Mediterranea is Home, and Mediterranea is about light, sea and rocks in the first place. It is about the land, and then of course come the people (nonhuman and human). There is the sun (which warmth is unlike any other I’ve felt elsewhere), and its light and a sky of an intense blue, a blue desert floating far above. There are the winters, cool and snowless with trees that do not lose their leaves, and fall is not fall. Autumn is just this short transition between Summer (hot) and Winter (cold) during which there are floods (wet). Right here all the clouds stop in October and the rain comes – not gentle rain, but sea-from-above rain and thunderstorms. Spring is warm and flowery, the most enjoyable season for foreign people. What I like the most though is Summer.
Summer is not gentle and loving sunlight during happy walks in the wild on afternoons. Masoschism. Or hypocrisy (“I spent my vacations in the South” he says proudly, though he couldn’t stand the heat). Meanwhile, I grin. Feline, corvine grin. Weather is harsh on summer, semi-aride. I’m fine with it. I know when and how to move and how to not be hot and panting. Summer is not long afternoons on the beach – and getting sunburns with noisy tourists. It’s swimming on evening or under the stars and smelling the dunes and the marshy camargue not far away with its delta and bulls and horses running free. Stories about Egyptian, Phoenician colonies; Greek ones, and later Roman ones. Old rocks and ruins. Old paths. Via Domitia. Summer here is staying sprawled undertree in a hammock where the air is cooler, with the sound of cicadas and the smell of lavender or Provence herbs and pine trees. Mediterranea is about warmth and light. It’s about the garigue – “scrubland, evergreen shrubs, low trees and aromatic herbs” they say. Plants suit the weather; they strive for survival. Thick-leaves-that-are-needles, thorns, small and dry-looking; bushland, shrubland. Maquis, cousin of the Californian chaparral I guess. Never like deep emerald jungles, only ochre calcareous landscapes with rocks and dark kermes oaks; and the silver foliage of olive trees. Pine trees – Maritime, Aleppo, Stone pines mainly – where hide the cicadas and with resin that sticks to paws when you climb. I never knew that nail varnish remover was for nails until I grew up.
This is nowhere close to where a clouded leopard would live, but I love it. I like the feel of the sun through the leaves on my skin, and the light turns it to gold and my beauty spots are like a leopard’s to me. The moist smell of fresher air in the woods, darker soil, which is my second favourite scent after the dusty, dry, storm-coming scent that happens when the clouds are low and yellow and the rain hasn’t hit the ground yet. This is the smell of Home, with the plants and dryness and earth isn’t earth-with-rocks but rocks-with-dust. Where the heat is heavier than you and most of trees aren’t big enough for a cat like me to climb and hide. Where things go slow-motion – nothing to rush or worry about, even in the city. The music of djembes at night, the heart of the city beating; young people dancing. Simple happiness, which I call “ground-ed” because I feel like a plant feeding on this specific place and atmosphere and fulfilled – whole. Content; big, happy, corvid cat. The only place where I can feel the same is not definite – I feel it walking in the city or when travelling. I can feel the most at home when on the road – part of being a Traveller at heart. Not going from A to B but just going. Then I become both meditative and deeply rooted in my surroundings and I feel complete. I wonder about the inteconnectivity between being a Traveller and being Mediterranean – which to me is based on senses/sensitivity, communication, openness, a thirst for human contact and cultural diveristy, among other things. To me both come hand in hand but I cannot accurately describe it yet.
Home isn’t what the land should be like for a clouded leopard or a raven or whatever. Although I do feel a sense of “home” about the rainforest, I’m just not familiar enough with it to call it such. Home is not continental mountain or forests. I am not a raven of Odin. Outside of the Mediterranean wilderness, I feel at home here, in this human den, in my flat. I feel at home when I wander outside, if it’s still on my territory – places I visit frequently, where I have every right to be and won’t let anyone bother me. I feel at home in unknown streets when it’s dark as well when I hang out with my trans friends, even if I can feel foreign as an animal person among them, because we’re all freaks in our own ways, and tonight we’re out and roaming in the city. Ravens can be quite fierce, especially if not alone. I’m an urban feral boy. I have this obsession with subways and buses, and the human contact there along with people-watching. The line can be thin between feeling at home and exploring other territories, between comfort and fear, and I love the excitement there. There is, oddly, a sense of Home too.
When your body is small and slender like mine, even for female standards, you learn to watch out for danger. When you’re a small clouded leopard in the jungle, you know that you’re not always at the top of the food chain. There are other fanged things out there, big scary ones like tigers and leopards, so you have to be quiet because your physical strength is no match, even with little big saberteeth and a ghostly growl. When I go out people aren’t towering so much over me than they are broader and heavier. I used to get inadvertantly pushed a lot before I externalized my grumpy territorial kitty face. Invisible hackles raised, tense muscles, bold look. Don’t mess with me. I get harassed a lot less, and I still get to smile to the individuals who catch me eyes. I’m only snarly when I’m forced. It’s not an animal thing, it’s just human social behavior and looking confident enough to not be the prey. I have a lot of reasons to get in troubles, such as being female in a patriarcal and heteronormative society, being transgender and outwardly genderqueer, and such as – so it can get insecure at times and I have to watch out and be strong. Not many people know what it feels like to grow in this body and be read as weak and fragile, in addition to female, and how much it affects the behavior of those around you. Even you friends will be more likely to not take you seriously, taunt you gently and infantilize you, while they wouldn’t do it to people who almost “deserve” it just because they look somewhat more like a potential threat.
I love my body and how rooted I live in it though, and it’s Home to me. The feeling of appearing harmless when you know your strengths actually is quite interesting, almost empowering. I like being so light and intense and observant. A raven has no reason to fear bulls. Body is important and we animal folk should not aim to live so much out of it. Likewise I prefer writing about what it’s like to live in this urban human world instead of daydreaming about whatever wild place should be more suitable for me as an animal person. Where am I the most alive? What is Home? The City is, and all the adventures and travels around it.