Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Open Your Nose

Sometimes when you travel you are lucky enough to get the feeling that you have a personal connection to the place that you're in. It's a feeling that comes very rarely. But when it does, you look around and say to yourself "I could live here. I really could!"

I had that feeling on Saturday night. I was in Lincoln, a small town (population 1300) in New Hampshire. During the day I had already been charmed by the New England Ski Museum. There, in a building smaller than the average McDonalds, I saw Olympic medals for the first time in my life. There was a gold, three silvers and a bronze. All had been won by Bode Miller, who was raised nearby and grew up to be one of the greatest Alpine skiers ever. A few feet to the left I saw a sword that had belonged to Benito Mussolini. Yes, that's the same Mussolini who led Italy into an ill-fated embrace with Nazi Germany. How his sword found it's way here is a story for another time. The point is, I was instantly captivated by the quirkiness of the place.

So I was already in a good mood by the time dinner was eaten. My companions were friends from Boston, each with a son the same age as mine. After the children were asleep we started talking over mojitos and red wine. As the conversation grew more animated I felt a strong urge to step outside by myself.

It was a warm night. I walked barefoot accross the grass and sat down on a rock. A drop of water fell on the back of my neck. I looked up at the overcast sky but no more water fell.

I closed my eyes. As I had recently explained to a friend, to be fully present inside a moment you need all your senses. And sometimes you need to close your eyes so that you can hear and smell and taste and feel.

I heard a river. It was rushing over a bed of stones with a sound like white noise. It always amazes me that running water sounds so busy yet it's the most relaxing thing to listen to.

I felt the grass under my feet and between my toes. I moved them around, gently massaging my soles with the wet stalks underneath. Then, on a whim I got up from the rock I was sitting on and stood on it instead. I could feel every inch of the grained surface that I was standing on.

I breathed deeply. The air was cool and clean except for a faint trace of woodsmoke. I breathed again and caught a delicately sweet whiff of something familiar but unindentifiable.

I stood like that for several minutes. I was soaking in all the sensations, imprinting them on my mind. Then I opened my eyes. I looked around. And I whispered to myself "I could live here."