Saturday, 23 February 2013


It is a peculiar thing what I love about traveling is also what I dislike about it -- lack of the usual structure of life, and the inability to structure myself in the usual way. Nothing like going away to return. 

I have kept a regular journal since 1970 -- I can't locate them all, and many have been eaten up by silver fish. I find it invaluable as a tool to navigate through my life. More of this later. But here's the first, on structure. 

5th, I think. Kuyima Camp, San Ignacio. Mexico

So many days without leisure to write that I am suffocating. Let me first bitch, whine and moan about this in order to carry on with other things. There have been some wonderful moments in this trip, but of them later. Well, actually, as soon as I begin here I am done with the moaning. Today I shall not go whale watching, much as I love it, but stay in the cabin and ground myself (PS: I DID GO, AND WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!) Traveling with L on this part of the trip – the Germans with whom we kayaked and camped have gone off to the caves – and she talked yesterday about how she didn’t have any structure while she was growing up, wealthy, with dysfunctional parents, and that has been, and continues to be, the hardest part of her life, and how she has had to learn to ground herself. I think perhaps this sums up for me what has been hardest about this trip. There has been a lot of structure in the external sense, imposed, this time here and this time there, breakfast lunch and dinner with others, times to whale watch, taxi rides, flights, times to set out kayaking, always on the go, but it hasn’t been a structure from the inside out, hasn’t been of the mind, body and soul. For me structure imposed is not structure but constriction, regimentation, hell. Though I have been feeling this for a long time I have not been able to articulate this to myself till this morning. For me, then, feeling comes first. It manifests as unhappiness, grumpiness, groaning, whining and bitching, constipation, and lack of sleep. It is good to know this. 

ABOUT STRUCTURE: One of my cats, Chua, who died in 2000 and who I got from Saudi Arabia, would go crazy every once in a while, mewing and miowing raucously; didn't want to be in, or out, or eat, or be petted. I discovered a trick that worked. I would put him under a laundry basket and he would quiet down and fall asleep. My study is my laundry basket, my box, my quiet soul time. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


I have to tell you that since my return back home, I have been enjoying all my comforts. The first night back I had two hot water bottles in bed with me and slept like a baby! I'm also enjoying the indoors, though very aware about how essential it is to spend some part of the day outdoors under the open sky, in sunshine or rain. It is good for one's health and reminds us that the Earth is our home, and the sky our roof.


We are also reminded that though we think we need to own many, many things to give meaning to our lives, we actually need very little. We could only carry the basics in our kayaks, and most of us wore the same clothes for an entire week, with frequent change of underwear. Now, I know that most of us, especially women, own closets full of clothes, accessories, shoes, but making do with very little simplifies life enormously. Though i have been wearing the same clothes over and over in the house for a while now as i age, I had wondered whether this wasn't being lazy, but now I am perfectly okay with it. I even wear the same shlumpy clothes when i step out to do errands. None of us (there were six in all) carried any mirrors with us so we didn't care how we looked. The value of this is worth bringing back. Though i didn't buy a thing in Mexico, I brought back so many jewels of practical knowledge from our trip. and of course, many shells.



We camped for eight nights as we kayaked in the Gulf of Mexico, first on an island, then unfrequented and isolated coves and beaches on the mainland. Though sleeping on the hard ground without pillows in tents with the wind threatening most nights to blow your roof and house away is uncomfortable and disconcerting, it takes you back to and reconnects you with the basics of life: even though we build elaborate structures to shield ourselves from the knowledge that we own only our bodies, and not even that, ultimately, the basics are a spiritual fact. Camping in nature -- though we camped in style, i must say, with two cooks who prepared wonderful meals, and had amenities that primitive men and women would envy -- takes you out of your comfort zone, and allows you to experience yourself in a new way. Believe me, I am far too attached to my comforts. The list is long but i will mention only that my bed with its temperpedic mattress, down pillows, quilts above a nice hot water bottle in its beautiful cozy, is my favorite piece of furniture, followed closely by comfy chairs. I am attached to all my things around me and my daily, though highly flexible routine. But there are times when all one's comforts fail to comfort and then it is time to do something entirely new that blasts you out of your usual zone, like camping. I had meant to say that though I am rather fond of my comforts, I had been reading Viktor Frankl's MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING before I left, which is an account of the author in a concentration camp, and it reminded me about what a basic life without any comforts and even food is like for humans. I kept reminding my bourgeoise self of Frankl's experiences and thought in comparison I was living like a queen on a hard floor without my comforting pillows. As an aside: it is a wonderful book. Read it. Frankl is a psychologist and has many insights into man's basic nature.

The problem is we all too often forget the basics -- it enriches our life enormously to remember them.