I want to write about how excited I am about my upcoming road trip, but I know anything I would try to say about it has already been said by someone far more eloquent — Joseph Campbell, Jack Kerouac, hell possibly even Elizabeth Gilbert. Still, the archetypal allure of the road, the journey is calling me. I feel it like a tug on my heart.
Why do I want to do this? Because I can’t NOT do this!
When I was in graduate school, I was invited to present a paper at a conference in Jackson Hole. I would fly to Salt Lake City, rent a car and drive through Utah, Idaho and Wyoming all by myself. I bought an atlas and a cell phone to use in an emergency. (It was 1997! They weren’t ubiquitous yet.) I had never done anything like this by myself before. I was a little nervous. What if I got lost? What if I got a flat? What if…
I was predisposed to worry. Mom was a very fearful person and very protective of me. There was potential danger around every corner. I don’t think she let me ride my bike around the block until I was nearly a teenager. Something could happen to me in those moments when I was out of sight. I made a conscious decision in my twenties to break from my training in fear. I wanted to live on my own and not be anxious at every nighttime noise. I traded fear for caution. So I prepared myself for the more probable mishaps and headed to Jackson Hole with a spirit of cautious adventure.
I felt such a sense of accomplishment when I pulled into the parking lot of the lodge. I made my way there without even making a wrong turn. I was elated!
That trip felt like the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It became an opportunity to redefine myself. I would be a scholar, a presenter of ideas, a producer of cultural knowledge AND an adventurer!
This upcoming trip is less about redefining myself and more about un-defining myself. This trip is about being in motion. It’s about getting into the flow of constant change, noticing and feeling the effects of movement through the landscape, through the season of change, into places of desolate splendor. Red rock moonscapes illuminated by the autumn desert sun. Dry, windswept vistas prickling with cactus and canyons sculpted by racing waters over millennia.
I want to connect with the light and shadow cast by the turning earth itself. I want to see the Milky Way and know I am IN IT even as I am looking at it seemingly it far, far away. How is that possible?
Our solidity is an illusion. Our fixity is delusion.
One primary factor in my burning out at work was my steadfast resistance to forces of change that were beyond my control. It was as if I were standing in a raging river trying to hold back the rush of water with my bare hands, then clinging to a slippery rock, or an overhanging tree branch while the rapids slammed into me and around me until the force was too strong to resist any more. I would have been much better off acknowledging the mighty flow of that river a little earlier, swimming with the current or building some kind of raft to ride the rough waters to safety down the way.
Fighting the water is not the way. Im much better with oceans. In the ocean, I float. I find my equilibrium as part of the waves. Maybe the ocean is more my speed. The river ate me for dinner.
I don’t plan to step back into that particular river, but I do want to be better aligned with the inevitable change and movement that I will face.
So I shall head out with half a plan and see where the road takes me.
Oh, and I’ll have an atlas and a cell phone, too… just in case.