I Am Running Into a New Year

December 3rd, 2018

Boarding in a half an hour for my big Asian adventure.  Jitters over. I am thinking about one of my favorite poems, by the late Lucille Clifton, titled “i am running into a new year”:

I am runnning into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twenty-six and thirty-six
even thirty-six but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me

Even thirty six!  Just imagine how many more things I and others my age have said to ourselves about ourselves, in now roughly twice that number of years.  All those chances for reinvention, rethinking, repairing, rebirthing.

And it goes on.  Hello, next chapter!  I am ready for you. The wind is in my hair.


Lucille Clifton 1936-2010


December 2nd, 2018

I had a weird dream the other night. Two young children, maybe about ten and four, who didn’t look like mine, but I identified in the dream as mine, went off on a motorcycle, ten year old driving. I was screaming because I just knew they were going to be killed (they weren’t killed in the dream, they just disappeared down the road). That’s it.

The dream recurred several times, and i remembered it in the morning, which is unusual for me. I suspect it is a reflection of my anxiety about leaving for such a long time in Asia, but it was a strange  way for that to manifest.

I posted about it on Facebook, and had several friends who know a lot about such things offer explanations.  One offered a numerological analysis based on the three ages, the two children and myself.  Another added to that,  the idea that there was in it the “innocent exhilaration of a four year old with the sense of adventure of a ten year old,” adding that I was the experienced voice of caution, but might  not need to be as worried as I felt.  Another friend, well versed in Jung, agreed with this and pointed that in the dream no damage occurred. An adventurous and brave 10-year old undertook the  nusual act of riding a motorcycle, and shared  it with a friend.

I  feel  bathed in the love of three people who deeply want the dream to mean that things will  be okay. They wanted me to see this dream as a basis for confidence in myself.   Despite my apparent anxiety, I would be fine, and these little adventurers on the bike were extensions  of myself going off into the unknown.

But the dream wasn’t about the children.  It was about me.  It was about being helpless, about the dawning sense of terrible, terrible loss.

I don’t talk much about this, but here is what I think the dream meant.

In 1999, I went off for the fall semester to Florence for a sabbatical.  I said goodbye to my 21-year-old son, Adriano, and never saw him again.  In December of that year he took his life shortly before I came home.  I have recalibrated my own life, and have indeed been able to reconstruct a happy existence. He is there, tucked into my heart, to put it gently, or scarred into it, to put it another, blunter way.

I know from experience that you can never expect to come back to what you leave behind.  When I go off on my travels, everyone I  love goes off on their own life journey as well. I want to come back and find everyone unchanged, or better yet, changed in positive ways. But I can’t keep them safe. In many ways it is much, much easier to believe I can keep myself from harm.

When those two children went off on that motorcycle,  it would be nice to think it was all a fun adventure and they would be back.  I know better.  Trust, love, and hope are all I can send out into the universe, and pray that it will be enough.



Good Bye, Comfort Zone

November 29th, 2018

Well, I seem to have done it again.  I am as ready as a person can ever be for a long trip.  It’s easier in some ways for me now, since I have shed myself of responsibilities for  the kinds of things that take so much time ( mail, houseplants, standing appointments, and the like)  when vacating ordinary life for just  a few weeks.

I have packed my bags, and gotten my lectures lined up on my laptop and—equally if not more important—backed up about three or four different ways. I’ve seen the friends who made a concrete plan with me to do so.  I went to the dentist, and am headed to the hairdresser this afternoon.  I played tennis enough times to be sure I still can.  Golf not so much, but it can wait.

On Monday, I get on a plane to Singapore, for several months in Asia, after which I take the long way home, going across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, and then up to Athens, to catch a plane home in mid-May. Five months, plus a few days.    My longest stretch in My Year of Living Travelly to date has been three and a half.

So how am I feeling?  To be honest, a little apprehensive.  Asia is not my comfort zone, though admittedly seeing it from the safe haven of a luxury ship is hardly throwing caution to the wind and taking my chances with the universe.

Plus, have iPad, will travel.  It is so easy now to make reservations, find guides, and figure out what to see.  My first trip to Europe as an adult, back in their 1980s, I think I recall having to send letters to hotels and wait for their reply.  Now, I can get everything squared away with ease, and just have to hope that people on the other end deliver.  If not, I am pretty good at Plan B, or sometimes instant Plan C or D.  And I am pretty good at saying to myself, “this is what I am doing instead of what I planned, and it will be good in its own way.”

From time to time last spring I got on a plane and flew alone somewhere to spend time between cruises.  I spent multiple days alone in London, Nice, Marseille,  Corfu, and Riga, plus single nights in several other places, and it was really a piece of cake.  However, I have never traveled alone in a region of the world that is so new to me culturally.  Between cruises, I will have to rely entirely on myself, without the advantages of another brain to come up with ideas, another person with whom to puzzle through things, another person to help make the difficult parts a little easier.  I am confident I can do this but it’s not—

It’s not comfortable.

But part of the point of Living Travelly is to test boundaries, to learn not just about the world but about myself.  I can’t do that in my comfort zone.  I know that.  So I am ready for the adventure, whatever it ends up being. Monday, I sprout new wings.