As a teenager I had a tiny room off to the side of the square hall around which all rooms in our house were located.   It had whitewashed walls and in big letters I had written on one of them the opening of a poem I had come across:   WEIL UNSER EINZIGES NEST UNSERE FLUEGEL SIND… which roughly translates:  Because our only nest is our wings…  

The poem itself was unmemorable and I have long forgotten the author, but this line has stuck with me all my life and rings especially true when I embark on a new journey.  There is something about being at home, being whole, being just me, when I “fly” away. 

It is telling that my mother deemed this sentence dangerous enough to wash it off the wall after one Saturday morning the secret police rang the doorbell to arrest me for questioning.   I was hitchhiking and therefore out of reach.   She feared that if she had been requested to show them my room that this sentence would have gotten me in trouble.   The implications of wanting to fly away from the closed society we lived in were too subversive!  I thought she over-reacted and I insisted on reinstalling the line.  But who knows?

Once again I was asked by numerous people who are dear to me why I go where I go.  And there is not much I can say that might convince anyone.   But I will try nonetheless and ask:

Why do people feel compelled to do anything that could harm them?  Why do we fly into space if space shuttles can blow up?  Why do people climb mountains if avalanches can bury them?  Why do I go to Mali if I could be kidnapped or get malaria?  Most of us never question getting into the car and driving even though that can kill, too.  I am not seeking out danger for danger’s sake, but I love to do things that seem out of reach.  

Perhaps, I need to get just a bit older for this urge to subside.   I felt a twinge of that this time, I admit, since I have a lovely grandson Tillman, as of March.   And I would love to be there to see him grow up.  But as always I am optimistic that my pantheon will protect me on my journey to Mali and for a while I will be in Paris anyhow.   And that is safe, right?   

No place is truly safe.   And that is perhaps the most compelling reason for me to do what I do.  I am curious to see what Mali has in store for me.   It is a country which has seen rough times lately and there is no telling if it will become the next Afghanistan.    There are three major UNESCO towns and numerous unique places.   Some of them have been damaged or destroyed in 2012 when half the country was under Islamist rule. There is for the first time a sub-Saharan place on my itinerary and that, in and of itself, is exciting.   Asia and Europe will have to wait.

Bon Voyage.  Thanks for joining me.


3 comments so far

Add Your Comment
  1. I’ll make sure Mom reads this post. And I’m with you all the way.

  2. I really love that line from the poem. I feel the same way when I get on a plane. 🙂

  3. Finally!!! There you go…on the wings of song (or something like that). Congratulations, Elisabeth, for taking all the risks for the joy of being “just you”. I am anxious to read every word from this journey…Mali is so unknown and I think you are going to find such exceptional things to see, and do and think about. I was reading the other day about the ancient Islamic manuscripts which were taken out of their original place because of the recent fighting and hidden away, but unfortunately in a location where there is so much more humidity. They are now getting mildew and rotting!!!
    But first The City of Lights is waiting for you…wow!!