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Posts Tagged ‘Cities’

leon city

the key is to build up what you have
to create today
through it may not last through tomorrow
keep the core alive
a center
where it is defined
churches spread out around the city
18 of them,
at least one in ruins
still viable and used

take care of what is yours to use
do not take it for granted
a few changes of clothes
that fit the body
but freshly washed and pressed
a stoop is swept
and floor are washed
hair is brushed, pulled back or simply cut

Though the market is a lively place
yes, much stuff bought and sold
but a center of life
and the bus station
out on the edge of town
a chaotic place, but alive
calls to buses
taxis pull in and out
the yellow bluebird school buses crowd the gravel parking lot
stacking the goods on top
bags of oranges, packages, 2 overstuffed chairs
luggage tries to fit inside
ticket sellers and drivers abound
and those who sell snacks for the ride
flavoured water out of plastic bags
and the sweet fatty snacks
and the soft drinks of course
board the buses to sell
the battered buses
with numbers painted on the seats
5 across, a school bus fits 84 (+)
there is room for more
maybe not a seat
babe in arm
but there is room.

At the market,
on the streets
people walk on,
stop to talk or watch,
a historic centre and around
but one that lives
not a museum, but viable
recreated in every moment
hotdogs sold in the square and on the corner
outside the churches
people lounge outside

in the day
pedestrians crowd the shady side of the street
make room on the narrow sidewalks
taxis, the covered trucks that take people to pueblos, a few buses
few private cars
for this is poor here

i stand outside
is not my place to join
i and the other tourists pass through
a few here to work,
but if they stay elsewhere in the country most likely
but do not dominate
the land or the centre is not created for us,
yes, a few of the cafes, nicer restos
hostels and cheaper hotels
a few tour operators, many who give back to the land somehow

but generally us outsiders are ignored
something that is here
accepted but nothing more
part of the life of the land
as is the heat of the day
and the history of the place
we might stay or go
nothing is known
many changes have been seen
have the feeling that what is is
not a passive acceptance in this land
the revolution started here in 79
an engaged population
but does not seem to cling to the past
lives the day,
so many changes here
the city the place of the historic liberal elite
granada was the conservative elite,
and now the capital in managua
the sprawling centerless city
that all try to avoid
though most buses go there
the city that had its heart ripped out in 72
and where it was not rebuilt
a sprawl to negotiate
and try to get through safely
but here there is a centre
small from above
and the city goes on
paved roads turn to brick, cobblestone and dirt
homes become poor
kids play ball in the cemetary
a few shanties on the outskirt
but people seem decent
not take from one another
create a life
a city, yes poor,
but one that in many ways seems so rich.

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I have walked around the centre of Granada too many times, circling the central squares, walking the restored streets in the centre of town so many times that i should know them by heart by now. Finally had the guts to walk down to the lake, had been wanting to for several days, but i felt afraid to venture beyond the zone, the zone that is marked in darker green on the tourist map. Still, i have not really felt the energy here, have not really looked, too consumed by the voice in my head that says “what the fuck have you done now – just what have you gotten yourself into this time girl.?” wondering just what i am doing here, why i have come to this land.

What is it that i hope to see? What is it that i have to prove? I pace the streets, the same ones over and over, feeling like a street walker of sorts – see a few others who do the same.

Maybe it is because i have not really met anyone since i arrived despite moving between hostels – the first one empty, talked to a couple, her mainly as he was sick for a day and a young german girl who i could tell felt as caged as i but i was exhausted that first night and just wanted to sleep. It was recommended by the woman who i met on the bus, attached to a non-profit centre which felt good. Yet it was the people who used the centre who took up the common couches in a group and i felt like hiding in my private room – a guys bonding and tv watching and i felt lonely. I walked around, not in the present, wondering where to move to and checked out the other places – most seemed just as bare except 3 – one a party place, the other a pothead place, and the one where i am now – a much younger crowd and i do not seem to bond with any – more in groups sticking to themselves – and many who are on the way to the beach and spend intense late nights at the bars – so that may influence how i feel here.

But i also feel like Granada is a large tourist city – an old montreal, a quebec city where you do not venture beyond the walls. Is it because i have entered a poorer country and notice the difference, the street dogs are skinny not like in Costa Rica, and when i do see the side streets and look inside the homes i see it, as i did when we crossed the border and the simple country homes of costa rica (which looked poorer as we approached the border) became shacks. Is it just a city vibe descending upon me? Is it a new culture shock? Or is it travel without a purpose? My plans messed up by the time on my tourist card 30 vs the 90 in my passport so it is hard to commit. I spend time sitting in cafes, in front of the computer, yes, maybe this is gift i had been given since i said i wanted the time and focus to write and it has been forced upon me. Or is this a realization of what i have felt before, travelling, observing, standing on the outside. That the difference between those who visit and those who reside is so great – and i am on the other side.

I visit the churches – magnificent outside, but so plain within – high ceilings but devoid of much decoration. I climb the tower in one and look out over the city, much greener than it appears from the street, as all the trees are in the courtyards to the homes. The centre area is nicely restored, smoother sidewalks, fresh bright paint of blue, orange, yellow etc. on the buildings you walk beyond, sidewalks crack and paint fades. It does not seem dangerous like a big city, few policemen or armed guards, just outside the banks where they sit bored, watching the money changers who patrol the corners outside.

It is dusk, i hear the birds sing outside in the park, gathering in the trees.

I was not the only one who feared the walk to the lake – just a few blocks beyond where the dark green zone and the pedestrian area of Calle la Calzada ends. I went today, a Sunday, and a few families walked down the emptier boulevard. I had walked some side streets on my way there – past homes, a few horses grazing on an empty lot, kids playing ball in a street. There is little down there at the lake, polluted is seems. A few from the hostel were wondering about going down and had been told to be careful so it was not only me.

My new hostel is on the edge of the market area which goes on for blocks – narrower streets with vendors selling shoes, lotto tickets (everywhere) food, bras, DVDs with tvs set up on the street which at night a few sit on chairs and watch, taxis (not the uniform red of Costa rica) but a variety of cars, many beaters, most older, some independent, others granada taxis, and a few buses mainly longer distance, and the bicycles other with more than 1 person, and the mini bikes and motor cycles, a few horses with carts (the nice horse-drawn buggies do not include the busy market on their route), and the people, buying, selling, bread comes out at night, a few men carrying large bags on their heads, and a few women baskets, all walk on the shady side of the street (it is hot here and the sun is strong) and the sidewalk is full of vendors, so it is a mix of pedestrians and vehicles. The market building itself is dark inside and a bit of a maze – i enter breifly – in the front section many bras, tshirts and shoes, yes more shoes.

I venture beyond to the bus area to Rivas where i might go, a block beyond the market down a narrow side street. All are helpful, i look at the unpaved lot with old yellow school buses, a crowded one pulls out, and i wonder about the romance of bus travel in this area. The expresos that go to Managua and then with a transfer to Leon, while cramped mini-buses with open doors to let in some air, do not seem so bad.

I shut myself down and hide inside quiet a bit. Most are friendly, the vendors are not agressive, a few beggars, and a few kids that seem to be trouble, wanting food from the table at restos, but seeming strung out.

So many kids, in arms and all. the sidewalks and streets vary from packed to empty with little in between.

Still i wonder why i am here? That as a poor gringa i am a rich nica and can enjoy the cafes and places to stay that i could not at home? What do i want to do here – write but about what if i shut myself down and do not reach out? I feel caged – makes me appreciate the freedoms of home.

I do not know what to do with myself? Volunteer – but where – i want internet connection so not an isolated farm. my time here is shorter than i imagined – need to cross north or south and that has been eating at me. but with that, have wasted at least a day, which has become valuable, mulling over it. I am not as in love with Granada as i had imagined. Yes, the colonial centre has been restored, but i had been expecting something more, had rushed up here, had built it up in my mind perhaps too much so.

I have taken few pictures here – do not feel as comfortable pulling out the camera. Do i head north up to Leon another colonial town or down to isla ometepe? Only tomorrow will tell. Or is this just culture shock?

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I arrived in Granada yesterday – tired from days of bus travel and so far it seems like a fantasy land – the way i dreamed of a city of town being – freshly painted colonial buildings, a central square full of trees, golden cathedral dominating the land, a crisp blue sky, a pedestrian mall with tables set out in front of restos, cars that actually slow down at a stop sign, wonderful architecture. and at night a  marimba christmas concert in the cathedral and the youth orchestra performing another Christmas concert in the square nearby. There seems to be a greater emphasis on culture here. It is not only the tourists who stop to watch, but the guys on bicycles stop to pause, and an unwashed man entered the church and sits down to listen, it is full of children bu there are everywhere. Granada t is touristy too, but the kind of place that i like – does not hit you in the face – tour places, but no hard sells, yes kids and others selling things but not too pushy, a few beggars about. It seems unreal to a certain extent.

It is midday – i sit in front of computer working on my entries from previous days. i have walked around the city centre in the sun, sticking to the shady side of the street, breakfast in a beautiful courtyard, with a fountain and trees, but something seems unreal. it is quiet, much fewer tourists than i imagined, and i feel to a certain extent like i am in a museum. maybe it is just a different type of ¨beach¨ a created environment, set apart, a place to visit and to enjoy, see the brightly painted building facades, enjoy the food and the charm. I go back to work on the other entries.

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Alajuela not Alleluia

alajuela market area1
The town has opened up and i want to leave. It is not only that i am grimy and itchy eaten over the night, but i ask myself why am i here. It is an ordinary town.  Yes it is the closest town to the airport and the cheapest cab ride away when arriving fairly late at night. It is not terribly old or historic, it is a Central American small city where people live, carry out their daily lives. The few tourists who pass through are, like myself, either arriving or departing the country – the first or last nights spent here. It seem not like a place to linger for long – to live perhaps, if you were Costa Rican, but not to visit. The name Alajuela looks a lot like, and to me with my hopeless pronunciation, sounds a lot like, alleluia – so somehow i was expecting something grand here – despite what the guidebooks said. But it is in fact ordinary – no, not like the US, but a different type of ordinary.

 

And i said to myself, before i left, that i wanted to see some of the “real” Costa Rica, this valley where most people live in and around San Jose. But do I? Did I? Or was it just something i told myself i should – the sociologist, or anthropologist in me – to explore a terrain on its own merits. If i do not explore this way do i feel bad? Should i? That somehow i am not being a proper traveller, a real explorer of the world, but rather a tourist if i do not. But then, i think no, in the US and Canada, my native lands, i do not generally seek out the ordinary when i travel, the sprawling suburbs, the unknown small cities and large towns, the forgotten back roads that are not enclosed in spectacular scenery – i do sometimes end up there but it is generally not where i go. So why should it be any different here? But here’s ordinary is different from our own – a different flavour and pace to life, different sites, smells and sounds, so in that sense it is special. But will i go out spend more of my time in the tourist places, to see what is natural and wonderful, the places Ticas put on show and display to the world in promotional brochures, not merely the places they work and live.

Yes, maybe it was the grating over windows and doors, the metal blinds securing the store fronts, fences and at times razor wire when i came into town last night, a cab ride through empty shut up streets. But now the town is coming to life, stores are opening, people about, cars and busses stream through town.

A dance on the narrow sidewalks of down, though it is different from that of New York. Here the sidewalks  are narrow and crumbling like the streets with a drainage gullies or trenches between them and the streets, deepest at the corners, to flow away the rains that fall during the green season. You wonder how the women stroll along in their little hi-heeled shoes – or some of them at least. And the crossings are chaos – a few with a light, the rest with nothing – the few stop signs seem optional, as i follow others in order to determine when it is safe to cross. I am hesitant and unsure not knowing this dance – thankfully most of the streets are one way. How far do you step out in front of a parked or sitting car or truck in order to venture forward, and are there any unwritten rules to stopping – it is organized chaos that seems to flow.

Like the bus “stations” or more aptly called staging areas where i ventured too – several in the city, different companies with buses going in different directions can you find the sign where you want to go? The station? A bus? and i don’t think there is such a thing as a schedule or an office – but that is for me to figure out tomorrow. And the busses zoom down and pass constantly.

Homes, stores, restos – all is built directly on the sidewalk with no set back. The covers are up, through grates decorate all windows and cover the few vestibules there are. No trees on the streets though the central square is filled with palms and other trees. The park is a respite from it all – especially the market area which sits a few blocks away and blends into bus zone. Stalls outside and in selling fruits and veggies – potatoes and carrots are plentiful and cheap, green oranges, papayas, small bananas, and more, and in the market, with its narrow corridors and dim lights – many stalls stand empty – but there are those, and shoes and leather, and meats and fish and soft cheese and in the corners – the sodas – the cheap food stands where i should have but did not eat. The market seems older, ad gathers the smells of all that is for sale. Outside more sales, fruits and veggies, dollar store ware, men with lotto tickets and a few selling bootleg copies of the 2012 DVD. and of course the shoes, the shoes and cheap clothes, electronics and more – it all looks the same – the single (or is it 2 stories buildings) flat on the sidewalk, concrete painting in white or fading yellows or something, some signs that poke out over the sidewalk but it all blurs together and realize you have entered the same store three times.

I go back to the central square where the cathedral is locked up and closed. People sit on benches taking it easy beneath the trees, It was the centre when the town was built. I pause, no cafes on the square, a McDonalds across the way but i go out to find the English bookstore that promises espresso and more. It is wonderful, but i stocked up on books before i arrived and cannot carry another. I stop and write what i now type. And itch, and itch, i wonder what to do – i want a day to let the vibe sink into me, but i do not want to go back to where i stayed. He tells me of another hostel which i cannot find.

Though the city centre is on a grid, street signs and addresses do not exist except on paper – if that. You describe a place in relation to something else, a landmark, a statue, a square, a school or hospital and give directions from there. I check out the place that appealed to me beside the hostel where i stayed last night with its depressing vibe. I ring the door and look inside and smile. On line it had not been clear if they had dorms but they do, i take a look, a brighter room with yellow walls, real walls not 3/4 walls where i was, walls that let the hall light shine on my face in the upper bunk all night. This place seems more joyful, the back patio yard is real with a covered kitchen and tables, books abound, and art and wood and i decide to take a loss and move over to Hotel Cortez Azul – the dorm is $1 cheaper than next door through i must double pay for the  night. I go out back, read a guidebook, set up my bed and smile. and begin to feel much better. The place you stay and first impressions can mark your stay in the larger place that surrounds.

I walk back out after a chat with someone, to the bank to get some local currency as they had been almost out at the airport in New York before i left. I cut through the square, lunch time is approaching, more people gather, reading, sitting, eating icecream and indigenous many plays the flute, a few street dogs also lay and listen. I go back to the market, and in one of the many stores find flip flops that fit so i can dare to take a shower – i buy some veggies and some fruit. But it is busy so i do not eat there. Go to a nicer resto – and was happy that my meal was $1 less than i expected and now i sit and type. Overwhelmed a bit by the zaniness outside, yesterday seems like years ago and Buffalo seems as far away as it is. Tonight the town will shut back down tight, and i will sleep – if not before then.

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I have left the city behind and now i sit at airport waiting to leave, smoking a last cigarette watching cabs drive by. I came too early of course, afraid that i would miss out, and now i sit biding time. In the city all was alive – more alive than anywhere i had been, did i crave the familiar, the institutional zone, full of people, but just people passing through, on their way to somewhere else – after all that is what an airport is for.

The city brimmed with life and now i sit alone unable to remember what was just a short train ride away – that island across the river that pulses and teems with life, a heartbeat of its own, amplifying the beats within each of us.

And what life and diversity there is, a motion in place and an energy you cannot compare – all beats louder and quicker, neurons fire and bounce off one another in rapid succession.

The Upper West Wide, a calmer place but populated with people living daily lives, trees, dogs on leashes, children in strollers and in hand, two matrons great each other and a group of worn down women gather by liquor store. An interplay where pedestrians and cars are on equal ground, walk, dont walk, look to see – on a busy corner a crossing guard directs it all – smiles and says hello.

I go to Midtown where the train will leave and where tourists and others passing through gather – Penn Station, The bus terminal, the Empire State Building nearby, hucksters sell tickets, tours and stuff – a t-shirt for $1.99, 18 postcards for $1 at a nearby shop, a temporary feeling to this area dominated by hotels, shops, and building of business. I walk around, feeling a different rush one i do not like as well. But find my way to my oasis of Bryant Square where life pauses for a while in relaxed mode, beneath the trees, with tables and chairs set out to lounge, the pond to skate, and a variety of people pausing to enjoy the moment. A camera flashes, an old man reads a paper, a younger one on a laptop, down and out chat and female suit strolls through sipping coffee. The diversity of Manhattans architecture on the perimeters and the diversity of its people within.

The inside teems with life, a gathering of nations, a dance on the sidewalks, people pulling bags behind, workers the dollys of drinks and chips to be stocked in a nearby store, a multitude of nations and languages,. the yellow cabs, trucks turn corners, people stroll through the chaos and it works. Aware alert but calm. A zillion stores in which to buy, grab a coffee or a bite, a bench to gather, it has all.

Manhattan is alive, a crossroads of the world with so many who live their lives in so many ways. People ignore and they greet – a gaze, eye contact avoided or met, a smile. People in bubbles walk around but the are linked, linked in this dance – or the multitude of dances – ballet, hiphop and waltzing all upon the stage. There is an energy you take with you for a while, the pulse inside, the beat – ba bom. ba bon- faster until you crash or join in the dance. .The streets are a stage and the life is the music, confusing and loud, but lively.

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Why is it that i can’t seem to write about the place i came back to, perhaps came to stay, the very city where i was born and the place where i will leave once again- Buffalo, New York. My energy has been removed from this town, as has the energy of so many for so long. As i write this i feel hollowed out like the city itself, and i wonder just how much has the place of my birth had an impact on me.

I ride into town along the expressways, roads that guide the traffic along and through, not really taking in what is there with the limited exits and fast motion that just passes by. As we get closer, the trees turn to town, the core with its tall buildings visible ahead We pass so empty factories and broken down homes – homes with patched or partially missing roofs and boarded up windows, home that i still notice, but that the driver, who passes this scene daily no longer sees.

As we drive into the center of town in the early morning,  passing broken down buildings on empty streets my heart sinks. We park in one of the many cheap parking lots with bumpy pavement that are plentiful in the area. We slowly jaywalk across the streets. She enters one of the few new office buildings and i make my way to Main Street, onto the block by the stop called fountain plaza – banking centers on a single block, with modern towers and the historic gold dome of the M&T bank – in car-free zone where the metro runs. But if you walk but a block down the street, stores stand empty, with for rent and sale signs on ornate historic low rises. And the street stands empty, not just now in the early morning, but throughout the day – a few folk out at lunch and others with no where else to go.

And i feel myself  sinking and i know it is not just the rain or the clouds above. There is  a heaviness in the air as too many poor shuffle about, some teens on the way to school, a few office workers with sallow faces all who do not seem notice the emptiness and decay that surrounds. I stop for a coffee to get out of the rain, Spot Coffee an oasis of sorts with couches and chairs for lounging, dark roast coffee, and wifi which i do not use.  I glance across the street where a new resto sits, bars, and a Starbucks and i know that all is not dead.  I remember other walks, up Delaware Avenue past the mansions and churches that line the boulevard, past  fountains in roundabouts that do not flow, but that once had different colours of water streaming from lions’ mouths,  by the art deco city hall, I  think of the glory that Buffalo must once have been, the city of my mother’s youth and that of my grandmother.

I cannot but feel how grand the city must once have once upon a time as i look at the remnants of a bygone era, of  a glorious age and a brighter moment in time when Buffalo teemed with life, dreams and prosperity. In 1900 Buffalo was a booming place – the 8th largest city in the country and its glory years continued up through the 1950s when it had a population of 580,000. It was also a center of  industry with the largest grain-milling center in the country, and the home of the largest steel-making operation in the world  and while you can still smell the Cheerios from general mills at times, the landscape is littered with factories that no longer produce and warehouses that sit empty and thankfully black smoke no longer blows in the distance. Buffalo once had more millionaires per capita,  and now it has the nations third highest poverty rate for a city of over 250,000. While the mansions, the parks, the galleries and the architecture speak to the riches, the posture of so many and the proliferation of dollar stores speak to the poverty that remains.

  At one time it a major transportation hub. It was the nation’s largest inland port and its history tied up with that of the Erie Canal.  After the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, transportation on the canal declined and so did the city.  It was a major railway hub, and for a while the second biggest rail center. But when i arrived on my cross-country journey by train two months ago, i came into a small building out in the suburbs, a single waiting room beside the tracks, in the middle of nowhere from what the eye could see. And the energy has left the city, moving out and away. My family left when i was a young child in 1970 , at the beginning of a decade that saw the city lose over 100,000 people. The population in 2000 was well below that of 1900.

 It has been years since the decline began and ended, and while there is some hope, i feel that i must leave, for i feel the loss. I spend my days out in the country, where all moves slowly and is settled and still, near the village of East Aurora where there is more life. It lays beyond the suburbs where most people live, with malls, thruways, even some new subdivisions and most of the middle class that remains.  The center is hollowed out like a donut. While the suburbs could be “anywhere USA”  in some ways i feel that i am in a time warp. At times  it feels like the 1970s or 1950s of something.  A feeling that little new has come in, and what there is seeps in slowly.

As i write this i feel that i am not being fair.  “It is coming back” i hear them say, but i heard that last time i spent any period of time here almost 20 years ago. While a few buildings are new, others have fallen under, and i do not feel that much of a difference. Parts of the west side are grand, the Elmwood Strip is a vital place and has been ranked one of the best neighborhoods by some magazines, a new art gallery was opened a year ago, but somehow i feel that they are pockets – pockets of light – the music scene, research and more. And you can live here and make your way through those zones of light. But even near downtown, near Allentown – a patchwork of galleries, restos, nice homes and decay, in the zones where poverty abounds, you will see flowers or more recently, Halloween decorations on simple homes that sit beside the abandoned boarded up houses, showing signs of life and of hope. Buffalo calls itself  the  “a city of good neighbors” and it is a friendly place with people who help and care. 

Will Buffalo come back – i do not know. It cannot be what it was, for that was a bygone era. Maybe the outward flow has stopped. Although the tide is no longer going out, it is not coming in, for the slack tide endures, a stability of sorts. How long can it last, before it starts to flow again, and in what direction will it go. But even in the slack tide, there is life and motion.  But once again feel like i am but treading water slowly drifting out to sea and do not have the energy to push the tide back in. Perhaps i should turn my eyes away from the reminders of the past, and focus on what light there is here and now.

 But I turn again to look at the ruins, the falling down buildings with grand facades. I think of the ruins that i have travelled miles just to see  – the Mayan ruins of Mexico, the indian ruins of the Southwest, and the remnants of castles and monasteries in Ireland and those around the globe that i wish to visit. Why is it that so many of us seek out ruins, memories of past civilizations, travel to them and relish in them while at the same turn a blind eye to, and run away from, ruins in out midst. 

I think of the rise and decline of civilizations the world over, and life that emerges from the ruins, the places which endure and are continuously built upon, and others that come back after periods of decline not as flashy and grand as in its heyday, but life goes on. And i remember that the ruins stood for years before they were rediscovered and that by visiting them and restoring them we give them life and energy once again.

But Buffalo will not empty out. Buffalo is a city of resilience, that is what  people pride themselves on. Maybe the stagnation i feel is really a settled life. But i cannot help but ask what are we settling for as i  remember the poor indigenous people selling trinkets outside the rebuilt “ruins” .

 While part of my energy lingered here, it no longer does.  So  i join those who removed their energy from this place.  Just as a place cannot go back to a previous time  neither can I.  Although i lived my early childhood on the tails of its glories, it has been almost a lifetime since it was home.  It was not a time to which i belonged, nor is it one that i truly yearn for. Buffalo was an industrial city with a focus on material gain – that of a time and of a nation. While there was and is much more, spirit, culture and love, that was at its core. I feel that way of life with the focus on the consumption of things, that which transcends much of America and the world is in decline and seeps away.

And all is change, it rises, sinks and ebbs. And that is the way of life, it has been and will continue to be. I’ll stop treading water and swim out to see.  And i will continue to flow as will Buffalo.

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The city is like a cold plunge
after the hottest pool
a tingling sensation
the body jumps alive
dunk the head
immerse yourself.

But soon it becomes intense
the coolness of the waters
chill the flesh, and then the bones
muscles tighten  – tense
the aliveness you felt,
dissipates
and you crave the heat you just escaped.

Initially it is not as hot as before
pleasant
until it burns
and you jump back into the cold.

The warm pool is pleasant
but the thrills are gone
a crowded bath in which to linger
calming slowly
sickening slow at times
and you can’t wait to emerge
a shower to wash it all away,
and you begin again.

I wrote this poem this summer the day after i arrived in San Francisco after spending over three weeks at Harbin Hotsprings. The center of the springs was the pools – a large warm pool that was wonderful for relaxation – not too intense and the warmth soaked in slowly – but at times it felt sluggish, draining away not only your toxins and stress, but at times your life force. Above were hot and cold pools – the hot pool was intense, almost burning, and you could stay for only a moment. Behind was the cold plunge, and it was cold – you jumped in quickly, and your whole body tingled with excitement and you felt so alive and then it would begin to chill. So you jumped back and forth between the two, lingering in neither.

When i got to the city, i felt that initial buzz of excitement and of life. But soon, I craved the country, where i did return.

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