In a week I'll be loading up the truck and heading West to visit my daughter and do some hiking and outdoor adventuring with my best friend. Barkley is staying behind with a good friend who tends the place when I'm gone. He loves her and I know the place will be in good hands. I'm looking forward to both the drive and the trip. I've not had a "real" vacation in over 5 years, tending to my folks on my time off as they had a few health issues. Plus I love the Rockies. I've spent a fair amount of time there over the years since Brigid Jr. moved there with her adoptive parents and my pilot friend Deb got married to a local and built a cabin on the side of a mountain 15 years ago. Myself? I've lived all over the place over the last 20 years.
This is the longest I've lived in one place, though I'm settling into the land with thirsty roots. I won't retire in this home. The city is growing too close. At one time I thought I'd build back in Montana, but the Midwest has claimed me, and the song of the Plains is a siren to the gregarious loner in me. For now, this is what I need, close enough to where I can fly out for work, or make it into a city office in less than an hour. In a few years, a self sufficient and smaller home on a whole lot of land, big enough to hunt on. This fits me for now. For most of my life, I couldn't imagine living anywhere for more than a few years, and it's not because the desire isn't there. It's just been the life I have led. I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land . . . across rivers and towns. My Mom would have preferred I marry a hometown boy and stay in the tiny town in which I was raised, but once I tasted adventure, I was born into that gypsy life and have never really known another.
I have probably moved a dozen times in 20 years, chasing a flying dream for a while, then, back to school, then another school, then internships and a promotion in another city. St. Expurey said "he who would travel happily must travel light". And this adventurer did travel light, living on a boat, and small apartments for those first years, my books my biggest possessions and my photos of friends and family around my bed my only company most nights.There have been so many flights, so many moment that shine in my memory, milestones along the uncharted airway that made up my life. In the early years, I remember not just the airplanes themselves as I instructed to pay for college, but the feel of the cotton shirt I wore, the smell of my students aftershave, the song that was playing inside when I ran in to check the weather again. It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug sprayed glass that tints the world bright.
The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but what was inside was always the same, drawn back to the sky as a way of release. The firm tension of the throttles, the ever varying display of numbers on gauges that ranged from the antique to the technically sublime. My memory just remembers my hands, clasped on the yoke, a testament to their refusal to be separated for long. The voices of the controllers reminding me that I was of the earth, the window reflecting the satisfied smile of being exactly where I wanted to be. My friend or a copilot with me, chatting with me of his or her life, our plans for the weekend, our dreams for the future. It might have been Fall or Spring, morning or night, but the feeling deep within the remembrance always stays the same. My life's journey have have changed and if I didn't have roots, there was that one constant. That of my reflection in that little plane window, still enraptured by a cockpit's illumination of a dream. No one could take that from me.
To some people all those changes would have been upsetting. But the adventurer in me looked on it as simply new landscapes to a life that broadened. Certainly, not all the changes I chose, but I found crying about it didn't make it easier, it's easier to pack what remains and look onward. So I looked at each new move, each progression in my career, like a new page, a chance to experience each day, each sky in all its glory. Another suitcase to unpack, full of memories of adventure. Besides, I wouldn't know what to do with a full size bar of soap anyway.
So what if at an age when my friends had 3 kids and their mortgage half paid, I was grasping the second dream of my live, living out of boxes again. Boxes in which somewhere was my favorite Led Zeppelin tape. I could still crawl in the cockpit of a little plane once in a while, watching the day in yet another new state slowly unfold above the clouds. The sun casting a pink haze over the sky, long before I could actually see its rays, as the ridges that rose from the land took on a glow you can't see from the ground. For just a moment I could block out the sound of the Air Traffic Controller, and I could hear life whispering to me in the sound of a Lycoming engine. For that moment in space I could feel the depth and potential of my whole existence. No matter what my troubles were, fretting whether I'd done the right thing with a total career change mid thirties, or the time spent away from my parents and siblings - when the earth turned on its axis one more time and I saw that sun rising over the nose of my airplane, it was universe reminding me of all that I did have. Amongst which was yet another day aloft, breathing deep the freedom of choice.
Choices, like when I moved to a place I had never been, a place where my grandparents were born, when I found suddenly found myself single. Packing up books and a 12 point deer mount that sat on the front seat of my car wearing a baseball cap, eliciting honks from truck drivers and waves from little kids as I embarked on the journey. I drove two solid days, to arrive in the middle of the night in a place I'd never set foot except for a brief job interview. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, gold winged motorcycles and farm trucks all blending into a bright diorama of my new life. From my view point in that tiny car I was sitting tall, this new land rushing past me, racing at me, then away from me, the bug spattering on the window and the chatter of the DJ in my ear. I watched a dozen cumulus clouds erupt, mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny diner and the trip was just beginning.
It's still ongoing, though I've been here a while now. I've healed in this place. Though adult when I got here, I've grown up in this place. My home has gone from an apartment with all the coziness of a dental lab to a sprawling, warm, wood and art filled home on a bit of land. I sit here tonight after a couple of days on the road, with a cold beer, watching the sun set on a pond. MY pond. My land. And despite setbacks and a couple of tears along the way, it's spawned new faith, and strength in the countless days marked with bitter cold and radiating warmth, monotonous wonderful days of work and friends, gunfire and laughter, water and sky. Countless days here, now receding like ancient glaciers that once crept down upon this place, leaving the land flat in their wake, leaving an ancient mark upon my heart. A gypsy heart that's taking root.
I may someday decide to move, but my heart will have a place here always.