. Okay, so it was bread and cheese for dinner but really, it was all so very worth it I'm thinking, as I sit here by the window listening to the ebb and flow of life here in Genova this evening