The season for Old World Wisconsin ends in October. Steve and I are gearing up for a 2-3 week road trip. We have about 9 possible itineraries, National Forests and Parks mostly. We’ve come to call this “our trip to metaphorical Maine” because although Maine is one of the top contenders, it is really just serving as the title of an unknown eventual destination. This is how Steve prefers to travel, and he is teaching me to appreciate the spirit of living in the moment rather than planning for safety and control. Not that Steve is an “extreme” kind of guy, a risk-taker for the sake of it, or anything like that. It’s really more a Zen kind of thing of being aware of conditions as they arise and dancing with them rather than putting on blinders and sticking to a railroad track.
We recently borrowed the DVD of “The Sheltering Sky” starring Debra Winger and John Malkovich. I’m sure the book was better, but the film has some terrific cinematic landscapes and brings up a lot of interesting questions. Like, “What is the difference between a tourist and a traveler?” A tourist wants the comforts of home. A traveler seeks adventure. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who talked about a visit to France and only mentioned that there were no bugs or birds and that French waiters substitute Sprite for lemonade. This guy never thought he’d leave the country in his lifetime. Maybe he shouldn’t have!
I feel like I have been working on my personal demons (neuroses, grief, all that baggage) and have gained some courage and self-confidence since our last big trip. I did have one memorable meltdown in a rest stop off the highway in the pouring rain from about 2-4 in the a.m. That was April of 2011, and we were on the road for 4 weeks. Here’s a shot taken somewhere near the Colorado River in Utah that illustrates one of the many decision discussions we had. Do you want to take this road or not? Why?
There’s no “right answer” and there’s no judgement, Steve told me. “I just want to know what you think about when you make decisions.” What are we here for? What do we call “living”? Is it “to be safe and have children and grandchildren”? Is it “to learn to praise God and serve Him”? There are a million ways to answer that question. Steve describes his answer to me every time we have a conversation. He wants to meet life with awareness, engage in nuance and complexity, question and think critically, try to discover delusion, respond in the moment to what is before him, and participate in the adventure of living, as holistically as he can. Yesterday, I read a short science fiction story by E.M. Forster called “The Machine Stops”. It describes a futuristic world where the human race is run by Machine and never ventures to the surface of the earth. It’s eerie how much that could be the life of modern individuals plugged into the Internet with no experience of the physical phenomenons of Earth. What kind of life do I really want to live? What kind of courage do I have to face the adventure of living? Do I prefer comfort to challenge? These are good questions to take out for a road test. I’m looking forward to it!