Archive for September, 2012

Melting Into The Master’s Landscapes Of Spain And France

It is hard to believe it has been a week; time has moved so strangely, at times whizzing by and at times slowly yawning itself out. But in all of the moments of feeling like I have been in a time warp, it seems most apparent now that this week is drawing to a close and tomorrow I will turn my sights toward a different continent and country – oh Morocco here I come.

As my friends departed Spain last week I took leave of the bustling city of Barcelona and turned towards the slower pace and quieter feel of smaller towns. In planning the trip with this week between my friends and the yoga retreat (my two solids) I had many variations on how this week would play out; a trip to Granada and then a boat to Tangiers and a train through Morocco? A flight to another country all together? But with my work load I decided that what I needed was slow speed and nature’s healing beauty. It didn´t take long for me to put it together, not far from Barcelona by bus and train was where Dali lived and I had always wanted to see his house and where Matisse had lived. Both being artists I greatly admire I thought enough culture–I need to go and see the places that inspired the work,  see the light and landscapes for myself!

I took the bus out of Barcelona through stunning countryside of old towns with forts on small hills, flags blowing proudly in the wind and sun. Grape vineyards stretching into distances and the vines laying heavy with deep rich purple fruit. I made my way to the coast and then leaving some less attractive towns behind climbed the steep hills on narrow switch back roads as the landscape became more barren and dotted with olive trees and a lonesome pine, we then descended and at the base of these hills was one of the most stunning sights I could imagine or have seen – Cadaques is everything you have ever wanted in a relaxing dream.It is a gentle white washed town nestled at the base of hills and along a peaceful bay of the Mediterranean. It is known as the place Dali visited as a child and later built a house nearby with Gala. The town is almost all pedestrian with only a few cars and motorbikes, it reminded me of my dreams of what Greek Islands must be like – still and beautiful white walls, green and brown hills, and a brilliant aquamarine sea – okay it might be what I hope a corner of heaven is like.

I spent two blissful days soaking in sun, walking the steep streets and ducking in shops, I breathed in the air that smelled deep of pine and olive trees. The church bell would chime the hour and its half and it only mattered to show the passing of time that drifted from a reality. I walked the 1.25km to Dali´s house in Port Lligat and kyacked in the bay of Cadaques past rocks and out to a light house. The entire setting feels like a Dali art piece and I don´t mean in the surreal way, I mean you can very literally see in the land and sea where ¨Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee Around A Pomegranate¨ came from. The setting still breaths of Dali and some of the artist residents even take on a bizarre Dali look to them. I simply loved what I found in this small town more than I ever had an idea I might, I want to go back, and I already know in my dreams I will.

The next stop was for more Dali but not in such a stunning town. I headed inland to the city of Figueres to see the Teatre-Museu Dali in the town of his birth.  The museum was stunning, like nothing I have seen, truly a place as unique as the artist who created it. I have been a fan of Dali since 2000 when I did a play called Lobster Alice about Dali and I was infused with his crazy creativity. The idea of seeing this place for myself has always been with me. As for the town, sigh, all travel isn´t a marvel and this town certainly falls in this category. I spent less then 24 hours in this town and it was about 20 hours too long. It could have been the fever I came down with, the bones and muscles that ached, or the fact that to get water I had to walk some 20 min through the most down trodden and dejected place I have seen in a long time (and I am including Kibera in Kenya). Ok, enough! Go to the Teatre-Museu Dali for a mind blowing experience and then get out of Figueres for all it is worth.

The next day I took the first train I could across the French boarder to the small town of Collioure. Matisse said ¨There is no sky in France as blue as in Collioure¨, and indeed the town echoes of this artist in every colorful street and view. The city has been so painted that it almost feels like you have slipped into an impressionist canvas in a museum; in fact throughout the town they have small frames that capture what the painting would be. I wandered more streets, looked in shops and walked around the daily market. I hiked up to the windmill and felt like Don Quixote! I hiked on up into the hills to the fort St Elme. Then I indulged in a little French pastry as reward. Everywhere I looked I saw the inception of art and the light of what captured these masters.

I made my way back to Barcelona to close out the week and turn toward new ports. I did the necessary and mundane that take on new heights in foreign places – laundry and such. Today I went to a final Gaudi monument and walked past Casa Batllo and up to La Pedrera, what a stunning view to crown this trip! What genius, what inspiration, what lasting legacy, and what views!! I lunched at Mercat de la Boqueria.

The week alone was many things, at times lovely, at times lonely, always changing and ebbing with the tide. It gave me a lot of time to think and look. It gave me no more insight but it did give me views rich and plentiful and for now that pleases me more than anything.

Tomorrow will be an entirely new world, always a new day full of possibility.

Sending you all my warm sun kissed love,



09 2012

Finding Myself Full Circle In Barcelona

“I do not seek I find” Pablo Picasso

I have found in Barcelona a city I did not seek and could hardly anticipate or expect to find. I have loved my three days here with friends.I have found here a beautiful European city with a wonderful laid-back-near-the-ocean feel.

I have also found myself here in a completely other world than the last time I was in Spain. When I was invited to join these days of the trip and I realized it would put me in Spain for the third anniversary of my mother’s death it felt somehow like coming full circle. Barcelona feels nothing like Madrid and I feel nothing like I did that night I got the call. It could be me who has changed, for it is hard to have your heart break and not be different from it forever. I lost a world in that night and it has never felt like less than that on any days since then. I lost the world of youth, safety, and a feeling of sense that I can never retrieve again after such a monumental grief. I am new and I am finding a new identification with Spain on this trip.

I arrived early in the morning and I met Mara and her two friends at a small apartment we are renting in the Poblenou district of Barcelona. We are down a small pedestrian only street. We are a few festive blocks from the beach with a rooftop terrace that feels pretty close to heaven. The city was just coming to life as I drove through the streets and walked the small stone way to our old wooden door.

We went to Museu Picasso and I was swept away by his blue periods and the sea. After we walked the old and vibrant streets and passed the Catedral and then up to Esglesia De Santa Maria Del Mar. We drank Cava and ate tapas (including my brave venture to eat blood sausage) amid an old square. This is the life!

Our second day we went to La Sagrada Familia and the stained glass was like nothing I have ever seen (the entire thing was like nothing I have ever seen)! The majesty–the dedication of decades of people. The sound of the chisel as they continue to work and complete this enormous undertaking. The detail, the many views that never could be seen in one single lifetime, and the continuation of work after a century of being constructed. Awe is nothing short of what washes over you.

We continued a day of Gaudi at Parc Guell. As you climb the steep streets to the park the views are first of hills dotted with olive and palm trees and then the ocean is revealed and almost takes your breath away as it glistens in contrast on the horizon. Barcelona continues to reveal more beauty it seems in every step.

We ended the day in front of a big platter of Paella. I remembered my mother telling me of her trip here some forty years ago with her friends Val and Bloch. She said they didn’t have enough money and one of the nights they fought over the final olive before finally cutting it into thirds to share. We did lick as much of our fingers and paella plate as we could but we did not fight over any of the food.

Today we went to the beach. Ahhhhhh Barcelona, did I mention I really think I love you, well I do now. We drink homemade Sangria and eat cheese and bread on our roof top before lounging on chairs and in hammocks.

In just a few days I have found myself amid a true vacation, indulgence/enjoyment, and treat for every one of my senses.

I am finding in each day here what it means to live and enjoy my life again. Work seems a far off memory a moment of labor that one must go through to have moments like these. Moments of reverie, moments of light, moments of gratitude, and pure pleasure. I am so happy to be once again out in the world and so happy to have found my way to Barcelona and with new images of Spain in my mind.

Tomorrow my friends are off and I am departing for my week along the Costa Brava alone. I will miss their company, their warmth, and the laughter we have shared.

Beauty is in this world and one needn’t find their way to Barcelona to see it (although if you can I highly recommend it!). I hope in whatever place of your life this may find you, whether it be at a beach in Washington, at work in an office, or sitting in a park that you will see the beauty in your world as well.


PS – Thank you my darling travel friends Mara, Maribel, and Ana for inviting me along for part of your adventure. You are all such special parts of my life.


09 2012

Back Out Into The World

It has been such a long time since I have left a note here. The summer has rushed by; it has sped at a rate I could hardly imagine. For me it was filled with work, more work than I ever should have agreed to do, and on many instances ever thought I would manage, but here I am. The summer is drawing to a close; I must say I am not sorry. I love the autumn, I love cool breezes at night that force me to close my windows, I love the feeling of change in the air and the relief it seems to bring me.

And in my life the end of summer is also bringing the end of work, I have finished three big jobs that overlapped, intermingled, and kept my time full the past four months. My work brought me to Atlanta for two weeks where I was able to spend some additional time with dear friends. It brought me out west for a quick time, where once again I practiced holding life in two hands, working all day and spending evenings with family and friends. And finally my work brought me to Philadelphia. I am exhausted just remembering everything I have done in recent weeks.

But for now life is slowing down and I am starting to look outward again. Life is becoming that which I want it to be and not which I find it must be. It has been hard for me returning from the RAvolution, I have wanted to be back out there in the world – returning to Cambodia, or going to see schools being built in Burma, pausing over tea with Astrid who is expecting her second child any day in Germany. But there is the reality of life, the reality that I have to work to make money for such adventures. But the time has come and all of the months of work in a few days will turn into the reward, the other side of the coin for me that which I have been working for – another trip!!

The seed was planted so many months ago; in the cold heart of winter when I was freshly back in my life in New York, and finding a routine so hard. A job I had planned on was postponed to the summer, yes it was one of the many, and I found myself back in New York with no work. I was sad (ok depressed), I was disappointed to find my life not how I imagined or desired it in the least. I found myself back in a place when all I wanted was to see the wider world. In those moments I found a website for a Yoga retreat that was happening what felt like half a lifetime and world away, in the fall in Marrakech. You might remember I called it my fantasy trip of the moment. And that was how it felt, a mere dream or fantasy.

But that seed and that dream grew within me during those dark, cold months. One day on a walk home from yoga class I called my dad and said I really want to do this but I was so scared – with no current work could I afford to commit to a trip like this in the future. Under my umbrella with the dark gray clouds and a light rain above me, my father said something that was so unlike him. My father is where I get all of my responsible nature; it was my father who held down two jobs my entire life to put me through school and taught me to work hard. On this particular day as I expressed my longing for this far off goal, my father very squarely and completely out of character for him said something simple to me, “Ra, whose advice are you asking for—mine or your moms?” It seemed silly at that moment but as I replied my umbrella fell and I could feel the answer come to me as the light ran fell on my head. “I guess my mom’s.” And my dad asked, “Well what would she say?” I didn’t have to wait to answer, “She would say go for it.” And there was my answer. I ran home and with no idea what lay between that February day and the next seven months, I signed up for a trip to Morocco on the spot!

And so here I am all those weeks and months later, getting ready to depart on the trip. It just so happened a few weeks after this exchange that one of my oldest and dearest friends sent me a note that she would be in Europe a few weeks before I had to be in Morocco and would I like to join her and her friends. I couldn’t join for the entire trip (darn that work above) but I could meet them on their last stop and what would become my first – Barcelona. I will spend 3 days with them and then a week traveling the Costa Brava and jumping into South Western France for a few nights before heading to the land of spices, souks, and exotic dream scapes.

Saying yes to my friend felt real and right, it would somehow put me back in Spain on the three year anniversary of my mother’s death. Indeed it was another part of Spain from where I got that late night call but it will be the same country. It feels oddly like coming full circle. I have not been back to Spain since then. Until now I haven’t even been able to draw myself to look at the photos I took that one day I had in Madrid before I heard of my mother’s passing. It feels odd three years later. Somehow this landmark always loomed for me, so many books and articles on grief talk of the first three years but not of the lifetime that lies beyond them. Somehow it felt as though I need only survive these three years and the pain would wash away and only now days before this trip and this marker and I realize no amount of time, no distance in space, and no change in life will ever eliminate the loss.

I am so excited to be going on this trip. I am so excited to be once again seeing the world through new eyes of a first time visitor. I am so happy to taste the exotic flavors and smell the spices (hello life list!). I am excited to hear the adhan (call to prayer) ring through the early morning air.I am even excited to be reconnected with some squat toilets, amazing how one can change!

I bring you all with me on this magic carpet ride into this exciting world. I will of course be leaving messages of my adventures and when I return will be filling this space with the images I see. I know I will have stories. And as I have been preparing I have returned to one of my favorite books THE LITTLE PRINCE. I look forward to seeing what Antoine de Saint-Exupery called “…the loveliest and saddest landscape in the world…” I plan to “…wait for a time exactly under [a] star…” and as I look at each of the stars imagining the worlds they hold, the friends, and limitless potential I will think of all of you.


Pictures 1, 2, & 4 – Madrid Spain September 2009

Picture 3 – My Mom


09 2012