December 29, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Another year comes to an end. And what a year:

Began on a cold January day when I took off on a plane, staring down at the empty eternal snowdrifts of Kamchatka, landing in Korea and then on to chaotic, chili-scented Bangkok, then to South America for my television debut in Chile and the overwhelming landscapes of Patagonia (still breathless). Then sleeping horizontal on the seven seats of a spanking new A380 all the way to gold-spattered Dubai, a midnight tour of that constant skyscraping in sand, then across the changing blue waters of the Indian Ocean and dropping down into the blissful Maldives (ah! wonderful). Finding serenity on those beaches, on the complete separateness of that island country, the wet sun there and the world of coral underneath and the shark shadows. On to Wales, land of my fathers, to the high perfect mountains, to the low shores packed with baby lambs and crumbling gray castles and ancient words whispered in even more ancient pubs. A swift run through Londontown, a city of real memories and the true spirit of travel that simmers in every rail station--an obligatory pass through Terminal 5. Back to South America. To Argentina, it's tango, it's chic, and then it's jungle. The red earth and brown rivers, the thundering spray of Iguazu Falls in the moonlight, drowning me upwards. A wet face and crossing into rainy season Brazil, a peak at Paraguay. Midnight in Lima and back to JFK, a regretful second home for me this year. To Vienna, to expensive coffees on the cobblestone square and clean shops and European preciseness, an inconsistent preamble to . . . INDIA. An imagined land of my lifetime became real. The shiny brass, the pink dawn and pink dust and the unbearable heat of a land sucked dry. Tigers in the grass, literally. Elephants and tigers that roared, holy temples with smiling toothless priests. Silk, more dust. Stone of the ages piled into beautiful towers, carved into stories that never die. Vomiting along the road, my head brought low, which is the real point of India after all. Happy go lucky kids, then needing a rest from India until the next time which I pray daily will be soon. India is the infection that never leaves, the constant affair. Texas for the 4th of July. Shooting fireworks in the bayou. A birthday, and then to Iceland, another country that I love that starts with "I". The deep black sand desert interior, the highlands, off road and sinking tires, hot sulphur springs and my brother bundled up in synthetic fabrics. Walking four days across the naked landscape--sun overhead, snow, rock and moss underfoot. Crossing bare streams so cold it disappeared all feeling and crept up to your knees. The exhaustion from a day of walking and the endpoint of more glaciers than stone, impassable grey rivers that roared, ripping white waterfalls. To Canada, the west. Helicopters in the Rockies, scrambling up 10,000 ft. high peaks. Testing my fears and gripping white knuckles to stone without any handles. Seeing sky beneath my feet. To Maine. To simple, quiet, seaside farms, 2-day county fairs with prizewinning blueberry jam, to high and low tides and kind women heavy with life and knowledge of lobster anatomy. Back to Iceland where the skies move too quickly. Beautiful music, rainy streets and a nippy cold dip in the steel ocean, big waves passing over my icicle head. Night after night in Reykjavik, even dancing. Utah, another land of my fathers. High rock mountains once more. Snow-dusted peaks, the end of the summer hinted. Alma mater walkabout, the happiness of family closeby. The Great Salt Lake running out of shades of blue and watching the furrowed deep grooves of a lifeless landscape from the air. Rescued again by family from LAX, a terrible place. A layover-cum-picnic with palm trees and fog, then one more plane and another . . to Tahiti and beyond. French Polynesia unveiled--the old library books became real, my toes dug into the shell-sharp sand. Grass skirts without irony and drums that still beat in my ears. Hitchhiking 'round Moorea, falling in drowsy love with an island I may never see again. To Quebec, the great far north, snowless but dark pine green, to women singing beautiful French carols in a brick church. And back again, then off . . to Tasmania, to the colored facades of Hobart, to a ship that carried me past icebergs and diving penguins to uninhabited islands, and into the fjords of New Zealand. And then New Zealand fully, it's December warmth, it's blue skies and rough beaches and dinosaur-sized tree ferns. Flying back across the Pacific, reviewing and remembering it all, dizzy with the mileage I have covered, filled with joy and gratitude for such a rich year of great travel. Thankful to all my friends out there who've shared with me.

And now two days left until 2010. Another great journey awaits. Happy New Year to all of you who read and thanks for being there.


Camels & Chocolate said...

Great recap! I've been working on my own for this year and didn't realize just how much I was on the road. Looks like the same for you (though maybe you did realize it, ha)!

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