The pavements are littered with pink petals. Baby birds are hopping about the bases of trees, underneath the feet of pedestrians.The sun is already beating jackets off shoulders and it’s only 8am. If I close my ears to the sound of traffic roaring either side of me, it’s a tranquil scene. Trees line this little promenade of green grass and flower beds, shading me from the sun and partially obscuring the petrol fumes emanating from the cars. If I tilt my head skywards I can see an obnoxiously large Burger King sign looming down from the left. I keep my eyes trained on the ground. On the birds and the fallen petals, the mottled shadows patterning my path. The signs of springtime.
I have no idea what day it is, let alone the date. When I checked into my hostel early this morning, sleepily disorientated from the night bus, the clerk had to remind me it was September.
I feel a change in myself, as in the air. I feel a growing sense of a restlessness that wasn’t eased by a long journey through the night (often some of my favourite moments) or by arriving in a new place. I walk around the streets which are just beginning to awake for the day, trying to figure out what I feel like doing. I flinch at the sound of a motorcycle accelerating. I am done with cities, I realise.
I love finding a homely café or restaurant to hole up in for a few hours, to sit outside with fresh coffee and a half blank notebook and watch the world go by. But I now crave the outdoors so deeply it has become a physical gnawing sensation in my stomach. I don’t like the sound or the smell or the sight of cars. I don’t like chain restaurants and their garish signs. I don’t like wading through the onslaught of advertisements that comprises the majority of the worlds urban landscapes. I don’t like the feeling I have been experiencing recently; the feeling of being inside even when I am outside. The mountains would shake it out of me, I think. The forest. The ocean.
I am drifting.
I got on the bus in La Paz fighting off the wintery night in four layers and a scarf and stepped off it into Spring. Back home, I think, the leaves will be starting to redden and fall. I think of the vastly different places I have inhabited recently; the Brazillian winter which felt warmer than British summer, the low temperatures of high altitude. I feel like I’m stepping in and out of seasons with every change of location. Every time I shift time zones or take a night bus I feel my grip on time loosening slightly. Or time’s grip on me.
I think of trees and time, outside and in, and make plans to leave the city tomorrow. I train my eyes on the birds on the ground and allow this image to become my prevailing memory of springtime in Cochabamba.