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havana class

Mid-century style rolling through the streets of Havana

Havana is a magical place filled with timeless beauty and crumbling history. Very surreal.

While I was dance-walking home from Salsa lessons tonight, I had a thought. (Ok, I had many thoughts but most of them were not worth blogging about and this one is actually only borderline.) Anyhoo, the thought was this:

Writing is a lot like dancing.

*pregnant pause to allow depth of wisdom to sink in*

Get on the dancefloor, forget all the rules, and go with your instincts

Basically, I see it like this. You have to learn the basics or you may as well not step out onto the dancefloor. (Really, you’ll only embarrass yourself and others if you do.) But, once you’re out there, you better forget every rule and instruction you ever learned and just go with your instincts or you will either freeze up, fall over, or freak out and do some tragic dance move like the pogo-stick while your friends smile awkwardly and try to pretend they don’t know you.

I haven’t danced for a while and I was pretty nervous rocking up there tonight, to twirl amid the talented. But I had fun, and I learned some new steps, and once I got going I wasn’t too bad.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been writing much lately and I’m pretty nervous about rocking up to the page tomorrow. What if I’ve forgotten all the steps and I stumble or, worse, think I have talent and everyone stands around me cheering but it turns out I’m only the writing version of that William Hung guy?

I’m beginning to over-think it again. And that is as dangerous to writing as it is to dancing. So I’m just going to stop now and go read my book and come back with a clear head in the morning.

Good.

PS: In case you don’t know, dance-walking is forward motion with headphones and dance moves.

PPS: While I was dance-walking home through the city tonight two, I repeat two, seperate weirdos stopped to offer me a ride home. I’m not trying to be cynical but I can assure you they were not offering me a ride in a “oh, people can be so sweet” sort of way but more in the “oh my gosh, I narrowly escaped being cut into pieces and hidden in the walls” kind of way. I’m glad I didn’t give in to today’s overwhelming sensation of being in dream rather than waking life and jump in just to see what would happen. I hate to think what sort of nightmare would have ensued and, judging from my real dreams, I would only end up not being able to shout loud enough or run fast enough (damn lead legs) or fly high enough (despite frantic arm flapping)… erm, have I said too much?

PPPS: Do any of you also have the flying by flapping your arms dreams? One of my friends flys just like Superman (point and go) in her dreams and I was always jealous of her coolness. My sweaty flailings look so unco in comparison. It probably says a lot that I’m not even cool in my own dreams!

PPPPS: I’m not being particularly original with the idea that writing is like dancing. I just did a quick net search and, to name but a couple, Kelly Polark says it’s all about practice, in both dancing and writing, and Shannon Philpott thinks writing is like dancing because it’s how we express ourselves.

survivors

Small survivors of the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

These pint-sized survivors were rescued from the general hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti where they were found abandoned after the January 12, 2010 earthquake which reduced an entire wing of the public hospital to rubble.

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By the way, If you want to read about my experience doing relief work in Haiti you can read my posts City of Displaced Souls about my first two weeks in Haiti after the earthquake and The Broken Heart of the Caribbean written as I was leaving Haiti, after 6 weeks.

perfect moment #9

This morning I was in the city and popping with joie de vivre. You know those movie scenes when the small town girl arrives at Paddington/Grand Central Station and steps out onto the platform all aglow and awestruck and then you get that beautiful spinning, arms outstretched shot? I was feeling like that and barely containing the spinning and the arm stretching. (On a side note, my life seems to be generously peppered with these awe-filled, joyous moments – do you guys get that too?) Anyhow, here I was standing at a traffic light uptown, glowing with happiness as I waited and eye-scooping every random thing in sight and labelling it beautiful, when I looked up at a bus that was out of service and the digital sign where they usually show the destination suddenly flashed at me “Have A Nice Day”. Now that is what I call a perfect moment.

I recently finished one of the most moving stories I have ever read – Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. Always fascinating, often moving, the book is captivating from the first line to the last, and I frequently found myself weeping (occasionally even crying out right) as I read (this was pretty embarrassing at times as I often read out and about in the world). I wept for the emotion, beauty, and sadness of the story. But it’s certainly not all sad, many of my tears sprung from the love (of nature, of fellow man) expressed by the tale.

Self-portrait of Chris McCandless - he died of starvation in this bus within weeks of this photo being taken

Into The Wild chases 23 year old Chris McCandless through his last two years on the planet. In 1990 McCandless walked away from his money, family, life, and possessions and wandered off into the world, travelling and adventuring about, meeting amazing folk, until he finally made it to Alaska two years later where he walked into the wild to live off the land for a few months and, due to a handful of bad decisions and unfortunate luck, starved to death.

Interspersed throughout the narrative progression are interviews with people whose hearts were touched by McCandless in those years, stories of other young adventurers who challenged themselves thus (some met with success, others with death), and a harrowing and inspirational account of the author’s own psychological and physical battle in his attempt to summit a daunting Alaskan peak.

What I enjoyed most of all was the angle of exploring one’s own humanity and the possibility for peaceful coexistence between human nature and mother nature. “Into the wild” is McCandless’ echoing call. My own is similar but instead of searching the great out there I hope to branch out into the wild interior of my own nature.

As an aside, I recently included the Sean Penn’s cinematic adaptation of Into The Wild in a post about movies to ignite your wanderlust. The film is magnificent.

I would argue that the book is even better. I loved it because it made me feel. I didn’t agree with everything McCandless thought, felt, said, or did but I admire him because he believed something strongly and acted emphatically on his beliefs.

Book Diva loved it too, while Lisa from Books on the Brain had mixed emotions about it and found it hard to relate to McCandless. This seems to be a book (and a character and a lifestyle for that matter) that polarises – you either love it or hate it.

Even the way Krakauer presents the story and examines McCandless seems to be contentious. On the one hand Erin Berman questions Krakauer’s objectivity, while Terrence Cantarella defends the book and says that Krakauer “has crafted a non-fiction book as inspiring, moving, and artful as the best works of fiction. He has offered up a real-world story of physical and spiritual escape, a bold tale of adventure, and a quest for something unseen.”

Have you read it? If so, I would love to hear how it impacted you emotionally and what you thought of it.

You know you'd have pretty sweet dreams sleeping under this Origami scene

A while back I posted my first blog crush. Perhaps it’s time to promote another rare treasure through the blogosphere.

My latest blog crush is Milk + Honey. The blog description says it all: because life should be overflowing with all things good and beautiful. What I love about Rachel’s blog is that it celebrates the beauty in the tiny details of life and the magic in the overlooked.

My favourite recent posts include:
– The confession of love for a stranger
– A celebration of the ancient art of origami, and
Remembering to breathe and relax

Enjoy!

fatima

Fatima in the doorstep of her house in Chefchaouen

I met Fatima in the street near her house in Chefchaouen, Morocco. She invited me in for tea and suggested I marry her son.