I usually like to run and immerse myself in a world of earthly delights. It’s a yes-world, a way of soaking in color, judiciously chosen openness. What would my first long-awaited travel be like, after being sprung from lockdown?
It was immersion, but not the same yes kind — a vast world of strangers, airports made of retractable bands and systems and uniformed people. Alongside immersion was interrogation. I don’t mean security and pat-downs, though that existed — I mean the world interrogating me, and me interrogating the world. It was made of strangers — better word: strange. The settings were familiar — I know airports and Denver, where I have landed many times, with its dung-colored scruff and line of blue mountains in the distance, emptiness that gives way to four, then eight lanes of black suburban highways. It kept asking questions, forming and reforming, my curiosity tinged with neither trust nor distrust. All real, this world I belong to but now, how exactly?
Under all the real things, something was walking with me — the violence of the past year. The idea that the naked truth had been exposed, and dark reality had emerged into plain view. After all that death, what was appearing was a posthumous world. Interrogate that!
Even if that vision is extreme, will recede, too dark to be the whole truth, it speaks of complexities of experience. Two thinks at the same time. In Denver, I saw a superb exhibition by a young South African artist, Simphiwe Ndzube. His “Oracles of the Pink Universe” plays on Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” In his version, the familiar evil snake is transformed into Majole who, in his tradition, can signify a “welcome visitor, an ancestral incantation coming to pass along a message or a protector.”
The message is the mystery, and patience is the access code. I’m trying to walk slowly with this ever-shifting world, curious as we unfold together.