Coming back with the shield

Greek historian Plutarch teaches us that, when Spartans went into war, their women would encourage them to “come back with your shield, on on it.” Spartan shield was big and heavy, allowing the soldier to protect himself and to protect the soldier standing next to him when marching into formation. The only reason to throw it away was to be able to run faster without its weight when fleeing from the enemy, the ultimate shame and treason for a Spartan. Cowards weren’t appreciated in the hard and strict Spartan society. So coming back with your shield (which meant you hadn’t fled or abandoned the other soldiers), or on it (meaning you had had an honorable death in battle and you were being brought back by using the shield as a plank for transport) were the only acceptable options.

I was thinking about that last Sunday before starting the Spartacus Run of Enghien, an obstacle Spartan race I participated into with some people from work. I had been dreading that day since I registered to the race, but once I had said I was going to do it, there was no going back. It would have been like throwing the shield. So there I was, Sunday morning, taking a train to meet my fellow Spartan crazy friends, scared and excited about whatever would happen. I was determined to finish the Run and at least try to pass all obstacles, specially since I discovered the “easy way out” from doing an obstacle was an alternate lane called “chicken lane”. Seriously. Chicken. Nope. I couldn’t take willingly the chicken lane, out of the question. I know my teammates wouldn’t think bad of me if I did, butI had at least to try.

It ended up being one of the funniest and most rewarding experiences I have ever done. Ok, I needed help from my team on several moments (specially when climbing walls, big thank you, guys!), and I couldn’t climb the rope (I have no idea about the technique to do it and I dont have enough arm strength to climb it without the technique), but I don’t care because I passed the monkey bars without falling into the water beneath them! It was the thing I was dreading the most, and yes, for two seconds I hesitated about taking the chicken lane. But if I never tried to pass them I would never know if I was capable of doing it. And hey, I am. Way to go, girl!

I’m still waiting for the medal –I don’t know why they didn’t give us the medal at the end of the race, we’ll get it through mail, which is actually a bit disappointing–, and my body has been hurting since Sunday. But it was a hell of a day, a great experience I will surely repeat. Specially now that I know what I need to work on to improve and be able to keep pace and don’t slow my team members (running endurance and upper body strength).

Some friends think I am crazy for having done it, and for wanting to do it again. I think it would be crazy not to do it again.

 

As you set out for Ithaka

Last week I stumbled onto a quote, “As you set out for Ithaca, hope the voyage is a long one.” It sounded familiar, so I googled it. It actually comes from Ithaka, a poem by a Greek poet, C. P. Cavafy. One I don’t remind reading before but I wouldnt be surprised if at one moment my father had  sent it to me at one moment, it’s the kind of poem he’d like and he’d know I like, sowho knows…

As you set out for Ithaka

hope the voyage is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.

May there be many a summer morning when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you come into harbors seen for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992) (original version here)

Make the future look good

As much influence one person can have, that one person doesn’t have the power to reshape the whole world. We are each one of us responsible for the future. , our own and the one of those that surround us. We can do more and have more influence that we imagine. So let’s all work for the better. Because if we believe in it, the future looks good.

Automne 

Fall is my favourite season. The colours nature offers is are beautiful. And it’s usually a windy season, and I kind of like wind, don’t ask me why. 

At one moment in my life, I used to write poems. This one -a few years old already- is dedicated to autumn. 

Inconceivable!

I had some subjets in mind to write about. And then I stumbled upon this article about one of my top ever favourite films. I am talking, of course, about The Princess Bride (1987), the movie adaptation of the same-title book writen by William Goldman. On IMDb, the story is summarized as follows:

While home sick in bed, a young boy’s grandfather reads him a story called The Princess Bride.

My favourite summary, on the other hand, is the one the said grandpa makes to his grandson on the book:

“Does it have any sports in it?”

“Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True Love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest Ladies. Snakes. Spiders… Pain. Death. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”

“Sounds okay,” I said and I kind of closed my eyes.”

Sounds okay. It is okay. More than okay, actually. I have an unapologetic and undying love for this film. It was the film I watched when I was a kid and had to stay home because I was sick. The film I still go to when I need a “feel-good-like-a-mug-of-hot-chocolate” film. The one that I know by heart and can quote (in its original english version or in the spanish dubbed one) by heart. The one that will still make me laugh every single time I watch it.

 The article I linked at the top explains why the movie encountered (and still encounters upon first-time viewers) such succes. It’s adventurous, fun, scary, ironic, serious, tongue-in-cheek, has amazing performances, great diaogue, a beautiful soundtrack and memorable characters. And one of the best sword fights in cinema history.

And now I’m realizing writing about Princess Bride was a mistake. Because now I want to watch it again. And watching this movie then brings me to watching Stardust, the 2007 film inspired from author Neil Gaiman which most consider a “modern heir” of Rob Reiner‘s film. Both share the same kind of humour and tone that makes them enjoyable for kids and adults, fairytales that pay hommage to classic fairytale stories while having an ironic approach to them. An incredible balance to achieve, but both films do it without any effort.

So there you go, dear readers. If you are looking for something light but entertaining and good to watch, give ButtercupWasley and the Impressive Clergyman a chance. And have fun storming the castle.

Private collections 

I have a friend who collects cristal snowballs. My mum used to collect owls (and I’ve inherited her owl-passion, go figure). Some people collect stamps, coins, silver teaspoons or stuff like that. 

And then you have people who collect stars and doors. A few years back I stumbled upon someone who collected stars. She had started this website where people from all over the world could submit theirs picture featuring stars: tattoos, prints, details… She’d interview some of the people she took pictures of. She’d tell stories. She’d encourage people to go outside, open their ayes, follow their own star. Belén is an amazing person who will make you want to be better, look the world through a different angle, search for and forge stories. 

Another friend decided to collect doors. She started “hunting” them and opened an Instagram account to show her trophies. But now that everyone she knows knows she collects doors, doors come the her constantly. Which I find kind of amazing. Because, as what happened with the stars, she has made us look to our surroundings differently. Because you never know where you can find something beautiful. 
Top image, a door with stars. Double combo!

Creativity is contagious 

I have already said it elsewhere: working surrounded by creative and artistic people is one of the most fascinating and scary thing that has ever happened to me.

 

The thing is, I think (and some people that know me well woul agree), I have an inclination for artistically stuff without actually been an artist. I trained as a classical dancer for years. I went to painting classes. I love crafting and working with my hands. I like writing and taking pictures. But it has always been an inclination, a hobby, nothing I ever took seriously, because I know I am not good enough at any of those as to be taken seriously.

 

But creativity is contagious. First of all, because if someone creative discovers you are creative in any way, he (or she) is going to persuade you to pursue your passion, in whatever small way you might do it. Secondly, because when you see people putting themselves out there through their passion and craft, you feel a bit jealous, in a good way: you want to be able and bold enough to do the same. It is not related to showing of what you are capable of, I see it more like sharing a part of you with the world.
For some time, I wrote poems. They were for me -someone who is a hard nut to crack when it comes to sharing personal stuff- a way of communicating and exploring my inner world, to get to know me better myself. The I stopped, for various reasons. I started crafting for a while, combining that with photography. The way I do it, that is less personal. Yes, the way you chose to portrait a moment or the way you compose the photo comes from personal and artistic decisions, but I didn’t communicate with that as much of me as I did with writing.

 

Then I started to surround myself by crazy and brilliant creative people, active in any creative domain you can imagine. And I guess I became bolder, or crazier, and I did something that I had been avoiding for the last ten years or so: I did a painting. An oil painting.

 

My painting material had been gathering dust for years. I have photos and postal cards I have taken because when seen them I thought «that would make a nice painting», but I never painted them. I kept finding excuses: «it takes time», «oil painting smell is going to disturb my roommates», «I have nowhere to hang them once they’re done», etc., etc. you get the picture (pun intended).

 

But during my holiday, it suddenly happened: one afternoon I decided I needed to paint one painting I had been neglecting for years (a photo I took of a friend in the North Sea three or fours years ago), and there I went. It was scary, I wasn’t sure I was going to remember the techniques. In fact, I might have improvised a bit. A lot, probably. There is no way to say it. It was a simple project, a good one to go back to the brushes and colors and so, and I’m happy with the result. I know I am not Velázquez, but I’m ok with it.

Now, I only need to guess what to do with the painting now. Most of the excuses were only excuses, but I really have no where to hang the painting.