A little bit of heat makes food delicious,
but use too much and it burns
It's been a little bit since I last wrote in here. I haven't had to make a work trip in a couple of months as some larger projects took precedence. I'm back now, though, and I'm heading off again to see the sights and do some paperwork. Apologies if this journal entry feels a bit different than the last. I'm not sure if I liked the more narrative style I took with the last one, so I'm going to be trying some different things over the next couple of entries to see if I like them better.
This time around, I'm heading to a planet that's known for its beautiful mountain ranges, the largest of which is right near our local office. After the last trip, I've decided to stop researching the Cycles entirely before I go out. The anticipation and the surprise of the events are much more satisfying than just reading about them ever could be. I have heard a little bit about this planet before, but not enough to really spoil the fun. Anyway, the flight over is pretty long so I won't bore you with the details unless something interesting happens.
The flight was fine, and we saw some cool nebulas about halfway through, but nothing else of much note. You know, space, lots of nothing, with a lot of pretty somethings in between. But that's not the point of this journal, now is it? This isn't "Olivia's journal about all the boring flights she takes." It's "Olivia gives weird descriptions of fantastical events that happen in the universe on a regular basis." So anyway, onto the actual trip.
I got into town pretty late at night, so I couldn't do much on my first day here. I didn't seem to notice anything set up for the Cycle either. I got some dinner, just a quick slice of pizza, and now I'm at my hotel writing this. I've got a little bit of work to do tomorrow morning, and then I'm going to spend the rest of the day checking things out around town. The Cycle is in 3 days, so I've got plenty of time to get everything done that I need to and have a little bit of fun too.
Work was work, the usual stuff. Checking up on everyone's progress, making sure everything is up to the company's standards, and making sure everyone has what they need. Only took a couple of hours, most of which was just paperwork to document everything. Funny how we still call it paperwork even though it's all been done digitally for ages. But that's the thing about language, isn't it? Some stuff sticks around even after its original context has long since passed, leaving us with phrases that, while they don't mean what they used to, everyone still understands.
Sorry, I'm going on a tangent here, back to what you're here for. I finished up my work this morning and headed into town. The first order of business was finding some lunch. I debated going back to the pizza place I grabbed food from last night, but I came across a restaurant serving some delicious burgers. While I ate my food, a man sitting near me looked over and mentioned that I didn't look like a local. I gave him the same spiel I always give people when they ask, talking about my work and my interest in the Cycles. We chatted for a bit about the planet, and I made sure to ask him where I should be to see the Cycle happen. He just said "anywhere," and I'm not quite sure what to make of that to be honest.
I finished my lunch, thanked the man for the conversation, and went on my way back out into the town to keep exploring. It was mid-afternoon at this point, and the weather was clear. A beautiful day to just walk around. There were a few shops around selling the normal things people need for day-to-day life and a grocery store that I stopped into. Not much in the way of unique foods here, but they had all the essentials, including my favorite: Brussels sprouts. Continuing on, I found a few places selling artwork from local artists. I picked up a beautiful painting of the mountains at sunset, which I'm going to hang in my living room when I get home.
Now that I'm back at the hotel, the exhaustion from the flight yesterday and the walking I did today has finally hit me. I definitely need some sleep, so I'm going to get to doing that. I likely won't write more tomorrow since it will be a full day of work making sure all of our software is running right. "Fun," she thought to herself, sarcastically.
Today is the big day, and I have nothing else to do, so I get to spend the whole day walking around and embracing the new world I ventured into just a couple of days ago. I know I said leaving things to your imagination can be better, but I'm going to try to paint a picture here for you as an exercise in new writing techniques. I'm trying to see the world less analytically too, so this is serving double duty here.
I got out of bed and ate breakfast at the hotel, standard fare available anywhere. After finishing, I went out into the crisp morning. The Cycle occurs during this planet's equivalent of spring, so the weather is a little chilly, with a bit of mist in the air. The sidewalks are paved with cobblestones, reminiscent of older cities on Earth. The smell of food from the stalls in the nearby market wafts over to me. I began my morning walk with a trip around the market and town square, meandering from shop to shop. Passing the restaurants, breathing the aromas of the spices. Stopping into a flower shop and taking in all the colors and fresh, sweet scents of the bouquets on display.
Interestingly, I stopped by the same artist I purchased the painting from the other day, and their whole shop was dusted with a fine golden-colored powder. The light caught it in different ways as I perused the pieces, giving everything a subtle shimmer. I asked the artist about it, and he said that it was related to the celebrations for the Cycle. Now that was quite intriguing, so I had to strike up a conversation with him about his work and the Cycle.
He told me about how he was always into making art since he was old enough to pick up a crayon. His parents saw this and supported his passion, making sure he always had everything he needed to do his work. As he grew older and was nearly done with school, the school had an art show, and he got to show his pieces to a lot of people. The art show had a prize for the piece that got the most votes from the attendees. He really wanted to win; To him, it was the best way to prove that all his time was worth it.
He became very stressed, wanting to make his entry perfect. He spent days making attempt after attempt at this painting, always finding something wrong and starting over. His dad noticed that what once brought him joy was causing him pain.
"A little bit of heat makes food delicious, but use too much and it burns," his dad said. "Don't let your passion consume you, or your art will suffer."
He started over one more time, this time doing the best he could to ignore the competition. After a few hours, he had painted a beautiful landscape that he was proud of. In the end he won the prize, and while he was excited to have been recognized, he was more proud of what he had created. He said that he still struggles with his passion overtaking him, but every time he finds himself slipping into perfectionism, he imagines a stove. Making sure that the flame is high enough to cook, but keeping it in check so that it doesn't ruin the dish.
After that, the conversation continued on to which mountains were in which paintings and what the golden powder was for. He reiterated that it was related to the Cycle but that it's much better as a surprise. I thanked him for his time and bid him farewell while I continued on my walk.
It was more of the same for the rest of the day, meeting new people and seeing new sights. By sunset, I saw people setting up chairs in a large park a short distance from the town center. I joined them and took a spot on the grass, waiting for the Cycle to happen. Everyone had gathered, and we were all looking into the mountains and admiring the view. It was almost time, and it was beginning to get cold as night fell.
A few minutes later, I looked off into the horizon, and the peaks of the mountains began to glow. The tips all turned a deep red and seemed to melt away. The ground began to rumble as the light from the mountains brightened. The now white-hot lava exploded from the skyline and created massive plumes of molten rock. As the lava reached the clouds, it began to cool into clouds of warm, orange and yellow dust. These dust clouds began to spread out across the entire sky, even directly above us.
Gently, the clouds began to glide and twirl its way down to the ground. As pieces of the embers landed on me, I could feel they were warm but not hot enough to cause any pain. It felt like a hug as more and more made contact with my skin. The embers seemed to stick to everyone's skin and clothing, making us all glimmer.
After everything had settled, I noticed that people began to dance as music played, the shimmering dust tracing their movements. I joined them for some dancing and revelry. We all danced and sang for hours until the glow of the dust started to fade. Everyone said their goodbyes and packed up their chairs before heading home for the night.
I'm in my room now, and there's still some dust with a little bit of life left in it speckled around my clothes. Tonight made me feel like I was part of one big group of people, despite being an outsider. I often look on during Cycles, taking everything in but feeling like I'm a bit out of place. Here, those feelings all melted away, and I felt like I truly belonged. Nobody saw me as "not a loca"; I was just another person there to dance and sing and have fun. I think that's all I can say on this without getting too gushy here, and with that, I'll leave you all until my next entry.