Back from my travels to a city that feels more and more like home.
It’s normal on this date for people to slip on the backward-facing mask of Janus and try to sum up the year. Certainly there was no shortage of remarkable events in this one, many of them recorded and sent out on these electronic pages. Not the private side of things, which involves other people and therefore isn’t legitimately available for public posting. But I see a steady moving away from disappointment to something more reassuring. And enough travel for several years all rolled into one.
As so often happens, I failed to mention what was probably the most sublime moment for me in all of 2008. It came during the flight this past October from Casablanca to Madrid, just after the conclusion of the Darwish celebration. In bright morning sun our jet made its way north toward Spain some distance west of the African coastline. Eventually the coast began to curve away from the jet a little, and at that point appeared several mountains, which could only be the beginning of the Atlas range. We drove farther north, and suddenly there it was, a passage of shimmering, bluegreen water between Ceuta and the Spanish mainland, the Straits of Gibraltar—for the classical world, the gateway to the unknown. The Pillars of Hercules, where Atlas found a foothold atop a mountain on either continent, assuming a stance strong enough to hold aloft the entire weight of the sky. And of course the Strait was also the legendary path to Atlantis, as well as the channel (in the fiction) through which Dante’s Ulysses sailed westward toward the sunset of his life. All of this seen from a mile up in the sky.
About a decade ago I visited Gibraltar and climbed its famous peak, though I didn’t find Atlas’s footprint. From there I had my first glimpse of Africa, whose earth and air and inhabitants I’ve now in fact encountered. If 2008 had so many exhilarating moments in it, what will 2009 bring? For one thing a new President of the United States, who will be in office when I return.
When the bells ring out the Old and ring in the New Year, don't, Powers That Be, let the sound be hollow. Let's have a good year for a change, give peace a chance in 2009.