Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The sun reached its peak hours before and the light that now spills over the city is gold and fleeting. The walls of the many downtown buildings glow in a muted shade of orange and the sky above has turned a shade of pale blue that only holds the promise of darkness to come. There are no clouds, just endless pale blue. The street is wide and made of multiple lanes of traffic going in both directions. The city is a mixture of ancient and new, old edifices and architecture combined with new street lamps and signs. The street itself is covered with a fresh black layer of asphalt, but the sidewalks on the side are old cobblestone, worn to a shiny finish from years of use. Modern buses wait patiently in traffic beside buildings hundreds of years old. The street is exact and completely straight, breaking from its course only when it meets perpendicularly with another wide road at an intersection. Each lane is full of cars. They wait bumper to bumper, occasionally letting out a desperate honk that does nothing to move the cars ahead of them along. Dark exhaust streams from the back of the city buses. They wait as still as the cars and nearly hidden inside them are scores of passengers that stare out from the tinted windows with a mixture of helplessness and resigned desperation, unable to do anything to change their fate. An occasional motorcycle weaves its way through the congestion, finding the small pockets of space within the mess of metal and exhaust and beeping exasperation of horns. It is not just crowded streets, the sidewalks on either side of the traffic are full of pedestrians. Many of them are tourists, clinging to their maps and cameras and staring open-mouthed at the architecture. There are large baroque buildings that take up entire blocks and between them are grand cathedrals on every other corner. The tourists walk in small groups, adorned with hats and water bottles. Locals weave through them like motorcycles, finding the spaces between the gawking groups of picture-happy tourists. One of the oldest buildings in the downtown area is an old church with a long, narrow steeple made of metal. The building itself is constructed from bricks and rises five stories high. On the body of the building, but close to the steeple, are open square windows. Inside the windows, within the church, are the silhouettes of old people. The church building sways softly in the wind, moving slightly to the right and left, then forwards and backwards.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Lake

The lake is a flat stretch of blue surrounded by a thicket of tall pines. It is wide and long and shaped like an oversized kidney bean with jagged edges. The shore is made of small pebbles and chunks of broken boulders and little bits of soggy tree bark. The cold water comes so close to the edge of the earth that it laps at the edges of the woods, softening the thick trunks with repetitive licks. The trees are a dark green and piled so close together that the ground below them is almost completely shaded. From a distance, the green of the needles nearly descends into black but for the few rogue boughs lined with the yellowing needles of fall. Despite the bright light and the lack of clouds, the wind has a crisp, cold undertone beneath the heated overtone of the sun. The smell of baked pine and earth waft for miles, overcome every so often by the pungent stench of a skunk spray. In the light of the sun, almost all the animals hide in the shadows. Just the birds perch on the tree tips, singing their songs. The woods spread up and up and melt into the mountains that surround the lake like the walls of a valley. Behind the initial wood-covered wall is a rugged range that lasts for miles. By the lake, not a road leads in or out. Not a house speckles the carpet of the greenery. The water of the lake is dark blue, nearly black like the trees. Floating on the top of the water are small pieces of algae. Some of the little pieces are pale green, others are dark and bright. They swirl with the ripples and move below, filling the inner world of the lake with drifting green confetti. Nothing disturbs the water but ripples of laughter. A group of five, three men and two women, are near the center of the lake. There are no boats or boards, they stay afloat with only the continuous movement of their arms and legs. Each one is smiling, letting out an occasional yelp or ring of laughter. The deepness of the water does not frighten them. Nor does the floating green life or the deep blue water or the massive expanse of sky above. Each one takes a turn diving deep into the lake, paddling with enthusiasm, going as far as their breath will carry them. Each one swims freely, diving deep into the unknown.