I arrived on Wednesday and I’ve already succumbed to the easy life of a lazy tourist as if it was all I had ever done. It is a bit unnerving how quickly one gets used to having one’s room cleaned by someone else every morning, having one’s meals cooked and dishes washed, and how easy it is to get used to doing nothing. But, I tell myself, this is exactly why I came or rather why I needed to come.
My doing nothing routine mostly consists of long walks on the seaside, (reasonable) sunbathing, an occasional swim, and some reading although the last one I have somewhat neglected. It might have to do with strict instructions I received both from I. and A. not to take any books with me on the vacation. So I only took two Hemingways which seemed like a decent compromise to me, especially given that the first book was already half read when I came and the second one was on the slim side.
Weather wise I’ve got much more than I bargained for. I expected a spring, I got a full-blown summer. It gets up to +30’C in the afternoon which is as lovely as it is hot.
The best thing about the whole trip is the fact that I have been able to sleep more or less normally again. That’s something I haven’t been able to do for more than a month now and it feels wonderful to wake up in the morning and realise that I can actually function like a normal human being. I visited my doctor before flying out and I sort of expected her to prescribe me sleeping pills but she didn’t and I almost felt offended. But she knew what she was doing. She said, go on that trip, and you know, try to feel the stuff you avoid feeling. Because if you keep avoiding certain things during the day, they will keep haunting you during the night, keeping you awake. I am not exactly sure what she meant or what I ought to do but I’ve tried to allow myself to think about the stuff I usually don't like thinking about. And it seems to be helping me, even if only a little. There are a couple of important friendships which I have lost or am in the process of losing, and I much rather skipped the grieving part because it’s dull and painful. But I guess I can’t. I need to feel it. Sigh.
I seem to be the only person around here who’s traveling alone. I know it can’t possibly be true but I only see couples – very cute ones, elderly Scandinavians and Brits, walking hand in hand – and young families. It feels slightly awkward to go to the restaurant and have breakfast all by myself. People notice it. But it is what it is and there’s no escaping it. Just the other day, while sunbathing, I was going through a women’s magazine they gave me in the airport, and there was this 'tips for summer' section where women were encouraged to go on a vacation alone. So I guess I’m living someone else’s summer dream. Traveling alone and all. Being my own boss. Not being responsible for anyone else. How lovely.
What gets on my nerves here is that there is no history in this place. On my walks – some 5-6 km to one direction or another – I have only seen hotels and restaurants. It seems to be a world created solely for tourists. Which is something I could not possibly enjoy longer than for a week. I already miss my evening walks in Tallinn’s Old Town, and oh, how I miss Estonia Concert Hall. I wonder how my favourite musicians are holding on – with me missing their concerts and all!
The only curious, 'non-touristy' sight I have come across is the sight of some locals – they must be locals – who sit on the street corners, watch passers-by and eat oranges and seem to do absolutely nothing (at least not anything I could categorise as 'something') for the whole day. And although I’ve gotten used to the sight, they still surprise me every time I see them. Because they seem to be suggesting that a different kind of life is entirely possible. I’m still suspicious – a neurotic Westerner as I am who thinks everything ought to be done now, things need to be achieved now, the world needs to be changed now for my time is running out (because, you know, cancer). These people seem to come from a different planet and I watch them curiously from behind my sunglasses and wonder if they might really be true or whether they’re just an illusion. Go figure.
But Hemingway then. I had never read him in English before and I’m deeply impressed. It’s almost as if he’s fooling you with his simple words and simple sentences. But before you know it, he’s got you under his spell and you believe everything and anything he says. Truly impressive. Here are two short paragraphs on spring which I re-read for a couple of times because they were amazingly beautiful. By the way, the book’s called A Movable Feast and talks about his life in Paris in the early 1920s. I know 1920s are long gone but I it still feels like that old Paris is a personal friend of mine now.
„Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat the spring back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.“
„When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.“