Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lay of the Last Minstrel by Walter Scott

“BREATHES there the man with soul so dead who never to himself hath said: ‘This is my own, my native land.’”  - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

HANOI VIETNAM December 23, 2012:
I’ve always known magic carpets were real.  Little genies in bottles whispering, “Your wish is my command.”   Then Poof!  The secret happy hopes of the few to see the world fall, but for me, these dreams somehow took flight.
  “WHOSE heart hath ne’er within him burned as home.”  - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

I return again to Vietnam.  This ancient capital city that boasts a thousand rotations round the sun, to walk and stroll down lanes I learn again through the eyes of my daughters.  It’s Christmas, and we open you like stockings hanging over the fire.
  “HIS footsteps he hath turned from wandering on a foreign strand?”  -Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

I carry the journals in my rucksack.  It’s better that way.  I keep the colored pencils too, and we stop to sketch and talk and sip tea on the curb of the Old Quarter. 
  “IF such there breathe, go mark him well; for him no minstrel raptures swell…” - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

Rebekah notes a green frog on a lily pad.  Xian the soot.  She manages to trace the outline of a heart upon a shelved urn.  I tell them not to touch.  If you break you buy.  Certainly, an American in Vietnam ought to understand that wisdom.
  “HIGH though his titles, proud his name, boundless his wealth as wish can claim.”  - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

What I love about travel is poof!  You are there.  All the planning the preparation the reading the reserving… nothing matters until you step on the ground and call the place yours.
  “DESPITE those title, power and pelf, the wretch concentred all in self.”  - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

That and the foreignness, of course.  Despite what I may project, I actually live in a very small, isolated world.   Peculiarities are my vice.  The twitchiness of strangers.  The oddity of their unknown.  I pass through this world in barely a whisper, but I am always watching.  I’m ever an alien to the people around me.
  “LIVING, shall forfeit fair renown, and, doubly dying, shall go down…” - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

Everyone is like this.  Little minstrels looking for that one thing that understands them.  Even if it's just to say... You are not me.
  “TO the vile dust from whence he sprung…”  - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

We seek it.  Moving away from all that is safe into the mysterious just to see if it’s real.  Why? To sing about it in our own song.  That’s what everyone forgets.
“UNWEPT, unhonored, and unsung.”  - Walter Scott, from the Lay of the Last Minstrel

Because when you’re gone.  You’re forgotten.  You’re replaced.  You were never there.  Except for those who shared the journey along the way.  For us.  It's all we have.

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