Wednesday, February 11, 2009
i've begun an interesting book by lynne sharon schwartz - a sort of memoir - with the memorable and nostalgic title 'not now, voyager'. it's about travel but not in an ordinary "i went here, i saw this" way. schwartz indicates at the outset her dislike of travel. i'm intrigued because i'm experiencing something
like what she describes:
"While I'm elsewhere...I wait to get home, where I can sink into my living-room chair, my feet up and rejoicing at not pacing new streets. This is the moment I look forward to from about one-third of the way into any trip, the point at which I start numbering the days until my return, counting the diminishing store of vitamin pills I doled out when I packed, watching the dirty laundry accumulate until it's a bigger pile than the clothes yet to be worn: the turning point."
she goes on to say that, once she's home
looking at photographs of herself
"smiling in front of some scenic wonder or monument, the trip comes to seem pleasant, even exciting. It is amazingly enhanced by the very fact of its being over."
More often than not I feel something akin to this
even before embarking. The process of packing
often seems enough to make me want to cancel
all arrangements. And I'm a good packer, with
lists for warm and for cold weather and a kit of toiletries
at the ready.
I seem to be approaching journeys as
something to be back from: prior to
departure I am already anticipating return,
the key-in-the-lock moment
when, confronted with stale and stagnant air,
i beathe deeply, comforted at being back in the
realm of my true self.
While in situ elsewhere,
the pleasures of the routine of
return are never completely forgotten:
the unzipping of the luggage, the consigning
of dirty laundry to its bin.
The unwrapping of the inevitable spoils and
the suspense of the reveals: the ceramic plate,
hastily wrapped in newspaper the souk,
lovingly enfolded in
bubblewrap at the hotel:
will it emerge whole?
The caftan so charming at the last evening's
farewell dinner: will it be merely amusing
or thoroughly ridiculous in the light of
a downtown new york afternoon?
i used to live in a walkup and
during a return flight from wherever
would already be agonizing over
whether the driver i was assigned in the
taxi lottery would be 1) able to find a
parking spot and 2) willing to help
me schlep the luggage up the five flights.
(Mostly, for a generous tip, they were.)
Now i live in a building with a doorman
and an elevator and there's always a moment,
on the return flight, when i remember
and give thanks for both.
My combined anticipation and dread of travel
disturbs me. i worry that one day in the midst
of packing i will, finally, throw up my hands,
grab the phone and, in cancelling one journey,
make it easier to give up travel altogether.
if that happens i will have become
a person who doesn't want to travel.
and i don't want to be that person.
it must be time to plan a trip.