How To Fall in Love With Your City All Over Again.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ~ Maya Angelou

Why do we want to be a tourist in our own city (or town, or suburb, or village, you name it?)

Because fresh eyes and an open heart are the true antidote to boredom, lethargy, confusion and feeling stuck, and by antidote, I don’t mean “cure,” because we already know that life entails more than naming a problem and then fixing it on the proverbial spot.

Sometimes a simple shift in perspective can get the ball rolling and awaken the brain-mind complex to start working with us toward desired change. It’s as simple as that. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences where the very last thing we wanted to do was hit the yoga mat, or show up for our coffee date, or sit on the meditation cushion at the appointed time.

We’ve probably also experienced the actual doing of those things that seemed so mountainous, and feeling greatly rewarded and satisfied as a result.

If for no other reason than to try something new and engage in a sense of discovery with where we are (physically and metaphysically), it’s worth casting our lives in a renewed light, or approaching familiar things in a different way. The seeds of change are also the seeds of possibility.

Why don’t we try a few of these, starting with very simple shifts we can make in our own home?

Watch the sun rise (suns don’t only rise on beach vacations!).

Look out the window for a few minutes, instead of turning on the computer or phone.

Start your tourism right where you are. Take a lingering look at the books on your shelf, or the smattering of varied dishware accumulated over the years, and use a different mug for your morning coffee (maybe while reading a “new” old book!).

Okay, we can leave the house now. Why not take a walk in a new neighborhood? If you have to work, walk instead of bike, or take a different route if you’re driving. You get the picture.

No matter what the time constraints are or where you’re headed, really look around. Notice the store fronts, the relative health of the grass and foliage around you, or at how melting snow changes the landscape you know so well. Any new construction projects in our midst? Anything that’s been redesigned?

Visit the local library. It may have been a long time, so going is like revisiting our childhood and a new part of town at once (how efficient!)—two very exotic locations, not to mention the worlds we can find in the books themselves. We can also get a library card, because while we’re tourists for the day, we’re also sticking around!

Take pictures. No matter what device your camera is lodged into, use it as a photography medium. Let’s regard the city/town/suburb/village as we would a tourist destination. Find what is beautiful and make an image of it. We can send our new discoveries to friends and share the wealth, enjoy looking at them and marveling at the hidden treasures continually awaiting our attention.

Try new cuisine. We can bring India, Thailand, Japan, Jamaica, and so on, right to us for a little while. Entering a new restaurant is like opening a great book, and is a feast for more than just our sense of taste.

Check for activities (free or otherwise) going around town and try a couple of them out. Maybe this is the perfect chance to discover new and rewarding ways to spend time and nourish ourselves, or try out different variations of things we already do, but in a different setting.

People watch. This can be done in a café, on a patio somewhere, on church steps—you name it. See what people are wearing, how they move, what their facial expressions or the sounds of their voices are revealing, how they live and go about their lives, and just get lost in the wandering, and wondering about humanity. This is not about invading people’s privacy, of course, but gathering impressions in a mindful and respectful way.

As Maya Angelou says above, one of the most beautiful aspects of travel is to find and remember all the ways in which we, as humans, are alike and connected, to the betterment of every single one of us. I can’t think of a better way to generate compassion.

Watch the sun set (suns don’t only set on beach vacations!)

And finally, we can take a moment at the end of any given day we’ve actively engaged with our environment in a new way, to express gratitude for where we are, and review. What did we enjoy among the discoveries, and what surprised us? Was there anything about this “new” place we’d like to incorporate into our lives in the coming weeks and months?

Let’s express gratitude for the opportunity we gave ourselves to open our eyes and begin again, and realize that beginning again is something that can, and will happen as many times as we allow it to.

Bon voyage!

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The Girl with the Ukelele (There’s No War in World)

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

When you sit down to learn stone carving from some of the world’s most practiced craftsmen, in Mamallupuram, Tamil Nadu, India, people are going to be curious.

A few days ago, we decided it would be fun to try this art form. All across town there are men chiseling away, with gorgeous finished products displayed outside the shops. Ganesh and Buddha predominate.

I initially thought this trip, our third to India in as many years, was going to be about opening my heart by way of spending time in ashrams, doing seva (work with no expectation of compensation) and meeting with spiritual gurus. I felt I needed this, the Hugging Mother’s hugs we’d experienced the year before, to awaken to my own heart through meditation and slow, deliberate contemplation.

Maybe this is still the case, and maybe it will come. But so far we’ve become fascinated by how much of a living-art India is in almost all its aspects. The aliveness of the place, the colours.

I have a piece of cloth I’ve been embroidering for over a year that I couldn’t bring myself to work on during our trip to India last year, and I’ve been at it daily here.

This is the finished product, for better or worse.

This is the finished product, for better or worse.

 

And now stone carving. We sat outside the shop with the two foreigner wranglers and stone polishers, and a few masters of the trade. We chiseled, hammered, watched in awe as the masters designed our pieces and images – of a Buddha and a hand – started coming to life.

Working on a Buddha bust.

Working on a Buddha bust.

Many people passed by since we were on the main road of the tourist area, which Lonely Planet refers to as Backpackistan. Most looked at what we were doing, some with keen interest. Maybe 10 per cent came by to watch, and about half of those people smiled, exclaimed, or sat down to talk and watch.

Just sitting there, we were attracting kindness, the attention of new people, and conversation. The sun was beaming on us.

One of the people to stop and sit down was a young Japanese woman who just arrived in India the day before, for a four month trip culminating in Sri Lanka. She was quiet, curious and had a very strong presence about her. She left about an hour later, and returned in the evening. We were still chiseling away, a few chais and a lot of laughter later.

She probably had it in her mind to have dinner with us, but this was our last day with the carving masters, and we both started new, smaller pieces to practice, and couldn’t stop. Hesitating, she sat, worked on a tiny elephant one of the guys surprised her with, and took out a ukelele.

Exclaiming, I asked her to play, and started working again. It’s not often someone appears with such a beautiful and unusual instrument, nor was there anything usual about sitting on the concrete in a town we’d never heard of until about two weeks earlier, carving outstretched hands and Buddhas.

Soon I could hear the softest, most melodic voice singing Aloha; she was turning the Hawaiian tune into a magical folk song. The waves lapped audibly nearby.