When In Doubt, Go French Alps

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Mountains is a pilgrimage destination for depressed, lost and bored. The silent whisper of the God’s most powerful incarnations is calling us from the distance, we need to get really high to hear it better, in a literal sense. I wasn’t depressed, but I was bored and thirsty for change. I was standing on the doorstep of the adulthood thinking Is this it? Now what? The city was deafening, there was less and less air left to breathe therefore I decided to leave the comfort of mild British winter and travel to the formidable climate of French Alps. Physical exhaustion, elements and the comfort of friendly bar in the presence of the familiar face is a combination resistant to any depression. There is no time to overanalyze, ponder or wallow, only time to act. Go down the slope, go up the slope and embrace raw and untamed power of nature.

The birthday weekend in Chamonix was definitely a change from the usual birthday destination Paris and to my surprise, it opened a new era of adventure which restored the justice to being an early  January child. It may not be BBQ in the park, but what BBQ can compare to a glass of gluhwein on the top of Mont Blanc, figuratively speaking. I was wrong thinking that a 4 day trip to the ski resort can only result in a moderate amount of fun and holiday romance is only possible in the backdrop fiery sunsets and bikinis, it’s just as likely to happen in the backdrop of snowstorms and thermal undergarments.

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Chamonix is reminiscent of an international summer camp abroad. You may want to meet new people but language barrier reduces the experience to making out in the local night club. I did that 15 years ago in Italy, yet today not much has changed, I was still making out in the corner of the club with a guy who hardly spoke any english. And yet, before I turned 30, I was anticipating a visit from the elusive lady called Maturity, which despite my best hopes, remained a no show. Today, I hear, growing up is becoming notoriously unfashionable amongst millennial crowd, and while I am still not entirely sure what generational label I was prescribed, I’ll just chose what suits me the best – do whatever fuck I want.

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The crowd in Chamonix is close to the crowd of Marbella, predominantly english yet not overwhelmingly embarrassing. Stag do’s, company’s all-lads debauched ski trips, fathers and sons bonding holiday, and what do you know, British Army. Women however, were in the minority which wasn’t completely bad news for me, although towards the end of the trip I was practicing my biblical eye-roll every time a middle aged bolding John tried to find out where is the best place to hang out or asking where my accent was from. There were also the likes of married Eliots who shamelessly paraded his wedding band while trying to give me a neck massage, Martins from Morrisons who’s  young age was his only excuse, unfortunately not great enough to overcompensate his lack of the game skills (if any), there were young British soldiers Gilberts who just turned 20 and already wanted to marry me.

 Chamonix is an easy place to lose your sense of age. In Chamonix age becomes an illusion, both in philosophical and practical terms. I felt it especially strong when I was taking my first ever ski lesson next to a string of 5 year olds who were kicking my ass while I struggled to keep my skis in parallel. Children make everything look so easy. Was it the smell of burning log, mountain air,  chalet style huts or sheepskins, but being in the mountains makes you feel alive on so many levels. Playfulness definitely presides in the air along with memory of long gone days when climate warming was still a science fiction and our Christmases were white. Nothing is off limits in Chamonix as long as you stay warm and open minded. The friendliness of locals and optimism of seasonaires makes you feel home away from home. If I arrived feeling a little bit off piste, I left Chamonix feeling on top.

When In Doubt, Go French Alps

50 Shades Of Green

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Journey home is always a well anticipated event for me. After 7 years I’m still experiencing a heartbreaking nostalgia about my home town. The saying might go as grass is always greener on the other side but there is a certain twist to this proverbial grass. Even when I was boarding a bus, looking at my crying mother, I was still convinced life elsewhere is much better. I was wrong.

No shade of green stands close to the grass that you walked on barefoot for the very first time.

When I was a child, I remember watching how ground surface is changing through the seasons. I was growing in the remote part of the town, verging on the monotonous rows of tall blocks of flats and extensive fields stretching all the way across the southern part of the city. I used to think civilization ends there.

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These two spaces were very contrasting but they had something in common – if you look at them for a long time, they begin to resemble a texture. Field’s swaying tall grass creating pale green and yellow wave texture . While countless rows of red bricks and white window frames resembled giant beehive for people . They stretch vertical so the best way to see it was to find a very tall block building and look at static field of concrete from the roof.

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We used to have very pronounced seasons so the grass wasn’t always green anyway. Summers were great – grass was all green and voluptuous, growing everywhere, making it’s way even through the pavement.  You can’t tame nature, life will always find the way.

Every summer school was making us pluck the grass growing between tiles, it counted towards our community hours. This used to be the week of hell until school’s authorities began using some acidic salt solution that was killing grass within few days making it easier to pull and stopping it from growing. I thought it was a barbaric practice back then, little did I know, within next twenty years planet poisoning will become a norm.

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Autumn always approached abruptly, assaulting dry exhausted ground with heavy rainfalls and frosts as early as mid October. This used to be the murkiest time of the year.

Winters used to be cold  and snowy.

I remember spending most of my free time outside sledge riding down a man made hill ( probably built on a pile of rubbish) between houses. I remember the only worry I had was how no to roll into a dog shit under the fluffy snow cover. There was no such thing as picking up after dogs so winter was like a shit mine field. It was another level of yellow snow. Utterly disgusting.

And then there was spring. Gradually melting snow was uncovering every bit of dead grass resting underneath it (along with other stuff that was buried under a thick layer of snow and ice). It was mostly mud but within first few weeks of March you start seeing little gems making their way through the thawing ground.  Even in those places where we killed grass with poison last year.

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As I was growing older, poisoning grass seemed like a very convenient idea since I didn’t have to spend hours crawling on my knees back and forth trying to dig out that dandelion root that was the size of my fist by the time it’s early May.  Inevitable pressure of adolescence was imposing upon me. Soon we moved to a more urbanized part of the town.  Years later I moved countries.

I still haven’t found that place where grass is green enough for me, perhaps such place only exists in my head, perhaps it’s not even a place. Is it a state of mind more than any physical reality?

Living abroad creates a sense of displacement that develops over time. It’s the same weird gut feeling when you look at old photographs of the countryside where you’ve spent your summers. All of a sudden you start remembering every little detail of your past spent in that particular bubble and your stomach flips just at the thought that even though this place hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s lost forever, savored in the memory of a child.

It’s not escapism, it’s realizing you had the happiest childhood. Everything else is what you make of it. You can have a grass as green as you want it to be anywhere in the world.

Grass isn’t greener on the other side or on your side. Grass will never be as green as when you really looked at it for the first time.

 

50 Shades Of Green