budapest/the three day conversation

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budapest is a place, somewhat mysterious and exotic, that has passed through my mind on many occasions as a city that would be curious to visit. but, honestly, that’s about it. there was no real burning desire, more like a small tea light flickering somewhere off in a distant and ambiguous future……………. still, over time, resonant snippets of conversations and the odd image flying in from the digital landscapes of other people’s travels became lodged somewhere against the sticky edges of my desire. there, they waited for a moment where, as ideas, they might merge with intention once again to become measurable reality and reveal themselves to me through the senses. finding myself in budapest happened in the same way that i might envisage my own words, stories and images somehow creeping stealthily into other people’s lives, becoming diffracted ripples of desire and action, spreading out, resonating and finding tangible form somewhere else. coming to budapest is the confluence of situations and conversations and gut feelings, morphing into impulse, bringing me into contact for the first time with a place and another person. and it is the relationality that emerges through walking that i want to record and to begin to make sense of here, more so than outline the literal details of what i did and where i went. relationality is the starting point to the larger conversation about solitude that i want to engage with.

in budapest, there will not be monogamous wandering, that is, just me and the city. an-other is involved. my mind jumps to attention to try and categorise this new relationship, yet when i look through the lens of walking with this particular person, i find existing schema lacking, superficial. how many times have i travelled and walked with another person through a city without thinking? i spent hours/days of my life last year walking with others during my camino, at times in an acute state of discomfort without really understanding why. now, i begin to ask why. now, i ask: who is this person to me? who do they become to me through the walking? when we walk together, what emerges? to underpin what i say here, i find that i need to draw on an idea of relationality that moves away from many of my current connections with people and places and includes the space that develops between two people who have a conscious awareness of the act of walking, because here, i am connecting with a person who also actively looks for opportunities to walk and to connect to ground, to move across it. one who understands, and not only that, seeks to gain deeper understanding around the significance of walking. a curious person. an independent person. a person who is present in the idea of walking as a space of possibility. it was the conversation and understanding that emerged between us in relation to meandering together through this place that defined and drew lines around what my experience of this place and this person was. so, in articulating it, i want to avoid falling through inertia and into the trap of description. i want to stay in the realm of significance.

the sharing of footsteps with another person (especially through a place that neither of you knows), seems to me now to hold the potential to create a generative space from which there flows a conversation connected by what one sees with the eyes, what one smells, feels, tastes, hears, thinks…. it strikes me that the “slowness” of sensorial engagement and sharing footsteps through space works in direct opposition to the manic, centripetal forces driving us to want to move fast in knowing (each other). as much as i value and appreciate the ways that technology helps me to stay connected with people and places across long distances, sometimes i feel sad for the ways that the seductive power of the instant draws me away from the pleasures of the physical and temporal spaces of our lives that bitterly separate us (only to bring us sweetly together again). the sharpness of the joy of coming together again becomes dull, lacklustre, somehow absorbed into the perpetual instant. anchored to the earth by my footsteps, i wonder if resistance to the seduction of the instant world is a part of who we are as beings that walk?  walking is slow and deep, and as rebecca solnit reminds us, provides us with a solid terrain from which we can consider (broaden?) the ways we might know each other through our engagement with the surprises offered up by the spaces we move through. so, i think of my time spent in budapest in these terms: that walking through the streets and through our conversation, i learned about an-other, my-self, and this place. that in this space, the three intersected co-generatively.

during the day we wandered through buda and pest, both of which offered up emotionally provocative micro textures allowing us to “weave the place together” (de certeau). i can say that i enjoyed contemplating the cracks, the rust, the grandness of the danube, and the long, wide, elegant curves of the city streets. i began to understand this place and an-other through european history, world wars, and american politics, all of which were recorded in the statues, street art, and architecture that we wandered past, all of which simultaneously emerged, like bubbles, across our conversation, before flowing naturally through personal histories and thus into life beyond budapest, all the while bouncing back and forth between seemingly endless lists of consultations to google. in the evenings we went back to an apartment that offered us an elevated view of the city from across the river. from this vantage point, we were able to carry on “reading” the city and ourselves, as we continued weaving our experiences within it. we became, as de certeau points out – “voyeurs”.

so, what was the significance? what do i take away from this beyond a beautiful new relationship? i cannot help but think about this in terms of my experiences walking the camino del norte/primitivo last year. i cannot help but think about this in terms of solitude. i was so hesitant to connect with others. there was such a strong desire to be alone, even in my footsteps-there still is. as i will be walking a much less frequented camino this year, in the middle of winter, i wonder what it will be like when i walk and i find myself alone, day after day, just me and the landscape. walking in the absence of an-other. what stories will the land tell me? what will emerge from that relationship?

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