I have recently returned from the states, helping my mother clear out my childhood home (she is moving West very soon), and low and behold, in the musty depths of belongings, lay a pile of National Geographics circa 1926-1937. My eyes widen, I oggle, I gasp (one from the dust, two from the magazines) and select a copy at random: "1929" it declares in vintage font.
I peruse the contents, opening the pages unsystematically (this is how I traditionally read anything that isn't fiction - I select a page at random, usually near the back, and "read" it backwards... perhaps the in Jew in me...?), and what should be starring back at me but a full spread of Old Ronda looking exactly the same. I gasp again, this time inhaling a mouthful of dust, sending me in to a double frenzy of excitement and wind constriction! When I finally get settled once again I dive back into the pages, only to discover the entire 1929 issue devoted to Spain, with forty or so pages dedicated solely to Andalucia. Stunned, mouth agape at the seeming coincidence, I poured over every delicate, brittle page. From The House of the Moorish King, to the bullrings, to The Alhambra, every image is as evocative, haunting and spiritual as the memory, (with an incredible sprinkling of time). The image of The Alhambra, in fact, appeared identical to my memories, with the very fine exception of a singular moving ghost of a woman dressed in white period attire moving through the distance. Magic. And to think that "1929" had merely lay, anticipating perusal, all this time.
You know, it is funny, when we say we return it naturally implies we've been somewhere else. But thanks to a collection historic National Geographics, and a handful of packing away one's past, I have more than returned from Michigan, I have returned from Somewhere Else, (which I like to think of as a town like any other). Back to London with it's soot and cloud and distinct lack of summer. Yes. It may still be Monday in the middle of our lives, but we are not who we were when we began. Italo Calvino puts it brilliantly in Invisible Cities:
"...what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in waiting for you in foreign, not-yet-possessed places."
And of course, I suppose this is largely how I felt upon return from Spain, and therefore have not been in touch sooner. Return presented me with a second quest: the search for words to articulate the experience. So much returning, ha! Funny how one is never prepared for the same ritual that occurs every time: being propelled back into the mainstream and challenged to bring what we learned into the busiest corners of our lives. The world immediately begins to forcefully intrude. The ability to settle into silence evaporates like fog. Ready or not we are presented with new tasks. And of course, the outer trappings of our lives still appear relaively undisturbed, while internally tremendous change has taken place. Post-Spain I was Rip Van Winkle (sans beard): a mystery to myself, walking around the kitchen muttering "how did I get here?" Looking in the mirror to find a familliar stranger looking back.
All that being said, I do hope since our time together your lives have been full, and that the warmth and colours of Spain have not yet worn off. I feel it's breezes every now and again and I do feel contented. How was the remainder of your trip? I thought of those who remained peacefully behind while I was being plunged into an array of concerts and auditions, (there was one, particularly amusing meeting in which I had to be a blind Victorian socialite being viciously eaten by an CGI invisible werewolf to be played at some point by Benicio Del Toro...I don't know how a person is supposed to do that really...). Anyway, I hope the summer has been kind to you.
I begin rehearsals for Carousel in a few weeks, and have been taking time to enjoy the calm before the storm. (You certainly have a pair of house seats at The Savoy with your name on them if you are ever in this neck of the woods.) And speaking of necks of the woods (??) I am hoping to be in the Northwest someday soon (L and A extended a lovely invitation, plus a new West coast base for my mother should get me out there post-haste) and I will certainly let you know if that ever comes to be.
In the meantime, please know I think of you often, and do hope our paths cross again someday soon.
Sending the fondest wishes from across the sea,