Friday, August 12, 2011

Entry 138 8.9.11

Entry 138, August 9th, 2011, 11:28pm (GMT +2)

Today we visited Monaco, just up the coast from Cannes (we being myself, Lincoln, Nicky, Joe, and Steve the new trombone player). Monaco is one of the smallest countries in the world, just behind the Vatican, and is composed of one small city squeezed in between the cliffs and the ocean – Monte Carlo. The city is vertical as much as it is horizontal; we got off the train and could have turned right onto a green patio overlooking the ocean, but instead we turned left and had to take an elevator up 14 floors to the surface!

Not much to write about the city itself. We visited the casino and the palace (the two main sights in Monte Carlo) and everything around us screamed “playground of the rich.” The casino's valet service
was a constant parade of Rolls Royces, drop-top Bentleys, Porchses, and Ferraris (except for one guy driving a smartcar . . . what?) and the palace was fronted by soldiers in spotless white uniforms wielding assault rifles. Maybe if we'd been there longer we would have found more to see, but the biggest challenge was finding food in our price range. Near the casino appetizers were 30 euros a pop (that's about fourty five dollars for an appetizer)! Cheap pizza from the supermarket eventually sufficed.

The train ride was about an hour each direction, and filled with beautiful views of the Cote de Azur the entire way.

We also met a backpacker walking to Australia. That's a long walk . . .


I did my meditation on the back deck tonight. I didn't intend to, but around 3am the ship was very quiet and I went back to look at the ocean for a while. It was one of those “I have a disquiet in my soul . . .” kind of moments. As I stood there, watching the moon set, I found it easy to sink into the awareness of meditation. The constant sweep of the ocean was what my conscious mind needed to remain occupied. There is a long history of people using flowing water as a meditation aide, so I guess I should not be surprised.

The ocean was active and muscular tonight, with a stiff warm breeze out of the East. The wind tore bits of spray off the tops of the whitecaps, and I was taken back to a memory from my childhood.

In my senior year of high school, I spent a semester as my band director's assistant. We would head over to the middle school every morning, and then I would walk back alone in time for second hour. There was one morning in January that stands out . . . it had snowed a few inches the night before, but the sky was crystal clear. The sun was just coming up and there was a strong breeze blowing, just like tonight. The snow had drifted, and as I trudged across the parking lots I squinted out at the frozen cornfields that stretched out to the horizon. I felt like the only human on Earth, or maybe an astronaut on a frozen moon, wrapped entirely in protective clothing and leaving a line of footprints through the drifts behind me.

It's not the temperature or the setting that made me think of that moment. Instead, it is the sense of looking out over a barren wilderness where the wind plays alone with the landscape. The ocean became, for a moment, a frozen tundra, and the froth capped waves became shifting dunes of ice.

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