“In the mountains of San Gabriel, overlooking the lowland vines and fruit groves, Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage.” – John Muir
A failed rock star first made me really think about them. Until then, they’d just been there, a looming wall of jagged green blocking off the skyline to the north. Silent and a little foreboding, preventing the city’s careless sprawl from creeping any further.
You look out over the island from the top of a cypress-scattered hill, surrounded on every side by crystal blue: an expensive diamond moat, cut especially for you. Your dusty feet dangle off the deckchair in the shade of your bell tent, its khaki canvas swaying in the breeze, a twisted rope of healing crystals hanging gracefully in the doorway.
If you have the patience, you can find almost anything on the market floor at Souk al-Ahad. Hiding beneath pink plastic pianos, among stuffed Hello Kitties, giant soup ladles and mountains of miscellaneous clothing, fading lives are scattered like dice.
Empathy: the intangible architecture that supports our deepest connections; the unseen building blocks that help us to understand the needs, perspectives and motives of others; the ticket for a society racked with hate?
“Are you going to experience Resort Cuba or the Real Cuba?” my friend asked me as I prepared to leave Canada for Havana. “Or the Actual Cuba?” she added, neatly encapsulating the traveller vs tourist debate.
On the east side of Humayun’s tomb, a young European woman in leggings and a black sports t-shirt positions herself so that she is perfectly framed by the 16th century arch behind her. She fixes her hair, lies down on the ground and pushes up into a yoga pose.
Anne Carson once wrote that in order to survive, you needed an edge; in this age, I suspect that a blade might be better. Reading the year’s new clatch of stories about the “real” Gone Girl ... I found myself wishing that men who turned out to be killers and mass manipulators were rare enough that a story about the “real” Gone Guy would catch on.
Around five years ago, I decided to move to Berlin after visiting the city for a weekend and instantly loving it. A sense of freedom was palpable along its wide streets and in the parks where people sat drinking massive bottles of cheap, decent beer.