Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Retrospective Travel Sketch and Thoughts From My Travel Journal

 My retirement coincided with one of my daughters moving to Rome with her husband and their little girl. This has meant that I've had the lucky problem of travelling to Europe twice a year, with trips spanning from two to ten weeks. You're right. Not so much to elicit your sympathy there, but I do find it a challenge to integrate my travel experiences and insights with my home life (never mind maintain a steady rhythm to a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule).

I can't find the relevant post, but at one point when I referred to this challenge after returning home, a reader suggested that I spend some time going through photos of the completed travel, revisiting those memories. Following the suggestion, I also turned through the journal pages of the trip, and between the two records, a narrative emerged, offering some coherence that allowed me both to make connections with my daily life at home and to see the generous spaces that distance had offered me for perspective.

To this practice, I've recently begun sketching -- back here at home -- from photos I took while travelling. The one I'm sharing here is modeled after an iPhone shot I took while we were waiting for the ferry in Sućaraj (the most eastern ferry from Hvar Island over to mainland Croatia), wandering around the little fishing village. I love the calm this photo exudes with its neutral tones and simple, clean shapes, very easy to abstract.

I also thought the sketch offered me a good way to practice what Alison had demonstrated for me last week about setting up lines and angles to show perspective and to align the various planes correctly. See? I even sketched a little thumbnail version first (above) to test out my composition. . . .


 As I said, I've also been reviewing my travel journal from this trip -- not the illustrated one on the watercolour pages, but the mostly written record I keep in a Moleskine notebook.

There's an entry in that journal that I wrote to myself; It's quite personal, and I deliberated over sharing here. But with the work I've been doing on my long-form project (rounding the corner on that, first draft will be finished in September),  there's been too little, recently, of the more vulnerable, exploratory, thinking-out-loud writing that I want at this blog's core. And until that first draft's done, I can't let myself be diverted by writing new material of that sort.

So.

From my travel journal, written in Basina, on Hvar, a Croatian Island, where we rented a villa for a week to host three of our four kids' families. . .

June 5th, 2018

This morning hour, completely to/by myself on the main terrace, drinking a first cup of tea, then a second. No idea how I've managed this before Jesse got up for his coffee and set up at the table to work on his MacBook. Or how Joey's still sleeping (more likely, has nursed Cohen back to sleep downstairs & fallen back into a doze on her own).

I read through the first cup of tea, felt myself moving out of that slight background funk I've sensed, tried to repress.

And now I'm pushed to write the contentment, the drive to creativity, beginning to lick within. The waves' rhythm, their glugs and susurrations; the various scents -- resinous pine and rosemary, a certain mineral dryness that's tough to pin down but an important base note nonetheless; the woman next door swimming by herself, her head facing back to the shore, her arms paddling her away from it, in the same manner I so often set out; this fly buzzing around me right now.

I've felt so much lately that I can't/won't/don't want to/might not blog anymore -- and even that my memoir projec has gone on for too long -- but in these quiet, satisfied minutes to myself this morning, I see that the writing wants to find its way to a page, and not just to a page, but also to another pair of eyes -- yours someday, granddaughter? grandson? . . . 

Something about who I am or might be, just me, even immersed in (submerged by, sometimes?) all this family. Someone worth writing?

And the travel (which is what these pages are meant to be about, after all), the travel confuses a bit because it stimulates all my senses so, but also makes it difficult to find time to process what I'm experiencing and even more difficult to articulate and write that down. I suppose that's why I'm both continuing with and resisting and being irritated by Instagram as a platform -- it gives a place to (publicly) register my response to places and experiences, but often I'm pushing myself to do so before I've sorted why what I'm seeing -- and showing -- is significant to me. Question of authenticity?

So soon, I'm sure, Joey will be up with Cohen and I'll want to take him from her -- not only to give her a break, but because I'll sincerely and selfishly want the time with his chubby, sweet infant engagement, his attempts to respond, to begin a  conversation with the world. This writing self will sink back under and at times her wish to be more prominent, to be attended to, is likely to have me feeling that odd melancholy again. But I had this hour to let her out -- and to see her more clearly, to remember how vigorous she still is, that she'll be here still, when I have the time and quiet space to write like this again. . . .

And at the bottom of the page, at the right margin, I've written 6:59 a.m. and I'm still on my own -- Bliss!


I hope you might find something in this post that resonates, and if so I'd love to read your thoughts. Have you found ways to integrate travel with life back home? Or is that need to do so just my idiosyncratic tendency to introspection? And sketchers -- we could talk about the difference between drawing/painting on site/plein air and drawing from an already photo-flattened image? Or about the difference between a visual and a verbal record of an experience?
But also, perhaps some of you can relate to the challenge travel sets of offering so much stimulation at a pace that's tough to process, the grey-matter databank getting quickly overloaded. . . And of course that also depends on the kind of travel we're doing. . .
Or to the conflicting tugs we feel in the midst of family gatherings--not only as mothers, but also in whatever role our family tends to cast us or see us. . .

But for now, I'd better hustle off, get some movement in before the day gets too hot again. . . I'll check back in later to see if we've got a conversation started. Happy Wednesday!  Oh, and later today, I'll post on Instagram the actual photo that inspired this sketch, so that you can compare if you're interested.

30 comments:

  1. "A certain mineral dryness". Ahh.... I read that five times over and over and stopped each time, at what it evoked so strongly, in image and feeling in me. You are such an evocative, beautiful writer. Hoping one day soon to be able to read your writing that you have working on for awhile now.
    Due to your inspiration, I am arranging with my BIL to give me a few water color lessons when I am home in Maine near my birthday as a present for my birthday. He is really pleased I asked and I look so forward to it.
    Do I integrate my travel with home? Not these days. Two floods in our flat in 7 months, a lawsuit relative to that, hugely, ugly, appalingly ungraciousness directors of the company we partly own that also owns part of our gorgeous 76 room manor house, broken into 11 owned flats...and a plumbing disaster of enormous financial and of the huge mess variety 8 months ago in my Maine cottage, have knocked most sense and all ability to evaluate how I evaluate and integrate travel to real life. It has neen survival of the fittest around here by one who takes enormous comfort and interest in your water colors, your tales of your children and grandchildren, in your gorgeous photos and your view of the world.

    A bery successful airbnb season (post repairs) at the Maine cottage and mostly hugely kind guests have helped so much to restore my faith.

    When I read the other day of your long-time reader, whose husband has been recently diagnosed with cancer, my heart felt and I said a prayer. BUT, most importantly, I said to my exhausted self..."YOU have NO problems". My thoughts are with her and I lit a candle, at St. Martin's in Central London,for his return to good health and her strength in helping that be so.
    Dottoressa and I had such a fun : a distracting, lively and encouraging time making the world such a smaller and more beautiful place by cheering and supporting each other tbrough the World Cup.
    Hooray for distraction, hooray for positivity and sharing, which I do too little of, and hooray for this blog which bring so much pleasure, insight, sharing and inspiration.
    Thank you
    A. In London
    P.S. I have an idea, if you are interested, in maybe increasing more reader interaction and a bit of fun (if you are interested).
    xx

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    1. A. in London,I'm so sorry about the floods and the mess,it sounds horrible-especially with the heat wave,but hope that everything is fine now
      We've had a lot of fun with our football conversations indeed
      D.

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    2. Oh No! That's a whole lot of nuisance and mess and frustration. You're right, a diagnosis of cancer puts it in perspective, but still, it had to have been tough to live through -- hooray for distraction and positivity indeed. Thanks for the kind words re the blog, and I hope you enjoy your sketching lessons.
      Email me about your idea, if you'd like, and I'll see if it works for me.

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  2. OMG - I can totally relate to that overstimulation of which you speak! That's why I go to the same 3 cities over and over again :-) I love having a tiny bit of new in a sea of familiar. What I love so much about Baie St Paul is that it is quiet and it stays quiet (if you don't visit during the music festival) :-) I'm about to head back there for a week. Part of me can't imagine how I'll be ready to travel in a week or so, but I know it will be worth it. Esp as I'm staying in my regular hotel rooms in QC and BSP. Yeah, I am that person.

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    1. Yes!! That's why we went to Paris year after year when we were still both working. I always look forward to your photos of Baie St. Paul -- it looks absolutely magical. (and I'm all for regular hotel rooms, on repeat)

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  3. I don't handle "on the road stuff" well and I am careful with how much of my " at home roles" that I want to take away with me. I love to return to familiar spots where I have a alternate life with few expectations. I really like K.Line's "tiny bit new in a sea of familiar" description. I have not been away by myself in more than a year and I know
    that I am getting really irritable.

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    1. Chuckling, here, in recognition of the irritability. Alone time is so key!

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  4. What a beautiful, thought-provoking post! You have the knack of expressing so elegantly what I sometimes feel but can never express. I can certainly relate to trying to integrate travel with life back home.I'm already regretting our last day in Paris and we haven't even arrived yet! It's that sense of adventure and openness to new experiences, as well as a more relaxed lifestyle; surely that should be possible to replicate at home? As far as over-stimulation goes, most of our trips so far have been by bicycle which gives us lots of time to process (actually, that's how I first discovered your blog, searching for bicycle routes around Bordeaux - thanks to you, I found the Roger Lapebie bike path which we used to set out on our trip!) Once home,I usually edit my photos into a fairly succinct computer slide show or sometimes a photo book and that helps too.

    And now to comment on your sketch - I just can't get enough of your sketches. I can totally see them in a charming book (maybe after your memoir...???)
    Frances in Sidney

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Frances. And I know what you mean about regretting that last day, even before it's arrived.
      I'm so pleased you took that Roger Lapébie route -- did you head further, to the Atlantic? We've only ever managed 35K out of Bordeaux and then headed back, but we dream about doing more. . .

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    2. After Bordeaux we headed across country and then down to the Garonne and beyond where we had rental accommodation. We were right on the path to the Atlantic but we never went that far (our usual daily limit was around 30 km too). The last few days was spent cycling the canal de Garonne as far as Pont d'Agen, a delightful trip!
      Frances in Sidney

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    3. That sounds ideal! Isn't it a wonderful part of the world?!

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  5. Wonderful post Frances, so much to soak up and enjoy and resonate. Your sketching is improving by leaps and bounds. I’m truly impressed.
    Retirement travel for me is certainly a mixed bag. I love seeing different places but I do suffer overload if I travel too often in a relative short space. In the last three years this certainly has been the case. I’m getting to the stage of muddled memories of places. Thank goodness for the blog. At least I can go back and clarify.
    One good thing about travel is that I do appreciate my home more each time I’ve been away.
    I guess for you travel also links to the need to see family, which certainly changes the dynamic totally. It’s more than just travel. No doubt very emotional at times.
    Thanks for such a thought provoking post to start my day. B x

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    1. It's an interesting relationship, isn't it, between Away and Home? And yes, with family living Away, there's a different kind of investment. . .

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  6. I love your sketches and it's been interesting to see your style evolve.

    I would be so disappointed if you gave up blogging.

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    1. Aw, thanks for the kind comment, Lesley!

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  7. You are a beautifully evocative writer.

    So much to think, experience, write and perhaps a feeling that there isn't enough time (literally and figuratively) to capture the essence of it all. The essence of yourself. Travel adds yet another dimension and time becomes even more pressing as those of us who are introspective by nature can be overwhelmed trying to capture all that it means to us before being required to move on. And if, at the same time, we are processing the various roles we may carry as wife, mother, grandmother (and how different that particular role might be with each of our children's families), then it is not any wonder that we might feel overloaded and a bit melancholy (or perhaps this is just a reflection of my own nature).

    As to the question you posed to yourself: Someone worth writing? Absolutely. Your post is one I will come back to engage again, if only for myself.

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    1. Very kind and thoughtful words, Mary. It's so good to know that my writing finds an attentive eye/ear. . .

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  8. So much food for thought.
    I have often envied people who have one obsession in life and follow it – in science, politics, writing, music, or any other creative pursuit. Not only do they have the chance to reach extraordinary achievements, but – best of all – they do not have to worry about priorities. Their way lies clearly before them – or so I suppose. I am not like that. I like doing all the things I mentioned above, and I have been lucky enough to be able to try many of them in my life. Sometimes I feel just that – lucky. But sometimes I wish I had been (or could be, in the future) more focused on only one or two things. Then I do not enjoy what I am doing (or reading or seeing or smelling) at a given moment but rather miss what I might be doing or experiencing instead. When I am travelling, this feeling can get even stronger, because there is so much more need to “be in the moment”. On the other hand, I found that it is not always necessary to keep a material record. The body writes its own journal. Certain smells or sounds can evoke an image or an emotion and carry me back to distant places (both in time and in geography). This morning I was sitting on the deck in front of the cottage during a short but heavy rain. While I was smelling the fragrance of dry earth absorbing the moisture and listening to the pounding, rushing and gurgling all around me, I was suddenly back in Costa Rica during rainy season.
    Another issue is the conflict that can arise between our needs to be alone and to be with the people we love. Didn’t we talk about that on a terrace in Munich, a short time before another heavy rain? In the very near future, I will be moving towards one end of this continuum. My son will finally leave home and I wonder what I am going to do with all that alone time on my hands.
    I love your sketch. It captures the peace and remoteness of that little yard.

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    1. So true -- there have been many moments when I wish that I could be more single-minded, but it's never been my way. And so much I would have missed if that had been so.
      Yes to what you say about the body's own sensory and kinetic memory -- although for me it's often more nebulous, so that a memory of a moment is, indeed, triggered, but it's so impressionistic that I have a hard time tracing its origin.
      We may very well have talked about that in Munich (and with your words, I have such a precise image of that moment). That's a big change, having your son move away, but I have no doubt you'll fill that alone time quite profitably.

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  9. It is fantastic indeed that you'll have the first draft finished very soon
    Frances in Sidney's idea is excellent-yes,next book :travel memoires with your beautiful sketches
    I travel less recently,but it does disconnect the (wellcomed) routine,a plethora of things that I have to/need/want to do.
    Eleonore has written the essence of the problem -too many things on the plate,too many things one want to do (and is good at) and than...Rashomon of roles one has to play -and yes,I'm talking only about the things one wants to do-maybe not all in the same time or,sometimes,in the wrong time.......
    I only know that I want to be "the woman next door swimming by herself at 6.59" in your morning play
    Dottoressa

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    1. You and Frances are too kind re the memoir/sketch book, but it would be fun to work at, at least.
      Yes, I think that's the best image, that woman swimming in the sea on her own (especially since we found later that her husband was a bit of an old grump -- I'd be swimming alone more often if I were her ;-)

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  10. Thank you very much Dottoressa.
    Will be in touch Frances-thank you.
    A. in London

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  11. There's such warmth and charm in your sketches! I really like this one.

    Perhaps because we don't travel as often or for as long, but I seem to adjust to being back home without a lot of disorientation. Sometimes we've integrated a favorite food or practice back into our domestic routine when we've returned home. (Like my Moka pot coffee from Venice.) It's a nice way to keep our travels a part of our home life.

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    1. Thanks re sketches!
      I do think the time frame might make a difference. . .

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  12. I've just compared the sketch with the original photo. No contest! Makes me want to throw away my camera and pick up a sketchbook!
    Frances in Sidney

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    1. It's a really lovely way to record and remember, Frances, and I highly encourage it. If it's in a journal just for your own eye (as mine was to begin), then where's the risk (I always felt as if there were some foolishness I was risking, or something, a "Who does she think she is?" vulnerability)? Even if the resultant sketch doesn't please, the process of sketching makes you observe more closely and you'll be surprised how that changes the memory.

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  13. Please don't stop blogging! I think travel with family, while often wonderful, can be particularly challenging. The different sights, sounds and smells to take in while still while trying to make sure everyone has at least their most important needs met can be so difficult or at least it is for me. I need alone time, but it can be hard to find especially when everyone is in a relatively small space and there are constant decisions to be made. I'm still working on getting the right balance. My sons took a trip together last weekend and both reported the same feeling so perhaps this is more universal than i thought!

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    1. I'm not ready to stop blogging yet. . .
      Travelling with family changes so much depending on ages and stages, of course. For me, now, there's no need to worry about looking after anyone else, but the chance to spend time together is rare enough that I end up stinting on solo time, and as an introvert, I end up pretty faded by the end of a week ;-) The Right balance, as you suggest, that's what we need to find!

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  14. Relief upon reading the previous comment! I find myself looking forward to your posts- perhaps because we are traveling the same path at the same time in life. I share many of these issues and process them in a similar way. I enjoy reading your posts and mulling them over. As others have said- you articulate what we may be feeling- but unable to specify. You are valued!

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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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