borders

I’m back from Spain. We went there for a three-day holiday and got back last night. It was great to say the least (another post to come) and during it I found myself contemplating the idea of borders. I suppose it’s a simple idea really: ‘Here is a line. This is my land, that is yours. You don’t come onto my land and I won’t go onto yours,’ yet look at the problems it causes: famine, disease, war, huge political debates with who knows what future consequences on who knows how many lives – some of humanity’s most prominent and serious issues can be directly linked to that crazy, presumptuous, arrogant idea of drawing lines on the ground and living within them. A tree doesn’t worry what country it sets root in, a bird doesn’t care what borders it crosses. Fish don’t think about whose oceans they swim in: they don’t try to draw lines on the water. I have always respected the fact that humans are animals: physically, we function in basically he same way as many other members of the animal kingdom. Mentally, I understand, we are different. Blessed we are with amazing mental abilities: long memory, foresight, problem solving, logic: indeed, as a race we are so intelligent we separate ourselves, set some above others and put entire peoples down because of some mean understanding that ‘This is the world works, this is how it is. This is life.’ Of course, we have no other life, no other world to base it on, nothing on which to model our existence. With no signpost to point the way to personal and societal success we are (to our knowledge, at least) pioneers, exploring our universe in whatever way we can. And because of the human mind’s desire for logic and sense, we label things of which we have no understanding, put names to things which cannot be named, we grasp them in whatever way we can and try to own them: we draw borders. ‘This is what I know, and this is what I don’t know. It is a mystery. It is unknown. I don’t know what it will do to me or how it will affect me, so it may be a threat.’ And so, despite all our progress, we arrive back at one of the core pillars of our towering modern society: fear of the unknown. And we try to explain even this, pretending that we understand it and know its secrets. The human mind, being what it is, searches frantically for answers to the mystery it tries to persuade itself it understands. And it finds them in a thousand and one different places: religion and spirituality, science and technology, just to name the most controversial. But the foundations are wrong – no, not wrong. Misplaced? Misguided? Whichever you like, the meaning is the same. We search for answers to a question we don’t understand. No, not even a question – it doesn’t exist. How can we find an answer to a question that doesn’t exist? And there is my point: we draw our borders and create our laws on land which doesn’t exist. Our existence itself is not solid, not sure – we cannot see the future, we can’t even truly see the present. Like fish in the sea we ride the currents, consuming those weaker than us and being consumed by those stronger, but we have not the slightest idea how deep our ocean really is, or how wide its shores! Or the planet, the land beyond those shores – and from there, the sky – from there, space, the universe – and from there, well: I don’t know. And I consider myself beyond lucky to to have no fear of those words: I don’t know. If there is one thing I’ve learnt in eight months away it’s that I am utterly ignorant of how big: just how unbelievably, terrifically BIG my world really is. And still – still! – I try to understand it, try to come to terms with the fact that I will never come to terms with it. And I have no fear of admitting that that frightens me. The knowledge that no matter how hard I try I will not – can not – ever stop trying to understand. Is that what life is? Is that what humanity is? To try to understand as much as we can in whatever way we can in the time we have on this world? Is that what sets us apart from other animals? The way the human mind needs logic, clarity, sureness. The way we need explanations, limits; need borders? If that is so, how far has humanity really advanced? We still clamber over each other in a desperate struggle to survive in much the same way as we must have done in prehistoric times. We hunt and gather, stockpile, fight, hurt, kill, negotiate, compromise, form relationships, betray, etcetera – and all for borders, all for some sense of surety that we will live to see one more day. ‘Humanity’ is still just as prepared to sacrifice another for itself as it was 5000 years ago. We’ve crossed oceans, fought wars, spilled blood, poisoned every ground we’ve stood upon and destroyed more things than I have the heart to name, and we call this progress. We live longer and healthier lives, we are better educated, we are more scientifically and technologically advanced, and for what? So we can make more money, catch more diseases, take more resources and – advance further. Push forward to a bright new future, without knowing exactly when it will suddenly become bright. We’ve come so far, but how far have we really come? Or better yet, how much further can we go? If that is humanity, how long has it been since we truly changed? Perhaps to truly advance – advance for the good of everyone, every individual, rather than as a race – we need to stop explaining, or pretending to. Stop pushing to go further, faster, and stop and think. Stop swimming in the current society thinks you should be in, stop making rules with which to bind yourself, stop drawing borders.
Just be, and in being, become.

spanishseas

spring

Spring has come.

It is afternoon. The sound of the flowing water which laps at the muddy shore mingles with the sighing of a breeze in the willows whose arms drape and sway languidly, covetously, in the gentle current. We eat sandwiches and chocolate croissants and make daisy chains. The emerald-crowned ducks float, serene, and a mottled goose honks his dominion over the swirling water. The bare branches of the trees are adorned with glistening green gems, and the thick grass is dotted with the bright yellows and soft clouds of dandelions. The car sings Louis Armstrong and Michael Jackson on the drive home, passing old stone farmhouses and field after field of lush green grass. The sky is wider than ever, and a thousand tiny silver trails scar the hazy blue, marking where aeroplanes fly incessantly, eternally homeward.

It is dusk. I listen to the children playing down the street, their shouts and giggles echoing along the almost empty roads. Accordion music drifts from a wide open window across the street, the notes rising and falling, dancing on the cool evening air. The gentle melody of chatter and laughter follows the golden glow smiling from a balcony two blocks down. The air smells of flowers and warm things and life, and a quarter moon smiles silver from its place amid the gently winking stars in an indigo sky. Behind the chateau on the hill a burst of pale yellow, closely followed by a shy green, shows where the sun sank not long ago, defining the roofs and towers which crown the village. 

It is night. Cars pass occasionally, sometimes with a dull burst of song or a heavy beat which seems to linger in the air for a moment. The sky is a dark, nameless blue, and a handful of strange stars remind me how far I am from home. The yellow street lights cast brown shadows on the dirty buildings, and the sounds of slamming shutters echo from every building on the street. Trains pass often, sometimes with the drawn out squeal of a heavy load, sometimes with the hurried whoosh of golden windows, a long day, and dinner going cold on the table. The wires rattle and mutter as they pass, disturbed from their restless slumber. The air is still and quiet, and people retreat to the comfort of living rooms, family and warm blankets, leaving the darkness to crowd outside, watching from shadows.

Spring fades beyond the horizon, waiting to return tomorrow, and leaves the night to winter.

hands

I wrote a short piece; it’s quite rough. I’m not sure whether or not to go any further with it. I blame the sudden inspiration on too much Edger Allan Poe (who may or may not be be turning in his grave at my feeble attempt).

Hands

Old woman, I see a world in your hands.
A perfect globe of emotion past and wisdom most forgotten – except in those fingers. What gnarled roots of experience and life! digging deep into things unknown but by those who listen. The cracks along your weathered surface cannot penetrate the base mysteries of such gloriously closed an existence – these deep crevasses, so bursting with memory as to seem frail: sweet trickery! Your bones are brittle as the cold morning frost, your skin taut and sagging; these twigs abandoned as cruelly as a tree sheds the limbs who bore fresh buds only seasons ago. What burdens have been borne by these palms, sunken and depressed beneath what colossal woes and pleasures. Your knuckles, as smooth and weathered as pebbles lying dormant on a depthless shore; how they creak with the mildest of motions, as the timbers of an old ship must cry wistfully for the shore before taking their final place beneath the waves. Oh, these fingers; clutching pitifully at air dried with time and thick with dreams of a life before, straining to find the last threads of peace between youth and beyond. But these movements, which so betray long years of control, have no effect on the cold-hearted breathing of the world, on those whose skin shows none of time’s ravages and whose limbs obey with spirited pleasure. And all the wisdom of these hands, these books – these libraries of life, is gone: locked away in a chest buried beneath all the stones of a thousand other lives. The library sinks below the surging tide of the world, and creaks no more.
Old woman, I saw the world in your hands.

safe and sound

{This is a post I wrote directly after I returned from Paris. I have a good excuse for not posting for so long this time!}

Hello world.
Here I am, returned safe and sound from three chilly, wonderful days in Paris. Paris, you may have heard, is a big place, so I’m going to post all my photos event by event.

On the first day, after we arrived in Paris, we took a bus tour of the city seeing things like the Paris opera hall (a big thing with me), Notre Dame and the Champs Élysées. Afterwards we went to the hostel where we stayed for three nights, and left again not long afterwards to spend the evening in some small seedy corner of the city whose name I have forgotten. Rest assured it was lovely. We had dinner there (plus escargots) and spent some time exploring the backstreets.

The second day we spent a pitifully short time at the Louvre, then took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately we couldn’t climb it because of the ice and snow, but we were there all the same, proven by the Eiffel Tower-shaped pasta I bought. We had lunch near the Centre Pompidou, a modern art museum, and explored the streets a little. I also bought postcards, of course.
That night we had some free time at the Champs Élysées where I did some shopping and had dinner at a great Italian restaurant with some great people. Mmm, lasagna.

On the third morning we went to Montmartre where we visited the Sacre Cœur and bought lots of souvenirs. We had lunch near the Moulin Rouge, where I bought a beautiful pair of boots and an awesome T-shirt, then took the metro back to the Centre Pompidou and spent a couple of hours there. I couldn’t get into the gallery because I didn’t have ID on me, so I spent a while looking at their fantastic gallery shop (hello, French contemporary art home deco) then went up to the cafe and had coffee with a couple of frankly fantastic people I met there.
Afterwards we went to Saint Michel and saw Notre Dame (for ten minutes, and only the outside – who goes to Notre Dame and doesn’t go inside?!), then I spent the evening with those two fantastic people walking around the shopping district being crazy. We three had dinner at this amazing American 50’s diner we found (bagels, burgers and milkshakes) and I bought an ‘I heart Paris’ T-shirt (well, duh).
After helping get the many drunk exchange students back to the hostel (about 70% of them; another blog post to come) and getting patted down for alcohol we finally got some sleep.

Next morning we got up at six and took the bus to the airport. One of the fantastic people I met and I took trains back to our host families for the next five months, while the others got on the plane back to Australia.
I had lunch and wrapped all the presents I bought in Paris (attention, family!).

{Well, that’s about it. The reason I haven’t posted for a month is that I left my Australian adapter in the hostel room. So I’ve been without my computer at all for over four weeks – which has not been easy, I tell you. Anyway, I haven’t been able to transfer my photos from my *brand spankin’ new camera*, but they should be up in the next couple of days when my new adapter arrives.}

More to come,
elly xx.