Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Sve što je lijepo kratko traje"

"Everything that is beautiful runs short"

Tomorrow is Valentines Day.

On the surface, I think Valentine’s Day is kind of silly. Do we really need an excuse to be sweet and kind and give kisses and watch movies with our loved ones? As much as I wish I could pass it over with no thoughts or inclinations, I have been thinking about it a lot the last few days. I suppose I have been thinking about it because I am at period where my relationships are in flux. The kind of relationships I have with even the people I care most about are being redefined by the ways we communicate with each other, the manner in which we are able, as defined by space and time, to show our love and support of one another. In the mean time I am also building new relationships, based on mutual trust, on cultural exchange. And the love, of course, in each and every one of these relationships is different and unique.

Two years ago when I was here I met with some friends of friends. Fiona, a good friend of mine, and a guy she knew from a summer camp that was from Zagreb, and I went for a coffee. It happened to be Valentines Day. They brought us stuffed hearts and I thought it was the sweetest thing, to be thoughtful for someone you have never met but you can assume has no valentines in the near-by vicinity. Last year I spoke with some friends. I made pink cupcakes for my students, vegan cupcakes with rose-water icing. I'm not sure they appreciated them. I even piped the icing into swirls and mountains, epic in their artistry. I have a spade from Valentines Day second year of college, which I found in the middle of a heart of miniature-potted plants. I took a Polaroid, which is now buried in a box somewhere in my closet in Kansas City and somewhere in that room is also a t-shirt with a penguin on it, watching hearts come out of a box and morph into butterflies. And then there are mix tapes and mix cds. And there was the year everyone got a valentine of their locker but me. And the year, way long ago in sixth grade when I got a fake valentine, a joke, and I remember looking up after reading the terrible things jotted down on a piece of paper and realizing I didn't care. I am sure that is the day I became a confident young lady and so on and so fourth. So, even if valentines day is a silly holiday full of false expectations and an excuse to sell many more hallmark cards it does serve as a marker of time. A day to exchange the tokens we use like bones from an archeological dig--the pieces of a ship being rebuilt that might one day explain an empire. It is an opportunity to create artifacts-to put into something tangible the things we express everyday in our phone calls, our hugs, our cups of coffee, the lending of a pen, or something more...our little undocumented acts of love.

That is something nice.

In Zagreb there is a museum called the musuem of broken relationships.  It sounds depressing, and some aspects of it are, however I think it is one of the must sees in Zagreb. As much as it is a tribute to failed relationships, it is also a tribute to the artifacts that contain meaning for us and the power that relationships have the potential to hold. The only reason these objects of ended or broken or tried or complicated loves have such weight is because these objects have been invested in by more than one person, because there was something worth risking heartbreak for at some point and that is worth commemorating. One of the most astonishing and exciting aspects of traveling is finding, halfway around the world people with whom you form bonds, to find in the unexpected corners a community in which you can situate yourself. At the end of my last trip here I wrote this, (warning, this is HIGHLY cheese, its like cheese garnished with cheese in a cheese bath...) 

"Ultimately I think I am always searching for a reflection of myself in other places, so I can place myself in some sort of a collective, of a movement, of something greater than myself. More so then finding parts of myself, parts I never had, I have added parts of the people I have meet here. I sought out at the beginning of this semester to find a community, to establish human connections, and I think I can say I have successfully accomplished my goal, with time to spare. My everyday life here is far from my everyday life at home. My everyday life here is constantly challenged by language barriers, by trying to make connections when I do not share the same physical space, or the same history. But I have discovered the best way to overcome these challenges to creating meaningful relationships here is to let go of my own inhabitations, to trust myself and to take chances."

I don't know what I am thinking about with all these thoughts scrambled here on my oh-so-very public blog except that I am always collecting those tokens as if creating a personal hard-record of my relationships to the rest of the world. The things that define and prove not only to myself but anyone rummaging around in my personal belongings that I didn't do it alone. If anything, its nice to remember, maybe on valentines day, there are people worth passing a token along, an object to hold or view or touch for those times when the meandering nature of our contemporary lives drifts us far from home and the people we know and love.

My valentines day present to you is my favorite love poem...

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda