Walden and I start another adventure
Even Kerouac had a false start. In On the Road he was turned back by rain at Bear Mountain only a half-day from home. My own prequel lasted one month at a meditation center in upstate New York, coincidentally only 40 miles from Bear Mountain. I wasn’t laid low by rain. Instead I found myself surrounded by hundreds of Buddhist monks calling the Dalai Lama the most evil dictator in the world. That was November. A month later, after many attempts, I still can’t write that story. I don’t yet trust my voice when driven by rage. Someday I will. My experience on Buddha’s mountain revealed my anger, how I judge it in myself and how I judge it in others. Lessons everywhere. We are an odd and funny species.
Sometimes we only must take a step and go. Just choose and hang on. Have faith in forward. tweet
I left the gates of the World Peace Temple with no peace and wore Walden’s shoes down to their cracked rubber soles, beating our way back across the half-country to Missouri. There I spent a long while waiting for something. Many nights I sat with Walden in the driveway—two space heaters keeping us warm as the sleet fell—working on the laptop, wondering whether this road trip would ever happen, and questioning whether it ever should. The detractors say I am irresponsible and this odyssey absurd. I heard them. I’ve been them.
Sometimes we only must take a step and go. Just choose and hang on. Have faith in forward.
So on a frozen January morning of a new year I watched my mother cry departure tears once again and turned the wheels, pointing Walden south toward warmer climes, the Gulf of Mexico, or as far as faith allowed.
There is wanderlust in my veins and I am most happy when crossing the world’s distances. All the journeys waiting, something wiser encouraging my little self just a little bit farther, until the day runs out. tweet
Only 50 miles of rolling pavement and my great ambition returned—a feeling whimsical, astonishing and of the heart which can’t be examined. It seems some roving spirit moves in my blood, perhaps put there by so many relocations as a child, perhaps too much Hemingway, or perhaps simply this is me. When I was eight-years-old I walked a creek for six hours until the day ran out of light. Only then did I turn back. There is wanderlust in my veins and I am most happy when crossing the world’s distances. All the journeys waiting, something wiser encouraging my little self just a little bit farther, until the day runs out.
Go ahead, this life whispers, as the days pass each the same. Do you not also hear it? It sounds like something different. It’s calling you from a future life.
Your new shoes are shining now, Walden, so sigh; the exhaust behind us, don’t look back, push your nose into the wind and unroll this road and let us outrun the frozen polar breath. Ahead distractions await us, fear on the corners, loneliness and silence, but we’ll be just fine.
Go ahead, this life whispers, as the days pass each the same. Do you not also hear it? It sounds like something different. It’s calling you from a future life. tweet
We slice the mists of Missouri—black cows huddled close in black frozen fields—the glowing lights of Springfield, the country-time billboards of Branson. We slip unseen through the limestone knuckles of the Ozarks and down down down into the Arkansas night on a curling Highway 65—the bluffs are tall shadows cloaking us as we drop into the hollows and the honkey-tonk radio crackles and loses touch with the world. And there are people here in the soggy forgotten towns. The house foreclosed and mommy shaking and daddy quiet and the little girl holding her teddy bear with hands in prayer. She’s sleeping now, so we’ll let her be.
In the southern sky, half-hidden by the hickory horizon, is a cloud shaped like an elephant. It is huge and magnificent and white by the moon. Imagine this elephant, way down there in the South, standing hip-deep in the Gulf and trumpeting its rain showers over the swamplands. In India there was an elephant, the last one and old, and each morning it was leashed and led to the river where tourists took pictures, and each evening it was tethered to a post and left alone—and maybe this cloud is that elephant’s dream cloud, finally set free to wade the salty marsh heavens on the other side of the world.
We let her lead us, through Little Rock and toward Texarkana, and the earth shakes in the night beneath our thundering feet.