This self-education lark has been rather weird of late, mainly in a good way, I think, I hope and pray.
I seem to have graduated, gone up a level or two, much of the fog has lifted, in recent days and weeks.
I seem to be left with a much clearer mind, or a mind with clearer air, less polluted.
I was reading some passages of a book earlier, and the author was explaining what is was like to be in a Ecuadorian city high up on the Andes plateau…
I will copy a paragraph or a few:
From ‘The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Raft Across The South Seas’ by Thor Heyerdahl, translated by F. H. Lyon. (The original book was published in 1948, the translation in 1950.)
A few paragraphs from Chapter 3 – To South America
‘We had reached the country where the balsa tree grows, and were to buy timber to build the raft.
The first day we spent in learning the monetary system and enough Spanish to find our way back to the hotel.
On the second day we ventured away from our baths in steadily widening circles, and when Herman had satisfied his childhood’s longing to touch a proper palm tree, and I was a walking bowl of fruit salad, we decided to go and negotiate for balsa.
Unfortunately this was easier said than done. We could certainly buy balsa in quantities, but not in the form of whole logs, as we wanted it. The days when balsa trees were accessible down on the coast were past. The last war had put an end to them; they had been felled in thousands and shipped to the aircraft factories, because the wood was so gaseous and light. We were told that the only place where large balsa trees grew was in the jungle in the interior of the country.
“Then we must go inland and fell them ourselves,” we said. “Impossible,” said the authorities. “The rains have just begun, and all the roads into the jungle are impassable because of the flood water and deep mud. If you want balsa wood, you must come back to Ecuador in six months; the rains will be over then and the roads up country will have dried.”
In our extremity we called Don Gustavo von Buchwald, the balsa king of Ecuador, and Herman unrolled his sketch of the raft with the lengths of timber we required. The skinny little balsa king seized the telephone eagerly and set his agents to work searching. They found planks and light boards and separate short blocks in every single saw-mill, but they could not find one single serviceable log. There were two big logs, as dry as tinder, at Don Gustavo’s own dump, but they would not take us far. It was clear that the search was useless.
“A brother of mine has a big balsa plantation,” said Don Gustavo. “His name is Don Federico and he lives a Quivedo, a little jungle town right up the country. He can get you all you want as soon as we can get hold of him after the rains. It’s no use now because of the jungle rain up the country.”
If Don Gustavo said a thing was no use, all the balsa experts in Ecuador would say it was no use. So here we were in Guayaquil with no timber for the raft, and with no possibility of going in and felling trees ourselves until several months later, when it would be too late anyhow.
“Time’s short,” said Herman.
“And Balsa we must have,” said I. “The Raft must be an exact copy, or we shall have no guarantee of coming through alive.”
A little school map we found in the hotel, with green jungle, brown mountains, and inhabited places ringed round in red, told us that the jungle stretched unbroken form the Pacific right to the foot of the towering Andes. I had an idea. It was clearly impracticable now to get from the coastal area through the jungle to the balsa trees at Quivedo, but suppose we could get to the trees form the inland side, by coming straight down into the interior of the jungle from the bare snow mountains of the Andes range? Here was a possibility, the only way we saw.
Out on the airfield was a little cargo plane which was willing to take us up to Quito, the capital of this queer country, high up on the Andes plateau, 9,000 feet above sea level. Between packing cases and furniture we caught occasional glimpses of green jungle and shining rivers before we disappeared into the clouds. When we came out again the lowlands were hidden under the endless sea of rolling vapour, but ahead of us dry mountain-sides and bare cliffs rose from the sea of mist right up to a brilliant blue sky.
The aircraft climbed straight up the mountain-side as in an invisible funicular railway, and although the equator itself was in sight, at last we had shining snowfields alongside us. Then we glided between the mountains and over a rich alpine plateau clad in spring green, on which we landed to the world’s most peculiar capital.
Most of Quito’s 150,000 inhabitants are pure or half-breed mountain Indians, for it was their forefather’s own capital long before Columbus and our own race knew America. The city receives its stamp from ancient monasteries containing art treasures of immeasurable value and other magnificent buildings dating from Spanish times, towering over the roofs of low Indian houses built of bricks of sun-dried clay. A labyrinth of alleys winds between the clay walls, and these alleys we found swarming with mountain Indians in red-speckled cloaks and big homemade hats. Some were going to market with pack donkeys, while others sat hunched up along the adobe walls dozing in the hot sun. A few motor-cars containing aristocrats of Spanish origin in tropical kit succeeded, going at half-speed and hooting ceaselessly , in finding a path along the one-way alleys among children and donkeys and bare-legged Indians. The air up here on the high plateau was of such brilliant crystalline clearness that the mountains round us seemed to come into the street picture and contribute to its other-world atmosphere.’
That is slightly more than just a few paragraphs.. as soon as I read that last sentence – ‘The air up here on the high plateau was of such brilliant crystalline clearness that the mountains round us seemed to come into the street picture and contribute to its other-world atmosphere.’ – it captured my imagination in a rather strange way which I doubt can be explained at this time. It has almost articulated for me what I have been struggling to articulate in writing for a wee while now.
My mind is expanding in all directions. It probably isn’t really, what is a mind anyway? I should say that my imagination is probably as healthy as it has ever been, and it is interacting with all sorts of faint memories. Not just memories of events, names, places, faces etc.. but memories of emotions, feelings, hopes, regrets, guilt, happiness, grief, confusion, understanding. Anger, peace of mind. It’s all there. And eventually, I believe, writing will be as natural to me as breathing. Well, maybe that is over-egging it a notch of two.
I have revised my ‘self-education’ plans, in fact I have more or less ditched them.
Music and Books. That is all I need for now. The rest will work itself out. I work nights. I have a future wife to plan the rest of our lives with. Lots of private stuff that I will not write about here.
So far, everything that I’ve shared in my own words has been non-fiction. I can’t guarantee that will remain to be the case.
I think this blog will progress very gradually, but quite well, over the next few years, if I can remain blessed health-wise. At some point the bulk of what I write and share on here will be fictional. Will I make it clear what is fantasy and what is reality? I’m not sure.
I seem to have graduated, gone up a level or two, much of the fog has lifted, in recent days and weeks. Lack of confidence and fear of being branded a complete and utter fool are the main elements that this particular fog is made up of.
There is a book I picked up from the charity shelf at work this morning.. A bargain for 50p. It is “Jew Süss” by Lion Feuchtwanger. I had never heard of the book or the author before. I’ve only read a few pages but there is something about it that has me gripped. It is a 1959 edition translated by Willa and Edwin Muir.
The first paragraph…
‘A network of roads, like veins, was strung over the land, interlacing, branching, dwindling to nothing. They were neglected, full of stones and holes, torn up, overgrown, bottomless swamp in wet weather, and besides everywhere impeded by toll-gates. In the south, among the mountains, they narrowed into bridle-paths and disappeared. All the blood of the land flowed through these veins. The bumpy roads, gaping with dusty cracks in the sun, heavy with mud in the rain, were the moving life of the land, its breath and pulse.’
Now, I really liked copying that out.
I am going to leave it there. I can hardly recommend you read books I have barely read. I hope the paragraphs I’ve shared are useful to you somehow, and lead to some enjoyable further reading.