After looking through many photos, including ones from the protests in Paris, I decided on a photo for my New Year’s greeting that spoke to me of innocence, exploration, passage, sharing, quiet companionship. It was taken over the summer in the south of France. I saw those kids coming and wanted to get the shot before the adults behind them entered the picture. I like to imagine them traveling alone, in one of those magical children’s’ stories where there is almost always flying. There’s something Peter Pan or Christopher Robin in that boy’s profile.
Posts Tagged ‘travel’
Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare.
But if you seek safety, it is on the shore.
–Saadi, Rose Garden
On this day in 1885, my great-grandmother was born in Luxembourg. 92 years and one day later, I was born in the town she would immigrate to in Illinois. Today I’ve come back to stand on her old road, in her home town, try to understand where she came from.
For reasons that were somewhat unclear to me, Romain, the owner of her old house and also a distant relative who lives across the street, is not allowed to build there. So that little house on the right, just past the cow, is what she left to sail to North America on the Lapland in 1913.
Seven years ago today I woke up in someone else’s life.
I didn’t anticipate how dramatic the change would be. I had big, impatient plans whose tires were spinning on the rug that I had arranged to be yanked from under my feet.
To start, I began drinking wine at every meal (excluding breakfast) and eating cheese that smelled like untouchable socks. I learned quickly that confrontation was not avoided here but even sought out and played with, that smiling while walking down the street made you look simple, that my pronunciations of regarder and rue de la verrerrie were better after drinking fruit juice, and that I understood nothing over the telephone and would have to go in person to read lips. I started swearing more in my native language to compensate for my impotence in my new life’s language. And, I didn’t recognize myself in the reflection of others because their eyes were looking through the heavy filter of my insufficient words. My small supply of adjectives just did not cover the scope of my thoughts.
The dream remained a dream, and every day was surreal
until surreal became real.
If change is the only constant, and because I like to count, I can say there have been 2,555 days of change between the me today and the girl in that photo. I knew her, I know her, I am her, I was her. I have sometimes forgotten her, hidden her, found her or denied her. I have pushed her very hard and yet not enough. I have taken her in and kicked her out, into the big wide world, to widen her peripheral vision.
Some days I have no regrets.
Today, I’m happy to be here, wherever I am.
On my street today, a man dressed in green, all the way down to his broom, said to his street-sweeping partner, “Partage un peu mon frère, la vie n’est que courte et éphémère.”
Marseille and I met on Sunday around 6:30am, when I rolled in with the mistral while the city still slept.
I climbed into a train full of dreaming Luxemburgers on their way to Nice, found an empty couchette with an open door, went in and locked it. As always, I feel a surge of giddiness when entering an empty place and locking the door behind me. Alone in the dark, I put my feet up and smile at the moonlit morning shining through the window, proud to have survived the pain of waking at an hour I usually identify with endings, not beginnings.
Arriving in Marseille, the only people I see are street cleaners and those still living Saturday night.
Walking around the old port, I watch the light change. The Fort Saint-Nicolas de Marseille is behind me on a hill, the sun already touching it. I go as high into the old citadel as I can, following the sun’s rise.
At the end of the 12th century, a chapel was built here. Some quick math on my 21st century cell phone tells me there have been about 127, 750 sunrises since the first stone was placed on this hill. As I pull a pain au chocolat out of my camera bag, I wonder how many boats have passed, how many people have stood here and what they ate for breakfast.
Tonight in Arles, a man in black walks up and down his street,
being walked by his dogs.
A year ago today, I was making my way from Buenos Aires to Misiones in Argentina. It was the beginning of three weeks on the road. Yesterday I mentioned this to the friend I road-tripped with, and he said,
I can’t believe you KNOW that.
I often think about what I was doing exactly one year ago. Especially if it was the start of something big, or a transition.
I relish thinking, wow, one year ago I was doing this or that, I was here or there! The list of all that has happened in the last 365 days then flashes through my mind and I’m always in awe at how much can happen in a year.
And the changes.
Then I think, I wonder where I’ll be next year at this time…
the possibilities are huge…
That is why I look back. It makes me turn around again, and face forward with eager optimism.
I left Buenos Aires on a late-night bus and arrived in San Ignacio early the next day.
My instructions to where I would be sleeping were:
3 blocks on main road
left on dirt road
small red sign on pine tree: Pisa Alquiler, 50 m
5 blocks til paved road
you’ll see it
I’m sending myself away to the sea for the weekend, to the edge of land and where I can touch the water and stand in the sand. As far out as the low tide allows.
No digital cameras, no computer, only film and and notebooks.
It’s 2am again and I can’t sleep. In the morning I’ll be hanging my show at the Maison de l’Argentine at Cité Universitaire in Paris. The opening is Thursday night and it will hang until mid January.
If you’re in Paris, come on by!
Spending summer evenings with Hannah.
Her last few weeks before first grade…
my entire childhood,
i looked out from my bedroom window
at this pond,
with the black roof,
and the red door.
but they have not moved.
Immediate impressions from a day in Mendoza.
Two minutes before this photo, I was stopped on the street and told to be careful with the camera in this neighborhood. I appreciated the warning. Since leaving Buenos Aires the eyes in the back of my head had been taking more frequent breaks.
i’m standing in the shadows on a wide, red-dirt road,
wet and lumpy from yesterday’s rain,
that begins and ends in darkness.
on the corner, a bare light bulb is hanging.
in the middle of the road, the light doesn’t reach me.
in strong brown boots, i stand carrying only a borrowed book.
a hotel key to bungalow number 7 is in the pocket of my jeans.
to the right and left, sleeping houses are sheltering families,
their windows hidden by burly dark bushes.
a stray dog stops in the yellow light at the corner,
he looks in my direction while peeing on a parked car
and then moves on.
i look up at the sky and see more stars than i remember ever seeing.
the air is cool. i keep still, listening to the symphony of night bugs.
i am relieved to be out of buenos aires.
away from the noise,
out of the pollution.
i take a deep breath,
the air is tinged with gasoline.
I moved this week. I wanted to see the city from higher up.
Sitting in my bed on the 14th floor, I look out on the autopista 25 de mayo and it feels like the building is in its path. Lying down I see the sky and think of Georgia O’Keefe being drawn to New Mexico.
But on the ground…
on the ground in Buenos Aires is another experience.
Walking on loose sidewalk tiles concealing muddy pools of water that splash your feet,
you don’t hear your cell phone ringing above all the noise.
You hold your breath crossing the street in the billowing black cloud left behind by the bus.
You keep your bag close and look over your shoulder.
You duck into a kiosco searching for something that costs 1 peso so you can get enough change in this short-of-change city to take the bus.
You keep walking because at the kiosco “no hay moneda.”
You smile sweetly at the banker and get 10 pesos worth of coins instead of the allotted 5.
You hear a honk, a “tsst tsst,” or an “hola mama,” grit your teeth and get used to it.
You step into the middle of the street to get the bus driver to stop, then jump off at your destination as he slows down just enough.
Then aaaahh, you hear the ubiquitous bandoneon coming from the music store door,
While the cartoneros on the corner work on sorting today’s garbage.
You stop at your favorite café with its black-and-white tiled floor to get a café con leche and buttery medialunas.
You say Hola to all of your neighbors, who recognize you on the second meeting.
You get lifted up to piso 14 and lie down and look at the sky.
Ten minutes outside of Colonia, Uruguay is the world’s largest collection of lead pencils. 7,325 of them.
I was there because a friend bought some land nearby. Before we walked out to check on the state of his young trees, he said, “Go look, you have to see this just once. I’ve seen it, I’ll just wait here.”
When I walked in, it smelled just like you’d expect: a pencil box. I had instant flashbacks.
But it’s not just pencils. It’s also hundreds and hundreds of keychains, ashtrays, perfume bottles, telephone cards and random antiques.
I left thinking, “Fabulous! Someone else has taken care of that job, now I don’t have to. I’ll just send all my depleted phone cards to him.”
If you want to send yours too, here’s the site: Granja Arenas.
Ah, and here is where we were headed, by foot through the most wonderful smelling air I have ever inhaled. For deep breathing, you gotta get to Uruguay. There is air that smells like a melange of eucalyptus, lavender, pine and just green, green, green. Delicious.
Tomorrow it will be two weeks that I have been in BsAs and I’ve only taken two tango classes. It’s not why I came here, but I keep meeting people with a tango mission, who try to master it every single night. The challenge interests me, particularly when it involves creating something beautiful, which tango tragically is, but my patience can only handle it in small, well-spaced doses.
Why did I come to Buenos Aires?
That is what people keep asking, so I’ll try to answer. I can be vague and say a number of factors and people entered my life a while back that, when all put together led me to a city in South America I hadn’t considered living in before. But I also needed to get out of Paris for a while, find new subjects, add some new colors to my palette and open up my senses to the Spanish-speaking world. And in Paris, Argentina was in the air everywhere I turned. Si si, c’est vrai.
So I’m here.
The shock of the first week is over.
I’m eating empanadas daily. It’s like the crepe: ubiquitous and cheap.
Practically everyone I meet is a talented artist.
I’m living in a semi-industrial and economically-challenged neighborhood. It’s relatively safe, but you have to be very careful at night. While it’s at the southern edge of the city, where I might expect a sort of peace, it is the noisiest place I have ever lived.
From the red-tiled garden, under sun filtered by grape vines, I hear :
The elevated train passing every two minutes, which I no longer mistake for a coming thunderstorm.
The man who drives his pick-up truck up and down the block with a grainy megaphone announcing “naranjas, uno kilo cinco pesos!”
A faceless person who blows a rhythmic whistle every morning, bright and early. Why?
The occasional low-flying helicopter.
Heavy trucks and buses bouncing regularly and violently on the broken pavement, making enough noise to put a pause into a conversation.
And… the occasional mini neighborhood batucada on the corner, which is always welcome.
Arriving in Buenos Aires from Paris is like going from noir et blanc to Technicolor, in sound and sight.
PS. As I write, I have been bitten at least 4 times by mosquitoes despite the OFF! I’m slathered in, the next-door poodle is barking at the Dalmatian that hangs out all day in his barred window and Vicentico is singing to a fast rhythm on the radio.
And a sculptor friend in Paris just wrote to say, “I hope you know what you’re doing. Times are difficult. I have no money to make sculptures so I’m taking photos.” Ahem, my response was more aggressive than I usually am, and is a blog entry for another day.
I arrived in BsAs yesterday to a warm welcome and a hot sun. Below are my first impressions, and also my first photos with my Lumix.
Resulting from numerous warnings about theft, I bought a compact camera to use in the street when alone. It was a tough decision as I hate compacts. I didn’t want to give up any of the quality and functionality of my 5D just because someone might take it from me. The Lumix feels like a silly toy. We’ll see how it goes, I saw a few people with “big” cameras on the street today.
That said, my back doesn’t mind traveling lighter and I’m learning how not to shoot through a viewfinder. And even to not look at all, as the sun is so damn strong, I can’t see the screen anyway.
And the reason I was in Ouagadougou in the first place was to finish what I call The Red Clothes Project. A little over a year ago I hopped into a truck with a driver who collects donated clothes for Le Relais out of containers all around Paris. I got out at their depot in Pantin, just outside of Paris, and after explaining my idea for a photo project to follow donated clothes throughought the chain of recycling, left my contact info with the person in charge. A few weeks later I got a phone call and the project began. I’ll include photos soon on my website, but for now here is a little glimpse. The expo will be up in Paris next week and will be shown periodically around France through 2009.
I got back from Burkina Faso on January 21st. It seems ridiculously simple to say it was dark, but that is the first impression. I got to Ouagadougou around midnight. From the car all I saw were silhouettes, back-lit by bare light bulbs, legs and bicycles lit by the dusty beams of our headlights, a candle here, a neon there. In between, there was darkness. My dilated pupils were searching intensely for forms in the shadows. I was curious about what I couldn’t see: the voices, laughter, percussion, muffled music.
With an early start the next morning, I was left alone in the hotel to rest and unpack. I looked around for flying pests, took off a layer of clothing no longer necessary in the heat, and felt a big grin spread across my face. Africa. Finally.