the sands of borrowed time

Awake in the throes of an existential recession (you know, like a depression but not as bad) and this little piece began spinning itself in my mind.

It’s a little less glittery than I’m known for, so proceed if you’d like but know you were warned.

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The Sands of Borrowed Time

It’s a strange feeling,
Knowing you’re living
On borrowed time.
To know that if you had been born in a different place,
Or a different era,
Your story would already be completed.
You would be another dusty volume
stuffed in a library shelf.
A small imperfect piece of fiction with an inconclusive ending.
It makes one wonder
What to do
With all that borrowed time.
How to fill the hours and minutes
To make the best use of those extra chapters.
And yet I sit staring at blank pages
Ink dried on my pen tip,
Poised to write
But with nothing to say.

I roam through settings
adrift, floating with no other purpose
Than to observe the scene before me.

I try on new characters.
Feel what they feel and hope what they hope.
I have no answers for myself,
but maybe I have answers enough for them.

I prowl through moments.
Stalking my plot.
Ready to pounce on any purpose,
Pinning it down until it calms and becomes
A cloak I can wear about my shoulders.
Shelter from the harshness of
Borrowed time.

The worst is when I loose patience.
Frantically running down corridors.
Endless hallways lined with boxes
Boxes packed with my life before this borrowed time.
Each box a chapter in a story waiting to be continued.
But I rush past them all.
The contents feel alien and quaint.
I don’t know how they might relate
To the story I’m trying to write.

Instead I search,
frantically flipping through blank pages
Looking for some meaning.

But it remains elusive and buried
In the sands of borrowed time.

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road-dog routines

After a long winter at home, I can see the road beckoning on the horizon, and my little heart goes pitter-patter with excitement.

I have spent seven months straight at Mamma Bear Base Camp this year, a practical eternity to a hopeless wanderer, and as the end of my stay draws near I feel the need to take a moment to reflect philosophically on the emotional roller-coaster  I have ridden.

Sometime in early June I arrived home fresh from a successful show season on the road, elated with the new developments, bursting with plans to conquer, and a little nostalgic for the thought of spending some quality time with family and friends.

Yet by the end of September the daily grind of normalcy was starting to take its toll. My part-time office job was pounding out new linear paths in the artistic labyrinth of my mind. Reconnecting with friends meant a parade of well dressed, first apartment-ed, newly wed, career focused fine upstanding young adults marching past. I even began to experience a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. I could be one of those be-suited socialites. Should I be striving to become a well-coiffed, demurely mature, subtly fierce young professional, shattering glass ceilings with a single spreadsheet? Perhaps. I gave it some serious consideration. I brushed off my resume and rattled off a few cover letters.

My exciting life of art and travel seemed so foreign and alien so quickly that not even the arrival of my long awaited vardo could reconnect me with the colorful fairy I loved to be. It sat awkwardly in our suburban driveway, squat and bright with its purple walls and orange trim, and dared me to remember who I was.

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The memories came back slowly. The disconnect was real. Days of khaki slacks and office coffee, car payments and the thought of real estate had made an adult out of me.

Then I woke up this morning and I could practically smell the wild sage and desert sand of Arizona. I found myself craving a WaWa Sandwich…a staple of highway nourishment.  I found I could actually focus on the thought of packing, an insurmountable mental block just a few days earlier.  I mapped my route and learned I had not one but two of my best friends directly en route and simply demanding a visit.

This is the balance I fight to maintain. When I am on the road I love so much about it. The color, the energy, the new friends I meet and the adventures and misadventures I have . But I miss my old friends. I experience such hiraeth; longing for a return to my college days when all my closest friends lived just around the corner. But those days are gone. My friends, fierce young professionals that they are, have carved niches out for themselves all over the world.

But for me at least, perhaps they are still just around the corner. It is just that my neighborhood has gotten a whole lot larger. A trip around the block lasts from late January to early June and takes me on a lap around the continental United States. A visit across town is more like a journey across the ocean and a crash reunion with ex-pats and euro-rats.

I know it won’t always be like this. So until the day that I find my own niche to carve out, I’ll just stay happy with my endless wandering, and content myself with my road-dog routines.

Here’s to stale coffee and sandwiches. To counting the miles, singing out your heartbreak and happiness to the open road, and going crazy one white line at a time.

Until the day we can all be together again,

~Aeri

hiking with a viking, or life is like a hula hoop

It has been a very crazy summer and there is so much I want to talk about! Where to begin? With Pennsic 42, the most epic two weeks of the year? With my discovery of the meaning of life? With a chance encounter and my new friend?

How about this.  It will all make sense in the end, I promise, but getting there…well it’s always an adventure, right? I’m going to start with the fortune cookie I got on Day 2 of Pennsic Set-Up, when Janeen and I brought dinner back after our final town run.  The fortune cookie said “Talk is cheap, barbers give it away free with haircuts.”  And that cookie really made me sad.

I thought about my Granddad (a barber) and all the great talks and advice he gave to generations of customers over the years.  When he passed away I made sure my email address was included in the obituary because I wanted to hear stories from strangers about what a great person he was.  And man those stories poured in! I am pretty sure if you asked them, they would tell you that it was the talks more than the haircuts (though those were great too) that kept them coming back time after time.   And in today’s technologically stifling “connected” world, the ability to have a decent conversation is a dying art.  Talk isn’t cheap, its priceless!

The next two weeks at Pennsic really reinforced the priceless-ness of real communication.  I’ll be honest it was a little sad this year because many faces in our guild were missing due to severe illness.  We felt their absence.  I had hoped the somber tone would result in more evenings spent together under the communal big top tent, as we all drew strength from our  community.  What a strange community it is. The guild, which was formed long before I ever showed up, is a collection of vendors who wanted to work together to make their part of the marketplace beautiful and engaging.  The vendors became friends, some of whom see each other regularly, and some of whom only see each other for those two weeks each year. And yet despite the gaps in time, or maybe because of the quality of the visits, strong friendships were formed and kept.  I know that I personally consider the girls, daughters of original vendors, some of my closest friends on the planet, any time of year.

But I digress.  I do not want to make it seem that Pennsic 42 was a depressed or deflated Pennsic.  There was much laughter and many happy memories made.  I can’t begin to describe it.  But there were lists.  Sheets and sheets of silly things said and done.  Late night talks held over jars of Apple Pie, and later night adventures had with Celts, Mercenaries, Sicilian Travelers, and other strange and interesting new friends.  It was a refreshing and healing sense of connection and community after the crazy chaos of the previous month on the road (see Moccasisters Unite).  I wish I had pictures to show you, but someone cough*cough**Amber* kept all the good prints.

Oh here’s a good one:

Sunset on Battle Road while the Camelot Guild plays drum head frisbee.
Sunset on Battle Road while the Camelot Guild plays drum head Frisbee.

By the time I got back from Pennsic my Wanderlust was really starting to kick in.  Like Pennsic, I’ve realized that traveling is a bit of an escape for me.  I get to see amazing new things, and have some really wonderful moments with complete strangers.  Right on time, a travel angel came into my life.  I think this was my first American travel angel.  I met this travel angel at the Best Buy in Liverpool, NY.  I had taken the van in to finally get the radio replaced, and when the technician, lets call him Jack, was finished we realized that the van only had one working speaker! At least I have one I joked.  But Jack, after chatting for a bit, offered me the gift of sound.  He had extra speakers that would fit, he said, would I like him to put them in?  Um, YES Please!

So the next day I found my self winding down Route 48 South towards Jack’s house where I spent the afternoon in his drive way handing in ratchets and wrenches and talking about everything from Vikings, to survivalists (Jack is a Prepper, which was an extremely interesting and eye opening discovery), to woodworking and gun-smithing, to travel, and to Zen and the art of Hula Hooping.  That was my favorite I think.  “Do you like the ying yang?” he asked me, referring to the Taijitu symbol hanging on a cord around my neck. “Yeah sure, of course. Balance of opposing forces is always good, right?” When he pressed further I had to really try hard to verbalize the way I felt, and I came up with “I like to dance with the hula hoop so balance is a good thing.”

When I dance with the hoop it is a sharing of energy. Sometimes I stand still and the hoop swirls around me.  Sometimes I move and the hoop stands still, and sometimes we move together.  It is the same with energy: sometimes it moves around me, sometimes it moves through me, and sometimes it moves with me.  With the hoop sometimes I explore how long I can keep the hoop moving around me before I fall or drop it.  With balance I can move many different ways for a long time. But without balance I just fall over and that’s no fun.  So that is why we need opposing energy and balance in our lives. Because it is more fun to dance than to fall down.

The speakers took much longer than Jack anticipated to put in, so we pushed off our hike in the woods until the next day.  His woods were great; good run through the trees like Pocahontas woods.  We found cool mushrooms and talked more about life, the universe, and everything.

A caterpillar on a mushroom! Where's his Hookah? Where's the White Rabbit?
A caterpillar on a mushroom! Where’s his Hookah? Where’s the White Rabbit?

“You really are a traveling fairy.” Jack said at one point. I had to agree with him, at this point I can really say travel has made me who I am, and I like who I am so I’m going to keep with it.  Which made it so interesting the next evening when I finished a book called Time by: Eva Hoffman.  One of the last paragraphs of her book really took all this meaning of life stuff that had unintentionally been percolating all summer and brought it to a frothy boil.  I’ll quote her now:

“We do not all have to be poets, but if we do not want to live meaninglessly, then we need to give ourselves over sometimes to the time of inwardness and contemplation, to empathy and aesthetic wonder.  We need to mull and muse, to reflect on our experience and interpret it, to perform on the level of our life narratives those acts of autopoiesis which apparently happen outside our intention or ken inside the brain’s neurological pathways. We need occasionally to go with the flow.”

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , Douglas Adams says that the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42.  The problem is, no one thought to ask what the question was and so little was solved.  But I’ve realized that for me the meaning of life IS that moment when one laughs and says “Well what is the question then?” The meaning of life is the conversation that ensues. And later, the time spent thinking about the new things learned or realized because of that conversation. And then later,  the moments when you get to share those new realizations with other humans and the cycle continues.  Life is a spiral. It is dancing with a hula hoop. It is shared energy and balance.

At least, that’s the best I’ve  been able to come up with so far.  What about you?

With love and curiosity, intensity and enthusiasm,

Aeri

short legs and big steps

Happy 2013 Everybody!! I’m so glad we made it! What with the mysterious Mayan calendar ending, and all. Which only made me wish, once again, that it was just as easy to travel in time as it is in space.   As wonderful as it is to go visit historic and ancient sites and see what has remained…it would be so wonderful to be able to visit these sites in their hey-day.  For example, did you know that all the Mayan ruins, their classic stacked stair temples and tombs, were once painted fantastic and vibrant colors? Reds, blues, greens, even indigo, covered these giants.  Imagine paddling down river in a hollowed out tree trunk to see that rising out of the rainforest!

But sadly, time travel has not yet been mastered, or at least no one has stopped by to tell me about it.  So in a few weeks ago my sister Melody and I had to make do with some regular old traveling on the plain old surface of the globe.  We headed down to Belize to celebrate the ending of the current Mayan Calendar cycle, and maybe to learn what the locals thought of all the omens, legends, and warnings.

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We learned some pretty interesting things, but the coolest thing we saw was the different energy around this “ending” down there.  In America all the talk was about the end of that calendar.  But in Belize the talk and celebration was about the beginning of the next calendar! Duh! It was a time of rebirth, renewal, and hope.  The pain and ugliness of the last cycle was on the way out they said. Armageddon has already happened, the worst is behind us, we are already in a state of growth and repair.  Be joyful as you look towards the future.  How can you help bring in the glories of the new cycle? How will you be a better person in the new present?

Those are some good questions. I said.  I will have to put some serious thought to them…just as soon as I am done feeding this adorable spider monkey some of these hunks of watermelon we brought for lunch.   And maybe after I clamber hand over fist to the top of a massive temple or two.  But certainly by the time we are back from our bike ride into town I will have an answer for myself.

In keeping with the spirit of rebirth and new beginnings, on December 21st we celebrated the start of the new cycle by visiting Altun Ha ruins for a sunrise exploration.  There is always something special and dignified about rising before dark to begin a journey. We traveled by bus to the ruins, walked through the dewy fields and climbed up into the fog itself as we mounted the first temple.  This one gave us a view of the entire plaza and gave our guide a chance to explain a bit about the Mayans and their architecture.  But quick, he said, this is not the temple for the sunrise. Across the plaza, the acoustically perfect plaza, is the Sun Temple.  That is the temple we should view this sunrise from. So back down the steep stairs we went, across the acoustically perfect plaza (one could talk with merely a loud speaking voice in the center of the plaza and the sound would bounce off the tombs and temples and be carried to every corner of the square. No need for microphones, fancy PA systems, or the risk feedback), and up another steeper and taller set of stairs on the Sun Temple.  From this temple we watched the fog burn off and the sky slowly brighten.  It was a calm and quiet sunrise without much pomp.   But somehow as the fog burned away I felt the troubles of the past burning away too. I felt cleaner, lighter, full of potential, and ready to begin this new cycle.  Our guide lit some incense on the altar at the top and our little group took some time to welcome in the new day each in our own way.  Some prayed to their God or gods; some sat quietly facing east, west, north, or south; and one or two moved through a few yogic Sun Salutations.  And that was that. Down in Belize we experienced the wonderful energy of the locals and the Mayans.  It was incredibly friendly, genuine, and comfortable.  There were no theatrics put on for the tourists, nor did I feel like we were invading a touching traditional ceremony.

Without even making it to the coasts, I can tell you Belize is a wonderful place. I highly recommend visiting, and I might even be adding it to the short list of places to which I will be trying to return.

On the flight home I again contemplated how I personally would embrace this new cycle.  I considered all the cultural influences in my life, and there are plenty.  In America we feared the end of the world.  In Belize they celebrated the budding future.  In my world I will celebrate the present.  I will strive to be patient and content wherever I am.  The present is often under-valued and neglected until it becomes something we can reminisce about fondly, or it is analyzed as a launching point for our future plans.  This year I hope to embrace the present as “the place where I am supposed to be,” and enjoy it for that reason alone.

What are your plans for this new cycle? How will you embrace the spirit of new beginnings and renewal in your own lives?  Think about it!

 

Cheers and Happy New Year!

~ Aeri

 

first star on the right and straight on till morning

Last night I began my Great Railway Adventure. After a day filled with last minute errands and quickly hemmed pants, my dad and trusty airport chauffeur dropped me off at Dulles International Airport yet again- this time headed for Helsinki, Finland with a layover in Iceland. The planes were small, but I guess that’s alright considering that via Iceland, the trans-Atlantic crossing is split into two short flights.

The first flight last night was pretty. We silently glided through the darkness, with puffy white clouds below us hiding the choppy ocean waves I knew were there. The moon shown incredibly brightly in the sky, but it was not too bright to drown out the stars. I felt like I could be traveling to Neverland, following Peter’s directions: just follow the first star on the right and head straight on till morning and there adventure awaits.

The constellation Orion seemed to lead the way. I saw the full constellation out the window, just over the right wing, like I was looking straight across and not up at him like I have done from the ground so many times before. Were we equals last night, Orion and I? He seems like a good man to have in my life. He’s the only one I seem to look to for guidance, and certainly the only one I’ve chased around the world or even around the block. Aloof and unattainable, he has seen and known more than I ever will. Yet he has remained steady and controlled throughout his vast experiences, where I sometimes crave the chaos and instability that my travels offer me.

I thought I would continue this contemplation of my perfect star man, but as soon as I touch down in Helsinki I was overwhelmed by different thoughts entirely- mainly wonderful, “This is so EASY! This place is so BEAUTIFUL!” thoughts.

Because it was and it is. I landed, grabbed my backpack from the conveyor belt, and stopped by information for some directions to the Olympic Stadium, where I had reserved a bed at the hostel within- the aptly named Stadium Hostel. The bus ride was so easy that I barely had to focus on the stops and was able to let my mind wander out the window and take in the wide, amazingly clean streets of Helsinki. This was a city that was so green and blue! It was full of trees and lakes and streams. The weather was a perfect sunny 17 decrees Celsius. For 6.20 Euro I was dropped off a block away from the hostel, and the brief stroll told me that this might be called a city, but it didn’t smell or sound like one. I felt relaxed and comfortable immediately. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the stress and chaos that usually surrounds the first few moments in a new city when you’re trying to find your way to your lodging for the first time, disoriented from the loud sounds and unfamiliar landmarks and still groggy after a recent mind numbing flight.

I practically skipped through the front door of the hostel, checked in, and found my bed ready to be made up in the crisp clean white sheets I had been handed. I had so much extra energy, saved for the stressful first journey that was anything but, that I took a quick shower to wash off the last of my travel cobwebs, repacked my purse with the essentials, and hit the city streets once again.

I was in search of food. Finnish food. A quick stroll through a grocery store and I had an idea of what food prices might be like (expensive!) while I was here. I was also delightfully impressed with their large hard cider selection, a collection I shall be exploring in depth while I am here.

After wandering for a few more blocks I settled on a Nepalese restaurant, not Finnish, I know but a new cuisine none the less. It was a good decision. Nepalese coffee is AMAZING. It is everything I wanted Turkish coffee to be. It was strong and sweet and flavored with exotic spices that I couldn’t place. I think I detected cardamom, but I’m not sure what else.

Now I am back at the hostel and rapidly crashing. I think I’ll take a few moments to plan out the next few days and then I will turn in early. I was happy to find that the festival gods were favoring me again. I landed in Helsinki at the start of World Design Week 2012, celebrating Helsinki as this year’s Design Capital of the World. There will be a lot of fun, interesting and FREE things happening in the next few days. I can’t wait to find out what. When I know, you’ll know!

Cheers,

Aeri

lifting reality’s veil

This week Cloe, a good friend from Paris, has been in town visiting.  Today we took a trip up to Philadelphia for some good ol’ tourism.  But that good ol’ tourism just wasn’t working for us today.  We tried to see The Carpenter House, but it was closed; we saw the Liberty Bell and were underwhelmed; and we just couldn’t bring ourselves to bother with the Constitution Center.

What we did do was fantastic, or at least full of fantasy.  We started the day at Philadelphia’s Magic Garden, on South Street.  The Magic Garden is an amazing art in progress begun by artist Isaiah Zagar in 1994. It is mosaic, sculpture, poetry, and painting like you’ve never seen it before.  And it is most certainly high on my list of 1001 things to see before you die.

Here’s a little taste of the magic that is Philadelphia’s Magic Garden.

There are so many details that it is impossible to look at everything in one go.  This time around, I decided to read the Garden.  To find all the hidden messages built with painted tiles and lettered squares.  I am so smitten with some of the worded imagery I found.  Here were some of my favorites:

“Delicately poised between excessive vitality and destruction.”

“A masterpiece of chaos.”

“Remember walking around inside this piece of fiction.”

“Luminous consciousness”

“Convulsive beauty”

and

“Imagery which refuses to stabilize” 

With these poetic fantasies dancing in my mind, we continued our tour with a yummy lunch at the Fourth Street Delicatessen, and a quick trip down fabric row.

After spending entirely too much at the Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet we attempted our historically accurate tour of Philadelphia’s National Historic Park, which includes the major sights: Independence Hall, Liberty Bell Center, Independence Square, the Constitution Center, and the Massive Wells Fargo building. Wait, what?

Liberty, Independence, and Low Interest Rates.

Perhaps it was the looming shadow of high finance, perhaps it was merely the food coma induced by a hearty lunch at a Jewish delicatessen, but we couldn’t muster the interest in classy brick buildings and well phrased praises of liberty and independence.  Instead we found ourselves on a meandering walk past Love Park, around City Hall, and down Broad Street.

Once walking, like flashes of light in the corners of our vision, Wonderland kept catching our attention.

Historic reflected in the Modern.

We found it on the sides of buildings- in murals painted and buildings reflected.

Do passionate musicians become their work?

It twittered mischievously with us over cake slices cut bigger than bricks and cookies with magically gooey chocolate chips.  It delighted in board game pieces bigger than we were.

We all but followed the rabbit through the crack in the bell before we decided to wink back at Wonderland for the present and hit the road home instead.  It was a successful, unconventional, and extremely unforgettable day in the city. We started with a little magic, and found it’s glimmer all day.

I hope you can keep your minds and eyes open for the glimmers around you, too!
~Aeri

i love doggies with wings!

I spent this weekend at the Spoutwood Faerie Festival as a vendor for Reincarnation Outfitters.  It was my first time as a vendor, and I was nervous and excited.  But I didn’t need to be nervous! It was SO much fun!!

I arrived on Thursday afternoon with plenty of daylight to set up the booth which was comprised of an Easy-Up, some clothing racks, an old wooden barrel and a suitcase.  Oh and some curtains in the corner to make a dressing room.  The shop felt like a vintage living room turned walk in closet.  There was a whimsical air to it once all the colorful flowery skirts were in place.  Thanks so much to my Dad, I had a big beautiful banner with the company name on it.

Friday was slow, a “practice day” everyone said.  But Saturday and Sunday were busy and fun.  I saw so many fairy friends on Sunday that I couldn’t contain myself.  And I made some fun friends across the street that make Hula Hoops!! We traded a hoop for a skirt, and she’s going to wear it next weekend when she performs an interpretive tree hula-hoop dance.  So Cool!!! I hope we can get some pictures!

Throughout the weekend so many things were so fun, but I decided to make a list of my three favorite things about fairy festivals.

1. I love to trade stuff!!

2. I love little kids and tiny dogs with fairy wings on.  I love little girls with dresses and wings, running around the field, pretending or believing they can fly. I love little fluffy dogs with tiny pink wings that chase after butterflies and french fries.  And I love great big dogs with tiny tiny wings that look like overgrown bumble bees, and flop over happily in the grass whenever their people stop to look at something.

Which leads me to my third favorite thing:

3. Confused bumblebees.  I had SO MANY bumble bees flying around my skirts and hair clips this weekend.  And I take it as a huge compliment! If the silly bees confuse my flower skirts with actual flowers, than I consider that a job well done! Though I do feel sorry for the little bees that aren’t getting any pollen from my little cotton skirts.  I’m sure they’re glad to have all these silly glittery people out of their fields now.

Last weekend was so fun, that I am glad we can do it all again this weekend at the Maryland Fairy Festival in Darlington, MD.  If you couldn’t make it last weekend, or even if you could, come out to play this weekend too! And don’t forget about Mother’s Day!!

Love Muchly,

Aeri

my dirty adidas theory

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my recent trip to Turkey, reminiscing about the adventures and the friends I met, sharing stories with loved ones who didn’t follow along here or who just want to hear the tales complete with my unique performances. But tonight I want to rein in the excitement and “1, 2, 3 Be Serious” for a moment because I’ve become aware of an interesting phenomenon that I’d really like to discuss.

I’m calling it my “Dirty Adidas Theory.”

Its the moment when every nation comes army crawling into the developed world, suppressed by heavy clouds of smog, weighted down by chains of factories along the waterfront, and beaten into submission by shipments of western products dropped like air bombs on a scattered populace, herded into the open arms of a brand new mall.

Sorry. Too poetic?

Let’s talk about Istanbul. Istanbul was once a beautiful city.  A thriving marketplace, at the crossroads of the east and the west.  Full of strange things and strange people.  They built beautiful palaces and mosques, they celebrated their Ottoman background and their long cultural history.

Now, Istanbul has let itself be influenced by western nations, like the artsy nerd type is pressured by the “cool kids” in the lunchroom.  Right now Istanbul is in that awkward pimply adolescent stage, where it can’t keep up with all the strange oils and smells oozing from its body.  Seriously.

In the beginning, non-westernized nations chug along fine. They have a system that works for them. They have local art, and culture, and cuisine.  They have a pretty balanced relationship with the environment.  Then the western clique rolls in, for whatever reason.  The non-westernized nation wants in.  Eventually the nation THINKS it has finished developing.  It has that sophomoric attitude of success. But what has really happened is this: industry and commercialism has caught up with the western world, but infrastructure hasn’t made the switch yet.  So they flounder along for years, without environmental policies or emission standards, without enough roads or reliable forms of public transportation, and without any means of cleaning up or processing the already released pollution.  But they do have all the most popular western brands, marked up even more than the absurd prices set in the west.  They have Nike, Adidas, Apple, Dior, McDonald’s, Coke, Coach. You name it, its there.

Their cities get dirtier.  Their beautiful stone buildings are covered with layers of black soot.  Their people scrounge around in the dirt and are scoffed at by clean “high bred” western tourists, who can’t understand why anyone would “choose to live in such filth;” not understanding that it was their need for the new Sony camera, iPhone, and L.L.Bean jacket that has forced the nation into this state.

Eventually the newly westernized nation looses their art and culture, much like the nerdy kid who puts away her paint brushes and violin in favor of a video game controller.  They import cheap Chinese imitations of their once beautiful arts, so that tourists can still feel like they’ve bought an appropriate souvenir; which they will wave like a victory flag in the faces of friends and family when they return home.   They develop versions of their traditional meals that are more palatable to the western tongue, a tongue drunk on processed sugars and “natural flavors.”

Why?! I scream. I wail.  Why must the west always win! Why is it western culture that always rises victoriously? When will we appreciate diversity, real chaotic diversity, diversity we yearn for and which inspires us to travel, diversity that we seem to squash at every moment whenever it tries to rise its head in defiance of the ever encroaching amorphous blob of western culture.

Sorry. Too poetic. Rein it in.

All I’m sayin’ is, strange cultures and historic traditions- I’m on your side.  Stay strong. Carry on.  And stay away from things that start with “i”.  It’s a slippery slope. Its like a gateway drug that will leave you lying on your broken sidewalk, gasping for air in a smog smothered world.

Here’s to individuality.

~Aeri

a moment of equality

Last night was quite and unexpectedly epic evening.  After our morning pottery excursion, and afternoon hike, I had reservations to see a Whirling Dervish Ceremony.  At 50 TL it was a bit pricey, but I have always been interested in this human phenomena, so I decided it was worth it.  And I think I chose correctly.  The Dervishes went through an intricate ceremony of iterations of bowing and spinning, encompassed by bigger rotations around the stage. The rotations symbolize the connection amongst all beings, from the smallest atom to the largest planet.  Everything revolves, both in movement through space and cycles through time.  Though they moved quickly, the Dervishes seemed relaxed and meditative, a feeling that filled the energy of the room.  During the show the Dervishes, in their white flowing gowns, seemed to glow with some inner light…but then I realized that the dim cavern was actually lit by black lights.  The white gowns were glowing beneath the black light!! While the cavern may be several thousand years old, clearly the technical system was quite a bit newer. It was a nice touch all the same.

The rotating Dervishes seek a state of love and ecstasy.

Afterward some small sample of a red drink was offered.  I wasn’t able to find out what it was, but it couldn’t help but make me think: “Don’t drink the Kool-aid!” Despite the funny drink, I was impressed with the main principles of the Whirling Dervishes:

1. In generosity and helping others, be like a river.

2. In compassion and grace, be like the sun.

3. In concealing others faults, be like the night.

4. In anger and fury, be like the dead.

5. In modesty and humility, be like the earth.

6. In tolerance, be like the sea.

7. Either exist as you are, or be as you look.

After the ceremony, I peacefully returned to the hostel, where I met Maree. We had plans to visit a restaurant we had passed that afternoon which advertised live music.  The restaurant was charming, with more of the low tables and large pillows.  Here, I ordered the local Cappadocia wine, a dry red, and was very pleasantly surprised.  It was very mild but palpable.  Not extremely complex, but not at all tasting of vinegar.  I’ll certainly be taking a bottle or two home to share.

Though live music was advertised, it seemed not forthcoming.  A little sad, but enjoying the environment all the same, Maree and I stayed for a few drinks and snacks.  Eventually, we were the only remaining  guests, and the restaurant workers settled down across the room from us with a Saz and some hand drums and wooden spoons. They played several nice songs while we listened appreciatively.  Then the Saz player- Charlie- asked if we would like to join them! Though I have a little experience with hand drums, it can be intimidating to play songs you don’t know with people you’ve just met.  All the same, I happily took the offered Dumbek and settled on a pillow across from the Saz player.  Maree took a shaker. We played some songs  with them and after a few minutes of loosening up we even sounded somewhat good.  Certainly nothing to go on the road with, but also nothing to make a musician’s ears bleed.

I have to say, music is a wonderful thing.  It can bridge cultures in an instant.  It is a way to bond with friends and strangers and not a word needs to be uttered.  It inspires both unity and humanity; creativity, originality, and connection.  And it’s just plain fun!

I don’t know what travel tips to offer from this experience.  This was one of those lucky moments that can’t be planned for, trained for, or scheduled. They can only be hoped for.  The moments when you can bond with strangers, not as travelers or hosts, but as equals finding themselves in the same place at the same time and sharing a brief moment of simple happiness. I can only hope that you can find these moments too, when you’re traveling and even when you aren’t.

Much Love,

~Aeri