You can call me Sundance now

I locked down flights to Bolivia.  Audios, Estados Unidos–27 de Agosto. 

“Bolivia”

I plan to ride some trains there.

In other news, while walking during lunch this muggy Nebraska day, listening to “Mrs Robinson” I remembered one similarly hot spring day in Prague, when Sam and I went paddle-boating on the Vltava with a few beers.  We’d sang Simon and Garfunkle aloud while paddling around Kampa Island, enjoying the beauty surrounding us.

And it made me think of this line I read last night:

“As I walk down the Villa Seurat with my red Russian dress, I feel in love with the world again, in love with the whole world.” -Anais Nin

Quote of the Day: Anais Nin

“What makes people despair is that they try to find a universal meaning to the whole of life, and then end up by saying it is absurd, illogical, empty of meaning.  There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.  To seek a total unity is wrong.  To give as much meaning to one’s life as possible is right to me.For that is a contribution to the whole.  For example, I am not committed to any of the political movements, which I find full of fanaticism and injustice, but in the face of each human being, I act democratically and humanly.  I give each human being his due.  I disregard class and possessions.  I pay my respects to their spirit, their human qualities or their talents.  I fulfill their needs as much as I am able to.  If all of us acted in unison as I act individually there would be no wars and no poverty.  I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way.”

The Diary of Anais Nin Vol II 1934-1039

“In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment.”

I don’t write about work much because when I’m there I spend most of my time imagining I’m not and when I’m not there I forget about it. 

But yesterday it was rainy and dark, and I got to sit in the back of the clinic in the nurse’s office answering phones while they had a meeting.  Those are my favorite days because I can read uninterrupted.  I was reading Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami and became so consumed I was surprised by every telephone ring (sorry, people of Lincoln who were calling the nurse yesterday.)

After reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and The Windup Bird Chronicles (both given to me separately by good friends) I’m appreciating the simpler plot of Sputnik.  It’s decidedly Murakami in its inclusion of cats, dream-like reality, out-of-body experiences, and the idea that people can be split in two.  But it isn’t quite as complicated as the other two, which makes for a quicker read.  It also has the wonderful (best aspect of Murakami in my opinion) quotes that come so naturally to the setting of the book, but stand alone in wisdom.

He writes so eloquently about love and travel and self-actualization, it feels like he’s living in my own subconscious. 

The following are some of my favorite Murakami quotes:

“The answer is dreams. Dreaming on and on. Entering the world of dreams and never coming out. Living in dreams for the rest of time.” (Sputnik Sweetheart)

“What do you think? I’m not a starfish or a pepper tree. I’m a living, breathing human being. Of course I’ve been in love.” (Kafka on the Shore)

“Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe.” (Kafka on the Shore)

“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.” (Kafka on the Shore)

“But I didn’t understand then. That I could hurt somebody so badly she would never recover. That a person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair.” (Murakami)

“Here’s what I think, Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” said May Kasahara. “Everybody’s born with some different thing at the core of their existence. And that thing, whatever it is, becomes like a heat source that runs each person from the inside. I have one too, of course. Like everybody else. But sometimes it gets out of hand. It swells or shrinks inside me, and it shakes me up. What I’d really like to do is find a way to communicate that feeling to another person. But I can’t seem to do it. They just don’t get it. Of course, the problem could be that I’m not explaining it very well, but I think it’s because they’re not listening very well. They pretend to be listening, but they’re not, really. So I get worked up sometimes, and I do some crazy things.” (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles) 

“Chance encounters are what keep us going.” (Kafka on the Shore)

And, in honour of Kari’s literary persuits: “The light of morning decomposes everything.” (Murakami)

Dugan again

I’ve also been reading Alan Dugan in the nurse’s office recently.  I found this poem fitting with the weather and the setting.  My favorite line is: “Some of the typists laughed/ to feel real water not from taps: they are the ones/ with joys to dream of, once/ the day is typed away.”

Always prudent but unprepared

For spontaneity in weather,

The office workers got their pressed

Survival jackets soaked

While running in new rain

From work to travel home.

Some of the typists laughed

to feel real water not from taps: they are the ones

with joys to dream of, once

the day is typed away.  Once

I’d hope to dream in the rain

For life, unbothered by

The economics of appearance,

And I did, for years, and knew

It’s soaking intimacy.  Now

I’m pressed in the synthetics too,

And have no place to go

to in the weather, except home

but it is not so bad,

pacing an empty office after 5

in the trash of squalid crises.

I hit the key of “I”

On a girl’s machine, and see

That it is red, nail polish red,

With her device of getting on

Beautifully for survival:

That is not just vanity!

I get rebellious for the truth

Of outside weather often, but

My check is here each Friday.

(Alan Dugan)

Easter 2011 in Poland

Easter Market in Krakow.

Artur called me the Saturday before Easter as I was walking around the main square in Kraków.

“I will know in a few hours if we can go,” he said.  He was referring to the road trip he proposed to Lesko, to visit his mother in his childhood home and spend Easter in the country.  He’d skype-chatted me the day before asking if I wanted to go last-minute.  I’d already made plans to spend Easter in Wrocław with my friend Filip and his grandparents.  But I couldn’t pass up a day in the country with the Demkowicz’s.  I called Filip and re-scheduled to come by train on Easter Monday.

I’d spent most of Saturday walking around Easter Markets.  Usually I avoided the holiday markets because of the tourists and over-priced beer, but that weekend I was homesick and it was comforting to be around people speaking English.  Among them I was content eating pierogi, drinking Zywiec and buying chocolate bunnies as Easter gifts.

With evening came the processions.  Kraków is full of Churches, and it seemed that each  was having their own epic procession.  So I wandered around the cobblestone streets of the Old Town filled with incense and chanting clergy.

Easter procession in the main square.

Easter morning I awoke for mass at 7:30am voluntarily for probably the first time ever.  Artur wanted to leave early, and told me to come to his office to meet him afterword.  He had breakfast waiting from the Jesuit kitchen for me and another priest he was taking along.  After a few cups of coffee from their beloved Italian coffee machine and cold meats and cheese, we set out for Eastern Poland.

The trip took over three hours and was through the green hilly countryside of Małopolska.  I’d been in small towns in the region before, namely Piekary and Stary Sącz for summer camps. Małopolska, like much of Poland, is very religious.  The late Pope John Paul II is from a town in the region, Wadowice, and has had a massive effect on the people.  He came to visit Poland several times as Pope, including visiting Stary Sącz, which still has an altar erected for his visit.  Artur spoke about a visit that he attended when he was a novice Priest.  He said they had walked all night to get to where the Pope was saying mass with thousands of people.

Arc of the Lord church in Nowa Huta, Krakow.

Pope John Paul II’s effect is also seen in the large number of unsightly modernist churches all over Poland.  These were built in solidarity against the former communist government.  The most famous is the Arc of the Lord Church built in the Communist-Planned neighborhood Nowa Huta in Kraków.  Many oddly-shaped churches also lined the way to Lesko.  Our car game was to count them along the way.

We arrived in Lesko before noon.  Artur led us to the apartment where his mother lived, and had raised her five sons during communism in Poland.  I met Mrs. Demkowicz my first week in Poland last Spring and found her absolutely delightful, so it was an honor to spend the holiday in her home.  As soon as we arrived we had our first meal, which would begin the day of eating and drinking.

The lovely host cutting one of the four different types of cake we had on Easter.

In Poland, a large emphasis is placed on eggs during Easter.  Families take baskets filled with eggs to mass on Saturday to be blessed, which are then the staple of the meal.  Before we began eating, Mrs. Demkowicz, as head of the house, broke off a piece of boiled egg for each of us and said a Polish blessing.  The rest of the food consisted of various egg salads, hot and cold meats, and FOUR different types of cake.  We drank tea with a special home-made sweetened dried fruit all day.  To top that off, Mrs. Demkowicz pulled out whiskey over lunch, and poured us several straight shots throughout the day.

It was a light-hearted Easter.  In the afternoon Artur took the other priest and I out to visit his brother at his home in the countryside, and then to Solina, a beautiful man-made lake.  We wandered around the areas, and then returned to Mrs. Demkowicz’s home again for more eggs, more cake, more tea and more booze.

At Solina lake.

The sun set quickly on the drive back to Kraków.  I curled up in the backseat for the ride, dozing a few times.

“Are you sleepy from the whiskey?” the other priest asked me, laughing.

I discovered Alan Dugan

Molly on the Spanish Steps in Rome.

My Couchsurfing friend, Trevor, gave away his personal library a few weeks ago, and upon running into me at the clinic (he’s an interpreter) gave me several books.  Henry Miller, Ryszard Kapuściński and Pablo Neruda were some of the authors I’d read and heard of.  He also gave me a copy of Whitman’s poems in Spanish, and a book of poems by Alan Dugan, with whom I was not familiar.

I opened Dugan’s book of poetry last night while sitting by my open window, listening to Regina Spektor, and writing a letter to my friend who just moved to Florida.  I found the following two poems by Dugan, which sound very familiar:

Stability Before Departure

I have begun my freedom and it hurts.

Time opens out, so I can see its end

as the black rock of Mecca up ahead.

I have cut loose from my bases of support

and my beasts and burdens are ready, but

I pace back and forth across my right

of way, shouting, “Take off! Move out

in force!” but nothing moves. I wait

for a following storm to blast me out of here

because to go there freely is suicide!

Let the wind bear my responsibility.

 

American against solitude

Ah to be alone and uninhibited!

To make mistakes in private, then

to show a good thing! But that’s

not possible: it’s in the Close of life

that towering Virtù happens. Why

be absent from the wheeling world?

It is an education! Act by act,

Futures materialize! So, go deal,

old bones, enjoy it while you may!:

eat, drink, think, and love; oh even work!,

as if all horrors are mistakes,

and make the social product: new

invisible skies arriving! Full

of life, death, insanity, and grace!

Like love I say

Love locks on the bridge to Podgorze in Krakow.

This weekend I took on the terrifying task of cleaning out all of my old boxes filled with notebooks from college.

Several things surprised me.  One was some of the classes I took.  I couldn’t picture the instructors.  I couldn’t remember one thing I may have learned.  Not even if a cute boy sat next to me.

I also had a very opposite observation.  I ran across my notebook from Philosophy 107 in college, and AP Lang/Comp, from senior year of high school.  It was a joy going through each of them, looking at my old papers I prided myself so much on and the handouts and syllabuses.  I remembered nearly all of it–the books and lectures and ideas.  It was incredibly nostalgic to go through my notes and see quotes from Crimes and Misdemeanors and The Brothers Karamazov, which are still very important to me now.

That film, those passages, and many many more have filled my thoughts deeply since first the first discovery my first semester of college. My professor was Dr. Murray who wore wrinkled pants and spoke eloquently about the nature of reason and judgement and God and atonement.

And even more meaningful was that last English course of high school.  It was as much the teacher as the subject that held my attention.  He made me realize there was another type of life to live, full of color and change and travel and good, solid writing.  Mr. Sack was fascinating.  So much so that five years after graduating I called him from Africa, to go have coffee when I came home for Christmas in 2010.

While going through the materials for that English course, I found all of the poems we read at the start of the semester. We had to pick one to analyze for the following six weeks.  I ended up with Sailing to Byzantium by W.B. Yeats.  I discovered today though that I marked another poem as a favorite at the time, W.H. Auden’s “Law Like Love.”  I didn’t remember it, but I am a big fan of Auden now.

I discovered him one day in Jackson Street, in a book titled “Autumn in the Era of Anxiety.”  Having been suffering from anxiety at the time, I picked up the book.  It was a journalist’s account of the last interviews he had with Auden, when he was living in a small town in Austria.  The title was in reference to his epic poem for which he won the pulitzer prize in 1948.

I read it, and also “As I Walked Out One Evening” at that time, which became one of my favorites.  Here is how it begins:

As I walked out one evening, 
     Walking down Bristol Street, 
The crowds upon the pavement 
     Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river 
     I heard a lover sing 
Under the arch of the railway 
     “Love has no ending.

I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you 
     Till China and Africa meet 
And the river jumps over the mountain 
     And salmon sing in the street.

I’ll love you till the ocean 
     Is folded and hung up to dry 
And the seven stars go squawking 
     Like geese about the sky.

The years shall run like rabbits 
     For in my arms I hold 
The Flower of the Ages 
     And the first love of the World.”

But all the clocks in the city 
     Began to whirr and chime: 
“O let not Time deceive you, 
     You cannot conquer Time.”

I used to have that part memorized.  I remember reciting it one time when Erik and I were in Riga, Latvia, standing on a high-arched bridge over the river.  Maybe that’s why I loved the railway bridge next to the Kielbasa stand in my Krakow neighborhood so much, too.  

It’s a good life living in poems.