Each Day is a Journey, Even at Home

September 23, 2016

Green Lake, Seattle

Green Lake, Seattle

“The moon and the sun are travelers of a hundred generations.  The years, coming and going, are wanderers too.  Spending a lifetime adrift on boat decks, greeting old age while holding a horse by the mouth — for such a person, each day is a journey, and the journey itself becomes home.”
— Basho

We are all journeying through life, whether covering vast distances on the road or staying close to home.  I love hearing about where friends, family, and colleagues are going on their vacations, and sometimes I have trip envy.  I’ve never traveled for such extended periods that the road became my home.  All my life, I’ve had deadlines to return home and resume my job.

Perhaps these time limits are why I really love to travel when I get the chance.  While I appreciate my travels, I do like spending time at home, too.  I can rationalize the advantages of staying home and making a rich life of my ordinary days.  That’s why this poem by Billy Collins brings a smile of recognition to my face:

Consolation

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

 

I love that we have complex and sometimes competing rationales for traveling or staying put.  Here is another poem that asks whether we should have stayed at home:

Questions of Travel
by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
– For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
– Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
– A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.

– Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages
– Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
– And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

‘Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there… No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?

 

I’m glad that there is room in my life for occasional big trips and also comfortable days at home.  I can find beauty and interesting things almost anywhere.

So here are a few photos from a local jaunt to Tacoma, just 40 minutes from Seattle:

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly glass chandelier in Union Station, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Chihuly Bridge of Glass, Tacoma

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum

Staircase by Tacoma Glass Museum

 

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3 Responses to “Each Day is a Journey, Even at Home”

  1. selah Says:

    I sometimes dwell on the question of going away on a longer trip or doing day trips, and day trips and coming home has won out for this year. Beauty can be found close to home and sometimes I think that the desire to go away is more trying to escape from something that is bothering me and a trip will not change that because trials go with you, but they are in the back of the mind with the change of view. “There is no place like home”

  2. Diana Studer Says:

    one more folded sunset, still quite warm

    Guilty ;~)

  3. Adrienne Massel Says:

    love those poems


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