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  • Tessa Forde


I walked along the waterfront this morning, and in the mid morning light it is like there is a thin film of sky over the surface of the ocean, between the water and the air above. It is like looking at a mirror sideways.  Vina works in rhythms, the roads are deadened or rushing, the waves roll in close to the shore, carrying the wind. In the evenings the hawks cut lines between apartment balconies, the gulls cry and cry. 

I am already finding that the things that seemed so strange and so new and so beautiful are transitioning into the mundane of the every day. The invisible. Apartment ledges bursting with potted flowers; street stalls at the waterfront; the violet of the hills at sunset; the wild packs of family dogs roaming (and occassionally foaming); the footpaths that step up and up and over until they stop at a sudden drop, the street metres below; and the hills layered and stacked in piles of materials, some resembling homes, some marking out walkways, slides and walls covered in paint. And of course the way the light bends as it hits everything, always seeming to come from the side, always aglow. 

I go between Vina del Mar, orderly and facing the sea; the architecture school, a mollusc on the cliff edge; Spanish class in Valparaiso, where the street barely contains its edges, the markets spill out, the students do too, and the port cinches the city’s edge, trying to keep it all from collapsing into the ocean; and Ciudad Abierta or Open City, wild and true, dunes curved like hips, pines making the shadow of a shoulder blade, a softness, a longing. 

This time I feel familiar here, I know the streets, the systems. I can read signs in Spanish (though the words still get caught around my tongue, coming out wrong). I can’t get lost, which in a way, feels like a loss. I am buying fruit and vegetables at the markets, and off men on the sidewalk, cooking every day. I am reading on the micro as it swings and lurches. 

Last Wednesday we visited Ciudad Abierta for the second time, and for the welcome ritual. While we waited for it to begin, we cut a line through the dune plants and across the train tracks to the beach. The ocean was knotted with seafoam, and Concon crowded over the coast in the distance. 

This year we gathered around a series of wooden poles, arranged in a rectangular grid on the slope of the large dune that slumps into the sports fields. The moment before the action is in some ways the most profound. The possibilities for what we will do next are infinite, the materials, arranged on the sand, are the building blocks of day dreams and imaginings. Further wooden poles, each with a piece of PVC pipe strapped to its end, each tied to another with a piece of long rope, were to be filled with coloured chalk, carried by two people - one on each end - looped around the upright wooden poles and shaken in two simultaneous arcs of differing radii, the chalk marking the path of each person in the sand. 

Tonight the fog is floating in. The sea darkens to meet it, before fading. 

When the fog clears the sun catches on the edge of waves in sharp flashes. It pulls light out of the sea.

A port harbour, so familiar, but this one without edges, just a disappearance, the feeling of endlessness, the spectre of the unknown that haunts the ocean, usually with the appearance of a fog, and the velvet darkness of the horizon after the sun has burned away. 

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