“How many hours a day do commuters lose to go to work and return home? Subway rumbles under the ground, where people crowd around and push and jostle, spending long hours breathing the stench and stuffy air. The same happens at the stations and on suburban trains. Then, people return to their homes, where with the exception of furniture or a few small personal things, nothing is theirs. They get up in the morning and rush to work, for which they rarely display any affection, and in which they do not leave any part of themselves. And a gray veil of anonymity spreads above all of that” A. Bobkowski
Gabriel came up to me at the gas station. He got out of his car and asked if I would like to visit him and, if occasion serves, to meet up a few other cyclists. The man looked very friendly. He was a sort of a guy who in an instant commands respect and wins confidence. Nevertheless, I resigned from an enticing prospect of a comfortable bed and good food. It was late, dark, I felt very tired and I was not in a mood for cycling even a mile more. Gabriel suggested, therefore, that we try to cram the bike in his car, but the trunk was too small, and the car far too clean. We agreed that I would come the next day for lunch.
So I came and spent two days in General Pico. I met several people for whom I seemed to be a strange creature, a sort of cheerful puppet creating his own worlds. Maybe I should not deny but confirm that indeed – I am such a puppet, who often pretends to be a man, and only sometimes tries to live like other people. And when a hairdresser (who rides a bicycle with his family, dragging a trailer with tools and making haircuts in exchange for accommodation and food) asked me to lend him some of my time – I stopped pretending to be a man and sang a melody for those who can not sleep. I pulled stories out of the hat and recited cycling fairy tales.
And how can you not believe in fairy tales? How can you not believe in that you may create your own worlds, when everything around seems to be so warm, close and delicate? Even the horns of passing trucks do not bother me anymore. Let the drivers honk, they are totally right. Who cares that the roadsigns say – “mind the cyclists”. The roads are narrow and there is very little space on them. I can easily pull out into a ditch instead of expecting the drivers to change several gears or to use brakes.
I celebrate old places, I sleep near the trees, and every morning I meet impoverished dogs. The dogs with incredibly sad, manlike eyes. They lay next to me and wait. I eat breakfast with them, and then they leave. Sometimes they run next to me for some time until they stop and disappear. I go further as if I had never met them. But they were. Just for a moment, but they were.
I look at everything, still wondering how long it will last. I spend this night in Cordoba with Natalia and her sister. How different is that Argentina, how different it seems to me from the country I had been experiencing several months ago. And how can you not believe that we create what we see and that the world around is just our creation. We do not see things as they are, but we see things as we are.
How little in life you need to be happy. A few friendly words, a hot cup of coffee in the morning, light breeze, the stars overhead – everything you need could be expressed in just one sentence, in one hand, or in one wrinkled pocket. We should appreciate little things. Then big things come more often. So simple advice, yet so difficult to follow.
Writing about Twardoch’s pastels, Maja Wołosiewicz mentions that the painter “is trying to save from oblivion not only material objects living their own quiet life, not just fairy tales, children’s worlds, unrealized dreams, but also what is best in our hearts – love, gentleness and mindfulness to other people.”
Perhaps during any journey it is easier to put it into practice. It is easier to find a way out on the periphery of life to which we are accustomed, to get rid of those crucial forces that shape our lives. There are so many things to be seen on the road – things given for us to watch, taste, experience, but without the necessity of remaining. If I do not like it, I just leave it and go away. People are not like trees. They can settle down wherever they want. Take their home with them.
Someone recently asked me a question: “Isn’t that the essence of being on the road is more determined by where we are not rather than where we are?” And again: “Perhaps a journey does not exist and traveling is just taking your own home for a short walk”.
Sandor Marai once wrote that a person needs nine months to come into the world, and sometimes ninety to understand something from life. But what to do if you are just a puppet? Maybe one day a time seller will come and say or a organ-grinder will play a song – the song for those who can not fall asleep. Good night.