Thursday, August 1, 2013

Beneath the Layers

Fernweh: An ache for distant places, the craving for travel.

I have a case of fernweh multiple times a year. It starts as just a small itch, and then slowly takes over my entire body. There is no cure, except to pack and go. I can easily pack up my entire life into one carry-on bag. I love the feeling of take off, the anticipation, and the view from above–a feeling and a view that you can only understand if you have flown. Looking down through the clouds, I can’t help but imagine what is inside each little house, what is happening inside the world of others, of strangers who I do not know. I wonder if they are like me? I wonder if they (too) ever have a case of fernweh?

The last 2 months I have been thinking a lot about layers: Palimpsest. Today is the first day of August, my worst month of the year, and I can’t help but feel the layers of the past rise to the surface. Just last month I was in France, in a small studio mastering the process of Intaglio–a process of printmaking that involves a copper plate that is covered in a waxy ground. With an etching needle, you slowly sketch deep into the surface of the wax, and the exposed metal lines are then etched by dipping the plate into an acidic bath until the lines become deeper and deeper. This process is enhanced layer by layer. Each layer added a depth and a complexity to the new surface and no print was exactly the same as the last. With a simple mistake, there was no turning back, only layers to add, palimpsest.

Later, I traveled to Wroclaw, Poland. As I explored the city, feeling the cobble stone streets beneath my feet, the buildings fractured and frayed from years of war and conflict, I couldn’t help but think of the special and temporal relations between conflict and security that countries such as Poland have faced, both the history and heartache, the palimpsest that builds up over time. The deep lines in my plate were no different than the scares that remain from years of war. Looking closely, the history of Poland’s atrocities bled through the surfaces of buildings throughout the city, as paint peeled to reveal a world that had once been taken over by someone else. While the city of Wroclaw was fully functioning with the usual hustle and bustle of a modern day city, I couldn’t help but feel the gray. I couldn’t help but sense the turmoil. While I didn’t experience it and couldn’t always see it, I knew it was there, hidden beneath the layers.

It is human nature to cover things up and move on. It is healing to have layers and we pride ourselves on thick skin. While history can at times repeat itself, it is like a print in that tomorrow will never be the same as today. And while the layers can hurt, they can also heal. The Palimpsest makes us who we are and gives us a deeper appreciation for just how fragile the landscape can be and just how resilient it is.

This cup is for August. 

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