I’ve just returned from one of my life’s adventures. It was a ‘more than ten states in twelve days, get lost and explore, and see the world’ kind of road trip. Every second, in its different patterns, is playing in my head like a mixtape. If I didn’t believe the stories about these lands, I do now. I understand why people flee and return to the west and, through time, have given up everything to run away there. The west holds the child’s laughter and the old man’s contentment in its rolling hills, it has the stories of the greatest war hero and the quietest farmer flowing in its rivers, it connects beauty and truth in its giant skies. Roadtripping to a seemingly abyss of nowhere makes you feel like you’ve found somewhere.
“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.” – Robert Penn Warren
It’s been a year. We hold tight unto coffee mugs in our rooms, thinking of drinking the same bitter taste in coffee shops that felt like home while we laughed with songs from the day in our head. The songs still ring in my ears tonight and I remember all the words. It seems like yesterday, you say, but it’s hard to look at old photos and think of it as anything but a distant dream. I think of our conversations then late at night – tucked now back into our past like the flowers we tucked into our hair. I don’t think we would’ve been so fast to tuck them away if we knew what was to come. But then again, I don’t know. We’d lie, now with a year past, if we said everything turned out the way we expected or that it was greater than we dreamed. Such a true statement was said when Scarlett said in Gone With The Wind, “Nothing has turned out as we expected” and Ashley replied “It never does.” It never ever does. However, it has been something. A something we didn’t expect – blurred with disappointments, goodbyes, jealously, illness, and unwanted answers – but it’s been a beautiful something despite all of that. Isn’t that life? A beautiful something despite the trials? Despite we’ve what we’ve been through, what we are bound to, and what people in our world go through, I still believe in a good and right and lovely and worthy world. As we sip this coffee, wishing we had year old coffee instead – we know what a precious world it is and how privileged we are have our memories of one trip a year ago and every day since. In these dimmed lights, we remember faces and conversations and the city that stole us. It still has us, and even in our dreams we see it still. Those city lights illuminate us tonight as they did three hundred and sixty-four days ago.
I am fascinated by the sea. Every year, when I return with the people in my family (this year with around 20 of them) to it, I am reminded by this. While, sadly, many seem to blur the reason the beach is called relaxing in the first place with primarily tourism purposes, it is not hard to peel back the thin layer and understand. There is so much to take in that is beautiful, not meaningless trying to be some type of beautiful. There is early morning bike rides and afternoon bike rides on hidden paths, there is the splashing salt water on your skin, there is glistening lights on the docks at night, there is reading an old Gone With The Wind copy on the porch at night time. There is so much. Yet, above all there is the sea. The sea, that bursts and waves and splashes and beats and goes on and on. Nothing in nature is quite like it and its vastness. The sea reminds me of life, and of us, and the way that we go. As long as I have lived, I’ve written about the ocean and the way it puts me under its spell and I am afraid I shall never stop. But then again, neither shall the waters. Neither shall time.
Counting down the summer days,
and the miles, atlas-bound,
and the hair, greying on your head.
So desperate in these playground ruins,
a past illusion would even be quite enough
to full the heartache passages, robbed of once-life.
We’re left roadbound, yet trapped at home,
Accepting lies as truth,
and doing the things we feel like we must do.