There comes a point on any trip when the arc away from home ends, and the arc of returning begins. This doesn’t necessarily have to be at the halfway point, either in time or distance. It’s more of a state of being. Ideas of home begin to creep in. Thoughts of what must be accomplished to set things in order once you get back. The knowledge that there is another season to come, and that part of you is already preparing for it.
That point came for me as I sprinted through the Honolulu airport, trying to make my flight back to Oakland. Honolulu is a very badly designed airport, and the lines for both baggage claim and security were clear out the door. In addition, wings are madly spread out, and I ended up having to run to the farthest end of the farthest terminal to make my flight. Maybe that’s why it didn’t hit me until the moment I sat down on the plane that I was, however slowly, on my way home.
This trip has been perfectly divided for me in that way. The return from Hawaii came at almost the exact midway point of the trip. It was also the most western point of the trip. From Colorado to California to Hawaii, the first leg of the trip has had me moving, almost exclusively, westward. From the moment that plane took off over Oahu, I began an arc of movement that will be, almost exclusively, easterly. Until I get home.
Home is a strange concept on a journey like this. It’s become a mobile thing on the road. I’ve been at home on a houseboat, in a tent, on the side of a volcano, at the edge of the continent. I’ve been at home on the road. It seems easier, somehow, without the concerns and utility bills and other stresses of a day-to-day existence in a single location. Relationships seem to stay more cordial. Existence feels more immediate. This is, of course, more a product of my own design than any real problem with a more settled way of living.
As Blaise Pascal said: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
I’m on the return leg of my journey now, with California, the Southwest, and Chicago ahead of me. I will be sending updates as I start to spin toward home, but it feels different now. I have one eye on the endpoint. I am already anticipating my landing. And always, in the back of my mind, is the thought that if I could just keep going, keep jumping, I would never stop worrying about how I would land.
A few hours before my flight back to the mainland, I walked into a Shinto temple in Honolulu and observed a ceremony entirely in Japanese. It appeared to be the equivalent of a Baptism. I have no idea what was happening, but I sat quietly and watched and let myself get carried away by every movement of the priest. The shaking of what looked like a brush made of paper over the infant and the two women who brought him. The sipping of some sort of ceremonial tea. The chanting, punctuated at intervals by a loud handclap. I had no trouble sitting still, shutting my mouth, forgetting every concern. And still, four hours later, I was running at a dead sprint so as not to miss a plane that, symbolically, was the first step of the end of my journey.
Maybe that’s why these missives have become so important to me. They force me to sit still, consider what I have seen, and quietly focus. They stop my mind from galloping past my experience. They are my way of inviting everyone to cross to my side of the river and share the view. Most importantly, they are my own way of recording my present as it slips away, and forcing me to remind myself to look away from the landing strip and focus on the view still ahead of me.
You need to remember this, I remind myself. You need to remember so you can share it.
These are the things I’m accumulating. More than possessions. A record of pictures. Of images. Something I’ll carry with me all the way home.