Purnamadah

salvino i piotr

“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” Shirley MacLaine

I went to Carnation. I had to go there. I stood under the shop where four years ago Captain Chicken and Nick Salvino tried to convince me not to go to Fall City. But I did not follow their advice and I went and in very weird circumstances I broke my knee cap. And I still don’t know what would really have happened if I had done what they had asked me to do.

The store was closed. I took a photo, sat on the ground, leaned against the wall and waited. It was hot and windy, completely different from the fall time, when in the thick mist I was wrapping myself in the cobwebs. I fell asleep. I was awakened by a tipsy-looking man. I thought he would know where the Captain Chicken lives. So he did. There was an address on the flyer I had a picture of, but I did not look at it intentionally. I knew that if I was about to find the place, I would find it anyway.

I wandered an hour, maybe two, long enough for any reasonably thinking creature to finally give up, but I am not a reasonably thinking creature, so I was still looking for the place. The funny thing is, that the closer I was to meet Captain Chicken, the more I asked myself: “Why”? What for? Why do I want so much to see him again? I will meet him and then what? What will I tell him? Something like, Do you know that four years ago after our meeting I broke my knee in Fall City? Do you remember how you with your friend tried to convince me not to go there? Do you know that I often thought what would really have happened if I had actually followed your advice and took another way? That I often looked at our photo taken four years ago – with you and me and Nick, and that I tried to get into your eyes? Literally. And you know that in fact I actually came here to do so? I wanted to get into your eyes. It’s not possible? Well, I am just doing it.”

So, I wandered and wandered and could not find it. Once someone said it was two houses away, once that it was closer, once that the house is green, then that it is blue and it can’t be seen from the street. I finally did give up and was cycling back to the town, but suddenly I saw a narrow road going into the forest with two mailboxes close to it and I did not know why but I was sure it was there. And when after a few hundred yards I saw a figure of a wooden man in a hat and a doghouse with a doll inside, then I had no doubt. That was the place.

kapelusz

Nick Salvino recognized me right away, but he seemed somehow frightened. Captain Chicken left the house a moment earlier. He gave me a quick glance, then another, longer and muttered something unintelligibly. The leaves rustled in the light breeze. Something moved in the doghouse. I closed my eyes and jumped. Straight into his pupils. And as I opened it, the Captain had gone. He stayed inside. Inside of me.

– He is tired – said Nick . – Leave him alone, and let’s go back to play with horseshoes.

In a moment I got to know the rules alongside with the players themselves. Captain Chicken had gone and didn’t come back. I joined the party for a while. I don’t know why but I didn’t stay for the night. The most plausible explanation is that nobody suggested it. I was about to say that I came there nearly at the day of my birthday, but somehow I didn’t say more than some silly utterances, and after some time of loitering – I left.

But the birthday was celebrated anyway. The family I met at Nogales were coming back from their holidays from Alaska. We met up in Seattle and they invited me to dinner. A lot of smiles, loads of warmth wards, sharing good energy, with the sea behind the window, and the ocean of memories left behind. Will I have place to put them all when I got silent? Will I ever reciprocate their hospitality? Will I have time to put everything into proper words? Will I be able to express in words what I got from them? A fragment of their lives, a little and tiny very home.

And it was just the beginning. I barely left Seattle, when I met Beth and Ray, who put a birthday candle in a cake for me to blow it up. Then Brain, who gave me a new saddle and invited for fish and chips, then Meilani with her husband who made absolutely delicious pancakes with blueberries for breakfast, and who were about to get to Australia soon for a year or so.

One wish – to be better for the others, to become a better person. Then the world will be better and everything around, too. And to start giving, giving more, taking less, or best – not to take anything anymore, or even refuse. Or take what is offer and then give it away. After all, I have everything, I have more than enough. I have a bicycle; I have the sunset and sunrise almost every day, I have the sky above my head, I have some food and strong legs. Even love goes with me. And when you feel love, you have almost everything. Love. Just a word, but how important, perhaps the most important of all. And yet. It goes, it rises, it hugs me, it rocks me to sleep, touches, whispers. Infinity.

 

Caje Sukarije

rozbitek

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” Anna Quindlen

I was cycling slowly through the park. Rustling leaves hovered in the air somewhere on the edge of the silence and gentle whispers, like the murmur of barely perceived, subtle sounds, audible only inside me. The giant trees grew around, staring at me with their invisible eyes buried among twisted boughs. I was looking at them with my eyes fixed on something lying ahead and I could not escape the feeling that I did not move, but the trees themselves were moving behind me. And I stood still, motionless, as if I had not moved an inch for years, and only the landscape and the sky were going somewhere, going to the place where I was born, where I came from, and the only thing I could do was to stand still, look and wait until everything flowed and there was nothing more than empty, clean, bright sky in which one day I will melt and disappear.

I fell asleep among redwoods, in the silence of the forest, in the darkness of the night, and in the calm of my thoughts. A young guard came in the morning and woke me up, somewhat uncertain what to do, because he took me for a bum who got lost in the grass, and actually the guard wasn’t very mistaken, because in fact, there is very little difference, if any, between me and so many vagabonds I meet on the way.

Funny as it may seem – people in the States (with some exceptions) usually take me as a bum, a professional one; a soret of cyclist, who has neither home nor job nor any prospects of changing his life. I would not have any problems with it (let people think what they want), but that perception has its repercussions in practice.

When I’m looking for a place to sleep in the evenings, people usually greet me with a phrase that resembles Polish “fuck up you dirty bum” (though it is possible to hear also more elaborate and sublime phrases such as “Do not tease my dog because I won’t be able to stop him and he will get you”). I honestly admit that indeed – it was a little frustrating at first because after a year in the countries where people not only willingly allow you to put up your tent in their gardens, but usually invite you for a conversation or even for dinner, I just forgot that not everybody is so cheerful and hospitable as most Latinos.

Surely – I also meet some friendly and hospitable people – so generous, so full of warmth and friendliness, that it seems to be even overwhelming, as it was the case with Marta’s family, where I could take a rest and get a feeling that I found myself at home.

No, I do not blame anybody for anything, and I don’t hold any grudge, far from it. I would even say that I understand those who chase me away from their properties. All in all – they don’t know me, and they want to protect their houses and neighbourhood. And in fact – at the first glance I really look like all those “castaways” I meet. Instead of a car I use the bike, I sleep in a tent, I cycle without a helmet (which seems to be a really distinguishing feature), and I do not wear professional, cycling t-shirts, neither I possess a cult Brooks saddle or even more cult bicycle named Surly. I have a simple bike, even more simple saddle, I collect all plastic bottles and bags, I take coins from the road, in McDonald’s I buy just a coffee, I wash myself in free restrooms, and in the library I do not rent books but I just use free wifi. Finally I often talk to myself and smile a lot. And then I go to pick up wild blackberries.

I have been eating them for a month, putting juicy fruit straight into my mouth, into the palate and the sun and the blue sky under which they grew was pouring inside of me. There are so many of them that I choose only the biggest, the sweetest and the ripest.  

Do you know that there is a separate, scientific study of blackberries named “batology”? It serves “to understand the very complex differentiation of blackberries at the genetic and morphological levels.” So, if there is any batologist among the readers, I have to say that I have no idea how much these California and Oregon blackberries are genetically and morphologically different but they are the tastiest and the sweetest i have ever eaten in mz life. If only I could share their taste with you. But I can’t. It can’t share those blackberries with you. And again that thought – is it possible to share anything at all?

I’m heading north, or maybe I’m not going anywhere, I’m not floating anywhere, neither with the wind nor with myself. I’m just standing there where I am, and the world is fleeing south. The winter is still far away, blackberries grow around me, birds fly in the sky. They hover above, spin in the beat of the trumpet’s sound. I stand in the middle and see how trees approach and whisper, inviting me to dance. They touch me as they turn, attract and tempt until they finally get hold of me, pull me into their dance, faster and faster. I dance.

Yagudky

droga

“I would like to sneak out of the shadow into the shadow following your footprints, and to get as far as you will go without getting caught” J.M. Coetzee

The day is shrinking slowly, and there is less sunshine in the sky. As if the sun was gradually dying day by day, losing its brightness and its strength. Only the surrounding space is invariably enormous. I make visits in huge houses, in which I am getting lost. I go along immensely wide roads, I do the shopping and feel overwhelmed by the availability of the products – everything here seems to be in excess. But yet I feel well in it, safe. I can easily breathe, being almost indifferent to what is going on around me. At times I stop, amazed, captivated and think about what had happened to me. And I ask myself if all that really happened?

Did I really meet Nicole and Mark who tuned up my bike for free? Did I really stay with Kelly and Rob, with whom I jumped on a race track sitting in a cosmic-looking racing car? Did I dine with Andrzej in the casino, where for a few dollars you can stuffed yourself with “eat as much as you can” dishes? And did I really meet you in the rain? In those gentle, patchy drops? The world blurred for a moment, closed in a warm hand, like in a wooden box storing forgotten dreams.

I open the lid. There are ripe berries inside. I put them on my hand, I put them inside of you, I squeeze them with my tongue on your lips. They taste like forest, like moss, like the sun and the brisk air. They are soft and warm. Like your hand, like your mouth. I close my eyes and listen to the silence. The lips are glowing and dancing in the berry dance, a few light droplets are running down the cheeks, tickling gently.

“The wind for a moment blended with the rain in one soft deep. I fitted in it, I melted.” M. Plaza “Skoruń”

Ой ляцелі жураўлі

mac

“The incident is just what falls down gently like a leaf on the carpet of life – a light, disappearing fold in the fabric of the day, something which is barely worth saving.” R.Barthes

I’m in the States. Finally. It’s not that I want to say that I didn’t like Latin America. Far from that. But somehow it seems I was a little “tired” of it. I could even say that I missed the States. How can you miss something you neither possess nor belong to? Well, I don’t know, but the truth is – I felt longing. And I was right to think that I would like being there.

No sooner had I crossed the border, I immediately felt at home. Just a few hundred feet and you feel the difference. Someone was walking along the sidewalk with a Dalmatian. I stopped and asked for directions. I glanced at the dog. It looked as if it was smiling. Satisfied, well-nourished black and white patches in a clean background of juicy greenery emerging from the park. And that silence and emptiness in the streets of the same city called Nogales, divided by an invisible line separating two alien worlds, two different mentalities. But yet the sky and the sun above it are the same and equal.

One night I was putting up my tent in the desert and then I heard meowing. A small, little kitten ran out of the prickly bush. We ate pasta together. The sausages were eaten by the dogs a few hours earlier. There were lots of those hungry, bony creatures, but I fed only two. After some time you stop seeing them. As if they were invisible, or at least transparent. You look at them, but you do not see. Because when you do, then it hurts, it hurts physically. I will not feed every dog in the world and I will not take them with me. I won’t take even one.

And then more cats. And all those beautiful houses, where I am just a casual shadow – those colorful walls filled with paintings, pictures and the smells from which your head is spinning. Those people, yet strangers, but so immensely hospitable and warm. How could you not smile when you are among them, and how couldn’t you grieve when you have to leave?

And invariably that thought – what do I leave behind? What confusion I have to put into those usually ordered lives when I say that I have little more than a bike and four panniers filled with clothes and some food, when I talk about free time, wind and blue skies above me. What do those people think hearing me saying that my life had stopped? Listening that everything inside me remained unchanged, and it is still as spatious as their colorful houses filled with so many objects. The houses to which they will soon return, where a longing dog is waiting to be stroked and hugged and taken for a walk. So they finally go, they run together under the starry sky, roll in the grass or on the sand, chase themselves who first will come back. Who will first come to the door? Who will enter the house being breathless? Although the house may be located on both sides of the door.

skauci

It’s hot. One hundred eighteen in Fahrenheit in the shadow. There was one hundred twenty in Phoenix a week ago. In Celsius it would be fifty degrees. Can you imagine cycling in fifty degrees in the scorching sun in the desert? At night it cools down a little – to ninety degrees in Fahrenheit. Cycling at such a temperature resembles being at high altitude. You can’t accelerate because your body immediately feels bad, it somehow swells, your pulse accelerates, your heart beats like crazy and you need to slow down, otherwise your entire body would burst like a soap bubble.

ciepło

I’m sitting in McDonalds, leaving pretty soon. Some cranes are flying over my head. They wait. Someone might say that there are no cranes in here. Well, all in all, they are, I can see them. I do not even have to look too far in the sky. Actually I do not have to look anywhere at all. I feel them hovering over the road, swinging over my head. We fly north. I have wings again and I feel fine. So much warmth around, so many glances inside me, so much of me along the way, and so many minutes to the end, so many days ahead of us, and so much light before winter comes.

The Bluebird of Happiness

limites

“Writing is tedious, systematic, daily sitting over a white sheet of paper that either wants to fill up with words or does not. But even if it does not want to fill up with even one sentence, that sitting is very important. Even if one can’t do anything, that helplessness is fruitful. And from that helplessness something comes up. Because working on a book is working on oneself.” Wiesław Myśliwski

For a few days I have been trying to write something. And nothing appears. There are no words. Wiesław Myśliwski said in one of the interviews that during the writing process “matter must give its voice; one has to hear the voice.” Well, this time no ghost haunted me, no voice spoke, no light flashed. And I do not want to write about the same stuff all the time. That all the people I meet are very hospitable. That I still get lots of warm words and gifts, that I eat a lot of fruit, that I drink good coffee, that the sun shines, and that the cats are still with me in that reality. But what kind of reality is it? In fact, I am still floating, somewhere in the air, looking at the stars and maybe I should finally settle down on the earth. Maybe I should start “living normally,” as one of my friends recently said to me. But what does it mean to “live normally”?

Last week I spent in so-called “casa de ciclistas” – a place where people traveling by bicycle can stop, relax, and get back to full strength. I slept on the bed; I could use the stove, take a shower, and listen to the world in the tales of those with whom I made acquaintance. The world, which invariably is full of beauty and goodness. The eyes of this world smile, even when they are sad. They are bright and calm. There is a road in them, over which the birds fly, moved by the warm wind. Just stop and look deeply into those eyes. You can see everything. No words are needed.

Sleep inside

vida-eterna

“The ideal travel book’, Christopher Isherwood once wrote, ‘should be perhaps a little like a crime story, in which you’re in search of something.’ And it’s the best kind of something, I would add, if it’s something you never find.” Pico Iyer

I’m already in Mexico, the thirteenth country on my way from Argentina, but let’s go back in time and space and return for a while to Panama – “the land of our dreams, where everything is different and much bigger,” as Teddy Bear said in one of Janosh’s books titled “The trip to Panama”. This country will always remind me the archipelago of the islands Bocas del Toro, where several months ago I had been writing my latest book “Sen powrotu” (Dream of Return), and where I was glad to accept generous hospitality of Józek Gwóźdź (his surname, very difficult to pronounce for English-speaking people means a “nail”) – a Polish catholic priest who has lived in Bocas del Toro for a couple of years and soon will be responsible for co-organizing a very special event (not only in the Catholic Church), as Panama will be hosting the next World Youth Day in 2019. If anyone is interested in Józek’s job, there is his website: www.misjapanama.pl

jozek-biskup-i-piotr

This time I spent only a few days on Bocas del Toro. A few days of resting in safe and friendly environment, with good food, on the paradise island surrounded by the calm sea – what more could you expect to be happy? Nevertheless, similarly like the previous time, I could not escape from feeling some kind of incompatibility, or disharmony. And I am not writing about the bishop’s residence in which I stayed nor the people who lived in it, far from that. I am writing about the island itself. I could not stop feeling that mismatch between what was inside of me and all those various physical stimuli that surrounded me and which I had to – albeit unwillingly – experience too intensively. One should not come to that island alone, with their own loneliness. Even if the cats are coming out of their nooks to soften that feeling.

la-gata

And then more countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Salvador, Guatemala, and finally Mexico. Despite so highly developed communication techniques (even in the backwoods people use smartphones, not to mention satellite TV), it didn’t change a lot on the cognitive level. Everybody builds their image of the world watching stereotypical, biased and usually dramatic TV news.

In each country people warn me off going to the next one. In Peru they advised not to go to Colombia, in Colombia warned off Panama, in Panama warned about smugglers in Costa Rica, in Costa Rica – about corrupted police in Nicaragua, in Nicaragua – about gangs and youth in Honduras, in Honduras I heard that in Salvador I will be robbed and decapitated as soon as I cross the border, and so on and so forth.

But in spite of all these ominous warnings I still keep going. I cycle surrounded by ghosts and Jesuses, sometimes stopping surprised to look at such curiosities as “Selling Tires Saint John Paul II”, a meat shop “Jesus Maria”, a shoes shop “Who is like God?”, or a coffee shop “Holy Heart of Jesus”. Among those ostentatious emblems of alleged though highly doubtful devotion I go constantly warned but all the people I meet are invariably good, hospitable and friendly. Am I surprised? No, I’m not surprised at all.

Maybe they simply return a smile I usually wear on my face, or maybe it’s just a sham that hides their true and terrible character, which however neither I can see nor I can feel. I cycle in the scorching sun, in deafening noise of the passing trucks, I follow lots of unpaved roads, which are full of surprises such as not-always-clearly-marked “hops” (reducers of the speed) or the holes (in which the half of my bike would fit), I put up the tent in ditches, I cycle through some of the most dangerous countries in the world (at least it is what you may hear in the news), but nothing bad happens to me.

Since I left Panama, I have not experienced any form of aggression; I have not heard even one bad word. On the contrary – even if I don’t expect anything I still receive something. Accommodation, sometimes clothes, but usually – lots of food: fruit, bread, some local specialties to try (I still remember the taste of delicious Salvadorian pupusas, served with a whole jar of cabbage salad), or even panela (cane sugar, about which I have already written).

It turned out that panela is not only an essential component of Colombian cuisine, but it can be bought throughout Latin America countries, including Mexico, where it is known as piloncillo or panoche. The process of preparing panela itself, at least in theory, seems to be very simple. The sugary juice obtained by squeezing sugar cane is cooked for several hours until it becomes more dense. Then the thick liquid is poured into the appropriate molds where it remains until it hardens and turns into a solid form of panela. Although today the production is becoming increasingly industrialized and panela (or piloncillo – as it is also known in Mexico) can be purchased in almost every supermarket, many people still continue home-based manufacturing.

Well, and what about Mexico? Well, Mexico still exists and is full of cats, of course, one shouldn’t be surprised. At least I shouldn’t. Even if they are not the same, it is enough to look deeper into their eyes to see what is usually hidden for us under the thin layer of unconsciousness.

I got to Rigoberto’s home town almost at noon. I easily recognized the gate through which the little red cat wanted to escape. And the whole house, where basically everything started. In which the dream began. The dream of return. Although still unfinished it is already long-lost and forgotten.

Because the ginger gata passed away. She was already dead when I wrote my previous book; in fact, she was no longer in that dream two weeks after my visit to Rigoberto’s house. La gata, a little red cat, was bitten to death by a dog, a sweet, little pit bull. Maybe the dog just wanted to play, maybe he did not want to hurt her, but anyway, this time nobody was running after me so I didn’t have to regret leaving.

rigoberto

Rigoberto recognized me. He wanted me to stay longer, but somehow I was not in the mood. I sat at the table, listened to some stories, I nodded that it was a pity he could not go with me on the road, I ate some fruit, looked at the same furniture and paintings that I remembered for almost three years until finally, overwhelmed by all those memories I got up from the chair, thanked for everything and went on the quiet day of improvisation, on the bare road, deprived of all old passions. Only bare life remained.

“But what is the meaning of that nudity? The enormous ignorance embraces you in this silence, powerful and swaying. But still, peace and quietness are in here. They are important. Like premonitions of eternal silence, eternal rest and eternal ignorance.” Jarosław Iwaszkiewcz