04 November 2009

ITHACA




"Our earliest literature - the Iliad and the Odyssey - is about journeys between places, and scholars today still dispute the location of Ithaca, the site of the homecoming in that earliest of epic journeys, just as for so long the disputed the location of Troy, the besieged and then destroyed city that was the destination of the outward journey, and the departure point for the return. These 'journeys', whether accounted for by Proust or Homer, resonate with us because we are disposed to think of our lives as journeys on earth, with starting points and finishing points. Not that we are agreed that these journeys end on earth.... If we are to grasp what our what our spatial intelligence does for us and could allow us to do, we must heed Bechelard's injunction: 'Each on of us then should speak of his roads, his crossroads (and) his roadside benches (for) thus we have covered the universe with drawings (that) we have lived."
Leon Van Schaik,
Spatial Intelligence: New Features for Architecture (p.p. 39 second paragraph)
Publisher John Wiley & Sons 2008


It is nearly 10 years ago since I last spent Christmas and New Year celebrations with my parents and sister. December 14, 1999 I landed in New York taking a break from my PhD research days at Reading University. At my arrival I met my Folks and sister who drove all the way from Guadalajara (mid-west Mexico) in order to continue on a road trip across New York state and up to Toronto, Ottawa (Ontario), Motréal, Québec (Québec) and considered driving as far as Halifax in Newfoundland but the plan resulted unworkable as roads were closed as result of extreme temperatures exceeding -20ºC. After spending Christmas in Toronto and back in New York state we made it to Ithaca on the last day of 1999. We received the new millennium in the pleasant company of our close friends Kay and Alan Friedlander who live by one of the 'Finger Lakes' across from Cornell University and its wonderful architecture. If you ever see the region from the sky, GPS or Google Earth you will see what I mean by finger lakes. It seems like if God scratched the earth in despair resulting in a number of very long and very narrow lakes all perfectly aligned. Some towns and county were named after the Greeks including Seneca, Homer, Syracuse.... and of course, "Ithaca"! How to forget my "freezing-warm" home for the winters of 1997/1998 and 1999/2000. Ithaca, thank you for showing me what Itha(k)a means.

"When you set out your journey to Ithaka pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of discovery. Laistrygonians, Cyclops and the angry Poseidon - do not fear them: you will never find such as these on your path, in your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine emotion touches your spirit and your body. Laistrygonians, Clyclops and the fierce Poseidon - you will never encounter, if you do not carry them with your soul, if your soul does not set them up before you.

Hope your road is a long one, that the summer mornings are many, when, with such pleasure, with such joy, you will enter port seen for the first time; may you stop at Phoenician markets, and purchase fine merchandise, mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony, and sensual perfumes of all kinds, as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities, to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Always keep Ithaka in your mind. Arriving there is your ultimate goal - is what you are destined for. But do not hurry the voyage at all. It is better to let it last for many years; and to anchor at the island when you are old, wealthy with what you have gained on the way, not expecting that Ithaca will offer you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you would have never set out on the road. She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won't have fooled you. Wise as you have become, so full of experience, you most already understood what Ithaka mean."

Poem: Ithaka by Constantine P. Cavafy ©1911
Photo: Port Albert, Victoria by Guillermo Aranda-Mena ©2009

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