Friday, June 10, 2005

Choices 2

Today, unexpectedly, I heard from Q (that is indeed his name, or at least the way he signs things).

Less than two weeks ago I was on a train, with African air blasting away at Poland, creating furnace-like conditions throughout the country. After two weeks of savoring Europe, I was now returning home. I had already that Saturday traveled by car in the mountains with my ailing father, traveled by bus to Krakow, to connect now to Warsaw, returning within the next handful of hours back to Paris and then Madison. All this in the spin of one day. It was like pulling in an extended tape measure: you let it out slowly, slowly, and then press a button and it rewinds itself at ten times the speed.

Throughout so many of the days in Poland, I had been feeling increasingly…. empty. Like this country was moving away from me, or I from it, and perversely, I was feeling like this emptiness was traveling with me right back to Madison, where it would stay with me on my return. Yeah, it did just that.

But on this train ride, the one from Krakow to Warsaw, I met Q. It happened like this: I was in a hot compartment, reflecting on the Polish definition of air conditioning: an open train window. I was sitting with my back to the direction of travel. A young family with a toddler were facing me. As soon as the train started moving, the toddler got fidgety and the mom got up to close the window. Drafty – she said. I had just ran across Krakow’s Main Square with my bag and computer and so I was plenty toasty. Thus, basically, I wanted to strangle her, then her child, then her again. Instead, I left the compartment and stood in the hallway, gazing out and feeling empty.

Eventually, a guy from a neighboring compartment came out as well and we stood and talked. He was clearly an American and I welcomed that for once. His name – Q.

Half an hour later, standing was wearing on me. I reentered the compartment and endured for two minutes the willful toddler, who was now testing seats on both sides of the aisle. Then I bolted.

Can I hang out with you guys? I asked Q and his wife. And I did, for the rest of the trip. I sat there and listened, watching the same green fields, then golden ones fly past, the same ones I had watched a week earlier, and then again a week before that. What is that yellow field? I’d asked a fellow traveler on an initial spin through this countryside. Rzepa, for sure, he had replied. I did not translate it until now: turnips, they were turnip fields. Golden yellow, like mustard greens and golden lupine. But with the homelier turnip under the soil.

My American compartment “hosts” were the ones who were searching for a balanced life, living now in Switzerland, earlier in the Netherlands.

But today, Q wrote me about something else. He gave me tips on what to see and do when I some day visit Croatia

He had noticed that I have a Croatian name. I do – it belonged to my now deceased father-in-law. Q told me I really must go there – there are spots that are breathtakingly beautiful (I thought of his words today as on NPR, someone was saying about Poland: you can travel a great distance without seeing a single pretty thing... sigh...).

I’m looking at Q's list now, his descriptions and I am wondering if connecting with Croatia, someone else’s homeland, inherited artificially by me, through my name, will feel less empty than connecting with a homeland that was mine or a home that is now mine. If so then I should start making plans. Thank you, Q.
fields of rzepa, first time around Posted by Hello


I have a bike. I have not used it much in recent years. This week, my neighbor helped me fix it up. Yesterday, I rode it to work. An exhilarating twenty-five minute ride. All downhill. Yeah. Then there was the return trip. 11% grade hill included.

Undaunted, late in the day I rode it to the local café to pick up an afternoon latte. Thought process: it would be nice to work with a latte on the table, next to my computer. The café is a short 5 minute ride away. The latte will stay warm. It did stay warm. As it splattered all over everything on the ride back. Impossible to change gears riding a bike and holding a latte.

Daunted, in the evening I did not ride the bike downtown to meet up with some bloggers. We had a Crave-ing, each for something else. Someone was in the mood for crab cakes. Another was in the mood for strawberry shortcake. The third was in the mood for Cosmos. Not hard to figure out who wanted what, is it? (hint: see photos below)

In the end, there is always a setting sun and a boat to haul in.
two use a camera, one waits Posted by Hello
easy guess Posted by Hello
(Union Terrace) at the end of the day Posted by Hello