This recent immersion, alone in four different cities, feels so far away from the rain forest and the cloud forest that had been home for three weeks. Those three weeks culminating in a week in the deepest forest where in an island of vibrant green we sang our songs. That less than two weeks and four hotel rooms ago but now the ‘song viruses’ that were so plangent at he point of departure begin to recede. No longer do i waken to the inner sounds and commotions of riding my chariot in the morning lord. Confusingly today i woke to the strains of a Taaffe song ‘To the Hills’ that we did not sing at all this time around, but which by some miraculous circular process was released from my hippocampus. I found it on Youtube and it caught me right at the back oft the throat. In the same way no longer do i awaken to the low frequency tremors set off by the howlers in search of their mates who may stand mute, or to the demented parrot, or the incessant scraping of the gravel so beloved by the Godless Garden staff. Even that enervating sound you can miss, in time.
In my minds eye I take the dawn walk to that grey barren beach, host to the four species of heron and the mighty pelican fly-by, the lesser- spotted Taaffe intently peering up the trees while Joy the dolphin plungers through the atlantic breakers, freshly arrived from the coral reef. After a shower we take the walk up that freshly brushed gravel path past the purposeless less peacock and its friend the hen to the fork in the road between the food and the song. This morning’s second song virus was Brendan’s ‘May it Fill your Soul’, a song which lurked in our goddess folders but never made it to to larynx nor even to the soft palette. And so the dance goes on. And none dispute the desert of a life lived without love.
Since the sequential peeling off of our group from the interior of Mario’s splendid bus I have been alone and bathed in ordinariness. I am saturated in the detritus of the everyday. And it is someone else’s everyday. Here in Medellin residential towers, packed dangerously close to each other, creep up the mountainside, redolent of Hong Kong as the mist clings to the summit edge. This Andean spectacle is ordinary to those now around me – but is it? How can i possibly hope to penetrate their knowing – why would i wish to? Perhaps best stay in my room and read. Once more. This altitude caper makes me feel Methuselah old.
Meanwhile when out and about walking the streets i find myself playing the comparison game. The unavoidable comparison game that makes Bogota the Hanoi to the Saigon that is Medellin, only without the water but with mountains as substitute. No Medellin is definitely Hong Kong no question. Panama City a scruffy Dubai with the uneasy relationship between new and old, between the have and have nots, but still the towers scrape the sky amid the heat in the same way.
‘Which do you prefer?’ they ask ‘The Pacific or the Atlantic?’ i reply ‘The Andes’ hoping that the question will go away. In my heart I know the answer is the Atlantic; how could it be other? By that ocean was I born and there i return time after time to the Atlantic spume. In that way the comparison to different faces and moods of the Atlantic is possible in a way that my Pacific or South China Sea experience can ever be. The five years in Cape Town where two oceans meet allowed direct everyday comparison though somehow i always clung for comfort to the Atlantic side.
It would seem in the explorations outside of our everyday that we seek points of comparison, points order to make some sort of sense of this overwhelming calamity that is someone else’s habitus. The guidebook chides ‘you to go the must see! you must not miss! the cool people head to’ without suggesting the places where local tedium is best absorbed. Bogota is smart: it concentrates all of its memorable edificios and museo and galleria and bibliotech within a half mile radius of each other. Similar to London or even Paris.
It is possible to walk among all of those buildings, to feel you might know those figures from long ago, both famous and ordinary, and to walk in the footsteps, to follow that shadow .. but there it is, that comparison game again. Would it help to have brought with me one of the Cahuita Park guides to be my Crocodile Dundee, to try to make sense of this urban jungle and the creatures that hide within it? At least we cold have shared our confusion as we struggle to compare nuances of language, differences in currency and differences in material value, the McDonald’s index swinging wildly between countries.
I find myself tracing the Bruce Chatwin muse, ‘What am I doing here?’ In Cahuita we had a narrative, a waiting for the singing, a singing the singing, returning from our bliss. Here i meet some folk but mostly just here, waiting for the ordinary to come to me in miraculous manifestation.