Posts tagged “travel

vespers

montana

set down the sun gently for me-

roll it west like a word off the tongue.
my best friend and I will sit on the back porch
watching cottonwoods snowing and
ringing their leaves like bells

across the river, the mountains will glow-
flushed with satisfaction at a day lived well.
mountains become lampshades holding the sun:
long after the sun has set, they will carry its burn
like a kiss

Montana in the summer is a cathedral full of vespers

let the sun fall like a curtain-
draping the hour in red.
on the back porch we will talk in hushed voices
watching the river continue its intrepid race and
beginning to reflect the stars.


laudate

miles and miles of rainy road
roll before me like Venetian canals

I have nothing but choices:
how to steer, how to think in the clouds.

laudate, how to praise.

highway medians and swollen plains
lie bunched and spongy, receiving all that falls.
I pause- – – to teach myself trust

in the green-soaked evening
I make my own happiness

and I become the blackbird at rest
sitting in a tree with closed wings,
dripping wet songs

receiving all that falls.

damp pines


there and back again

8/30/14 – 1:49pm Greenwich Mean Time

We took off about half an hour ago. Goodbye, Britain. It’s been historic. I have new favourite places all over the country. When we first got to London, I didn’t really like it. But I think it was mainly the culture shock and fatigue. Even though we speak the same language, there are innumerable small differences between America and Britain that take adjusting to. It smells different, for one thing! The cities smell kind of like coffee and smoke and something else I can’t describe. The rural areas don’t have the same smell, though- I guess the wind that blows through the world kind of universalises the smell of the outdoors. They do have lots of flower smells of which we Texans are regrettably deprived. Sometimes I would just be walking along a street and smell lilies. Once I smelled honey comb waffle cereal and I am still baffled by that! Anyway, London was just so big, crowded, and different. But when the culture shock wore off, I enjoyed the city quite a lot. It’s so diverse- it should be nicknamed ‘the city of endless discovery’, because every corner you turn, there’s another ancient church sandwiched between two modern buildings, or a lady playing classical violin in a square, or a little independent shop that sells paints, or yet another antiquarian bookstore. I like best to stroll along the Thames, seeing two vast swaths of city and a swirling crowd of humanity divided by the river that creates enough space for reflection. When I come back to England (and I do hope to!) I think I would do London in the middle of the trip though, not the start and finish. I might start in Oxford! Oxford was definitely one of the best places we visited. It’s impossible to pick a favourite, though! Canterbury, Dover, Salisbury, Oxford, the Letcombes, Wantage, York, Alnmouth, Alnwick, Edinburgh, Inverness, Glencoe, Keswick… out of all the towns we spent much time in, it would probably be a contest between Oxford, Dover, Salisbury, and Keswick. But the most jaw-dropping scenery was in Scotland for sure. I totally fell for that country. We’re up above the Atlantic, and the cloud-trails of other planes stream like kite tails beside us. It is something to be PART of the sky I always crane my neck to see. And it was SOMETHING to be part of the country I have always dreamed of visiting.

st pauls


once I was in the Lake District

8/23/14 – 11:05pm Greenwich Mean Time

I like my bed at this Keswick YHA because it’s a single twin by the window with a tiny shelf and a bed light. There is a set of bunk beds in here as well, but their occupants are elsewhere. And there’s a sink in the room! And the window overlooks a river! So it’s quite cozy.

The Lake District is incredible. Of course it is.  The bus ride from Penrith rail station was flooring. The mountains remind me of the Scottish highlands, but since this is further south everything is more developed. The slopes are embroidered with hedges and knotted with sheep. So it doesn’t have the same raw vastness of Scotland, but oh, is it spectacular. The sun lavishes some serious affection on these hills. On the way here, I had to just put down my camera, lean my head back against the seat, and stare. There’s too much to take in! In places like this, it’s best to lie like a stone in a river, letting the beauty flow over you. And, like a stone, let the moss of a place grow into your pores so that wherever you go, you will always wear the stains of that life.

8/24/14 – 8:17am Greenwich Mean Time

If Scotland was glory, this place is glory covered in a quilt and made comfortable.

lake district


once I was in Scotland

8/21/14 – 5pm Greenwich Mean Time

Having just walked over a mile from a cafe near the Glencoe bus stop to our hostel, I can definitely say I’m glad we packed light! The bus ride from Inverness was incredibly scenic; especially once we neared Fort William. The mountains are stunning. Oh, Scotland. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

9:28pm-

I have felt the slow creeping of fern-like things budding in my mechanical heart.
and the streams I see tunnelling under Scottish roads; they flip over themselves in haste for the sea…
I have felt the slipping streams tunnelling through me.

glencoe


once I was on a train to Hadrian’s Wall

8/16/14 – 12pm Greenwich Mean Time

We’re on the train to Hexham, bound for Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve had this line from W.H. Auden rolling about in my mind since I saw it in York: “And down by the brimming river, I heard a lover sing; under an arch of the railway: Love has no ending.” I guess the trains keep it fresh in my memory. If I have any money left when I get home (doubtful), I want to buy Auden’s ‘Age of Anxiety’ with intro and annotations by Alan Jacobs.

The landscape is fantastic. And varied. Right now there are hugely tall pine trees looming over the fields, and horses with oversized feet grazing the hillside. And now there are ancient oaks and slender aspens with ferns going crazy below. There are hills green with grass and fields yellow with wheat. Several kinds of purple flowers- some with long rush-like fronds and some with small round petals and white centres- follow the track. And when we pass a village there are always brick houses (with the inevitable white window frames) and a church spire looking extremely historic, but the details of which I’ll never know. Incredible, the surplus of history that is packed into this island. And the surplus of blackberries is also ridiculous. =D

Hadrian's Wall


once I was in Oxford

8/11/14 – 9:43pm Greenwich Mean Time

With extreme skill at research and bus-schedule-memory, Dad saw to it that the bus which took us to Blenheim Palace today also made it possible to visit Tolkien’s house and grave. We did a lot of hopping on and off buses today. =) I sang ‘Into the West’ at Tolkien’s grave, which simply felt like the right thing to do.

Blenheim P was huge. Not just the palace, but the grounds! We didn’t even see everything. It was very impressive. The room where Churchill was born was less ostentatious than the State Rooms, but its significance made up for the lack of grandeur. “Here’s where the 20th Century was saved,” said Dad.

Back in Oxford, we spent some more time in Blackwell’s, ate dinner (steak, ale, and mushroom pie) at The King’s Arms pub, and did some more wandering around Oxford. I’m growing more and more fond of this city. Its streets form a labyrinth of treasures waiting for me to stumble upon them.

the high


once I was in London

8/2/14 – 6:25pm Greenwich Mean Time

I am living the London experience to the hilt right now. We took the Tube from Covent Garden Market (so crowded!!) to Tower Bridge, and I’m sitting on a ledge right on the Thames with the bridge on my right, to the East, and the Tower of London across the river. (Okay, but a security guard with an Indian accent just told me to get down, so now I am standing once again on aching feet.)

It was supposed to rain today, but it never did. It’s been mostly overcast, but now the sky is open, with grandiose flat-bottomed clouds meandering slowly. It’s lovely out here over the water. I much prefer this to the constricted city streets. I guess I’ve been living in the country for so long that it’s hard to acclimate to city life.

Tower Bridge is so beautiful in this early evening sun! It was funny; as we were walking here, we were discussing whether we were going the right way. This British man walking by heard us say Tower Bridge and said, “That way! Definitely that way!” as he rushed past us. The people here are fun.

tower bridge


worshipper

I am deeply full of simple things;
of anticipations and doubts and light brushes with the universe.
Like the painted buntings ruffling the goat weed-
now poised above it, now diving beneath it-
I do not wish you to attend to me.

Soon I will walk in two-thousand-year-old cities
and I will be like a single cobblestone, or a half of one.
Two-thousand years of feet will flow over me,
and I will not be crumbled by time’s trampling,
but I will hold out my hand for the marks.

I will walk in great shadows and not shake,
for it is good that they be large and I be small.
On mountains that will outlive me, I will be a single fern;
curling and unfurling once, twice, and then no more.
I will only be a worshipper.

dwarfed


skybound

The following disconnected narrative was written on my way home from Montana, some on the plane, but mostly as I sat in the airport. It’s largely unedited, and it reads a little bit like a Tumblr blog, so prepare yourself.

Long valleys sprout veins- erosion paths in the plateaus that cradle creeks and rivers. They look like cracks in a hard-set Jello sculpture. I can see the rims of mountains stretching around the side like tree-less ribbons. There is a canyon like a spine sunk into the yellow earth, and its tributaries are red like Mars. If I was a bird, I would fly down and find out if that’s really snow I’m seeing.

It’s all so different from the air. When I’m down on the ground, I look up at the mountains twirling into peaks like full dance skirts, and I feel so small. But when I’m in a plane, I look down on the same mountains and now they’re the small ones. All that snow is a very long way down. If mountains that dwarf me are looking so tiny and far away, think about how small I really am. The Bible says man’s life is like a vapour. I am the chilly spray thrown by the magnificent waterfall cascades I saw yesterday. I am mist tossing on a river of holiness. I am a feather on the breath of God.

There are so many people in the Denver airport. So many different kinds of people. I was one of the last people to get off the plane, and walking up through the empty cabin made me a little lonely. Not a really sad kind of lonely, though- it was the emptiness of a screen door left ajar and an abandoned cup of coffee on a clean white counter. It smelled clean- not like bleach or anything, just cared-for. I was a little bit surprised that it wasn’t more impersonal, but it’s hard to repress the character of all these people who pass through here. The airport itself smells emptier- like Mrs. Baird’s bread or something. But the people are fun to watch. I’m sitting across from my gate (its own seating area is filled with people ready to board an earlier flight to Bozeman, MT), separated from it by one of those conveyer belt walkways, on which people are walking unnaturally fast; almost gliding. I didn’t use it- I used to love those as a kid, but now I prefer walking at my own pace. I’m not in any sort of hurry, anyway. I’ve got a four-hour layover.

A young guy just walked by in a dress shirt and a tie, but his tie was loose and so was his expression- looking around, wondering. He was carrying a big brown backpack and a thick book I didn’t recognise. A backpack plus a tie is a bit of an odd combination. I wonder if he was going to or from home.

Another fairly young man walked up to the beginning of the conveyer belt with his little son. The boy took off down the belt in a fit of excitement, and his dad grinned a grand smile and waved before playfully chasing after the kid. People with kids are the only adults who seem to get excited by airports. When you show something to a child, it’s almost like seeing it for the first time yourself. I saw a lady sitting on the floor with her kids, dealing out cards for a game of (probably) Go-Fish. There are quite a few families sitting on the carpet in friendly circles, eating airport food and wearing Disneyland hoodies.

A few seats down from me, an Asian man is yelling into his phone at 100 miles per hour, clearly incredulous about something.

I just looked up and made eye-contact with the boy across from me- a basketball-shorts-wearing dude with a red Nike shirt and blue, blue eyes. Other than his eyes, there’s not too much to be said for him. His earbuds appear to be glued in. I smiled at his dad, who only stared at me. I like it better when people smile back.

A lot of people here are dressed the same. Polos, t-shirts, Aeropostale shirts, jeans, cargo shorts, backpacks. Sometimes I see someone wearing something really unique, like the lady in the sundress that was longer in the back than the front. She was accompanied by a little girl in a similar dress, and both of them looked like they had come from the Bahamas.

There’s a woman pushing two strollers at the same time. I do not envy her. I remember dragging two roller bags around Boston a few years back, and that’s not at all my favourite memory of that trip.

There’s a guy with a musical instrument case of some kind. I can’t tell what instrument it is, but its small, rectangular surface is covered in vibrant stickers.

Airports are always such hubs of action. It’s almost overwhelming. One could come here to escape from life, and I wonder if some people are trying to do just that- they look so defeated. Here I am watching humanity stream by- hearing the rumble of suitcase wheels and the “ding-ding” of cellphones, watching the rush, the energy, the importunate crowds, and I wonder what the hordes of humanity think of me. I know the answer to that already, though: they don’t.

—-

I went to buy a sandwich at Schlotsky’s, which was nearly twice as expensive as they are outside of this transport trap. There was an old man in line behind me carrying a box from Build-a-Bear. He said he bought it for his grandson. He also had a wad of $100s in his money clip.

Another man in this waiting area is playing rock music on his ipod, out loud for all to hear. He’s sort of singing along, too. That’s more something you’d expect from a teenager instead of a middle-aged guy.

I should write about Montana, but airports are so intriguing. Every time I look up, it’s something else: the lady and her daughter hopping like rabbits down the conveyer belt, the girl wearing multiple scrunchies around her ponytail, the man laughing at his wife because she’s going to buy a Colorado magnet despite the fact that they’re not even leaving the airport, the guy who looks just like Michael from the back, the little girl in the sparkly tutu, the European man wearing white linen pants (ew?). I’d like to see all these people in their natural habitats. I’d like to follow them around the world.

Remembering the highlights of my glorious week in Montana, I think the drive up to the pass on the way to Yellowstone National Park was the most gorgeous thing. We climbed that steep, winding road like trout zig-zagging upsteam. And suddenly, there were no more trees. And suddenly again, there was snow. I waded through it in my shorts and cowboy boots, ducking Alison’s little brother’s snowballs. And it was all so huge up there. Looking down was like looking down into another world. Mountains awaken my soul to sing. The week I spent among them was exciting and rejuvinating, filled with hikes up to cascading waterfalls, wild raspberries, rafting, s’mores toasted over the gas grill, Doctor Who marathons, and small-town charm. I had incredible hosts and incredible adventures. The only negative elements of the trip were the massive mosquitoes (you think everything’s bigger in Texas? I’m afraid not.) and the sunburns. Oh, but I won’t even remember the negative things. We had a brilliant time.

Favourite quote of the trip, an exchange from when we were stopped in a long line of cars for two hours in Yellowstone because a massive herd of bison was traveling along the road ahead of us:
Ali: What if we’re stuck here all night?! Where would we sleep? What would we eat? Where would we go to the bathroom??
Mrs. L: That tree. For all your questions.

Now here I am on a plane to Austin, drinking Pepsi without ice, ignoring the endless car commercials on the tiny television screen in front of me, and wearing a jacket. I’m going home to Texas and I’m wearing a jacket. For some reason, that’s amusing. I finished reading “Catcher in the Rye” a few minutes ago, which starred a boy with a pointless life. His pointless life was probably the point of the book, but I was unimpressed, except by the writing style imployed by Salinger, which was detailed and interestingly cynical. But like “Gulliver’s Travels”, the book was just too annoying to be enjoyed, and it didn’t resolve, and it had too much language.

Another airplane just flew under us, looking very tiny. The funny thing is, it was flying sort of horizontally. It looked like it was being blown off-course, following its pointing left wing. I hope that’s supposed to happen. I’m told it has something to do with physics and relative distance, which, although I did study it once upon a time, is endlessly intriguing and confusing.

The only bad thing about window seats is that, if you’re on the 3-seat row side of the plane, you would have to crawl over two people if you had to go to the bathroom… or, I should say, the “lavatory”. I wish they wouldn’t say “lavatory”. It sounds snooty. Is there something wrong with just calling it the restroom? Or you might as well call it the “loo”. At least that’s British.

There’s a picture of an ermine on the wing flap of this plane.

I forgot one thing I liked in “Catcher of the Rye”. A quote by psycho-analyst Wilhelm Stekel: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” I think that’s very true, and sometimes very hard to take. Sometimes, dying is easier.


You’re My World

Only in honour of Valentine’s Day do I post twice in a row. =)

You’re My World

We were newlyweds on a Holland dike
With a picnic and a tandem bike
Traveling the world like we had always dreamed.

We rode a double-decker bus
And all the lights displayed for us
But we scarcely saw them, scarcely saw them gleam.

Isn’t it a funny story?
Here we are, with so much glory
All so new
In plain view
But I just want to look at you!

Isn’t it a laugh worth living?
All these things we dreamt of seeing
All those years
Now we’re here
And they just seem to disappear!

We were newlyweds on a Paris roof
And the Eiffel Tower beamed, aloof
But I was just admiring your eyes.

The Northern Lights reflect your face
Or maybe it was the other way.
When you held me, I forgot about the sky.

Isn’t it a whimsical surprise?
You’re the world I’ve dreamed of all this time.

 


{away}

I took a week off from real life. I wandered up and down the bank of the Frio River like a wanderer come home, stepping on the same ground I visit every year. I remembered a game I made up when I was very young: trying to walk as far as possible without touching anything except cypress tree roots. I spent my childhood here, and somehow I managed never to take it for granted. It’s the simplest place in the world, a combination of peaceful and exciting that I needed so much. When did I turn into a grown-up with a life to escape from?

You would love those sprawling cliffs and the deep water below them. When you swim ten feet above the lazy catfish parties, it’s like you’re alone in an aquamarine mystery, and the mystery is more beautiful than the answer. I don’t think there is an answer, and that’s why it’s beautiful. The breeze turns the stillness into contented energy, and little ripples kiss your upper lip again and again like there’s no tomorrow and all we have is now. The past is gone and the future will never come and no one cares. You just swim into the 4 o’clock sun. You see poetry in everything. And for once, you exult in being alone… but then you’re not alone. Because your little sister and your fabulous cousin come and play seals right next to you, and then you exult in being not-alone. And you swim through the ripples to the diving log and pretend it’s a ship. Sometimes you can feel a fresh-water spring under you and it’s so COLD you scream and everyone thinks you saw a snake and then you laugh at them.

Then it’s eleven in the morning on another day and you’re alone again, down by the rope swing without much sunscreen, building a waterfall and channels for three hours. When you’re finished, it’s a quality establishment, and that sunburn on your back? It hardly matters. And your chipped fingernail polish? It doesn’t matter at all.


There’s a big hill from the upper campground to the lower campground, and it’s perfect for riding your bike with no brakes. People talk about throwing precaution to the wind, but I don’t think that’s what happens. I think the wind whooshes around you so fast that it snatches your precaution away from you, whether you’re holding it tightly or not. And I never hold mine tightly on that hill anymore. I’ve been hurtling down it at top speed ever since I was nine years old.

You would love the annual catfish-fry… sitting on rocks with fishing poles all day long, baiting with hot-dogs, naming the fish you catch, and throwing away the “stanleys”. And then at the end of the day, you haul your stringer back up to the cabin and your dad tries to show you how to clean the fish and it’s disgusting but now you’ll be able to survive in the wild. If you had a knife. And matches or flint. And cornmeal and Lowry’s salt and oil to coat the fish with. I fried them this year, and it took forever.

Oh, and then when you feel like it, you can walk up to the office and charge any number of ice-creams to your family’s account.

It was a week of enchantment and detachment. When being alone didn’t ever feel lonely. A week of painted rocks and curious fish and family and hardly any other campers to bring my mind back to the present. I don’t think I took a week off from real life, really. I think I took a week of visiting it. Maybe paradise is what’s really real, and everything else is simply the contrast material.

Scratch the maybe.

Ah, but the contrast material always seems so very contrasting when I come home. When I was a kid, I used to be sad to come home because home wasn’t as fun. But now I’m sad to come home because home is so much less home. It’s so much more complicated. Here is where I have to think about the future and figure out how to deal with the past. Here is where alone always feels lonely. But I tell myself to get a grip and wear a smile, because even while I miss that carefree river, a River of Life is flowing inside of me and I only have to look to the Source to realize that I will never despair and I will never let go. Even when all I want is to fade, there’s colour holding onto me that won’t let me give up. I can’t stay in paradise, but I can carry it with me always. And I will.