Joy: A Waterlogged Travel Log

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Morning joy and dance in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Yesterday I put my feet in the ocean for the first time in over a year. Technically it was the Potomac river, but it had sand and seashells and strong waves and felt like the ocean except for the fact that you could see land on the other side of the water.

A few days ago while camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I encountered a fog so thick I had to stop driving.

When I go to bed every night, my sheets feel damp and the pages of my book are clammy.

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Mist in the Blue Ridge Mountains

I’m still drinking water like I’m in the desert. I’m visiting lots of public bathrooms.

In short, water is everywhere. I keep warily eyeing the trees and ponds and rivers that I see now on a daily basis. I don’t trust them. I half expect them to disappear. I suppose after four years in the desert, I can’t quite let myself believe that I am really back in the forests to stay. That no one is going to make me leave.

That I may once again think that it is unremarkable to be surrounded by green things.

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Road signs

A funny thing happens when you travel. You re-learn how to say “yes,” and also how to say “no.”

“Why yes, I will stop to take that photo.”

“Sure, why not check out a honky tonk bar?”

“Awesome, that exit looks like it has something cool to check out!”

“No, I will not go back to your apartment with you.”

“Nah, I don’t need to pay that much to sit in some hot water.”

“Thanks for the invite, but I think I’ll enjoy some alone time today.”

The words “yes” and “no” are our basic markers as we navigate our day-to-day lives. We can choose to get off at exit 1A, or we can choose to stay on I-40 for another 7.2 billion years.

NM2VT_7_TN IMG_0788 bw squareYet when we are at home with our friends and our routines, the opportunity to shape our day by choosing one option over another isn’t always as pronounced. At home, our days can feel driven by obligation, or expectation, or sheer habit. On the road, every moment feels like a momentous choice.

Texas: YES.

Arkansas: YES.

Tennessee: YES.

Adventures: YES.

Spending a rainy day inside this hostel with tea and grad school application essays: YES.

Remembering to live in the moment: Oh, yeah… I mean, YES.

Our Books Show Who We Are: Adventures in packing a teeny car

For over a week I have been having trouble sleeping. I am awake at 2 a.m., envisioning where in my tiny Hyundai I will put my camping gear, or the huge cooler my friend Jessie got for me at a thrift store, or my box of audio cables. I even made a diagram. 

Car is packed

All packed!

So, even though I still have three more full days in New Mexico, I packed the car today. Minus a few boxes of beloved books, it all fits – and thank goodness for media mail. Now I get to live out of my car for a few days to test out the system. 

One of the homecoming milestones I am most looking forward to is reuniting my two libraries – the one I have built here in New Mexico, and the one that is still at my parents’ house in Vermont. The one I have developed here started with a handful of novels and Harold Bloom’s beauty of a book. Since then, it has turned into a small collection containing texts of anthropology, midwifery, labor support, osteology, and feminist theory. My library in Vermont is very different: classic literature, theatrical plays, YA fiction.

These two collections tell volumes (pun intended) about who I have been during different chapters of my life. The girl who left Vermont at age 18 is not the woman who is returning at age 25. I want to know what these two libraries look like side by side on the shelves. I am curious how they will complement each other and round each other out. And, like any other book junkie, I can’t WAIT to re-organize them.

Preparation Stage 1: Simplicity

I’m going through this phase, partly inspired by my upcoming roadtrip and partly inspired by the testimony of simplicity in the Quaker tradition. It is my get-rid-of-everything phase. The bottom line is, anything I would like to bring across the country with me either needs to fit in my teeny tiny Hyundai, or I need to pay to have a shipped.

I’m not a fan of the latter option. And while I don’t own much, I do own more than I have space for.

Bed: selling. Bed frame: keeping. Clothes: mostly keeping. Books: certainly keeping.

You may notice a problem.

Other considerations:

  • Get a map?
  • How about a car jack and jumper cables?
  • Food for along the way
  • Striking a balance between taking a meandering route and still being realistic about how long I want to extend this trip.
  • Finding contra dances to call at, and communities to teach singing workshops in.
  • Hurricane season – worth bothering with?

As I simplify, simplify, simplify, I look forward to those first few solitary hours of open road, heading east on I-40 through the Sandias, past Tucumcari, past Amarillo. I can’t decide if I will laugh or cry. Probably both.