Armchair Peregrinations

Aug. 21, 2005

How often in life I find myself rushing through the experience of "something": eating, noticing the fragrances that surround me on walks in spring. I am pretty careful to look closely at the world in its particulars, but even then I don't think I often enough pause to reflect on what I am experiencing, doing, seeing, smelling, hearing. I have to constantly remind myself, or at least think consciously, not to take things for granted.

For instance, the small pleasures of delicious parmeson-garlic flavored, kettle-cooked, crunchy potato chips. I remember someone asking once, "Have you ever really tasted a raisin?" I stopped the other day just to savor the sensation of slowly eating just one of those potato chips, instead of just popping down a handful in rapid succession. How truly delicious it was. Or, really tasting that pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream (yes, even if it was cool whip) I had last night.

Do we listen closely to the songs of birds. Do we even begin to realize how complex the sounds are if we do really listen?

This spring, everywhere I walked downtown I passed legustrum bushes in bloom. Each time I stopped to smell a cluster of the tiny white flowers, I was brought back for a moment in time, very quickly, then it was gone, to my childhood in New Orleans and the huge legustrum bushes in our front yard, so large we could play inside their cool, dark and shaded recesses on a warm spring Saturday. When you are nine years old, you fit into all kinds of places adults can't conceive of being.

There are times, however, when everything converges: all the sensations are prodded into overdrive as with the outdoor Piccolo Spoleto Festival activities in Marion Square in Charleston yesterday: African dance and the rhythmic beat of drums; children doing an Irish dance number on a small stage; a marching band of colorfully costumed characters, joyously celebrating music as they wandered around the square and out onto the sidewalk to take off down King Street, delighting bystanders all over downtown. The joy of being alive. There were so many things to take in.

I walked among it all, bombarded with sensations: art, photograhy, the smell of food, crowds, laughter, movement, energy, the very pulse of life lived and enjoyed at every turn. The sun was warm, the breeze just enough to feel mighty fine on this very summer-like day.

Most of the time, to return to my original thought here, I am alone. I must not hasten on my solo walks each day. I must remember to savor the beauty and mstery that is all around me in the "ordinary things of life." Extraordinary, rather. Everything is mystery, especially when I am gazing up into the clouds.

A gift of beauty

(Written May 29, 2005)

Aug. 8, 2005

Son, this road is your freedom
The highway to your dreams...
This road that you leave on Can always bring you home...

Mike Reid

I been down this road searchin' for the end
It don't go nowhere, it just brings you back again.

If I had it my way, everything would change
Out here on this highway the rules are still the same
Back raods never carry you where you want 'em to
They leave you standin' there with them ol' transcendental blues.

Steve Earle

Joy at the start
Fear in the journey
Joy in the coming home
A part of the heart
Gets lost in the learning
Somewhere along the road.

Dan Fogelberg

I had planned to take a little road trip today, hardly knew where.. Just take off down the highway, maybe left toward Edisto Island, maybe right toward Summerville. I may yet go. It's easy to ponder the possibilities in your armchair.

There are plenty of back roads to explore outside of Charleston, but I rarely get out and do it. I get too content sitting here daydreaming, instead of experiencing.

When I was younger and took long cross-country solo road trips, the miles of endless asphalt through rural countryside were intoxicating. My mind traveled to new places each day as the physical landscape changed by the minute and hour. The days flew by. No one day was anything like the one before because it was all "new" scenery, new towns, new paths to hike and explore. That's the way it is with places you've never seen before. It's all about the unexpected and the novel.

Years later, you forget how new and exhilarating roads without end are, during the moments, hours and days you are driving and exploring. Times dulls the memory. Twenty years is a long time. It takes its toll.

What happens is that now the roads I travel on all circle back to where I am, to home. Before they just kept on going and I didn't know how long it would take to reach my destination.

(Written 5/21/05)

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