Ithaka

A lawyer gave me this poem yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything more apt. 

As you set out for Ithaka hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery. 
Laistrygonians and Cyclops, angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them: you’ll never find things like that on your way as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body. 

Laistrygonians and Cyclops, wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul, unless your soul sets them up in front of you. 

Hope the voyage is a long one.

May there be many a summer morning when, with what pleasure, what joy, you come into harbors seen for the first time; 

May you stop at Phoenician trading stations to buy fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, sensual perfume of every kind— as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars. 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you are destined for. But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years, so you are old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you have gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.



(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992) 

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Moments/Memories

In good times when the moment is being lived, the memories fade. They fade in order to make memory of the moments.

In bad times when the memory is being lived, the moments fade. They fade in order to make eternal moment of the memories. 

Distracted by abstracts

It’s been a while since I wrote something here. It’s not that I’ve forgotten my quest, but actually because I’m gathering information to fulfil my quest. Digesting and assimilating such unfamiliar unconnected knowledge takes time hence a period of quiet reflection.

The language classes continue apace and my biggest triumph to date is greeting my landlord to be in his own language. The discomfort of speaking will never go away. However the joy of hearing and recognising a single word makes up for any oral fears.

How does someone prepare for such a move? Having seen family live and die in Spain, I’m vaguely aware of the need to fit in, take on a new way of life and thinking.

I’m struggling with the over intellectualising of attending events ‘just because they are Croatian’. I’ve recently enjoyed a play and a pianist but I would have enjoyed them regardless of my plans. I’m grateful to the British Croatian Society for their abstract contribution to my experience.

But that is my current issue. My experiences are all in the abstract. Until I’m there screaming at the bureaucracy, champing at the isolation bit, and overcoming homesickness, I don’t see what more I can do.

As if to assuage my doubt, a gentleman in the ‘what does Yugoslavia mean?’ conference, has just emphasised the importance of popular culture in finding and understanding a place. I stand by my determination to see as many Croatian events that London can offer.

No matter how shallow and meaningless.

So with this in mind, learning and preparation is always the key even if it’s only in the abstract. Getting to grips with the history,and accessing and sharing the memories of others is a messy, informative and unifying experience.

Moving On

There is nothing like being in transit to make you think about moves.

Moves make shudder. There is the obvious planning and logistical angle, but the sheer physicality of having to pack belongings and dissemble furniture makes me weep with tiredness. The mental aspect looms over waiting to pounce when it sees me sleep. The nightmares attach themselves to me with parcel tape.

I’m aware that there are services which do it all for you but ‘my stuff’ is precisely that. I don’t have much, and I aim for even less after a clear out, but a part of me needs to handle each item to check it is real. And that objects are present and correct.

Such is the effect of too many moves, carried out at times when I was vulnerable. Those upheavals were mostly my fault and generally the result of relationships ending, or the untimely closure of a settled period of my life. Some moves just seem like a good idea at the time.

The one event that was not my fault was the Divorce. My father had left a couple of weeks before and I was bereft. After a massive physical fight with mother, I fled, with just the ripped clothes on my back whilst blood poured from my nose. At this point books, clothing and whatevers didn’t matter; all I needed was the relative comfort and security of my father.

The following week, when my mother was out, my father and my good friend broke into the house to gather my shattered childhood. My father did not come in because he was weeping too hard. I had to decide what was important quickly, because the police – or my mother’s violent family – could have arrived at any time. As we threw portable essentials into bin bags, duvet covers, the emotional ties ripped. I left, never to return.

So every move since has an essence of bloodied nose and hurried get away about it, even when it’s a necessary and exciting opportunity. I’m not saying that such an experience has been the cause of all moving anxiety, after all, moves are stressful. But I don’t think it’s been helpful.

Essentially I’ve learnt that all places are transitory, and it’s what you do and think and learn whilst you are briefly in them that matters. It’s not what you collect that’s important, because ultimately you’re going to leave that stuff behind when you move on.