Structure, Restructure

I leant over the small fence, resting and taking in the view. My feet and I were no longer on speaking terms, but it wasn’t really as bad as I had feared.

Once I no longer had to focus on breathing and on stepping the right way, memories and thoughts started bubbling in my mind, all at once.

I looked at the tents spread a few metres below me, trying to remember when I last slept in something like that. I was still in my teens. Look at them, they seem such feeble structures… yet they were the epitome of shelter and safety during those trips of ours. In many ways, I was a creature of comfort, even as a child; and nights spent in a tent didn’t quite go with that part of me.

Looking at them now, I experience a different kind of gratitude and satisfaction, this time deriving from knowing I don’t have to make that compromise anymore. Sure, we used to have fun back then – we were together and we were escaping… That was it, the escape… That’s why climbing the mountain, the hike itself, were less satisfying now than I remembered them being back then.

It wasn’t an age thing. Anything that wasn’t home, anything that allowed us to detach ourselves from our families and everyday lives was bliss. For a while, we were in a different universe. We could pretend we wouldn’t go back. We could attempt to believe in freedom and convince ourselves and each other that everything was possible. After all, why shouldn’t it be? If we could push our boundaries like that, if we could conquer and survive nature, then nothing could stand in our way.

My mind went blank this time too, the same way it did back then, allowing all my resources to focus on the physical effort. Not thinking of anything was comforting, but not in the same way. Now I was calm; back then, I felt such a rush simply by not thinking of anything anymore… But now I don’t need to forget about going back home, there’s nothing scary waiting for me behind the locked door. Now it truly is a trip, not an escape. This time I feel like I’m travelling, not running away without looking back.

Those feeble tents made for good shelter, in spite of all their uncomfortable features. We were resilient too, and if we had to, we could look after ourselves – occasionally, even after each other. Our dysfunctional families were what we had in common. Only now do I realize how dangerous some of our escapades had been. Our parents rarely knew what we were up to, and most of the time we were sure we preferred it that way. But did we, really? You can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t ask for money. You can have all the money you want and do as you please, as long as you aren’t in the way. You can do whatever you want, as long as you get good grades. You can do whatever you want, as long as you keep up appearances and don’t embarrass the family with scandalous behaviour. Each one of us received their freedom at certain costs, and we chose to enjoy it together, because we understood and supported one another.

Then we started choosing our own paths, building on those shaky foundations, structuring our beliefs and characters. So we grew apart, because dysfunction was no longer enough. When constructive, destructive and self-destructive tendencies manifest themselves within each and every one of us, often all at once, while we struggle to find our way, it takes more than dysfunction, we need to have more than that in common. Or at least that was the case for us.

You get much clearer a perspective from that place, thinking back and appreciating the present. I take the Sprite bottle my friend got me. I don’t normally have fizzy drinks, but I wanted something sweet, something I would have liked back then. The two of us remained close and in our own personal, very different ways, we found some sort of balance. The kids we were would be pleased with the adults we are, I realize while staring at the forest, the mountains and the tents of past, present and future. We may not have kept in touch with the others, but these days one finds out things even without trying. So we know that some of them followed in their parents’ footsteps, no matter how much they hated the perspective back then. They now have dysfunctional families and children of their own, who try to escape. Dysfunctionality breeds dysfunctionality. Some are somehow frozen, unable to be self-sufficient, constantly relying on their families or partners for support. Some lead normal, average lives, somewhere in the middle, completely ignored by certain people, utterly envied by others, depending on perspective.

We all failed, we all succeeded, it just depends on the moment and the point of view. But what I think we could all agree upon, if we were to meet around another camp fire, sharing stories and dreams, is that the stability we silently craved is one shaky, complex and tricky structure, that constantly needs to be propped up.

Distracting Windows

There’s something about windows… Whenever I’m in a new place, just wondering about and taking in the sights and architecture, I often get distracted from the big picture. My eyes fixate on windows and I find myself wondering what it would be like to live behind some of them. I lost count of all those times I bumped into people, looking up distracted, ignoring everything and everyone around.

Then there’s the other side of the window…

Do you ever get the feeling that there are certain people meant to inhabit that ground floor flat, the one closest to the entrance, with the best view of everybody entering and leaving the building?… I wonder, have they always been that sort of people and their choice of a home is merely an extension of their personality… or is it always location, location, location, and they morphed into the neighbourhood busybody exactly because of it? They always know who you date, what time you got home, from where and with whom, yet somehow they never notice who dinged your car… It’s all about prioritising, I suppose.

Everywhere I lived, in every building I visited several times, they were there, and they never failed to make themselves noticed. I remember the one living in the building I grew up in… and all the ways I had to invent in order to get in and out at the wrong hours, without being noticed. I tell you, it was not an easy job. Getting home late in the evening generally went unnoticed by my grandmother. But another pair of curious eyes would see and report as soon as possible… and god forbid I made my grandmother look bad in front of the neighbours. So what’s a kid to do? Well, nothing else but come home even later, making sure that said lady was sound asleep by that time.

There was no way of escaping them, I concluded a few years ago, when I was contemplating moving. I eventually found a place that was tempting. A couple of visits with the real-estate agent brought him, the ground floor guy, out of hiding. When looking out the window failed to provide enough information on the newcomer, he went out in the garden, blatantly staring at the windows of that flat. To his great delight, we were on the balcony, so his curiosity was appeased. I remember driving to that building the following day, wanting to take one more look without the agent before making my final decision. Parked in what would have become my parking space, I was analysing everything, weighing the pros and cons. The head eventually stopped peering from behind the curtain… because the neighbour decided to come in front of the building to nosily stare at the car and whoever dared to trespass on his “personal” space. Did I really want to live right above this person?… Well, that wasn’t the deciding factor, but it certainly weighed heavily.

Summer is a busy time for one of my current downstairs neighbours, and the good old window and that pulled aside curtain corner are working overtime… so much so, that she even leaves her door slightly open once in a while. The window is just not enough. She may be the keeper of all neighbourhood gossip, but she isn’t among the most obnoxious ones, so I find it easy to tolerate her whenever I fail to avoid her. Hurrying by the open door, I realise I’ve never been too curious to know what life is like behind it… and that’s because the woman living there never fails to overshare. Furthermore, her endless, indiscrete inquiries make people want to keep their distance. Ironically, what most likely is the consequence of loneliness and a need of human contact, is also what prevents her from getting close to anybody.

Bridge

There are certain bridges we should learn to stop crossing back and forth, as they take us to the worst version of what our lives could be. Then there are those scary, almost hidden ones, the ones we hardly ever notice or take into consideration… Who knows what unchartered territories, what world full of options might await on the other side of those bridges, the ones not yet crossed, not yet deemed as worth burning …

Transient Moments

Every time I go to the mountains I am somehow pulled towards these seemingly insignificant water streams. I could almost say that the sound of undisturbed nature is incomplete without that murmur of rushing waters.

Once in a while, it stares you in the face, the enormous strength and consequences of something apparently so small cannot be denied or ignored. Bit by bit, over what seems an eternity, water droplets have carved their way through impenetrable walls.

There’s nothing else to be done other than admire the force of repetitive transient, apparently insignificant moments.

Fleeting instants and unexpected people walk into our lives and leave it just as fast, like water streams… They occasionally leave indelible marks, the consequences of which we only notice much later. Once we do, we need to accept that nothing can ever be the same.

Wanderlust

The snow covered mountain tops seemed… they seemed familiar. We had been driving up and down through the mountains all day long, we were heading towards yet another landmark, but… there was something about those peaks, like I had seen them up close. All day I kept trying to figure out which mountain was which, as terrible at geography as always. My sight oversaturated with all those wonderful landscapes, I still couldn’t help staring in that particular direction. Then I noticed the signs, as we drove into possibly one of the dullest small towns I had ever seen.

My throat closed with emotion for a moment, as I recognized the memory and remembered the place. The name of the place typed into the GPS, I never even glanced at the route. The destination was the main concern. I turned my head and as our eyes met and we smiled melancholically, I knew my friend was thinking the same thoughts.

For a week we woke up to see those peaks first thing every morning. An indescribably old, barely functional truck drove us and our rucksacks several kilometres down a terrible, pothole filled road. Not too long a hike and we were finally at what we chose as our camping site. I stare at the mountain and I remember all the drama and adventure of that trip as though it was yesterday. The guys who climbed all the way to the top of those steep rocky cliffs… the guy who abandoned his girlfriend on the mountain, on a storm, in the middle of a passionate fight, and then went after her… that day I decided to hike up the mountain on one of the more accessible trails and how I decided that torrential rain wouldn’t stop me, even if that meant I had to drag my boyfriend after me, even if that meant my best friend felt compelled to come after us, worried something might have gone wrong. I remember how intense love felt back then; I remember how friendship used to be more important than anything else. But above all, I remember those nights around the camp fire… we were just a bunch of teenagers, having little else in common but our wanderlust and our need to escape our lives. Somehow, right there, in the middle of nowhere, having nothing else but a fire, our tents and each other, we felt safe. And we were happy.

We look at each other again.

“Were we… what, fifteen, sixteen?… Sixteen, we must’ve been sixteen… that’s right…”

And we do the math, but avoid actually saying how many years have passed since then; we feel old, and at the same time, we’re giddy like children. We keep driving down today’s road, giving voice to yesterday’s memories.

As the days get warmer and longer, this crazy urge to just pack my bags and go – anywhere, everywhere – takes over me. Sometimes it finds an outlet, and it also finds company. I can’t help appreciating the irony of then versus now… just like I can’t help noticing how many various ways there are to reach the same destination. We keep focusing on the destination and finding value in the journey that takes us there. How about the company we choose? What if that’s the most important part, especially when it comes to the more difficult journeys? I only know this – if wanderlust hits and I want somebody with me, that person is somebody truly special to me.

Surprise

Whether in the loving hands of someone special, in a pot by the window, in the garden or presented by a delivery person, flowers always make for a beautiful surprise.

In response to WP Photo Challenge – Surprise.

 

Atop

Sometimes, we need to escape more than we know… Only when we start to travel, only when we put some space between us and our “everyday” do we realize how desperately we needed to do exactly that. I don’t know about you, but the right trip at the right moment makes me feel on top of the world – at least on top of my world 🙂 .

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Atop.

Wish

Every new, beautiful place I had the good fortune to visit was a wish come true. Here’s to many more. 😉

In response to WP Weekly Photo Challenge – Wish.

Winter Moments – Cosy

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I blinked a few times. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. It was still early and having gone to sleep very late in the night / early in the morning, my eyes were heavy with dreams and exhaustion. The hauling wind outside must have been what woke me up. The “breeze” often became an angry gale, but that was worse than usual.

My warm, sleepy feet found the slippers and I left my cocoon. I hadn’t completely closed the shutters and a blurry, milky light was sipping in through the uncovered part of the window. A thin, frozen layer of white was covering the glass, making it impossible to distinguish anything. It had started off as heavy rain, then it became heavy snow – heavy snow that covered everything in only a couple of hours, curiosity and an odd kind of excitement led me to discover.I left my bedroom, but none of the other windows were more revealing.

The cold wind blew in as soon as I opened the kitchen window. A mad flurry of flakes had taken over and for a moment, I felt like my building was alone in the middle of a snow storm, cut off from the world, away from everything and everyone else. I could barely distinguish the shapes of the trees right outside the window, heavy with snow, leaning in the wind, but the nearby buildings were nowhere to be seen.

I closed the window as abruptly as I had opened it, and I was pleased… pleased with the warmth of my home, contrasting with the new day’s first shades of cold, blurry light… pleased that the cold madness out there was so beautiful… but most of all, pleased that I didn’t have to go out if I didn’t want to, I could just go back to bed and sleep, and sleep, and sleep.

I crawled under the warm, cosy duvet. Great photo opportunity, that blizzard out there, I thought to myself, eyes already closing. Oh well, others will take advantage of it, good for them… and I pulled the duvet over my head, falling asleep immediately.

There’s something so cosy, so decadent in staying in your warm bed while the world outside is buried under heavy snow. Just one of those small selfish pleasures of life…. I would have hated it if I had to go out; that way, having the choice not to do it, I also had the chance to enjoy it later in the day, when I eventually emerged from my hideout. Funny… how such a small moment can be representative for much more relevant situations…

Winter Moments – I Must Be Getting Old, Because I Felt Like A Child Today

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I gave the car mat a good shake and put it back where it belonged. I had dragged so much snow on my boots, getting in and out the car, that I couldn’t just leave it. That was that, no driving anywhere for the day. I finally turned the key to stop the engine, grabbed my bag and my gloves, locked the metal igloo on wheels, and walked away.

I could actually walk to the park… Hmm… It hadn’t even occurred to me, I was so stuck on the little itinerary I had established for myself, that nothing else registered. I was going to drive to this spot where the sea would be spectacular, with all the snow and disturbingly low temperatures we’d been having. Then back to the park, for a nice walk in the snow and some more seasonal photos. Sure, I was going to brave the cold, spend some time outside, in the snow (mostly shovelling it off my car), but I wasn’t going to walk there… Remember Lorelai Gilmore’s “love affair” with snow? Well, I’m nothing like that. It is just frozen water falling from the sky at inopportune times, and pretty as it may be, it is just a nuisance, the annoying cause of bad traffic, countless broken limbs and stupid car crashes. (Fine, I watched Gilmore Girls, you can stop rolling your eyes now. What, don’t you have any guilty pleasures?).

Walking through the snow to the nearby park and thinking back of some pictures I recently found, an old, almost forgotten sensation started defrosting my soul. Since the first snow this winter, something has been nagging me; and when I found those photos and started going down on memory lane with my childhood friend, I couldn’t deny what used to be… Just as I once used to run in the rain, I also used to like the snow.

We had real winters, cold and white, in the little corner of the world where I grew up. There was always snow in December and we often got the first flakes in November. As the winter progressed, we got sick and tired of the frozen intruder, but for a while, it was the centre of our childish existence. What sort of mysterious energy did we possess, what kind of superpower drove us? We spent all our spare time building snowmen and snow forts, and plotting snow fights. Even as teenagers, we weren’t above snow fights; and much as we pouted and complained about wet clothes, messed up hair and smeared mascara, we secretly loved them. Unless, of course, the person(s) you really, really liked didn’t throw one single snow ball at you, that’s when the drama began…

Something miraculous happened. I stopped feeling angry about all the difficulties snow drags along. I stopped thinking about stuck cars, blizzards, bad traffic, icy roads and a myriad of other depressing things. They’d be there tomorrow as well… and there was nothing I could do about all that, except give myself worry lines. If I could detach myself from all that noise in my head and just enjoy something as simple and natural as a snowy day in the park, why shouldn’t I?

You know you’re getting older – no, let’s call it “more mature”, it sounds better – when you realize you’re feeling like a child. You recognize that sensation, you can associate it with specific moments, and you welcome it, because in some cases it can be such a joy to relive a version of it. The wind had calmed down a bit and the snowy park was beautiful. Narrow paths had been carved across the thick layer of snow. As soon as I strayed from them in order to take some pictures, I was really glad I had decided to wear my over-the-knee boots.

A few steps sideways and I could get the perfect photo of a tree bending to the ground under the heavy burden of snow… or I could have got it, had my behind not hit the snow at that very moment. Half a second later, I was back on my feet as though nothing happened – after all, I know how to fall. I immediately got rid of all the snow I had picked up during my unexpected incursion while worriedly looking around for members of younger generations. I was ready to smile at my own lack of grace, hoping they wouldn’t make too much fun of the thirty something woman with the crazy hat. But there was nobody around… my fall had slipped unnoticed.

Then it sunk in. There wasn’t anybody around… In fact, there weren’t too many people in the park, even though as far as snowy weekend afternoons go, this one was a lovely one… and most of them were adults. You know you’re getting older growing more mature when you feel like starting a thought with “when I was a kid…” I’ll take my chances. When I was a kid, we spent hours and hours outside, in the snow, in the cold, playing, sledding, having fun; we had to be dragged back home. Then, when we got a bit older, we did our best to spend as little time at home as possible; even being outside, at disturbingly low temperatures, was preferable. The parks were always full of children and teenagers. Now, almost everybody was over 50.

It was something along these lines that my friend and I were remembering, looking at old pictures of us in a snowy park, from our high school days… And we could not figure out how we managed to do that, spend all that time in dreadful cold, and not mind it. We didn’t just grow older and jaded, we also became overly sensitive – and it’s not only an age related matter, it’s a state of mind. That strength, that resilience, that mystical superpower, I think we drew it from being able to enjoy every little thing, regardless of all discomfort and inconvenience that also came with it. Was it madness? Was it recklessness? Perhaps it was – up to some point – but it was also a type of simple, instinctive wisdom, which we outgrew.

At least I can remember it, therefore I know that as a human being, I am able to feel it – and if I focus and dig deep enough in my soul, I can even overcome my jaded, cynical self. My toes were starting to freeze in my boots, but I could stand it, it was a good feeling, just like so many years ago.

I could hear laughter in the distance and I could see somebody making a snow angel. Then I walked closer. He helped her up, laughing as well. They were having a snow fight and they were still laughing, yelling loving threats to one another. As I was walking towards the park exit, I met them again. She was throwing one last snowball at him, while he was picking up her designer bag. He came close to her and brushed some snow off her elegant coat. She broke free and they started laughing and running through the snow again. They were feeling like children too, even if they seemed to be in their forties. They had their own memories, their own impulse to feel like children. Too many don’t create such simple memories that might rescue them later, not anymore…

I was frozen, tired and exhilarated when I got home. So I can still occasionally enjoy snow, even if I still hate winter cold. Who knows, maybe I can still run in the rain as well.

Happy New Year!

happy-new-year

Mistakes are unavoidable. Sometimes, they can even be the result of good intentions. If we’re lucky and wise, we manage to understand what went wrong and try our best to avoid repeating those actions, perhaps we can even try and succeed in fixing what was broken. Unfortunately, wallowing in regret doesn’t help much; all we can do is pick ourselves up and move forward, remembering the past, but not allowing it to control the future. So let’s hold our heads up high, take responsibility and step confidently into a brand new year, full of opportunities for wonderful achievements and glorious mistakes, all of which build who we are.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2017 be a better one for you and all those people you treasure!

First Snow

1There’s something special about the first snow… that day when it doesn’t only smell like winter, but it also looks like winter. It always takes me back to some of the nicer days of my childhood, to snow fights, and snowmen, and sledding. Coming in from the cold, enjoying the warmth and comfort of my home, it reminds me other moments as well…

2

That warmth and comfort I now take for granted haven’t always been quite like this. Maybe I should be more grateful for small things. Something a friend told me many years ago comes to mind – happiness can be the relief of not having to be out in the cold, struggling, on a day like this, and instead just be in a warm, safe place you can call home… Coming from a kid, this statement left an impression. My childhood may have been far from perfect, but others had it much worse. So for a short while, I enjoyed this winter’s first snow on the beach, putting up with the frozen air; knowing that warmth and comfort were within reach only made it better. Besides, I only like the first snow, so I might as well take full advantage of it, right? 😉

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Anticipation.