Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Call of Elsewhere

"Never take no cutoffs and hurry along as fast as you can." - Virginia Reed (one of the survivors in the Donner-Reed Party) to her cousin, quoted in Joan Didion's Where I was From.

Happy Fall! It is in fall and spring that I feel most restless, a sense of impending change or that I MUST change something, must move or keep moving. Now that I think of it, my European trips since returning to the States have indeed happened in May and October.

The white egrets and blue herons have left one of the ponds I pass on my bike rides. Red leaves have begun to appear, the light has become more focused, and there are more acorns and horse chestnuts that I need to swerve around so that I won't be pitched to the ground.

Never take no cutoffs: Joan Didion (one of my favorite writers) was descended from pioneers who made their way west across the country in the 1800s to settle in Sacramento; in fact, they were among the first settlers there. She questions the impetus for this movement from the south and east and wonders what the ultimate effect was, both on her and her family and on the very essence of what California came to be.

Earlier this year, The Criterion Collection released Wim Wenders' Road Trilogy which includes: Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move, and Kings of the Road. I watched all three recently and they moved me (as all his films do) with the melancholy experienced by his protagonists even after they have reached their often-nebulous goals. More movement, whether running away from or towards something or a bit of both.

The Call of Elsewhere: I also recently watched Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, another Criterion documentary just released last month. I have always admired in Bergman her fortitude, self-respect, and of course, her acting. Among other highlights of this film, we hear Swedish actress Alicia Vikander read the words Bergman wrote in her diary as a young girl in Stockholm and then as she matured, went to Hollywood, and eventually back to Europe. Although our circumstances couldn't be more different, I identify strongly with the pull she felt - even when at the height of her success - the restlessness that she defined as "the call of elsewhere," and responding to it like the flyttfagel (migratory bird) she often said she was.