pages fly away 52

In the morning, Jenny had to get up early and taken the kids to school.  She was taking the day off so we could go get breakfast before I hit the road again.  I’d crashed out on the couch in the living room, only sleeping for a few hours under a small blanket.  There was about an hour where I had the place to myself. 

The only time we’d lived together was in a tent our first year in Alaska and a camper our second.  I’d crashed off and on at her apartment in Minneapolis a few months before we’d broken up.  Since then, I’d continued my vagabond lifestyle, and the last twelve or thirteen years had been extreme, basically living out of a suitcase all that time.

Now I sat in her living room and waited for her to get home.  I took the time to attempt to meditate or at least process my surroundings.  A fan was spinning and there was a lamp on a nearby table.  The couch I’d slept on was to the right of me, the blanket folded up at the foot of it.  There in a guitar case was her guitar from back in the day.  A dreamcatcher hung from the ceiling, revolving slightly.  On a low table there were some painted rocks.  A bookshelf was collapsing inwards under the weight off all the books stacked on it.  There on the floor was my book of maps, my blue cooler, my ukelele.

The night before Jenny said she’d learned a lot from me about letting go.  How was that, I’d wondered.  She told me there was never a time when I hadn’t reminded her, I had one foot out the door.  True, perhaps, the Ballad of the Rambling Man.  The fact that she’d gotten married to another musician was her own fault, I guess.  I never gave my heart to anything beyond my journey.  Saddled with a job or responsibility, I’d try to satisfy it, but if there was no way out, I’d feel trapped and get anxious, needing to drink until I could at least sit still.  What about this meditation then?  How was that working out?  Well, I was sitting still.  All I was doing was thinking, but I was sitting still.  For five more minutes.

When Jenny got back, she took me out for breakfast.  That had been a rare treat back in the day.  We’d always been broke.  Our finest moment had come after the first salmon season in Alaska, when we’d been flush with a few thousand each.  We’d bought a Ford Mustang for two hundred dollars that pulled so hard to the right it was like I was arm wrestling it.  Then we’d splurged on a hotel in Alaska, Chinese food, cigarettes, weed, beer, magazines.  A million dollars couldn’t have bought us a greater amount of satisfaction, at least for the next few weeks. 

Now it was time to go our separate ways again.  She had her work cut out for her with her classes and her kids.  I had a long way to go to make it back to California in one piece.  I considered driving to Virgina Beach, just to say I’d made it to the Atlantic, but decided to save that for another trip.  I’d have to do a trip about the Revolutionary War and another about the Civil War.  This one had started out about Native Americans but had gone on to incorporate the whole of Western expansion.  I could live with that.

Before leaving Charlottesville, I decided to hit up Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  Thinking I’d probably revisit it on a later trip, I just parked in the parking lot and visited the gift shop.  Thomas Jefferson had engineered the Louisiana Purchase, acquiring much of the land that became states I’d either passed through, or would be passing through on my way back west.  He’d also been the one who’d appointed Lewis and Clark to explore the Northwest Territory.  So, there was definitely a connection.

Inside the gift shop, there was a statue of Jefferson wearing a COVID mask.  The other visitors were all wearing COVID masks, and I was too.  Although many of us had never gotten the virus, it had changed our lives forever.  If anything, we now knew that someone out there had the power to lockdown the whole world within the span of one week.  When had that ever been possible before? 

You would hear about things going on in China, or some other country, and be glad it wasn’t happening to you.  Now it was happening everywhere, all at once.  Technology and mass media have made it possible to feel like danger is at the doorstep every second of our lives. When is too safe, not safe at all?  Just stick around.  We may know the answer to that question sooner than we think.

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