One of the most powerful driving motives behind my perpetual nomadic pilgrimage is the ease with which I can drastically alter my environment.
Rather than aspire to some ever-unattainable semblance of a balance, I tend to feel more alive and appreciative during those transitory moments between vast contrasts:
|Visually glamorous||Stripped down, unappealing|
|Harmonically pleasing||The abstract, the dissonant|
For several months I resided in the midst of Rio de Janeiro. Some of that time I spent in a favela. Some of it in the contrastingly luxurious and peaceful neighborhood of Jardim Botânico.
The remainder took me to the central neighborhoods of Laranjeiras/Largo do Machado/Flamengo, this a reasonable compromise between the two preceding environments.
All in all, however, I was still in Rio, surrounded by crowds, noise, pollution and raw sewage. And for the most part, I quiet enjoyed it.
In addition, I took much advantage of extravagant mountain hikes just a short reach away. Yet at day’s end, I always found myself back in the agitated nucleus.
February came, along with the Carnaval. And this yearly phenomenon amplified the urban precariousness by several factors. Plus some.
I tried to approach the season with an open mind; at least a slightly more open mind than historically. I entertained one Carnaval block for a couple of hours; then a bit of another… and the opening night of the Sambodromo (this indeed a dazzling showcase of the classic Carnaval glamour and Samba performances); as well as one rehearsal.
However, the enthusiasm didn’t last. There was much extravagance. And there was much of the perverse.
The stimuli flowed in continuous streams:
- Repetitive, yet evocative drum rhythms
- Cartwheels of degenerate aliments
- Toddlers and infants carried along with the crowds
- Occasional old geezers engaged in Samba rhythms among the chaos
- Glitter where one would normally expect clothes
- Bathing suits
- Sparkling head bands
- Paper crowns
- Short skirts of disposable plastic
- Bunny ears
- Face painting
- Strangely exotic lipstick and eye liners
- Pirate hats with red bandanas
- Flashy goggles
I again grew indifferent. The setting ceased to appeal. It didn’t irritate. But it also didn’t animate.
Perhaps my outer projections didn’t align with the inner. Or the underlying nature didn’t align with reality. Perhaps I didn’t really crave to adapt to the circumstances. The days thus floated by.
Then I suddenly transitioned to the outskirts of Teresópolis, a small town a mere 100km away, although at a radically higher altitude.
The climate here is two notches cooler. A cold shower in these parts actually feels bone-shattering ice-cold.
The vegetation is different - a sort of a fusion between tropical Brazil and eastern Europe. The air is different. The water is way fresher. The environment - calmer.
I’ve been learning about medicinal plants. And preparing teas with leaves collected among the vegetation, consumed in artisan cups. And composting organic leftovers. And learning to transform banana peels into edible dishes.
And having powerful conversations. And uncovering much fractalized beauty within natural elements. And laying on rock fragments, contemplating the sky.
At the mountain base spread a patch of houses surrounded by flourishing shrubbery. At the peak I eyed a silhouette of a lone, bare, dried tree.
A pair of ravens came to occupy one branch. Clouds mildly floated along the otherwise unbelievably clear sky.
A ghastly air the visage emitted; an autonomous air; an air of pride, of valiance, of self-reliance.
I continued to lay there on the lonesome rock, contemplating everything and nothing.
The Carnaval transmuted into the Gothic. One ephemeral moment led to the next.
Questions, comments? Connect.