What I've finally managed to do is separate my awe for my surroundings from my enjoyment of them -- and my anticipation of the cool things to come from what they will actually be like. Yes, I walked all day through the fabulous lunar landscaped of Bryce, but that's all it was: a long walk. Yes, Canyonlands is strikingly beautiful and yes I could spend years exploring its rocks.... but I'm not doing that. I'm sitting around depressed and pissed at the volume of tourists gawking through their windshields, wishing I had the energy to hike into the backcountry away from all this. I'm not enjoying myself. Even the places I have enjoyed recently have had a strange, empty feeling to them, like there's something missing. Company, for instance. That night on the rim of the Grand Canyon was unbelievable, but I would've liked to stay there much longer, sharing it with other people. Instead all I can do is relate it, pitifully inadequately, to you folks through this transient medium. All too quickly that lonely boredom set in and I began losing interest.
And so then I have to start thinking about the nature of travel itself, and my relationship to it. One thing anyone can tell you is that it's addictive -- the lure of far-off places and the wonders they may hold. Attractive, too, is the change it brings: long-term travel is always a time of flux, the punctuation in your equilibrium. And for me there's also the allure of the Concept, the desire to physically grasp the entire country in the space of a year, like some bright flash of light will occur the moment I complete this, bringing me Higher Insight. I don't like the idea of quitting in the middle and undoing this tapestry. I've always been a bit of a quitter and I don't want another notch added to that stick.
Balanced against this is the fact that I've also always hung on to things much longer than is good for my own well-being. Perhaps I should have ended this trip a long time ago, after New York or Texas. Artistic martyrdom aside, there's really no good reason for finishing this particular project now -- these places aren't going anywhere; I can come see them later, perhaps with company.
But thinking about going home gives me this queasy feeling, like the bottom is falling out of my life. Thinking about going on, however, is a facade of intrigue.
And this, this writing here, this perhaps book-in-the-making, what of it? At times it seems nothing more than incoherent fancy, a grand idea gone stale, full of nothing -- a collection of meaningless paragraphs strung together in the hopes of illustrating a journey indirectly. And if I stop now -- one can't say it's wrong, but it will certainly be abortive and will stand if nothing else as a testament to incompleteness. Or perhaps just a twisted completeness. It feels like a failed experiment, but maybe it's just an experiment in failure.
So those are the things on my mind. I've decided to go home. I probably won't write any more -- there'll be no grand and powerful descriptions of the last few miles, the well-rounded thoughts as I drive up to my house. I've gone home before and I know what it's like. As you drive closer the roads become more and more familiar until finally everything is so familiar that you must be home. Then a life -- your life before you left -- crystallizes around you, pretty much indifferent to the places you've been and the ways they've changed you. And everything is exactly as you left it.
No Simple Highway:
Last modified: Thu Feb 19 00:20:16 1998
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