Slow Travel.

Via on Jul 9, 2012

Living Between Curious Worlds.

A Traveler Reflects on Transition and Groundlessness.

“There is no doubt that I experience groundlessness, a lack of settling in, moving from place to place. But in each place I find home, within my experience of whatever the moment is offering. The most important quality for traveling is curiosity. It implies an open mind. Patience is a close second and tolerance makes it the holy trinity.”

The creek is high, rushing, coffee colored. The surrounding trees are full and dark green, happy for a full drink of yesterday’s rain. The Flatirons sit pretty in the distance looking down on the plains with barely a glow of early morning light from a vast, cloudy, yet blue Colorado sky. Birds and hidden animals take delight in the moist air and cool temperatures, and so do I.

Left hand creek after a storm. The “Queendom.” Longmont, Colorado. 

Rain has washed over recently burnt hills, bringing with it a mix of tree ash and eroded earth. This is how the great west was formed. The Grand Canyon, the Great Sand Dunes, magnificent earth sculptures moved around, carved and pushed up against fourteen thousand foot peaks from primordial wind storms, ice, great rushing rivers and forest fires started by lightning strikes. Not far away, parched areas of land, a veritable tinder box stretching for thousands of acres, has burned out of control for a few weeks covering 136 square miles, stripping everything in its path. Precious Rocky Mountain high air quality: poor.

But this morning, the wisdom of nature has righted itself. I sit appreciating this as I listen to the roar of the creek and all that is beautiful about Colorado and the great western United States. It makes leaving the bosom of Italy, the quaintness of Europe—a more civilized way of living life—easier.

“The center of the Universe.” Cibreo Caffé. Florence, Italy.

 

Just days after leaving the taste of fresh figs and just-made ricotta, my mind and palate linger in the memory of daily walks to the market.

In Italy, seasonal fruit bursts with color and true taste. My basket is full of deliciousness: hearty bread, flavorful prosciutto, mozzerella di buffala, sweet pomodorini, pungent green extra-virgin olive oil, mineral rich Sicilian salt and bright yellow zucchini blossoms to stuff. I dream of the swirls of spicy oil that will anoint a dish of fresh tomatoes and basil, and ponder what crisp white wine will be good to serve at sunset. Will I choose Falanghina or Fiano to delight my guests as we hug the Amalfi coast offering up a taste of place as the wind blows?

 

Fresh figs and ricotta. Casa Parlascio. Florence, Italy.

 

Sitting just a few short days ago in my fourth floor apartment that looks at the back of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, I marveled at the palazzo‘s perfectly cut stones, large Renaissance windows and tall handsome tower. Swallows danced at dusk and the light poured in softly onto my cheerful tablecloth. The Japanese tea pot sat empty, having poured its last cup of tea into a grey-glazed handmade cup that fits a bit “wabi sabi” into my hand. These are the images that soothe my soul. The paintings on the wall speak; the textiles tell stories of where they came from and I feel shy that I love these inanimate things. I know I will miss them, the stone Buddha, my nest in the sky, how it holds as a place of rest and creativity for me, my friends and family.

Casa Parlascio. Florence, Italy.
Casa Parlascio. Florence, Italy. Photo Graham Markel

This home is a refuge. A place where I live half of my life, a pied a terre, to go from here to there for my culinary programs in that part of the world. I look forward to the wood-fired ovens of Tuscany. To sailing the Med, on her cobalt and aquamarine seas basking in Neapolitan island splendor. To Sicily, for mandarins, almonds, antiquity and wildness. To Morocco and the Atlas mountains for the Berber way of life and to Marrakech for exotic, playful, artistic feasts.

 

Camel Safari with friends. Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. Photo Ashley Mulligan

And then, within a day, I take a big leap back home to the other half of my life, to purple mountain’s majesty and amber waves of grain.

I have family, grown children, gorgeous blonde curly headed grandchildren, a nurturing, patient boyfriend, and wonderful friends who speak the same language. I have biography here. Years of living, drama, loss, happiness, life lessons, study, and love. I come back to a country that is built on liberty and justice for all (yet spends billions in an election year rather than on what matters). The good ‘ole U S of A.

 

Crestone, Colorado.
Home on the range close to my house. Boulder, Colorado.

 

I imagine the tension, anxiety and possible peacefulness of what it would be like to slow down to the point of staying in one place.

I know that a life spent roaming around and around and around is stimulating and meaningful, but it’s also addictive.

I wonder sometimes how long I will keep it up as if, then what? What does it mean to stop? I can hardly imagine what old age will be like. Will I be a wise old woman who likes to tell stories? Will I take up knitting or writing? Will life become static and boring? Life is not static anyway, anywhere, as long as we are alive and engaging our minds.

So the question remains open.

Ventotene, Italy.

It’s a privilege to travel.

It is my work and has become what shapes my life. Back in the “Queendom” of Colorado, the home of a good friend, I find the part of me that loves high altitude living. Recently the temperatures were extreme. High and dry, the mountain air sucks every bit of moisture from my face, the ground, the creeks; even snakes climb trees looking for shade.

Then it breaks into its opposite. Flash floods. Cool. Cloudy days that bring relief. I think of shopping for food at the market, what to eat in this climate and I become nostalgic for Italy, Morocco and India. Cultures whose lives revolve around family and real food, where more attention is put on growing good food. I love their traditional dishes that speak of locality, identity, age old wisdom of how to eat in a certain season, which spices to temper in which oil, what flavors naturally go well together. I ask myself, how will I relate to every day life in the Rockies as opposed to Rajasthan, or Sidi Kaouki, Vallelunga or Ventotene?

 

Tagine. Jnane Tamsna, Marrakech. Photo Ashley Mulligan

 

Luckily, the fresh corn will be plentiful and the apricots and peaches native. I will have to use my senses and experience to eek out the best of what grows naturally here and prepare it in ways that I have learned, to make sitting down for meal an exquisite part of the day. I am beyond grateful that I have known and been exposed to some of the more brilliant slices of the world.

There is no doubt that I experience groundlessness, a lack of settling in, moving from place to place. But in each place I find home. Home is within my perception, my experience of taking in whatever the moment is offering. The most important quality for traveling is curiosity. It implies an open mind. Patience is a close second and tolerance makes it the holy trinity.

It takes a few days to transition and in these times of change; I see myself and the world more clearly and appreciate the differences and similarities, the white tailed deer scampering across the field, the broken windshield wipers, the small irritations that have no gender or place, the opportunity to have choice and be free, the smile of an old friend, the heron on the pond, an inexpensive long talk with my sister, a peaceful place to lay my head, a beautiful landscape.

It’s an opportunity, right? To see through what we usually don’t see when our minds are preoccupied and the landscape is only a backdrop. Getting big enough to include it all. Being patient with myself in the transition process is key.

And it makes life curiouser and curiouser.

 

Photo by Ginny Jordan,here at the Queendom.

 

*Photos by me, unless otherwise specified.

 

 

About Peggy Markel

Sign up for Peggy's monthly newsletter, to receive stories, videos, recipes and updates in your inbox. Join the PMCA community on facebook for photos and stories from the road. Since 1992, Peggy Markel has traversed the Mediterranean and North Africa, from Elban fishing villages and Moroccan markets to the homes of Tuscan artisans and chefs, furthering her own exploration of culture and cuisine. On these journeys, she saw an opportunity to design and direct her own brand of culinary tours in which enjoyment of the present place and moment plays a pivotal role. "When we speak of Slow Travel, we mean that particular experience of letting yourself merge with your surroundings: the pace, customs, mores and style of where you find yourself. It’s really about our willingness to let the world in, and see ourselves a part of it.” For more information about Peggy's trips and classes: peggymarkel.com For more writing and recipes by Peggy: peggymarkel.blogspot.com Or, follow Peggy on Twitter

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