We aren’t just travelers. We aren’t just passing through. We intend to stay a while, to settle, to make a home, to affect the life of a local, knowing full well we will never be, will never quite attain that lofty aspiration, try as we might. And even then, it will be some time getting there, to that enviable place. Down the road, forever over the next hill.
“There be monsters,” they warn in the blank spaces“Looking at Pittsburgh from Paris” by Jack Gilbert
of the old maps. But the real danger is the ocean’s
insufficiency, the senseless repetition throughout
the empty waters.
We get used to things. We are lulled by familiarity like a warm bath. It is a slow death. We bleed ourselves in the doldrums and the monotony of the everyday. We slowly slip under and drift away.
What is it about me? Why am I drawn to the blank spaces on the map, those faraway, unknown places guarded by the monsters of our imagination?
Why do I feel the emptiness most acutely when I’m at home—whatever the hell that means, as if it could ever really be a physical place.
I am restless. I am always wandering even when I’m standing still. But what about happiness? To be restless. To be happy. The two never conspired together. Though they may have occasion to greet one another, like two lonely travelers meeting in some dive at the edge of the world.
I sat down to write, cup of coffee in hand, the morning sunlight lapping at my feet. It was quiet, birds singing their summer songs, a slight breeze, and the Dog of Destiny napping beside me. I rocked us gently in the Adirondack-style rocker we’ve both grown so fond of. This was routine now that winter was in the rearview. Soon the rocker (a gift from the in-laws) will be disassembled and stored away for some future date, years and years down the road when finally we decide to leave the rambling life.
I’ve grown to cherish this morning solitude. It’s the only time of late I have to read and write and think, so much of the waking day being now devoted to our exodus.
But I’m finding it difficult to write having heard the news: Anthony Bourdain has died. He was somewhere in France filming his show for CNN. It was an apparent suicide. He was 61.
I never knew him, only knew the man he played on TV. Funny how you can feel a sense of loss for someone you never knew. But maybe I did know him, at least a little bit.
He was a wanderer like me. He was curious about the world. He set out to see it, as much of it as he could with the time he was given. And there was so much to see, an endless horizon of experience.
And the exotic delicacies he tasted in all those far away places, I suspect that wasn’t the point of it. The food was a pretext. Perhaps he never really knew what it was he was after. Or perhaps the act of exploration was an end in itself, a worthwhile pursuit given our limited time in this infinite universe.
He shared with us the great kaleidoscope of the human experience, its many overlapping shapes and colors. What did it mean? To show so many people (most of whom have never ventured very far from home) the world, at once grander and more intimate than they’d imagined?
All the wealth of this world, so little of it can be counted or hoarded by a privileged few, so much of it fleeting, existing solely as experience, and the stories we tell. In this sense, Anthony Bourdain was extraordinarily wealthy. He shared that wealth with all of us.
The sun’s higher in the sky now. The Dog of Destiny wandered off somewhere. I’ve spent the morning hours lost in thought (didn’t even get to working on my novel), but now it’s time to get to my ho-hum list of things to do. It’s miles long, the list, and a matter of weeks until we depart, so I guess I should end things as they are.
Guess I’ve never really been good at endings, nor at saying goodbye.