Kismuth and the Way - 2019


Solitude in Kraków

By Dipika Kohli

I am in Kraków. Poland.

A few days ago, I was in Warszawa. Midmorning: a bench, on the edge of a hill. Only two benches, on an understated, side strip of a green patch of trees and lawn that, taken together, laid on the city's grid in the shape of a largeish triangle, with a mid-sized road running the length of the hypotenuse and the sloping gradients on the sides. What a feeling of great possibility, the sky clear save for a few large clouds and the other bench occupied by a pair of lads who looked like they might leap up, any second, and have a game of hacky-sack. Summertime.

So many parks. So many patches of green. I had heard from other travelers along the way down from Latvia that if I went to Kraków, the buildings would be very pretty and the scene ripe for writing.

That I would like it. “Cool," I said. So, here I am. Arriving on an evening train, two nights ago, gave me a new feeling of delight and rekindled my feeling of wanting to move around again. Must've been the light. Wanting to capture it at the same time of day, last night I wandered about on a drift in the neighborhood north of the old town at the ten o'clock hour. Nice, this. Dwindling Northern European light. My camera. As street fell to night, I felt as if I was in a waking dream... with apertures... manual settings... I could make quick adjustments... this was all reminding me of the time I was in the Triangle in North Carolina shooting on film... seeing with new eyes. Here is one of the pictures I made. When I got home, I remember thinking, “Wow. That was great. I shot a whole roll." (A roll.)

Showing up. For this. This. Is the “work" part of being on the road, for me. If I have to try to put it in words, I would say “this" is the capacity to stay open, to be able to hear with your heart. Which means, mostly, waiting.

Meantime, there is a lot to juggle, as I think about how I will spend my last few days in Europe before the airplane circles me back to Bangkok. Whom will I meet next? What will we discover together? Can I hang on to all my many assorted bits and pieces, so as not to get too relaxed and forget something along the way, like, say, a document or a pouch of cash, or, well, a passport? Has happened, before. Hanging on to the waiting stuff, learning, and trying to be a good student of whatever the road will teach, but also recognizing I must keep an eye on the ball, too.

Nomadic Life

Travel is a spreadsheet of logistics, budgets, and mood. You look at the details of what kind of visas work, where you would have to go to get one, how much it costs, how long you could stay for, what the nearest opportunities might be for making a go of some kind of project… and you weigh these things. (Kind of. More often, you just go with the wind.) Nomadic life.

You go around the world and you drink the coffee and frequent the places where you know you will see something familiar, if that's the mood you are in. Then you go away from those places, and you wander, and you get lost.

It's okay to get lost

It's okay to get lost, as long as you feel like you have a place you can tether, and in so doing feel as if you have a sort of port, a safety net, in a way. Such a thing is very hard to anticipate in today's world, where so many people move about, and even longstanding friendships can fade. Maybe some people reading this very story will be among those of my oldest circles: North Carolina, after all, was one of the places I used to call “home."

To those who may have wondered where I went, or why, to be honest with you, I can't spell it out, exactly, as too much time has gone by, but if you knew me well, in those early days, then of course you would not be surprised that here I am, far from everything known, still seeking The Way, while also waking up to a new feeling that maybe there simply isn't one... nomadic life, yes, there it is again, that catchall for a wanderer's ways... this must be my jam.

Quieting

I write these words as I hear a familiar jazz song on the overhead. A kind of home, too... music. Sure, people change. People drift, fade, and move on. “You can't squeeze a bridge into a milk jug," as someone, somewhere else, in some other moment, on some other road, had said, out of seemingly nowhere. Daring me to ask yet more questions. Of course, learning the lesson, I stopped probing into whatever irrelevant vector of query I was charging to... Quieting. Is also a thing. Sine cosine tangent. And here we go.

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Dipika Kohli is the author of Kanishka, The Elopement, and Breakfast in Cambodia. See www.kismuth.com.