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Field Notes, vol 9

October 6, 2013

field notes
Oh y’all. I’ve been home for ten days, and I’m not sure how I managed to not blog before now. Well that’s not quite true: most of this week was spent helping with my niece who was home sick from school. And the rest of the time was spent inwards: a bit of settling back in, a bit of pouting, and a lot of mulling, while my hands kept busy knitting socks.

Ecuador was magical and demanding and fun and effortless and the trip of a lifetime and a bit mundane; in other words like regular life but magnified. It was also full of people who were so open and charming and curious that I made friends everywhere I went, some connections deeper than others, but all will stay with me. I am so grateful I was able to go: the trip confirmed some truths about myself and deeply challenged others. I’m home now and hope to making my regular life a bit more like travelling: I want to be more open, make more connections, push myself more. I don’t think I realised how self-contained and emotionally protective I’d become until I suddenly found myself reaching out and taking chances whenever they appeared. So there’s that. And I left my heart behind in the Amazon, scattered between the endless stars and towering trees and surprisingly comfortable hammocks and leaf cutter ants and sunset swims and complete lack of mosquitos and the effortless idyll of the lodge and the wild life playing out all around and the people I was there with, tourists and guides, and our instant, playful, true connections with each other. I find myself in a strange place, filled with dreamy determination but even in my daydreams and musings taking care to step carefully around the emotionally raw areas. I’ve barely glanced at the photographs from the trip, worried seeing them will be more bitter than sweet.
Amazon Canoe
And for a little bit I was afraid to read. I knew I couldn’t handle anything confronting and harrowing but even my usual comfort authors seemed suspect: all of those stories about women my age changing their lives and living happily ever after were not what I needed. Nor did I want keen characterisations with powerful, genuine emotions: I had more than enough of my own. Somehow even rereading seemed dangerous: I’d be reminded of my past selves on every page. But after three days passed and I began feeling a bit, well, frantic, I knew that reading would save me. So I opted for comfort as far removed from my situation as I could imagine: Anthony Trollope (I still haven’t finished my Middlemarch reread but quailed before George Eliot’s keen eye). The Eustace Diamonds, the next for me in the Palliser series, proved a suitable cure: while I love Trollope for his gentle humour and dedicated world building, I rarely see myself reflected in his pages. I’ve since read Oliver Sack’s Hallucinations and most of Leslie Marmon Silko’s essay collection Yellow Woman and the Beauty of Spirit. Then I picked up Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow: what a powerful, stunning novel. Not the best choice for my current fragile state, though. I ended up going for a two-hour evening walk in a nearby park, just to get some breathing space.
While there, I was surprised to discover autumn: the bucks have returned, nonchalant despite their fresh antlers, everything is green after the annual summer wilting, and I even stumbled upon the occasional mushroom. I write this with my windows open; thanks to a storm last night, the temperatures have dropped enough for me to turn off the air conditioning for the first time since May. I have begun a historic fantasy novel (The Golden Horn by Judith Tarr) featuring deliciously conflicted characters in gorgeous settings, which I trust will be a bit more of what I need at the moment. And just like that, things have clicked back into place. Writing about my fears and hopes and sadnesses, sharing them with this community which has so shaped and supported me, bringing them into the light, has shrunk them to a manageable size. It is my favourite month, and I trust that I can once again reshape my life, and it is good to be home.

Next time I’ll write about more bookish things. Promise.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2013 10:05 am

    A lovely post for a Sunday morning read. I hope you’ll post more pictures from your trip once you do get a chance to look at them all.

    • October 7, 2013 4:34 pm

      Thnx! I have 3,000 to sort through but I keep telling myself if I do it in stages it’ll get done! ;)

  2. October 6, 2013 10:39 am

    Hope you write more about your Ecuador adventure in the future.

    • October 7, 2013 4:34 pm

      Somehow I’m sure it’ll come up! hehe

  3. October 6, 2013 11:46 am

    Thanks for telling us about the trip. It sounds like the best kind of travel, showing you how the world out there is different from and yet in many important ways the same as the one we usually inhabit.

  4. Amy @ My Friend Amy permalink
    October 6, 2013 11:59 am

    aw lovely post, Eva, just absolutely beautiful.

    I’ve barely glanced at the photographs from the trip, worried seeing them will be more bitter than sweet.

    I totally understand this feeling.

    • October 7, 2013 4:35 pm

      Thanks Amy! I think it broke my homecoming paralysis too which is nice!

  5. booketta permalink
    October 6, 2013 12:04 pm

    Lovely pictures which match your writing.

    • October 7, 2013 4:36 pm

      Thank you! I do enjoy photography, although I learned on this trip that I’m not cut out to be a travel photographer! Too busy travelling to remember to take pics. hehe

  6. October 6, 2013 2:10 pm

    Welcome back! It sounds like your trip had all that you could want from a travel experience. The photos you’ve included in this blog are gorgeous. And yay for Trollope’s books being there when you need them. In case you’re curious, I’ve been reading and reviewing some books that were either directly recommended by you or that I added to my reading list because you posted about them: To the North by Elizabeth Bowen, The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, and Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. I enjoyed them all very much. I’m also currently reading Situations Matter by Sam Sommers.

    • October 7, 2013 4:37 pm

      Oh yay Christie I’m SO glad to hear that! :D Looking forward to hearing if the Sommers is worth a read!

      • October 8, 2013 6:06 pm

        I just finished the Sommers book. I had mentioned it in my comment above because I had mistakenly thought you were the recommender. It’s a good book and I like Sommers’ writing style, but given your extensive nonfiction reading, I’m not sure if anything in book would be new to you. If I recognized several of the research studies he covers, you would probably recognize even more.

  7. October 6, 2013 7:25 pm

    You know, I was just wondering about you this weekend. It’s good to “hear” your voice. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your travels, and your comment about making your regular life more like traveling is something that resounded with me. There’s something about traveling that brings out my best self – the one that’s eager to step out of her comfort zone and explore new territory and is filled with awe even over simple things seen in a new context. It would be so refreshing to have more of that even in my day to day life instead of returning home only to so easily hop back into the box I’ve made for myself here.

    Beautiful post!

    • October 7, 2013 4:38 pm

      Thank you Megan! And yes it’s a bit terrifying how simple it is to resume daily habits without a second thought. Travelling brings out my best self too…although I have to admit I had some internal tantrums at points as well. ;)

  8. October 6, 2013 7:31 pm

    Wow Eva, sound like quite the beautiful, life changing trip! I would so love to that one day. Really, I would. I’m so happy that you had that experience which I’m sure will continue to influence you in a good way :) *hugs*

    • October 7, 2013 4:42 pm

      Thnx so much Chris!!! I hope you get to do it one day too: travelling solo makes you feel so damn powerful. And lots of other things too of course! This trip really reminded me of the generosity and openness so many people have, which gives me something to cling to when I hear the latest nonsense going on in current events.

  9. October 6, 2013 7:42 pm

    This is a really beautiful post and in just a few short words, I understand how magical and amazing it was for you. I can’t wait to hear more about it, but I completely understand what you mean about not wanting to revisit it just yet. Always lovely to see you here. <3

    • October 7, 2013 4:42 pm

      Thnx so much Lu! So one thing I learned on the trip? Spanish is SO MUCH FUN. I seriously miss it: I spent most of my time speaking only Spanish and had a ball!

  10. October 6, 2013 11:45 pm

    Welcome home—back home to the States and back home to the community.

    My parents are travelers. (I am not, despite their best efforts, and it’s taken me a long time to stop feeling ashamed about that.) One of my father’s favorite Dadisms, translated into English, means “changing the ideas.” Traveling puts things into a truly different perspective, and that sounds like what you’ve experienced here. But, as at least one Madeline book puts it, sometimes the best part of the trip is coming home and appreciating what you have and, more importantly, appreciating your own capability. Putting things in perspective, as it were.


    • October 7, 2013 4:44 pm

      Thanks for the food for thought & good wishes Clare. My sister is the odd one out compared to my travel loving self and parents, and I never thought before about how that might be shaming. I’m glad you’re no longer ashamed: there are so many ways to live life and learn more about yourself and others, travel is just one approach.

  11. October 7, 2013 5:08 am

    Wow! Awesome post. I do hope you find a way to share some more of your adventures.

    • October 7, 2013 4:45 pm

      Thnx! I’m sure I will…pretty soon blog posts will start appearing ‘This one time in Ecuador…’ until everyone’s well and truly sick of it. ;D

  12. October 7, 2013 6:13 am

    I, for one, loved this post and I loved hearing a bit of your thoughts on Ecuador and how it has shaped you and your path going forward. I would love to hear even more about it—will you be writing about it over at your travel blog?

    Also, I completely understand the frustration in wanting to read but not being able to find the right book. I’ve had that so much since setting off on our trip—I don’t necessarily want to read about the place that I am (because I can just go out and explore for myself), but reading books that I used to enjoy so much before our trip haven’t really cut it either for the most part. So many of the issues that most of the fiction I used to read is all wrapped up in just seem so trivial at the moment that I can’t find it in me to get invested in them. I want sweeping stories that take me away, but not back to the place that I left!

    Anyway, glad to hear you found some good books in the end. I actually have a copy of Silver Sparrow on my iPad—maybe I need to give it a try!

    • October 7, 2013 4:47 pm

      Thnx Steph! Considering my abject failure to write about my trips to Mexico or Canada last year, I think the travel blog is pretty defunct. But I’ll be sure to weave some Ecuador stuff into my field notes. :)

      Silver Sparrow is really good but SO intense: nothing truly horrible happens I suppose but it follows the lives of four black women and how white patriarchy plays out its influenece, and it does it so well, that I spent the whole book pretty heartbroken. Would still recommend it, just be prepared!

  13. dastevensish permalink
    October 7, 2013 6:32 am

    This post touched my heart, Eva. I just can’t wait to hear everything in person. Everything you’re ready and willing to share, of course. In case you’ve forgotten, I think you’re so awesome. And I love you!

    • October 7, 2013 4:48 pm

      Aw thnx Debi. I have SO much to share with you & I really really hope we can visit Cuyabeno (the rain forest reserve I was in) together one day!!! Love you too! (Ohhhh: we could face time one of these days since we both have Macs!!! It’d be a little bit like face to face, esp if we both make chai beforehand. :D)

  14. October 7, 2013 2:15 pm

    >>Somehow even rereading seemed dangerous: I’d be reminded of my past selves on every page.

    I love this. I started my commonplace book because I wanted to keep track of quotations I liked, but over the years I’ve found that I return to it not for the quotations but for the ghosts of different versions of myself. I can remember so vividly the frame of mind I was in when I wrote down those scraps of stories and poems. And there are definitely times when I want to keep as far away from those memories as possible.

    (Also, hi! I’m delighted you’re back!)

    • October 7, 2013 4:50 pm

      Jenny! And yes, I reread quotes that I loved when I was a teenager, and suddenly I am 15 again. But looking at my 27 year old self. :o

  15. October 7, 2013 10:26 pm

    I too feel like I need a bit of a change in my life lately, to become a little more of some characteristics and a little less of others. Your thoughts here are inspiring and I feel that I have some thinking of my own to do!

  16. queenofthepark permalink
    October 8, 2013 12:17 am

    Welcome back Eva
    Love your resolution to make your regular life a little more like your travelling one
    Travel does pare things back and it is challenging to see how we can manage with a few necessities from a bag and feel so free at times
    Really looking forward to your travel tales and already inspired by your reading suggestions. You have jumped right back in

    • October 8, 2013 4:00 am

      Welcome back! Your trip sounds great and I love the photos. When I travelled by myself in Vietnam years ago I felt both crushed and releived to be back, now I yearn to go off and travel again, 30 days walking the Camino de Santiago is planned for the end of my MA, now I just have to make it happen.
      Looking forward to library loot, reviews and beautiful quotes.

  17. October 9, 2013 5:26 am

    Welcome back, Eva. You are a master craftsperson and I know you’ll be able to reshape your life.

  18. October 9, 2013 11:36 am

    It’s good to see you posting again, and I loved every minute of this. Such deep emotions. Thank you for sharing with us, Eva. :)

  19. October 12, 2013 6:53 pm

    Great to hear about your trip. And I know just what you mean about not needing keen, insightful books about emotions and changing lives for a bit. Sometimes it can all be a bit much when you’re having your own emotional things because art is designed to move us.

  20. aartichapati permalink
    October 13, 2013 9:18 am

    Welcome home, Eva! I love your pictures. I mentioned in my email to you that traveling makes you realize and believe even more in the kindness of strangers – I am glad you had such a wonderful time.

  21. October 13, 2013 5:25 pm

    Sounds like it was a wonderful trip for you Eva! Really enjoyed reading about your experience. One day I’d love to travel through South America. I know there are some amazing places waiting for me!

  22. November 14, 2013 11:53 am

    I have been behind in blog reading. Glad to come and read about updates. I am happy you had a great trip!

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