Today Yesterday a Month Ago] Never Enough Time
Again, writing this gives me the same feeling that living it gave me: “What? This is the last day already? How did that happen?” And it’s making me sad – writing about it gave me a chance to relive all my adventures, and as soon as I publish this last post, it will truly be over.
And there were times, a month (and a bit more, now) ago, that I felt ready to be home again, in my comfortable, familiar places, checking on my plants again, but when it came down to it, I wasn’t ready to go home.
I had a few hours before I had to leave, and I spent them at the Asian Art Museum. Too bad Cyan had to work, both because she really wanted to come, and because I feel like it would have been so much more interesting if we’d gone together.
Which isn’t to say it wasn’t interesting on my own. My memories are already starting to blur (I should have taken pictures, maybe, but when there is so much to look at, where do you even start? Where do you stop? And I vaguely remember seeing some “no photography” signs, so I wasn’t sure if I could.)
But what I remember is the feeling of… well, I suppose I have to say “awe”. Looking at all these beautiful things…
I don’t go to museums often. I think before this trip, I’ve been once in the nearly ten years since I finished school (and that was something that had to do with vegetables), so I don’t know what I’d see if I went to museums here. (Maybe I should do that some time.)
And I don’t spend a lot of time looking at or thinking about art. So while in a way, this was a bit like the botanical garden for me – so many new, beautiful, never-seen-before things, so overwhelming many of them, in another way, it was completely different, because for plants, I have a frame of reference, I can mentally file them away by botanical family even if I don’t know their names, but this was all just filed under “new and unfamiliar” or “oh my god, this is is beautiful” or “you know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything this big made out of gold outside of a Scrooge McDuck comic” or “hm, I think I saw a picture of something like this once, I kind of can’t believe I’m looking at the real thing up close”.
But there was just so much, far too much for the few hours I had. The thing that bothered me at the de Young museum, the lack of context for the non-western art – here, there was background information for every piece, but just not enough time. I wanted to read all of it, but I just couldn’t. My memories, blurry as they are, are mixed with far too many memories of looking at my watch, calculating how long I had left, how long it would take me to get back, to finish packing, to get ready to leave for the airport.
There is one thing I remember, that I thought about early on, reading one of the signs next to one of the Buddha statues (before I got overwhelmed by Buddha statue after Buddha statue, and then everything else): so Buddha’s horse was called Kanthaka. And I couldn’t help but think (especially after spending all this time among Smarchers) of Qantaqa in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. Who is a wolf, not a horse, but she is Binabik’s mount. And comparing Binabik to Buddha would go a bit far, but he is a holy man of sorts. I don’t know, it’s far-fetched, it might be coincidence, but it was interesting, in any case.
That’s one thing I remember, and the other is this cabinet… have you ever seen something so beautiful you wanted to cry? Or at least sit in front of it for hours and hours and just look at it? I really, really wish I had pictures of my own, because the one I found online just does not do it justice.
All the people and trees and everything are made from tiny pieces of mother-of-pearl in several different colours. I have a thing for mother-of-pearl anyway, but the detail of this, those tiny, tiny pieces… if I hadn’t had a plane to catch, I might still sit there in front of it.
The other thing I remember clearly is this:
Because it has tigers and magpies on it, and where I’m not Ivy on the internet, I’m Magpie, and it’s nice to know that in Korea, magpies are seen as omens of good news.
The further I went through the museum, the less seems to have stuck in my memory – which is another thing I believe would have been improved if Cyan had been able to come with me, because talking about things, putting them in words, helps me so much with remembering them. My journal is no help, because all I wrote about was that cabinet (several paragraphs that mostly consist of “oh my god”) and about getting on the wrong train on the way back to Cyan’s place, which meant that instead of getting there early as I’d planned, I only just made it at the time I’d promised, had to hurriedly throw my last couple of things into my backpack and off we went to the airport.
I remember sitting on the train, feeling sad about having to leave, feeling like we should make the most of the last bit of time we had together, but not actually being able to think of anything to talk about. And taking one last (crappy) picture of the last sunset through the train window:
With those Star Wars-like loading cranes in the background, and are those school buses in the foreground? Another so very American thing, that I’d known from pictures (and maybe movies?) for so long it was kind of funny to see them in person.
And then the airport, and a bit of worry because my flight was overbooked (how I would have loved to take the money they offered me to fly a day later, but I had to be back at work on Monday), and a last hug and a last “Save the Pope!” – laughing, but sad at the same time – and it was really, truly the end of this extended Smarchmoot, and I was on my own.
I will say this: as sad as I still feel when I think about the airport (because I can’t think about it without thinking of saying goodbye), San Francisco is now officially my favourite airport yet, and that’s because before you go through security, they have somewhere to empty your water bottles, and after security, you can refill them. Which I find so, so wonderful, because I get really cranky when I don’t have my water bottle, and I also get cranky about having to buy water, and every airport should have this.
But even having a full water bottle could not really save my mood. I was sad about leaving, I was tired, there was a baby on my flight (not a very noisy baby, but still. There are some very murderous thoughts in my journal), the food was… “edible” is the kindest thing that can be said about it, I was in a middle seat, which is the absolute worst for me, the screen at my seat (which I didn’t even use once, I had a journal to write, I had no time to watch any movies) went crazy and kept flickering on and off while I was trying to sleep… but looking back now, I think what bothered me most was that we were supposed to sleep and so all the window blinds were closed. And I hate not being able to look outside. I hate that feeling of being disconnected from the rest of the world. That’s bad enough with flying in general, when you lose any sense of where you are – but to also not even see the sky and not having any idea when I was… I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, that is all I can say about it.
The one bright spot in this interminable flight was getting up to use the bathroom towards the end of it (when they’d told us, “do it now, before the fasten seatbelt sign comes on”), and looking out a window while I was waiting for my turn. No clouds below us, and a few tiny little islands appearing in the endless water. And I’d just thought, “we must be getting close to land” when it appeared, beaches and little towns, a patchwork of fields and meadows with seams of roads and hedges… it all quickly disappeared under clouds again, but I got this one moment of beauty.
And then hours of waiting at Heathrow (well, still better than almost missing my plane, and at least I got to nap), and another flight, and a night spent in Vienna (too tired and still too busy processing everything to talk very much), getting up too late the next day and finally finally going home (after another little train mishap).
I was unexpectedly greeted by nasturtiums still blooming on my balcony (and they’re still blooming a month later. So close to Christmas, and not a snowflake in sight.
And inside, plants dramatically toppling over to tell me how terribly thirsty they are… always such a joy to be home!