Yes, the wrong kind of lust. Let me explain. (Misfits often have lots of explaining to do.)
My schoolteacher father had summers off, so my parents made the best use of that time. That meant teaching their children geography and history through travel. Each winter my mother started planning our frugal summer trips. She sat at the kitchen table with maps and guidebooks arrayed in front of her as she carefully plotted a route that maximized educational stops along the way. Old battlegrounds, restored villages, and scenic natural wonders were her priority. The other priority? No admission fees.
One summer we traveled over 6,000 miles. Most days we had an early breakfast, drove for six hours, spent the late afternoon sightseeing, then went on to a trailer park where our 15 foot Scotty was invariably the smallest trailer around. Other folks in these places looked like there were staying a few days. They sat in lawn chairs and chatted around campfires. My family meant business. Ours was a carefully planned agenda which meant we kids showered and went to bed early, usually lying awake in the hot metal trailer listening to those other families laugh and talk under the trees.
Our trips were strictly no-frills in every way. My parents spent next to nothing on food—not one fast food meal or restaurant. (I ate a peanut butter minus jelly sandwich chased by Tang every day at lunchtime.) They scouted out the cheapest gas and took only the most carefully considered photos in those pre-digital days. Miraculously they maintained family peace in very close proximity for weeks on end, although we kids found minor parental spats over directions and mileage calculations secretly hilarious.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents had wonderful motives. They piled three kids in a small car and showed us the country. But I was a lethargic and grumpy traveler. Hurtling down the highway with windows open (because air conditioning reduced our mileage) only aggravated my asthma and hay fever, plus I suffered the vertigo and nausea of car sickness. Yet I wasn’t sufficiently self-aware to let anyone know that I felt dizzy, weak and short of breath. I longed for the comforts of home like library books, a familiar bathtub, my trusty bike, and some control over my own life. As soon as my mother got out the maps to start planning I felt nothing but dread, which I masked with a façade of eager anticipation lest I seem ungrateful. Every minute our car headed farther away from home seemed wrong somewhere in the center of my being. And until we returned I felt suspended from my own completeness—a weary, one-dimensional version of myself.
Perhaps these long yearly trips, taken when I was unwell and unwilling, served to inoculate me against travel. As an adult I still struggle to feel wholly myself when I’m away. That marks me as seriously maladjusted. Wanderlust, or at least the urge to get away, is the norm. I’ve been informed over and over by the most well-meaning people that I’m in a rut, that I’m a stick-in-the-mud, that I have no sense of adventure.
Oh sure, I long to go places. I’ve even traveled of my own volition. But I rail against the backward century in which I’ve been born, or perhaps the backward planet I’ve been born on, because I can’t adjust to the concept that it’s not possible to mosey over to Belarus or Uruguay or Finland this afternoon, have a wonderful lunch, meet some new friends and assure them that I’ll stop by next Friday. The problem is travel time, not the destination. I know poets and sages say it’s all about the journey. I’ve journeyed, believe me. I say all of life is a journey, every single moment that we’re wide awake and fully participating in the process of living.
Besides, aren’t poets and sages all about being true to oneself? Being true to myself means giving in to the lust to stay rooted.
I experience a kind of delicious completion as I perform the simple rituals of life right here every day. I make cheese from our cow’s milk, walk the dogs, chop vegetables, read the paper, work at my desk—-all in view of the fields and trees that sustain me season after season with their subtle, incremental changes.
I hope those of us who are truly rooted have something to offer this ever faster world. Our insights may be simple. I pay attention to the vegetable gardens, the beehives, to blackbirds convening in a clamor across the treetops. Changes I see are those that take place slowly and noticing them is part of the pleasure I find in being fully here. To me there’s soul-drenching nourishment that comes of contemplation, quiet, and service. Thank goodness we can fulfill the desires we choose, leaning eagerly toward the excitement of travel or to answering the longings that serve a quieter nature.
You know where to find me. I’m right here.