“A child in the dark, gripped with fear, comforts himself by singing under his breath. He walks and halts to his song. Lost, he takes shelter, or orients himself with his little song as best he can. The song is like a rough sketch of a calm and stable centre in the heart of chaos. Perhaps the child skips as he sings, hastens or slows his pace. But the song itself is already a skip: it jumps from chaos to the beginnings of order in chaos and is in danger of breaking apart at any moment. There is always sonority in Ariadne’s thread. Or the song of Orpheus. Now we are at home
-Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “Of the Refrain”
I still love the end of June the
most. My hometown always used
to smell of freshly mown grass
and warm asphalt. It seemed that
lying on the grass in the city centre,
usually reserved for dogs and ticks,
became acceptable for humans as
well. We used to drink wine from
plastic cups, put our feet up on the
fence while the trees obscured our
view of the sea. The nights were
suddenly warmer, and the rain
An image like that flashes all of a sudden, blurry and flickering, allowing itself to be perceived and attracting attention, straining the brain in order to pull out a memory box from a dusty corner. A certain smell, a word, the composition of colours on an object sometimes try, quite unexpectedly, to evoke memories – those warm, special ones. I start remembering all the times when I walked barefoot along my beloved pebble beaches, with the ice-cream melting and dripping down my arm. I remember eating the black seeds in watermelons – my favourite fruit – and my mum shouting at me saying that I’ll get a stomach ache because of it. Suddenly, I am no longer here, but in a place decades away. I am once again that little girl naively experiencing everything, rejoicing in the little things. The flame of excitement, which has slowly extinguished with years and events, is still burning. They call it maturation but, in fact, it is a departure from the pure and true happiness that only a child can feel.
Memories arise and I can see almost everything clearly in front of me; one memory brings another, which draws my attention to the third and the fourth. I see myself as I have come to know from the photos: a little girl with short blonde curls. Where does this need for memories come from, the need for a person to
remember those moments? Is the world seen through a child’s eyes much brighter and more hopeful? The childhood period is intriguing because of the specificity of being a child, and the existence of the idea of childhood as a golden age, dominated by carelessness and innocence. Memories from this period are
most often covered in forgetting, and their reinterpretations are rather difficult to capture due to incomplete fragments.
However, by creating narrative forms about oneself, one can read out emotionally important stories marked by the constant destruction of time as well as a background image of one’s own self, family, society, and culture. I have, like so many immigrants, headed West for love, money, success, for nothing, and I carried with me the city in the mist. My first language has atrophied, frozen in avant-garde thought that knows no exile. It struggles to
express change. My adopted language has no zeal and lacks stylistic depth, it makes me objective. Now I talk to myself in the second person, trying to escape the intangible will to dispel oblivion.
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that our perception of the world depends on our language. But what happens when we use multiple languages? Do we also have multiple worlds? Split worlds? Has anyone
thought about the efforts needed to build an identity in-between? The existential frustration when we can’t, because we lack words in the depths of our being, translate the smell of the linden trees and lavender, or the deep murmur of the Adriatic Sea into another language?
The only thing that might manage to translate and capture the essence
of these is a song – where words merge with the music into a story that goes beyond understanding the text itself and invites companionship – to participate in the storytelling of an individual nourished and empowered by the ethereal. When I think of home, I think of the above mentioned wall with sonic bricks in it. I think of all the times that I gathered with family and friends and we sang old songs together, I think of the lullabies that my
mother and grandmother used to sing to me, bringing back the landscapes of a disintegrated country I had only visited once and had very faint recollection of…I remembering telling myself: ‘This is what home feels like’.
Elizabeth is a theatre and performance maker originally from Rijeka, Croatia and now based in Glasgow, Scotland. Her work and research deals with ritual, ethics of care, memory, and trauma studies.
She is interested in exploring empathy and looking at new ways of being together and being in the moment, encouraging care, and generating healing conversations.
You can find out more about Elizabeth and her work here.