Discover more from The Planet
Trumpian Theater and Island Serenity
Different worlds abound on this planet we call home. A curious spectacle unfolded last night in the West, far beyond the horizon, where I see the sunset from the dunes on the island's West in all its blazing glory. Six out of eight Republican presidential hopefuls who participated in the prime-time debate boldly declared their allegiance to their competitor, ex-president Trump, even if the gavel of justice should thump upon him. Picture this curious scenario being televised to you a decade back. Would you have believed its plausibility?
As the debate raged on in their universe, I found myself on my tranquil island, a paradise where the very name "Milwaukee" doesn't ring a bell for anyone. And I slept peacefully while many Republican voters sleepwalked into another chapter of the Trumpian nightmare. Not that he cared to participate in the debate, making him the only one of the nine candidates who did not have to declare their loyalty to the ultimate winner.
A new star, but a dwarf compared to Trump's overwhelming dominance, seems to be the newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy. He promised to pre-emptively pardon the former president, wants to stop American support to Ukraine, and called climate change a "hoax." The applause that echoed for his diatribes in the morning's video playback still reverberates within my ears.
But last night, I missed all that. I was sleeping and, at other moments, trying to sleep during one of these increasingly humid nights that make sleeping challenging and that I don't remember from the past.
Meanwhile, in another world, and another reality, Spain is experiencing its fourth heatwave of this summer. Unfortunately, these "hoaxes" of heat (to borrow from Ramaswamy's lexicon) aren't illusions for those who live through them.
I mention Spain since I recently walked some 700 kilometers of the Camino Francés in often relatively average temperatures, a stark contrast to the infernal heatwaves that tormented the trail last year. But today, it was 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Pamplona and other cities on the Camino; pilgrims described on social media how they had to give up walking in this heat.
Staying in Spain, forest infernos have laid siege to the splendid islands of La Palma and Tenerife. Vast parts of these beautiful islands were on my shortlist for future hiking journeys in spectacular nature; they now lie scorched and marred. In water-scarce Spain, the water needed to put out the fires is seen by some local farmers as worsening their drought-stricken conditions. An example of crisis exacerbation where one crisis is intensifying another.
These are just two of the many worlds on this one planet. Worlds full of challenges we don't know from the past, and where we miss the structures, political will, and leadership to effectively deal with them.
I confess a peculiar sense of remorse for enjoying the tranquility of my island haven, where not much alters save for the unusual humid embrace of the warm night air. Meanwhile, in different worlds far and near, billions wrestle with the harrowing convergence of inept governance and an unfolding global ecological disaster.
Meanwhile, on the island
So let's turn to my world, with words written this morning since I am still in holiday mode and living in the tradition of "My World at 8 a.m." You may remember those short scribbles I wrote on my iPhone and posted daily to the small community on Patreon during my Camino. I wrote this text this morning, which I forgot to send when I was busy doing other things all day. It describes my world, which is vastly different from those many other worlds on this one fragile planet:
At the stroke of 8, Haamstede's church bells ripple through the peaceful atmosphere, rousing this slumbering village from its dreams. They brutally wake me up. The window is wide open on these hot, humid nights, and there is no escape. After two minutes, the bells fall silent and start a four-hour rest until they resume the tradition of informing the workers on the land that it is noon and time for lunch. This village cherishes traditions. Time appears to stroll as slowly as the elderly man with his cane who walks under the magnificent chestnut trees of the Noordstraat every morning.
Had my wanderlust still led me along the Camino, I would have paused now after my first two hours of walking. A quaint local café filled with other pilgrims would have welcomed me with freshly brewed coffee and croissants. Instead, I find myself in a different place: the island village where I feel most at home.
Here, amidst the serenity, I enjoy the solitude and a rare holiday mindset. So it is only at the church bells' insistence that I get out of bed at eight, just when my iPhone reminds me of the Camino tradition to take a "My World at 8 a.m." photo.
I pull up the curtains, and my street unfolds before me like a canvas painted in tranquil hues: a solitary dove, perched atop a neighbor's chimney, delivers its familiar coo; I appreciate this gentle overture of the day. The sun shines through a canopy of green leaves, casting elaborate patterns of light and shadow.
No distant hum of engines disrupts the idyll. No honk or rumble shatters the fragile beauty of the morning. The dove's coo is replaced by the laughing of a seagull, reminding me that I am on an island where the sea is never far.
I open the left window, and a slight breeze tells me the secret of how to best start this day. And while still looking out at the lush greenery, I postpone my ambitious plans for a morning run, the first in many months. Instead, I opt for the easier option of coffee and writing while watching Luna trying to catch tiny slivers of light on the floor.
I wish that your day may unfold with the same gentle grace and that you may also find reassurance in quiet moments when the world's challenges are briefly forgotten and when all the beauty of existence may reveal itself in simple details.
There will be many more stories to share, and we'll return to the news of this hot, burning planet. Still, since I started The Planet newsletter, the summer season has always been the time for sharing travel stories, nature, photography, or just writing for the joy of writing with a coffee and a cat beside me. More travel is still on my European calendar before returning to regular writing from Canada around September 20. My next post might well be from another country.