Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Place to Roam

When I first moved West in 2004, living first in New Mexico, then in California, I left the Midwest because I'd hit a dead end. I needed to shake up my life. I needed to start over. I left the ruins of one life behind, in order to begin another.

Taos Plateau, west of Taos, NM

That has become something of a habit.

It was the beginning of a period of semi-nomadism that continues. Although now I find myself re-seating my roots in the Upper Midwest: born in Michigan, gone to school in Michigan, spent time in Wisconsin and Minnesota before going West, now putting new roots down in Wisconsin. I find myself building my home base here, now, for many reasons. One, I can afford it. Two, I have many friends in that corridor between Chicago and the Twin Cities. Three, if you're going to be driving to all parts of the Lower 48 for your photography work, which I am, it makes sense to build your home base in the middle of the country, rather than on one of its extremes. This is my place from which to roam, and to which to return.

I'll be in Florida this summer, and later in New Mexico, Nevada, and the West Coast. I've driven the length of coastal Highway One all the way from Los Angeles to Portland three or four times now.

Little Sur, CA

I feel like I know that winding, windy stretch around Big Sur pretty well by now. The first time I drove it was in the middle of the night, terrified of the precipices hidden in the dark, driving too slow, taking forever to get to Paso Robles, and long and tense and exhausting drive. Now, several trips later, the road feels familiar enough to tell me its first name.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, CA

Next time I travel West, though, I will have the cameras and recorders and no agenda this time. I won't be rushed to get back home. My last trip out West, I was hurried, and had to return here as soon as I was able, to resume taking care of my ailing parents. Now that they're both gone, I am free to spend as much time on the road as I can. That is, after all, my mission and job now. It's what I do now, what I have dreamed of doing, and what I intend to keep doing. It really is my job: to go out and take photos and video, bring them back home, turn them into DVD movies, add music to them, and make them available to the world. I will camp as often as possible, or stay with friends along the route. I will spend as much time as I can alone in the truck, listening to audiobooks on CD during day-long drives. And I will come home, now that here is home, again.

I will make pilgrimage, for that is what travel is. And I will return to my cave to nest and recover, to build strength and joy. And then do it all again.

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