Tuesday, February 22, 2011

returning, past sojourn

no more red-yellow-gold-banded canyons
all flat grasslands now, till snow takes over again
no more long days wearing shorts in the southwestern sun
all colder, bleaker, shivering, till home is a blanket
no more dry vistas seen across 50 miles of clear air
all big sky filled in with houses, or trees between
no more long views across peak to peak rocks exposed
all filled in by haze, some of it man-made, some of it cloudfog
no more colors in the land itself, red soil, white sand
all barren dull late winter bleaknesses, ugliest time of year
no more spring early in the calendar
all true temperate spring, late as half the year
no more jagged mountains adrift above frozen tundra
all rolling hills worn down by long time, mountain runoff
no more cactus forests, cottonwood budding in the bosque
all dead bare blank deciduous, crowned clumps like giant tumbleweeds
no more tumbleweeds blowing across even suburban streets
all immaculate yards in which the foreign invader must be punished

I wish I was home already
I wish I never had to return

Thoughts: Very few poems this roadtrip. Most of them rather bleak. Bleak lands reflected in the poem, but also laments for lands emptied by decimating poverty and strife. And I have to say: if I could live full-time in Death Valley, or Zion, or the Tetons, or other favorite National Parks, I would. To wake up every day to dramatic vistas filled with ever-changing light, the air and sky vibrant with giant splendor. Some state parks just as inviting, just as dramatic. It puts your own life in perspective. You keep down the drama because it's nothing in comparison to what you wake up to every day, opening the curtains to let the view in.

Don't feel much need to write things out, just to write them out; the journal hasn't been more than a page a day, most mornings, and then just a record of happenings and locales. Unsure myself that any of these few poems I did manage to write were worth the bother; maybe one or two; maybe half. Genuine Writers will no doubt sneer. More and more, in the current phase of work, words are particles to be set to music, not stand alone entities. Only a few of those; call them poems, or jottings, or randomized memorizations of the day's mood and morals.

Other thoughts: This roadtrip, probably because I've already been weakened by chronic illness and its fallout effects, altitude sickness was the worst I can remember ever feeling. It kicked my ass, again and again, more than one location. Sinking back down the long alluvial fallout from western plains to eastern, from foot of mountains to the Great Lakes, sinking down gradually thousands of feet over hundreds of miles, I feel myself return to a masque of strength and endurance. Things have improved, but not when the stresses are piled up by location, experience, exertion. Still have a couple of more days full of nothing but driving, no particularly eventful or spectacular scenery, before I get home. Beauty is where you find it, certainly. Yet after weeks in the mountains, in the deserts, by the ocean, gathering days and vistas like fuel for an invisible inner bonfire, it's just an endurance test to get through these prairies; it takes all my energy to go on, to see any beauty at all, by contrast, in these winter flatlands full of winter-flat people and their tiny little lives.

People everywhere are incredibly provincial. They're all bound up with their local little lives. Few people travel, physically or mentally, very far outside their birthplaces. Few are born travelers, born uprooters and explorers. I align myself with the travelers, obviously. You overhear conversations in restaurants, truck stops, park stores, public places, everywhere you stop briefly from your solitary driving and beauty-seeking purposes. Most of what you overhear is so tied up with family dysfunction, little dramas writ large (yet so small in comparison to the land's vast scale, even smaller under the night sky), stories of how cousins or sisters have to go back into rehab, how the thug punks standing in the corner of the chain bookstore are talking about their truancy jail time as though it were a badge of honor, stories of how breaking up with a lover is the most tragic thing in the world. Flocks of teenagers.

The ladies of the canyon: I sit at a table at a general store in a beautiful desert canyon state park, surrounded by the chatter a group of wealthy women who have all driven their horse-trailers pulled by big SUVs into the park that day to spend a day bridle-trail-riding. I'm the only man on the scene, with nothing to do while waiting for my food but overhear their discussions of their childrens' college dilemmas, and other such domestic scenery. Then I mount up and leave, driving out past all their horses still in their trailers. Well, at least these ladies of the canyon get outside, in the good air, to do their gossip.

Most people really do need to get out more. Get away. Travel. Discover what a bigger world exists outside the inward circle of their own insular self-circling. Some of the best conversations I've had with strangers on this roadtrip have been about travel, moving house, finding new places to be, finding new selves to become. Changes in life that seem to give permission to do what you already wanted to do; freedoms found when old lives fall away and die; chances taken that lead to awakening and joy. So there's an up side to what you overhear on the road, as well the provincialism: some of us, out there, apparently lost, are not looking for joy, but have found it. An occasional bumper sticker on a baggage-overloaded van says it well: "Not all who wander are lost."

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Likewise not all who stand still are stuck.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Also true, of course.

10:20 PM  

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