Looking back… Rose van Mierlo


The strongest memory, the one that keeps sticking its head above the grass that makes up an experience, is that of the sound of the city as it wakes up. It isn’t just sound though: it is as if heat, and dust, and something ancient and animal are the only ones left on the scene after everybody else has fallen asleep. I would step outside my room and stand in the open hallway and I’d feel it. Something was very much alive.

Night and day mean different things here.

It is exhilarating to walk through a city you’ve never visited before. My feet got dirty every day, and washing them at night became somewhat of a ritual. I got blisters quickly, but it didn’t bother me that much. Walking around as a group has an organic feeling to it; you pull and shrink and pull as you move yourself around. Everyone keenly aware of where the others are. It’s fascinating, really, to move as a school of fish, or a flight of sparrows. Breathing out, breathing in. Here is hot chai on dusty street corners, here is a man who knows so much more than you. Here falls the dusk as a powdery curtain; scraggly street cats sleep under the fluorescent lights.

I love listening to people talk about their work. I won’t lie about it; it fascinates me to hear how other people do things. Yes, it did go on too long. Next time we should manage that. But in two days I learnt more about the world than from any encyclopaedia. I saw the streets of Brazil, I marked forgotten spaces with my eyes in America. I picked up small things to hold as though they were the greatest treasure; and I left magnesium to burn until my grief burned away with it. I mapped and routed, I started and stopped. I wandered and wondered about places and people, and uncoiled myself in the presence of others.

Mumbai is a sound bath. There is honking and yelling, yellow little taxi cars speeding by, people going, going, going and moving, moving, moving in undecipherable patterns. Mumbai is stop and start, not in a smooth line but erratic spasms bursting out left and right. It takes time to adjust, to move in tandem with the new and unexpected. It’s all process, really.

I’m always curious to know what the world does to a body. What happens when you go from one place to the next? How does the liver think about departure, so suddenly? Or saying goodbyes? What does the spleen have to say about the long hours waiting in airports, the early morning sun of England (so pale, so beautiful). It’s hard to think about the past weeks with the brain; it gets tangled so quickly in there, stuck in vague and generic affirmations: it was kind of crazy, kind of hard, kind of amazing, so very new. Better not to think too much about these things. Better to feel.

How to hands get dry with the approaching snow.
How the stomach mulls over conversations had.
How the kidneys hold on to colours.
How the body holds on to echoes.

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