#travel #creativity #novels #art #magic #writing
Magic in travel? You must be kidding! All we hope is to get there and back safely. When we consider the long lines, the cancelled flights, the rude security staff and the cramped seats, don’t we all feel a lot like cattle being pushed and prodded from A to B? Now you’re asking for magic? Isn’t that a bit much?
Perhaps it is a tall order, but I’m thinking of those moments-and they may be few and far between-when suddenly, on your travels, you see or experience something that stops you up, making you view the world in a brand new way or at least from a different perspective. The world opens up and that, in itself, is magical. Isn’t that the real purpose of travel?
So much depends on the traveller’s state of mind and willingness to slow down and look at what surrounds him with a fresh eyes. We have all known people who want to do Europe in seven days. They rush from pillar to post [excuse me-monument to monument], snapping photographs with friends standing in the way of every important site. I was there! the photos shout. But was that person really there in body, mind and spirit?
I’m suggesting something different. Why not take your time, slow down and really look? You’ve spent a lot of money to get here and so, why not spend a lovely evening simply sitting in a cafe, in a quiet square, watching the world go by? You’ll see what happens. I suspect that the images and memories of that evening may well stay with you forever, even if you haven’t taken any photographs.
Someone should write a book on the Tao of the traveller. Actually David Tuffley has written a very fine one, The Artful Traveler a Flaneur’s Guide http://amzn.to/1ts6Q2P which is a real inspiration. If you want to journey about this world with your eyes open and your heart engaged, then have a look at this book.
To be a follower of the Tao, one must take/make time. One must catch one’s breath, open oneself up to the surroundings-in short, be receptive, not critical of everything. It won’t work too well if you’re on a tour where you have five minutes to catch the bus. Maybe, less really is more. Fewer sites means less rush and greater pleasure.
Years ago, I spent ten days alone in Venice. The weather was gorgeous…light spring breezes and sunshine. And so I simply wandered anywhere the mood took me. So many ancient palazzos and squares! I could, at quiet moments, almost see the ghosts of the past wafting by and hear their whispering.
In this photograph of a cafe, take a very close look at the mirror on the wall to the left, just above the small table. Do you see the two women wearing what look like ball gowns and men in fancy dress in a beautiful hall? When I took this picture, there certainly was no great hall on my right reflected in the mirror. Such moments became the inspiration for several novels “A Trial of One, the third in The Osgoode Trilogy and The Drawing Lesson, the first in The Trilogy of Remembrance.
Now, I love to fantasize that somehow my camera caught a window into a different world of bye-gone centuries. And so, for me, that is magic-easy to believe at night in Venice. Such magical thoughts are interesting for me, a lawyer turned writer and photographer. If I had been rushing about, such a thought would never have entered my mind.
I took the photograph of Pinocchio which is on the cover of my novel, Final Paradox, the second in The Osgoode Trilogy on the first night I was in Venice. It was a puppet in a shop window.
So why do I talk about travel, writing and magic all together? Because it leads to creativity! If we want to create something new, we have to step back from our usual ways of doing, seeing and thinking. The magic? That’s the creativity.
One of my favourite authors, Robertson Davies, made an excellent point. In his lecture entitled “The Novelist and Magic,” he spoke of a novel by Georges du Maurier, entitled “Peter Ibbetson”, written in 1891, which was hugely popular. In the story, two lovers, separated by an unhappy fate, managed to meet in their dreams where they expressed their love. Davies concludes that the novel was so popular because it expressed what everybody wished were true. Don’t we all crave [need] a little magic! And so, according to Davies, that is just what a novelist should provide and everybody can do that just by slowing down and paying attention.
Travel can surely changes our daily mind-set, if we let it. As we do our usual work-whether it is as an accountant, a lawyer or a nurse-have you ever noticed that you have the same thoughts and feelings day in and out. Nothing odd about that, because we travel in our cars or on the bus over the same route, see the same people and perform the same tasks. Your head feels stale. Boredom has set in. Travel, if done in an open and receptive manner, can be the antidote for that.
But you may say travel [especially these days] is too expensive. Who can afford to go jaunting around the world? Well, here’s the secret, I think. You don’t have to travel to get out of your rut. It’s just a matter of adopting a different state of consciousness. Instead of going through your day in the usual fashion, try to work in something new. Maybe it’s just a walk in the evening along a street in your own town or city where you seldom go. Open your eyes to your surroundings. Let things happen and observe. If you try to see your city as a stranger, you may be surprised.
If you’re a writer, sit down afterwards with your notepad and write down your thoughts, your reactions and your descriptions. With any luck, you’ll come away with a refreshingly new perception of the world and humanity and maybe a little magic. There’s a good chance you’ll get a great story out of it, which captures your reader with its magical charm. Good luck!
If you would like to share an experience about magic in your life–or anything else–please leave a comment.