And so once more it’s really snowing in London. The flurries peek from around the corners and then jolt children’s faces into playgrounds of surprise and exhaltation. Besides the unpoetic sensations the flurries can cause when they catch you cycling or wandering around scarfless, the gentle fall brings everyone a portion of peace and wonder, especially in the largely seasons-free London. On another note, I’m not posting as much these days, as for the past two weeks I’ve been crawling out of a series of colds, which seem to strike back every weekend when I stay out those couple of hours too long. Below you’ll find an interesting animation of snow that I stumbled upon while researching my next topic, an illustrator named Shaun Tan.
Today the city is full of wind and water patterns, slicing up the air and slashing people’s faces as they struggle up the streets as though they had turned into currents to swim up against. Umbrellas swarm the streets like birds, bend and twist, not being able to withstand the forces of the wind, which seem to be playing a game of hit-and-run. The wind strikes you from around the corner, pulls on your umbrella, rearranges your hair, and blinds you with the rain as you turn your face away. It seems as though everyone was taking sailing lessons, stuck under their little umbrellas and desperately trying to navigate the gusts of wind and the geometry of the streets. Though irritating, there is something incredibly attractive in the rain’s calm permanence and force, which doesn’t seem to retire day or night recently.
I’m in Krakow. Everything is frozen and walking in the evenings feels like gliding through a thick mass of a cold white substance. Breathing has become a whole new activity where you have to be careful not to give away too much of yourself to the outside. It’s as though everything has become a whole new game of math: you carefully measure how much warmth inside you need to the next destination and try to foresee how cold your destination may be. It’s constantly taking measurements of temperature, steps, surface slipping risks, and of the ever decreasing range of colors you get to see. Perhaps this is the underlying cause for Christmas lights and the undecided liking for the strangely colored socks and sweaters we all seem to agree to wear at this time of year?
I see the increasing hunger in people’s faces as I ride the tram over the steel gray slopes of the city’s curves. They all rush to shop, to see, to catch the sun, even if all it offers are the white canes of its winter rays. The hunger of warmth and light combines with the implicit requirement for the Christmas joy, which is to be felt despite the biting cold and the sly drafts inside the city walls. Waking up has become a race of its own, with the first thought – how much longer before the sun goes down? Will I have enough time to get dressed; how much time do I have this morning? Lured outside to feed your lungs and eyes, you still get hit at the back of your neck with the cane of cold. ‘Ah, yes,’ we sigh as we breathe out. We stand relieved, fooled again, and still amazed with the small offering of light we all long for.
5:45 this morning I got up to take pictures of the city before the sun set its eyes on it. But, as I waited and felt the shower water slowly leaving my hair, the rain created a persistent pattern across the sky. But what a morning and what a rain – so gray, serene, and permanent it almost makes you want to be in the rain just to experience the permanence of gravity.
Over these years in London I’ve come to draw a certain balance of emotion between the sleep I need to give up on in order to watch the city as it sleeps. This also why getting on those painfully early flights can be so strangely satisfying. The people you see have defined lines, usually either passing, sullen, or simply asleep. And oh, the cigarette smokers and coffee choked addicts you get. It’s a strange moment to look and be, as though you shouldn’t be there, as though it’s a false start, an intrusion on this public moment of privacy.
I’m not sure what percentage of the world’s population lives in urban environments today (you can check out Google, just remember not to be evil), but I’m pretty sure that it’s not only the majority, but that’s it’s still rising. We live in an increasingly crowded and anonymous world where others become like white noise, like the background you wouldn’t really care to inspect. We’re given more and more choice of how to design our social networks and more social tolerance with the way we do so. Our connections are becoming ever more intricate through the development of urban life, the internet, and the wide-spread ease of travel.
Amongst ordinary days, when one really is just a passing grain of the overall texture, there sometimes happen wondrous moments when we discover other people. There is something deeply satisfying about finding a mutual connection with another, a new person. Despite the understood facts of how much we all share though our minds’ wiring, emotions, goals, and troubles, for some reason the discovery of another and the unexpected intimacy of minds can be a delight. The other person becomes real and from that point you can review the background noise of surrounding people as a brain-like buzzing network of internal complexities with mutually reinforcing, snapping connections. In our rather closed-in networks of friends, colleagues, and fellow-students, these unexpected pleasures can let us refresh and rediscover our connection to the rest of the world.
I’m in Krakow. It’s a Sunday morning slowly melting into an afternoon before my eyes. There’s something I can’t ever grasp about the Sunday mornings here. The light seems different, and the people seem more calm and just happy. They all wear their Sunday clothes with pleated dresses and white slippers, as though they were all expecting to rendezvous with the Lord today. I pass the park around the centre and it bursts with families eating ice-cream and chasing their dogs. Even the couples seem different today – from the craziness of Saturday night they’ve moved to strolls, holding hands, and dreams of future families and perfect homes. The market in front of the cafe I’m writing from is buzzing today. Lots of jackets in indescribable colours and local people trying to bargain for another toy for their kid. Oh Sundays. It always feels like you don’t need to be anywhere or with anyone to feel at ease.
Sunday more than any other day is also good for accidental people here. These are random individuals in Krakow I know from somewhere, but never sure from where. This morning as I was approaching the tram stop to get into town I passed a guy, about my age, huge, tattooed from head to toe, and with a pit bull on a ornate leash. ‘Matt’? I asked. Sure enough, we went to primary school together. I attempted to compliment on his dog, but as he tried to snap off my hand, I decided to change the subject. We didn’t end up having that much to talk about as he escorted me to the tram, but nevertheless enjoyed the Sunday exchange of meaningless questions and answers. On a final note, with a sort of a worry in his voice, he confirmed that I wasn’t dating a black man, nodded, and sailed back to his life. Oh Sunday, the things you make us do.
Anyway, I’m here and leaving again in a couple of days. I’m sorting though piles of clothes, electricity converters, letters and photographs. Soon all my folded goods will become my home base with a timer set to unfold in London.
So here I am, opening another chapter in the book of wonder. (You should watch Bjork’s video I posted yesterday if you haven’t done your homework on those yet).
I’m leaving Budapest this morning and although it’s upsetting I feel like it’s just another swerve on the strange sequence of my last few years. We’re slowly approaching the brighter horizon and leaving the dark hours of the sleeping city behind. I passed the corners, the lights, the rain, and the blurry-eyed people on the metro. The dark face of the city only showed a few scars this time, as it always does when you see it at its hour of weakness – when sun doesn’t shine yet and the coffees of the city haven’t brewed long enough to shoo away its crooked expression.
I feel like this year will be a yet another year of changes. Change seems to follow me ever since I’ve left home behind and in the long run it seems to be the only constant in my little life. I’m going home for a few days before I make the bigger move back to London. I felt a tickle of happiness when I saw a little Polish flag and a familiar looking license plate. But today when it’s so much easier to move, what is it that drives us to go home, stay home, or have a home period? Is it the longing for familiarity and belonging? Longing for the meaning we build around our states, objects, and people? It’s amazing how deep the wiring for this goes. I always get so much pleasure out of speaking Polish to shop keepers and little people when I go home, but I’m not sure that this at all shows how much I belong. I feel ever more distance to the idea of belonging to any certain place year after year. I love going home, seeing people, and re-visiting memories, but I can never quite decide if it’s more than a visiting place anymore. I feel more and more comfortable around people who share this confusion of space and decide to re-create themselves and their ‘homes’ outside their birth-place bracket; they have become a sort of a refuge for me. Maybe later on age will bring answers to these questions.