Once, I used to enjoy more leisurely southeastern driving tours. I'd visit my grandmother, and often use her house as my launching pad. I'd see friends from grad school and undergraduate school. I'd meander back to the Charleston area to see friends from my first full-time community college job. My grandmother and I would take trips, often to see her brother or on a quest for cloth. I'd spend a week meandering across the state and back again.
Now my spouse and I undertake blistering trips across Southern states: 3 states in 3 hours, closing in fast on state #4! He's on a board of trustees for Lutheran church camps, which means he's got meetings to attend, which means we're on a schedule. I'm an administrator more than a teacher these days, which means I have some flexibility with vacation time, but not an unlimited number of days.
We just got back from North Carolina, where I wanted to see autumnal colors, but instead I saw a more muted autumn. Was I just a week too early or is it going to be muted this year because of a mild winter and hot summer?
Still, it was great to have a different landscape to watch and to walk. It was wonderful to have time to talk with my spouse. It was great to be out of the office, which was full of its usual craziness while I was away--perhaps I'll blog about that craziness later. But one nugget is good enough to record now, so that I don't lose it.
My spouse took a cell phone message from a dean while I was driving, and he looked at me in confusion. He said, "Something about putting off a meth lab until Spring?"
I laughed and said, "No, it's MyMathLab; OK, I know what this is about."
Oh, if only I was the writer of scathing, hilarious satire of academia, a la Kingsley Amis or a writer of academic mysteries, a la so many people. There's a novel in that nugget.
It was great to have a chance to journal the old-fashioned way, on paper. I had some writing insights, which I'll talk about in a later post. I had a character wake me up in the middle of the night--that doesn't happen often anymore, and it was thrilling.
It was great to unplug, to be off the grid. I can't help but notice that I sleep longer when I don't have Internet access.
I am still deep in Paul Elie's The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. How wonderful to spend the week-end with Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy. I had gotten to the point in the book where each writer has become somewhat (or very, in Merton's case) successful and has to wrestle with how to live the best writer's life, while staying true to their Catholic calling and their vision of their best lives. They also must wrestle with the physical limitations imposed by a body (O'Connor's lupus, Percy's TB).
It was great to read this book at Lutheridge, the church camp which has nourished me throughout much of my life. I'd read a bit, go walk the labyrinth, read some more, walk up to the chapel--it's a delightful way to meander through a book.
I know that some of my friends must think I'm a bit mad: 12 hours in the car, 36 hours at camp, 12 hours back in the car. When I put it that way, it does seem insane. I return home both tired and refreshed.
I know that I won't live this life forever. In the future, maybe I'll have time for more leisurely travel. Maybe I'll be on the move more, as I have books to promote and speaking engagements and retreats to lead. Maybe we'll see an international collapse or the end of peak oil, which will rule out all petroleum based travel.
I'm working on being present for whatever phase of life I'm in, while I'm living it. I'm trying not to get swamped in sadness for the life I once had, the regular visits with old friends that happened more often. I'm trying not to micromanage the future.
In the meantime, it's back to regular life, whatever that is. I've already been to the office, sorted through e-mails, evaluated some transcripts (a new element of my new position in the reorganization), returned messages. I've done an early morning boot camp work out on the roof of a parking garage down here, while watching the sun rise--got to work off that heavy camp food somehow. I'll do some laundry today.
I'm already missing the mountains, the cooler air. I'll keep my eyes south, however, on Tropical Storm Sandy. We've been slammed by late season storms before. It's never a wise idea to turn one's back on the tropics!
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