Happy Can Be A Sense of Timelessness
A particularly happy time occurred during my journey across Europe, fresh out of college. Early in the spring of 1971, in a recently purchased and newly converted to a camper, ten year old Volkswagen van, christened “Victor”, we left Venice for Athens. Let me explain. We’d been traveling for months, working our way through various adventures starting in Lisbon via Malaga and Morocco, through Amsterdam and Geneva, trying to reach the closest airport to Israel naively believing the flight would be cheaper the closer we got; no wait a minute, I think we thought we could work as crew on a yacht from Piraeus to Haifa. What did we know — other than the information we’d seen on the American TV of the sixties?
On the way the starter motor demonstrated a stubborn need to embarrass me by not working at strategic moments after stopping to rest. The previous owners did say that sometimes it helped to bang on the starter to get it going. Eventually, every time we were ready to leave somewhere I would get under the car with an old Puma hunting knife my brother gave us as a wedding present and while hitting the starter motor I yelled “contact” to the driver who would switch on the ignition. And amazingly that worked.
But after a week in Venice, afraid to take the Van to the parking lot at the end of the causeway, we decided to get something done about starting. In Rijeka, Yugoslavia as it was then known, we drove up to an enclave which was the local VW repair shop and sales showroom. What was memorable was having to speak with the “party-man” first before speaking to any other person in the shop even if the person we needed to speak to was next to the person we were currently speaking to. The party man was at the center of a wheel of workmen and he had the Conch. They did rebuild the starter motor for about $20! Which even then seemed a bargain.
So to continue: with the new found ability to stop and start without hassle and being in no particular hurry to reach Athens, we hugged the shoreline, stopping at every magnificent vacant sandy white beach on the Dalmatian coast. Turn a corner; round a bend and wow…another beach. Or freshly picked cherries by the basketload from the very occasional roadside vendor. Sweeter than chocolate; we didn’t wash them at first we just ate them to quench the need for sweet. (until half a worm ended that).
And so we lost all track of the days as we wound our way southward. To the right, the Archipelago stretching it’s 400 miles of interlocking isles, buffering the beaches from the Adriatic Sea creating perfect swimming meccas; and to the our left, across the vaguely double lane road, the looming mountains which rose higher and higher as they moved further away from the shore line.
As I re-live this I’m lost in it again. Happy, the feeling of being one with everything. The timelessness of it. The free feeling of forgetting there is such a thing as day of the week let alone day of the month or time of the day. We rose with the sun and set ourselves to sleep as it settled. No lights anywhere beyond the small camping gas flame in our makeshift studio on wheels.
I reflect, and remember those feelings. Time stood still. Yet with a vague sense of purpose. Each encounter along the way was filled with discovery. We were introduced to pasta covered with coco as a main dish in a small town, one of the few that had a cafe.
We made a campsite above the medieval city of Dubrovnik, sharing a candle-lit salute to the far off sunset.
And hilariously coaxed old Victor Van Volkswagen toward the town of Pec, up the winding road over the mountains above the snow line, asking our hitchhikers and my partner to walk the last part to the peak because the air was so thin the engine had almost no power to give. But…. we got there though with the air filter off for that little bit of extra umph. We had traveled a long way away from the world of schedules and timetables.
That moment, the one when I became of aware of the deep feeling of timelessness happened standing astride a hilltop, looking over a canyon, watching the streaky red and orange rays of the sun slowly creeping onto the sky. It could have been any hour of the morning because as I mentioned, we slept when the sun went down and rose when the sun came up and when I looked for my watch for reference I realized for the first time in many days that I no longer wore a one - it was lost somewhere in the van for who knows how long?
That’s when I knew for sure that time is a made up idea. That being without cares, worries, futures or commitments, time has no hold on me and I felt extraordinarily free — happy would be too light a word for it but happy I was. And now that this is written — since I’ve written this, I’ve been able to call upon that feeling to remind me deeply of what being happy can mean. It is where I was headed once and clearly try to find again when I get lost.