Your travel memories are hiding in your house – go find them
Your travel memories are hiding in your house – go find them
Vivian Green wrote; “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass … it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
The world seems to be waiting for the storm to pass. As all the news channels, inspiring Instagram posts and YouTube videos collectively point out, I can take this as a chance to restart, reset, slow down. Speak a new language, develop a new skill set, take up a new hobby. Do I need a new skill set? What are my old skill sets. Do I have skills?
My mornings these days involve 15 minutes of meditation in my favorite chair, in my favorite room in the house. The space where I sit is bright, even on cloudy days, and has large windows overlooking a patch of green grass, a brick-red Japanese maple and an open blue sky. I hear sounds that I hadn’t noticed before, I was way too busy. Although now I can’t remember exactly what I was so busy doing. I hear children dribbling basketballs, the wind swirling through the leaves of the trees and the birds singing – not anymore because the DC shuttle doesn’t fly over my head every 4.2 minutes. Small pleasures.
I was not a highly motivated meditator in the past, and I had a bad habit of going through my to-do list, hoping not to forget when I should pick up the kids, and wondering simultaneously if those leftovers in the fridge were already gone. From what I understand from meditation, this is very frowned upon. I got better by keeping my mind on the right track. My task list has shrunk exponentially. My appetite, however, did not.
Unplugging is my essential meditation app. Lauren Eckstrom, one of the guides, with her beautiful voice and cadence, became my very important person during a global pandemic. The same goes for John Krasinski. I am all good news. Even if these are just “some” good news.
Move around the room
On the way to this comfortable chair in my house, I cross my living room. The room where we had friends for a drink, and sometimes we danced on the coffee table. The room where we now watch Hulu and Netflix for hours. This room also houses the objects we collect.
Large collections of small things. Small collections of big things.
Matches from 25 years of restoration, Lonely Planet guides from decades of travel, Kokeshi dolls from our years in Tokyo and countless found objects, are some of the things we have accumulated over the years. A sun-bleached goat jaw that my stepfather discovered while hiking on a hill in Turkey even found a place in our house. It sounds invented and disgusting. I promise, it’s neither.
Lately, due to the inherent nature of being trapped, ummm, of sheltering on the spot, I have spent a lot of time focusing on our range of collections. Not just a “Wow, it’s a nice sand dollar I remember last week in the spring on Anegada”, a kind of concentration. More like “remembering the stories attached to them”, kind of concentration. The journeys that brought them from there to here.
A very, very long time ago
Years ago, when my husband Daniel and I started traveling together, we picked up a souvenir from our trip. A souvenir to take home and look at from time to time. My former boss used to grab sand from the beach from his vacation and put it in tiny acrylic crates. The hues and colors of the grains differ from case to case. Another friend retrieved shot glasses.
T-shirts, key chains and magnets are easy to find and collect. I don’t know why, but we’ve always been looking for a piece of local pottery. The only requirement was that it was made in the country we were visiting. (Although we broke this rule, for a very good reason. Twice.)
From time to time, we disagreed and one of us had to concede. Usually, uh, always, Daniel. When we got home, we exposed them around our apartment, then we almost forgot about them.
Years later, we got on with our lives and moved from New York to Tokyo. When we unpacked our boxes, we discovered that all the pieces of pottery we had collected over the years were in the form of bowls the size of a cereal. It surprised me how consistent we were with our tastes. The collection seems to have been created over the years, without our knowledge.
Twenty-six bowls from around the world are now arranged in neat rows on the shelves of our home. I have watched these bowls a lot lately, usually after I finish meditating. How many times have I passed them without thinking? Forgetting how they got here, in this house, from Japan, Bhutan, Morocco, etc. Years and years of stories and memories before me. I took out my notebook and started writing. Free time can hold so much power.
Travel memory: South Africa
A few years ago, our family spent a week in Cape Town, where we explored neighborhoods, beaches and vineyards. A few nights after our wanderings, we came across a neighborhood called The Old Biscuit Mill, which is located in the Woodstock neighborhood. The mill has since been transformed into a trendy neighborhood that houses trendy and upscale restaurants, showrooms of contemporary artists and niche clothing stores. The test kitchen, one of the most famous restaurants in South Africa, also resides there.
Founded by two South African artists, Zizipho Poswa and Andile Dyalvane, Imiso Ceramics attracted me like a moth. We walked past Imiso just when they were about to close for the night. The lit and spare showroom was fascinating. From the dark ink outside, we laid our eyes, pressed our heads against the windows and looked inside. While Zizi and Andile’s styles were different from each other, they complimented each other seamlessly.
Sometimes when we travel, a piece of pottery jumps out of a gallery window, practically calling us by name. Sometimes we travel and never fall in love with anything. Here’s a proverbial candy store of beautiful ceramics, and I was that kid who wanted it all.
The opportunity to meet and speak to Zizi and Andile in their studio made choosing a room difficult. They guided us through the showroom, telling us about the inspirations and techniques of their trade. We fell hard for their two styles. Probably, it was the first time that we had the chance to meet the artist of a bowl that we bought.
So, in the name of equity, we bought a coin from each of them.
First, a hand-pinched piece from Zizi, delicately lined with metallic paint, and had a bright blood-red interior. Second, a piece from Andile’s intense “Scarified” collection. Andile told us about this ancient traditional African act, scarification, which consists of cutting the skin in order to repel negative and bad spirits. The outside of the snow white bowl has been cut several times, revealing hints of primary color under the “skin”. I could almost feel the intensity of the culture of each artist intertwined in their work.
Zizi and Andile packed our new treasures with love and a few weeks after our return to the United States, our bowls arrived. Today, these bowls sit on shelves in our home and contain the stories of Zizi and Andile, their legacy, as well as the story of finding them late at night at the Old Biscuit Mill, as they closed their doors. .
Travel memory: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, a city filled with arts, culture, great food and majestic hikes, became the destination of a girls’ weekend a few years ago. Lisa, a friend of mine in Tokyo, was from LA, and I was from DC. We had no plans other than a few dinner reservations. The New York Times “36 Hours in Santa Fe” became our only companion.
It turned out that a plan was not really necessary. The locals were happy to guide us through this charming, idyllic town. In fact, we ended up changing a reservation based on a tip from a store owner one evening. Another day we ended up in a Peruvian diving breakfast on the outskirts of the city. Local knowledge, as always, rules.
When we arrived, we roamed the city in search of the main square to get our bearings. Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery was the first gallery we ever set foot in, and I still consider it the best. Andrea Fisher has collections of ceramics from many well-known Native American tribes, many of whom are still perfecting their crafts on New Mexico reserves. Their illustrative skills, like DNA, continue to be passed down through the generations.
Acoma Puebla, which is not far from Albuquerque, occupies a staggering 5,000,000 acres on which they settled more than 2,000 years ago. Remarkably, it is one of the oldest communities living permanently in the United States.
When I started reading about the tribe and its pottery traditions, I learned that the geometric patterns they use in their creations are applied with the peak of a yucca plant. Folklore says that, once the pot is finished, the artist would lightly strike his side with the tip, then listen to a ring. It was believed that the room would crack under fire if the sound was not heard.
Black and white has always been my favorite color palette, or the lack of a color palette as some would argue. When I saw the display of Acoma ceramics for the first time, I had the impression that I would not leave New Mexico without.
The finely brushed and complex patterns are created by hand, not by machine. It’s a level of skill that I just can’t calculate, no matter how many times I look at the pieces in my collection. Layers and levels of detail, especially from older masters, are impossible for my mind to deal with.
I did not know that day that the bowl that I would buy would have the honor to trigger another collection. A collection of tangential pottery from black and white masterpieces. Over the years, my husband has sometimes surprised me with Acoma pottery for birthdays, anniversaries and Mother’s Day. I once tried to buy him a birthday present. But my daughter called my bluff, knowing that it was sneakily a gift for me, not for him. Clever girl.
Travel memory: Tokyo
The memories surrounding, which is likely my favorite bowl, are blurred at best. Under normal circumstances, my memory is not reliable, so going from 2020 to 2007 is a stretch. I’m going to have to improvise a bit.
There is a magazine in Japan called Kateigaho, which considers itself the “definitive source for Japanese arts and culture”. It’s a glimpse into the glamorous world of art, upscale Japanese museums and restaurants – a world in which I was now a part of. It was fascinating. I leafed through architecture worthy of a faint, upscale hidden kaiseke restaurants, art and craftsmen – the tip of the Asian iceberg, so to speak.
It was at Kateigaho, very early in our day there, where I saw a photo of an older Japanese ceramist, and his beautiful pottery. The exquisite pieces he turned practically skipped me from the bright pages. The finishes he used were unusual, partly mat and with an imperceptible luster. The leaves of the Japanese maple, momi-ji, were a motif that immediately captivated me and has since become my favorite tree. It is also one of my favorite memories attached to life in Japan. The overlapping leaves of the maple create endless shapes and patterns as the sun passes through them. In fact, the momi-ji bowl has become the centerpiece of the pure, newly planted garden in DC, the one I admire every morning when I meditate.
I had to find the ceramist, visit his workshop and find a way to communicate with him. I’m sure he spoke as much English as Japanese. The only proof I have of the whole transaction is the bowl itself. I have nothing else to do, but a lost Kateigaho back number from 2007, and an illegible signature at the base of the bowl. I’m still looking and I hope I find it. Stay tuned to eBay.
Where are your travel memories hidden?
Needless to say, my best travel memories are stored in this collection of pretty bowls, these hidden gems, invisible to everyone. Now, more than ever before, I look at them and I remember how we found them, who we met along the way, the people who fit the memory and the cultures in which we immersed ourselves in this short moment in the weather. These trips changed me and allowed me to see the world from a different angle. I miss traveling. Evil is real.
For now, I am going to sit down, facing the green grass, and watch the delicate leaves unfold, day after day, on my Japanese maple. I will listen to Lauren Eckstrom while I meditate from my favorite chair. On the way to this chair, I will pass by these bowls and remember their stories. I like the idea that my memories are attached to the objects of my house. Not a bad way to travel, at least for now. And maybe try to learn something new, like dancing in the rain.
Jamie Edwards is the founder of I am Lost and Found. I am Lost and Found is a luxury / adventure travel site that inspires others to explore the world, through first-hand experiential writing and captivating photography.
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