Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Questions of Travel

These beautiful travel photos of Aya Brackett  made me dream of far off places today.

About travel: Something about being a wandering gypsy really appeals to me.  Just being able to live the philosophy of waking up to a new horizon every morning, of swallowing the world whole - that's the way to be! A cage-free existence!

Where's the one place you could travel to right now if you could?

Ever since I read Elizabeth Bishop 's poems about Brazil in college, I've always wanted to go there. At the time, it seemed like the complete opposite of the world I knew.
I fell in love with this poem, in particular, about Bishop's mixed feelings about Brazil and travel, in general.


There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
--For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren't waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there's a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
--Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
--A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
--Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr'dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
--Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds' cages.
--And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians' speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"

(photos via: cup of jo )


  1. I would travel to Egypt or Buenos Aires. I'm just dying to visit both. Great poem. I've been meaning to buy an Elizabeth Bishop anthology...
    XX Kate

  2. I was going to say the island of Salina, but then I read the poem and now I say Home, I think. Not Home forever, but for now. I've just returned Home on Monday, so for now, Home. Yes, Home. For now.

  3. Kate: Egypt and Buenos Aires would be otherworldly wonderful! Definitely someday!

    Denise: I've never heard of Salina - I'll have to check it out. I'm sure it's lovely. Sometimes that poem makes me wonder too - whether I need to be more content with my life today and where I am and what I have around me, rather than stare at the horizon all the time.

    Is that Wizard of Oz quote true, you think? When Dorothy says - if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.

    Do you think that's true?

    And thank you both for your comments! I appreciate them very much.


The exchange of ideas is a key part of the human experience, don't you think? I would love to hear from you.

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