Visits

December 9, 2014

The man with the hat, round, smart edge, ¾ length coat, looks brown in the dark, crosses at the crosswalk, makes a 90 degree turn and waits for the next crosswalk light to change. He is so impeccable, irreproachable, upright. What is his life like? Brownish yellows, from the street lights, all is smart, proper, clean, reserved, demure. I look out the back of the tram and the next wagon is also following us dutifully, taking the curve after we did, without protest, its narrow frame gives it a toy like look. Green with the yellow line. The driver slams on the brakes at about the same distance to each stop. One slam then another smoother second one, everyone jerked back and forth in silence, then we slow down, and stop. Out we go. The click of the heels, the swish of the winter coats, the zip of the cold as we all walk up the stairs out of the station. Grand Teatrale, trams in all directions, some run to catch a connection, I walk, over the beautiful bridge, a cyclist coming towards us, in the dark making himself known with a single round headlight to pierce the night, his body’s shadow weaves from right to left as he tackles the slight incline. The theater is there, a line up, a bell resonates, then the sounds of construction, the thunderous passage of the trams. People make few noises. Girls in tight waisted winter coats, long boots, smartly tipped tuques, their long hair coming out in disciplined strands. The men, mostly wearing black, are scarce.

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A car pulls over the sidewalk to park, red Honda, small model, full of bodies, likely going to the theater, the driver pushes his door open forcefully, without looking, I sidestep, head of white hair, slightly harried eyes, the only light among the lines of his face, I continue. Kids, one with an white animal looking hat, ears and tail in a fuzzy fake fur, he runs his body loose and free, his light blue jacket against the dark bricks of the church, he grabs the tail of his hat, while his white scarf with blue stripes comes undone, starting to fly but the boy catches it with his left hand, he looks back, his cheeks reddened by the cold, his face stretched in laughter, his friends catch up to him, they excitedly head inside the church.

A woman in a green coat, sings softly as I walk by. I think about the fact that I am here, stranger, invisible, in this place, I came, I will leave and no one will know me. I think I will remember this place as a city for humans. I am in love with the architecture, with the beauty of the details, if I lived here, I would stay in the heart of the city, in one of the old buildings, they speak of much care and love and pride in the beauty and the craftsmanship, Something I feel we sorely miss in today’s constructions.

Today, I did a touristy thing. Found a place recommended in a tourist guide and went for it. The Poznan croissant museum. Yeah, I thought the same: Croissant museum? Turns out there is a type of croissant that was born 300 and some years AD it goes like this: Once upon a time was a warrior born in what is today Hungary, his father was a solider and he became a soldier too. One day he decided he was going to be an army soldier no more and become soldier of God. He did many good deeds that granted him saintly status while he lived, one of them deeds was to cut his cloak in half to clothe a needy man.

One day his horse lost a shoe…. in the mean time, a baker in Poznan wanted to do good deeds too… one night he went to sleep and had a dream of a croissant… the shape of a horseshoe. In the morning when he woke up he found St Michael’s horseshoe in his bed and he decided to follow this vision and make the croissant to feed all the poor people in the city, bringing his baking to the local church, soon all other bakers followed suit… hence was born the wrogalowi Świętomarcińskich, the St Martin’s croissant… the tradition still lives and on November 11th, Poland’s independence day, they bake more than a million of these to feed all in need…

The museum experience was to show us how this croissant was made, we attended along with a room full of Poznan kids. We learned of the history, the how to, and in the end, got to taste the famous croissant. Awesome.

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Today to the citadel park, we went again.

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Spirits. In this park they dwell, they speak of lost youth, of violence, of turmoil and confusion, why? Why? Why? They ask. Bits of fortresses erupting from the ground, carry still, menace in their stance, the foreboding. Rectangular slits allowed in the 10 feet thick walls, stare back malevolently. Black holes made to let a gun speak through. I get restless, I sense a horse under me, we walk through, among the winter trees, leafless lanky, their dark shapes cutting towards the skies, their arms cut at angles as if to hug themselves against the cold. The fortifications built into a ditch like depressions, forbidding. Citadel. When we come out of that, the wide open spaces hold tall, thin, sky-reaching monoliths, “Oh God, they ask, Will you give us the courage, the strength?”

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And if we could, not invade, not envy, not desire?

And if we could just trust, let the waters flow ocean wise?

And if we could let it be?

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What if the food and the drink, the warm fireside, the work of the day, the smiles of our kin was enough? What if nothing really mattered, what if nothing was that serious? What if faith, in stead of bringing us to war, made us patient?

There is a warrior that existed in my soul, there is a warrior that bled and killed and hated and fought relentlessly for his Lords. There is a place in my heart that knows what is the feel of the blood drenched soil under feet. There are muscles in my shoulders that know the weight of the sword and the smell of reddened steel. There is a deep knowing of what the stiffness of conviction for a cause is like. There is a cognizance of the feel of long days in the saddle, the smell of the horse sweat, the clicks and clangs of the armor, the feel of the stirrup under feet, the four beat tempo of a slow walk resonating into enemy territory, of the sound of the bright pennons flapping in the wind on the hillside on a grey fall day.

I wish for a free humanity, I wish for hope, I wish for thirst for truth and hunger for fortitude. Safely walking barefooted on an unsoiled earth, drinking the pure water of knowledge, always humble, unshackled from rigid theorizations.

Like the leaves we live our lives, the seasons passing us by. After the summer kisses and love from the sun, the frost takes a hold, undoing us slowly. Winter is coming. Will there be rest inside the quiet underside of accumulated white snow? Or will it be exposure to the winds, the cold nights, freezing rain and the remorseless ice? Crossroads, crosswinds pushing us this or that way, opinions, the wavering, vacillating, the crumbling of convictions while facing hardships.

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“Come, come and drink with us”, he said. I had walked into a dark inn, the cold eating away my last bit of strength. A fire burned in a large fireplace. The smell of food. Potatoes, meat, the smell of the burning apple tree wood. I closed the door on winter and sat down, ate, realizing the goodness of it all, in a few bites of warm food.

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