And here for the first time in my life I saw my beloved Mississippi River, dry in the summer haze, low water, with its big rank smell that smells like the raw body of America itself because it washes it up.
I love Greenfield. I get my pizza from Conicella’s, I drink at Hough’s, and I take my car to Calfo’s when it needs to be fixed. My house has a porch swing and hardwood floors and my room is the converted attic on the third floor where I can see everything and hear the rain and the sun rises on my face every morning and I have an infinite amount of space for projects and sleeping and spreading out and living. My room is the size of some people’s apartments. It’s 10 minutes from everything. I can walk/bike to Schenley Park.
But I will forever have this consuming preoccupation with the south and with the west and I can’t be entirely content here until I go. Especially now that I’ve been here for way too long investing in something that I thought was worthwhile. “Happiness only real when shared.” I didn’t even have to learn that by trial and error because Chris McCandless was nice enough to figure it out for us. So, that’s why I stayed. But the thought of actually living out my life adventures is ALWAYS in the back of my mind no matter what. Especially now that I came to terms with the fact that there was no future and I would never be entirely happy.
Tangent: Honestly, if you’re lucky enough to have that great thing with a person (and by great, I really mean like once in a lifetime love/companionship/passion/dedication/etc), then by all means go where they go or stay where they stay if that’s what needs to happen. Unfortunately, I don’t think many of us actually ever encounter that in our lives so for the most part, just move along. And ideally, if you do have that great thing, then they’ll go with you or stay with you as much as you do for them.
Drifting back to the point… On The Road is like a sacred religious text to me. I’m seriously only 30 pages in and it’s like the 4th time I’ve read it, but there’s still so much good life shit in there. Some sentences/paragraphs/thoughts kill me in a way that leaves me completely floored because it always seems like my soul has either had that feeling/experience or longs to have it. Case in point:
I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was–I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was half-way across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon.
The first time I saw the Mississippi River, I was completely at a loss. It was everything I thought it would be. And it was incredible. And EPIC. And I fell in love with the south. I think they bewitched my sweet tea last time I was there because my only real goal in life is returning as soon as possible. Every plan I make is just another way to go back. Jayber Crow isn’t helping.
I also spent my whole life dreaming about the Pacific Ocean. And the first time I went in, I was in Chile. And it was winter. And the water was cold, as the Pacific Ocean always is. But it was nearly the best day of my life. And I can’t stop thinking about going back to that either.
In general, I have an unexplainable spiritual fixation/connection with bodies of water. This is probably the basis for my obsession with boats. My second life priority, aside from moving south, is buying a sailboat. And living happily ever after on it. On the water in the sunshine.
And then there’s the west.
It should not be denied…that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led west. – The American West as Living Space, Wallace Stegner
Into the Wild is my other sacred religious text, in case you haven’t figured that out yet. My spirit is sheer adventure and freedom and and peace and love. I can’t stay in this one spot forever. Mary drove to Utah and had the type of epic roadtrip experience I want to have someday soon. That I’ve been trying to have since I was 17.
As hesitant as I was to get into nursing because it meant giving up my public policy and public health “dreams,” I kind of feel like somehow destiny got involved and now I’m about to get into a career where I will always have a job no matter where I go will always have enough money to make my travels actually happen which is kind of what I wanted more than anything to begin with. I can just pick up and leave. Whenever. Let’s do this, life. At 24, I’m still such a baby with a million years ahead of me. At 90, I want to know with every certainty that I lived madly.
This is the type of idealism that dooms people. Maybe. Even so, “I just want to burn up hard and bright.” And I’m TOTALLY at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.
By the way, all the best music comes from the south. And they play it often and everywhere. Oh, New Orleans. Someday soon.
I could listen to this song forever.
Also relevant… Big River
Pittsburgh will be the place that I return to when my biological clock starts ticking. I’m going to buy a house in Greenfield and have four kids. This is maybe a problem because I think my soulmate probably lives in the swamp or works in a shipyard or spends a billion life hours in the middle of nowhere. Whatever. We’ll make it work.
But until I have to deal with that, get me out of here ASAP. I’m kind of freaking out. I’ve been freaking out for a year and a half. 4 long months until Alabama.
Oh, what would you do if i showed up at your door just ready to go