one hundred & eighty: beauty

i have no idea why this got stuck in my head, but it was all i could think since reading the word. and there are plenty of more interesting things i could have written about, beautiful places and people and experiences i’ve known…but i couldn’t get that one line from keats’ ode on a grecian urn out of my mind: the one that goes, beauty is truth; truth beauty.

so yeah, i’m a geek. i know. just wait. it will get geekier, but only slightly, i promise, i won’t interpret it line by line or anything like that…

i remember reading this in high school, and being struck by keats’ poetry, his odes in particular, i don’t know exactly why. maybe because an ode was meant to be complex and complicated, lyrical (and i fancied myself all of those, haha) or maybe because originally, like back in ancient greece, they were intended to be sung? or coz the guy wrote like a fucking boss, and was way ahead of his time and died way too young? i don’t know exactly, but i loved this poem, and i loved learning all the hot debates about its last two lines.

like who was speaking it? the urn to him? him to the urn, or to the characters on the urn, who were going to be there beyond him, speaking to onlookers in perpetuity? or him to us? and what was the commentary, exactly?

here’s my read: art is a better storyteller than clunky, awkward words. beauty is in the eye of the beholder – for that person, the thing that makes their heart sing, the person who turns their crank – is what is beautiful, and that’s final. that beauty, what we find beautiful – art, nature, the body – is the only truth worth living.

one hundred & seventy-nine: motion

i have so many fond memories about india, but among some of my fondest are traveling by train.

when i left canada for india, i had secured a volunteer position with an indian NGO, and funded my travels through working several jobs in university, living at home, and saving nearly all of my money. although i found out when i arrived that the organization was going to provide a monthly stipend, and despite the much cheaper cost of living there, i still wanted to be really careful with my money. i wanted to travel, and i wanted to see everything i could.

in those lonely first evenings in india, as i was bounced around from temporary place to temporary place (before i found my own flat with eight other young, single, women, all of them indian) i read my guidebook, and dreamed about where i’d go. armed with tips from friends from home, recommendations from my new friends at work, and my trusty lonely planet guide, i planned my routes.

buses were cheapest, exhilerating and terrifying at once to ride, but were completely awful for overnight travel. and from my first trip overnight on a train, i was hooked.

i was on a budget, so i travelled the cheapest way i could, which was non-air conditioned, second class. i learned very quickly that a sleeper car with an upper berth was best, because if it was a super long journey, i could have my own space, whereas the poor folks on the middle and lower berths would be forced to sit up during the day (the middle ‘mattress’ in the picture would fold down to be the back of the lower bench).

sleeper

i loved, and i mean LOVED, sleeping on those trains. there was honestly no good reason for it; it was noisy, and crammed full of people and smells…there were no pillows except for the bundle of clothes or towel you rolled up under your own arms, and it was always hot…but it was the best. it was the motion, i think. it was being rocked, the little bit of breeze coming in the windows, the sweet clackety monotony of the wheels on the tracks, the darkness…i would give anything to ride a second class sleeper train again. to hear its creaks, feel the wind in my face, and be lulled to sleep with its steady, lumbering movement, leaving smoke in its wake.