A.muse #31 | This is Why We Travel

•August 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is why we need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon; our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in a routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we have lost our dreams in order to protect our days.

Don’t let yourself become one of these people. The fear of the unknown and the lure of the comfortable will conspire to keep you from taking the chances the traveler has to take. But if you take them, you will never regret your choice.

-Kent Nerbum, Letters to My Son


a.Muse #30 | Nice Eyes

•August 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My friend rode camels through the Moroccan desert. She spent hours watching the moon rise against the dark speckled sky, and as it got cold she dug her feet into the sand to feel the warmth of the day. She talked with Berbers in their broken English. Berbers, men who make their home in the desert. It all reminded me of a book I once loved.

In the emptiness of the desert she felt disconnected. Except when the Berbers were texting. Then it was hard to pretend.

One of them asked for her number, but she made up an excuse. Something clever about not having a phone.

What would they have to talk about? She imagined his side of the conversation, Today I traveled through the desert…fed the camels…set up tents. Not much to relate to she said.

I asked if he was cute. She shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t know. She left it at that.

I was confused and my expression said so.

She said she couldn’t see anything else through the turbin and a veil and the cloak.

Well I suppose I hadn’t thought of that.

But he had nice eyes, she offered.

I suppose he did.

I liked her story. It had a familiar line, but an entirely different context.

a.Muse #29 | A Mind of their Own

•July 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Memories have a mind of their own. Like half-remembered dreams they catch you mid-sentence and linger. Just long enough to give you the feeling of whatever that memory held.

The feeling, that exact feeling of how you felt when you were standing there. A thousand miles away and many months ago. I’ve learned that, that, always stays. Even if the details don’t.

There’s a saying. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I think it’s the same for memories.

Here are some recent ones, one by one.

“It’s Edu, not Eduardo.” All six years of him goes senile and gives me a “how dare you” look. When I laugh, he’s not amused. He’s been grumpy ALL day. Because he picked his nose and now noone wants to hold his hand.

My students come up one by one and to give me their goodbye cards. Various versions of “Te quiero” and colored hearts.  Except one special card said “Para Mama.” I laugh, and the teacher says but it’s not for Mama it’s for Christina. “Oh, no?” she says and trots back to her desk. She returns a minute later with the solution.

How many ways can you say “I love you”?  This was a new one for me, and definitely my favorite.


a.Muse #28 | Heart skipped a beat.

•July 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes when the sunlight falls just right, my heart skips a beat. I swear it does.

As though the details look so beautiful my senses are overloaded with the desire to remember. And my heart just can’t process it all.

It happens a lot when I step outside and look at the sky. It’s bluer than any sky I know, and I want to take it home with me.

My heart skips a beat when something ordinary becomes extra-ordinary. As a foreigner you see details in a different light than natives do, because familiarity dulls the senses. An old red wall, a Spanish flag for the World Cup, or an old building whose faded glory beckons the imagination. A little girl in red tights and a jumper and a matching bow.

When the light catches just right, it takes you to a different place.

The ordinary feels comfortable here too. There are lots of people, and footsteps, and conversations. There are restaurants being set up, people selling lottery tickets, and macho men walking purse dogs. But there aren’t any cars or traffic lights in the pedestrian only streets; it’s as though a place like this can’t be bothered by such annoyances.  And these streets…they’re confusingly quiet, as though the sunshine muffles the noise like a blanket.

It all combines to be the perfect backdrop for people watching. A hobby that every foreigner picks up along with the art of listening while sipping a cafe con leche.

If I could say one thing about this year, it would be – my heart skipped a beat. For the beauty that I saw and for the fear that I could have missed it.

A.muse # 27 | A Clean Getaway

•June 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s a weird feeling when a year of your life, and a lifetime worth of memories fit into two suitcases. It feels like an understatement, like I’m trying to make a clean getaway. But that’s the last thing I want to do.

I know I’ll miss it every single day.

“Clean Getaway”

I made my place by the door.
I didn’t know what I was waiting for.
Felt just like home.
Except no grass, no yard, no pictures.

I could see across to the park.
And there were friends, they were laughing hard.
They looked just like my home.
With no face, no name, no voice I’d know.

I finally made it.
I made a clean getaway.
I finally made it.
I made a clean getaway.

I met someone at the bar.
He had a great smile and a great heart.
He felt just like love.
Except no fear of losing, and it wasn’t tough.

I finally made it.
I made a clean getaway.
I finally made it.
I made a clean getaway.
And I miss you,
I miss you every single day.

a.Muse #26 | Why Hello There…

•June 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I love living in the old historic part of town, where the streets are cobblestone and the windows are as tall as doors. If true to form, the windows open up into small terraces about two feet wide.

To an elderly woman, these two feet make all the difference.

These two feet give them them the ability to perch like an eagle and watch the goings on of their world. From the comfort of their home, and in the comfort of their housecoat.

They tend to their nest, which in Andalucía includes the watering of geraniums, the cleaning of terracotta plates, and the dusting of a crucifix. They often hang the laundry over the terrace rail, so as not to waste wall space needed for these trinkets of social status.

Once in a while they´ll even throw down keys or a money purse via string to a neighborhood kid. Who then scampers off to run some sort of errand. This never fails to remind me of Scrooge on Christmas Day.

Before, while, and after these things are being tended to you will hear the old ladies squawking back and forth in their voices aged by smoking. These ladies may be small but they are feisty because as they project their voices across the street and down a block.

My favorite is my neighbor lady who always shouts “Anaaaa! Come to the window.” I hear the immediate opening of the door and the never ending chattering of two voices that couldn’t be bothered to use technology such as a phone.

I´m used to living in a city where it´s constantly noisy, traffic, people partying, and dogs barking. It strikes me rare, and entirely Mediterranean, to live where the noisiest people are elderly ladies. Maybe it´s their deafness, or maybe they´re just making up for all the times when their voices weren´t heard in this chauvinistic society.

Usually their rising and falling voices serve as my morning or siesta wakeup call, but I suppose it’s all just part of the territory. Or should I say, I´m just a part of their territory.


a.Muse #25 | Photographs Years from Now

•June 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As an American in Europe, you learn the snapshots of American culture. The stereotypes become predictable. In order of frequency they include:  hamburgers & fast food, Hannah Montana, Levi’s jeans (except Spaniards they say ‘layvees’), Converse sneakers, The Thriller, LA & NYC as portrayed in films or TV series, Grease,”Single Ladies”, ghetto fabulous rappers, frat parties, Route 66, and the book On the Road.

We always score major points for our entertainment and music industries. I love a lot of our entertainment but it also has the ability to create a desire for something that is not obtainable, or idealize a way of life that in reality is completely unsatisfying. Everyone worries about political power but very few pay attention to the  way we subtly define ideals through our entertainment. Before I lived abroad I had no idea of the power that American entertainment. Now that I am aware, I’m entirely frightened by it.

Anyways it makes me think of some of the things that I love about American culture. This song is one that I’ve been falling in love with again and again. “Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen).”