Saturday, April 5, 2008

Coach ride

Again, back to classes. Return from a period they call holidays but is not quite, in which despite the time used for classwork in detriment of leisure you didn't manage to finish ore than a small fraction of what you expected to do. As it always happened, holiday period after holiday period. It was always the same. But here I was, sit again in the return coach, next to the window, ready to start the journey.

What I like the most about having to do this journey is the contribution of spare time that it means. However busy you were, you always have those two and a half forced hours of leisure, just time for yourself without the worry of not be dedicating it to some of the class works that had to be submitted that same week. One can afford the luxury of feeling completely free from that kind of burden. If I think about it, it's probable that these spaces of time are the most similar thing I have to what one would understand by holidays during all the time the academic year can last.

So I decided to use that time. And I really wanted to make the most of it. I took from my bag the book I had started two days ago, with the intention of becoming totally absorbed again in it, when the film chosen by that day's driver started. It turned out to be an action one, not at all comparable to the work I was holding in my hands, so I prepared to continue. But the volume in the speakers was way too loud. This time, fortunately, I had a music player. I supposed maybe that would help ignoring the film, but the sound was too intense, and the person I had by my side didn't inspire enough confidence so as to leave my things and go to tell the driver. It seemed I would have to wait until he got off in the next stop (he did in every single town we went by), but it wasn't necessary. The trouble the sound was causing to the rest of the travelers was evident, and a girl close to the cab rose to make the request. It was a pity not to be able to show her gratitude. I decided to continue with my own music and immersed myself in the reading. Mars, the red planet, flooded my mind again.

The Martian landscapes continue to amaze me. The eastern cliff of Echus Chasma, thousands of meters in height and thousands of kilometers long, was captured in the lines my eyes were running over in that moment, while the more humble terrestrial geography passed by my window. How different they were. The first one, of gigantic proportions, barely changed since times in which bacteria were the most advanced organisms in our planet, surrounded in warm, reddish and ocher colors. In the second one, much younger but looking more smooth and aged by a much more intense erosion, green and blue colors dominated, created by the trees and crop fields, framed by the afternoon sky. Some clouds were appearing in it as we advanced to the north, all of them resting on an invisible layer at the same altitude and taking away monotony from the environment. I never get tired of gazing at them.

During the journey I combined the images of both worlds, focusing my attention alternatively in the book and the landscape. It is curious how when not having the sight limited to a few meters to the furthest wall, the images that emerge in the imagination when reading their descriptions can acquire at last tangible proportions, becoming true environments in which it is possible to look around. A 360 degrees view that reaches the horizon, in substitution of something that would be more similar to what can be seen in a television screen.

Time went by, and dusk was reaching its end. The Sun, surrounded by snippets of clouds tinged with orangey shades, was already close to the top of the western mountains. I decided to close the book and contemplate the scene, as many other times, watching how the bright red disk hid slowly, lighting the lower parts of the clouds with its last rays. It didn't take long to disappear, but except for its presence, the environment had hardly changed. There was still time until the blue of the sky gave way to the darkness of the night and its population of stars.

Stars which that night I could not contemplate, due to having work to finish when I arrived to my destination again. With a sigh, I decided not to let escape these last moments of freedom, and I continued absorbed in the reading…

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