“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin
I’ve just returned from a whirlwind romance with Europe, visiting five countries and 18 cities in 30 days. I wasn’t with a tour group but with 3 traveling companions, one of whom was on a grant-based mission to tour the castles of Europe.
We traveled by plane, train, bus, ferry, car, taxi and subway, and the wear and tear of the trip happened mostly during those transitions, lugging bags and suitcases up and down hotel stairs and elevators, across cobblestone streets and busy thoroughfares, up narrow escalators and down crowded corridors to throw our luggage through train doors before they closed on us. One terrifying and, in retrospect, hilarious moment I’ll never forget was standing on the platform watching my lone cousin on the train surrounded by all our luggage as the train doors are closing and her husband comes running up behind us shouting that it’s the wrong train.
That “in retrospect” is so important. It’s what filters raw experience into meaningful moments, pushing some moments into the background while highlighting others. It allows us to filter those experiences through our past, to find the similarities and disconnections that help us to place it within a larger context. It allows us to reflect on what was seen and felt in a deeper and more comprehensive way.
Even going through the hundreds of photos I took, deleting the inconsequential and cropping others to highlight and foreground what was seen in a new way, allows me to “resee” what I might have missed in the moment, allows me to re-experience the moment in a new way.
I’m fascinated with how layered, how open to revision, our experiences are. While travelling I had little time to record my thoughts and perceptions, but as soon as I returned home, I began to do that. Here’s what I wrote:
“Currently, as I write this, a day after my return home, I see that month of travel as a huge, largely undigested meal, too rich and powerful to fully absorb, to unravel, to comment upon. I mix metaphors because even how I cannot fully or precisely articulate what I’ve not yet had time to fully grasp.
But I’m looking forward to the time I have now to reflect back upon those raw experiences and to shape it into meaningful expressions, whether through writing, blogging, sketching, painting, poetry. The best is yet to come, I feel, for bringing the past into the present, into a slow-motion re-examination, pulling it under the microscope of the mind, filtering it through past similar memories, or things I’ve read about it, or read afresh, read anew–experiencing it more thoroughly through the lens of history I had not had the time to read in the raw moment . . .
I see this trip as a treasure trove of experience, largely unmined, to draw upon. My life is deeper now, richer, more varied, than before, because of this experience.”
It goes on, much of it rambling, repetitive–the free writing that allows us to get our feelings and perceptions down on paper uncensored.
So while I’m still mining this treasure-trove of experience, or to mix metaphors again, digesting this rich meal, tasting it twice, I’ll leave you with five fleeting moments forever stilled from the five countries we visited.
Detail from Gaudi’s Cathedral, Barcelona, Spain
The Louvre, Paris, France
Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany
Varenna, Lake Como, Italy