Monday, 2 June 2014

Sorry for the sparse entries - the thing is, almost everything I write about my daily shenanigans makes for a settling material for the new novel, with a touch of the surreal. If I keep the surreal bit and post anyways, this will make me sound even more like a crazy lady - whereas if I censor out the coo coo bits, the text feels less honest.

Here, I'll show you:

There's a character I am deeply in awe of; I’ve met him a hundred times and he never liked me once. His name is Snufkin; he is a natural born drifter. I have been fond of him from day one. This is a regular occurrence with me - I get impressed by the people who do something that I like to do better. Later they turn out to be just normal folk with too many issues to be looked up to and I move on. But sometimes they don't talk, just act and I stay in love with them for ages.
Drifting is a state of mind you can't be forced into. You either homey to it or you don't. That's like vegan food. You either love it or you just tell people you love it and then go berserk when someone passes you on the street, eating a cheeseburger. You can't drift with burden. You can't drift with anchor. There can't be a cushy real estate you can always crawl back to and lick your wounds whenever it suddenly gets uncomfy. This isn’t Bruce Wayne playing a hermit in some Tibetan friary. Then you're just a tourist. Nothing wrong with being a tourist, but a tourist travels with spare high heel pumps and half a dozen bras and multi-coloured pens to write postcards to loveys with.
While banished to Vos Square, I had to drift, because I was forced to - even though I liked it and wasn't thinking about finding a way home at the time. To me that was an adventure. I didn’t feel punished or lost. (Subconscious proof of that was the fact I actually walked an ever broadening spiral around it.) Of course being fatalistic is a sign of a mental breakdown, that much about that, but the second time around, in the year 4012, I was less careless and a lot quieter. Neither of it was drifting. Drifting is like lesbian sex- you have to understand what it is that you like about yourself to able to fully commit to it. Because nothing will move or happen without you instigating it. Nobody will speak to you unless you come close enough. And nobody will inspire you to love life unless you pull your head out of your arse, stop weeping over the things you left behind and whining about the weather.
In crime novels by some Lee Child dude, a character by the name of Jack Reacher makes an art out of rootlessness, though for him that is armour, a soldier's strategy rather than a state of mind. The only thing he possesses is a bank account, everything else is fleeting. Imagine how many clothes one changes this way, how many rooms, how many transports. While I am in deep admiration of such a lifestyle, this is coming from a person that buys three extra pairs of shoes she likes, just so that when she wears one pair off (and I do), I am be able to continue with the exact same model. Novelty freaks me out. If I could have it my way, I would only own one of each clothing items and for always. But the way I move, you can't not ruin things over wear. I'd wear out a tank in a third of a decade. 
Snufkin has a hat he is semi-permanently attached to, he has his tea pot, his shoes, backpack, his harmonica and pipe... He tends to love the memory of things more than things themselves. He’s famous for it. Can you imagine how impossible such attitude is towards someone with a zodiac sign of cancer in ascend? I am virtually a hoarder. Ariel from the Little Mermaid with her cave could take lessons from me. Oh, I can travel for a very long time with very, very little, but everything I find that I feel a connection to, from rose-like fossil rocks to cars people give me half broken, I ship home. A little, a little better my attempt at drifting became, when I just started photographing things as opposed to keeping them. But that doesn't go for books. And it cannot go for people. 
On one occasion Snufkin and I were cotting in the woods, in the rain, in his tiny tent, we took a long hard look at all my luggage. It started with trying to dry some of my clothes and turned into an inventory inspection. 
Here's what that looked like: two people with wet hair in t-shirts, boxer shorts and moist socks looking at: three of my undies and a drying bra, two extra pairs of socks, both smelly; another t-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a pulli, windbreaker and a very warm sort of undershirt I got from the army in case some high altitude mountain climbing had to be done. Tights of the same purpose, shorts that also dubbed as swimming trunks and long linen sturdy tactical pants for all kinds of adventure. Most of this was either in turquoise or olive green. Also a scarf, woolly cap, gloves and a bandage that I wrapped around my calf and put my passport or money in, should I be traveling with any of it. Next, there was my camera with an extra battery, its charger, memory card, cleaning set and an extra protection baggie. My travel journal (not small) and some pens and a traveling set of watercolours (very small). An iPod, and iPad and their charger, a phone and its charger, a Mag flashlight, tactical pocket knife, a small sword (tanto) and a pipe with the cleaning set and a tobacco pouch. Chocolate aroma. There was the grooming purse with my tooth and hairbrush, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, toothpaste, nail clipper, nail polish, skin cream, razor and a handful of band aids. Also some condoms, but not for sex (they can be very handy if you get lost in the desert and need to carry water around.) Raspberry flavoured. Some spare scrunchies. Good thing I don't use make-up. (We both agreed I am most beautiful when completely without make-up, because I have lovely freckly skin and full lips and pale green eyes and my face is perfectly oval.) And a buff scarf. Also a pad, sleeping bag and my camel wool cloak that I used as a blanket or a pillow and an improvised pillow case for it. In the end, there were a handful of books I've stolen, some postcards or pamphlets memorabilia and a Tupperware box of trinkets and trifles I found along the way. One or two pieces of cheap jewellery I would trade for a ride if someone demanded to be paid and I was in need of transport. 
Snufkin had to admit that all of these items served an important purpose and, down to my iron cup for warming noodle soups and my belt and water flask, all of it was extremely practical. He frowned and muttered: "I don't see an inflatable dinghy or a hot air balloon anywhere. Other than that, you have everything."
My backpack Kingdom weighed 40 pounds without the extra handful of food and water. That is a fourth of my weight on my lazy days and a third on my athletic days. If someone gave me a bag of apples as a gift, I would cry. Pretty much all I can think about while travelling is investing in a tiny cart.
So we set to removing half of all my earthly possessions like we mean it. (Some he would keep, some we would toss and some were shipped home with the next mail pigeon. Gargoyle.)
First thing to go was my short sword and the iPad. He said that if I needed to submit reports, I can do drafts in my paper pad and retype them in public libraries, and Plants Vs.Zombies can wait. Also the iPod - regardless of my addiction to pompous soundtrack music, the time spent listening to it would be better spent listening to nature, reading books (on rides) or singing to myself. (As opposed to talking to myself, which tends to worry people.) And their chargers. Also my phone. What sense is it to drift if you can be found at any moment by any stranger with sloppy dialling thumbs.
Next thing would be half of the clothes. He made me keep only one pair of socks, which we put into the boots and told me to walk in my flippy floppies always, unless it's too cold or too rocky. To wear undergarments if I must, but instead of three pairs of pants to use the scarf as a skirt. The long sleeve shirt is best, as it serves most purpose and instead of the windbreaker, I can wrap myself into my woolly cloak. In case of rain a large garbage bag will suit me. Shampoo, conditioner and the shower gel are completely superfluous. A little piece of soap can serve for the hairy bits and the head hair will be a lot happier of I don't use product on it. 
I may keep the watercolour set, but only one other pen - one that it will be easiest to maintain. None of the books and none of the memorabilia. Never memorabilia. And no spare battery or memory card for the camera. When it runs out, I should charge it. If it fills up, I should load it onto a CD in any internet cafe and ship it home. And also, a hairbrush is needless. I will look great with natural dreadlocks. Though I refused to cut my hair as short as he did it. I just braid it comfortably.
Sleeping bag... Well.. I have never gotten as hardcore as to be able to endure any old weather, so in theory in warm climate sleeping with just my woolly blankie cloak should suffice, but he had a tent and I didn't and he liked to make campfires and I didn't. Neither of us had much notion of time, although I knew the name of constellations and stars and he just liked him. I showed him which star I purchased for the General at the StarRegistry and he showed me which one he followed to Moomin Valley. I thought about discarding my iron cup, but after I rid myself of most Tupperware, that was the best place to keep small items. He said I don't like to cook my food anyways, so I needn't a cooking pot, but I did like my coffee wherever I could find it and sometimes a hot tea just makes your day. 
If I felt more comfortable showing my skin and my tattoos - it's not that I am embarrassed or shy or anything, I just think there is a time and a place to show your naked back, like in a tent in the middle of the forest in the rain at night when you're with a guy you fancy, or, say, a hammam, not so much in the street or public places or while hitchhiking - I would only ever wear three scarves: a thick long one for a skirt, a smaller, thinner one for a shirt and a cool fancy one for a headdress to protect my hair from dirty bus seats or my head from sun and wind. Granted, this would make me slightly easier pray to sexual predators, but that is where tanto came handy. Right, which I had to discard because weapons invite violence. Snufkin had a stick for sticky encounters. In a tight spot a Mag light could be used as a weapon, too. But he made me abandon that one, also. It weights a pound alone.
We agreed that when lost or stuck indoors, I could always prolong the exposure on my camera greatly and then see what it recorded. I did this once in an Egyptian tomb. I only recorded a lot of ugly tight colon-like mud tunnels and a shitload of guano. We agreed I need a smaller camera. Traveling with my professional camera was neither practical nor wise. It’s never a good idea to keep treasure you will need later, when the fun stops and you need to resume your day job. There are a lot smaller ones that serve the purpose just as sweetly. Also, a lot smaller journal. Mine was practically the size of a tent. 
When we got rid of all the things that I would rarely need, we put out all the things that remained and did all of that again. Cut it all in half. In the end I was left with only bare necessities, wearing the only clothes I had and carrying only the things I needed for the sake of my sanity. My luggage weighed 5 pounds. With the apples. Now, said Snufkin. Now you are a drifter. Now go.
                I started walking, so light and so frightened that I was trembling nervously with every step, in the middle of the forest. I walked with a stick just to feel a little safer. I collected pinecones to feel like I had my pockets full. When people looked at me, Ii felt exposed and wary. I didn't want to be talked to. It was days before I dared pull out the camera to draw attention by photographing strangers. Even then I started with landscape and the unavoidable sheep. I slept out in the open when it was clear and found shelter when it was wet. I hitched rides carefully, even more carefully that I otherwise did. Confrontations I avoided like the plague. Me. Who challenge everything and everyone to get the story. (I think everyone has a great story if you ask the question right.) I got food from late eve markets or early morning bakeries. I wrote emails from public libraries of internet cafes to let people know where I was, how I was and where I was heading... But this also I stopped after a while, limiting my check-ins to polite reminders I still exist. I started traveling faster and further when I felt like it, from Scandinavia to Greece, from Egypt to Asia, staying longer and more anonymously when I felt like that. The weirdest thing was that no matter how detached from rules and expectations I was, sex stopped appealing to me, even though people always think that hitchhiking is basically porn, and that when someone invites you home for a shower and a dinner, this will always, without exception, inevitably result in carnal ramification.
Oddly, not at all. There was some flirting and some happy moments on my own on lovely beaches or mountain tops, but other than that, all my lust and fantasies poured into letters, which I wrote on paper and mailed with stamps on them, hardly expecting to read the replies until some day I returned home to, well.. switch the drifting off. Arrest it, before it becomes an addiction.
When my shoes or clothes wore off beyond repair, there was almost always a way to replace them - people either gave or sold me their own (rarely I shopped and even more rarely I stole, even from annoying tourists or even more annoying, hustling, greedy shopkeepers.) People who picked me up often gave me food or clothing or some cash and sometimes I drew street portraits, translated stuff or taught English in third world country schools to earn museum or ferry fees. I always kept the books I found in cottages or waiting rooms, mailing them home after I was done reading them. (Is how I came across Jack Reacher.) Snuf was right about my hair, too. It took me about a week to untangle it, but it genuinely improved. I began to view hair products as acid. 
                I never once added weight to my burden - quite the opposite, and I never - which was the truly curious part, never switched between the Reality and the stories. Not even if people told me very strange things that I was tempted to research on my own or I got turned on by a promise of some wisdom or some mystical viewpoint of a scene long lost in time.  I remained haunted by the conversation we had with Anne: ”Where is midway?" "Wherever I am.", so much so that I slowly stopped taking photographs and every moment that overwhelmed me, which would make for an excellent tale of high moral or woe, was labelled: mine. Every exotic face, every promising road, every sunrise, all the food. Mine. Mine to appreciate and mine to remember or forget. Not a thing anymore, as soon as a swallow or a blink destroyed it, but a memory of a thing.
My bag was getting lighter and my feet were getting heavier. A year or so passed, perhaps. The radical moment occurred when my backpack got home without me, for I only needed a small duffel bag and a small pouch. I had outrun the seasons. But I was getting bored. The best part about drifting, taught Snuf, was that you can put it off and picks it up again whenever. It must never become neither drain nor a draw. It has to be the abandonment of the magnificent things this world lures you into stillness with. The more freedom you have, the less you fear. When the freedom and fearlessness are absolute it’s time to take a break and return to timetables and taxes and vexes of a relentlessly inspiring city.