Category: Colombia, 2016

Between Trips, a Warm-up for Colombia

You probably wonder what the hell Carol and I do between trips. Answer: we take trips. For example, between our trip to Ecuador in June and the first of October, we were with our whole family in Grand Cayman over the Fourth for the third year in a row, we went up to Milwaukee to see the Cubs play, visit the Kohler Art Center and spend time with cousins, took two granddaughters to see six shows at The Ohio Light Opera Festival in Wooster, OH and then drove to Toledo for a Toledo Mudhens baseball game, spent a long weekend of opera and friends in Santa Fe, went to DC to spend Rosh Hashanah with Jodi and family, spent a few days in New York seeing a friend receive a prestigious humanitarian award and see some plays and museums and went to Atlanta to visit Wendy and family to see Maxi turn three. Other than that, we just hung around home.
One of the shows we saw at The Ohio Light Opera Festival, Brigadoon, made me think about travel. For those who don’t know the story, two American men traveling to Scotland get lost and come upon Brigadoon, a magical place that appears, emerging from the mist, for one day every one hundred years. They are captivated by the place, it’s history (legends) and the people. One of the men almost decides not to go back to America.
Watching Brigadoon, it occurred to me that when we travel, in a way, we are always hoping to find Brigadoon, to find a place that, if not magical, will at least stretch our imaginations, introduce us to places, experiences, people and cultures that show us another way to live. On some of these trips, we may even think, “wouldn’t it be nice to live here?” But, however tempting, most of us come back.
I say most of us, because in July, we reconnected by email with somebody we’d lost touch with for many years, (I’ll call her Zora or Z, to preserve her anonymity). Zora and her husband, who I’ll call Ronaldo or R, were artists, and free spirits, “sixties people” with whom we became friendly because of their art work. Z tapestry wove distinctive, primitive figures of wool and silk. R carved wooden masks which were part of the figures. We found that these figures had a strong, spiritual quality that we Iiked and over the years, we acquired half a dozen of them and became friends of Z and R. Here is a poor photo of one of the figures. 
Some 25 or more years ago, Z and R traveled to Turkey to look for for hand-spun, hand-dyed wools and silks from Bursa, each taking a backpack with them. They fell in love with Turkey, made a crash visit back to the U.S. to sell their home in Marin County and clear it of twenty years of valuables and detritus, and bought a house in Turkey, where they raised their own food and geese and donkeys, and continued to create figures. We stayed loosely in touch with them for many years, but lost contact when Ronaldo died, some years ago. Zora stayed on in Turkey and we reconnected with her by email last July through a friend of hers who she put in touch with us.
Since August, Zora and I have conducted a robust email correspondence. I’ve marveled at the different paths our lives have taken, neither one of us able to imagine living the life the other has chosen. Z continues to live in her Brigadoon, her nearest neighbor who is not very near, fortunately, as Zora has said, is a reclusive musician from Istanbul. Here’s an excerpt from one of her emails that illustrates the life she lives:
Right now we are in the middle of olive harvesting. I still have liters of our own organic olive oil left from last year but we can’t let the harvest go to waste….and friends and neighbors all still help each other so it’s a kind of Amish family feeling most days….which I love participating in…and we have more than 30 gorgeous old olive trees full of these shiny fruits…many buckets are filled everyday….then put in huge bags the size of me to be carted away to the olive presses in Milas……the big perfect ones are separated out for curing…I have seven jars going right now….adding as we go along.

At the end of olive season, an itinerant soap maker visits all the villages like ours, and each family gives him the dregs left over from the pressing to make the years olive oil soap!! Stunning work brought into the twenty-first century intact and relevant and full of cooperation ! The olive presses don’t charge money , by the way, for their services…another tradition still going today,……they take 10% of the olives, and give you the rest as oil! Time to go. Await next lively conversation!, with love
Despite our different paths, I sense that Zora, Carol and I still have a good deal in common. We’ve just made different choices.
Part of my correspondence with Zora has dealt with concepts of change, of “progress” and with things or places having been “spoiled.” Z seems to have a rather absolutist view of what is spoiled, something greater replaced by something lesser.  
I wrote Zora that I thought that for most of us, what’s spoiled depends on when we first encountered it, the longer ago, the more likely that it’s spoiled. I opt for a more relativistic view of spoiled.
There are many things that others would consider progress that I do not. But that “progress” has not spoiled a thing or experience for me. And I gave Z this example:
Let me take what may seem to you like a trivial matter, but I assure you it is not. (To me, anyway; I guess trivial may be in the eye of the beholder, as well.). Wrigley Field, where the Cubs play, is a classic and beautiful old ballpark. There are pressures every year to make changes to the ballpark, the common element to each change being that it will create more revenue for the owners. This year, they’ve constructed a huge, electronic scoreboard, not markedly different than those that every other major league team has. The scoreboard is way out of proportion to, and does not fit the feel of, the rest of the park. I do not like it. At all. Before it was built I was convinced that the scoreboard would ruin (spoil) the experience of going to Wrigley Field for me, so much so that I would not go to games there.
But I was wrong. I hate the scoreboard, as I was sure I would. But the (real) grass is still green, there’s ivy on the brick walls, my favorite beer vendor still sells me beer and stops to chat, there’s a beauty and grace to the game, the crack of the bat still excites, memories of 65 years of seeing games there flood back, the crowd is a community–and I could go on. But the “progress” of a big electronic scoreboard has not spoiled the Wrigley Field experience for me.
I’ve accepted the inevitability of “progress” that is going to “spoil” things, and try to enjoy the benefits of that “progress” and the unspoiled residue. I know that for me to see an “unspoiled” area may be denying the residents of that area the benefits of being “spoiled,” and I don’t feel I have the right to expect that. In any case, I’m hoping to find a good deal of unspoiled residue in Colombia.


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