Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reasons to Travel #2

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” - G. K. Chesterton

When we landed in Oakland it might as well have been the moon. From the plane I had looked down on the brown California hills and after the lush greenness that threatens to overcome every road in the East they appeared to me, like the moon to Buzz Aldrin, a magnificent desolation.

On the drive home West Oakland's decrepit buildings leaped out at me. At home I could smell our home's smell, and see the high cobwebs, and Greta's pencil marks on the wall. It seemed to me that someone had moved the center island in the kitchen.

But also my morning cappuccino was delicious beyond all hope or memory. Before we even had time to get used to home we were off to camp on the coast just an hour's drive north. A friend who has been going there many years invited us. We almost did not go. But I thought about my resolve to cast off the bowlines and sail into the unknown.

I've lived in the Bay Area so long, 24 years, and yet this place was terra incognita for me. How could I have let it remain so for so long?

I suppose I just started to think that everywhere here was like everywhere else.

On our trip many of the people we met and stayed with said we were going places that they had never been. Of course. We all develop channels we flow in, habits we're comfortable with. It is hard to see them as ruts when we are flowing in them happily.

So despite being tired from our journey we set off to camp at a place so close we had overlooked it and there we found many things strange and wondrous to behold. The scrubby hills that seemed so desolate were teeming with life. Bunnies and gopher snakes and swallows that swooped along the paths to the campsites so that we surprised each other.

And though we made friends with the rocks and earth...
...I hope to preserve the feeling that all around us is terra incognita.


Toni said...

hey Susan --
Yes, yes! You express my very thoughts about why to travel both abroad & at home!! (but you do it so much better than I possibly could)

Also that photo of the girls & their friends (? cousins?) is just wonderful!!!

Was that taken on your Eastern seaboard trip, I wonder?

A major fan

Susan said...

Thanks, Toni! Yes, Ev Clem and their cousins are jumping of George Washington's haha at Mount Vernon.

patricia said...

Yes, I've had this distinct experience too--coming home from a trip and seeing my home and surroundings as a tourist might. The "golden" hills always shock me too, and all the pines and redwoods.

A blog writer I follow posted a great Stegner quote on the west a few weeks back.
It made me wonder how much of the west I have in me. Traveling is a great way to tease that out.

It also made me want to read more Stegner...

Susan said...

Patricia, thank you for the link--great quote, and I don't think I have a lot of west in me either...I am not one for wide open spaces. I like nooks and hollows and dingles. I love the Bay Area, and our house is in a foggy redwood microclimate I love, but a part of my soul is held hostage by the lush green growth and the warm waters of the Chesapeake where I grew up. As much as I love the summer here I mourn the browning of the hills in May and celebrate the first rains in September.

Anonymous said...

a great post! and I love that last photo, so cute :)

Susan said...

Barbara, thank you, we love to leave terra cognita figures in all the rocky places we visit. I made the guy on the left with some help from Greta, and Evelyn gave him his kelp flask. Evelyn made the tiny clay figure on the right. She made another one and tried to bake him in our campfire, but his head came off.

The Stone Age Techie said...

We returned home recently from Philadelphia (took your advice about Independence Hall and LOVED Once Upon a Nation - Luke was field-promoted to Corporal during a Continental Army recruitment reenactment!) and Gettysburg, PA, and the first things that hit me about home were the flowers blooming like crazy in our front yard, and the unique smell of home; I didn't realize I missed it until I went away.
Thank you for this post, it really is good to be back :-)

Susan said...

Karen, so glad that Once Upon a Nation was a hit...I hope programs like it spring up all over the country. And welcome home!

Kristin said...

Your writing is so eloquent in this post. Keep it coming're really good at it.