Breakfast with Diamonds

Dear Tasha,

This morning dawned cold and gray again. I’ve never met a Mediterranean February quite like this one. Yesterday it snowed, and I missed it. I woke up to a flurry of photos (no pun intended) on FB and Instagram of the city and the back field covered in a light dusting of snow. By the time I made it outside, it was merely wet. Maybe it never really became snow here in the center. It’s the third “snow day” since I’ve lived here. I don’t know if you ever saw the photos on the server of the “big one” that shut down the city several years ago. You can’t imagine it.

 

Our favorite place, only better.

 

The street outside my first apartment in Gracia.

 

I would like to attach a video that will make you smile d’orella a orella, but we would have to upgrade to the Premium plan for that.

In any case, I played tennis today, not yesterday, gràcies a Déu (as in…). As I was standing on the court this morning, half awake and entirely frozen, I had a moment. You know, one of those moments where you stop, immobilized in thought. I almost never talk in training, with the exception of a few choice swear words which I’m sure are not kosher for the pista. My coach commands, I follow. It’s the way it’s always been. But today, I felt full of questions. Learning a sport–especially one like tennis–is learning to feel. You feel where the ball is before it comes off your racket. You know where it’s going to land, when it’s still sliding across your strings. If it’s short, if it’s long, if it’s powerful. Today I couldn’t feel anything. I felt like I was blind.

I stopped my warm-up and walked over to my coach and tried to explain this feeling, of not knowing the feel of control, of how to know if the way the ball arcs over the net, where it lands, how the whole thing happened, is right. Even if it lands square in the box–el cuadro we call it–I question it. How do I know when it’s right? He looked at me confused and asked: Estas ok? Sientes bien? I couldn’t find the words in Spanish exactly to describe it. I just wanted to talk and talk and wonder and think my way through it. It’s a process that I don’t feel like I have control over, a lot of my body having to do it’s own work without the faculty of my mind, and it’s so confusing. I tell it to do, but in the end, it has to learn it on its own, through feel and repetition.

Have you heard about the incredible girl who runs with MS? You can watch the video here when you have a moment. It’s really something else. But it clicked for me in that moment, that fear she must have felt, but also the trust she placed in her body to learn and do. I thought about the coaches, too, how important they are in the process. This, I already knew. Having been a coach myself for so many years and working alongside some incredibly talented coaches, I get it. But I felt a different kind of trust today than I’ve ever felt before. For a while–because I was so exhausted–my coach played alongside me in a doubles match, talking me through the play. It was fascinating to hear him talk like the voice inside my head, one step ahead, and always knowing the right directive. Each time I thought I’d missed a shot–because I couldn’t feel if it was right–but didn’t, he told me: Eso es. Eso es. The words the voice inside me will never tell myself.

I worked in silence for almost two straight hours, my coach right by my side. I kept thinking about how I want to be strong like him. And simply better. By the end, I’d earned a few buenissimas, so at least it felt like progress. Cada dia mejorando, he told me at the end. I accept it as a victory of sorts.

I’m sure you’re growing tired of me wax poetic about tennis all the time. My world is small but it fits me well, for now.

In other news, Rachel sent me this, a story about maps that made me think of our sound maps project.

 

The mind of a 15 year old.

Click on the link and scroll down to the map in black. If you look closely you can see my block somewhere there in Eixample Esquerra, a small light on the map connecting me to you. When I was in graduate school (the second time), I had to take a sort of urban studies meets Heidegger class about how New York City became a city. I wish I still had one of the articles that I read about it because it showed exactly how the city, literally, grew up, how it became a grid, how it became itself. It discussed the way the physical landscape defined the city, created its unique psycho-social identity. I think about that when I look at these maps of our city, the way it is tagged as a living city, speckled in geo-coded sentiment.

It reminds me of a show I saw at the Orlando Museum of Art on geolocation which connected tweets to their location through photographs. The artists took the geotag of the tweet and then went to the location and photographed it at the time the tweet was posted, juxtaposing the two. The dissonance between them was sometimes surprising, other times comical. In some, there was an eerie, almost spectral quality to the photos, almost a resonance of the person who had stood there, sending their message out into cyberspace. I have never forgotten it.

It also made the think about this somewhat more lighthearted exhibit making a statement about technology that I saw in Chelsea when I was home, where a woman took all the texts she had received from various boyfriends and dashed them up with paint, equal parts self-abasement and hilarity. I particularly like the one on the bottom left.

 

I wish you were here so we could dash off to an art exhibit at the Virreina together, and then I would take you for a coffee at my favorite spot.

 

Speaking of which, have you been to the best coffee shop in Portland yet, the Speckled Ax, and had the espresso that stopped me in my tracks? If you haven’t, please do. Perhaps you should try the Brazil Nossa de Fatima (Tasting notes: turtle, a warm hug).

Love, m.

p.s. Today’s title is a direct translation from the Catalan esmorzar amb diamants, otherwise known, affectionately, as Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It reminds me of morning snow.

Melissa Leighty