Sonderers!

I've been absent for a while but I am now (more or less) back.
I am in a new city, Nottingham, with a new job, in a new apartment! Everything is going well but I am still settling in. I am gone most of the day and the apartment is still a bit a mess.... but at least, I am cooking again.

One thing that I am glad is keeping me busy is the new project I am working on with a special, passionate and interesting team: Sonderers Travel Magazine!

Sonderers is an online travel magazine that focuses on the human aspects of traveling. Any human aspect.
There are innumerable themes we can write on and countless creative ideas for both articles, website, anything that has to do with this publication.

We are at the early stages and the website, social media and first publications are just now taking forms and, one after the other, actively coming online.

Sonder On!

To The Lightouse

I finished reading To The Lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf. Writer and intellectual, she was one of the leading modernists of the twentieth century.

The book has many themes and elements in common with traveling and travel writing: stream of consciousness; the (inner) journey has more attention than the destination per se; human experience of time; the issue of perception, or the subjectivity of perception.

It is important to keep in mind that the book also has a strong difference, because it follows and extends James Joyce’s modernist tradition for which the plot is secondary to its philosophical introspection. In travel writing, the experience has the most importance, and experience means first-hand, practical contact.

The book and its genre are not the type of books I would normally read, because I am generally not into the stream of consciousness readings, although this book is one of the key works for such literary technique among literary modernism.

The lack of an omniscient voice means there is no real guide throughout the story. Everything reaches the reader through an extremely strong filter, which is the person of which thoughts we are reading. Everything is ambiguous.

Virginia Woolf is an extraordinary writer since the book seemed (and is) interesting, I wanted to try something new. That’s how we learn and discover new things!

I want to make a personal consideration of the second chapter of the second (of three) section of the book, Time Passes, since I found it as one of the most exquisite pieces of XIX century literature I have ever read.

It describes the darkness and the night creeping in the house and engulfing everything. This passage gives a sense of time quickly running away, a sense of cold and absence.

“If plot means dealings among the characters, there is no real progression of plot here, but, at the same time, what plot is grander or more essential than time passing?” (said Maggie Shipstead).

In this case the statement is spot on, because the greatest upheavals happen when the story has this fast-forward.  It is also the only part of the book that has an omniscient narrator. A closer view, in medias res, of how things have changed is given by one character who is the caretaker of the house of for the owners since the beginning, Mrs. McNab.

The narration through an omniscient entity is in stark contrast with the rest. It’s dry if not distorted because being omniscient also puts the point of view away from feeling a situation.

Or is it?

I chose to write this personal overview of this passage because I found the description of the darkness seeping through every fissure, every crack, around every object and every person feels real.

The all-encompassing drenching of darkness is daunting from the very first lines. It’s cold but not cruel. It simply is. Suddenly and silently everything stops being, and darkness takes place. It is almost accepted. There might be few, unconscious futile attempts of rebellion – “Sometimes a hand was raised (…) ” – but it looks like a hand raised by a person drowning in an unseen tsunami wave: without even realizing what is happening, it’s all over.

There is much more that could be said about this part, but I was stuck by the description of the moving night and the sensations it engaged in me.

I think when that happens, it is really one of the highest achievements of a literary piece.


To The Lighthouse, Part II - Time Passes, Chapter 2

So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say, “This is he” or “This is she.” Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness.

Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the staircase. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept round corners and ventured indoors. Almost one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wall-paper, asking, would it hang much longer, when would it fall? Then smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wall-paper whether they would fade, and questioning (gently, for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the wastepaper basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking, Were they allies? Were they enemies? How long would they endure?

So some random light directing them with its pale footfall upon stair and mat, from some uncovered star, or wandering ship, or the Lighthouse even, with its pale footfall upon stair and mat, the little airs mounted the staircase and nosed round bedroom doors. But here surely, they must cease. Whatever else may perish and disappear, what lies here is steadfast. Here one might say to those sliding lights, those fumbling airs that breathe and bend over the bed itself, here you can neither touch nor destroy. Upon which, wearily, ghostlily, as if they had feather-light fingers and the light persistency of feathers, they would look, once, on the shut eyes, and the loosely clasping fingers, and fold their garments wearily and disappear. And so, nosing, rubbing, they went to the window on the staircase, to the servants’ bedrooms, to the boxes in the attics; descending, blanched the apples on the dining-room table, fumbled the petals of roses, tried the picture on the easel, brushed the mat and blew a little sand along the floor. At length, desisting, all ceased together, gathered together, all sighed together; all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied; swung wide; admitted nothing; and slammed to.

[Here Mr. Carmichael, who was reading Virgil, blew out his candle. It was past midnight.]

To The Lightouse

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

Last Saturday I visited the Kew Gardens in west London, south of the river. What a special place!

The park is beautiful and extremely well kept. It is big and has a lot of variety of trees and plants, greenhouses and conservation areas. It is extremely clean and neat. We also went when apparently there were very few people, so we enjoyed the park even more and we were by ourselves in certain moments.

We booked online and we saved few pounds. There is the metro stop and the neighborhood is really really nice!

I like the fact that there were many different trees but there were may of the different species grouped together creating little nooks and areas different from one another, yet organically flowing from one to the other.

There are ponds and little bodies of water, few different buildings, paths, endless grass, birds, flowers, a rose garden, greenhouses, tropical plants and more!

It's absolutely a destination to go alone, with your partner or spouse, with your family, with your children, to have a walk, run, stroll, read.

I think the colors were beautiful because Autumn started yet wasn't everywhere, so the colors ranged from dark green to light yellow and anything in between!

I can just imagine what it looks like in full Autumn or in full Spring!

It is beautiful, magical destination and I highly recommend it.

Kew Gardens London England UK

Change and Resettlement in England

Change is exciting but resettling might take time!

I've been looking for a job in London for few weeks now and I can't wait to start working in architecture again. There are quite a few jobs opening every day but competition is high as well. I am focusing on jobs on conservation (historic preservation) but I like adaptive-reuse and design as well.

I've also started looking at apartments/rooms, but of course I won't seal a deal with any until I found a job, so I can find one easier for my commutes.

In the meantime and in my free time, I am back putting some time on my travel journalism website (you are on it!), Dream's Chest, and look for photography competitions. It'll be cool to get into the Londoner photography environment!

Also, when I am all settled in London, I will start with my new MatadorU course, Advanced Travel Writing!

September has been a month of buffer, I was in two continents and three countries - North America and Europe; USA, UK, Italy - and I am going back to the starting block, looking for jobs, finding a place to live in London, exploring a new place.

Onward!

House With Red and Orange Ivy York England UK

California Gold

Monday evening I came back from a full week in California!

I started the trip bydriving from Portland, OR to Santa Rosa, CA (north of San Francisco) to bring down something for my friend. This was Monday.

Tuesday I drove from Santa Rosa to the 1 on the coast. Crossing the Coastal Range showed me beautiful gold-and-green landscapes which are very photogenic although it's due to lack of any kind of water. Poor environment!

The coast was fabulous too, and the road is so windy (not for the wind, from all the curves) and I had to pay attention to my almost empty gas tank! But I did it just fine and I really enjoyed the 30-or-so miles I've drive along the famous coastal highway.

San Francisco is of course unique. I enjoyed walking around town, from the bay side to the Golden Gate Park. I went to the California Academy of Sciences, designed by Renzo Piano. what a beautiful building, that is real architecture. And the exhibits are beautiful! The De Young museum was nice too and I got to see a beautiful art exhibit of Romanticist master artist J.M.W. Turner. Fantastic!

I then flew to Los Angeles on Thursday, meeting my girlfriend at the airport, to spend the rest of the time at the beach on Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Great weather, warm water and palm trees were lovely and a nice change of scenery from the PNW. I splashed in the water and played with the big waves for hours every day. I realized that last year I completely skipped beach time, which is weird because I grew up in Trieste (and go there every year) so going to the beach is a must and something I love! Therefore, I was glad we went.

One day we went to the Getty Center and it was even better than what I remembered! It is a beautiful center, a real and quality meeting of architecture, landscaping and art! The exhibit are beautiful and the day was gorgeous. We stayed there more than 4 hours and we coudl ahve stayed even longer!

Photos to come soon (so many things to do now that I am moving)!

Look here on the Dreams' Chest Instagram for many more photos from my travel around the Golden State!

The Getty Center Landscape and Architecture Los Angeles California


Perception of the Natural Environment - II

As I wrote, last week I came back from solo backpacking in Alaska. Backpacking for four nights put me in a new perspective on my life's rhythm as well as on the surrounding environment and, importantly, how I related to it.

Whoever goes tent-camping, hike-camping or backpacking realizes, on different levels, how little is needed to live and have a perfectly entertaining day. Especially for backpacking, you go down to the barely minimum.

Talking to people, I realized how many misinterpret barely minimum with nothing to do. And that's not true! First of all, I love the necessary tasks for camping, from setting camp up by pitching the tent, for example, wood gathering and chopping (I like this one especially), preparing meals and appropriately cleaning afterwards, to name a few. Second, they take time, they fill the day. Third, I still always have my journal, books with me, everywhere I go, and might still work out with a run or a swim. Fourth, I have a whole forest/mountain/beach to explore!

The important factor is that even simple camp chores put me in relation with the surrounding landscape. I need to know where I am in order to find my optimal tent spot. I need to asses what's around me in order to find wood -0 or food, if I'm fishing or hunting (I haven't done these so far). I need to observe the sky and how it changes to have a fair idea of the weather.

I relate with the environment with all my senses and I respect Nature in every aspect, enjoying how it changes and savoring every moment.

The entire Alaska is bear country. I haven't seen any, but that doesn't mean they are not around. I am particularly proud of my hanging of the food.

The entire Alaska is bear country. I haven't seen any, but that doesn't mean they are not around. I am particularly proud of my hanging of the food.

Perception of the Natural Environment

Last Friday I came back from a week of camping. We stayed at Lake Crescent in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State (USA) and in French Beach in Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

The second day after we arrived on the Island, the sky was completely covered in sooth and smoke from wildfires raging in the center of the Island. The smoke had a pink tint early in the morning and a yellow one later in the evening in the direction of the sun (see photo below).

I realized one more time how the perception of the natural environment changes from city life to outdoors life in nature.

I've spent outdoors all my life, either in the yard (not really outdoors, but at least among trees), or camping or hiking on the Alps. And I've also lived all of my life in the city. When people are in the city, they are too disconnected to what happens in the natural environment. Drought 8such as the effects on Detroit Lake in Oregon), or wildfires, or unusual weather - realizing the real impact on changing patterns in nature is possible only if people physically feel the changes.

Feeling Nature is the best way to understand and respect it. So we can learn how to preserve it.

Wildfire French Beach Vancouver Island British Columbia Canada