Saturday, 26 September 2009

The sound of the desert

“Close your eyes”, he said, “and listen to the sound of the desert.” Siting in a dune it was not difficult: I only had to, imagine, close my eyes and listen. In the beginning I heard a light whistle echoing in my ears. It was the sound of 30 years continuously spent hearing to exhaust pipes, people, music, jackhammers, screams, television, airplanes, dogs, lights, cellphones, discos, meaningless chatter, computers, guitars, walls, streets, roads and highways, factories, cities and countryside, a whole lot of noise, too much, all together, mixed in one single whistle. Little by little it disappeared. The noise of silence shut down the noise of millenniums of civilization, letting everything get involved by an immense calm and the soft wind that was blowing. I felt as if my brain was also shutting down and everything else stopped existing. No before, no after, nothing else but that moment that lasted a second but felt like centuries of rest. “Let’s go!”. It finished. As the group started to run down the dune the silence disappeared once more, replaced by the laughter of children that was produced also by adults. But in the end the silence remains forever, here in this desert and inside each of us. We only have to want to hear it.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, July 2009

One last 'asado'

I follow my nose, which leads me throughout the house. The smell is coming from above so I go up the stairs. My feet are dragged by the smoke, almost floating over the tiles. I’m flying with my eyes closed and stop only when I feel the heat, knowing the charcoal is destined to a meet which is not my own. I open my eyes and among the mist I do not see a Rei Dom Sebastião (Portuguese king who disappeared in battle and who, according to the mythology, is expected return one day among the morning mist) but only one more of those meat feasts so common here. Uncertain if there are two or three cows laying over the grill, I’m sure only to comfort the friend taking care of cooking with an approval smile. I decide to sit down. Closing my eyes again, I feel myself go back the four months passed by since I first arrived to this country called Argentina. Once again I feel the astonishment I felt in the beginning, due more to that awesome water-made natural wonder shared with its brother country Brazil than to the first impression this land caused on me. I remember then the capital city, in which streets I got lost to then find myself in a tango. That same tango I later sang among friends while looking at a lake lost in the mountains, but not before I traveled through the dryness of the vast South. South, endless vastness that navigated me to and from an imaginary end of the world... I also remember the nostalgia when leaving the country and the joy of coming back once and again to this borrowed house of mine. Also fresh in my mind are these last few days, spent wandering through mountains and valleys, getting to know the effect of that strange drug called too much height and too little oxygen. Maybe this drug was the one making me see salt lakes, many mountains, deep canyons, rock-made rainbows, a vast, strange and beautiful nature, all difficult to describe. In each place I remember people, many and distinct, who will travel with me to where ever I may go. But soon the intense smell wakes me up from this trance. The meet is ready and right bellow my nose. One last ‘asado’ goes down my throat and esophagus, washed by red wine, perpetuating in my mouth during my farewell the great taste of being here, reminding me forever the need to come back.

Salta, Argentina, July 2009

I Feel

I feel the earth, the ground, the smell of dryness and herbs I do not know. I feel the sky watching me from above, hardly reflected in the scarce water that runs far from here, in the bottom of the canyon, in that little yellow snake that can hardly be seen. I feel the wind, warm and cold, the tar and the sand, the air I breathe and the sun that burns my skin. I feel the friendly hug of a stranger that talks to me only to say hello. I feel the sound of nothingness, of the vastness, of this void filled with everything that surrounds and suffocates me. I feel, I feel, I feel... I feel until it is impossible to not feel anymore, until I get unconscious from feeling so much. I feel with my six senses, as if they were eight, ten, a single one. I close my eyes and breathe. The world could end right here, right now, I would not notice a thing.

Cafayate Canyon, Argentina, July 2009

Thursday, 3 September 2009

A place

What defines a place? Things? Objects? Light? Walls? Sun? Darkness? Sounds? Scents? Foods? Tastes? A dog crossing the street among many cars? A bottle of wine on a table while pies are eaten? Churches, many, built a long long time ago with a lot of sacrifice by some for the forgotten glory of only a few? A street filled with flowers and colors and shops and people? People, that's it, people, that's exactly what defines a place. I arrived and saw nothing but a small house painted white, I had no idea what it was. "Let's get inside", I was told. We did. We all got inside and what I saw had nothing to do with the outside. This place, a place, had a bit of everything, records, plates, bicycles, mannequins, other dolls, little light, tables, a lot of music, old clothes, little light, people, chatter, people, smiles, people... Friends. A place is only a place, what makes it unique is who we meet while there.

Cordoba, Argentina, July 2009

Le Tour of red

As soon as we arrived I jumped on top of my bike. My companions have no idea that for me this is much more than a simple ride, that each time I sit behind the handlebars I am preparing for a race. Ah Ah!! The Mendoza wines' tour transforms into Tour de France, Giro de Italia and Volta a Portugal inside my legs. We take off and from the start I take the head of the group, dictating the pace. I will not be surprised, must be aware of anyone trying to escape this group of seven. In the middle of all this I look over my shoulder to control the distance and check my competitors' faces and, all of a sudden, I start to hear a whistling music that I know from long ago. As if by magic, instead of an Armstrong or Agostinho I start to feel now like the Piraña from Verano Azul (Blue Summer), followed by his friends in this case, the opposite of what usually happened in that Southern Spain TV show. My heart calms down, as well as my legs, I start to look around and to enjoy the scenery and the wind that blows lightly against my face. Winery number 1, the visit gets started, that's how we make it, that's how we keep it, that's how we drink it, and the little Indurain that was left inside me starts to transform himself at the pace that Bacchus takes over my body and inebriates this tour. 'Bodega' 2, one more Malbec, 'Bodega' 3, a Torrontez, 'Bodega' 4, InduWho? Piraña, that's who I am now, cycling lazily, but without the usual ice-cream in his hand, whistling in my head that music while the wheel keeps going, more or less straight, on its way to one more 'Bodega'...

Chacras de Coria - Mendoza, Argentina, July 2009

p.s: for those who forgot about it or for those who do not know yet this jewel of Spanish TV from the 80s, please follow the link to the intro video: