“We’re taking a train to New Jersey, flying to Alaska from there, and then driving back to Vermont,” I told my friends.
Jordan paused for a moment and then asked, “Why?”
We all laughed at the blunt questioning in her voice.
“Well, Edge’s car and most of his stuff is still up there so we’re going to get it and visit everyone, too,” I answered.
But there’s more to it than that. After a winter of renting a house and staying in one town, I am ready for a journey. A week ago, as I was running in the spring afternoon, I thought about movement across the land, about travel and staying in one place. My feet ran forward as fields melted and streams grew, and I remembered my nomadic ancestors–those perceptive, migrating people that we all come from. What trace of them is left in me? Is it their instincts that I feel telling me to walk, run, and to notice the world that keeps me alive?
It is a continual conflict within me: to stay in one place and know it deeply, or to travel and know the world as a great mosaic, all pieces making one place. I like to believe that I can dig into a place even while traveling. I like to feel that I can meet it full on, despite the brevity of time.
Terry Tempest Williams, in a talk she gave at the University of Fairbanks, said, “The most radical thing you can do is stay home.” In this world of petroleum power, I believe this. What do I love about staying? Seeing the seasons through. Working the land. Growing my food. The power of canning, freezing, pickling.
And this brings me back to the beginning of it all.
We have learned to celebrate agriculture and storage.
We have learned to reward ourselves with vacations.
There is a tension between these two things.
I am sitting in the Seattle Airport, waiting for a flight to Fairbanks. In less than one day I am shooting across the country, and I will take just over two weeks to drive back. So much oil. And still I go. It is a radical thing to stay home these days. There is a lure to go far away, and since the advent of personal cars and cheap flights, we’ve all got the hook in our mouths. There must have been a lure, too, for the nomads, to cultivate and rest through the seasons. To stay in one place.
So I search for the convergence of these things, and I feel the churning within me as a river does when two tributaries come together. I am going back to Alaska, back to the wild that forces you out of the car, the wild that asks your intention. Is it to pass through, to get to the end? Is it to discover?
I will dig into each place, meet it full on, despite the brevity of time. My intention is to discover.