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.


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.


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”


One thought on “La Sirena; avec les chants de la sirène

  1. So great to see the first installment! So Kafka said that the only thing worse than hearing the siren’s song is not hearing the siren’s song. That is the most Oscar Wildean thing I’ve ever known Kafka to say…


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