ADMIT by David Whyte

Admit, that once you have got up
from your chair and opened the door, 
once you have walked out into the clear air
toward that edge and taken the path up high
beyond the ordinary you have become
the privileged and the pilgrim,
the one who will tell the story
and the one, coming back from the mountain
who helped to make it.

David Whyte

From MAMEEN, River Flow: New and Selected Poem.

I would love to tell a story about this house.  It's the first I've fallen in love with, in years and years.

My Home.jpg

The Hardest Thing About Traveling

This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited.

This is the hardest part about traveling, and it’s the very reason why we all run away again.

Kellie Donnelley.

I wanted to store this piece that talks of the hardest part of traveling.  I need to think about it. 

Travel changes a person or, perhaps, in my case, it turned me into someone I recognised.  I was always curious, I love meeting new people, learning how they live, hearing their stories ... out here in the world I wander, I get to meet others like me. 

I read this quote this morning, and thought ... really?

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Simone Weil

I always give my attention.  I am curious, and genuinely interested in people.  Is this so special?

Then I remembered the phenomena of talking with political folk out at social events back in Belgium.  Their attention was on their phones, on checking out who else was in the room, and back to whoever they were talking with, and off again, round the room.

I felt like I was swimming with sharks, in some ways.  They were hunting.  Their attention was everywhere and nowhere.

But this sense of dislocation Kellie writes of ... I posted her piece over on Facebook and watched as various friends shared or liked it. 

Yes.  They all knew that feeling.

I haven't returned home, for longer than 5 weeks.  It is something I think about ... how that return would be.  Would a dog, and a beach or a lake somewhere close by ... old friends, and new, be enough. 

I don't know but anyway, I have located this article in a place where I can return to it when needed.

Home ...

Me by Gaby, in Genova.jpg

I suspect this is the face I most regularly wear in these days.  I believe it might be a problem-solving kind of expression I'm wearing there.

I made pumpkin soup for lunch today but realised I was missing my small vegetable knife.  I have a brand I particularly like.  I missed my cupboard full of known ingredients.  My kitchen too.  And later I missed my bread and my place at that old oak table I used to adore.

There are hours like this out here in my new life.  Not days or weeks ... just hours.  I really am okay with missing things, mostly.  I began moving house when I was 20, and haven't stopped anywhere longer than that big old Belgian house just left, after something like 6 years.  The previous record ... maybe the airforce house back in New Zealand.  4 years, non-stop, in the same place.

But it's not a desire of mine, to constantly move.  It's just my life. 

My sister has lived differently and I love visiting her when I go back to New Zealand.  She has lived in her home for years now.  I'm not sure how many but if I 'go home' to anyplace, then it's her place.  I love the familiarity I find there - I love her pantry, the smell of the house, but mostly, I love the people that live there.  It's as close as I get to my childhood spaces ... 50 Green Street, the home I grew up in, or Nana's place, at 101 Islington Street.

But mostly, over all these years and moves,  I've learned to make the unfamiliar familiar, as quickly as possible.  The walk to the supermarket is a daily one now.  Starbucks has become 'the place' where I buy my espresso.  The walk there and back has become that time for deep thinking while I exercise.  And I can feel myself getting stronger each day. 

The first day I walked there I thought I was dying.  The second day, I went out again, just to test it, and wondered if it wasn't some kind of anxiety attack.  On the third day I began to feel better.  Mmmhmmm, I might have been completely unfit.  It's much easier now.  Increasing the distance seems like a good idea.  Let's see it.

But mostly I'm spending these days preparing myself for whatever is next. And the photograph ... taken by my lovely Australian client, Gabrielle, at Genova's Douce cafe,  on one of those lovely photography workshop days last summer.

They were beautiful days.  I'm glad that I had them.

Home ...

Life is different in Italy.  Different to any place that I know. 

Then again, I could say the same of New Zealand, and of Istanbul. 

I know I find points of intersection in each place I go, as well as individual features that make me love those people, or that view.

There are the things that seem familiar and take me home.  And the views that fill me with longing for places I've known ...

Home is a thing I've been trying to define forever.  Is it inside of me or back in that place where I was born and raised.  'My' country or those places where I've felt most welcome.  Or that place where I felt a deep (and inexplicable) sense of recognition and would have liked to have stayed a while, just to see because I feel like I'm still looking.

Some places engage me, so deeply, that I could spend years just attempting to photograph the feeling of them.  The moods, the light, the people ...

Genova's like that for me.

Anyway ... I'm listening to this particular song by Sting as I work here.  On repeat, as I do sometimes.


Falling in Love with the Light ...

Of all the things I wondered about on this land, I wondered the hardest about the seduction of certain geographies that feel like home - not by story or blood but merely by their forms and colours.  How our perceptions are our only internal map of the world, how there are places that claim you and places that warn you.  How you can fall in love with the light.

Ellen Melloy, Writer

Note, the photograph was taken on one of the Princes' Islands out in the Marmara Sea, Istanbul.

Those Landscapes ...

When I went home, back in 2012, one of the places I had to revisit was the river in the photograph below.

It was the scene of much childhood joy.  It was my river.  I loved the smell of it as it flowed out of the valley and onto the plains.   I loved the scent the stones would throw up from under our wet and wriggly bodies as we baked ourselves on top of them, teeth chattering, after being ordered out of the river to warm ourselves a while.  I loved picnics there ... warm Greggs cordial in big glass beer bottles, and egg sandwiches and cakes Mum had baked.   And I loved the way my hair would smell, full of river water, on the way home.

Later, when body consciousness forced me out of the river and those idyllic childhood days, I returned with my dog.  She seemed to share my passion for the river.  I would skim stones for her from the shore.

Fast-forward decades and everyone warned me, when I went home ... things will have changed.  You will have idealised it.  So I was cautious with my expectations, knowing that the landscapes I had loved might seem different, now I was older, more traveled.

But no ... those old landscapes, they rose up in front of me and kissed me full on the mouth.  A bear hug, or more, and this deep feeling of joy over simple things like bird song and the scent of bush in the rain at Tautuku. 

Nothing had changed.   All of the big passionate love I had felt was still there.   Those 'scapes allowed me to slip back in and love them like always.  No recriminations about leaving. 

Well, maybe .... just a few sly questions like, have you found anywhere better?  Name one place where the air smells like this ...  

Did you miss us?