Thursday, September 29, 2011

more than the places I've been

Place I've Been (view from Tellaro bus stop), 2011

I feel a pull from the general direction of the Barents Sea, the Nordic countries, somewhere near Sweden, Finland, or Norway. A desire to head toward the open landscape and spare sensibility I imagine.

The raw and honest beauty of Tove Jansson's landscapes and characters. The places that inspired her trim prose.
It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It's as simple as that.
-Tove Jansson,
Fair Play
My vision of the snow covered landscape, the austere cabin, and Per Petterson's quiet and contemplative central character in Out Stealing Horses.
All my life I have longed to be alone in a place like this. Even when everything was going well, as it often did. I can say that much. That it often did. I have been lucky. But even then, for instance in the middle of an embrace and someone whispering words in my ear I wanted to hear, I could suddenly get a longing to be in a place where there was only silence. Years might go by and I did not think about it, but that does not mean that I did not long to be there. And now I am here, and it is almost exactly as I had imagined it.
-Per Petterson,
Out Stealing Horses
And then there is artist Anna Emilia's weather diary. She treads gently on her landscape. Her delicately detailed paintings, a form of contemporary Folk.
The wind and rain outdoors play the most magical instruments. Anything they touch becomes a small echo. Anything they pass, becomes a small note. A cup of tea in left hand, a sketching pen in right one. Light is disappearing, candle flame dances inside shadows. These gray days the color of sleep.
-Anna Emilia,
Weather Diary
Yes, they are all really quite different, but careful observation reveals a definite thread. These are insider views, just a few pinpoints on the map of this vast landscape. A comfortable perspective perhaps only accessible to those born in the region.

Vendela Vida observes the stark landscape of the Sami from a different perspective. She has only visited Lapland three times. In Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name she writes of a young woman's search for truth in a subarctic climate she is experiencing for the first time, the land of polar night and midnight sun. During an interview Vida speaks of having fallen in love with Lapland in the winter, the subtle gradations in the darkness. She liked the way the physical landscape mirrored her central character's emotional state. I'm intrigued by her exploration of violence and forgiveness in this bleak landscape. My attraction equates to fear and curiosity rigidly standing side by side.
It was three in the afternoon when my plane landed at the Helsinki airport, but outside my window, dusk was already settling in like a bruise. I retrieved my suitcase, its handle cold, and stumbled to the tourist information desk, where a woman with good teeth and bad English helped me find a hotel near the train station. My plan was to take the first train north, to Lapland, after a night of sleep.
-Vendela Vida,
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
I wonder how it would feel. Could I love it more than the places I've been? This place where respect for the land appears inherent in its inhabitants, where they haven't forgotten the wilderness is wild.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Until She Knew Enough

Montemarcello, 2011

A quiet boat, soft wood planks, and photographic reflections in still water. The first person to speak to me is outside the building just north of the old Sausalito Caffe Trieste.

He is a proud man with grey hair standing beside a younger man. Both of them before a quiet red espresso machine. He, the older man, the one who is clearly in charge, says good morning, and I say good morning too. He tells me they will be serving coffee, soon. I ask him when and he tells me next Monday at 7:00 AM. I smile and say great, implying I will return, and I will. Then he says ciao, as if he were placed here in my day to ease my transition from Liguria back to Northern California.

A block away I notice I've held my smile. The sun is warm on my hair. It is a beautiful day for return. Cibo has photographs from a cooler season in Italy displayed in my favorite room, the glass room with old paint wearing thin upon its cement floor. There is a pigeon in the room. He steps lightly, knowing he shouldn't be here. His manners are appreciated. The day feels good. I don't long for other places.

Close to noon, in the public library, I find a poignant Hemingway quote from The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Now he would never write the things that he saved to write until he knew enough to write them well, and I wonder who is orchestrating this grand plan.