My dad is on the road again.
Nine years ago today, the two of us were in snowy West Virginia, getting very little shut-eye at a Jane Lew rest area. We were bunking in his Covenant Transport eighteen-wheeler after three weeks on the road together, and he had woken me with a jab to the side at 2:45 a.m., disrupting a dream I was having about Mulder and Scully teaching me to ballroom dance.
The road trip that inspired the travel memoir was coming to a sleepless close.
This past weekend he slept in Seattle after a cross-country sprint to deliver my stepsister and her car to a new job that was waiting there. Today he’s aboard a train heading back to Massachusetts while I move forward with the final phase of my book proposal. My agent emailed me some partial edits last night.
Some cell phone photos Dad sent to me:
He’s still got that restless desire; he’s still a kid in the face of trains,
planes, and automobiles. (After flying Cessnas for years in my twenties, Dad developed an irrational perfectly normal fear of flying.)
Traveling—my own or others’—always gets me thinking I’m moving toward some grand answer to it all, that at the end of the journey, there’ll be a little box I can open, and inside, there’ll be a piece of paper with something written on it.
I used to get upset when I didn’t find that box so easily. There’s an oft-quoted passage from a letter Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to a young poet I once found that semi-soothed that ache:
Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms, or books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
I asked my dad if he was having any grand epiphanies on his journey. He said, “Trying to find my cheap reading glasses. I lost my real glasses in Seattle (blind in Seattle). Attendant pointed out they are right in front of me, which I would see if I had glasses on.”
There seems to be some hidden symbolic wisdom in that.
Why do you travel?