Archive for August 12th, 2010

Homeward Unbound

Having just made solid friends with myself, upon hitting the road for my last day of driving, I was having significantly more trouble making friends with the reality of returning home.  Continuing to drive north through Virginia felt like pushing through an opposing magnetic field.  It did not draw me.  It repelled me.  Yet home I must go.  My baby girl-kitty, Sofia (still my baby at ~13 years old), has never been without me this long, and I am responsible both to and for her.  But she is the only pull homeward that I feel.  As I drive through the bright autumn air (the storm is long gone out to sea at last), I listen to my friend Molly singing “The Water is Wide” on her CD, and I am crying.  I’m crying a lot this day, it seems….   Even without Flora’s email of the morning, which I can’t quite seem to shake, I am all a-rattle, emotions flying about within me.  But Flora’s email got me thinking in a bookend kind of way about this trip, about all the different things it is and isn’t, and exploring what it means to me.  Running the gamut of emotions from angry and defensive, to proud, joyous, and victorious, to wistful and sad, I am realizing that this trip very much has been about me connecting with nature.  This came as a surprise to me – I hadn’t looked at it that way to start with, but I’d so come to see it that way.  My sensitivity to my geographical and atmospheric environs was rendered so patently clear on this journey, that without yet processing the “meaning” or “results” of the trip, I had been able to draw conclusions on that thousands of miles ago.

Unable to escape the questions raised by the morning’s email, I find myself contemplating the human relationships that have been maintained, sustained, and rekindled throughout this adventure.  The hard thing about being this wanderer that I am is that the people I love – and I keep finding new ones – are scattered so far away, that I can’t possibly be with my community in any ongoing day-in-and-day-out way, and that is a painful truth.  But to have love spread so far and wide that I can drive for 7,000 miles and really not go more than a few days (if I choose) without seeing somebody that I would like to see – that was also something of a surprise on this trip, and it was a huge boon.  While Walkabout may be about being solitary and spiritual, a huge part of the spirituality of my life is found in connection with other people.  My spirituality, my divinity, has been always found in nature, in singing and making music, and in love and connection with other people; so for me there would be no spiritual journey without coming into contact with that love and that connection.  While others may define terms as they please, it is clear that this is my spiritual journey.  And it’s got me crying my head off while driving 69 mph in Virginia.

It’s a beautiful day, and I’m still seeing the last of the fall color, some of which remains quite spectacular. (For the record, West Virginia had the best foliage so far.)  I am obviously dawdling going home:  I left Virginia a mere three or so hours from home, but find myself taking my time, and definitely feeling sad, and scared about what’s going to happen when I get home.  As I cross the border from Maryland (all ten minutes of it) into Pennsylvania, I have another soundtrack moment.  I am listening to the San Francisco Symphony’s Brahms Requiem, a recording I am actually singing on.  The flood of memories that comes with listening alone are intense; and as I drive into a fairly tight bend and come around the curve, the section “Tod, vo ist dein zieg” – “Death, where is thy sting?” sounds.  Thinking about those words, hearing the sweeping cadence of that line, I lean into the curve and all of a sudden see mountains off to the left again, in this vast, panoramic view of an endless range (granted, not the Rockies this time, but the Appalachians).  The range is long, all along my left in the distance, as far as the eye can see.  And I’m hearing “Tod, vo ist dein zieg,” a leaning, swooping musical line as I’m banking around this bend, facing this vista, and I’m just bawling, thinking suddenly about Daddy – surprise!  Perhaps heading home is bringing out all the accumulated, unprocessed, and untapped emotion of the last three weeks, triggered conveniently by the morning’s email.  But wow, ever more surprises!  This trip has been full of surprises.  Of the many things I could already say, if I had to characterize this Walkabout in a single word, it would be “surprising.”  And the emotion coming up like a geyser today after weeks of just being in a curious and exploratory mode, well, that came as rather a surprise as well.

Approaching Harrisburg near 4:00PM, I find that final turning eastward, back toward Philadelphia, so hard.  I’m struggling; I even have a moment when I feel like I’m having a little bit of a panic attack.  And then think “Whoa, I thought we left that behind in Utah!”  I just don’t feel like I’m going “home.”  I’m going back to Sofie and I’m going back to my house, but capital-H “Home” – that ever-foreign concept – feels like it’s out there somewhere, and that ain’t where I’m headed right now.  I try to just be with whatever thoughts and emotions are coming up, and not distract myself in the last hour or so of this trip, which is going to be very prosaic.  Driving east into rush-hour traffic, past familiar landmarks, could be any other daily commute.  The temptation to start making phone calls and critiquing traffic reports is there, and I need to resist that and remain in the space of this experience.  I already feel the creeping proof that the things you gain on these sorts of journeys are harder to sustain when you take them back to the same old conditions.  Which is why I need to keep writing; I need to write my way out of that.  This seems clear.  Also, ironically, I have been able to sing today, ironic considering how emotional I was (and that I’m still a little bit sick).  And I actually cried some while singing, which is nearly impossible.  I was having trouble singing on this trip across the board; I just physically didn’t feel up to singing a lot.  But today, I actually did, and in the morning was  feeling reconnected with the best of that.  Perhaps there is something about actually doing this writing that is providing parallel tracks of finding my voice, regardless of medium.

A typically exasperating rush hour managed to distract me from the coming-home drama, and I got back to the house after dusk and later than expected.  The house was mercifully clean (the housecleaners had come, yay!), but I couldn’t seem to find Sofie.  She didn’t come to the door as I’d expected, and I couldn’t find her in any of her normal hiding places.  Finally, she poured herself off of the cable box – a spot she’s started squeezing into lately – and for an hour straight, she yelled at me.  I gave her treats and began to unload the car.  My little sweetheart yelled at me, screamed for an hour (which I had certainly earned); but after she had a full belly, my sweet Sofie let me pick her up and drape her over my shoulder, where she remained longer than she ever has.  And then stayed glued to me for the rest of the night.  How I love this cat-who-thinks-she’s-a-dog; she does not punish me – she just wants to be with me now, and tell me how relieved and happy she is that I am home.  I hold her tightly, kiss her perfect little white head, and don’t argue with her by saying that “home” feels to me now to be at the steering wheel of the car.

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