So many interesting sights in Barcelona. For example all the impressive and whimsical architecture by Antoni Gaudi is a treat for the eyes - including the famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral (ever under construction and packed with tourists), Parc Guell (even more tourists) and various buildings all over town. The beach is also nice and helped us to cool down. Our favourite so far though has been the "hidden gem" of the Parc del Laberinto d'Horta, which as the name suggests is home to a bona fide hedge maze! It is a lot of fun to get lost in... if you can discover the center, you will find none other than Eros (in statue form) to congratulate your perseverance! The rest of the grounds sport cooling woods and refreshing pools filled with koi fish - which was nice because it was once again very hot during the day. For much of our visit there were also very few people around - though somehow after we found the center of the maze a number of visitors started pouring in. Spain's been fun and interesting in many ways, and at the same time challenging in others... the ubiquitous and intense heat leaves us pretty drained by the evening, and at this point cities with their crowded hustle and bustle are not so appealing to me. Hoping to connect with more nature/natural energies in a few days when we arrive in Africa.
From Cordoba we took a 3 hour bus ride south to picturesque Granada in southern Spain. We rented a small apartment in the Albaycin neighborhood, which has a fantastic view of the Alhambra (a sprawling fortress/palace built by the Moors and later the Spanish) and much of the picturesque city, which you can see by clicking HERE. It has been insanely hot since we arrived, at least 34-35 degrees in the shade if not more, so we have tended to venture out in the mornings and evenings only. There's a distinctive flavour of Arab and Berber culture here which is reminiscent of our trip to Morocco last year - and that is awesome. The Alhambra itself was packed with tourists and steaming, but it was still worth a visit. It is a sprawling epic palace which is interesting to explore. All in all it's been fun, but between the heat and the ongoing jetlag we both feel pretty tired.
As soon as we were in the air, heading to Madrid, I began to feel more aligned, better. From Madrid we took a bus down to Cordoba, Spain... a small city which had a very relaxed feel at least partly due to the fact that the streets were almost deserted. It was explained to me that many people are on vacation, and that others were staying indoors during the day (especially at the multi-hour siesta time) due to the intense heat. The torridity was a bit much - at least 40 degrees celcius starting around noon and not cooling down appreciably overnight. We found that we only had so much energy every day due to the heat. There was a cool little bar around the corner (Bar Yuste!) from our apartment where we had drinks and some meals. With a few pleasant exceptions, we found most of the people noticeably...brusque and grumpy. The old town of Cordoba is quite pretty, but the highlight of our visit was really the Mezquita de Cordoba (see pics above of its myriad arches) and the lively Roman Bridge nearby.
We have been back in Ottawa the past few weeks, to see friends and family and prepare for the next leg of our journey. While this "re-entry" has been good in many ways (more on this further down), it has also been a surprisingly challenging time. I'd had "re-entry sickness" before (e.g., after returning from Burning Man or longer trips abroad) but never to this extent. A few days after returning, I began to feel some unexpected waves of anxiety and inner tightness, which at first I had trouble understanding. I also grappled with some feelings of loss of direction, lack of meaning and even mild depression. These feelings were in such stark contrast to where I was at while we were traveling, and it took me some time to unhook from them enough to be able to process and understand where they came from.
It comes down, I think, to a few basic things. When we were traveling we slowed right down and opened to the world - feeling very in tune with with earth and her natural healing nurturing rhythms, getting out of our heads and feeling quite happy most of the time. One becomes more sensitive to the energies of the world, whereas in normal modern life one desensitizes and numbs out a fair bit. I had not anticipated the impact of suddenly being back around others who are living hectic lives in the city. So many people are living out an inherited script for their lives, a script which promises happiness but which really just leaves them stressed and unhappy, sped up and in their minds and judgements much of the time. And I found that being back in society brought up the same script and judgements in myself - for example, strong feelings of guilt and anxiety about not working/making money and doing something "selfish" and "frivolous". Even more than that, I found that being back in regular human society I was suddenly lacking an identity - if I am not Dr. Oliver or Luis Enrique the artist, who am I in this world!? - and it was difficult to relate to many people in other ways.
There is more to it, but that is the essence of it I think. It was all pretty confusing, and made all the more confusing by the fact that I thought I had seen these feelings coming already. For the first few days, the city seemed like a strange dream, and the other world I had just left felt like the reality. Very quickly though, the tables turned - back in the city I have trouble remembering our trip, particularly how it felt to be freer and more connected. The trip/nature now feels like the dream, and this the "reality" which I'm having trouble loving. It brings up questions about what a meaningful life is... I'm curious to see how it will be when we fly out in a few days.
It feels like people have forgotten something very important about how to live... and while I had found it for a time I feel like I have now forgotten it again. And yet I feel like I will remember it, hopefully soon.
Throughout all this, there were many things in the past few weeks which helped me remember what is good and essential, and to feel calm and sane. I have several very good and cool friends, for one. People who are tuned in to creative energies and who are alive and understand, and people with whom I feel loved and accepted and understood. Some good times spent with family were also nourishing (and meeting the new granddaughter!), as was doing some art (I played around with inks one afternoon, see the pic above). We spent some time out in the country at our friends' Glenn and Pam's cottage, some time hanging out with various friends at their homes making music or talking or just having fun and laughing. Some good conversations with people who "get it" - these were like beacons validating perceptions. Like the wise words of someone who said that once a creature sheds it's skin it cannot comfortably put it back on. Or believing that there is a right path, if you listen for it. And above all, there is the love between Carr and I - she is my beloved, my home.