far too much writing, far too many photos

Apart from some cross-country drives — a few of those, not to mention assorted rides up and down both coasts and far, far too many trips around the northeast — I’ve never done the kind of traveling I’m currently in the middle of, moving around the map, showing up at one place for a day or two or three, staying or meeting up with friends (or friends of friends), then tossing everything back into the body bag and moving on. Strange, exhilarating, at times wearing, packed with fun, sensation, strange encounters, punctuated by interludes of passing land- or cityscapes.

Railway station, Stoke-on-Trent, England

It’s not that I’ve longed for the classic grand tour. I never really have felt the yearning for that of potentially grueling haul. It’s a reaction to six strange months, three in Madrid — a place that usually feels like home — spent coexisting with workcrews busy tearing down the building around me, bit by chainsawed, hammerdrilled bit, followed by three months in the quiet of beautiful wintertime northern Vermont — some might say excessively quiet, the kind of quiet that comes to feel increasingly like sensory deprivation.

The possibility of relief first presented itself when a friend offered a three-week house- and dogsitting gig in one of Spain’s northwestern provinces. Offered then withdrawn as she and her husband ran into trouble nailing down the details of their time away, leaving me feeling something akin to being all dressed up with no place to go. I mentioned all this during a phone call with a friend in the British midlands, he offered a bedroom in his place, I thought about it — at first hesitant to do something that might come to feel like an imposition, then quickly coming to my senses — accepted the offer, made flight arrangements, swapped emails with friends around the U.K., warning them of my impending invasion.

The days melted away, I found myself in a bus heading to Boston, then in an overgrown metal tube stuffed with other humans, moving at high speed over the nighttime Atlantic. Then in green, midlands England, people driving on the wrong side of the road. Passing a few days of acclimation, making the occasional jaunt with my host — northeast to Manchester, to amuse myself while he attended softball practice, then southeast to Litchfield, to attend the Mozart Requiem in the town’s enormous cathedral. Followed by a quick, cheap-flight getaway to Sevilla (chronicled with excessive attention to detail in previous entries).

Since then: a quick pass through Liverpool, briefly back in Newcastle-under-Lyme, a train trip down to Bristol on the southwest coast for two and a half days of conversation and tea consumption (including a fast flounce south to charming, slightly goofy Glastonbury, a hotbed of new-age, capitalistic hippyness, the town’s main drag liberally sprinkled with shops bearing names like Enlightenment and The Psychic Piglet) and, two days ago, to London.

I’ve thought about this sudden geographic-cure-style frenzy, because it seems to me that the g.c. is a clear component of the sudden shooting around the map and merits some pondering. Not that there’s anything wrong with flying around the map. I’m all for the geographic cure as a short-term remedy for restlessness, the blues, the heartbreak of psoriasis, or whatever ails one. Part of what’s going on is a simple thirst for the new, for the resumption of sensory input. Part of it is an ongoing confirmation of something I’ve become aware of these last few years, the undeniable happiness I experience on finding myself on the European side of the Atlantic, a sense of somehow being where I belong. And part of it is something I’ve only become aware of recently, or only begun admitting to myself recently — that there is a part of me constantly on the lookout for a place that will feel definitively like home, and in all the moving about, my radar is constantly working, waiting for the person(s) or place that will signal my arrival at that final place.

Not that, rationally speaking, there will necessarily be a final place. (Please put a cork in any allusions to a final resting place that may be trying to squirt out.) Time will tell. Feels like a logical expectation, though, in light of two experiences that seized hold of me at different times, years apart, in two different European locations.

[continued in next entry]

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Hotel room view, London

Madrid, te quiero.

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