…wherever you go…
…but the view…
…is always different…
All in one day. Images of the western sky.
Far and fast, s.
“Look at life through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror” ~Byrd Baggett
It seems like lately I’ve been having the same conversation with lots of people in my life. It goes something like this:
Person Who’s Just Been Brought Up To Date: “Wow, you’ve been traveling for almost a year?! That must be amazing. You must have had the most amazing time. I bet it was glamorous and wild and amazing. What was it like?!”
Me: “It was… amazing?”
Of course, the truth is that it’s been both amazing and awful. Sometimes one, sometimes the other, often both mixed together in the way that can occur only during travel. Beautiful Scottish ocean; ugly Scottish tick that bit me and gave me Lymes. Lovely friends on the way from here to there; awful jet lag and plane-air-induced cold that I brought with me. Gorgeous Portland weather; awful Everywhere Else weather. Being on the go for a year; being on the go for a year.
“Should I be worried about this Traveling Shanna?” another friend asked, and I thought for a long time before I answered her.
“No,” I said. “I’m almost done with this Traveling Shanna.”
That’s true, actually, but maybe I didn’t realize it until I wrote it. For me, one of the great joys of travel is coming home to nest. But, without a nest, that’s impossible, and thus after a while, travel begins to feel less and less like joyful experience and more an more like I’m endless, rootless, uprooted.
April 1 is the end of Chapter 37. On April 2nd, I’ll turn 38, and this chapter of my life will have ended, whether I’m ready or not (although something tells me that I will be). On that day in April, I’ll be at a month-long writing retreat, tucked away from the world on twelve acres of land with nothing to distract me but a friendly dog and some chickens. That feels appropriate somehow, as does my current plan to spend the summer teaching writing in Portland (Segue: I am looking for a cheap, furnished room or a housesitting opportunity in Portland for the months of May and June, by the way, so please give me a holler if you know of anything). I don’t know where I’ll go or what I’ll do after that — Chapter 38 is very much still a blank piece of paper — but I know whatever it is, it’s going to be amazing.
“So you’re homeless now?” one friend asked recently, squinting slightly.
“I would say I’m more…. homefree,” I responded. “Like carefree, only not.”
And that’s true too. There’s nothing easy about life, whether you have a home or don’t. Whether you’re traveling or aren’t. It’s never going to be carefree. But it can be free from a lot of other things, if only you’re willing to let go.
So, for those six remaining readers who I have NOT turned off from their desire to travel the world, here is a fantastic article on how to make what I’m doing into what you’re doing: Ten Ways North America Prevents You From Traveling. It’s all true, and it’s good advice for those of you who want to get on the road and go.
Far and fast, s.
“This sensual yearning for knowledge, this insatiable wanderlust, this long desire.” ~Anatole France
The current space where I’m living, sleeping, dreaming, reading, writing and listening to the kitties and the friend move around their lives downstairs. I love this sun-filled attic space. Tomorrow morning I leave it for browner pastures and deep red bed sheets.
Far and fast, s.
“The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late.” ~Ogden Nash
Sunset at the Oregon Coast, near Rockaway Beach.
First I came to Portland.
Then I came home.
Then I was sick.
Then I was still sick.
Then I was better.
Then I went to the Oregon Coast to teach a writing class.
Then I was much better.
Then I was standing on the edge of the world, my feet disappearing into the ocean, the sun disappearing into the ocean, my worries and fears and sickness disappearing into the ocean.
The ocean can take a lot of grief.
I heard it all night long, carrying everything I’d given it, coming back for more.
Far and fast, s.
[Part of a series of e-mail poems written on the fly after meeting friends for breakfast in Portland]
Three Muses & Baby
It should be a painting, this,
done in oils and framed gilt,
some old man holding a horse-hair brush
to say, “hold it,” while he captures
the way sunlight frames each face.
Three woman and child at breakfast,
picking the blue out of pancakes, the
sugar out of seeing each other after
so long. I’ve been gone a year.
Everything–this diner, north’s highlight
of grey and brown and blond curls,
the boy who was a babe and now
wants everything in his mouth, his fists,
his fat, sticky fingers–everything is captured.
It’s been seven years since we were new.
Did we do this then, and would our faces
look the same under this artist’s hand?
“Did you find love in Texas?” one asks
and the only thing I’ve found
is a cold and lust and a dog that licks
my face awake. It is not enough, never.
But it is everything that I can fold inside the
guilted, ramshackle easel that holds me up.
And then it is time to go, and the painter says
wait, one more brushstroke, before he turns us
to face us: three woman and baby,
captured prayer of what we might become
given pancakes and oils and the right light.
Far and fast, s.
For want of a better title (and a picture), the blog post was lost? Nah, not really. Instead, I give you this video of “Long Time Traveller” from the Wailin’ Jennys, shot in Portland.
So, I have arrived in Portland. Green. Green. Joyous Green. I had forgotten how I missed that smell. Pine and pungent basil and dirty, wet grass and the underhang of ferns and the moistness of moss.
I did arrive here without my camera cord, so while I’m taking lots of photos, I don’t yet have a way to download them. So I’ll have to do an “all-photos-all-the-time” post as soon as I get a cord.
In the meantime, you can catch me wandering the paths of this town, places worn-weary by my feet years ago that are now laying themselves down to my re-touch like old lovers. I’m kitty-sitting and house-sitting. I’m walking. I’m remembering what it’s like to have too many choices for good food and great coffee. I’m stuffing myself with vegetables and fish. I’m here. I’m here.
Far and fast, s.
I’m a long time travelling away from home
I’m a long time travelling here below
To lay this body down
~Wailin’ Jennys, Long Time Traveller
When you get on a plane, what’s the first thing you do? Stick your nose in a book and throw on your iTunes? Or begin a conversation with the person next to you? Do you hope no one sits near you, or is your favorite part of traveling those conversations that happen spontaneously and the connections that are made? Do you like having a travel companion, or do you prefer to trek out into the world alone?
A lot of your answers to those questions have to do with whether or not you’re an introvert.
I, in case you may not have noticed, am an introvert. Through and through. For a long time, though, I didn’t know that. I thought there was something wrong with me. I didn’t really like parties. I rarely wanted to “go out.” Even though I liked people, a lot, I didn’t necessarily want to hang out with them all the time. Sure, dinner and a movie. Game night. Out for drinks once in a while. All great. But if I have social obligations more than once a week (or even less than that, to be honest) and I start to feel stressed out about going out yet again. Like I said, it’s not that I don’t like people . It was that after a while, I just start getting exhausted. I would be turning down friends and invitations, and always felt bad about it, especially when they thought that I didn’t like them, or didn’t want to spent time with them.
All those years, I didn’t assume I was introverted, though — after all, I’m a bit shy (okay, a lot), but I was social and had lots of friends. Thus, I was pretty sure there was something wrong with me.
After all, there is this whole idea in our culture that spending lots of time socializing is good for you. That those people with close extended family and friends live longer and are happier. Pshaw, I say! No, I’m kidding, of course. But I do wonder sometimes if socializing really is good for introverts, or if that’s just another one of those “Myths of Health” that get spouted around without much research. I love those that I love — and I love them just as much (sometimes more) when I’m not with them. I sometimes thought, “If I don’t become more social, I’m going to be unhealthy, unhappy and I’m going to die young.”
And then I heard someone say something along these lines: “Extroverts get energy from being around people; Introverts get tired from being around groups.” Bam. Oh. I get it. I am an introvert.
And I came across an article recently that reminded me of this once again. Although the article isn’t about travel specifically, I found it especially enlightening for that purpose: The Top 5 Things Every Extrovert Should Know About Introverts.
Here are a couple of key points that he touches on that are especially true for me:
As to traveling, I don’t mind traveling alone. In fact, I like it a lot. But I also like one-on-ones. That, to me, is interesting and fun and doesn’t feel like an exhausting crowd. On the other hand, the thought of staying at a bed-and-breakfast where I’m expected to sit around the table and small talk with strangers — before I’ve even had coffee?! No thank you. And yet, I’ve traveled with friends and stayed with near-strangers (Hi, Nikki’s fantastic family!) who I adored, and who I’m so glad to have in my life.
So, what do I do when I get on an airplane? I stick my nose in a book and I throw on my headphones. Why? In retrospect, it’s probably because I am afraid of the small talk that is in the future. I know, I just know, that I’m missing out on meeting some amazing people — you never know who’s sitting next to you — but I just can’t bring myself to expend the energy. And the truth is, I’d rather spend that time doing what I love and recharging my batteries so that when I arrive wherever I’m going, I have lots of social energy saved up for those friends and family members that I adore.
Introvert? Yes. Anti-social? No.
I’m very much looking forward to spending time (in small increments, of course) with loved ones back in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be the girl getting off the plane, tucking her book back in her bag and pulling her headphones out of her ears, preparing to break out of her shell. If only for a few hours.
Far and fast, s.
ADDENDUM: How cool is this? Forwarded to me from Nikki, who found it after she read my post. The Joys of Solitude.
PS — Me thinks a lot of writers are introverts. Case in point:
“I have never found a companion so companionable as solitude.” ~Henry David Thoreau
“Conversation enriches the understanding; but solitude is the school of genius.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Birds’ nests in trees. I missed getting a picture of the turtle, because he got scared of me and my lostness.
I got lost yesterday. It’s been a long time since that happened. After all, it’s pretty hard to get lost in a city, even one the size of Forth Worth. But I managed it. Shocker, I know. See, there’s this pretty park that follows the river. It’s between the coffee shop and the couch, the two places where I spend most of my time. I like to walk it when I have time, but it’s a winding convoluted park that borders apartment complexes and houses and I don’t know what all else. There are little maps on signs, but they confuse those of us who aren’t good at GPSing our way through things. Mainly because the part that says “You Are Here” is rather big and the part that says, “Go here,” doesn’t point in the real direction one is supposed to go (like, for example, if you wanted to go straight ahead, the sign tells you to go sort of southwest). Also, the sign is designed by someone using drugs who is also sleep-deprived, because there is a lot of Point A, Point B, Point 4 stuff going on. So if you want to get from Point A to Point 20, you must stop at Points L, 11 and Apple in between. It breaks my brain (pictures of this map-mess to come, next time it stops raining long enough for me to trudge back into the Land of the Lost).
Thus, I found myself wandering around, trying to make my way from the coffee shop where I’d started to the couch where I wanted to end up. The walk is usually about an hour, as the crow doesn’t fly (meaning: main roads), but it also is loud, dirty, car- and catcall-filled, and boring. Enter park.
Exit part. After 80 minutes of walking and … where was I? Two blocks away from where I’d entered said park. I walked for an hour and a half and landed, yes, two blocks away from the path where I’d started. The only good news was that I was on a street I knew, and the bus was destined to arrive in less than five minutes.
The park was cool, by the way. I saw a turtle treading water in the runoffy, manmade river, as well as some geese and ducks. A nice man jogged by me and said hello. I found a “lake” with a big fountain in the middle of it and a playground. I got a solid walk in, even if the last twenty minutes of it were marred by my concern that I was not going to find my way home. And, I made the bus just in time.
I miss getting lost. There’s something awesome and incredibly comforting about the moment that comes after, that joyous moment of “I know where I am!” And at least temporarily feeling like, yes, you do know not only where you are, but where you are going.
Far and fast, s.