In a room in Antwerp, in the diamond district, writing about the past. The nights have turned cold enough to see my breath, as I reflect on the days behind me. In the chaos of travel, I change languages every few hours. My mind is exhausted, and does not reset to the new country, the new friend, the change in language. I am a country, and a language behind. Speaking in French, Italian, or German to the Flemish Belgians who would rather I just spoke in English. I walk so to clear my mind, and get some thoughts down on paper. I walk until I am tired, then write until my eyes close.
How do you summarize the days behind, when each one was so rich. New people, ideas, patterns. Landcapes flash before my eyes in memory, like scenes from the train window. I try to focus on one hour, of one day, in one place. My heart remained in Puglia, even though the rest of me went to Germany. I just wanted to stay, to press my hands and face against the cold stone that makes the place. It felt like an ancestral connection, like the stones of Inis Mein. In Orsara, homes, and walls, and footpaths are quietly reabsorbed by nature. A farmer’s efforts temporarily reclaim man’s order, but when Spring arrives, vines and trees will again crawl through stone, claiming victory.
At night, while others slept, I walked into the night to watch the moon, as the twinkling festival lights in the village shown in blue arches upon stone. I would stay until I shivered, then stay some more. A wild dog greeted me as if it knew me, as if I was returning home. It would sit as I gently pet it’s face in the quiet of the night. I remember Clinton the sheepdog on the Aran Islands, as he followed me upon my return to that place. The locals peered from stone framed windows, and green painted doors, wondering why this dog seemed to be mine. It is a mysterious thing, why animals react as they do. Do they see something that is beyond our sight? Do they know that we want to love them if given the chance? As I prepared to leave Orsara, the gardener stopped before me with mouth agape, as I pet the wild dog beneath the rain.
I get comfortably lost in quiet. Though my days are spent struggling to speak, to convey my ideas in another language, and at times, in any language. I’d rather simply look, or stare with admiration, and breathe it all in. Sometimes, the other senses take over in a tumbling labyrinth of scent, sight, and touch. I turn down the volume until someone asks for a response. At times, I am guilty of just watching the Italians lips move, of watching language form beneath their dark eyes, with words bubbling like prosecco. So what do you do with this sweet place where a chestnut horse breathed you in, and geese sneak sweet grass out of your fingertips through the gap in the fence? Where hours were spent contemplating cheese, and nights seemed to go on for days. Where language flooded you like a song whose words you didn’t quite know, yet it nearly makes you cry.