Monday, August 27, 2007

August 27, 2007. Monday morning, 4 days before the U-haul arrives.

Some of my friends are having a hard time understanding why we are leaving such a beautiful and peaceful community to go on the road for some ambiguous time -- three to five years without a fixed plan, just with tent, car, and box of books -- and a laptop.

In ancient and medieval India, men who reached a certain age, sometime after 50, would, with the blessings of their family, assume a wanderer’s robes and begging bowl to seek enlightenment. Here in the United States, "Go West young man," was a compelling call to adventure for many young men and families too. Perhaps the California gold rush of the 1850s contributed, but many families packed up, eager to become landowners. And before a United States existed, religious persecution drove some out of Europe to the west, to the new land before it was the United States.

But this doesn’t exactly get at why I want to go. When I grew up, we moved often. I remember attending 6 different high schools and moving too many times as a younger child to count the grade schools I attended. We were not itinerant farmworkers, but divorce in the 1940s and 1950s, when divorce was unthinkable, led my Hollywood starlet mother to pack her two daughters up and move. Somehow she always made such moves an adventure. She showed us something beautiful, a window in a different place, a new toy, the adventure of crossing railroad tracks at dawn, our very own room. I felt comfortable in the world most of the time. So I grew up rather footloose and bookish. After all, books were portable.

When I met my husband 32 years ago, he dazzled me with tales of world travels. I was ready to go. India. South America. Nepal. China. All beckoned. We began with Mexico. Then our daughter Rachel came into our lives. And we did travel – Hawaii, the land of Jack Lord; California, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, urban Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, several times to Mexico, and then from the affluent suburbs of New Jersey to Ecuador where Rachel attended kindergarten with Quechuan and Spanish children and the only people from North America living in Otavalo, Ecuador, who were not missionaries, was our little family. Both of us felt once Rachel was old enough to go to school, she should have the experience of growing up in one place.

So we returned to life in the United States, I pursued my degree to teach, and we have lived a quiet, very happy life in Corvallis -- close to friends and family, and teaching first at Oregon State and then my teaching home for the last twenty three years -- Linn-Benton Community College. We still traveled in the summers, mostly camping and studying trips -- Alaska, Mexico, northern Canada above the Artic Circle, and I took a two-term sabbatical to seven countries in eight months (Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and England). Rachel went on to become a musician, attending the University of Oregon, meeting and marrying a wonderful man, Nick. Our family expanded. And then I retired.

Teaching is, for me, an immersion experience. For the first time, with retirement, writing becomes a real possibility. Unstructured time without a schedule and so many places in this world to see and try to understand. So this first year we begin our travels, a new laptop, a crate of books, our tent and the United States.

Our destinations this first year spread from the great Southwest to the wilds of Maine, with month-long stops in Florida and New Orleans. I’m hoping for opportunities to visit far-flung family, for some volunteer work, and for every day a good place for reflecting, writing, hiking, and experiencing the wider world, looking at the connections between people, places, culture and history. This promises to be a grand adventure. Some friends will join us for parts of the way. Others will stay home. So it has always been. Make it a good day! Beth

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