Thursday, February 2, 2017

Here and There -- and a Few Thoughts about the Distance Between Them

I completely forgot about this post I drafted over two weeks ago, and I hope you won't mind its belated appearance here. It was such a struggle to write, somehow, that I'm unwilling to simply discard it now. 

 Duchesse correctly identified the murals featured in my earlier post as being work by the French street artist Kashink, although she guessed, based on the cropped version I posted earlier, that the one above might be found in Paris, rather than on a wall in Bordeaux.  Duchesse has the good fortune to live with Kashink's work in Montreal, particularly the recent Fifty Cakes of Gay, part of a series Kashink's been painting in cities around the world in support of gay marriage and equal writes.

I knew none of this when I turned a corner in Bordeaux last September, but as soon as I saw the four-eyed, green-faced being, I recognised it. I was sure that I'd seen its like very near our new home (which we'd then lived in only two weeks), probably as part of the Vancouver Mural Festival that's centred in Mount Pleasant here. But Googling didn't help, and I resigned myself to waiting for confirmation until I returned home. (Yes, I've since realised that I could simply have used "Kashink" as  a search term alongside "Vancouver" -- with considerably more success than "four-eyed creature Vancouver street art." You live, you learn. . . )

Oddly, although the mural below is only three blocks from our new Vancouver home, and is in a very prominent position at a fairly busy intersection, Pater didn't respond to the Bordeaux mural with any recognition at all -- and he'd gone on a guided walking tour of the Festival Murals in the two weeks between my departure and his. To be fair, the tour didn't include this mural, and Pater was working most of those two weeks, way across the country for one of them. But still. . . .
http://kashink.tumblr.com/
Noticeable, no?

Except that we often wear different eyes when we're at home from the ones we wear when we're travelling -- not that we, like Kashink's people, have four eyes, but it's surprising what we see and don't see depending on our level of familiarity.

Of course, what we see, or perhaps more accurately,  what we observe, what we notice, is determined also by our interests as well as by the governing mental distractions of the day. It's not uncommon that after an outing together, Pater or I will comment to the other about something we've noticed, only to find that the other didn't register that "something" visually at all, although it must at least have appeared in the line of vision.

But that's not so much what I was trying to think about here. In fact, I've just spent close to an hour adding words and erasing them, floundering in an attempt to pin down what it is I want to say. And I think it's something about how to achieve a balance between freshness and familiarity, about how to keep seeing things, keep making discoveries, along our quotidian domestic pathways, while at the same time enjoying the comfort of being able take the sights of home for granted.

What I'm trying to articulate -- and I've just erased two more sentences that didn't end up moving me any closer -- is somewhere dangerously close to the banal or the sentimental, perhaps it's simply obvious. There was a moment, though, perhaps a week or two before we left Bordeaux, when I started to pull my phone out to record yet another mascaron, a stone face perfectly illuminated by a shaft of morning or evening or afternoon sunlight, and I stopped myself.  Not that the architectural details had yet become merely background for me. But in that moment, somehow, I registered that these features were always there, every time I went for a walk. I'd photographed them many times over the eight weeks of this past visit as I had in visits over the last several years.

Let me close here, soon, because I've been so frustrated trying to write this post that I think I might have just had a flash of insight better developed in a future attempt.  The insight arrived after I vented to my husband about how ludicrous it was that I would ever think myself qualified to write about travel, given how limited, really, has been my experience.  A friend of mine is recently back from India, a friend's daughter just finished a stint volunteer-doctoring in an African village, another friend departs for Antartica in a few weeks.  And here I am, trying to make something of work by the same artist appearing both here in Vancouver and in a beloved city in France?

Yes, I guess I am, and obviously I'm ready to put myself down for that (I have such a talent for self-deprecation, you have no idea! ;-), but it's what I have, and if this blog is worth anything at all, that worth comes from writing from and for myself. Slow Travel, relatively Small Travel, interests me because it raises questions -- and answers some as well -- about Home. And that's all I'll say, for now. To be continued....




20 comments:

  1. I came across this today and it somehow speaks to me of what you may be getting at--or perhaps the association is only in my own mind, having been on the walk with you, and yet been touched by other sights, other scents, other sounds.

    Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
    Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
    Deeper down in the well than where the water
    Gives me back in a shining surface picture
    Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
    Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
    Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
    I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
    Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
    Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
    Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
    One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
    Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
    Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
    Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.
    ~Robert Frost “For Once, Then, Something”

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to add this. I think it does get at what I'm thinking, if "slantwise." There is something about phenomena and perception . . . and then comprehension, if we're at all lucky, and perhaps eventually coherent articulation. An ongoing project chasing that pebble...

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  2. All talents are worth recognizing, even one for self-deprecation, I guess. The seeing with different eyes when traveling resonates helpfully with me, currently visiting a friend in Michigan (wooo, its colder here than my usual spots!), so thank you for that.

    ceci

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    1. Ha! I could medal in self-deprecation, but it can be pretty boring, can't it?
      Michigan even sounds cold! Bundle up!

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  3. Sounds akin to discovering parallel lines in some realm do meet: you happened upon the first painting walking your new Vancouver hood, and the second walking your new Bordeaux hood. Like a gift from the universe, letting you see your worlds connect in ways you could not imagine.

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    1. Something like that, yes. It was so odd to recognise the mural's style so instantly there in Bordeaux. And I think if I hadn't seen it in Bordeaux, I might never have bothered to learn the artist's name, or something about her.... (when will you come walk the 'hood with me? Do give me a shout if you'll be in town)

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  4. I think there are as many kinds of travel as there are travelers. I hate to see you devalue your experiences, as you've taken a deeper dive into Bordeaux and Paris than most visitors are able to do. Yet you continue to see with fresh eyes. There's much to be said for that.

    Doug and I are the same way with seeing and remembering different things. He tends to remember where we ate and on which trip. :-)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Sue. I'll pass them along to shush the INner Critic ;-)
      Doug's got a point, doesn't he? Food's important (and he has good company in Paul). It's always interesting, when one of us is trying to remind the other of a shared experiences, the different aspects of it we'll go through before hitting on an effective trigger.

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  5. To write about travel and to travel a lot are not always connected and could be two completely separate things.
    One could visit only one place and share a lot of beautiful things about it,the others could travel the whole globe,with same people and could not even talk about it,seeing the same cars and similar roads as here.
    Quantity does not equal quality,does it?
    And my key evidence-we like to read your travel posts :-)
    Sometimes,usually after some of the travel,I see things in my city as new,with different eyes,for a while-a balcony with flowers and beautiful balustrade,a statue on the front of the house I didn't notice with consciousness before
    We see things in a different way-hence we need different stories and testimonies (Rashomon,Fates and Furies,The Affair....)
    Dottoressa

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    1. This is a really thoughtful and really helpful comment. I'd love to think that perhaps there is something about my way of seeing and writing about a place that makes up for my lack of more adventurous travel.
      This is something of what I like about travel -- what you describe here, the ability, on our return, to see our own home cities with fresh eyes. (ah, Rashomon! a great example!)

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  6. In light of our recent events in Québec, Kashink's murals, which she has often said are about tolerance and inclusion, are especially poignant.

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    1. They really are. You must all be mourning even more keenly in your province right now. xo

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  7. I don't think that we are "qualified" to write about any subject. I think that we are "moved emotionally" or we wonder and we want to share our ponderings and so we write. Your Kashink post inspired me to go to look for the Vancouver mural. Is it on East Broadway? I just read the Casita Colibri post from Oaxaca. Political murals are showing up on their walls. I do enjoy public art and your blog!

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    1. I've left a comment on your (great!) post today, wondering if we might have coffee should you make it down this way to look at the Kashink mural. I'd love to finally meet after all this time being friends via our blogs.

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  8. Well, you are already in the perfect spot to write about your own experience. But also I'd posit that the purpose of travel is a new way of seeing, not miles flown or passport stamps accrued. To go further, perhaps the purpose of travel is deeper change. So to the extent that you are seeing anew and struggling with an emerging change and how to articulate it, you are perfectly positioned to write about travel.

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    1. Thanks, Dorothea. Your comment is a useful reminder of what travel is about for me (and makes me think back to Rebecca Solnit's writing on "getting lost." Even my floundering for words fits into that scenario. Reassuring.

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  9. I feel the same Frances... about self-deprecation for one. Oh yeah... got that one down...it runs in my family. And about travel writing. Maybe we should call it "my travels-writing." I don't know how some bloggers have the courage to write posts that cry..."The Trip Everyone Must Do"...or something similar. I know...click bait... but still. Even the thought of being that prescriptive, except in jest, makes me embarrassed. But now that I think of it...I do that with books...write in my blog that readers really "should" read a certain book. So maybe it is just a confidence thing?
    Just want to say that I will be absent from blog comments for a while when we're away. Doesn't mean that I won't be reading.

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    1. Yes, as one of our best-known writers titled a short story and the book containing same, "Who Do You Think You Are?" Although I think only the Canadian publication retained that title, its resonance being felt only by those of us raised in this self-deprecating territory north of a certain border....
      Perhaps with books, we give ourselves permission because it's always a noble task to be proclaiming the worth of good writing...
      I will miss your comments, but I want you to save all your written words for telling us about your adventure. Your travels qualify for some trumpet-blowing!

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  10. I like that comment above...travel is a new way of seeing. When we travel, we should be open to seeing and experiencing on a deeper level. Upon returning home some of that clarity remains - even for a little while.

    Great topic...

    Ali

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    1. Thanks Ali. Yes. Absolutely. And even after the clarity fades, we remember that it was there, within our grasp, for that little while....

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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