El Camarón: Portugal


Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente / Camarão que adormece, ele carrega atual / A shrimp that falls asleep, is taken by the current


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a small sample of the many different blue tiles lining the walls of Portugal

In Porto, my friend Lainey taught my squeamish hands to rip off the head of a shrimp and to unravel its armor from its twiggy legs.

Porto seemed precarious and graceful grounded on hills with buildings stacked over and on top of themselves. Many were lemony or mustard yellows, with sea green doors, porcelain blue tiles, and red or brick orange roofs. The Duoro runs through Porto like a vein, once cradling the boats that shipped Port wine to sea. The sea is not visible from town but her seagulls are vigilant companions, circling church bell towers at sundown. We were told that to be shit on by a seagull was a proper Porto baptism.

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Portugal, Color Palette

Portugal taught me to fall in love with color; color as a visual language of a space, the curation of light and emotion. Every city has a distinct color pallet and what those colors say about the city is like getting an intimate tour of the town’s history. In Portugal, the colors were lively and vibrant. Vibrant, but not abrasive, it was as though her cities were alive in a way that other cities had decided to lay dormant in their grays and beiges. Shrimpy pinks with sea greens, mustard yellows with brick oranges, lavenders and cerulean blues, all in conversation with one another, all waking the other up.

IMG_3409.JPGAt first glance, I had the impression that Lisbon was the sort of pirate town that you would read about in books, but I quickly realized that Lisbon was much too big and classic to be a pirate town. She is grandiose without being presumptuous. We spent our time in Lisbon wandering around, pretending to be flâneurs in search of little bookshops where we could pick up a book by one of two of the only Portuguese authors we knew, Pessoa and Saramago. The air felt thick with stories and myths like the city was trying to speak to you through the moaning of her architecture. So often I would find myself totally enchanted, as though the magic that I assumed had long worn off in other parts of Europe was still alive and well in Portugal.

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A long-awaited return

Despite my efforts to make blogging a part of my traveling lifestyle, I found that I rarely am able to pry myself away from living an experience in order to capture it in the blog; which reminds me of a time when a good friend of mine expressed his anxiety that in writing everything down he was missing out on living his life but when he was out living his life he feared all of the things he was missing writing down.  I suppose that’s the paradox of living and creating, it’s essential to remember that the two needn’t oppose each other but that in harmony the two feed into one another.

In any case, I hope you will accept the following blog posts as some immediate and some not so immediate reflexions on my last few adventures.

About a week ago now, I made my long-awaited return home to my friends and family in the luscious and clear Pacific Northwest. After an exhausting few days of some of the worst jetlag I’ve ever experienced, I’m back on my feet, feeling and ruminating again.

Returning home has brought on a slew of all kinds of nostalgia related emotions but perhaps the most overwhelming of them is the feeling that perhaps I dreamed it all in the most tremendously surreal dream. But these things are hard to keep track of when everything that would normally signify this in our physical surroundings, have vanished. The feeling recalls for me a moment sometime late last winter when my partner and I were reflecting on how wild it was to be living in France in the first place because it felt like an idea materialized out of thin air. I told him that to me, it almost felt like we had built a sand castle–out of nothing we had constructed a life that we had dreamed about–and now that sand castle has washed up on the shore, returned to it’s home, the sea, making room for sand castles to come.

While plans are unfolding for the future, it is still unclear where I will be a few months from now and although the unknown has historically been crushing for me, right now it’s mixed with tender love, happiness, relief, and an immense well of possibilities–so only half-crushing.

~~Stay tuned for more to come~~

La Estrella; notes from winter on the train


la guía de los marineros / le guide des marins / a sailor’s guide


December 06, 2016

Found scribbled on the back of a yellowing page in a French translation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stoneimg_2002

Some days I’ve been lucky enough to witness the sunrise and sunset in my ten hour day in Langon. Other days I have been fortunate to see the night shift into morning on the train. Today I watch the sunrise from between the cavities of the now winter-bare trees. They stand like wooden skeletons, suspending the weight of the powder pink sky as it rolls over the horizon. Unraveling over the dead vineyards is ribbon after ribbon of morning fog. And just beyond, are sleepy houses and pointy stone churches peeking out from underneath, huddled in small clumps of dim light.


January 09,2017

Originally a voice recording that was later transcribed into a journal

img_2987I ride the train to Langon at 7:10 in the morning. Now that we are deep into winter it feels like I’m traversing from point A to point B through an endless tunnel. I have no real semblance of moving forward except for the metronomic clicking of the train over the tracks. As we move through the darkness we periodically pass small towns and villages. They’re like little clusters of light making constellations in my window as we zoom past. I find myself trying to hold on to the lights with my gaze for as long as I am able to. It makes me think of sailors from ancient times and how they also moved through a sleeve of darkness; through the crevice between the ocean and the night sky. I imagine the stars were for them like the little towns I pass on my morning train: a promise of direction.


January 24, 2017

Written in a journal between stops on a train going from Langon to Bordeaux

Arrêt BARSAC

My Tuesday train rides from Langon back to Bordeaux are more often than not, drenched in an early afternoon sunlight, thick with a rosy fogginess that envelopes my mind with heaviness, as I attempt not to fall asleep.

Arrêt PODENSAC

Often I’m lonely. And sometimes I’m at peace with my solitude–grateful even to have special intimate moments with my surroundings. Other times I am neither lonely or peaceful but still, quietly observing life move independently and unrelated to my own.

Arrêt ARBANATS

Between spaces feel limitless and immense. Liminal. Like the space between breaths or the space between blinking.

img_2978Arrêt PORTETS

Stone walls surround the barren vineyards. The walls are made by fitting found stones one by one together, like a masonry puzzle. Arranging the faces of the stones outwards to guard what they enclose; each a village of stones in their own.

Arrêt ST MEDARD D’EYRANS

The road has become so familiar to me that I wonder what sensations I would feel if I were to retrace it again someday years from now. Would I still remember it then? Would the sensation feel like slipping into a memory or a dream?

Arrêt CADAUJAC

Sometimes I regret that my main accomplishment on the train is daydreaming.

Arrêt VILLENAVE D’ORNON

I deeply resent the last few minutes on the train just before arriving. It feels like a rude awakening; scrambling to get off, only to be left out in the cold after being cradled in the rests of the rhythmic clicking over the tracks.

Arrêt BÉGLES

Arrêt BORDEAUX son terminus

La bota; La botte; The boot


Una bota igual a la otra / Une botte paraille à l’autre /  A boot not unlike the other 


When Rhône and I first got to France, within the first week of being in Bordeaux, Rhône said to me “It’s weird being in another country, it’s like being in a parallel universe,” and I found that to be a very accurate description of our condition traveling. It was true, everything that was familiar to us back home was essentially the same here in France, yet there was no denying that we were actually somewhere entirely new to us; we were in a place that couldn’t possibly be confused for where we came from. Stranger still was the thought that France and our life in France existed side by side to the life of our loved ones in the Pacific Northwest; neither place negated the other and traveling from one didn’t erase the existence of the other.

Here’s an interesting example of this paralleling: during my first few months in France MacDonald’s became my own personal Corporate-America temple. Back home I go MacDonald’s maybe once every year, usually as a culmination of weird events I generally regret recalling. But my first couple months in France, I was going to MacDonald’s, or as french people say MacDo, like once a week.

There’s a lot of good reasons I can come up with for why I did that, most of them are pretty obvious but some of them are not. Obviously, there was comfort in that I could order any assortment of classic items I remember being advertised on my TV as a kid. There was also the comfort of knowing I could order in English because in France every MacDo has a number of kiosks from where to order from. Less obvious were the times I looked for a MacDo while I was in a new part of town or a new place in general only because I knew they would have a bathroom. Or the times I found myself in a MacDo because they were the only place where I could buy a meal outside of strict French meal times. In reality, I would find myself in MacDo anytime I needed a reprieve from being foreign because in France MacDonald’s motto is Venez comme vous êtes which translates to Come as you are which for me meant it’s ok that you’re lost.

What was most unsettling to me about this experience was that I was now living a life where I simultaneously disliked going to MacDonald’s and also loved going to MacDo. And here’s the thing: it’s easy to hate MacDonald’s in the U.S. and likewise it’s easy to love MacDo in France. In the U.S. MacDonald’s is a corporate titan, that among many atrocities, exploits the misfortune of families who live below the poverty line by feeding them diabetic poison for a dollar off their infamous dollar menu. In France, MacDo is ‘green’ and regulated by French government food standards, and most confusingly is filled with teenagers who make MacDonald’s hip because they see it as unabashedly American.

Traveling and living abroad is like getting to hold a mirror up to your truths and question them in their reflection.

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La bota direction Bordeaux

In daily life, I catch glimpses of these moments too, but when traveling these moments extend into longer, almost hallucinatory periods. I could be looking out the window and all of a sudden it’s as though the plot of my life unfolds in front of me in a most bizarre and interesting play while I sit and watch from the audience.

What I find the most surprising in those moments is that no matter the place, no matter the surroundings, I am still myself and I am still living my habitual life. Nothing about where I am in a singular moment, changes who I am or the history of my life (Even if I did believe that the solitary act of being somewhere new could somehow instantaneously change me to my core).  These moments are impressive because alone they are only reflections but in their summation are in fact what make up the history of a life; more importantly, these moments are elastic enough for one to move freely between the role of player and audience of their own life.

Traveling is like putting your left boot on your right foot: it’s uncomfortable and maybe the opposite of what you had expected but not entirely wrong. It’s an opportunity to reflect on why we believe the things we believe and how those beliefs shape who we are.

La Sirena; avec les chants de la sirène


con los cantos de la sirena, no te vayas a marear / don’t get dizzy with the siren’s song


Today marks the second month since my arrival in France and one of the goals that I set for myself while on this trip was to write about the experience using a deck of Mexican lotería cards.

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the siren; la sirène

La sirena: The siren has been a companion of travelers for as long as there have been those brave enough to face her. No other card in the deck could better symbolize my plunge into the depths of the unknown, and I think it would be unwise to believe that any journey, including my own, could escape the seduction of los cantos de la sirena.

Late last September, my partner Rhone and I had the privilege to embark on a seven-month journey to France where many of the details regarding the trip were left unclear; the only thing we knew for certain was that the nature of the trip was to work as English teaching assistants in a small town 45 minutes outside of Bordeaux. I can confidently say that in the last two months we’ve learned a decent amount about what exactly that means. We’ve learned about Bordeaux, our jobs, the small town where we teach, french administration, french culture, art, food, geography, language, the list could go on…but one thing remains true no matter how much we’ve learned and that is that the unknown continues to feel uneasy and a little like being lost at sea.

I’ve long fantasized myself as a siren, echoing gloriously eerie harmonies with the power to lure sailors to their dooms, but when I put myself in the place of the sailor and listen for such a song, I realize that the siren’s song is not one of temptation masked as death, but rather one that demands I recognize my own uncharted and neglected depths.

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a siren’s fountain in San Sebastian

My siren’s song has been one that promises me happiness anywhere that I am not. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I blissfully followed her song to France, knowing that it would not be as simple or carefree as les chants made it out to be; yet how easy it was for me to fantasize my life in France the months leading up to the departure. I know this isn’t a feeling unique to me and I don’t mean to say that feelings like these are unfounded, because I don’t think they are, however, the fact of the matter is that those desires are just veils for something deeper, generally something we are unwilling to face.

The magic of the siren is that she calls you to places that perhaps you otherwise would not dare to go. She sings our deepest desires–the ones that move us so profoundly from the core that even the risk of doom seems better than whatever came before. The siren begs that we face whatever fantastical yearning we have despite our better reason or logic. She’s a dangerous creature only in that she unmasks what we spend our lives so carefully trying to deny.

Listen for your siren’s song and ask yourself where she would take you if you were not afraid to go; who would you be if you didn’t fear dying wrecked on her shore?

Now the Sirens have a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence. And though admittedly such a thing has never happened, still it is conceivable that someone might possibly have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never.

Franz Kafka, “The Silence of the Sirens”

a discipline: practice, habit, & ritual

 

But because truly being here means so much; because everything here apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way keeps  calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all. Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too, just once, And never again. But to have been this once, completely even if only once: to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.

Rainer Maria Rilke – Ninth Elegy


I hope this can be a place to share some ideas, inquiries, and generally be an archive for exploration of the endless conversation of art-making.