In the beginning of the trek south, I imagined pieces of writing in outdoors-column sized blips.
“I want to write about learning to embrace a road trip as a means of being outside,” I announced to my husband, “even as someone who, apparently, doesn’t really like driving.”
“What do you think about ‘how to exercise while on the road?’” I asked him later. “Little hacks like bringing a jump rope, having flash cards, doing pushups while we’re dumping, jumping jacks. You know.”
I scribbled these ideas and more down in my journal. But I also wrote down other things, unrelated to “the outdoors” as a topic. Some fragments:
“5/4. Friday?! Friday. Who cares. On the road. How will hot hot summer feel w/o the pressure of artificial scheduling? Will it be a great, languid slow down, the inverse of AK winter? Active in the am and pm, slowly moving/reading/napping/drinking water in the slow mo shimmering heat of the day. Yesterday watching the fire I wondered if I could paint that shimmer.”
“I have to remind myself that this constant shift – good/bad/neutral/repeat – is trailer AND life-life. Modern conveniences slow everything, dull. It dulls ME. Here, I’m tired I’m elated I’m crushed I’m crabby I’m content I’m excited. I’m also now missing a chunk of my molar due to chomping on an errant olive pit while exultantly consuming leftover tagine, roadside w/campchairs as is now our v gourmet o’clock habit…so yea, I tried to file the particularly jagged edge where the tooth broke w/a metal nail file, in the Command-brand tiny mirror at the front of the trailer, while Wes asked me questions about where the stove top gets stored while towing, etc. Then we drove into greener forests + rising temps and visibly thawed water, and I tongued my tooth anxiously, and then I told myself I’d get used to it and it would feel normal. I told myself to sense the sunshine + view. I enjoyed listening to Devil Makes Three, old friends of songs.”
“Could I just melt into experiences and sensory? Wouldn’t that, too, be a kind of death? Or would that be fully living? I’m getting better and better at simply being, noticing, enjoying. What is my impact on the world if it’s just moving thru me – what I do I bring, create, change? Do I need to? Is it ego?”
Now, today, May 24th is the first full “let’s do anything we want to today” day. We’ve driven almost all the way to our final (for now) destination. We’ve spent our time at the DMV, the bank, and on healthcare.gov. I added “write!” with a checkbox on my list, and when I sat down in a camp chair, in the sun, all I did for ten minutes was sip chai and ponder.
No one is assigning me to focus on the outdoors as the lens for my creative outlet anymore since I wrote my final column for the Anchorage Daily News earlier this month, after ten whole years of near-weekly pieces. I can keep writing this type of thing if I want to, and perhaps pitch around to different outlets, but I can also try something new.
That “something new” is brewing, somewhere in my journal entries, and somewhere in lived experiences and personal growth I haven’t yet experienced. It’s tempting to go hard on myself right now and push toward a next big idea; big project.
It’s tempting to churn out a few pieces about how to exercise during van life, or learning to enjoy a road trip.
But in this new phase of life we’ve worked hard to bring about, I’ve been trying not to recreate what I know. I have a hard time with discipline, in that I have plenty of it to overcompensate for what I fear might otherwise be a slow, lovely slide into nothingness. Objectively, I know having observed myself for some years that that is ridiculous. So, today I’m going to let myself be in the murky, scary, openness of not exactly knowing yet. Instead, I’m just relating – in my journal and now here – those fragments of ideas and experiences that are coming up, so they can sit for a while before I make choices about where I’d like to train my focus from here.