The Travelers

Nearly twenty years ago I packed everything I owned into a little 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier and said good-bye to my family in Georgia. There were tears in my eyes as I looked in the rearview at Small Town, U.S.A and my stomach felt as if a gymnast had taken up residency. I was leaving everything I had ever known to be familiar.

I won’t go into the reasons why I had to move on, but I had five-hundred miles and eight hours in front of me to reach my destination. When I arrived at my new home in Florida, I parked my car under the Spanish moss draped oaks and walked past the bromeliads blooming phallic red and purple plumes along the path. A giant luminescent-green grasshopper and dozens of tiny yellow frogs greeted me at the door. The house was empty and the only sound came from a clock ticking on the wall. That sound would be my greatest comfort for the next three years.

I spent those three years writing poetry, painting pictures, and learning the computer. There was a huge void in my soul that has not entirely dissipated in all these twenty years. And yet, I thought of the immigrants who left behind their world in search of a better life worlds away and felt truly blessed. But my plight was trivial by comparison.

I had family here. I had a career that promised a means of self-support. I had shelter. I had food. And I didn’t need clothing; after all, my landing place was a nudist community. But it WAS as if I had dropped off the edge of the earth onto another planet.

We are all travelers. It’s not enough to think of our ancestors who came to this country in search of a better life. It’s not enough to think of our ancestors who slaved, and fought wars to secure their new homeland. We need to embrace those who seek refuge within our borders today. We share one world.

The Statue of Liberty is most often associated with immigration. Many did come through Ellis Island on their way here, and many of us, including my own children, would not be here today if that had not happened. It’s a symbol of hope and new found freedom.

There are others, though, who came on slave ships, crossed dangerous deserts, drifted through the perilous seas to make their way here. They weren’t promised freedom and were abused and mistreated. They labored and lobbied their way to freedom, and still do. They are us, too.

While I commend anyone for trying to access legal citizenship in this country, I recognize, also, how nearly impossible and time-consuming our bureaucracy has made the process. I have friends here and across the States who have been working for decades to achieve what we take for granted.

The hate spewing memes and posts circulating social media spitting bile at illegal aliens and undocumented workers make me ashamed to be an American. Talk of building walls, deporting all members of a religious faith, and killing women and children make me nauseous. And the comments under these posts make me cringe. Have we no social conscience? Have we really forgotten who we are?

There’s a man who sculpts statues that seem to make the Statue of Liberty such a small thing by comparison. His name is Bruno Catalano, and like the designer of the Statue of Liberty, he is a native of France. A fascinating series of sculptures called “Travelers” depict people setting out on their journey with suitcase in hand and the center of their bodies missing. It’s as if that hole is their lost self, and they’ve set out to rediscover it. I’d like to leave you with his images of who we are:

The Travelers


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Images are from Bruno Catalano and you can see more of his work at this link.


38 thoughts on “The Travelers

  1. Those statues are amazing every time I see them. You make an excellent point that everyone is a traveler. At some point, most people have to move to a ‘new life’. It might not be the most harrowing or longest journey in human history, but it’s the only way to grow.

  2. We are ALL immigrants. Every last one of us. (Well, except anyone who happens to be a Native American Indian). I get so upset when I hear these words of hate. Acceptance and tolerance seem to be ‘dirty’ words today. Yes, I’m white. Yes, I’m privileged. But neither of those things make me better than anyone else. Nor does it give me the right to treat anyone with anything less than dignity and respect.

    • My grandfather’s father took a Cherokee woman for a wife, so I guess I’m a little of both. I’ve never seen myself as privileged, but by some people’s standards, I suppose that I am. Dignity and respect, yes, those are two very human qualities that many seem to have forgotten across the spectrum, both in minority and majority circles. You often speak of kindness and that’s exactly what we all need more of. Simple acts of kindness.

      • Kindness goes a long way. I think most of us are privileged. We have a safe place to live, we have food whenever we want it (usually too much and too often), and we can do most things (within reason) that we want without fear of rejection, retaliation, or recrimination. In my mind, that is white privilege.

        • That’s true. I don’t know how to be any color other than what I am and I don’t know how it feels to be any color than what I am. I do know that I live a life of privilege, but that has not always been the case. Being raised in foster care, with families and foster siblings of every color and class, I suppose I really don’t know white privilege like some would. I knew discrimination. I knew what it was like to be poor and afraid. But even then, I only knew what it was like to be white, poor and afraid. I cannot begin to know what it is like for people of color or another culture. I’m sending you an email to let you know what’s going on these days, so you won’t worry too much if you see me going off on an emotional rail against the world.

  3. My own last time with bag in hand is not very fitting, it was 31.12.2014 around 5 pm, when I made my way from my former life into the urban homeless ordeal. But that is not my point here.

    Your article reminds a great nation of what it had cost to make it great, not just huge or large. And I think that is a worthy call, liberty and tolerance are not god-given, but hard-labored-for achievements. Like dreams realized they are made real due all the people who do more than merely ‘Going for the Green (US Dollar)’.

    My regards


    • Thanks for reading, Andre. It’s good to see you here. I like to believe we are a great nation, but I fear the way we are representing ourselves to the world is wrong. I do blame the media for seeking out the sensational. Very few in this country live like billionaires and most are on some sort of government assistance to keep their heads above water, and the ones who aren’t are too quick to condemn those who are. Peace.

  4. The “hate” on FB since Trump decided to run for President is disgraceful. Anyway, I love Bruno Catalano’s work. I’ve only ever seen one or two of these. Thanks for sharing the entire collection. He’s so talented.

  5. Powerful post, Susan, and the sculpture is amazing and powerful, as well. Thank you for sharing it.
    I am also saddened and appalled by the hate-filled rhetoric (as you probably know) that seems to be everywhere.

    (BTW, were your ears burning? Marian Beaman and I were talking about you yesterday. We passed a sign that said “No public nudity,” and it made us think of your stories of your family’s nudist camp.) 🙂

  6. It seems we are all agreeing here – post and photos fantabulous. I believe I’ve seen this sculptor before but not so close up and personal. The line that really resonated with me: “It’s as if that hole is their lost self, and they’ve set out to rediscover it.” That’s the power of art which you portray here so beautifully.

    To follow up on Merril’s timely comment: We were walking on Chincoteague Island, VA when we saw the “Public Nudity Prohibited” sign just above a Speed Limit 20 posting. Ha!

    • Local community ordinances have been at war with the Feds about our public beaches for decades. You’ll see Federal signs at the national beaches warning that you are about to encounter nudity right along local signs saying it’s prohibited. The locals always fine people, but they go to court and the Federal law overrules the local. I’m not an everyday practicing nudist. I like to swim nude in my own private back yard, but I’m not comfortable with the gawkers at public beaches. The resort is nice, though, cause it’s the norm and people have etiquette.

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