europe, travel log

london – brighton

i cross the sea to the north. it’s a long, dreamy transition leaving one mist-clouded coast for the white cliffs of dover. a middle-aged man mopping the ferry floor sings in a beautiful baritone a song about all the girls he’s ever loved, to an audience of me and a couple of running kids in the vast, echoing, empty cafeteria. i feel the water in me pulsing to the water beneath the deck; communicating in ways my brain can’t understand – there’s some kind of eager reconnection going on, clear as day. in london, to contrast with the parisian graffito “menu du jour : l’amour à la amélie poulain”, a bar chalkboard proclaims “unattended children will be given a shot of expresso and a kitten to take home”.

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pimped crossing light on trafalgar square

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love at first sight in camden market – luz adopts a ukulele

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our working desk

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along the canals the boat people are applying coats of paint to their homes, taking advantage of the last sunny days. there are squirrels absolutely everywhere, surprises me every time. i am quickly reminded of how much our work is relevant in the cities, where the chaos is and i find it difficult to maintain harmony. we browse the city’s cosmopolitan options to fall back into our bodies. there’s an outdoor tai chi class, under a tree which keeps us from the rain. there’s an intensely beautiful yoga class with the urban avatar, an impressive presence who even pulls a dog-eared tarot from a pocket for a quick one-card pull before we leave. tango has a particular flavor so far from south america. i love working on my awkward steps, slowly polishing them. my body bristles with attention, gliding to the slightest pressure of a palm, following the heat of some stranger’s ribcage behind closed eyes. the milonga whisks us away from the gray towers into a swirl of silky dresses and intense, silent sensuality. a fragment of another era, still throbbing with life. cloaked in dream.

some beautiful dancing

we meet a tango dancer who paints dreamy dotwork landscapes and i run into some people i know from rio on the sidewalk. we take care of the lovely cedric, a city dog with an uncomfortable existence as he is mortally terrified of transportation, unknown people and much to our embarrassment, black men in particular. we never seem to run into english people anywhere ever. i go to a vibrant sunday market where it feels like summer is never going to end – a ska band jazzes up the park while families in t-shirts mill around incredibly delicious-looking food for every conceivable palate, friends have beers in deckchairs and a bush by the river drowns out all competition with ecstatic birdsong. i meet women who are building a boat in their backyard – “yeah, i’d barely ever lifted up a screwdriver before, and now here we go!”. when asked “so, did you enjoy the tate modern?”, i open my mouth, close it, for a few seconds, minutes. to me, that day, the art in these walls only screamed of alienation. the violent neons, ripped rubber tires and piles of rubbish weep. it brought me back to being a punk art student, feeling raw, unheard, powerless, angry, and using a similar language to express this.

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this reaction is probably enhanced by the days i’ve spent immersed in the delicate oil paintings of the pagan otherworlds tarot. the cards blow my mind. their beauty soothes the soul and evades words. i used to work with the tarot de marseilles, which i picked because it was difficult to relate to. i figured once i wrapped my head around this one, the others would come easy. its atmosphere reminds me of the stone walls of a cathedral, governed by complex number ratios, bearing the imprint of archaic rules and filled with underlying secrets i will never grasp. this deck here though…. it’s like walking through a forest. the cards whisper, and let the wind flutter through them. their messages often escape my lips, making no sense to me, but cristal clear to the listener.

i read in two homes populated by childhood friends, and the experience is moving, watching them sit one by one by my candlelight and open up, feeling their connection to each other through the walls and the years. their collective love creates a space for reading that is oh, so soft and welcoming. they wait gathered in the kitchen with wine, music and candles, cheering as each one comes back out, head whirring with information and wearing a sheepish grin. a book on non-violent communication falls into my hands, and deeply rustles me up. it comes right on cue in a time of stress, transition and delivering a lot of intense news. i’m still digesting all of the experiences shared in it… it offers such simple methods to deal with a million every-day situations. it’s like the ultimate communication swiss knife, simple steps to clearly understand and communicate relationship expectations, raising kids without guilt and punishment, get past that argument you always have with your mum, and the more spectacular examples of settling blood feuds between warring tribes and preventing a murder. the trick that really got to me was the phrase “repeat to me what i’ve just said”, and how you have to usually insist about five or six times for your message to reach the other’s ears instead of what they think they’re hearing. very soon afterwards i get a helpful illustration when a friend picked the devil card : “oh. that’s… bad, right?” “nono!” enter a long, loving soliloquy on the devil, followed by a pause and a few minutes later “and so the devil, that’s like a bad thing?”. it’s just humbling to have another precious tool drop in from the skies : “here my dear, this will help.” the cards had told me that some of the most important aspects in learning their language would not come from them, but from the web in which they are but one intersection : plants, folklore, language, poetry, music, moon phases and seasons, kung-fu, sexuality and self-care rituals. a friend talks of cleansing spaces with sound and a couple of days later i meet a kalimba with a sound like the tinkling of the stars. every note produces vivid mandalas behind closed eyes. it drew me like a magnet and the world disappeared, like the first time i heard tibetan bowls. i play it for a friend who immediately has a short out-of-body experience (and thinks nothing of it. “well, i dunno, it’s not like i count them or anything”). speaking of childhood loves, we leave london to hang out with the most beautiful bromance i have yet come across. in a nutshell, their first tattoo was : Till Death Do Us Part.

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the burnt pier

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brighton offers high vibes after concentrated londonness. when we arrive i forsake all good manners, drop my bags and run to the sea. i am unable to sleep, restless all the time, there’s an unlikely turkish palace and a burnt pier looking forlorn. i watch five beatboxers and rappers gravitate around a street mike in the space of fifteen minutes. it’s a delight to live in a musician’s home, and sway on the wave of voices and guitar strings while perched on the kitchen counter, watching the sunset. a city of students and funeral homes, nestled against the devil’s dyke, soft curves under fading pink embers. i drink in gratefully the night silence that london could not provide, the sea dissolves the city smell, racket and agitation with her tireless dance. i get a concentrated shot of brazilianessence in a shared house with fantastic women and a bulgarian samurai. we close one chapter of the coral collective as luz returns to brasil. it’s been an intense three months and it feels good to take a break, process and regroup, until our next adventure. i pack my bags and prepare to leave for glastonbury.

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