I remember sitting at the kitchen table, next to my dad. I am seven, I think. At least no older than eight, which I know because I remember the room, the house, the table, the yellow kitchen tile, and I was just about to turn nine when we left here. I am sitting next to him at the table and watching him, as he takes a yellow marker and highlights out the route on a large map, an atlas, making the path from where we lived, middle of the Midwest, to the Ozark Mountains and the Blue Campground. He is explaining maps to me, and roads, how you choose which ones to take, when going a distance. He is telling me how long it takes, what this many miles translates to when driving, when it comes to hours and having to stop a lot because there are four kids in the back of the station wagon. He has hair still, not yet all the way bald, and his head is bent over the map, which is sprawled out on the table, where we both sit. And maybe more than any other time in my childhood, I feel close to him, and I know we are somehow the same.
Because I have always, in some way, been tracking distances, what it is to go, to travel, from one place or state, to another.
I have lived many places. And then, there are all the other places. The ones traveled to and through, and sometimes I knew where I was going and sometimes all I knew was that I needed to go, and there was no real arrival because destination was irrelevant. It was just time to leave, to wander, to see things, to get so lost in unknowns, that whenever I found my way back, I would be altered. Because there is the place itself, wherever and whatever it might be. And then there is the traveling. I am madly in love with both.
“some places i have traveled”
- upstate new york. how I kept singing the james taylor line from sweet baby james the whole way there. “oh the berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of that frosting, with ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go”. in the woods, where we stayed in the cabin, with the screened in porch. sat there smoking cigarettes and building fires, and when the palms touched the rough skin of trees, sap stuck to my hands and did not leave for days.
- amsterdam. prague. holland. crossing borders, passports stamped. not knowing anyone, when i arrived, and seeing who i would meet and end up having coffee with, and then, they would show me the most wonderful things. these ordinary but wildly wonderful things. and this was when i realized that in being a foreigner, in “not belonging”, i was somehow free.
- all those summers, that my family drove to colorado. the hours in the car, the one bag we each were allowed to bring. the way i knew we had arrived there because all the houses had sprinklers outside, and the tttttttt tte tte tte tttttttt sound that i can remember in my mind, always. the red rocks, and mountains, and how my grandmother’s yard was filled with iris.
- berlin. the wall in pieces. and the dark beer. and the life, oh my, the life. it was so very alive there, then. and the torn brown jacket i was wearing. and the place, with the sign but no awning, and the green fairy, and the dark streets where we could see our breath in the cold, when we walked outside and found each other.
- traveling to the unknowns underwater, and into and back out of the woods.
- mexico. mexico. mexico.
- traveling down the alter, in a church with exposed brick, a white dress and evergreen and candles. traveling downtown to the courthouse, the day we got divorced. sitting there on the el, and all those people and none of them knew what had just happened, and i knew i had no idea where they had just come from, or where they might be going, and we were all just here, living our lives, soaring or limping through, brave and afraid. and then traveling to third coast, having a last glass of wine and saying good-bye. there are so few real and true and good good-byes. that was one of them.
- traveling up trees, when i was a child. that was where i explored and crossed distances, as high up as i could go. lost in trees. found in trees. tangled in trees. my skin was usually scratched and patched up, from knotted branches in the descent. and in those trees, i left everything i knew, and i planned for all the places i would one day go.
- the long drive west. for days and days we drove. the dakotas. montana. idaho. oregon. stopping at diners at night, eating biscuits and gravy and drinking weak coffee. staying in roadside motels. the wide open stretches of land. road that went forever. windows down and the air was dry, and my hair was a storm, and i had just left everything behind, and it was all i ever wanted.
- to the hospital, where he was born only hours later. that distance. that trek. that journey that was as far inside myself as i had gone, and then back out again. the drive, contractions close together, and how i remember seeing things, noticing everything, and all the neon, the statue outside the church, how all of it felt like arrows.
- hostels and college dorm rooms, in budapest, czechoslovakia, , slovakia. sitting around tables with strangers, laughing, and listening to german pop music. eating soup with chicken feet in it, at his parent’s house. walking the streets. for hours and hours, just walking. seeing. churches and stone, and a little shop that sold block puzzles with pictures of fairy tales on them, and the curtains on the store front looked like they had been dyed in tea.
- ruins. dilapidated building. abandoned places and spaces.
- driving down south. a truck and a pair of boots and iced coffee. feeling the heat turn more and more humid, and the people sitting out by the road, outside their houses, and how they would talk to me, and want to know where i was from, and next thing you knew, i was hearing all about their cousin who once lived in chicago, and was being pointed in the direction of where i should go next. and then the quiet, the most wonderful quiet of night, in the complete dark.
- churches. synagogues. mosques. bars. libraries. homemade pasta, and food trucks and cocktails with glamorous names. when i am out in the world, surrounded by all the faces, traveling, i always want to know things. like where do you eat? and how do you pray?
- new parts of my own city, whole neighborhoods i had never been to. and how next thing i knew, i was there, in her kitchen, and she was teaching me how to make baklava, the chopped nuts and honey turning into a doorway, into knowing a life different than my own.
- inside. outside. it’s the seeing. i want to see things. i want edge and i want center. i want to know where my own stories reside, and how and where they intersect with the world around me. i want to listen, and to learn. i want to show up, and be here, take my place as belonging, and say thank you.
- to france, lourdes. for pilgrimage. to mexico, guadaloupe. for pilgrimage. to los angeles and an apartment with a bedroom all of white. for pilgrimage.
- the thrift store in amhurst. the student and faculty party in boston. the lighthouses in maine and the nearly abandoned boardwalk in rhode island because it was winter and cold. the beaches of north carolina, outer banks they call it, seashells of black and white. island of the women. islands off seattle. manhattan. and a mountain in new york that i’m working my way back to.
- into love and beds and homes. colliding into sanctuary and bodies and the wanted seclusion of never needing to leave because in those moments, the whole world is right here, and nothing else matters then.
and out into a world again, alone. the loss so great, because the emptiness takes up its own space, the one they used to occupy. but without their face in front of you, the whole world is there, and this too is a falling in love, with just the aching and bleeding of being here, so alive.
- in dreams. in imagination. in asking questions. in going where i have never been. in having no answers, only a willingness to show up and see what is there, and be amazed or uncomfortable, but eyes open, seeing.
- to here. i have traveled, my whole life, i have fought and loved, to here. now.