Monday, April 25, 2011

The veneer of a traveler's personality

Where have you been lately?

That is commonly asked when meeting friends old and new. Listening to travel stories can offer a look at places one has not yet visited. I wonder if some people cling to their passports as crutches for their own inner character.

It is easy to rattle off a list of destinations with exotic names and the journey may have offered new opportunities to work on a sun tan (I admit I have some bias against the whole tanning trend, but that's not central to today's discussion).

A tourist by nature only gets small samples of local culture. You don't know what residential life is like because you are intentionally steered to the "visitors' section" of town.

Maybe it is safer and I am not encouraging anyone to go looking for trouble in unfamiliar territory. But the smug way I hear people speak of places they have visited really irritates me. The glamour of travel is ostensibly the reason for many journeys. No one markets tours to landfills.

Based on the shallow self-centered accounts I tend to hear, people often miss the relevance of the ground they stand on. They may as well be eating a candy bar. After the wrapper is disposed of and the contents devoured, the experience will only be remembered for the sugar-induced rush.

It saddens me when I hear people talk elaborately about recent destinations yet their own character has not evolved.

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away