Armchair Peregrinations


November 30, 1998

The end of November, but it hasn't seemed at all like winter is coming. Another beautiful and mild day in Charleston this Sunday just past. I drove out to Folly Beach, set up the chair and started reading two books. A faint breeze brushed me, the surf was calm, and the waves were merely gentle breakers on the shore as high tide approached. A good many people were out, and an equal number of dogs, which, without fail, come alive at the sight of the ocean. They tear down the beach in pursuit of tennis balls, they jump in and out of the water, they run in great circles around each other and the people who are with them. In short, dogs seem to enjoy coming to the beach as much as people do. I sometimes resent it, especially when they're not leashed, but once set free of their constraints, there's no stopping them. It's like they sense freedom in the great expanse of ocean and horizon as much as we do.

The longer I sat there on the beach, the more relaxed I became until gradually I didn't want to leave or even move from the spot I was in. I just felt so much calm wash over me against a backdrop of very gentle surf and that slight breeze, just a bit cool. I breathed deeply because the air is so fresh off the ocean. I never tire of it. I could go there every day. I could live at the beach. I'd collect shells and go for long walks every day.

By 4:30 I was preparing myself to get up and head for the car. On days such as today, when the time draws near to leave, and I'm enjoying it so much, I begin to think of the things I have to do when I get home. It's the only way I can motivate myself to leave. I look at my watch -- five, ten more minutes. That's gone. Time to go. Sometimes I get to such a state of reverie, that I just don't care when I go. It's only when it begins to get too cool that I finally depart from my spot on the beach.

*****

Going into my travel journal from May, 1985, I find this entry written in southern Indiana:

"Wandered through west central and central Indiana today past some of the finest farms and woodland imaginable. Both Shades and Turkey Run State Parks have great tracts of mature and virgin hardwood forests that are surperlative and primeval woodlands and such a rare sight to come across today. At Shades Park, one walks trails to and from Sugar Creek, descending into ravines and past huge slabs of eroded sandstone. New spring vegetation is abundant. Sugar Creek is as pleasing and gentle a stream as I've ever seen, reminding me somewhat of the Sipsey Fork and surroundings in southern Alabama.

"Canoeists quietly floated downstream at several places where I stopped, one of which was a landing where they passed under a long, red covered bridge...Along one stetch of Sugar Creek a trail took me past towering maples, oaks and poplars. The air was cool and filled with birdsong that is so much more readily noticed in a place like this. Purple wildflowers clustered in shady areas. Small streams entered Sugar Creek, whose waters are clear and shallow. These woodlands along the creek are a priceless treasure, a place for rest and contemplation."

Whenever I read these journal entries from years past, I marvel that I ever did so much traveling and driving. It's hard for me to comprehend now, so fixed in one place am I. I haven't gone on a long drive in more than two years now, and I miss it. Those journals allow me to partially relive the experiences I had then. I'll do it with these journals in the future. I'm finding that maybe I haven't changed that much over the years, or at least as much as I like to think I have. But will I have the desire to travel? To really set out for remote places for days on end? I hope so. that's one of the only ways I can live purely in the present and think of nothing but the day and the road ahead.


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