Sunday, November 20, 2011

Apologies to Lisbon


Fact: Five T-shirts hand-washed in the shower with shampoo and soap, wrung from soaking-wet to extremely-damp, tamped in towels, blasted with hot air from the hair-dryer and hung in a closet are still very, very, very damp 24 hours later. Laundry continues to be one of my biggest issues in modern travel and after vainly searching for a laundromat and refusing to pay the exorbitant per-item hotel price, I decided to take matters into my own hands (literally) and try the above improvised method. It took a long time and my thoughts vacillated between praising the pleasure of the physical work, the range of hand motions, the fun of beating wet shirts against the tub walls, the sensual feel of soap and cloth and wetness and thinking, “I’m sure women who have had to (or still do) do this every day would erect an altar to the inventor of the washing machine and give thanks daily.”

So after a memorable Fado evening (see last posting), I had the morning to myself before heading off to Barcelona. I packed the five damp shirts in a cloth bag and took them with me to the river. I had hoped to walk far and long down the beautiful riverside path close to the Golden Gate’ish Bridge with a view of the Rio de Janeiro Corcovado’ish Christ statue on the hill, but first priority was to dry my shirts. So I draped them over some stones in the sun and hoped the rays, open air and fresh breeze would finish the job. Meanwhile, it was nice to sit in the sun myself and watch the world go by.

On the river were sailboats, a lone kayaker, a crew heading upstream. Along the path were the walkers, the joggers, the occasional bikers. Though November, it felt like a warm Spring day inviting me to simply sit and absorb and observe, unmindful of the ticking clock. But I had a plane to catch and had to keep track of the 30 short minutes available to settle into traveler’s mode.

Fact: Travel is a state of mind. Simply moving your body from one place to another is not enough. The travels I have savored are the moments when all the accumulated baggage of a human personality living out its drama in its always-complicated web of relationships is left behind. I move invisibly amongst the crowds, tasting the new sounds and sights, drifting, wandering where my feet will take me, following the clock of hunger instead of the watch on my wrist, the tiredness of my feet instead of tracking my miles. Nobody knows me, I know no one. The hotel awaits me as a refuge when needed, a place to re-group before leaping back into world, a time to just sit and read and write away from all the waving hands of my lists back home shouting for attention.

Such a state of being doesn’t come for free just because you’ve stepped off an airplane. It requires some cultivation, some pre-dreaming, some anticipation. The traveling music teacher at the center of this entire Blog history is a great blessing— a chance to travel, get paid for it, meet great people, do good work and offer it up and know that it will reach some children somewhere. But it’s still work and just because it’s in Lisbon means nothing unless I give myself the time, space and intention to explore this truly intriguing and quite lovely city. The Fado night was a tiny baby step in that direction, but sitting with my five T-shirts along the river for all of 30 minutes falls pretty short of what Lisbon deserved. And what I would have enjoyed.

Not that Lisbon cares. But still I apologize for not making the time to know it better. I keep thinking “Well, I’ll be back” but goodness knows I’m not getting any younger and there will come a time when I can’t casually pass it off to the future. Meanwhile, they’re announcing my plane as I write. On to Barcelona! Or rather, more work in Barcelona.

PS. My shirts are still damp.

1 comment:

  1. Your work reached some children today at The American Scchool of Bilbao!! The children had a ball!! We will be sharing our work on Thursday at the Thanksgiving assembly.
    Meanwhile I'm still working on that body slap thing at home...nearly got it sussed!!!
    Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

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