“Moscow to Havana” launches travel reverie

Flight to Havana, Cuba
Boarding a flight to Havana in December 2010.

Moscow to Havana!   The news hummed with “where is Edward Snowden?” this week.  He arrived in Russia from Hong Kong.  He supposedly bought a ticket Moscow to Havana, then never made the flight.  Maybe he is making his way incognito to Ecuador?  Or Venezuela?  Or will he live for awhile in the Moscow airport, perpetually in transit?  Whatever happens, these news nuggets launch me into travel reverie–thoughts of airports, of getting on planes,  of all the great spy movies where they skip seamlessly country-to-country.  I love travel…the tickets, and passport stamps, and visas…I get chill-bumps just imagining holding a plane ticket that reads  SVO – HAV.  I amuse myself with a vague thought of traveling one day from a Russian winter’s deep snow to a sultry Cuban night in the streets of Havana.  I have this dream that one day, I will go.  I will sell everything and go.  For a year, for two, maybe three.  Travel light.  Take my time.  Get to know the cities.  See the countrysides.  Meet the people. Stay long enough to recognize the accents, the light, the patterns of life…like how to order an espresso like a local in a Roman cafe, or where to find the right peso taxi line in Havana.   These thoughts make me tremble with anticipation.  There’s just something about travel.  The essence of life.

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Anticipation and distance

Last week, a thunderstorm crossed Chicago.  All that sunny day, we were warned about the imminent danger–about the derecho winds, the baseball-sized hail, the floods.  Finally, a lot later, the sky changed.  Clouds rolled in.  Lightning blinked, then connected in a long slow bolt, a twitching line to the ground that lasted long enough to watch it.  I stared at that bolt longer than any other in my life–electricity firing right there in front of me.  And then, there was a darkness and a stillness…as if the trees, the birds, the air itself held a breath, waiting for something to happen.  Time seemed to be suspended waiting, waiting, waiting for the energy of the storm, for the air to release and breath again, for a hard cleansing rain.  But only a little rain and the darkness became just the night.

Anticipation, unsatisfied.

I photographed that night.  Close.  I wanted to see the evidence of the energy in the little drops of rain, in the silence of the leaves.

Now, a week later, I am sitting here, listening to a gentle rain on the windows, and looking at the photos and I think…I was too close.  Sometimes I am too far away and there’s no drama, no details, no passion for the moment.  But being too close, there’s no discernible pattern, and no focus.  The moment passes, the magical energy of the storm fades, and the memories linger.

Lessons learned on anticipation and distance?  I can’t keep anticipation forever.  I need a little distance, a little space to see things clearly, to see the pattern.

But please storm, come back soon.  Very soon.

Waiting for a storm that never came
Waiting for a storm that never came



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Rainy season in Cuba

Cuba Rain - taking cover and waiting
Waiting for the rain to pass
Cuba - the rocker and the spring rain
The rocking chair invites me to sit, to listen as the spring rain hits the tin roof, to breath deep of the fresh air and watch the dirt wash away.
Cuba, thatched roof home on the knoll
The house on the hill
Girls Walking in Cuba in the rain with umbrellas
They walked without haste in the rain.
Cuba - Trees and rain
Trees and rain, and the little house
Waiting in the Cuban rain
Waiting, waiting, waiting
Laundry day in Cuba
Laundry drying on the line, in the rain.


Around this time last year, I was traveling in Cuba.  On the road across the length of the island.  Such an exceptional place, and even more so when saturated in spring rain.  These were taken on a special day.  These images washed over me like a dream.  Looking at the photos now, I’m reminded of the fresh smell of that warm Caribbean air.  I remember the feel of the humidity, the breeze, the sound of the rain, and the low rumble of thunder rolling.  The season was changing.  I was changing.  What is it about Cuba that draws us out, that lifts life, calls it to the surface?

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