Tuesday, 28 August 2007


Long but not lost friends
We have really been getting into the swing of this ‘life on the open road’ thing. We all started to feel really at home in Italy, speaking the language as well or as badly as we could, but still trying. We had the most amazingly restful time at Lake Campotosto in the Abruzzo mountains and then went to Cortona to see our friends the Jagos.

When you’re travelling like this with long lazy days to fill and everyday seems like a Sunday there’s plenty of opportunity to observe others but even more so yourself. Thrown out of your usual situation one is not always sure how one will react to any situation and awareness of what is happening to you and the way you are reacting, feeling, behaving in any given situation becomes much clearer.

In short I was nervous as hell about seeing my dearest friends again. Why? A pretty useless question, but all I could see was that I was genuinely nervous. Perhaps it was just that I was realising how vulnerable I would feel if somehow the ease of this friendship was stolen by time and distance. Right there in that Italian hilltop square I felt completely naked to the possibility that something might be lost.

We went out for the Italian 8pm walk-about and climbed to the top of the steps of the Duomo in the main square. There I sat watching everyone walking and laughing going by looking so at ease. I love this time of day in Italy everyone is at their best, best dressed, best behaviour, loving living. You have the cool young Italians sporting the latest fashion, black and white as far as I could see. You have the contented older Italians talking and elegantly gesticulating while sitting on their benches, men on one side, women on a separate bench from the men or going into church to pay their respects to the Madonna. On this occasion there was an added accompaniment of loud but very sweet American teenagers obviously brought in by the coach load overflowing with enthusiasm and joy to be in Italy. The light is perfect at this time as only the light in Italy can be - apricot with a hint of rose so that everyone and everything exudes beauty. There I sat nervously awaiting my friends, nerves that lasted until the moment I saw them turn the corner, four faces that I love. In that moment I forgot myself, forgot I was nervous, forgot we were in a foreign country, forgot any time that had passed since I last saw them. In that moment I recognised that no matter where we are or what we are doing these people are people I will always love. People I can always fall in step with as only beloved friends can be. After 3 lovely days spent in their company we headed for Tuscany in the hopes of catching up with Michelle at Windfire hosted at La Croce deep within the Tuscan National Park.

We arrived in the region and I knew that the nearest town was called Rimbocchi, but as to exactly where the La Croce was I honestly couldn’t remember, with dead mobile phones and no powersource to recharge them as yet, there was not much we could do. So we drove on for a bit and then decided to park along the road. I had the vague thought that if we parked there I was sure to see Godfrey, my yoga teacher. We parked, got hot and decided we just had to get to the river that we could hear gurgling below. We started down what looked like a path but then halfway down it led to an apparently impenetrable patch of blackberries, to wide to go round, to high to go over and to deep to go under. Andy and Josh decided to take a hint from Moses who is so excellent at leading the way. Moses had found a hole and gone through and was already down by the river. Well once Moses hits the water the only way to get him back is to go get him. So there was no going back only going forward. Andy and Josh got their many muscles together and decided to hack a path to the river with sticks, while Ellie and I daintily followed after. It was so touching to watch my boys sweating and puffing and using all that God given testosterone to get us to the water. Well we got there in record time, I might add, the swimming was delicious perhaps the best ever.

Finding the right path back up and still not sure what to do I realised Andy’s back was in a bit of a mess after all that driving. Now it isn’t easy giving a massage in a motorhome esp when the person being massaged takes up all available floor space the moment they lie down. So we decided to do the massage on the side of the road. You have got to imagine this, on one side the mountain going up, on the other the mountain going down in between a snaking road with Italian drivers and a verge cut out just wide enough for the motorhome and long enough for Andy and the motorhome. In the past for me to give a massage it had to be in a quiet room, the temperature had to be right, the lighting just so, the table at the right height, etc, etc. I don’t know what these Italians must have thought but having no where else we just got on with it. Then one car screeched to a halt and in it was Godfrey! Needless to say I was overjoyed to see him and even more overjoyed when he told us that we were the wrong side of the mountain and he was just coming by because he had to go somewhere and that we were welcome to see La Croce. This was a time to believe in providence and to be grateful that I am not as private about giving massage as I once was.

Arriving at la Croce
La Croce is set up a pretty steep mountainside and after a failed attempt to get our enormous, comfortable but not so flexible Moseymobile up the mountain we decided to just stay at the bottom. That journey is a story in itself, where Andy had to reverse down the mountain with me walking backwards saying left a bit, right a bit, slowly, whoaaaa cowboy and such like. At the time it was terrifying but when we actually got down we were definitely comrades in arms like never before. It takes two of us to drive this thing. So parked at the bottom there was nothing left to do but take the 30min walk up the mountain every morning and the 20 minute walk down every evening. I grew to love that long sweaty hot walk up, running to the cold outside showers and getting ready do yoga every morning. All this to do before 7am! Us poopers have gotten used to lazy mornings were eyes don’t open before 7 and feet don’t get moving before nine.

The offer to stay was made (thanks Shirlii) and in return we would pay some cash and do a little work. It was a blissful week. You see I have been to Windfire three times for yoga now and love it. I love the yoga, the teachers, the lifestyle, the people who come there. But every time I was there I longed for my family, wishing they could experience this with me, even though I wasn’t sure if they would like it. To be there and to see my Andy, Josh and Ellie doing yoga every morning was priceless. To watch the kids playing and working with everyone else and loving it so much, well no words to describe that. We yoga’d, we talked, we played. Andy and I took 45 minute midnight walks through the mountains with the other yogis to drumming and fire juggling parties in the mountains. We danced with the local Italians in Rimbocchi at the annual bread festival. Remarkably these people managed to dance but not once smile when doing so. Stony faces and moving feet, for a Barbadian girl that would have been hard to imagine but to see it, very surreal. When Josh Elli and I got on to the dancefloor we brought with us our poorly coordinated feet, big happy faces and a lot of squealing. We played with Moses in the rivers. We sat in total darkness and the not so total silence (nature is noisy), we lived. I was given a 4 hour thai massage. I loved it! I love the mountains. I want to live in the mountains. All I can say is thank you to everyone who we came in contact with that week, we were really blessed by you.

Leaving Italy for Now, Arriving in Espania
We grew very fond of Italy but momentum is the name of this trip so leaving the place we loved so much was hard but it had to be done. I read in one travel book that Italy is the easiest place to be and the hardest place to leave. How true. But knowing that we would be back we set off for a brief foray through France and the Pyrenees (definitely must learn to ski) off to Spain. We decided to go across the Northern Coast of Spain and then drop down into Portugal. What a treat. The Northern Coast is beautiful, green, green, green, mountainous; water everywhere, gathered in lakes, flowing in streams, gurgling in rivers, rushing in waterfalls, gathering in clouds, spreading in mists, falling as rain. Not the Spain I imagined. Very reminiscent of Scotland. I found the Spaniards along this coastline immediately likeable, quick to smile and offer a cheery “hola”. We stopped off for a brief shop in Decathlon for surfboards, fishing rods and jellies (lake mud between the toes is gross). We rested for the night in a parking lot and I decided to sing and dance into the wee hours of the morning. Asking for our protection, guidance, giving thanks for everything we had experienced so far.

Having recognised that we are not really Mediterranean sea lovers we moved onward to embrace the long awaited Atlantic surf. I noticed a billboard sign for a surfing competition and we decided to go see. And it was there that we were robbed. The truth is I never saw it coming. Usually I am pretty adept at feeling when we might be heading for trouble. But this day I felt nothing but joy. I had loved surfing competitions as a teenager in Barbados, the waves, the people, the very beautiful surfers, everyone hanging out, sharing food, just generally having a good time. We parked our motorhome in front of a busy restaurant, locked up, walked to the beach and then took it in turns to walk back every two hours. It was in the last two hours that we were broken into.

It’s a funny thing being robbed. They took our camera, our laptop and most sadly our back up hard drive containing all our photos of the last two years. All the photos of Africa, India, Moses, the trip, all of it gone. It would have been painful to have lost the laptop, Andy had spent hours compiling our music, and Ellie and I have often entertained ourselves setting up a dance floor outside the motorhome and dancing until our knees hurt. We curled up with films when it was wet or we were just tired. But all these things can be replaced. What really hurt was the loss of the back up drive containing my images, my images of a life I never thought I could have. A life filled with laughter and love and kisses and people and experiences. They came to take things, but they didn’t know (or at least I like to think they didn’t know) what they were really taking, so much, too much.

Up until the last two years photography has never been a huge part of my life. Then getting to know Caroline and Laura I started to really love it. This opportunity to capture forever what you may forget. To capture on screen what your eye sees, your heart feels and then to use your mind to somehow portray an instant forever, well its addictive and Josh and I have been collecting images together like some people collect stamps. We lost out big time. The anger and the hurt ran raw for a while. But this experience has led me to thinking about taking in general.

On our trip we have seen some beautiful places and met some beautiful people. But we have also seen some really ugly things, rubbish thrown down the side of mountains, rivers grown stagnant with waste, skies grey with smog and smoke from factory stacks, people begging in the middle of sidewalks and outside churches only to be ignored by others who have so much. Animals, dogs in particular, obviously terrified of humans running and hiding at the mere site of us. Most of these experiences have been near cities or near where humans have gathered in large numbers or having used natural resources beyond the capacity that these resources can bear. It seems that taking is what we do. We go to a place and we take, take, take. We consume beyond what is necessary we live outside of natures laws and abuse her gifts. We take from those who have very little to accumulate more for ourselves. We even attempt to tell people who they can and can not love. We cheat and steal everyday. We humans take too much. Not knowing the consequences of the things we take does not absolve us from the effects.

I really don’t want to be like that and am making a commitment to be more mindful of my interactions. I want to give, to give beyond what makes sense. To live freely, openly and with love. Yes, I did pray hard the night before that we would be kept safe and yes the next night the one object I would have taken with me in a fire (our photo hard drive) was stolen. Perhaps one could say that it is a delusion to pray to ask for protection and I have been in danger of thinking like that. But today sitting by the most beautiful little cove with the sun shining on white washed walls with the rain just having washed slate roofs clean I think something different. I think we were reminded of how precious it is to go into a place and give, give of your love, your consideration, your thoughtfulness, your generosity.

Would I be doing anything else right now­? A question I ask myself whenever I am feeling overwhelmed with travelling. No. We’ve had bad things happen to us, Ellie in hospital in France, our roof light smashed in Italy and now our photos stolen in Spain. I will capture more images. I will be more watchful. But I can not stop bad things from happening they happen everyday and they can happen to me. I am as vulnerable as the next person. In this Mosiemobile on this tour I am even more vulnerable than I was in our South East London home. The world is now my bedroom. We’ve got rid of the barriers so commonly erected in the city – multiple locks, bars, alarms, high walls, territorial space markers – and so it’s become easier for me to enter the world and easier for the world to enter my space; to either give to me or take from me.

I went out this morning for a long walk. I remembered what David Pott said on our walk across England “It is solved by walking”. I gave myself more images, more memories it was sweeter than any other time before, an experience made sweet by the possibility of recovering a loss. However, some things once lost can never be recovered. Recently I read the novel “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy that Simon Jago lent us. In it the author shows a world where every light and good thing has been taken. The world is utterly destroyed by our overconsumption, greed and fear. Nothing moves but wind, dust and ash. Everytime I see a beautiful place now just for a moment the lens of my inner eye shifts and I see that place as it would be in McCarthy’s story and all I can do is pray, is ask that somehow we would stop taking so much. The world is a beautiful place. As for our robbing, Adriana the angel that helped us was wearing a t shirt. When I first saw the back of her t shirt it was about 10 minutes after I realised we’d been robbed. On the back pretty small was the archetypal smiley face except that instead of a line for the smile there were words, these words said “nothing more to say”. 10 minutes after we realised we’d been robbed I was reminded, smile, there is nothing more to say. We are here, we are together, we are more in love than we were yesterday. I am bruised but still smiling.

Tomorrow we head for Santiago de Compostelo, a city based on pilgrimages to honour the corpse of Santiago Apóstol (St. James) which was apparently brought here in AD44 after his execution in the Holy Land. I have always been intrigued by the idea of doing a pilgrimage. Of walking in the footsteps of other people who come to honour something greater than their own lives. It is one of my ‘want to do’ things just once in my life, so here’s hoping it is a special city, a beautiful city. I’ll let you know what we find.

Peace and love


No comments: