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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
MAY
27

Switzerland and the Alps

I was prepared for chocolate and cheese, for beautiful scenery and a few rainy days. But what I was not prepared for on my first trip to Switzerland was the Alps. What must have been the expression on my face when I caught my first glimpse of them, all majestic and jagged and snow-capped? I remember that I had to pause and process. I remember my eyes widening. I remember it registering immediately that I'd never seen anything like them. Because they simply don't look like any other mountains. No offense to, well, everything else in Swizterland, but once the Alps are in your line of sight, why would you want to look at anything else?

I saw the Alps from the country fields of Swizerland, from a ferry crossing Lake Geneva, even from inside a tram that took me up and up into their snowy tops. And to actually be in the Alps, to witness them at every altitude, to feel yourself getting colder and colder as you rise, to go from sun to snow and back down to sun, to do everything you can to look and look and look until you're sure you won't forget, to want to blink everyone you love to the same spot so that you can all witness together the beauty to be had on this rolling sphere of ours. I'm just not sure what compares to that. Besides fresh Gruyere cheese. 

Of course, vacations are never as picture perfect as they look. The jet lag beat me down, the long flights were torturous and devoid of sleep and unusually gassy (is that just me?), and I lost my footing on a Swiss staircase and nursed a severely bruised arm for most of the trip. Three weeks out from the fall and my arm still isn't back to normal, which does on one hand make me take every staircase with an increased grain of caution, but it also reminds me of those lazy Swiss days, dipping bread into a fresh pot of fondue, strolling along a flower-strewn country road after a storm, and, yes, lifting my eyes to take in the tops of those mountains in the distance. 

OCT
30

Scotland

Since fiction has thus far proved to be out of my wheelhouse, all the characters in my books are real people. And there’s a character in my latest book who passed away before I had the chance to visit him in Scotland. I made a promise when he died that someday I’d make the trip, and while there were other reasons why I wanted to go (the beauty, the piece of my heritage), I found myself thinking about this person the most. I’d wonder if I was walking down any of the streets he walked or seeing any of the things he’d seen. Weird, isn’t it? This person who has been gone from this planet for almost a decade. This person with whom it probably never would have worked, as it hadn’t in either of our previous attempts. But there’s something about the unfinishedness of it all that made me extra pensive as I strolled along Scottish sidewalks.

Scotland was, in a word, breathtaking. I kept trying to define the bright shade of green that covers all the hills. It’s in the kelly family, surely, but so much more striking than any kelly you know. And complemented perfectly against the rich aquamarine tones of the sea that hug the shoreline. So if you get high enough, the combination of green against blue is one you’ll wish could be re-created in your regular life. It won’t be though. And that’s what gets me about this trip. See, someone close to me explained it once. After having witnessed something beautiful, she wept when it was over. This happens to many of us from time to time, being moved to the point of tears. But her explanation for the tears has stayed with me, in that she said she was crying for herself, for the fact that she would never witness this thing again. In that moment, it seemed too much to bear; that there could be such beauty in the world yet her exposure to it so limited. And that’s really the only way I can describe how it felt to drive away from the Highlands, having just stood alone in the Quiraing, nothing but a sea of this unnamed electric kelly green all around. Gaelic music played as I followed the path of the Loch Ness back into town, a few tears hot on my wind-burned cheeks. Because I would never see this again. And how was that fair? How could I exist knowing it was there and I wasn’t seeing it?

It’s a question I would have asked my departed friend, over pouches of greasy food and a couple of weathered notebooks open between us. And while it doesn’t make me wish any less that he were still here, I suppose the upside is that he never has to stop seeing it. And I bet the view is spectacular.

APR
30

Coast to Coast

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When you live in New York, a trip to California is, well, far. Especially when you'll only be there for 32 hours. Not that I mind. Plane rides give me lots of uninterrupted reading time, not to mention the chance to wax poetic about the beauty to be seen between coastlines. And I'm not just talking about the plane's-eye view of mountains, lakes, and perfectly divided crop squares, but also the variance in the destinations themselves. The night before the trip, I took a sailboat (I think the actual term was "tall ship," but whatever, it had sails) out to the Statue of Liberty at sunset and then sailed along the skyline as it darkened and the buildings began to sparkle, and the next night I was driving along the palm tree lined California coast. I guess what I'm saying is that experiencing a laidback beach town and the busiest, most populated city in America within such a short timeframe sure makes you grateful that we can experience so many different kinds of beautiful within this country of ours. That one of these kinds of beautiful comes with an In-N-Out Burger, well, that's just a bonus.