Posts

Walking in Circles

2019 Grateful 50

About a year ago, on a flight from Munich to Malta, I did the unthinkable. I tore out a couple of pages from the inflight magazine. I’d come across a poem I really liked and wanted to have a copy of it to reflect on later. Which I did. Fast forward to November and I received an email from the poet, Giulia Privitelli, who had come across my blog. The book of poetry I’d mentioned – Walking in Circles – had finally published and she kindly offered to send me a copy. I thought no more of it. Until it arrived. It was waiting for me when I got back to Budapest in late December.

Walking in Circles is an ‘illustrated poetic journey’ that started in 2017. Privitelli teamed up with illustrator Steve Bonello to work on the project. Both pilgrims, they ‘intertwine their life experiences and art forms as they reflect on art, nature, childhood, growth, death; on feelings and thoughts that we cherish, question, and fear in a landscape that looks the same but is forever changing’. It’s a beautiful collection of poetry that is my go-to read as I travel around the city, each poem a tonic of thought and reflection that grounds me while at the same time freeing me from the limits of my reality.

But even more than the book, fascinating though it is, was the letter that accompanied it (reprinted, in part, with permission).

Dear Mary,

Once again, I thank you for sharing one of my poems on your blog. Even simply knowing that you took the time to read it on the plane gives me a certain sense of glee; to have ripped it out of the magazine, reflected upon it, and allowed it to reach into your own memory and experience…well, that is to have gone one step further. And that couldn’t have made me happier.

It might see like an (awe-fully) small thing to get so excited and giddy about, but it has always been the small things which get me all excited and giddy. The poems were written that way, too – one small observation, curiosity, episode – small things which trigger an unexpected avalanche of words, rolling into each other, forming something that resembles a poem. Just like your own blog, “there was no plan”. One brief moment becomes the memory of a day, that day becomes the memory of the week, the week becomes that of the month and the month becomes that of the year, and so on, year after year, for every moment we experience. Smallness has great potential, don’t you think? And it quickly becomes overwhelming. Small things may be shared because they are light; they allow space for an exchange to be made, for movement, for others; small things bounce off each other, shape each other; they cannot impose; they contain as they too are contained; small things, the smallest, may be part of anything, they can lead to anything. They are relatable. Small things may be so easily overlooked or discounted, but when discovered they can just as easily be fully absorbed, fully known and therefore fully appreciated; they build up towards a whole. And we, in our smallness, are part of it.

Jokingly (but also seriously)  what is the spectactular if not an imperceptible number of tiny, different specks coming together? This is how I would rather look at our world because, honestly, I cannot think of anything more exciting, more beautiful, more necessary to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture! My eyesight isn’t the sharpest, but I hope to spend a lifetime looking for and discovering small things, just like you have when you opened the inflight magazine. […]

Warm wishes,

Giulia

What a lovely, lovely message to end one year with and begin another. Perhaps the answer to the absurdity and chaos in which we live, perhaps the way to deal with the preposterousness of the players on the world’s stage, is to delight in the small things. To find that brief moment that becomes the memory of a day. Perhaps if we concentrate more on these small things, they will indeed lead to something – a calmer, saner, more hospitable, more considerate world.

I don’t recall ever asking you to share a blog post – but for this I make an exception. If this resonates in any way with you, please consider sharing. If we can all refocus on the small things, and delight in the ordinary, perhaps our collective tomorrow will be one to look forward to.

To buy the book, Walking in Circles

 

 

Walking in Circles

Who on earth am I?

Occasionally, very occasionally, I consciously do a bad thing. I’m sure I do lots of bad things without thinking. I’m human. But to actually do something sacrilegious in full consciousness, wide awake, knowing that I’m defacing someone else’s property, that’s a rarity. But it happens. The last time it happened was on a flight to Malta from Munich. I was leafing through the in-flight magazine – which, admittedly, is one of the better ones I’ve seen. And I came across a piece on a project with a working title Walking in Circles. Billed as ‘an artistic and literary project supported by the Arts Council Malta’, it’s an ‘illustrated poetic journey’ that started in 2017 and will be launched in book form in November 2018. I’ve combed the Arts Council’s website and can’t find any more details, so I hope this wasn’t just a flash in a pan. That said, if it was, I’m glad I happened across it when I did.

It seems that it will deal with the concept of Malta moving ‘from an emigrating nation to an immigrant hostess’. When I tore out the pages (I know, I know, how bad of me!) I missed one. I could have taken the whole magazine; it would have been easier. But that would have been just one more thing to carry. And I didn’t want it all, just a piece of it. A little like eating a muffin top and leaving the rest. Am I just one step away from tearing a page out of a book? But enough of my mental angst.

What caught my eye was a poem by Giulia Privitelli with an accompanying illustration by  Steven Bonello

Who on earth am I
or what I’ve done
that love I should deserve?
Is it a right that I could claim
or simply given and I’ve no say?
Like the moment of every birth
suddenly, a life’s just there.
So what would that make me
should I withhold
this ‘right’ to many, twice as many?
A thief perhaps
of riches I’ve already got.

But what is this need to show the other
that within is what really matters
the core, the soul, that captivating pulse
pulsing far beyond the limits of our sight
or the reasoning of our mind?
Isn’t this what I’d rather trust?
Feel here, my aching heart,
it pulls and pushes as my guide
and repeats what we’ve been told
through ancient wisdom, centuries old:
‘To love is to know,
forget your fear, don’t shift the blame,
you are blessed and without shame,
you are loved, and called by name.’

But tradition that resists all change
is a harmful poison, a barren land
and like stagnant water pushed down my throat
it burns with the taste of bitter and cold
and my faith is shaken, it trembles
and shivers in its hold.

I was reminded of this recently when I watched a video of János Lázár (the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff) set against the backdrop of a neighbourhood in Vienna, Austria. As migrants from all sorts of countries go about their business in the background, Lázár warns Hungarians that this, too, could happen in Budapest, if the opposition parties get their way and let the migrants in: spiralling crime, dirty streets, and good Christian locals being forced to leave their neighbourhoods in the face of the deluge of foreign migrants seeking refuge from abroad. The piece caught the attention of global media. The video was posted on Facebook, who took it down soon after saying it contravened user policy. But then, it had a think and put it back up because it was newsworthy. mmmmm…..

As the election day in Hungary approaches, I wonder which will prevail: fear or love.

Illustration by Steven Bonello