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The Emanuelian Cat

I am currently between two big trips.  The first came this past week.  I went up to New York to take part in the In the Know Film Festival.  You can currently go over to the sight and watch the three films, and they’ll soon have up the webcast that went out live on Thursday night.  I think I remembered to tuck my hair behind my ear.  After I sat back down, I started panicking, trying to remember if I did it.  I get sort of a deer-in-headlights thing going when I get up in front of people to speak.

It was actually a very cool event and I was lucky to get to watch all the films.  Two of them made me very weepy.  The finalists were all there, so I got to talk with them afterward.  Before each film was shown, the finalist got to get up and speak and for the second one, the couple said happy birthday to their child at home who was turning two.  During the film, there was a line where they said that if she wasn’t pregnant by the time her child’s second birthday rolled around, she was returning to IVF.  And it was moving to be there for that shrug, that cusp when you know what you have to head back in and do.

In the Know 1

Seriously, I look like a random child who has wandered into this picture.  Why am I so damn short?  This is a picture of all the finalists and judges.  Barb Collura, the head of Resolve is over towards the right.  And the two doctors, Dr. Stillman and Dr. Hummel are on either side.  And David Stern from EMD Serono is in the back.

In the Know 2

Oh my G-d, the man next to me is bending over and I STILL don’t even come up to his shoulder.  This is me with the finalists.

Plus, I got to spend the night with Magpie, who is so much fun.  We met at BlogHer this summer.  She told me all these great stories about ballet that I brought home to the ChickieNob.  It was nice to have a friend there.

The next trip is much bigger.  I’m flying out to Chicago to film this amazing documentary for PBS.  I’m really only there for a few hours.  Early the next morning, I fly to Detroit to visit a friend and do a reading.  And then it’s back home again.

I used to be fantastic at travel.  I would pick up and go…anywhere.  Everywhere.  It didn’t matter if I didn’t speak the language.  I would learn a few phrases before I left and then start picking up the new language in a matter of minutes after landing.  I traveled with friends or I’d travel by myself or I’d go over with friends and then split up for the day and do my own thing.  And it never phased me.  One time, I was looking for the Kiku Mistu and I couldn’t find it, but I met up with a random American woman who was in the same neighbourhood looking for underwear because she had lost all of hers (and it didn’t even occur to me to ask her how this happened) and I brought her back to our apartment at the top of Las Ramblas and we went out with her for the next two nights.

And as I’ve already said, nothing phased me.

And now, I am a terrible traveler.  If my brother hadn’t been with me in New York, I wouldn’t have eaten.  I would have gone back to the room after the event and sat there cross-legged on the bed until it was time to go to sleep rather than simply stepping outside and grabbing dinner in a restaurant.  I’ve become a nervous traveler who is often so overwhelmed with Herculean tasks such as tracking down coffee that I give up and go to sleep instead.  I’m not a nervous traveler when I’m with Josh; I’m just a nervous traveler when I’m alone.

Has anyone else changed like this over time?

When I was in Oslo, Norway, I went to two sites for the two different Vigeland brothers.  The first was the famous Vigeland sculpture park, which is filled with these gorgeous, rounded, granite statues depicting beautiful scenes of parents cuddling children, lovers embracing, and people dancing.  There is a piece called the monolith that consists of 121 granite people climbing over each other as they reach towards the sky.  The park is beautiful and someone told me that Gustav Vigeland is buried on the grounds.

A little bit outside the city is his younger brother’s mausoleum.  Where people can go to the park all day long, the mausoleum is only open for a few hours every week.  It’s hard to find and few get to see it.  It is this dark room and you need to bow down to enter the tiny doorway.  His ashes are above the door and there is this feeling of bitterness, making each person bow to him though he never got the recognition when he was alive that his older brother got as an artist.

The story is that the two brothers stopped speaking to one another when Gustav claimed that Emanuel was mooching off his vision.  I sort of prefer Emanuel’s art to Gustav’s.  I mean, I love Vigeland park and spent a lot of time crocheting there, but Emanuel takes risks that Gustav never took.  And entering the mausoleum is a sensory experience.  Sound hangs in the air so every movement you make is audibly recorded and remembered.

The mausoleum walls are covered with paintings and they convey all of the emotions missing from his brother’s work.  Babies are simply born and cuddled in Gustav Vigeland’s artistic vision.  In Emanuel’s, they are dead or raw and bleeding from childbirth or climbing over one another with disregard for anyone else.  The embraces aren’t loving and gentle.  They are frantic, anxious.  Lovers are gripping each other in ecstasy, skeletons are having sex, and in every painting and sculpture, there is all of the anguish of life coupled with the carnal realities that also make it beautiful.

Emanuel sometimes feels a little more real.

I told the story of these two spaces to Josh as he drove me to the train.  I wasn’t sure why I was thinking about them except that they represent how I react to travel as of late.  I think my earlier years were very Gustavian, beautiful and soaring and seeing all the good around me in new experiences.  And travel as of late has been a little more Emanuelian, noticing the fleeting safety in life in both the physical and emotional sense.

The only other way that I can describe it is that there are two cats.  One is fluffy and white and clean and purring and wants to sit on your lap and be stroked.  And the other has three legs and the hair is matted and there’s dried blood on his tail BUT he also shits gold.  I think we can all see the immediate good in the first cat, but the second cat has his good points too.

I don’t think it is necessarily a terrible thing that I am complete immobilized emotionally from travel.  I think it speaks to how much I love my home, how much I love Josh and the twins, how much I hate to be apart from them.

I got off the train (and the story of the two men sitting behind me talking about their cat child–“the little fellow”–will need to wait for another day because this post is getting too damn long) and my mum picked me up with the twins.  We swung by the food store and then I spent the afternoon making vegetable stock from scratch, turning it into butternut squash soup and potatoes dauphinoise.  I cleaned up the house and played legos and we read Shel Silverstein poetry.  And I thought to myself, “this is what I do really well.”

I may not travel much anymore alone, I may not pick up random strangers off the street and go bar hopping with them.  I don’t randomly choose a country and take off for a few weeks.  But I am really good at being at home.  Though I don’t shit gold.  Yet.


1 Jen { 11.07.09 at 10:13 pm }

No gold yet? lol 🙂

I understand what you mean about changing about how you feel about traveling. For me this changed after I finally bought my first house, got a dog, and was able to spend unbroken time with my husband. Before I had spent years roaming through Asia by myself and with friends, jumping on a train to go to Seoul, speeding up the California highway to go to wine country, or catching a plane to visit my man. Although I think the change had been happening for several years, I didn’t really realize it until then. After about four days of being away, I now would start looking forward to going home. Maybe it is that I finally found what I was looking for! Some days I long for a new traveling adventure, but now I know I’ll be ready to go home too.

2 a { 11.07.09 at 10:43 pm }

Let me know when you start shitting gold. I’ll make up the guest room for you.

I haven’t changed my travel style…I still wait for someone else to make all the plans! I come up with the idea, but the specifics are not really my problem. Not that I do a bad job when I have to plan the specifics, but I don’t like it. I wish I were the type to randomly go barhopping with people I meet…

3 luna { 11.07.09 at 11:16 pm }

just wait til you make it on oprah. you just might just start to shit gold.

4 Bea { 11.07.09 at 11:17 pm }

I have also changed over time! I am more cautious with travel. I find it tiresome and sometimes even a little depressing when things don’t go smoothly these days. I no longer think of missing the last bus and getting stuck in the middle the outer Hebrides with only a daypack and no money or warm clothes or food in wintertime as a fantastic adventure to be hitch-hiked out of. I think of it as a potentially-dangerous mini-crisis that will cloud my trip and my mood for days to come. Bah and humbug. Just now I am too busy being jealous about all the glamorous film-festival etc stuff to go into it in more detail, but I had to say that yes, I’ve felt that way before. 😉 Although I still haven’t got to the bit where I’m good at being at home.

Happy travels.


5 nh { 11.08.09 at 6:47 am }

Things do change and continue to do so, for a whole variety of reasons. When I was 18 I got on a plane and did my first long distance flight by myself to Africa. Now I hate the thought of staying away from home overnight by myself. Not because I’m necessarily good at being at home, but because I feel safe and secure there!

6 magpie { 11.08.09 at 9:13 am }

It was fun hanging out with you too.
And you, banging out blog posts in the swanky hotel lobby, that’s pretty good traveling. 🙂

7 Kristin { 11.08.09 at 11:41 am }

Oh my friend, I beg to differ. You do shit gold but it comes out in the form of the connections and the community you’ve helped us form.

8 Eve { 11.08.09 at 2:17 pm }

Haha…yeah Oprah knows about sh*&ting gold I’d say!

Sigh. So many of you (and that’s you, too, Mel) have had such adventurous traveling histories. Not so much here. The only place I’ve traveled by myself since my son was born was to England to visit my sister. I found myself crying every night because I missed him so much! It was an amazing trip, but it couldn’t compare to being home. I kept thinking the whole time I was there, “I wish Mark (my hubby) were here to see this.”

9 IF Crossroads { 11.08.09 at 2:39 pm }

The comments on this post have made me laugh so hard! Shitting gold!?! Awesome!

I too have become a nervous traveler as of late. I wonder why this happens? I have traveled so much over the past 10 years I could wander through O’Hare or JFK blindfolded and yet I lock myself in my hotel room when I am done w/meetings for the day. Maybe I’ve just experienced all I need to see 🙂

10 Kim { 11.08.09 at 9:48 pm }

Sit gold?! HAHA! When you fgigure out how to do it I expect you to put out another guidebook immediately to walk us all through that as well.

I will be in Detroit. Does this mean I can get my first edition signed?

11 Lavender Luz { 11.08.09 at 10:47 pm }

I always learn so much from you. You are brilliant with connections and analogies.

So, are you now studying how to speak “Chicago”?

Wish I could travel with you. I would find you coffee and dinner and make sure you had underpants. And overpants.

12 Geochick { 11.09.09 at 10:38 am }

Great analogy – I loved it! I’ve actually gone the opposite way with travel. I was such a scaredy-cat that out of college I refused to apply for jobs that required travel. Now I’m pretty good at it and welcome the chance to get out in the field. We’ll see what happens down the road…

13 Shelli { 11.09.09 at 11:25 am }

Oh yes! I traveled a lot in the early years of working for the I/T company I’ve been employed with for 17 years. But lately, not so much… and my choice really. I used to be a person that could eat dinner ALONE in a restaurant. Now, I wouldn’t consider it. I used to get on planes with excitement, now it’s mostly dread. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone in that regard.

Thanks for a great post- I am looking for distraction lately.

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