Words guide us where our hearts want to go
And when our minds think they know.
Write a poem today.
Or a haiku.
Or a rap song.
Or a text message.
Or the next great novel.
Write a love letter.
Or a song.
Or a blurb.
Or a blog.
Start with a word, or two
Disappear in your words, get lost
And before you know it -
Yours and your muse's paths will cross.
"One step is all it takes."
But then, what is -
...One step to a deer when the hunter is nearby eyeing his prize?
...One step for a baby when his beaming parents are cheering on?
...One step for a soldier as he walks through a mine field?
...One step for a bride when she walks down the altar?
...One step to a woman after her rapist left her in bed?
...One step to a father when he faces his young child in the morgue?
They said one step is all it takes.
It has been two weeks since I had written here.
Two weeks of disconnect. Two weeks of intermission. Two weeks of disappearance.
My daily blog was suddenly interrupted by a lack of internet connection, and then by a lack of willingness to go within. Or rather - to share outward what was happening in me.
Lastly, I wrote about a journey.
And boy was I in the midst of a journey... and sometimes the journey takes a step sideways in order to open the door we must walk through.
And now in plain English: Taking this break from my daily blog - though unintentional at first and experimental later - made me realize that to be happy, I must connect to myself first and foremost.
So what did I do the last two weeks, you wonder?
Well, I had experiences for miles, visited medieval towns, castles and churches galore, enjoyed new foods and even learned to cook like an Italian wizard. I spent time with family which was both heartwarming and aggravating, and added a million photos to my memory book. But with all that I had visited: there was one place I neglected: the visit into myself.
Through this unintentional-turned-intentional intermission - I learned that connecting to myself through writing and also through mindset focused bodywork (be it yoga, The Class workout or good ole' meditation) is essential to my happiness, to my well being, to my sense of feeling alive.
Some people are adrenaline junkie. Me? I am a connecting-to-self junkie.
Neglecting my writing was neglecting my connection to myself, and the consequences revealed themselves to me through a lack of patience, tightness in the body, and my resistance to others. I learned I am more open to embrace others when my SELF is embraced first and foremost.
How do YOU connect to yourself?
Feel grounded, calm, happy?
Able to see the world openly because your inner world is seen first?
How do YOU self care, self connect, self KNOW?
~Know thyself, and the rest will follow. ~
It is my birthday today.
Not by chance this message rings loud and true.
Not by a random stroke of insight.
Not at all.
It is my SELF reminding me that it needs to be held close and tight, just like it was in the womb oh some moons ago.
~Happy Birth Day To My Self~
We wake up in Portugal, and go to sleep in Italy.
Two dream lands. Two cultures that combine the old and the new, the world of yesterday and the world of tomorrow, the ancient and the modern.
We wake up with the rain and we go to sleep with clear skies. We wake up with the sunrise and go to sleep with the sunset. (Well, we wake up well past the sunrise and go to sleep well past the sunset, but ya get the poetry, right?)
A day of travel is a day when the journey is put on a microscope: we go from point A to point Z and so many variables happen on route. And today - so many variables happened that the day felt like an Italian comedy of horrors!
But this is the way of the world.
This is the way of the traveller.
This is how a trip becomes a JOURNEY: it has it ALL in it.
The drama, the stress, the wonder, the magic, the curiosity, the connection, the love, the hate, the boredom, the excitement, the life, the death, and the journey that happens between.
*An act of traveling from one place to another.
*A long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
When I thought of this trip as a journey, I didn't know what it would entail.
And now looking at the definition, it seems to be a fitting title to the streak of uncertainties and difficulties I have encountered on this trip. Possibly more mishaps than any other trip I've taken, and that includes being "stranded" in the French Alps when a volcano eruption in Iceland blocked all air travel above Europe. (I STILL have no idea how that happened.)
So now I know that journeys are not 'vacations.' And they are not just 'trips.'
They are processes of development and growth and may involve growing pains along their path. And the pains may be stressful as hell and uncomfortable to chew on - but they lead somewhere. They lead to something. What it is - is still unknown to me... but I am on the journey so I will eventually find out.
Off I go... Journey on.
The middle of the journey. Or is it only the beginning, I wonder?
It is day 8 and it is a day of discovery:
We wake up in a simple hotel in between places. A road hotel that has everything we need: A bed for the night, parking, wifi that works, water to bathe in. Sure, it's NOT stylish. But it's clean and cheap - so it is our favorite home away from home for the time being.
We continue with a short drive to the nearby beach area: Matosinhos. We don't love it and continue swiftly to a town we DO know we love: Aveiro; the "Venice" of Portugal.
Aveiro is a small town on the central/north coast, that has canals and plenty of great seafood. It is Sunday so most of the shops were closed, but the restaurants were packed with hungry tourists. We take a stroll in the pretty alleyways and streets, until we find ourself looking at each other and knowing: we have had enough here in Aveiro.
We continue to the beachside neighborhood of Costa Nova, where every color striped house is an opportunity for an Instagrams photo. We do what we came here to do - which is, let's face it, take some instagram worthy photos of the funky architecture and beaches - and once again agree: it's time to move on from here.
And then we get to the biggest discovery of the day: The city of Coimbra.
Coimbra is the oldest city of Portugal. And it has the second oldest university in the world. But other than those two impressive facts - Coimbra is designed like a beautiful symbiotic relationship between the old and the new.
One moment after passing by the chain store 'Alle Hop', we stumble into one of the city's oldest church when a sermon or mass take place. I am blown away, when the crowd at this glamorous catholic church - joins in prayer/song, and the sounds echo up to the ceiling. Goose bumps. tears. I am moved by a language I don't know at all.
I discover that one doesn't have to be catholic, or even spiritual, to enjoy sensorial communion in a beautiful church.
I discover that a journey doesn't have a middle. Nor does it have a beginning. Or an end. It is infinite. Infintie, like the number 8.
A journey contains everything; The good, the bad, the vast world in between.
I am walking the streets of Porto like I am the rabbit from 'Alice in Wonderland' hopping around breathless, muttering to myself 'I am late! I am late! I am late!'
A journey is anything but peaceful when stress and rage accompany it.
But traveling during Covid era holds an array of uncertainties, and I find myself digging deep in the rabbit hole of uncertainties: 'What if I get Covid? What if I can't get on the flight to Italy? What will they do - put me in some sad lonely hotel room?? What will I eat? What this, what that....' The panic is understandable. After all, there is a risk in travel during this insane time, but if I made it thus far - why do I wrap my brain around what could happen, rather then be with what IS happening?
And what IS happenning is that I am here, in this magical country of sweet as Pastel De Nata people, countless castles and palaces and history, Fado music for days, and my sweetheart by my side. Why worry.
Day 6 already? How!?
Time flies when on a journey. Time shifts, and curls, and bends, and warps and tickles. Time seizes to matter. Time doesn't matter. Time ISN'T matter. EXCEPT for when one is in longing. And Portugal is all about longing. Longing and inspiration.
The day's journey begins in a wander around town. Discovering alleyways, checking out shops with local designers, eating Pastel De Nata, drinking cappucino overlooking a pretty church. The day's journey continues with a walk across the bridge enjoying the sun who had come out for us, and then hopping on a boat ride in the Douro River, heading almost to the sea before turning around. The day ends with fish & seafood dinner at a Ribeira hot spot, listening to a sax player playing his heart out, and drinking the local cocktail: white port with tonic water. With our bellies full and smiles wide -- we dance a little dance while the sax player is playing 'three little birds.' We sing the words 'Don't worry 'bout a thing. Every little thing is gonna be all right....' and for a moment - it really is all right.
Every little thing is all right.
Seeing people with masks on keeping their distance (a reminder of the era) is all right. Even staying at a hotel room with sewage problems (don't ask) is all right. Traveling during a global pandemic, despite the hassles and fears -- is alllll right.
I am in Porto and all I want is to STAY LONGER.
I am in Porto and all I am thinking about is when will I return? Find a little flat for myself. Settle for longer than a few days. Long enough to feel like a local. To make memories from the small things, not the tourist things. A walk to the park, finding my favorite grocery store, making friends. There is a difference when you get to know a place from the INSIDE.
But now, alas, I am still an outsider to this magical city.
The city is small, but its people are deep, sophisticated, sweet and feisty at once.
They are much like the wine they drink: the Port wine. Very sweet, and very strong.
Fado music is also very deep and melancholic, yet very moving and gentle.
It sings about love lost, fishermen gone, failures and longing.
As an outsider, one still learns about a city: its' pace, its' cuisine, its' climate. One can also make friends with friendly Portuguese people who are eager to share stories about their culture. They tell me of the oldest town up north. They tell me of the feud between the north and the south, they tell me of the foods I must try and the foods I must NOT try. They tell me where to go and what to do, and I nod, and listen, and imagine their dinners at their kitchen table, their families, their school days. I try to see beyond our exchange of tourist and guide. I try to see beyond what separates us.
But being an outsider can only be shaken by being an insider. Even if only for a short time.
To really feel like a part of this city. Like I am inside its invisible city walls, and not just behind the door, peeking in, waiting to be let in.
~Oh, Porto. How I long to be held by you, embraced as an insider. Even if only for a moment... ~
How many palaces have you been to today?
And what about castles? And chapels? And monasteries?
In Sintra -- you get to see so many of them, you find yourself imagining fairies on the side of the road, and wizards and unicorn and whatever floats your imagination boat.
Sintra is dreamy and takes me right into my alter-ego inner queen.
We spend the day in a palace. What else.
Inside the palace, the halls are magnificent, as expected, and we enjoy it almost completely alone. One of the perks of traveling in this tricky era. But when we walk through the palace's gardens, is when we see the true royalty of this place: the fern gardens, indigenous trees, roses, oak trees, moss EVERYWHERE, even unusual kinds of Mexican cacti. I start thinking that the palace is actually the sidekick to this majestic natural beauty. Just then - I notice a grand tree. One that is split into several seating areas. I climb right up and sit on it. This tree is embracing and elegant. For a moment, sitting on this tree, I am wearing an invisible crown and sitting on a throne. The structure nearby, the "palace" is not needed as much as I am concerned. If I was the queen here, I will let nature be my ruler.
Reluctant to leave, we take the longer route out the palace, to enjoy the gardens some more. We conveniently get 'lost' in the gardens. Being in their presence is nearly a mystical experience. At least to an atheist such as moi.
Out of the palace, at nightfall -- I am a civilian again. Simply one of the people.
And the surrounding forest is still my guide, my ruler, my queen. We are often mistaken in who runs things. We think it's us. With our advancements, our technology, our brains... but it's not us at all. It's her. Mother earth.
She rules here.
So take a walk in a forest - find yourself in a palace. :)
In April 2020, while experiencing her first ever global pandemic, Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog to keep her creative writing wheels rolling.
Header Art: Daniel Landerman