Thursday, April 12, 2018

Life fragments

Something pretty sensational happened during my recent trip to Georgia and Armenia. As I found myself on foreign lands, there were quite a number of times – quiet ones, reflective ones; while dancing among hundreds, or striking up a sweet conversation with locals in restaurants – there were defining moments where interestingly enough, I was experiencing a kind of déjà-vu that was not really one. A sip of Armenian coffee reminded me of a delightful rose-shaped salmon sashimi that a chef friend concocted for me when I was living in Oslo. Perhaps because the coffee mug had a print of a rose on it. The first bite of the incredible Georgian national dish Khachapuri propelled me back to that spring years ago when my oldest brother invited me to a Cheese Ham marathon. I am convinced Pizza Hut's prime inspiration is this specialty's heartiness. And for a second in the sublime techno club Bassiani in Tbilisi, the peculiar face of a man that walked past me the very first night I arrived in Berlin in 2005, which truthfully I discarded until now, crystallized in my head; a blur suddenly clear as day as the music fed my soul in that darkest, most wholesome of clubs. 

The uncanny thing is, these are illusive details that I had not only completely forgotten about; but I am fairly certain I did because they do not necessarily count as so-called journey-altering, key hours. Those we are supposed to immortalize. An average day at Pizza Hut, an odd stranger or that cute sashimi surely did not make it on a picture – even less on paper: not because they did not matter at all; but they just did not matter enough. This was not the first time new sights, tastes or experiences somehow induced random life fragments. Of course, I am not implying that rescuing involuntary memories happens only while on the road. I have studied Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time one too many times to appreciate how a delicious Madeleine can awaken episodes as far as in our childhood. However, there is something about being somewhere else that manages to resuscitate hidden gems easily – and unwillingly; especially serendipitous snippets.  Chapters we usually leave in parenthesis. These memories, no longer fickle, come alive in full force. They mattered now.

I am someone who does not tend to forget and I have been an avid moments catcher, devout diary keeper and relentless absurd items collector from an early age  –– naturally to document it all. I guess it also goes hand in hand with being a writer. We are obsessed with the moment. See eternity in it. We preserve feelings. Write both to set them free and hold them prisoner. We write to remember. And we write to relive things. Whether recounting, embellishing or even downgrading our musings, writing is genuinely living a point in time twice: in the moment, then in ink. Three times if, by all means, we consider reading as well. Notwithstanding, I have lived long enough to know that some days truly get lost in the mass, some thoughts will not care much for an afterthought – and even the strongest of emotions will be tamed. We simply cannot remember it all even when we keep the greatest days of our lives in shrines. Obviously, all the more when it comes to the trivial. 

I have always regarded traveling as the utmost privilege; and fact is, when the routine is disrupted entirely, we tend to think that we leave who we are at home. Actually, I discovered that quite the opposite happens: we bring our entire being with us. This time frame has a subtle way of letting the banal and the extraordinary meet; and in a trice, the past, present and future version of ourselves seem to mesh perfectly in unknown territories. Memories and dreams become one and the same in the present moment. More importantly, the more we explore, the more there is revival. The more we are disoriented, the more dissimilar the other culture is from our own, the more we understand that many things are wonderfully universal: kindness, laughter, freedom. In my case, I wondered why these atypical episodes stemming from former lifetimes all of a sudden crammed up in my head. They matter. They have always mattered.  Then, the thread of my life felt flawless: every stage -- including the most ordinary, nearly forgotten ones -- led me to exactly where I was supposed to be. I found my vein as a writer in the ordinary long ago. Yet sometimes, it does take that extra to see beauty in it.

Glorious Mount Ararat before me in Armenia took me back to all those nights I was in the gutter – at the same time, that majestic view also summoned my ability to successfully pull myself together. Over and over again. Without question, no photograph will do justice to seeing the unique cave city of Vardzia with my own eyes. I had planned on going there, and there I was. Then, it had me be confident about the grandeur of my endeavours. I was so free because of techno in Bassiani, and it breathed life into those memories I had already felt that way. In thirteen years in the scene, there have been plenty. Still, this was another one that would go down in the books. Beautifully so, the past, present and future version of ourselves mesh perfectly on foreign grounds. Old impressions and new become one and the same in the present moment, this time frame subtly letting the banal and the extraordinary meet. Indeed, something sensational occurred to me during my trip to Georgia and Armenia: I celebrate the ordinary. I always have. And sometimes, it takes that extra to write about it.