The magic of discovery…

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I spent a good deal of last night writing a blog entry about magic, it’s intangible and inexplicable air of possibility, and how I have spent the past three and a half years trying to understand the particular brand I find of it here in the Balkans. Looking over my words I have yet again not been able to capture it, yet I continue to jump across magical moments here as though they were stepping stones. I’ve built bridges between places and people but also enjoyed settling for long periods of time in this town of Kotor that I have singled out so particularly. I move around within its stone walls as if it were my home and I wasn’t some strange Australian girl who had weasled her way in and disrupted their lives repeatedly.

I keep collecting intangible moments here, wondering if it’s possible to continue sampling this place indefinitely or if my luck will eventually run out, but as I look around at these smiling faces, hearing their hearty laughter, I know the memories of their magic will last within me. I know this because I have been back here only a few nights and it feels like a fortunate lifetime.

If there is one paragraph I can rescue from my scrapped blog post from last night it is this one: Can I take these people with me? As I watch them all I love them even more and no photo or video could capture them as they are in this moment, in this place, at this very point in time. Their magic is in the faces they pull at each other in jest, their booming voices, and the way they somehow let me be part of all this in a way that seems like an exception to the rule. I am a foreigner but somehow I also belong to their family. They call me an honorary Montenegrin, although I will never know how I earned this title.

The music is always better when Vlado plays it. The company is always better with my Montenegrin girl gang around. The night is always better when a song, a person, or a passing hug in an empty street reminds you of why it is you keep coming back. Travellers all ponder whether to extend their stay here without being able to put their finger on why, but I know why. This place is something to be felt, not abstractly described. These people are to be enjoyed, not analysed.

That point applies to every aspect of this entire country though. I spent an entire day on 360 Monte Travel Agency’s Great Montenegro Tour just two days ago and I have been trying and failing to capture its essence in words. Though I have wonderful photos (as you can see), the truth is they don’t demonstrate the feeling that this didn’t really feel like a tour to me rather than a day out with friends. Slavko was a wonderful host, leading us around this beautiful country and making us laugh. It was a social day as much as it was informative and interesting, and while we were all tired by the end noone seemed to be in a rush to get back to town either as we enjoyed one final stop for coffee and cake.

I know I have to start planning my exit strategy, but I am glad I can take my time doing it at a snail’s pace, and as I do so I will soak it all in. This town. These people. While I know I will be once again overwhelmed when it is time to leave I will never take the unique magic of this place for granted. It may be a long time until I feel its embrace again, because I don’t know what the universe has in store for me from here, but as always I hope this is just one more incredible window in time and not the last.

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The collector.

Nature

Photo by Erika Kochanski.

I am a girl of nature. I think I always have been. When I was a kid I made soup out of flower petals, twigs, water and dirt then my family would sit down and pretend to eat it. I grew out of making garden soup, but not out of nature. Now that I’m older I’m the kind of girl who rescues snails and ladybugs from the pavement or a preying mantis from a car bonnet. I escape to cities temporarily for the greatness they offer, but feel most at home when it’s just me outside catching the last of the day’s sun-rays somewhere on the edge of civilization where wild things roam.

I get my kicks out of spotting a hawk flying overhead or hearing a woodpecker in the forest. I love the rain. I feel alive in the wind. I would rather spend an hour watching a bee collect pollen than ten minutes in a nightclub. Birds make me smile; I often stop to watch them swoop down over a running stream. I jump over slugs so as not to squash them. I take photos at strange moments, but it is usually because something small and seemingly insignificant has taken my attention. That’s how I end up collecting a billion photos of random things throughout any journey I undertake.

I never thought of myself as a collector, but now when I think of it I suppose I am. I am a collector of experiences and memories. My photos are a way to capture time the way I see it. When I look over them I feel an air of peace; a certain feeling of quiet. Every photo, no matter how odd the subject matter, can pinpoint a moment in my life which becomes frozen solid in my memory. This is why I take photos when I travel, because without them memories become less accessible, they may even wither and die as they fall into the forgotten. I do not want to forget.