The return of the Cranes

boliwiaThis life’s dim windows of the soul
Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye. W. Blake

Finally I came across the other cyclists. I wouldn’t say that suddenly it got crowdy of them, but I did meet some French, Germans, New Zealanders and Canadians. I have to admit that I feel a little bit frustrated with all those meetings, because I still can not understand why I have to stop just because some strangers come to me from the opposite direction, and the only reason to stop seems to be the similarity of means of transport we use. Perhaps this is a side effect of my innate (and then practised over the years) reluctance to group, to associate and to cooperate. Or, in principle, my seemingly bizzare attitude stems from my unwillingness to all sorts of processes of socialization, more or less imposed by the family, school, or other institutions.

Thus, that day, when I saw a couple of approaching cyclists, I was not very willing to stop, because I was not at all in the mood for having a casual conversation. Anyway, they both slowed down and waved to me in a friendly manner, so because I did not want to be taken as a sort of a retarded person, or a cycling bum, I came down to the requirements of the moment and accepted (literally and figuratively) that situational variable and with plastered smile on my face I stopped and said ‘Hallo!’. The Canadian couple began their journey almost a year before and they were heading (as I could have assumed) to Ushuaia.

What really stroke me from the first moment I saw them, was their white teeth – which reminded me some TV commercials of Colgate toothpaste (pronounced here without English diphthong ‘ei’, with the accent on the pronounced ‘a’). They were looking at me while we were talking, but unfortunately, I could not see the expression in their eyes, because huge, dark sunglasses covered almost half of their faces. They seemed to be quite friendly and completely devoid of any signs of fatigue (as it turned out, they were cycling downhill for the last several miles). They were both very happy to leave Bolivia soon and get to Argentina, which country, as they said ‘hopefully would meet their expectations’.

Although I wondered why they were so excited with the prospect of that imminent exit of Bolivia, I asked firstly what expectations they had in relation to another country, lying on the route of their journey. ‘We look forward to having good food, wine, high speed internet access, well-stocked shops, cleaner air and fabulous landscapes’, they said.

For a moment I got still, literally I choked with amazement, because I could still see in my mind’s eyes the images of freshly baked bread, whose flavour filled the whole park, where I sat down in the morning on a bench and gorging golden, crispy loaves, I was looking at all those moving pictures of the people. And it was as if I was looking at some colourful puppets sliding on the invisible sunny weaves; stocky figures with weary shoulders, bony hands, holding an apron, from which a small head of a sleeping child protruded. I still could see the man, who offered me a huge papaya and then brought a cup of hot tea when I almost fell asleep near his cottage. I still could see the images of the parade, organized to celebrate the first day of the spring, when the whole town came out to the streets, dancing, playing, end generally enjoying themselves.

– The cranes are flying – I said, looking at the blue sky. – Cranes? Where? I don’t see any cranes – answered the boy. – Over there, high up in the sky. – These are not cranes – said the girl. – There are just some little birds. – But I can see cranes – I persisted and I promptly added: – Well, it’s time to go now, and I’m pretty sure that Argentina will meet all your expectations.

The boy smiled, showing again his immensely white teeth. – Oh yes, we can not wait. And you, you do not worry, Bolivia is not so big, you’ll pass it quickly. You’ll have to climb now up to Potosi – he said. We exchanged cordialities, nodded, we both thought something and finally set off.

The uphill was seventy miles long. I arrived only the next day. Two hours after the meeting with the Canadians I got stuck in a storm. I hid in the abandoned house I saw from the road. The shelter had no roof, but it had big, earthen walls, which protected me from rain and hail. I wrapped myself in a coat, I took out a thermos, sandwiches, bananas and while eating a delicious lunch I thought about cranes. I saw them, they were flying north. So, as two years before, again, I’m chasing the birds. ‘Listen better. See further. Be aware. Everything oddly sounds’. Italo Calvino

Tristan Corbiere wrote: “Paint only what you have never seen, and what you will never see.” And I would add: Paint what you sometimes see, but not with your eyes. Because “what seems to be the most important is invisible to your eyes,” said the Little Prince. The evening comes, alongside with another great storm. Everyone can see it. And feel it with all their senses. And even with those that eludes perception. The storm is approaching, and I know that there is no point to be afriad of. Because I’m not from here. None of us is. So there is nothing to fear. I run around and play with the lights. In the end, it starts raining. I do not want to get wet. I hide inside the tent, wondering where the cranes got today.