Monday, September 10, 2007

September 9, 2007 - Avea Bay, Huahine

Memory is a funny thing. Although we haven't been far from the boat this past week, I feel as though I've explored the whole island; probably because we did during our honeymoon. The two experiences have melted into one memory of this place. As a result, even though we've spent a week of unsettled weather working on boat projects and hanging out with Nell and Brian on Storm Along and Susan and Steven on Surprise (a sleek custom Schumacher 46, my experience of this place seems very rich. On this trip, where we are so rarely in places that we have visited before, I had forgotten what it was like to revisit familiar places, where layers of memory add an additional dimension to the present experience.
Traveling and exploring new places is an extremely present tense experience. Everything is unfamiliar. Everything is new. The absence of the familiar opens the mind to old memories. They come roaring back. Conversations long forgotten pop into my head, rich with detail - every word, emphasis, tone and gesture remembered, the setting vividly recreated. When I was working I could barely recall a conversation had the day before if it wasn't related to the project at hand, let alone one from high school or college. Without the demands of the office and the noise created by the internet, radio and television news, colleagues, friends and family, the brain is given the opportunity to rattle about in its library of memories and find one for my entertainment. Often they are silly bits of fluff, but occasionally, they are meaty, awkward or embarrassing experiences that I haven't found peace with yet. Travel creates the opportunity to work though those experiences, to come to terms with them.
Theroux says is better than I can:

"Travel, which is nearly always seen as an attempt to escape from the ego, is in my opinion the opposite. Nothing induces concentration or inspires memory like an alien landscape or a foreign culture. It is simply not possible (as romantics think) to lose yourself in an exotic place. Much more likely is an experience of intense nostalgia, a harking back to an earlier stage of your life, or seeing clearly a serious mistake. But this does not happen to the exclusion of the exotic present. What makes the whole experience vivid and sometimes thrilling, is the juxtaposition of the present and the past -- "

the angst of the high school cafeteria revisited from a perfect half moon bay; the discord of a board call reviewed while drifting over a tropical reef; or the warmth from a half-forgotten friendship recalled while standing watch under the Southern Cross. We're so fortunate to have this opportunity for pause and review at this stage of our lives. Hopefully we'll learn something about ourselves to help us figure out what to do with the next stage.

A lion fish - poisonous, but beautiful

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