Not all those who wander are lost


Shoes, you took me to so many places:
City life with cocktails and chatter,
Live music, comedy, and fashion events,
Public transport from Liberec to Prague, Zurich,
Malmo, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Paris,
Istanbul, Iquitos, Bangkok, Nairobi, Barcelona,
London, Venice, Rome, Florence, ….. and Chicago,
Romantic walks in the park,
Symbolic understanding of cultures,
Psychological expression,
Connection to the planet we live on,
Stadiums of giving nothing but your best,
Tango nights in unique Chicago neighborhoods,
And the streets of Buenos Aires,
Admiration of the perfection of dance,
Ski hikes through Czech Paradise,
And adventures with many friends,
Long hikes through the NC smoky mountains,
Italian and Austrian Alps, Grand Tetons, And Tatras.
Rock climbing in the school of Hejnice,
Snorkeling with sharks on Phi Phi island,
And the magical world in the minds of children in Kenya.

The first time I broke up with someone, I was 11.
In Czechia, it is called “giving someone cleats”.
In response, he gave me the spikes.
Of course, he loved soccer and I loved running.
I was so heartbroken, that I ended up competing,
In the NCAA Divison I,
Still crying on some evenings,
But I could not thank him more.
Spikes took me to many states in the US,
Conference USA Championships,
High school state championships,
And marathons,
While meeting friends who share the love of sports.
My love started in Czechia,
But it is shared across the globe with many others, always!
Also, breakups have never been any different than this first one.

In, 2004 I met someone I had a more serious relationship.
His grandfather owned a shoe shop in Morroco.
I enjoyed walking around with several styles,
Completely unique in the USA,
The best memory I have of him,
Is that he had his favorite red Moroccan shoes.
He wore them everywhere.
Even in the Bahamas,
Where he greeted a guy named Scooby,
With a firm “yeah man”.
I was so lost after the breakup.
One day I ended up wearing a different style on each foot to work,
Completely oblivious and unaware,
That the night before I had a date with a shoe theif,
Who seemed to be from his MBA program,
Leaving us all behind for China.
Instead of visiting,
I moved out of the trauma of shoe discombobulation.
The result was a slight paranoia,
That I must have subconsciously ditched Glinda’s sparkling red slippers.

Tango shoes gave me the soul of dance.
Something my beautiful cousin,
Who was a ballet dancer,
Experienced for many years.
And another incredible cousin expressed on the ice.
Many show it on the stage, on the streets, or alone in the woods.
You can have the best dance with a guy half your height,
Whom you met in El Floridita in Havana,
With Hemingway watching you,
Sippin on his own version of Mojito.
We all have it in common – the power of music.
Sometimes others cannot hear the same tune,
Only seeing our peculiar moves.
But somehow we also come back to it,
with hearing being our last sense of our presence,
before we leave one world,
before memory takes over,
turning into an imagination,
making music a timeless part of our existence.

Cross Country skiing – is one of my favorite sports.
Christmas tradition in Jested hills,
Ski trips with stepfather and his class,
And training with childhood friends,
First slalom lessons learned on cross country skis,
Downhill and uphill through the countryside,
Finished with evening discos and games,
Morning alarm of my stepdad’s trumpet,
Hot teas and soups,
And card games in our common rooms,
These became the main activities.
It made downhill skiing only natural.

Hiking boots are there to take you on many adventures,
And absorb the beauty of nature,
Finish the evening at the campfire with a guitar,
Taking shots of the mountain scenery,
The first sight upon waking up,
From the open side of your tent.
You can be greeted by the ruler of the mountains,
When you hike up Krivan mountain,
As your first mountain to conquer as a child.
But another ruler of the hills,
To remind you it’s a perfect place to start.
They can make you inspired by your aunt,
If one day you decide to start with that small hill,
It is possible to hike over 5,000 miles in your 60s.
Or Edmund Hillary that you can conquer the altitude of 747.
Regardless, yaktrax is cheaper than a few nights in a hospital.

Rubber boots and old sweatpants are the styles,
When you’re out in the Czech woods,
Picking mushrooms for the morning eggs,
Or when you’ve tied your bow,
And sharpened down the tips of your arrows with your pocket knife,
To hunt wild boar with your friends.
They can also keep you safe from snake bites in the Amazonas,
As you’re on a four-day survival hike,
Through the jungle of 1,800 species of birds,
500 species of mammals,
and over 300 species of reptiles.
Or, can make you a fashionista,
Walking by excited Millenials with a unique pattern on your boots,
While they are sliding through the mud in a rain,
Listening to a blend of Deadmau5 and Emancipator at Lolapaloosa,
Each blasting their heart out from different sides of the “common stadium”.

But bare feet is where we started,
We are reminded of Gandhi,
They can change the world for the better,
By Abebe Bikila,
They can help you cruise through 26.2 miles.
By Philippe Petit,
You can walk on the rope connecting the two twin towers,
And by children in Kenyan orphanage,
They can help you continue your dance.
They can set you free.

I have to admit – there are times,
When wearing a different style of your grandpa’s spikes on each foot,
Dropping the Cinderella’s small feet must have,
And trying any size of dance shoes,
Losing your nails when practicing your runs,
Wearing cheap, a half size smaller sneakers without giving a damn,
Or not wearing any shoes at all…
Is it a lot healthier and more fashionable than Jimmy Choo?
I’ve seen women my height trying on glass slippers,
And all they got was a loss of balance and a slippery surface.
Someone who is willing to pay $15 for 1.5 eggs at a fancy restaurant,
Wearing $600 pair of shoes,
Looking to meet someone at the next table,
Is hardly better off than a djembe drummer,
Walking down streets in Riruta Nairobi,
Picking up a chapati for 25 cents on his way to jam with his buddies.
The General Sherman Tree wants you to know,
That you can live up to 2,700 thousand years and beyond,
Just by having large feet!

Escapades in Bzi


How could one come to a thought,
that a small village in the middle of picturesque countryside,
could be home to such a diverse group of personalities?
I could say that about Bzi.

Witch Burning


Growing up, the burning of witches was always one of my favorite traditions. I loved the gigantic bonfires with witch sculptures, gathering with people from the village to roast bread and bratwurst, singing and jamming with guitars, and adults finishing the fiesta with their homemade slivovitz.

The tradition takes place on the evening of April 30th, to burn the witch that kept winter around so long with the belief that the witch’s power weakens with warmer weather. The witch sculpture usually consists of a cross with attached straw that fills old pants and shirts, finished with a witch hat on top of the cross and an attached broomstick. Older children of the village are usually responsible for building the fire, gathering tree trunks in the woods around. Many children gather to dress up as witches themselves and everyone comes over to participate in a contest of which village has the largest bonfire. When the witch figure finally collapses and the bonfire gets small enough, women from the village jump over the fire dressed in traditional dresses and headbands made of flowers. This concludes the witch-burning ritual.

Below are some images from the burning witch holiday I spent with my family in Moravia. In Moravian villages, it is a custom for each home to make their own slivovitz and my uncle is very proud of his own brand and 10 or so versions of it. People of the Moravian countryside drink slivovitz like water, having their “mecheche” in the evening, sleeping like a bear, and wake up refreshed, no hangover, with a glass of slivovitz waiting along with coffee and kolacky for breakfast. I highly recommend visiting this part of Czechia.

The Land of Stories


The Magic of Attics


I can never forget the ambiance of the attics.
When the fall colors covered the hills,
surrounding our village in the Jizera mountains,
and hay harvest came to an end,
we ran into an apple orchard to climb the trees,
and pick the sweetest rubies,
finishing the evening under the roof,
jumping into haystacks,
telling tales while snacking on our potpourri,
and fresh milk from a local farm,
still hot in our flasks.
Then we built ourselves mini shelters,
using old wood logs and hay,
insisting to bring our blankets over,
for a sleepover with more friends from the village.

Our scouting winter lodge held many adventures.
The hike up the mountain would be vigorous.
Some of us carried backpacks twice our size,
with snow up to our knees,
falling on our backs at times,
to the friendly laughter of older boy scouts.
We were the “promising young sherpas”.
They each had their nicknames.
I was helped by “Quickfoot”,
from my favorite Foglar books and comics,
about the boy club named “Fast Arrows”.
Once we reached the lodge,
we opened our sleeping bags in the attic.
At night we told scary tales,
of sticky and devouring green blob of disease,
floating everywhere to catch its prey,
or bloody hand, and ghosts in the woods,
all huddled next to each other,
throwing our flashlights around,
to find our night snacks in our backpacks,
listening to the whistle of winter outside,
and the occasional case of the sound of wildlife on a hunt.
The next night we had to complete a walk of bravery,
by following a trail light with candles on the side,
and spooky sounds of our brothers,
pretending to be those ghosts,
I wished I didn’t listen to those tales from the attic.
At the end of the trial, we had to sign a paper to prove our presence,
and we got to uncover a secret message from our leaders.

In my grandma’s attic mind goes wild and fairies exist.
Across the top of a large elementary school,
with long stairs to the top,
hiding all sorts of artifacts.
It was the perfect place for enchanted wonder.
I spent hours there,
looking for a treasure of any kind:
old books, letters, b&w photographs,
dance outfits, colorful buttons, cuff links,
grandpa’s vintage watch and hats,
or mother’s school supplies.
When it rained my grandma climbed up there,
and looking for long-lost items full of memories,
to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof above.
I listened to her stories from her youth,
or made-up tales about fairies living inside large rocks,
rocks that opened full of bright light at night,
and the fairies came out to dance in the woods,
where soft small grasslands grew with wild blueberries,
and you could lay there without a sound,
except for pine trees squeaking as they moved with the wind,
mystical calls of the nocturnal owls,
or deer and rabbit steps wandering close by.
Then the fairies started to sing.
It reminded me of Rusalka by Dvorak.
She said my mother visited the fairies as a child,
riding a white horse,
wearing a purple dress with a light veil,
and a small pouch necklace made of gemstones
– a piece of treasure I just found in the attic.
Later I found out the outfit was from her dance ball,
and the pouch was a gift from her first love.
My grandma’s fairytale stories were always new,
Created on the spot,
Stories that have not been told before.
With raindrops hitting the roof and vintage treasures around,
They were always real to me.

Dried mushrooms and herbs –
another purpose of grandma’s attic.
I remember damp mornings of wandering around the woods,
picking up boletuses and marjoram for the best soups in town,
or lemon balm and valerian for teas.
I didn’t know much about coca-cola in the 80s and 90s,
But I knew tea recipes from great grandmother –
ones that were used to treat others in her small village,
much appreciated aid during both world wars.
Preferring sugar-less holistic remedy above pills any day,
as a child, I wanted to spit it out,
envious of kids glugging Fantas.
Now I am resuming her remedies,
and returning to herbal teas,
with herbs and spices from the attics of Nepal.

In the town of Hejnice, we had an attic full of mysterious energy.
I used to climb up there to hang up our laundry to dry,
looking through the pieces of clothes,
getting spooked that someone could be hiding in the dark corners,
watching me sing to myself,
or pretending to be some fictional character.
When done, I used it as my spot to read books,
engaging in a new adventure every time.
On other days I came up to play with my childhood love,
resulting in some of our first kisses,
and dreaming of our future together.
Some mornings I was looking for creatures I dreamt of the night before.
Somehow I thought they would be hiding in the attic.
The smell of the wood added to the scales of my imagination,
and I believed their memory could become a reality one day,
knowing that they will live forever in my mind,
a mind that hardly worried about the present or past,
yet always wondered what will come next,
what will come out of that spooky mysterious corner,
“What did I do? Is it me over there? What did I do?”
Some questions just remain unanswered.

Dare to Dance


It’s the early 90’s.
The orange rays of light are beaming,
making their way through the cracks of large windows,
as the evening practice started.
The gym is roaring with the beats of Smooth Criminal,
and a group of teenage girls is lined up,
following my mother’s choreography,
and getting ready for a dance competition.

It’s a typical evening for a kid of two professors,
hanging out with older kids from their classes,
dance teams, chess clubs, or sports teams.
If only I had their guts.
When asked to dance I turn into a stiff lobster face,
quickly resolving the situation,
by rushing to mingle with dad’s chess club.

It’s a choice between hobbies.
One could develop into a passion for a lifetime.
I only dance when I am in the woods alone,
preferably in the dark when the natural light dims out.
Watching my mom’s dance team always blows my mind,
but I only dare to compete by running or cross country skiing.

It’s the year 2002.
One of my childhood hobbies turned into a passion.
I’ve been inspired by the exercise to “maniac”
from the movie Flashdance.
Our lawn still has bold spots
from my steps through the years.
The grass took a serious beating.
It has become a quirky part of my training, as a runner.
I love waking up early to run at the crack of dawn
and arrive at the stadium for the afternoon practice.
The collegiate athlete’s routine is energizing.
This weekend we are traveling to Houston, Texas
for the Conference USA Championship.
I am nervous about the 3k race.
It is my first time competing in the event.

The Year of 2004.
The year of heartbreak.
I am no longer allowed to compete.
Seizures have grown to be too frequent,
bringing along the concussions from the fall.
Ambulance rides became as familiar as putting spikes on.
The last glimmer of hope – staying up the night before EEG.
The women’s team is up with me to keep me company.
The power of teamwork is overwhelming,
but health claimed the priority seat at the table,
and I have to kiss my spikes goodbye.
Being stripped of such a big part of my life is debilitating.

More than a decade later.
The rollercoaster seems only bigger.
failed relationships,
lost friendships,
more health concerns,
loss of interest in anything,
and feeling utterly lost.
Is it a quarter-life crisis?
After several more EEGs, it is clear.
No signs of epilepsy,
but suspicions of pseudoseizures.
I can’t risk driving
or standing by the train tracks.
These constraints are making me mad,
mad at others, mad at the world,
and most of all mad at myself.
Yes! This is the beginning of transformation,
and more environmentally friendly lifestyle,
no more cars, but a sailboat is a terrific replacement.

Streets are getting filled again,
and so are the dance floors.
It’s time for a new beginning.
It’s time to let go.
Let go of the desire for perfection,
whatever it may be…
Let go of expectations,
of the never-ending effort to be normal,
of past mistakes and failures,
of stigma,
of self image,
or my stiff lobster face.
It’s time for self expression,
to lose myself in the moment,
and begin moving to my own beat,
becoming the maniac on the rainy streets of my old tears,
making a space for the misty stream of colors.
Space for music.
Dance is turning into a restorative absolution,
for both my light and dark selves.
Why should the dance stop?
Getting to see the world upside down is part of it,
and there’s no need to stop dancing.

Scout’s Four Basic Knots


Ambulance knot.
Nazdar! Our teepees are up,
but we’ve yet to build our beds,
using ancient Native American techniques,
but first we need a fireplace for the beds to surround.
Fireplaces in the centers of our teepees are crucial.
They are our main source of heat.
The pipe of wisdom will light up a day behind.
What kind of a tribe are we?

Dragon knot.
It’s 7am and the sound of a trumpet is traveling across the camp.
I throw on my shirt with neckerchief tied by a leather slide,
time to raise our flag.
Today I started my beaver badge of silence.
I cannot utter a word for 24 hours.
I’m probably an introvert, because it will not be difficult at all.
I’m more worried about the badge of bravery,
when I stay alone in the woods for a whole night.
I plan on trying to decode fireflies’ light patterns into a morse code,
just to avoid imagining some creatures sniffing behind my back.
If anyone from the boys camp is doing bravery badge on the same night,
I could scare him to death by pretending to be one of those creatures!

Shortening knot.
The ax is stuck in the wood log.
If it gets stolen,
the camp has to come to an end.
Teams are selected to protect it through the night,
from sneaky boy scouts wandering outside their camp,
and snooping around ours!
Those nightly blood suckers! 😉

Eight knot.
The ax is guarding three weeks of adventure:
backpacking through Czech paradise,
with nothing but a small survival kit,
overnight hikes through the wilderness,
daily mingle with diverse species,
battles against the other scout camps,
running around with bows and arrows,
countless games and projects outdoors,
more tasks to learn our survival skills,
evening bonfires and singing with a guitar.
The best part?
Building an infinite instinct
to stay connected to nature!

Childhood Christmas in Jizera Mountains


After our traditional cross-country ski hike to Jested, it’s a day of rest.
I am strolling under the peaceful tints of the world’s ceiling
as it blends with fresh pine trees proudly standing.
Both still and quiet after the wheezing two-day storm I wished for.
The branches are holding freshly clean pillows for the willows to rest on.
Once again, they won the battle of the fittest during crisp winter,
Giving the components that carry berries and fruits time to rest,
To prepare to bloom and produce thousands of new color blends,
and nutritious compounds of saccharinity in a few months.

The village has its familiar warmth.
I know the unique harmony of every home.
I surpass the row of houses.
They seem to be bowing in front of the bells of a local chapel,
As it reaches for the clouds with a rusted cross.
My cheeks are pink, with frost touching them lightly.
The cold white fabric cracks beneath the soles of my shoes,
And the December hills shine their way across like a crystal desert,
Where each crystal carries a unique pattern,
A burst of six arms and their formations,
Proud of their energy,
No matter how short their life may seem.
I wonder if there are more species of snowflakes,
Than anything else, still glittering in silence,
Under the sun or the street lamp at night.
They will always glitter in my mind,
Almost like nature’s reminders,
if there were only one special snowflake,
We could go extinct,
Or could be transformed.

There is a black poodle “Azor,”
happily sniffing on my right.
His paws are like four snowballs
Dancing continuously around his body,
Getting bigger and bigger…
What a valuable problem solver,
Knowing that the snow will eventually melt,
When he gets to lay down next to the fire.
His marble eyes peek amid the fluff of curls,
glistening with wisdom, innocence, and curiosity,
ready to explore whatever mission they find me contemplating.

I pull a sleigh with two large urns,
Splashing fresh water from a local stream.
I should hurry home, but I feel adventurous.
Right now, I am one of London’s characters,
I crawled through the harsh Yukon winter in the middle of a deadly night.
Every five steps of this strenuous hill call for the urgency
To try starting that fire.
If I can crush two stones with my frostbitten fingers,
I may have a chance of survival.
Azor is now a wild wolf, getting closer to the fire.
His meat could be my food, and his fur my coat,
But do I yearn for friendship more after a month of walking in solitude?

Suddenly I come back to reality, spotting the smoke.
It comes from our wood-burning stove.
It’s a sign of humanity! I can make it!
I arrive home to see others with a few raised eyebrows.
“How did you take a full hour to walk 100m?
The schnitzels are getting cold!”
Thus begins our quiet and cozy Christmas Eve.
I add fresh pine cones to our candle base on the table,
standing in the middle of a shared room,
I take a look at the ambiance of the evening…
carp from the tub to the fryer, potato salad, Christmas cookies,
candles, sparkles, laughs, storytelling, the opening of presents, games,
followed by gathering with friends in Rasovka.
We end the evening with snowball fights and egg nog,
checking out the sizes of icicles hanging from our rooftop,
and frost glued to our windows,
noting a sign of a healthy and buoyant winter!

Fun Fact – Fierce Azor died much later of the old age of 19.5 years, well known to breed until the time of his death. He adopted his role as a wild wolf quite seriously throughout his life and even became a leader of the dog pack in the village when I departed to the USA, biting dogs three times his size in the ass if they didn’t follow his orders. 😀