Road Trip Musings

imag3587
Golden sunrise over Scott Lake

 

I have this distinct feeling of being part of the life of another without being part of my own life. It is as if I have taken a secondary role and now someone else shines brighter than I because I am not going down the path of the individual but the path of another. It is an interesting sensation because the ego has shrunk and my desires take a secondary role. I am not in Colorado to further the expanse of my own life (it is as if my life has been put on hold in order to help build someone else’s world with them). I am in Colorado, I have joined my brother on this road trip, so that I can be part of my brother’s life and world as his new beginnings are being built.  I remember sitting on an isolated nook of land jutting out onto lake Scott in Kansas and across from us we could see the lights of life whilst we were in the quiet darkness. The lives that were separate from us across the lake were laid out before me as if I was looking through the window of a two-story home. My brother alternated between sitting next to me, looking across the water, to standing in front of me pacing and rocking. This was a point in his life that was entirely focused on him, as if he was the sun. It was as if I was not there and instead I had taken a step away from all form of Being. The world that I was building for myself was not present and instead I was in a place of non-being. The experiences that I would collect would be part of something that was separate from myself, as if I was empty of identity -the self that usually occupies this vessel was left back in Texas. This is not a source of discomfort, it actually makes me feel very content to be somewhere without also being there, without building something for myself and instead helping build something for someone else. It is right now, in this moment, that I feel like I am part of the collective and not the ownmost sense of Being.

In Kansas whilst we were camping I also looked up at the dark sky many times and felt that I was dancing with this beautiful blue light -it was a sense of being present with someone far away and the silence of the single self. I feel this great sense of being bonded to many things and many people in this moment because my world is absent. Being thrown out of the world that I have invested so much in seems to only emphasize the collective Being and the destruction of the single ego. This could be connected to travel and being in a foreign place where you are an outsider and where you are always confronted with the image of the other and the strange. It is almost like the double consciousness that DuBois writes about, but it is the recognition that you are both the individual as well as a piece of another person’s world.

By abandoning the self I find that I am able to be closer to those around me since my focus is not on building my own world, but in helping others create something for themselves. This bond with others in the end also helps me find a world of my own to belong to because by feeding back into the collective I am feeding into myself -it is an exchange. After this trip with my brother I feel like I can see this even more clearly and I am grateful for that. I want to be focused on and value the other more than myself because this care is ultimately a care for the individual inside of the collective. My brother keeps bringing up how the self is a lie, and whilst at one time I may not have understood the implication and the power in this idea, it has become clearer to me.

When I return back to Texas and to the life that I know very well, I want to rediscover the world and those around me. I am always afraid of building walls and not welcoming the fluidity of everything -I do not want to maintain an isolated self and instead I want to be part of the collective. To do this I need to continue asking questions and to keep track of the various expressions and gestures of Being -to listen. Perhaps there is naivety nestled in my ideas, but I only know what resonates and what does not. I feel happier as I am now, rather than what I was before -less “out in the world,” and instead “part of the world.”

J.

Advertisements

Current… (for me)

My life as it currently is : waking up at four (4) in the morning; putting away my bed (folding bed sheets and storing pillows); going for a run in the dark; always almost running into a spider’s web, the spider in the middle of the web (a large spider); running across a bridge and feeling like the world somehow looks different along the bridge and on the other side; yoga and meditation; cutting up little ginger slices and boiling hot water to make ginger tea; taking a shower and putting myself together; French and reading and sometimes : writing; packing lunch or making lunch; taking the train to campus; walking to campus, always seeing something new along the way (watching as the world changes); classes and studies and coffee and walking around, looking at all of the people; the inside of the library and between the stacks; the inside of the language building underneath the stairwell; the inside of the BLB and my reflection in the bathroom mirror; my professors speaking, me listening; sometimes seeing others and others seeing me; sitting in the coffeehouse just off of campus and being recognized (“Jessica, right?”); catching the train back home; shopping for groceries or straight home (usually groceries); making dinner with jazz playing in the back; using as many vegetables as possible; wine; Downton Abbey (two seasons left); reading and homework and notetaking; washing my face and brushing my teeth; sleep.
Sometimes : climbing. Sometimes : speaking. Sometimes : knitting. Sometimes : wanting to be alone.

A proper post being written up soon. I am very preoccupied with classes and so some things slip my mind (too often). I hope all is well. We will speak soon,

J.

From the window of the train

Not Where I Should Be

I write now not sheltered by a tent in the middle of France, but from my brother’s apartment back in the United States. I flew home two days ago and have put an end to my pilgrimage until next summer. The reason for my early departure is related to my ankle (amongst other things), but sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision.

I have no desire to get caught in the details because everything feels divided. The life that I am now inside of is nothing like the life that I enmeshed myself in for about three weeks, and I feel that I prefer the world of struggle rather than this. I feel that there is a numbness that settles in when caught in constant comfort and I do not like this numbness. My body in constant movement and seeing new faces and new places everyday expanded my interior world so now I have become pregnant with so many new possibilities. I want to stay like this, I want to remain as I am because I do not want to forget so easily everything that I have learned whilst away. 

This is just a passing note with more to follow: there is much I must do now that I am “home.”

Until other things have been dealt with,

J.

As Things Are

Walking away from Péronne, the path took us down a way that felt familiar. There is a nature preserve close to where my family is and close to where I spent a large portion of my life, and the Via Francigena took us somewhere that felt the same as the nature preserve. It had rained (thunderstorms) the day before and so the path was a sea of mud. There were puddles everywhere and you could not easily gauge the depth of the water until your foot had sunk down to the top of the boot. I thought of the time I went with friends from high school to the nature preserve after a hard rain, and in my nice school shoes I made a point to walk through all of the puddles. My feet were frozen and wet and after that adventure I threw the muddy black flats away. It was time to retire those shoes, but I wanted to make sure that they did not have anymore life in them– no more possiblities left.

We did not make it to Seraucourt-le-Grand the other day because of my ankle, so instead we stopped at this very intimate and beautiful campground in a small town. When we got to the campsite a woman, who we believe owns the campsite, rushed out and welcomed us. She could hardly speak English and we can hardly speak French, but even still we were able to comminucate well enough. She offered us food and pointed us towards where we could put up our tent. It felt very peaceful (peace to always follow). I put on my only nice clothes, laid out in the sun, and read Nin (House of Incest) for a bit. The campground is close to a small airport, and so all afternoon I watched different planes take off. Eventually I fell asleep to the sounds of the airplanes flying overhead. Taking the moment to just be there I felt more like a person and I was grateful for that. I have a nasty habit to rush through some things, and so I am trying to learn how to sit still.

Yesterday we made it to Seraucourt-le-Grand, this morning we leave Seraucourt-le-Grand, and that is simply the state of my life right now (arriving and departing…always so soon– usually never enough time to appreciate a place entirely). 

A list of desires from the road :

  • a bubble bath
  • a nice warm dinner with jazz music
  • time to read more
  • to see the people I love most and to hold their faces in my hands
  • for my ankle to be better
  • for the rain to stop (just stop long enough to pack up)
  • to be in Reims
  • to have the answers to specific questions I am afraid to ask 

Hardship and Awe

After walking through the same countryside for over a week everything begins to look the same and you cannot help but become disillusioned. It seems that there are stages to a pilgrimage just as there are stages to grief. I want to preserve the precious moments so that these difficult times are held in comparison to the beauty and the awe that I know also follows around hardship (or is it hardship that follows around beauty and awe– which eclipses which?).
I am in Péronne at a campsite just south of the city. My ankle is swollen and is in numb pain and we are staying here for another night in the hope that all will be better tomorrow. Regardless of how it fairs, we leave tomorrow for Seraucourt-le-Grand. 

I do not think I have missed home so much before in my life, but not just home but also everyone I love deeply. This morning I was looking at the calendar and October (the month we hope to reach Rome) feels so far away. I fear that by the time I get home everyone I love and who once loved me will have slipped away and forgotten that I move through this world. Here I am, unable to forget and yet I am being forgotten. This is not a holiday and I do not feel carefree. Anyone who is reading this and thinks that I am having a ball, I would like to inform you that most of the time I am caught in an endless loop of reflection. I walk for hours each day and I walk in silence usually. I have so much time to think about the things that I would usually rather ignore. I am detached from the ‘reality’ of the world I once belonged to, but now I am more attached to my own self (maybe a spiritual self, or an energy).

I feel heavy today and I want to spend sometime alone with Borges. “Today we play at separating[..].” I hope that we may meet again– and I hope that we recognize each other.

J.

~ Temporary ~

(I tried to post this last night but was unable)

Everything is temporary: this is a thought I have had to keep close today or else I do not know if I would be able to push on. Sleep has not been a dear friend and my exhaustion has been building steadily and my nerves have begun to fray in many ways. After reaching Bapaume today, I crawled up a small hill and onto a green field near the center of the city (a park with metal bench frames, but nowhere to sit). I collapsed onto the ground and shrugged off my backpack so that I would not feel as burdened and right there I fell asleep– just for a moment. I had not felt so peaceful in such a long time, but even then the feeling was fleeting.

The place we had intended to stay the night at in Bapaume originally was closed until the 15th of August for renovation and so we had to look elsewhere. We went back towards the church, St. Nicholas, and along our way we bought some bread to ease our hunger. We were like savages eating that bread, a trend that has begun to develop. After sitting outside on the church steps without a proper nights rest or proper food, (bread and more bread) I remember when I got up and walked into the cavern of a church: It was completely empty and the ceilings reached up higher than I could bare to look. I felt that if I must sleep here I would be fine, I would be fine because all of this is temporary. The suffering that I am putting myself through (because it is a choice, and I do not know why I keep making this choice for myself everyday) is necessary and it is temporary.

When we were in Arras, after the events that led up to our arrival, I felt overwhelmed with intsense gratitude for everything. As Nic and I were eating a delicious meal at a vegan restaurant in the city of Arras we both were in a state of joy. Every comfort, every luxury that I am allowed– a warm shower, clean sheets, a pillow, etc –I do not take it foregranted as easily. I know that I cannot stop because this sense of gratitude is important and I have only been walking for about a week. It, my discomfort, is all temporary anyways (temporary)– there is an end in sight, and that end is a luxury in itself.

However, throughout our travels Nic and I both have this sense of humanity and civilization leaving us. We both have this feeling that we have been falling into savagery. We want to maintain some remnant of civilization for our morale, and we have been trying to figure out how to be a little bit more human whilst we are detached from daily life. Last night we camped out in a field after coming across a fellow pilgrim– a spry older French man– and in the morning he made himself some tea, packed up his campsite in a tidy fashion, lit himself a cigarrette and continued on his pilgrimage as if it was a morning stroll. He looked like a civilized man whilst we have been allowing our own habits of polite society slip away. After seeing him, we have decided to make more of an effort to be presentable, to make more of an effort to make tea for ourselves in the morning, to make more of an effort to not slip away so easily into decay.

Tomorrow we leave early for Peronne, and even if I have spent most of the day sleeping in a hotel (a luxury for us!), I still need more rest. It is all very temporary right now.

Please be well,

J.

An Unexpected Tale of Joy

Again, again, again, today has been another day that feels unreal. As most of our days have begun, we had so much hope for where we would find ourselves, but none of what we expected found its self to be. Nic and I had a late breakfast with the lovely French woman after she led us just up a few steps into the heart of her home. On the table she had laid different bread for us to try along with homemade confiture and freshly squeezed orange juice. The day before when we had arrived she had been preparing a cherry cake and on the table before us was the cake again waiting for us (half eaten by our Italian friend’s who had dined earlier). The day had a good beginning, but as time moved forward there was a sudden shift in the air and the people.

The castle we were originally going to stay at was no longer able to take us, and so we had decided to camp. Because my foot was also still in poor shape, we thought we would have a short day and stop in a fairly sizable town, Divion. Once we made it into this town we felt a heaviness set in around us. Up until this point there has been this softness, almost like the naivety that you expect and need in order to even begin a pilgrimage like this. Passing through Divion no one said kindly to us, “Bonjour.” We were greeted instead with eyes of mistrust and callus edges. This foul air also created tension between my travel partner and I. Sitting in a grey park in Divion we could not even speak to each other, there was just silence between us and silence between the rest of the world.

After stopping for groceries we decided it was best to not stay in Divion because we both felt very unsettled and so we pushed on. There was another campsite that was just a little ways on. After arriving at the next spot we had high hopes for (our bodies exhausted, our feet tired) we discovered dogs everywhere. Apparently someone had rented out the entire campsite for a dog show and so they had no room for us. We had no other option but to leave. The challenge that we faced then: it was getting late and we were both tired and hungry and the nearest place we might find shelter was 11km away. Walking back the way that we had just come I felt delirium set in as I could not help but laugh at this entire situation. After recieving only warmth and open doors and easy lodging day after day we were finally facing a real problem. I remember sitting at a bus stop in some anonymous small town eating just a little bit of bread and peanut butter, feeling completely hopeless. I felt as if I could just sleep at that bus stop and be done with it. Eventually, we had to move on even still (with a deranged and desperate Jessica).

All day the sun was not with us and the fear of rain was constantly present. On our way to our last possible hope the rain started to come down upon us and we hurriedly put on our rain gear. After covering our shivering bodies and our backpacks, we started up a massive curling hill. The rain and the wind and the hill made us all the more miserable to look at. Nic stopped for a moment, however, as a car was about to pass us by so that it would not accidentally hit us, and instead of the car driving by (as all cars have) this car stopped. It was impossible, but the woman who had hosted us the night before and who had prepared us breakfast was sitting in the passenger seat with her husband driving. They offered to give us a lift to the place she had told us about the day before, and in our soggy states of being we climbed into the back of her car. On this grey day after wandering from place to place trying to find somewhere to just to rest, I felt overcome with joy sitting in the back of that car and I began to cry. These are the kinds of stories that I could never even imagine happening, but here I am in France and I am coming across kindness after kindness.

The place they first stopped at (the place that we were walking towards) was shut and if they had not found us, and if we had made it to the lodging, it would have been the third place that we would have been turned away from. Instead, the kindness of the woman and her husband extended further and they took us to Arras, the city we were going to walk to tomorrow. They dropped us off at a youth hostel that barely had room for us. The woman who works for the hostel showed us to our room and in the main living area who do we find but the Italians from the night before. They had beer and bread waiting for us as if they knew that we would come and need something to fill our bellies.

I am exhausted, but I wanted to say this much. I apologise for the low quality of this post. It felt important to tell this story though, and to tell it right away. I sleep now,

J.