Like many of you, I too sit in my little cocoon, sometimes worried and anxious about an invisible enemy. I also wonder when I will embark on my next adventure. What will that be? Where will I go first, if and when the world returns to normal? What will I photograph? With whom shall I dine the first? Where will I get my first espresso? And who shall I hug first?
I dream of Japan. I imagine Iceland. I think about Tuscany. I think about all those places I have never been to and had on my bucket list. New Zealand? North-Eastern India? Or back to Ladakh?
And then I am reminded of Dorothy’s words from The Wizard of Oz: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it, to begin with.”
And then I wonder — it would be good to walk on the Ocean Beach, from one end to the other, and back. And again. And again. I miss my proverbial back yard — it is where I find that sense of belonging. I can imagine the infinite, the endless, and the horizons unknown. It is where when I stand, and I am still. Not moving, but feeling the sound of the ocean. The slight whistle of wind that comes from afar. The ripples caused by a falling surfer, not seen to the naked eye, make me feel the Pacific on my skin. The distant clouds, the rambunctious dog running ahead of its mistress. The fisherman trying to capture a fish, which is nothing more than a wish. I miss the rays of setting sun blinding my eyes. I miss the gentle warmth of the morning sun caressing my neck. I miss the sands, which, like time, are always changing. I miss nothing, but a little place where I go to lose myself, and then find myself,
So, I won’t go anywhere, but there first. It is where if it were to end, it would be the ideal backdrop for end credits.
I have passed past 43 days alone, reading, writing, and sometimes getting lost in the wonderland of imagination. It has been an enjoyable journey — for it has reminded me, to not worry about being somewhere, because I could find it anywhere.
The isolation has forced me to think and learn what Pico Iyer calls the Art of Stillness. It is quite odd to read a book by a renowned travel writer when holed up inside, but travel is less about going somewhere, and more about expanding your mind with new experiences. Iyer has a beautiful way of putting a philosophical context to everything and everywhere, and he does that so well in his book, The Art of Stillness. “Going nowhere, as Leonard Cohen would later emphasize for me, isn’t about turning your back on the world; it’s about stepping away now and then so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply,” he writes. And he is so right.
It is one of my favorite books – I reread it, and again, and again. To remind me, that movement isn’t necessary to be moving. Just a little imagination. And right now I imagine my happy place — only a few miles from my apartment, waiting for me when we can all go somewhere.
PS: At the end of the book, Canadian-Icelandic photographer Eydis S. Luna notes that her “photographs come from a place of emotion. They are not an attempt to capture the perfect image, but to capture the feeling I experience as I witness the things in front of me.”
That one observation has helped me put on the path of visual discovery that continues.
April 11, 2020, San Francisco