Just before I get on a plane I have a little ritual. I make a final trip to the washroom and when I am washing my hands I look in the mirror and say goodbye to myself. The person that boards the plane is never the person that returns. All travel changes you if you are doing it right. This last trip was no exception.
Quite on the spur of the moment we headed off on a Baltic cruise at the end of August. People keep asking me how it was and I really don't know how to answer them - there are so many different aspects to the trip that it is hard to know where to start. Actually, I think I am in culture shock. There was no time to read and prepare before I left. Everything was a bit of a surprise. And each day we docked in a different country and we were exposed to a different history, a different culture, new colours, new smells, new art. It was all so fast. I had no time to absorb it all. I've come home with a jumble of images and colours racing around in my head and it will take time to assimilate them into the new me.
Let me give show you what I mean. In two days I saw so many things in St. Petersburg that I could spend the rest of my days letting the images I shot from there dictate my drawing and writing and thinking. The first day I spent eighteen hours in buses, museums, churches, palaces, squares and dining halls. The second day I spent another ten hours doing the same. It was sensory overload. The pre-Soviet royalty in St. Petersburg lived in a world of sensory overload. It explains so much. Here are just a few images to give you an idea of how overwhelmingly exquisite it was.
Conversely the book I chose to read while I was away was one I bought well over a year ago, a book about slowing down. It is quite telling that I didn't get a chance to read it until last week. And what a great choice it was, the perfect foil for the rapid pace of all the land tours. The book is called World Enough and Time and is written by Christian McEwan (ISBN 978-0-87233-146-4). What makes it different from all the other books about slowing down is that it is written by someone creative, a writer, for other people who are artists and writers. She examines the lives of creative people and draws out their insights on the need for slow, continuous introspection in the life of an artist. It is a treasure trove of inspirational quotes and thought. It was a delight to read slowly - I held myself to a chapter a day - and I will savour many of the ideas I encountered over the months and years to come just as I will savour the sensory overload of our Baltic trip, slowly, on the many cold days of the winter to come.