Archive for August, 2012

We got back to a hurricane

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

They cancelled the flights into NOLA and we were able to slip onto one at the last moment. And home we came in a plane full of Red Cross workers on their way in to deal with Isaac. New Orleans was desolate, no cars on the street, houses and businesses boarded up, and a sky that looked like it was painted on a stretched canvas.

The wetlands were Monet’s, the mighty Mississippi river belonged to Hopper and the banks to Schiele, the taxi drove ominously slow as if we were returning to where we began in some sort of funeral procession.

Our house is boarded up, the plants in the yard are psychotically overgrown from a full month of rain in July, and everything is discombobulated, including us. We stood on the porch for a moment because our neighbors were outside on all sides, and one guy was playing a banjo on the back of a pick up truck (he followed me to the grocery store, still playing), and the sky was blood red and a rainbow that didn’t quite touch doubled up on the horizon and the sun was going down in a ball of flames.

Beauty and the beast.

Isaac is supposed to sap our electricity, rain on our homecoming parade, and has already shut down the city for the next two days.

Coming and going, and growing

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Today we start the trek back to Madrid (through Frankfurt) and then Monday it is the long flight home to New Orleans.

Tanja always talks about how much kids grow up in the summer, especially on vacation, on the coast, like both of us grew up with our parents. Tin has learned how to get his own milk from the fridge and pour it into his glass, how to swing on a big swing alone, how to snap his fingers (courtesy of Ana), how to compose his own song (courtesy of Moroccan drums I picked up on my day trip to Tangiers), how to sleep in different beds, how be with different people, how to dress himself, how to swim underwater, how to make a gin & tonic, how to travel (most important for being our son), how to speak Croatian more fluently, and how to speak Spanish, that fruits and veges make you grow big and tall, and how chocolate makes you grow big and round, how sugar makes you rise and crash, and most important, how to be Tin.

We’re going home to a Hurricane – not Isaac – but our lives; back into the groove of daily routines, education and work, and all the ties that make us root bound. In Selimovic’s Death and the Dervish, the main character Sheikh Ahmed Nuruddin speaks with his friend, Hassan who tells him:

“Everyone should be ordered to travel from time to time,” he said, getting fired up. “Or even more; no one should be allowed to stop in one place any longer than necessary. A man isn’t a tree, and being settled in one place is his misfortune. It saps his courage, breaks his confidence. When a man settles down somewhere, he agrees to any and all of its conditions, even the disagreeable ones, and frightens himself with the uncertainty that awaits him. Change to him seems like abandonment, like a loss of an investment; someone else will occupy his domain, and he’ll have to begin again. Digging oneself in marks the real beginning of old age, because a man is young as long as he isn’t afraid to make new beginnings. If he stays in one place, he has to put up with things, or take action. If he moves on, he keeps his freedom; he’s ready to change places and the conditions imposed on him. How can he leave, and for where? Don’t smile, I know we don’t have anywhere to go. But we can leave sometimes, creating the illusion of freedom. We pretend to leave, and pretend to change. But we come back again, calmed, consoled by the deception.”

Maybe we’ve all grown on this trip, seeing through changed eyes, hearing the familiar with our altered frequencies, thinking outside of the rutted grooves of our minds. A tree puts down roots to grow, a person is not a tree, after all some trees live hundreds of years, but for us to live that long, we must live hundreds of years in a shorter span, and for that, we need a larger world.

What’s the question?

Friday, August 24th, 2012

I know the life of a zen bunny is to relinquish all thoughts to a more esoteric question – what, when, how, where and why all lead to a grey area. I know the Hurricane in the making – Isaac – how appropriate that on hearing of a hurricane arriving at the same time as me in New Orleans made me only say – whatever – unlike the reaction I had to the Hurricane that arrived shortly after my return in 2005.

Isaac – the sacrificial lamb – the proof of one’s faith – the son born to a hundred year old father and a barren mother who had wanted so badly to have a child – that is the name of this hurricane that shadows our arrival.

If one is what is in one’s head, then I feel like I’ve been laid out on the sacrificial altar for too long a time – ready for the knife to come down – ready to start life anew. To say I’ve been at the crossroads, that I’ve been trying to slay the past, that I continue to hold my future in abeyance is an understatement. My Hurricane would be called Job, not Isaac, an archaic patriarch that now is mostly reduced to anecdote.

August 24, 2012
Taurus (4/20-5/20)
You are about to come to a crossroads in your life. You should take the road that your mind tells you is the right one, not your more emotional choice. Right now, your feelings are a bit too confused to be good indicators. Your financial worries will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the generosity of someone close to you. You will be given a real opportunity for career advancement, although it’s going to be contingent upon a long term commitment. There is no such thing as an easy reward.

The shadow self

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Last night, after everyone had gone to bed, I sat on the terrace for a moment of reflection and across from me, a woman sat on her terrace, a dark silhouette staring down at me. The image unnerved me because she seemed to almost be a reflection – sitting quietly, alone, waiting for a benign breeze to help her make it through the night.

We’re in Zagreb, there is a heat wave. In front of Tatjana’s mother’s apartment, the one Tatjana was born in, her grandmother died in, used to be a small cottage on the road surrounded by lush gardens. It has been replaced in the last few years with a monstrosity of a building that does nothing except maybe now block the traffic sounds from the road – otherwise it is imposing, out of context, and lacks anything redeeming by way of architecture.

Yesterday morning, on our country walk, we had spoken about our future (near) and our options. We are back to the same questions – unburden ourselves from the LaLa (we have applied to live on campus for two years so that we can rent out our house), begin again the life we know, start over, wait, rethink or don’t think, find ourselves, lose ourselves?

To amuse ourselves, we ate purple plums from the trees that grow on the side of the road, they were warmed by the sun, we had that moment. That was all.

The moon is following us

Friday, August 24th, 2012

On the way home from the country, there was a fat crescent moon in the night sky. Tin said, “Look the moon is following us home.”

And in those words, many dreams exist.

The truth is that now at the end of our gypsy wanderings, through many uncomfortable beds, tiny bathrooms, and a newfound practice of recycling everything and anything, we are on our way home this coming Monday, and on Tuesday, Hurricane Isaac is supposed to be make landfall in New Orleans. It doesn’t look pretty.

At some point, you wonder and wander and you end up with the same expression, “What’s the question?”

Out in the country

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

We spent last night in the country, in Belcici right by where Jana’s spring water comes from and it was an idyllic country house on a hill with orchards surrounding it and a beautiful view to the hills. On the road trip there Willie Nelson and Solomon Burke were blasting on the stereo (not my playlist) and the amount of food consumed was legendary (cevapcici, mortadella to die for, pasta with fresh shrimp and olives, freshly baked lepinje and …) – Tin played with the kids in the pool and visited the pigs, chickens, ducks and goats. We listened to the birds and took a country walk this morning and ate ripe purple plums we picked on the road.

I returned late tonight to the continued heat wave here in Zagreb – over 100 most every day and completely unbearable – we’re talking about going home, and will be there soon.

August 23, 2012
Taurus (4/20-5/20)
Exploration is the key to discovery … do some digging on your latest prospect today, and you will find excellent information that will give you the inspiration you need to turn someone’s head. Progress on a personal goal is slowing down, but it’s just a test … so don’t lose your concentration or do something silly like giving up. Things aren’t always perfect, but attitude is everything. So keep your chin up and keep on smiling and thinking about life getting better.

Around town in Zagreb

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Tin and I had a chance to get out to the square alone today and we decided to make the most of it. We took the tram from Tanja’s mom’s apartment in Crnomerec and stopped in at one of the local bakeries and bought a cheese burek for me, and a generous slice of pizza for Tin and then we sat at a cafe with a direct line of sight to the trams coming and going. I had a delicious glass of Graševina – a crisp Riesling that is perfect for summer.

Near us a busker played the violin and was actually pretty damn good. Tin went and gave him a 5 kuna coin afterwards. Then we walked to the bookstore and looked for anything with trains as he has become TRAIN OBSESSED.

Favorite overhead line: a woman with a large afro getting on her bike with a munchkin on the back said into her cellphone “I’m going to see Petra about my hair.”

Then we headed to Kras, the famous chocolatier here in Zagreb for a coffee and a rich slice of chocolate cake. You have to be thankful that this was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire because honestly the pastries and sweets are to die for.

Then it was back on the tram to get ready to go to Tanja’s cousin’s country house where the animals, forests, and water await us – the heat in Zagreb is also something else to die for – it’s been over 100 degrees every day and honestly – sheesh – we’re melting.

The train station:

Still upended by roles

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

I’ve noticed that as soon as we walk in the door Tatjana is in her role; here she is a daughter.

We’ve been talking about going home, Tin is asking to go home, we are thinking about home. We both question why we would both be so attached to a house that on paper seems to carry more burden than comfort.

Every day of my healing summer has been a journey to accept rootlessness, uncertainty, and leave behind the days of planning and accumulating.

In this house, Tatjana’s mother is trying to erase every footstep she makes – she gets rid of anything that is not needed for the day. She has stripped away every accumulation except for a few mementos – the masks from Africa, the tins from Russia, a child’s book.

Now at the end of our trip, going home only means going away from here. Home has changed its connotation, it is no longer a permanent place that you put down roots in, it’s a place of the imagination, an ever changing landscape that can be made on a whim, changed on a dime.

Our friend Ed sends us something he fashioned on a rainy, New Orleans summer day:

Summer reading review

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Beginner’s Guide to Buddhism by Jean Smith
Review: Informative and easy to read.

A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Review: Published in 1955, it’s a quick read and while enjoyable it plunges into many areas of a woman’s life.

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Review: I found this book difficult to read because so much of it had a “for real?” quality to it. In the end, I don’t recommend it.

Gods without Men by Hari Kunzru
Review: The New York Times gave this book an excellent review and I am still scratching my bald head over why. I found the metaphors and references to be astonishingly trite.

A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Review: Must read, a powerfully gripping book that you can read overnight but you can’t put down.

Going to Pieces without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein
Review: Very readable and interesting in its weaving together psychotherapy and Buddhism.

Death and the Dervish by Mesa Selimovic
Review: Appropriate ending to our travels now that we are here in Zagreb, this is a seminal book that haunts you even while you read it.

Heat wave in Europe

Monday, August 20th, 2012