I haven’t been around because I’ve been chilling, and before I was chilling, I was traveling—days crammed with stuffing suitcases, riding taxes and buses, making it to the airport on time, threading my way through crowded duty free shops, spending hours on four square feet of airplane seat space, gazing out windows of buses, taxis, cafés and marveling at the world outside. First the sandy desert landscape of Israel, burnt and barren in the sun, where you have to look twice to make out a fortification wall that’s been there for a thousand years, or where you have to wander under the tarps of the shuk to find life bustling along, sheltered from the blazing sun.
Days when you haven’t had enough sleep, when you still push yourself along to meet a friend whom you haven’t seen in two years and who you know you won’t see again for probably a long while, when you find yourself between countries, and still having a major moment of human connection in an airport café where service is way too slow for the rushed world it’s supposed to serve.
Days when you gaze out the bus window at the stately tall buildings of Scotland that you know have been there for centuries, 4--, 500 years at least, buildings that have been rained on and rained on and still stand, and could tell stories of Scotland’s bloody history (when is history ever not bloody?) but instead stand silent, eternally erect. Days when it rains softly all day long, the way it never rains at home where the wind blows with a force and the rain comes down in a thunderous pour. Days when by late afternoon you’re completely soaked so that even a sojourn in a smoky stuffy pub won’t dry you up, but at least a tasty pint warms you up and you're glad for the cool wet weather after weeks of 41C in the Judaean Hills.
All this is obviously still swirling in my mind, unsettled, because, once I returned from my travels, my sister and niece arrived for a long visit, a rare treat and also an intense time because we are close and love each other and have so much to tell each other and really have to catch up on many many days of living because we don't see each other that often.
After ten days of visiting, we have now exhausted ourselves a bit and have settled into quiet companionship—time at my favorite café to write. Postcards in their case, this blog post in my case. For me time to catch up with myself, and for them time to catch up with friends and relatives. And for my sister and me it is a particular delight to witness our tradition of writing postcards, of sitting in a café and picking out what postcard to send to what person, something we did on every trip we’ve taken together and every trip we’ve taken apart when we would send each other postcards, of seeing that tradition passed on to the next generation as my niece revels in her postcard book and writes careful notes to friends and relatives.
Soon we’re off on another day of sightseeing—the Sears Tower Skydeck, architecture tours, the Art Institute, and sandwich shops in between and who knows what else we will discover. It is a special treat for me to have time off and to tour my own city. After weeks of touring other countries and taking in their marvels, it is a welcome counterpoint to delight in my hometown and to experience it freshly through my niece’s eyes, for whom this is the first really big city and her first experience of America.
I shall return to blogging soon, once I’ve truly settled back into my own life, and once I’ve had time to sort through the bounty of my own travels—I took lots of pictures of the breathtaking Scottish countryside, and the ancient sites I visited in Israel; street scenes, bucolic scenes, breath taking landscapes. And of course, during my own travels, I spent a day sitting in a cafe writing postcards. One of them was mailed to my sister and her family, and it arrived just a day before she and her daughter embarked on their big trip to visit me. A circle was closed.