»They say that when you travel by plane your soul gets left behind.«
»Before considering if there’s actually a soul to leave behind, the statement’s at least aesthetically pleasing«
»Yeah, obviously. I’m just thinking that I love road trips; you see everything, you know where you’re going and where you came from…«
»You just stare, you don’t get bored; there are no boring things in nature and your constantly surrounded by friends. It’s always amazing«
We’re slowly making our way over the icy roads and through the sea bound mountains; eyes perpetually drawn into the untouched layers of pure white covering the rocky slopes in which no living creature dare lay tracks for fear of disturbing some latent entity borne of nature and laying – lurking – within the slothly legs of the glaciers its chosen to protect, breaking our trance Syn says she can feel regret creeping in for choosing to drive over Finland and through Sweden, »I always miss the mountains; as soon as we leave Norway everything is straight and flat.« I ask her if she has pride in Norway »Not of the state, but of the country. I don’t think many Norwegians are patriotic in the American sense, but we love the land; we love where we’re from and what we have in front of us«, it’s not a difficult position to understand as I’m enchanted by views of the clear icy waters fronted by the snow-covered beach and sunbathing flora sitting atop the high reaching arms of the fjords; exposing us to the world beyond land. The sky is clear and the sun is warming our path through the country to -2º , so we three in our car; our warm bubble and new home are almost ready to consider turning the heating down to the second highest setting, almost.
The GPS guides us further inland and our approach to the Finnish border is becoming noticeable; the temperature’s slowly dropping and the mountains becoming less dominant. Crossing the border a single unimpressive hill and my first Finnish lake is visible; the temperature hangs on -7º, and like our crossing invokes a welcoming party we’re overcome by a swarm of snow mobiles locomoting their way around the countryside, »We’re in Finland now«, »This is Finland, this is how you do it in Finland!« and we laugh but speak no more of the Finnish people and their customs and with only 15 minutes here before jumping the border into Sweden we stop at a petrol station to obtain the sugary sustenance we’ll need for the countless roads ahead and there we are; motionless, confronted and almost assaulted with 1 litre beer cans — we’re standing, staring and laughing; the attendants too are standing and staring directly at us while we’re attempting to overcome the absurdity displayed before us, but we manage and with candy in hand we venture out of the station out of the country and with a new affection for speed afforded to us by the straight Swedish highways we’re racing towards the almost discernible line through the world representing the separation of spring and winter but before hitting this attractive mark the temperature manages -22º and somehow the Norwegians are holding back their excitement while my eyes are sitting open as wide as my mouth in exclamation, it’s around here camping loses its appeal and we find the closest hotel and let sleep take us in. The next day Sweden shows us her small country towns; all mimicking each other in planning and aesthetics, all holding nothing but a supermarket and petrol station, leaving us wondering why these minimalistic towns are even here and to where the daily commute transports her dwellers.
We’re granted asylum from Oslo’s crime stamped streets by the sisters’ aunt. Our acquaintance is brief as Syn and I are meeting her friend from Oslo, which like any Scandinavian night starts with vorspeil, tonight at Anne’s apartment before moving to a local bar where we manage to position ourselves next to a local finding a new level of one-sided intoxication with Syn and after failing on multiple occasions to construct a conversation begins staring at her before loudly declaring that she makes him sick but »whats wrong with me, why wont you come with me« and with this as our cue we leave to find ourselves at the part of our homeward journey where we’re leaving Anne at her front door and why I’m not staying is the question in her eyes but the sorry showing in mine fails to answer and she’ll never know why I walk away to fall in separate beds and in what feels like seconds later Syn and I are meeting each other in living room, hands covering raw eyes, Birgit is already awake — finding rousing easier without the added weight of alcohol and the unrelenting grip only our mattresses seem to poses over our ill rested bodies which are quickly vacating the apartment to the small port of Oslo, there they find themselves parked with other motorists waiting to board the cruise ship transporting us to Kiel, Germany, but the wait isn’t getting shorter and the ship’s now moving and everyone is leaving their vehicles to get closer to the action and we’re left sitting inside our own world, wondering if all these fucking elderly tourists decked out in prescription sunglasses and wearing pants barley meeting the municipal’s legal requirements for indecent exposure are here just to watch the ship turn around, ’cause were hung over and edgy and want to be on this damned boat that apparently enjoys freely rotating in the ocean before our unamused and very impatient persons, but lest our irritation grows to consume the world some heavenly entity intervenes and the ship completes her maneuvers to begin boarding passengers. The main population of the ship are wealthy, elderly and German or Norwegian holiday makers and the stewards appear to be meeting some requirement for minimal crowd participation ’cause every hour we’re witnessing the less apathetic – or more empathetic – of the human cargo swaying to the loud, cheesy music and worn shouts of encouragement from the forcefully enthusiastic cabin crew. We walk the halls, we gamble, we sleep, we eat and we cross the paths of a group camouflaging themselves in polar bear suits sitting on the polished decks outside; drinking beer and staring at the zoo parading itself within the self-contained glass walls.
Its midday and we’re let loose from the ships fumy hull with the GPS set to our camping spot in Fontainebleau, an hour under Paris. The car’s asked to do speeds it hadn’t thought possible as we fly past Germany on her autobahn then via a rain-soaked Belgium, our entrance to France is with cheers, but it’s as we’re passing the sign indicating we’ve hit Fontainebleau that the excitement grows measurably; this is why they’re here — a month away from everything to climb and only climb. We track down the final road to our camp-site and pursue it with absolute intent; the car shakes in rhythm to our pendular swaying and where our chatter usually possess a prepubescent like ability to instantly drop attention and switch topics these last moments hold no words and with our music players powerless from the long haul we’re left only with the sound of bitumen under our worn tyres and the occasional clap from Synnoves direction. Arrival is less excited than I assumed — the others we’re joining are already sleeping and there’s the apparently obvious reason that we’re rising early to climb so whats left but to assemble the tent, create mattresses from the crash-pads and slip into our own dream worlds.
The first day finishes and its clear my lack of experience climbing and slippery rent-a-shoes are forcing me into a different game than the others, and I don’t want to play a different game; so then I’m not playing any games and forsake myself to be the equipment carrier. The night reveals itself to epitomise my love for camping — stintly cooked meals eaten around a carefully crafted fire with alcohol induced conversation about all matters life. Night outweighs day and I skip my train for Toulouse the following morning. I attempt to boulder on one more occasion before my resolve again loses its grip and I’m admitting a broken spirit and complete mental psyhe-out to continue sitting on the crash-pads staring into rocks I cannot hope to master. I try to find interest in their climbing, and I can for a while: its their passion; I’m watching people perform their passion. I find out why they climb and it »isnt really about standing on the rock with your arms in the sky… it’s the time you take to solve the problem, it’s how you find your way up«, and »it’s just you and the rock — you don’t rely on anyone else«, but as the days wear on I find it harder and harder to stay interested — it’s only the afternoon onwards that keeps me here; after the muscles get sore and the problems too demanding we venture to the supermarket to buy the cheapest possible items for dinner and alcohol to fill the night.

It’s some days later and I’m considering leaving for the organic farm further south when on schedule Easter arrives and the camping grounds are overcome by a global community of climbers. The carefully crafted fires turn large-scale and as the night goes on and the number of fires wane the people still standing wander to the biggest and warmest of the remaining until there are only a few left going, all conversations are in English and it’s an odd feeling to experience a large multi ethnic group – 12 different countries at one count – all communicating in a tongue that none hold as their primary — it’s witnessing a group of people connect. The easter-weekend rush vacates just as rapidly as it appeared and I too decide it’s time for the next part of my journey; it’s been fun but I feel an urge to move, so it’s early morning when our tent fills with the synthetic chorus of blips and beeps directed by my unfortunately punctual phone and as we’re rushing outside everyone is holding some unique item documenting my departure; my backpack, my laptop and my journals, and with almost no time to walk we’re instantly in the car traveling towards the station. The car is again in silence; it’s too early really and nothing needs to be forced, but good timing allows us a brief conversation as we sit in the car park. With the train approaching we jump out to say farewell and I’m informed with a smile that »Your zip is undone«, »What a perfect way to end the trip«, we laugh then we hug and say see you in summer.
Goodbye.

We are Here

29/04/2010

The whole platform can see him, and to them he is no less real than the wind rushing through the dimly lit tunnels. They glance at him, hunched over, sitting in a small grey over-coat and clean black suit, elbows resting on knees and head in hands, he has no bag or briefcase — he needs nothing here. The flickering lights hanging above the platform bounce off the weary and peeling blue paint covering the station walls, giving a dull illumination to his neutral yet saddened face; his eyes are pointed towards the cracked green and white tiles lining the floor, but he doesn’t see tiles; he’s staring into another world. The man looks timeless and not one of the commuters could say if he’d been there for a single minute or 100 years, but he’s in neither time nor space, he does not exist here; not in his own mind. Each flash from the quivering lights transport him to the only world where he exists, but flash flash he’s always brought back. He doesn’t remember there, he only remembers here — the taste of dust created by the constant stream of departing trains, the smell of perfume saturating the air as the carriage doors open, the hardness of the cool metallic seat he lingers on and the sound of unstoppable footsteps as people fight their way into our out of the station; going somewhere, always going somewhere. He wants away from here, he wants to stay where the flashes penetrate.

We’re all seemingly tangled in a web of pointless games that limit our ability to be in and experience the world, we’re stuck in this societal wide mindset where our world is perceived in a negative light, and we’re all attempting to seek out the good points.
We want out, but there’s nowhere to go because these flashes we experience are just the moments when we realise how amazing the world is. The reason we can’t get back is ’cause we didn’t go anywhere. It’s all here.

Organics

15/04/2010

I came here to work on an organic farm, but I’ve found myself posited in the midst of a total cultural experience. Cheese, wine and all foods fatty. Here, coffee IS breakfast but our lunch is as considered and cared for as dinner. We rise at 0830 and if the family wants us to work we’re outside in the fields by 0900. The farm is completely organic (while a common cause for farmers to orientate towards organic practices is due to the considerably higher prices fetched on their produce, this family has chosen the organic route based primarily on their feelings towards their industries need for a more ecological approach and the belief in a superior product resulting from organic practices) and grows apples, plums, grapes, cherries and even saffron.
The morning is cool but within the still blue sky is always the promise of sunshine and by 1000 we find ourselves removing our sweatshirts, allowing the sun to bathe us in her heat. So far our work has consisted of walking down the many rows of grape vines while ‘training’ them to grow in a way that allows the vine to support the weight of the grapes it will produce while ensuring it will receive sufficient amounts of sunlight without interfering with its neighbor, then we position nets to protect the vines from the hail experienced in Autumn and Winter. We’re sent to do this by ourselves and can move at our own pace; so imagine us walking through a vineyard, surrounded by fertile hills sprouting all variety of colour, sun in our eyes and mp3 players singing perfect harmonies to our rhythmic actions. Montcuq, our village, like all villages in France posses a church, which as the earth hits the middle of its daily spin strikes its bells; triggering our meandering journey back to the farm-house for a 2 hour lunch ordeal. Duck, beef and chicken steaks, risottos, seafood plates, rice salads and pastas for the main dish, a ridiculously generous cheese platter containing countless types of cheese follows then desert is presented as locally made organic yoghurt’s and of course, coffee. Throughout lunch we attempt to converse with our host family, aided only by their youngest child who has a basic understanding of english and our rudimentary grasp of the French language. After Lunch we’re set free to do as we please, usually using this time to lay in the sun, catch frogs and fish in the dam, ride our bikes, practice knitting or continue working in the fields.

Dinner is just after the sun seats itself behind the hills and lasts for around 1.5 hours and is as equally a feast as lunch, with the added ingredient of wine. Wine – especially red – plays a big part in the Culture of South France, and each region is quite fond of the wine they produce — here it is Cahor wine and if you don’t like it, well don’t confess it too loudly. Fortunately the wine is superb and has set in motion a new phase of wine appreciation — I can’t get enough. We finish dinner with coffee and more attempts to communicate before retiring to our own room and organise ourselves to repeat another day.

Wine and cheese. Man, we don’t wanna leave.

just smile :)

19/03/2010

I’m sitting in bed and I’m living the dream. How?

My bed is really a couch, and it’s located well above the Arctic Circle in a town known as Tromsø. This is the second couch I have slept on in two weeks, and I find myself on this very couch because within the week I will be driving with my current host from the top of Norway to the South of France. I’m going to France for two reasons: 1) rock climbing and 2) working at an organic farm where I don’t get paid in any tangible substance but rather with knowledge and experience.

I met my first hosts Carol and Jonas in the summer of ’09 amongst midnight sunsets, house party’s, overnight stays at the beach and trekking snowy mountains. We originally met while at a bar; after a few drinks and the realisation that we clicked they invited me to their house the next evening for vorspiel (pre-drinks). The night went well and we met each other for the next few days and nights. After learning how much I was paying for accommodation the asked if I wanted to sleep on their couch. I spent the entire next week with them and their — now also my — friends. We went to art exhibitions, beaches, fjords, mountains, parks and house parties and by the end of the week I had become good friends with Carol and Jonas. I told them I would return for the winter. They didnít believe me. I returned.

Fast forward to now: We are in winter, 2010. I’ve been sleeping at Carol and Jonas’s house for the past week. My flights are booked and I’m leaving tomorrow morning. Carol enjoys parties and using my departure as an excuse she decided to throw one. During the night I meet my second host, Synnøve; we are sitting in the busy living room where I’m found lamenting to Syn about leaving the next day, with a smile on her face I’m informed that both her and her sister are driving to France on the 24th, two weeks from tonight. It’s a four day trip and Syn doesnt have her license — they need another driver.

“Do you have your driving license?”
“Yeah”
“Do you want to?”
“Yeah”
“Seriously?”
“Seriously”

In that instant my two flights leading me to London are skipped and I’m now on a 4-day road trip to France with two Norwegian sisters who love to read and have a passion for rock climbing.

I spend one more week at Carol and Jonas’ before being traded to Synnøve. I meet her in the library (of course!), we dump my bag at her apartment and I’m introduced to her sister. We drive to Tromsø’s only climbing centre where I break my rock climbing virginity. After four climbs to the top (and a couple of failed attempts) my hands are unable to form a fist let alone grip faux-rocks on a vertical surface and I find myself sitting on the ground in awe as I watch as they scour all ways over the walls AND upside on the roof — I understand why they love the sport.

My arms are tired and I’m ready to fall asleep save for the smile I cannot wipe off my face.

LIVIN’ THE DREAM

Sun in their eyes and dust in their wake, they follow the curving road as it charters its way through the wilderness, their eyes staring with idle calm into the scenery exploding by them; watching natures own cinema. Parking the van in an abandoned driveway where the vines long ago begun assuming the role of the decaying fences, the three make their way to an enchanted track just passed; here leafed giants are standing guard on either side of the path, joining their arms together, creating an entrance to their world and the boys not feeling threatened but invited step inside the archway, quickly noticing the land leaving its accord with the trees and sloping away to the right so steeply it appears to be perpetually sliding, the trees to the left remain true and continue without concern to overhang the constricted path. With their entrance begins a cardinal race, holding the single aim of finding a new adventure, and so they run with fever; heads angled up as though using the sky to navigate to the promised land, but their compass stays blocked by a thick canopy which only seems to break its continuity when they avert their eyes groundwards hoping to avoid tripping over the rocks scattered along the dirty path they travel.

They walk, they run and eventually rays of hope are reaching out and leading them to the end of the tunnel; to the end of the race. Their upward turned eyes are greeted with a sky fused of more blues then language can account for and in front of them a shallow canyon with water so bitterly cold it forcefully gouges its path through the rocks. One area pounded so heavily by the onslaught a deep bowl has formed, above sits a lone wooden pole anchored into a crevice with adolescent ingenuity; two kayaks heavy with water and sand bags. The thin elliptic pebbles that cover the beach they are lazing on become engaged in competition to defy water tension; and with each pebble they pick up they assure one another that this pebble is going to go further than the last, and further than any previous pebble has ever skimmed; each newly selected pebble is THE ONE.

Fear of the cold has so far left the three arrested to the beach, but the allure of jumping from the pole-cum-diving board has overcome the youngest and as he strips to his briefs the others less brave assume the role of photographers — hoping that being so involved in his actions will allow them to feel exhilaration as he falls then remove them from the venomous cold as he lands. The first jump takes nervous minutes to perform and is limited to a simple step off, each subsequent jump becomes more ambitious — from bombs to flips. They take their shots, he takes his jumps and as the water fails to grow warm with his body heat and using the loudness of his chattering teeth as a guide they decide to leave their new territory behind. The return trek is less majestic though just as hurried, this time spurred on by a mutual feeling that the world just visited is closing in behind them and nipping at their heels; attempting to swallow them whole and forbid re-entry into their own world. Safely out and standing by the van, dinner is prepared and served — nutella and bread, and with the finishing bites arrives the realisation that daylight is fading. They leave to chase the sun as she drowns herself into the horizon. Just another day.

The Eventual

04/03/2010

I can’t possibly imagine the pain a mother must go through watching their child die, whether it be a quick death, one caused by disease or having to watch their child as they destroy themselves with the choices they make. How could the mother be anything but hollow; a shadow of her former self? The only thing she has not lost is her own life.

She witnessed the creation of life on the surface. She watched it flourish with her warmth, then decay with her heat. The Sun watched as her rays slowly destroyed Earth. She could not look away as the planet she brought into existence succumbed to her unwaivering pull. She could not move and she could not cry out — she could not stop it. She cannot remove the pain of destroying what she loves. She does not want to live, she does not want to die. She does not want to be.

the wish

25/02/2010

I wonder if having nightmares or night terrors every night would cause a noticeable effect on an individuals waking life.

With silence in his stride he captures living like dead, an unfathomable weight crunching knees into ground they watch as the hypnotic figure removes his mask, heads turn upwards, eyes weeping, they wish upon the starless sky; asking for death to greet them quick and vanish the image of this faceless creature. Light under his control and shadow at his heel, with God-like authority he admits their request. Mouths open of horror, will of its own the shadow jumps into their dreams and each night forward they dream a single dream; the wish.

london

23/02/2010

Another day in London, another day sitting down. There is something inherent in this city that instantly vanishes any thought of action I have; a boredom that numbs so completely that I’m unable to feel its hold over my mind.