When I was in grade school, a favorite ritual to put myself to sleep was to circle my bed with my menagerie of stuffed animals, each with very specific, long names and assigned personalities, and I would pretend that we were camped in some remote part of the wilderness. I conjured up the howls and shrill cries of bears, coyotes and wolves surrounding us, taking comfort in our safe mobile cabin as we savored our protected corner of a hostile universe.
Since I spend a third to half of each year on traveling, I often conjure up that distant memory and am still compelled to find that tiny corner of safety and comfort amid the transient, chaotic waters, skies and horizons that I navigate any given week. In the midst of a crowd of annoying fellow travelers – such as the enormous, sweating man in the middle seat on the SFO-Denver flight on Monday – I close my eyes, take intentional deep breaths and go back to that place, the proverbial home at the end of the world to borrow from Michael Cunningham.In my many travels, the recurring revelation or, more appropriately, reminder is how little I need in life I need to feel grounded. I feel greater affinity with the mobile house plant than the grounded sequoia since I too can easily take my roots to whatever destination my currents plants me. It has been years since anyplace has felt glaringly foreign, except for the supposedly familiar landscape of my native Midwest. The people I grew up with seem so far removed from any of my current realities, and the local landscape itself bears little resemblance to what is lodged in my memory. It felt as alien when I was growing up there as it does now – such as this and next week as I am stuck here for a conference. The sprawling development, oppressive mixture of unrelenting hot days and chilly over air conditioned venues leave me dizzy in this nature denying environment. I despise the heat and when indoors feel like a fading head of iceberg lettuce left a week to long in the display case at an Albertstons.
Gong through the long process of losing my parents and now dismantling their estate makes these trips even odder. Since putting the house on the market and fairly much emptying the place through an estate sale, their place seems increasingly odd and alien. All that is left that suggest any semblance of habitation is the bed my sister has left for me to stay over the weekend. She even took the care to pull out a few familiar, welcoming items such as the above featured butterfly quilt that likely covered me as a tot conjuring up those mobile home fantasies.
Home has certainly ceased to be a place that involves welcoming parents, even if I hold onto it in my memories. I’ve made relative peace with return to a house of my own where all that greets me besides the cat are stacks of mail, a litter box begging to be emptied and furniture begging to be dusted or brushed free of fur. When I have had a mate, a common sign that things are nearing their end are how I am greeted upon return from a journey. There are few things as humbling as knowing that your significant other is somewhere in the city to which you are returning while you take the shuttle to the offsite parking or public transit, making the final steps to the front door as the only sound heralding your return is the lonely whirl of the wheels of your suitcase echoing into the late night air. The only thing worse than returning to a musty, dusty smelling house is one where every system of order you left behind seems to be awry as you look for evidence of your presence being violated during your journey. My loneliest moments have not come during passages of solitude, but during those dysfunctional days of a relationship when a step through the door spotlighted every reason it was time to fly solo once more in my own nest.
Having made that journey so many times, I am lately finding myself wanting more than the overflowing litter box and stacks of ValuPack coupons and pre-approved credit card offers welcoming my return. The prospects of being home for an extended period of time are slim in the years ahead, but I find myself longing increasingly for the face that lights up as I near the meeting point at the far end of the United terminal.
Labels: Lazy Acres, longing, travel