A wonderful Mary Oliver quote.
Photo: Wandering the Southwest
A wonderful Mary Oliver quote.
Photo: Wandering the Southwest
I’ve been writing about that urge to roam. To travel freely. Unencumbered. To experience the world through the lens of constant motion.
My first post in this series introduced the terms “Dromomania” and “Drapetomania,” which placed this desire squarely in the medical model for disease. The word “disease” itself has been defined as: “a condition of the living animal or plant body, or of one of its parts, that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms” that is “not simply a direct result of physical injury.” A disease has also been said to be “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.”*
And there are four main types of disease: infectious, deficiency, hereditary, and physiological diseases. Diseases can be communicable or non-communicable, and when we have absolutely no idea what causes one, we call it “idiopathic.”
And let’s not forget mental or psychogenic diseases.
In fact, the suffix “mania,” in dromomania and drapetomania, arguably places the old terminology squarely in that category of mental illness.
So, is the compulsion to flee, to explore, to wander the world, a mental disorder? And what are those so-afflicted fleeing from?
Picking up where I left off yesterday . . .
We’ve all heard the stories of Cortez conquering the Aztecs and Pizzaro conquering the Incas, but we often only hear the stories of those who are regarded as conquerors. The victors. Even if their acts were entirely atrocious and inhumane.
History is distorted that way.
I often write about my travels and the things I experience while traveling. The adventure of it. 😊 Particularly getting back to Nature and hiking in the wilderness. Something I do whenever possible. And the urge to travel, or to continue traveling once on the road, is always at the surface.
Lingering, like a Tiger ready to pounce on its prey.
Frankly, I like that feeling. For it drives me to drive. Gives me reason and purpose. An impetus to greet Grandfather Sun each day.
Intro: I wrote this story back in 1993, describing some of my time on the road between 1978 and 1980. I had packed up and bugged out after a little run-in with the law.
Something sparked the memory, and I dug out a copy of the publication it appeared in at the time – “Out Your Backdoor.”
I found it fun to look back at my writing style then. Not that much different from today.
I was trying to break into freelance writing and looking for small publications that would pick up an article – payment was usually a couple copies of the newsletter, magazine, or journal, or whatever print media it might have been.
With a few minor edits, here it be . . .
I left you all at a juncture in my story “The Club 66.” So, it’s time to circle back a little. If you don’t remember, check out the last couple of paragraphs.
Disclaimer: I don’t recommend that anyone participate in such a ceremony without proper guidance, intent, and knowledge. Also, since we are all individuals, creatures with complex chemical-electrical systems, there is no way to predict how ingestion of any substance might affect someone. To either their benefit or detriment.
Nor can I offer any guidance in how to interpret such an experience. Words fall far short.
Revisiting the past seems to cycle in our lives. If not physically, mentally. But it seems there are times when the physical odyssey is unavoidable. It may even be unconscious at first. We embark on a journey just to realize midway we are circling back in time. Perceptions have shifted, aged, but we are retracing routes gone by. “Treading trodden trails,” as the saying goes. Neural roadmaps. Highways of memories. Echoes of day dreams.
The roads might be slightly different. And the faces we see this time around may be new to us, drawn together, in passing, by a transitional event. In this case, it was my mother’s final breaths.
I saw the parallels as I was driving by the home where myself and my brothers grew up. A small town now a burgeoning suburb of a major city. When the family moved there, the population was around 250, plus a lot of corn fields. When I left, there were little more than 2500 people. It’s no longer a rural community and the population has passed 30,000. The corn fields replaced with structures. More boxes for storage, of categorized life.
My old home is now a dental office with the yard paved over. A parking lot for tooth repair. The vacant lot across the street, a playland of the imagination where mythic battles raged in the jungles of weeds, now a motor bank. The majestic apricot tree on the corner by the park, gone. Not even a seed to carry its memory of the sweet fruit it offered free for the taking. The lake we fished in, fenced off, imprisoned.
The historic downtown, an outward reflection, a mimic of time, but the core has transformed. The library is office space. The hardware store, an art gallery. The feed mill, a microbrewery. The old school is torn down. Time and places evaporated.
But all of my memories are intact. The pleasure and the pain of growth.
Every summer this home was a launch point for the family reunions. First with my dad’s family in Indiana, and then my mom’s in Michigan. Those were times of active voices. Of laughter and play. The excitement of seeing cousins, of family card games, and mysterious old homes to explore. Spiral staircases to dusty attics, and coal furnaces in the basements. We mined for treasures. And we found them in shiny objects unearthed, planted by the generation before.
And there were haylofts in old barns, where we leaped into the sky, hay piles lying beneath to break our fall. Flying for instants that lasted forever. A shirt was a cape, or a parachute.
An old hand pump still brought water from the earth. A hidden aquifer of life.
An electric fence for horses, and a dare to feel its pulses. Grab hold the wire and zap a brother with the other hand, before mom or dad would shoo us away.
Pulses, pulses, I feel my heart beating as I drive, wandering back in time, shuffling though images not matching the roadway. Highway hypnosis.
I’m retracing that reunion route again, but this time, the nuclei of both families are gone, having passed on to the Blue Road of the Spirit.
My father passed in ’09, and after revisiting the ground where I was raised, I stop to pay my respects to him and my paternal ancestors. He was buried in the family plot in the town where he grew up. A few miles down the road is “Stearleyville,” or its shadow, founded by my great, great grandfather. The reverse of my hometown. The small village is gone, fully reverted to farmland.
The cemetery is filled with generations, back to the original immigrant couple. Two stones eerily bear my own name. One my grandfather, and one his second son that died as an infant – born on my same birthday, passed 30 years before my birth.
I remember my dad’s funeral. Full military honors. Steeped in tradition.
He taught me the meanings of honor, integrity, loyalty, strength of character, and hard work.
We talk in silence. For a while.
Then it’s on to Michigan. A small town on the border of Ohio. My mother also to be buried in a family plot. Similar small town and farm family roots. The memories of both homes blurred.
She’s outlived the rest of her family so we have a small ceremony. A few cousins, whom I’m meeting for the first time. It’s a nice service for a well-lived life of a good heart.
She taught me compassion, empathy, and self-sacrifice.
My parents’ bodies lay some 300 miles apart. Their spirits united? Their soul contracts complete? And the particles of consciousness they helped bring into the world are scattered about the Midwest. Such is the stardust of which we’re composed.
Family plots. Family traditions. Traditions I will not follow. My ashes are to be released into the wind. No name carved in stone.
I wonder, when I leave, what neural roadmaps my daughter’s memories will travel. I hope that she too has flown wearing a magic cape.
Photo: I didn’t actually take this image, but it is an image of my brain from an MRI . . .
And if you didn’t see it earlier, check out my intro to this post in my Daily Musings – Rotation.
A number of things were swirling in my head as I woke from my slumbers.
For one, Kirk Douglas died yesterday. And as I read off the list of his many accomplishments and movies I was reminded of the film “Lonely are the Brave.” Now I saw this film a long time ago, loved it, and when I watched it oh so many years ago, I had no idea of the connection with Edward Abbey, whose work I’ve also come to thoroughly enjoy.
It’s strange how things can circle around in our lives.
There is always a struggle in a writer’s mind about just what to write about. We want our posts to be meaningful in some way, although the definition of meaningful may vary from day-to-day. And lately, I’ve taken a little rest from writing. It’s not because I don’t have stories to tell, it’s just trying to decide which I want to tell, and how I want to tell them, and if they’re relevant, and would a reader enjoy them?
Those are big questions, and I don’t have any answers for any of them this morning. But I need to write.
It’s sort of an addiction and I’m in withdrawals.
I have to admit, I stole this quote from Victoria Ray. She included in one of her posts recently, but I absolutely loved the words. And I played and played on the photo editor to try to get them to stand out on the background pic, so here is the quote in case you’re having a hard time reading it:
“Because when I read, I don’t really read… I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.” Bohumil Hrabal
The lilies, by the way, were growing wild along the trail – an astonishing lush forest in an arid, high desert climate. Amazing !
I guess I was a little stubborn about my choice in pictures for this post as I could have picked another to contrast the text better, but I loved the symbolism here – beautiful lush flowers, lush forest, in the high desert – not what one expects to find. But there are so many wonderful surprises in this life. Not being predictable makes life so much more interesting, wouldn’t you say?
If you’ve read many of the posts on my blog, you know that I talk about hiking in Nature a lot. This is part of my spiritual practice, to get out in the Natural World. But a friend asked a reasonable question not long ago, so I decided to think about it and write something on it. They asked:
“What’s the difference between hiking and walking?”
It turns out that is a bit more profound than it seems, because we, as humans, like to define and differentiate things. To the extreme. 😊
To say it was a slow burn would be inaccurate. It was just plain a bonfire. Sparks to high flying flames. Embers floating upward on newly created thermals, warm and glowing, a continual burn. That was this past summer as I traveled about taking in new sights. Hiking in Nature.
That collective place, that I call the “Real World,” where I feel at home.
There was a crescendo, however. You might say. A peak. Not a turning point, and it wasn’t like things diminished in anyway afterwards, but it was a stand out moment. The day I did the Green Lakes hike.
You see I had been building toward this adventure for a while. Slowing increasing my hiking distances. Acclimating to the higher altitudes. And while the trail markers seemed to indicate a shorter distance, they were wrong. I knew it by what maps revealed and planned accordingly.
This hike, while longer, reminded me of one I did in Montana. To Avalanche Lake. That hike was shorter in distance, but it similarly ended in a spectacular view. A total sense-flooding awe. A take-your-breath-away moment.
This new mission built from the Douglas Fir forest, to the many waterfalls, to the rainbow of wildflowers, to the lakes and surrounding mountains.
A sort of reach out and touch God journey.
I’m sure many of you have engaged in a Fall or Spring cleaning. That thorough cleansing of all that accumulated junk you’ve collected but never seem to have a use for. Or that you’re storing knowing, or at least thinking, that you’ll use that Stuff someday for something.
Well it’s time for a big purge at my residence.
But the purge I’m talking about is not just about physical Stuff, it’s about the mind.