Around the World and Back Home

Once upon a time, a little girl asked her grandmother what was on the other side of the forest. You see, this little girl had lived all her life in the little cabin that her grandmother owned, and this little cabin was on the edge of a large forest. Its treeline extended as far as the eye could see on both sides of the cabin.
You may wonder how it is that this little girl had never seen the other side of the forest; the town where her grandmother went to sell the chickens’ eggs and the cow’s milk and to buy provisions she couldn’t grow for herself was on the other side of that forest. You may surmise that the girl didn’t go with her grandmother on these excursions to town. You may assume that the girl was too little to walk across eight miles of winding, forested path to reach the town.
But the truth is even sadder than that – the girl had never been outside her own room since the day she was born and set into her dying mother’s arms. The little girl was very ill, you see, and too weak to leave her bed. She spent her days reading the books her grandmother exchanged at the library in town, and looking out of the window.
Why, you know what’s on the other side of the forest, my dear, the little girl’s grandmother told her when the question was posed. It is the town that I sell our produce to and get your books from.
Yes, Grandmother, I know, the little girl said. And what is beyond that?
Beyond that there are roads and other towns, the grandmother said.
And beyond those?
Beyond those, I suppose, there is the ocean.
And beyond-
Look here, the grandmother interrupted the little girl’s question, we’ve talked about how the world works. I brought you that book with the big maps in it, remember? Beyond the ocean is more land and more ocean, and if you continued to ask what was beyond and beyond and beyond, why, eventually we would come right back to this little cabin of ours.
The little girl sighed and smiled. I thought so, but I wasn’t sure, she said. So it doesn’t really matter that I can’t get out of bed, does it? Because even if I could walk all around the world, I would just get back here.
The grandmother bit back her tears, kissed the little girl’s forehead and left the room. That very night, the little girl died with a smile on her lips.
Her grandmother wasn’t satisfied with the answers she’d given to the little girl. If she had known that the little girl would die so soon, she thought she would have found a way to bring her into the world and show her all its marvels. She felt that by making the world seem like a small place, she had cheated the little girl out of her life. Perhaps, the grandmother thought, the little girl would have lived for many years if she’d have thought that there was something worth seeing out there. The grandmother had thought that the books the little girl read would convince her of that and would help her get stronger so that she could see the world. But the grandmother had been wrong.
It was the custom in the place where the grandmother lived to burn the loved one’s remains and keep them in an urn on the mantelpiece. But the grandmother decided that she couldn’t live out the rest of her life with the urn sitting there and reminding her of the little girl who thought the world wasn’t worth it.
Instead, the grandmother packed up some provisions into a bag, tucked the urn under her arm, and walked through the forest and into town. She walked beyond the town and into another forest and then into yet another town. She continued walking until she reached the ocean, and then she boarded a ship and sailed to the next continent.
It took her ten years, but eventually, she had walked and sailed right around the world. Hobbling home from the opposite direction of that she had started in at the very beginning, the grandmother held the urn tightly. But she was very tired, and the ground was wet with the spring rain, and she slipped and fell.
The urn smashed, and the little girl’s ashes scattered in the meadow as the wind picked them up merrily, as if greeting an old friend. The grandmother watched the gray dust that was once her granddaughter fly happily to and fro, and she smiled. There, she said to the little girl who she could suddenly see quite clearly before her. I’ve taken you right around the world and back home.

Show the World

Forgotten pathways twisted underfoot, undulating like snakes, seeming to shift with every step I took. I’d been told that the marshes were eerie, difficult to navigate and frequently deadly, but nobody had described the way it seemed like a living, breathing being. Clutching the thick branch I’d been smart enough to bring with me, I poked and prodded at every patch of weeds that blocked my path, terrified that some creature would jump out at me, even though I knew that most creatures wouldn’t be stupid enough to allow themselves to be detected by a slow human like myself.

I hitched my knapsack higher on my shoulders. The weight of it was digging into my shoulders; there were two red marks where the straps cut into my flesh and rubbed it raw. It was useless complaining about it, though. For one thing, there was no one to hear me, and it’s not fun to complain aloud to yourself. For another, the contents that I found so heavy were what I was relying on to keep me alive in the marshes.

I was a fool to undertake that journey, of course. I was young, a journalist major fresh out of school, and I thought that I could do anything. I wanted to prove myself. To show the world just what I could do.

Too bad for me that the world decided to show me what it could do, too.

A Bus Ride to Say “I’m Alive”

I got on a bus at the corner of 33d and 7th. It was a big bus; red and black, with a white lightning bolt emblazoned on it. The message was clear: this bus was express, fast, and going places.

The driver, Miss King, was a black woman with frizzy hair and a wide smile. She was big, and as she walked down the aisle to use the bathroom before we started out, she asked people to excuse her. I guess she felt that squeezing her bulk through required an apology. It didn’t, really. She looked happy and comfortable the way she was. She shouldn’t have been apologizing to anybody. A man in his twenties wearing a red-and-black baseball cap (did he wear it to match the bus?) eyed her lasciviously when she passed by. They bantered for a bit, flirting casually.

The bus ride was long. Four hours and fifteen minutes. Not as long as a lot of the flights I’ve been on, but long enough. I slept for about forty minutes, but that’s it. Sleep and I aren’t the best of friends these days. I don’t know what happened between us. Maybe sleep was offended by me somehow? Personally, I feel hurt that sleep comes to visit so reluctantly and leaves so quickly after he arrives. Maybe we’re just playing a pride game now, neither one of us willing to apologize and make it up with the other because we each think that we’re not the ones to blame for this estrangement.

I thought that we saw Baltimore twice, but it was actually only once. The first time wasn’t really Baltimore. When we actually saw it, I was surprised because it looked exactly like I imagined it. There was a port that seemed to cover half the city with boxes and shipping-yard type stuff. The rest of the city was smoggy but beautiful.

Spring Break sounds like the name of a movie with drunk teenagers and naked blondes. Or maybe it’s a safety video about how to take care of trampolines. What spring break really is right now is a piece of family in Virginia, a road-trip, and a lot of homework.

I’m writing. I’m writing almost every day. When I don’t, I feel odd. A red Moleskine has become a new journal. It’s too conspicuous to be one, of course – it fairly screams “Open me!” – but I’m using it anyway. It’s important that I keep using pens. I never want to get to a point where I don’t love pen and paper anymore.

 

To Berlin!

Yes, it’s true, I’m going abroad tonight! Again! I know, I know, this is getting insane… But to be fair, this time I’m using my mileage on Swiss-Air to fund a flight! And I’ll remind you all again that flying to Europe from Israel is much less hassle that from North America, or indeed, Australia/New Zealand. It’s about three and a half hours to Frankfurt, where we switch planes and fly to Berlin.

Yes, this is the third trip abroad that Sir B. F. and I are undergoing together! The first two were to London, England, a place we both love beyond measure. London is fantastic city, absolutely amazing in everything from culture to architecture. But we’ve “done” London twice, and we decided we need a change.

Sir B. F. has a family member who’s relatively wealthy and he has an apartment in Berlin which we can stay in – there’s no way we could have succeeded in funding this trip if we’d had to stay in hotels. Even the cheapest of hotels cost about 100 Euro a night. But no, we get our own cozy little apartment in Charlottenburg, and we have the Schloss Charlottenburg, which is a palace with extensive gardens, right in our own neighborhood! It’s definitely a perfect location for us  – it’s quiet, so we can rest peacefully at night, but close enough to transportation so that we can get right into the centers of Berlin.

While I’m gone, I will try to keep up with everyone’s blogs as often as I can – and yes, I’m still visiting your blogs, but I’m just commenting less. I want to keep my circle of friends here, and I know that in the bloggy-world, the first sign of waning friendship is less commenting – so I truly do apologize, and I’ll do better in future!

I’m also going to try to write a bit (or a lot) while I’m there. I’m bringing my trust netbook, and we have internet in our apartment – plus, there’s neighbourhood-wide wifi connections in some areas of Berlin! Now that’s a service that I think every city should adopt. But back to the point of this paragraph – writing! I’ve already started my travel journal, which I intend to write in as extensively as possible, and if I have time then I’ll also try to continue with my own project which has slowed down a little, although things are getting clearer and closer to an ending, at which point I’ll finally be able to start working on a second draft! Woo!

And so I leave you now to tackle the rest of my day and half the night, as I wait impatiently for my exciting vacation to begin.

An Award’s Ongoing Journey and a Progress Report

I received the Prolific Blogger Award from Brown Paper Bag Girl last night [well, last night in my time zone – not sure about anyone else’s]. I’m incredibly flattered at what she wrote about my blog, and I’d just like to say that I love her writing and that I’m so glad that I discovered her blog. And now:

Rules: Pass the award to seven bloggers who inspire you, make you laugh, make you think or a combination of all. Make sure you include a link to the person who gave you the award and that’s about it. Quite simple, fun and an easy way to brighten someone’s day.” So here we go, although I’m not limiting myself to seven, because it’s too hard. I pass this award on to:

1) Right back attcha, Brown Paper Bag Girl!

2) The lovely Mckenzie.

3) The amazing Erin.

4) The awesome Kit.

5) The cool Living Dilbert.

6) The wise Eva.

7) The talented Den.

8 ) The bluegrass Doc B.

9) The inspiring Trisha.

10) The authoress Heather.

11) The strong and united Joy+Family.

12) The aspiring Miss Rosemary.

13) The wonderful Suzi.

14) The amusing but touching Jane.

15) The musical Mikael.

16) The creative Lua.

Phew. I think that I didn’t leave anyone out this time. Everyone’s links are in there [or should be] so if you happen to be a newcomer and don’t know about any of these blogs, you can see that I recommend them highly! Most of you, though, will probably know half the people here. I suppose I should really try to broaden my blog-sphere, maybe find some new people to introduce! But for now, I’ll leave it to these sixteen people to pass the award on to people who haven’t got it yet. Poor awards… Their journey never ends. Even if two or three people don’t pass it on, surely the others will. I wish you well, Award, and hope your journey through the cyber-world will be enjoyable!

___________________

Now, I know that two days don’t mean zilch. Not in the long run. But I can’t help but be thrilled that I’ve managed – both yesterday and today – to sit down and write. WRITE. For two hours straight. The time passed fast. Today, I felt as if I could have kept going for a while. This makes me hopeful. Maybe I do have the discipline it takes. Maybe, just maybe… Please, maybe. At least maybe.

Arrived

Los Angeles is one of the most special cities in the world. Even when the weather forecast announces that it’s going to be overcast with possible showers, you can still feel the presence of a bright yellow sun behind the clouds, and within hours the sky clears and that bright orb makes its appearance just in time for a last walk in the sunlight before dusk falls.

Beautiful as it still is and will always be to me, there are things that have changed. Nothing that’s unique to LA, but rather things that have changed across the United States. Melrose, the hip-happening street of fashion, food and fun, has now more FOR LEASE signs that it ever has before. Shutters are drawn across the empty store fronts, and the glass looks dusty, as if it’s been waiting for a new tenant for longer than it’s used to.

When we ate lunch today, a dark-haired, scruffy, tall homeless man walked over to the table behind us and took the tip that was left there for the waitress. We saw it, as did a woman inside the restaurant, and none of us did anything. It seemed to happen so fast. We all were sure he was going to take some item of food, but then he was gone and so was the waitress’ tip. What do you even do in a situation like this?

I’ve been taking photos. Too many, and probably mostly bad ones, but I’m finally going to try to catch some of the essence of this bizarre half-city-half-suburb in more than words.

I’m jet-lagged and exhausted and our trip took more than twenty-four hours. I think now is the time to sleep.

Here.

It hasn’t sunk in. It doesn’t feel real. It feels like a vacation, not like the beginning of a new life. It feels like a temporary jaunt, not like the prologue to the newest chapter of my life.

The city is enormous and Manhattan is only one small, accessible bit of it, but it’s the only bit I’ll get to know in my few days before moving into my new living space – THE DORM.

Manhattan is an endless stream of humanity, constantly coming and going. It makes me think like The Little Prince – I see the people going one way and then see the people coming back and I wonder: weren’t they happy where they were? Then the inevitable answer: no one is happy where they were. I hope it will be different for me, though.

I wish I were an ant, part of the endless anthill, knowing my place and my responsibility and the way I fit into the grand scheme of things. Instead, I’m simply another conscious human, acting half by instinct and half by intellect, trying to find my way and my place.

It’s a beginning. I’m here.