Dan•i•Mār \ˈdæni mɑɹ\ n [alter. Erin Martell ] (1984) 1. a singer and songwriter from the lofty hills of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Since the early years of the millenium, Dani has performed across North America and Europe in living rooms and backyards, revues and concert stages, and televised productions. Blends of the 1960s folk, pop, and jazz scenes are great influences in her work.

04-01-18 | Take to the skyway…

Depart from Halifax

The sky stretches, full of adventure, as the morning sun kisses the windshield. This morning the sunrise is more stunning. This past week time felt more precious, and temporary goodbyes tugged on the heart more powerfully than usual. The Halifax airport buzzes quietly with night shift workers finishing up their tasks, preparing to head home to rest. The sun signals an inverted dusk for the moonlight workers, and for most travellers signals the dawn of some adventure. The sense of my forthcoming responsibilities begin to rise soft and gentle like the sun had done just minutes before. A full day of travel lies ahead.



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My field of view is bound by the outline of the airplane window, which is small and layered, encased in plastic. I imaging the countless heads that have rested here —the many faces, young and old, pressed against this window peering out in wonder at the view, as I do now. Like a reversed microscope, the earth is pulled further and further away, less magnified, less detailed, until it is lost in the fuzzy light of low lying clouds. My body feels the complex harmony and dissension between human and nature: motors and momentum in harmony, engines and gravity at odds, eventually reaching consensus and a new homeostasis. A parallel dynamic runs in my mind, until I’ve relaxed into the freedoms and fears that come with change.

My mind is pulled further and further away from the noise and the details. I think about the temporary goodbyes shared these past few days. How powerful they are when you are travelling alone. They remind me that although I am out on my own, I am never truly alone. To appreciate what you have, you must leave it for some time. You must be brave to let go. Sometimes a chance for bravery is found in a big moment, like saying farewell to your best four-legged friend and dependent, feeling not only the weight of change, but the weight of responsibility and trust that she will be okay without you. Change, challenge and practicing letting go are salient in those moments. It is the small moments in everyday life that provide most of the opportunities to practice bravery in letting go. These moments often take us by surprise. Letting go of our expectations, our fixed desire for things to go our way. Sneaky moments.


Before the plane left the tarmac, I reluctantly passed my guitar to the ramp attendant who fed it into the belly of the plane. I had to trust in strangers to be respectful of an item that was dear and precious to me. I had to trust myself that I was resourceful to deal with any unexpected damage that might come to it and the potential impact it could have on this trip. I had to accept that my guitar must go in the baggage hold for a short flight from Halifax to Boston — a chance to become familiar with myself, to relax into the feelings, when I am feeling discomfort.


*   *   *


As we approach Boston, the plane descends over Short Beach Creek where winding curly locks of deep indigo ocean water mix with grainy cocoa-brown soils. Tiny tributaries stretch out, creating geometric patterns in the accumulating tables of mud and other organic matter. Tendril-like, watery neurons finding each other, seeking purpose and connection. New ones arrive, old ones dry up and leave their impression on the remaining soil. Everything makes some impression on something.


I picked up my baggage from the carousel, and while fussing with my things, a man approached me. He asked if I’d like to see his “babies”, while he flipped through images on his phone. I’m a reasonable person, and the moment was unexpected and felt a bit odd. What brought about this interaction? I did have a split second of concern, and was preparing to react in a number of ways for whatever I was about to encounter. My eyes gazed upon a photo of this man’s living room —well, a corner of it —with a guitar rack holding 5 or 6 different guitars. 
Ah, my guitar case. A familiar beacon for the musically inclined. We had a common interest, and I offered my shared joy about the lovely collection in the photo, “now that looks like a lot of fun!”. He smiled, and proudly shared how he spends 3 or 4 hours a night with his guitars. How wonderful. As quickly as he appeared, he was gone, off tending to something or someone else. He was an airport worker in the arrivals area. The interaction makes me smile.


I consider what to do with the next five or six hours before Kyle arrives and we start the next excerpt in this budding adventure. I reassess my mobility: I’ve brought a bit too much in my travel bag to attach the daypack to the main backpack, the zipper won’t reach. I scold myself for a moment. Damn my stubbornness in packing too much. I search within to find some kindness towards myself, and embrace the change: So what? It is an opportunity to be flexible with my logistical plan. I find that luggage carts are for hire in larger airports, unlike their free-range rural counterparts in Halifax. Chained like steel mules for sale, I prepare to purchase my Bostonian sherpa to lug my overweighted backpack for five American dollars. I rifle through the American cash in my wallet that has been patiently awaiting the next adventure since a trip to New Hampshire this past fall. I hear a voice call out, “don’t buy a cart, hun. I’ll get you one. Don’t buy it! I’ll get you one…” and the voice trails, following the Arrivals Guitar Man as he scurries out the sliding doors. I had nodded decidedly while he called to me, indicating that I would, indeed, wait. My travel wits about me, I consider a number of possible directions this could go in. With a little paranoia, I consider possibilities: (1) he is truly getting a cart, (2) he is distracting me while someone pickpockets me, (3) he is arranging something more insidious.


We make choices nearly every moment of the day. I’ve recently read an article describing decision fatigue: as the day wears on, without much awareness, we become tired of making decisions, and our judgement dilutes. This was a clear moment of choice: I could stay and wait, and see what came about here, prepared for who-knows-what (safely staying in eye’s view and voice’s reach of other people) or I could pay the five dollars and disappear. I decided to wait. I would wait, accompanied by my curiosity.
After a few minutes, Arrivals Guitar Man comes back, with a cart, smiling. I had a couple of $1 bills in my purse, and had them at the ready to say “thank you”, but before I could offer them, he put my bags on the cart and said “I don’t want your money, hun”. I thanked him, feeling a genuine warmth in my heart. A lesson in lessening my travel paranoia.


There are lots of wonderful people in the world, when you open your heart and give humanity a chance, you feel your own humanity blossom a little, too. I could have ignored him, staying in my little self-conscious travelling bubble, avoiding potential harm which is advertised too often and made to seem the norm when it is mostly anecdotal and less common. We can be conscious and careful while still being kind and open. Go with the flow. Another kind tendril extends, looking for purpose and connection. Boston feels kind, thanks to this man. He’s left an impression on me.


Arrive in Amsterdam

Descending onto Amsterdam, patches of city lights are connected by electric axons of highway lights. The land looked like a computer chip. Even from this distance, you know you are not in North America, where light maps from thirty thousand feet look like a photo negative of dew-laden spider webs in meadow grass. Here, purpose and symmetry are reified in the city lights.
Everything feels sensible. Off to the countryside to a warm cup of coffee, chirping local birds, and a place to nap.


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