There is something comforting about hotel lobbies. Like being in front of a portal to a world where you are simply a guest. No commitments, no expectations, no definite plans. I am here just for a while, I don’t need to own this place to enjoy it. I take in the scent of overpowering restroom airfreshners – which I would never use at home – and I vibrate with the expectations of discovering the place. Why do I feel so good about this blissful uncertainty and change completely once the holiday is over? Our whole lives are temporary stop-overs in places we call ‘homes’. Do we really enjoy them better because we give them a permanent status? Because they are full of stuff we call ‘our own?’
I believe the initial idea of the afternoon tea was to feed the hunger and satisfy the thirst of those who were too passionate to converse, to stop the flow of ideas….
…writing and how a forgotten red scarf on a chair can tell a story…
… time passing and how sometimes the memories of smell and taste overwhelm those of faces…
… should a scone have a crusty top or be more like a brioche?
… art nouveau and how some places are like a magnet for our romantic fantasies…
… chocolate and love and how the simple thought of the separating them is hard to imagine…
At this time of year I always get asked the question: “Was Dracula real?”
Growing up in Transylvania, in a small town in the mountains, where old traditions are still preserved and even today, people gather and play cards in the graveyards on Easter night, definition of real has so many meanings.
As a child, when my grandmother was telling me that if I don’t come back before dinner time, the ‘strigoi’ will get me. Did I ever see one? Of course, with my imagination’s eyes, I can describe it even now. Was he real? My grandmother said so even if she could not really remember if she ever saw one.
And then, as I grew up, there was “Zburatorul,” a being that, if I was not careful enough, would come to torment me at night with the pain of longing, the torture of being away from the loved one…we all know some aspects of this kind of pain and it’s so very real when we feel it.
Is there any connection between the literary character and the Romanian voivode, Vlad The Impaler who managed to keep the Ottoman Empire at bay in the sixteenth century? Maybe. They are both very powerful men and Vlad is mentioned even now by people in Romania as a hero, whom we would welcome anytime to come back and put things right in the country.
During his time, his reputation as a just and decisive leader was so strong, that public fountains had golden cups (no one would dare to steal them) and no honest person would starve or lack a roof over their head.
How do you know something or someone is really real?
I am looking forward to the talk this Saturday in Dublin, as part of the Bram Stoker Festival, where a variety of people will be trying to search for meanings into one of the most fascinating characters, which have inspired so many people and who, in my opinion, for that reason alone, is as real as one can be.
Note: If you find yourselves in Avignon, France, make sure to go and see the night show at the Pope’s Palace (some of the photos are taken there) … and ask yourselves what is reality?
I don’t know if there is a more symbolic gesture of hospitality than giving someone a glass of water, on a very hot summer day , while in heavy traffic, in one of the resorts on the Black Sea coast.
And I don’t know if there is something more symbolic than throwing it in someone’s face.
The first is the dream I came back home with, after six years, after leaving Romania. I was thirsty for good news, for signs that I had been wrong leaving it, that there was so much I was missing by being away.
The second is the reality.
I was coming back from the emergency hospital where I had brought my neighbour’s nine year old daughter who had high temperature.
I stopped my car beside a PARKING SPOT in front of a pharmacy, with my blinking lights on, without obstructing anyone’s way (at least 20 cars passed by without any noticing us). I was waiting in the car for the mother to buy the medication for her child who was dosing in the back.
When the horn of a car behind me made me look in the rear mirror. The woman driving the car was making gestures with her hand for me to move away. I waved her with a smile to go by me, but she pointed that she wanted the spot where I was, so I shrugged my shoulders and smiled.
She gets out of the car, approaches and opens my door to tell me to fuck off and let her get that spot if I don’t use it. I say I obviously am using the space and that she should find another spot. Her friend comes out of the car and enters the pharmacy.
Next thing, the driver woman goes back to her car and comes back in a hurry with a paper cup in her hand and throws it in my face, with a lot of other unrepeatable words.
Before I realise what had just happened, she drives off in a hurry leaving her friend behind and me with my phone trying to keep a proof of this incident so I don’t think it’s just a bad dream.
As minutes go by – me wondering if my mind is playing tricks on me or any minute now I will wake up – I begin to realise that despite the intentions, that glass of water had cooled me down…
Cooled me down of any doubt that I had valid reasons to leave my native land; cooled me down about any fake excuses that it’s the Communism or some other abstract ideology who kept this people in the dark; cooled down any hot air balloon that would carry me back soon to return.
They say that a continuous use of certain habits in a nation leads to the creation of a gene that will be carried by future generations. I am afraid we have passed that moment when we had a chance to define ourselves, Romanians, as kind, caring and hospitable people. We have exercised for too long this anger and frustration towards the other, the sister or brother beside us – as if the car in front of us is responsible for all our troubles.
There are so many things I treasure about my Transylvanian upbringing but I am certainly ashamed of the gene that is being formed in our DNA as we speak – throw the glass of water in the face of you neighbor if you meet him/her on the road rather than offer it to him/her to quench their thirst. That way, your ‘friends’ will think you are ‘cool.’
As the shock cooled down, I realise I have to thank that woman for reminding me that, even carrying this gene, I still have a choice to let it express itself in my behaviour or redefine myself as a New Romanian: aware of my past and my faults but strong enough to recognize them and realize that my neighbour and I have more in common than differences. That a glass of water is for calming someone’s thirst not for expressing my frustrations. That there is not such thing as “my spot,” but our world that we should learn to share.
As the wave comes in,
The stone seems to be moving.
But it’s only my thoughts
Ever more changing.
Can we ever say
That different waves are landing
On the same shores?
Can my love be waves
And move the stony shores of your heart?
Waves and shores,
Kissing and touching,
And knowing how much?
Of each other…
Could not even remember where exactly, but I saw this phrase: ‘average dream last only 20 minutes.’ And I could not help myself stop and stare at the screen, thinking of course, how did they manage to measure that? And started to attempt bringing back from my memories the various dreams I had…that I was going to be a doctor, then a journalists, then a media owner and then a perfumer….I even considered being a writer, I’m sure that dream did not last 20 minutes.
What happens with a dream after the 20 minutes have ended? Is there an automatic machine that sorts them according to the attention we give them?
The small, common and all-the-same, like a bag of freshly picked chestnuts pop up to the surface and blind us with their sense of security and comfort and we fill our palms with them, we smell them for a while and even though they don’t really bring back memories of the soul, we end up buying.
And the big dreams, the larger than life ones, usually end up in this small, recycled box and from the rainbow color they have when they are born, they turn this grey-translucent non-color and form the foundation of us-that-will-never-be.
How many of these dreams escape the sorting and sneak out, living in a sort of resistance in the deep seas of our soul, small ponds that long to touch the sea?
From there they come out disguised as a word a friend mentioned, or a phrase we read while we are running around carrying the small, average dreams on our shoulders, or a sound the wind makes while we have stopped and stared out the window. How many of them will ever recover their colors?
For is it the sunset we see in the sky after those long rainy days, or our dreams, escaping our memories and giving us another chance to look at what-we-could-have-been?
Small drops of rain. You can’t even see them, but you feel them. And the automatic reaction is to consider the day as if it never was, and you start considering: how can I influence tomorrow with my hopes, prayers, weather forecasts?
It’s funny to realize that on a grey day like this I tend to push myself more, as if I feel somehow guilty for the nature’s decision not to bother to sparkle. So I tend to dress colorfully and plan lots of things to do, for no reason, but just because it’s a grey day.
A two-hundred years church and a gathering of people, many of them coming to live in Donegal from very far away places such as New Zeeland, Fiji Island and Australia. All looking for a better place to express that hidden joy, dormant in each of us. A place where you don’t want to feel guilty for being you, free. A combination of poems, songs, fiddle music, prayer and hand shakes, hidden away from the rain outside.
I remember very well one phrase this pagan priest used talking about keeping up with our faith even when the joy is hidden behind some misfortune. Up until now I had contemplated always a duality like: joy – non joy, light- absence of light. I never thought of joy under a visible and invisible state, happiness overt and hidden.
It was in front of me all along – yesterday a sunny day, with the sun visible to all of us and today a rainy, cloudy day, with the sun hidden behind the clouds. Or just inside us. It does not mean the sun does not exist today, it’s just hidden.
How can I convince myself about everything around me following the same principle?
How do we find the love that is hiding inside us when we think we have lost hope forever? Is there a hidden meaning to the definition of humanity?
Are we just the places where God is hiding when it’s raining in heaven?