Thursday, June 28, 2007

The road home

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home."
-Johann von Goethe

At some point on any journey you reach a place, even if you are traveling to the far side of the globe, when you realize that upon the next mile you'll no longer be moving away from but moving toward, that you're headed back to where you came from. Some years ago, after weeks of drifting westward from where we'd set out from Houston with a tent, sleeping bags and a cooler in my hatchback, my friend Sherry and I eventually hit the coast of California where we reckoned that apart from hiring a boat and heading for Hawaii, our continued travels could only lead us back toward where we'd started. Home.
When I was younger, before I had a home and family of my own, I loved to leave and never looked back. I never got homesick. I remember traveling with another friend who could only be away for so long before the comforts and familiarity of home called her to return, something incomprehensible to me at the time. I still thrill at the thought of setting off to somewhere new and unexplored, of leaving the known behind to encounter the great whatever. Every journey is a starting over, a new script being written as you go and anticipation for whatever may unfold before the curtain comes down.
Once I had my own family home morphed into something more than merely a place I was obliged to return to. Home became a tiny kingdom, a benevolent realm in which love, need, desire and support were mutually given and received. My presence or absence, its length and contours, mattered. Home no longer represented tedium from which to escape (OK, yes, on occasion family too requires its own escape, if only to gain perspective from which to newly appreciate it) but a place of grounding, history, purpose and hope. Flight from home is exhilarating; knowing a nest awaits your return, built of your feathers, is stunningly heartbreaking, in the best way.
On this return trip, after a two week visit to Texas, I was coming back to a place that is becoming, one year later, home. But with each mile that brought me closer to this spot in the middle of Missouri, I realized home is much more than the place where your key fits the front door lock. It's the people who are waiting with hearts wide open you when you walk in the door.

Monday, June 11, 2007

With apologies to all things green

Some folks I know rue the century of their births and wish they'd been hatched in another, more exotic era. I know more than one person who longs to have lived among the petticoats and railroads of the nineteenth century and others who'd have chosen to be deposited somewhere European in the age of chivalry or upon the isles of the ancient philosophers. With the acknowledgement that every century dispenses its fair share of bloodshed and atrocities, plagues and tyrants, I'm quite happy to have been born of the twentieth century: the century of highways and radio. I often wonder, as I did yesterday while landscapes morphed from hills to plains and favorite songs on my ipod provided a custom "the hills are alive" soundtrack as my gas guzzling car sped west, at what deep pleasure I would have missed had I lived before the advent of cars and highways on which to fly them. I have crisscrossed the country at various times in my life, alone and untethered to anything but the road rolling out before me in all manner of exotic locales. It was in my car that I fell in love with the expanse that is America. In what prior century could a woman safely and freely devour thousands of whatever miles she chose, ingesting mountains, beaches, prairies and badlands for merely the cost of the gas in her car? I find supreme pleasure in speed and wind resistance. Good: bikes, skates, parasailing. Better: cars, sailboats, waterskis, snowskis, snowmobiles, atvs, motorcycles, horseback. But a road trip offers the longest dose of wind in your face as well as an altered sense of proportion and distance, and ongoing discovery. The road has taught me much about myself, my place in time, the opportunities I take for granted and what it took to achieve them.

The pleasure of the open road remains but is tinted now with perpetual guilt amassed from what unnecessary travel costs the environment to the direction of world events involving fuel. Who knows what curtailment of optional travel might arise in this twenty-first century due to gas prices, gas shortages, global warming, terrorism, etc. Hitting the road whenever you feel like it might one day become the very thing that provokes someone in a distant time to grow misty for a century they can only wish they'd inhabited.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

My poem on Verse Daily!

Click the link above and read my poem "Something in my eye" in The Southern Review.