Entering Romania

After an hour circling Budapest trying to find the superhighway, we drove east across dry plains to the border with Romania. Clouds piled up behind the line of security stations. My friend Loren, his head bare, sniffling and coughing, drank water from a 1.5 liter supermarket bottle, and with each swallow I thought: How. Can. He. Drink. So. Much. Fucking. Water? After the border crossing we drove into the city of Cluj and stopped at the central square, curious. I had never seen such a dark place—blackness smeared the buildings. What was it? Soot? I didn’t know. We drove on. 

Having left Strasbourg with only a large-scale map of Europe, we had little detail on Romania, and it was the least developed country we visited. Always the geographer, I looked for clues. Was there a more alive place somewhere nearby? We stopped for lunch, crashing a country wedding which smelled quite clearly of sewage. Long hours in the car were nothing new on this trip, but it never occurred to me to get out of the car to walk, run, or just to stretch my legs. The cramped cabin of the Peugeot 207 was not my ideal environment. Enacting one of my maxims—turn left three times—I ordered Loren to leave the highway and turn onto a small, unmarked road leading up a ridge. Quickly we found ourselves in deep forest, without much to guide our next move. Just like the early computer game Adventure, “a maze of twisty passages, all alike”. Again I chose left. The road narrowed and the sun was setting. 

We came upon a large building, perhaps a hotel? It seemed abandoned, but there were some lights on and the entrance was passable, although partly destroyed. We explored for a few minutes, wandering expectantly around the dining hall, but found only dust and shuffling ghosts. A strange and again a dirty place. Finally, as darkness overtook us, following a heavily potholed dirt road into a valley, I spotted a small yellow sign. Romanian is a language much like Italian, which I can read even at a distance. Agriturismo. All of our left turns had finally borne fruit: a sane little village with a creek and a church, and a farmhouse with rooms to let and dinner on the table. 

One Day in September

Swimming in Aquatic Park

I jumped in the water
cold water
I swam in a circle
not a small circle!
I fought the current
something that might seem like a battle
but I held the water’s hand
and it pulled me
I pulled myself
harder
faster
I felt free
not for the first time
for the first time
I felt strong
not for the first time
for the first time
I was not afraid
swimmers and surfers don’t talk about sharks
the water of the Pacific is not cold

I swim in my own skin
I embraced the open water
I took in the view of the sky
and the taste of the salt

I rounded the corner
Alcatraz to my right
the Gate in my sight
I went with the tide
and flew with my friends
back inside the arms of the pier
a little safer
but again the current challenged my strength
I had been in the water now
for more than an hour
my right foot was numb
and yet my arms felt long

things always get harder for me when the end is in sight
at a mile and a half I had to pull hard
the tide rushed out through the pilings behind me

the remarkable thing is that I would say that I struggled
but it wasn’t a fight
it was hard
but I loved it
I felt awake and alive
long and lean
warm and wise

once we finished our swim I walked slowly inside
I sat in the sauna for what seemed like an hour
my brain slowly reconnecting
to my body as it thawed

I reflected on a decision I had made only just a week before
to not wait and test the water before jumping in
to not feed my fear by feeling the cold
before feeling the cold
I had said to my self: no hesitation
at the water’s edge

my dad told me not long ago that “I’ve had it easy”
yeah right
I’m sure that’s his own trip
although it’s true that many things have come easily
I always thought I was just good at… everything
or some kind of genius
and so he’s right in a way
it’s hard to seek challenge

one day in September
I learned something more about what I’ve long said
that I’ve believed it, and felt it, but I didn’t quite know why
always ready

Bowen and IN-Q
Bowen and IN-Q

Enjoy your holiday

As I was walking through town one day with a friend, a couple passed us going the other way. They must have seen our glow, as they looked over and shouted: “Enjoy your holiday!”

Of course, they had no idea whether we were on holiday or not. And that is exactly my point. Business or pleasure? One life. AASB, no need to draw a line, everything is connected.

Enjoy your holiday, every day.