26 July 2012

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls

I got home around midnight after spending nearly three weeks in Europe.

Early this morning, as I staggered through the grocery store check out, the man in front of me raged about "the riots in Anaheim." He derided the "agitators" and the "leftists." I frowned in confusion.

I still haven't quite figured out what has been going on--most of the news I saw centered on the Olympics and the appalling happenings in Colorado--but he was clearly offering up only one side of the story. The checker at another store was measured in his response and the spouse merely shrugged, "I didn't want to tell you."

My garage is littered with luggage, exploding with kilos of laundry. My brain struggles with language. Much of the last three weeks has been careful negotiation, best exemplified by dinner at an Italian restaurant in Luxembourg, where the waiter denied knowledge of English, I fussed about my bad French and we eventually came to mutual agreement in Spanish--he was Catalan. So I ordered for the table, and chattered happily, only occasionally tossing in a French verb by mistake.

I close my eyes and see signs in Dutch.

Four years ago, which was when I last visited Europe, the world was on the brink of financial collapse, though no one quite knew it yet. This time, Europe is only too aware that the world is again on the brink. The US seems to continue blithely unaware, focusing in the main on the upcoming election. An election that in many ways seems to matter very little.

My desk is strewn with euro coins and the odd pound note. Strange currencies, and they've changed by the day--euros one, pounds the next. I left for the grocery with the euros in prominence forgetting I'm back in the land of the dollar.

For a moment, I dreamed of a sheep farm in Ireland.

"You'd give up the apple orchard in Norway?" the daughter asked, mocking me only a little.

"No," I told her. "I want that too."

I've not written here in a month, and I truly believed I might never write here again. I disconnected in that time that I was away: no Twitter, little news, none of the websites I generally frequent. I checked email once daily for emergencies, and once daily was about all I could get. Satellite internet is sketchy at best. But no matter. I missed none of it.

I've come back oddly energized. Walking through an alley in Dublin, I looked at the artwork in a bike shed and wanted. Then, I told myself to turn it around. Why had I never thought of this myself?

In the airport in Paris, I was confronted by a poster of a female athlete without a foot. I don't think of what I've lost, she said, but of what I still have.

In the last year--perhaps even the last four years--I've focused primarily on what I've lost.

It rained. Unrelentingly. Record rain. Crops-ruined, cars-floating-down-streets rain. High temperatures rarely topped 65F. And when I saw the news, I saw that the East Coast was suffering record heat, that southern Europe was burning.

This was not a fun trip, though it was meant to be. It was a trip of hard thinking and hard lessons. I spent most of it wanting it to end, desperately wanting to be home. I spent some of it walking with a cane, much of it in pain, but with two feet.  I saw mean, mean people being horrifically nasty to one another, really shockingly awful. I met some amazing, funny, smart people. I was told, repeatedly, to guard my purse against pickpockets.

I took many photos.

It may have been the trip I needed the most.

Go listen to some good music: "Merry Little Minuet" from the album ...from the "Hungry i" by The Kingston Trio. Seek out this song; it is hilarious. Some of this trip was too, though I'm not sure I remember what.

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