“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 52: Travels at Home

The happiest person I ever met was a man named Richard, who worked at WordMasters Inc. in Seattle just when desk-top publishing was the new best thing.  He was at least a dozen years older than I was, and I thought of him as a sage.

One day I was feeling sorry for myself about not having any money, and about my ongoing troubles with my mother, and about how I'd just broken up with my boyfriend, and so on, and I decided to walk to work, even though it would take over an hour.  I went through Green Lake park, and there he was, Richard, running around with that goofy grin on his face.  He didn't run like a runner.  He ran like a Whirling Dervish who has just finished spinning, with the thrum of the world still pulsing through his ears.  It was like he had never been outside in his life and was just feeling wind and rain on his face for the first time.  (In Seattle, when I felt sorry for myself, it was always always raining.)

Later I asked him to tell me his secret.  "You always look so happy," I said.

"I decided to be a traveler in my own city," he replied.  "Best decision I ever made."

Then he explained that his money "wasn't liquid" just now.  He had bought a house.  And socked a lot of money into it.  And what's more, he couldn't afford the mortgage by himself.  So he had people living with him, sharing the house, paying rent to him.  And that was okay, except for when they dumped coffee grounds in the sink.  "I like a clean house," he added.

Richard wanted to travel, but he was tied to this house, and tied to his job as my not-demanding boss at Word Masters, Inc., where we wrote copy for university catalogues and such.  And where no one signed contracts when Mercury was retrograde.  So he had come up with a way to live with the same sense of wonder and mindfulness he brought to his traveling life.

"So every day, I try to see new things.  I walk to work when I can.  I walk a different way each time.  I try to pretend I'm new to Seattle, and I take myself places to see them again, even if I've been there a lot already.  It's really fun."

I always loved the way Henry David Thoreau described himself as "widely traveled in Concord": his home town, and location for Walden.  His four-hour walks each day were the inspiration, setting, and subject for his journals and most of his writings.

Each week for my journal and the blog, I'm hoping to bring back stories from the world--the world from the North Country, where I live with my husband and Zoe, our dog.  It's not a traveling year for me.  We need to stay close to home and take care of our Zoe.  I'm as firmly installed here as I have ever been.  And it really is fun.

This is my world these days:  My Paris and London and New Delhi and Rome:
Maybe I'll become like the Inuit, who have all those different words to describe snow.

I sometimes wonder what happened to Richard.  When I knew him he was 35.  That was 30 years ago.  I hope he has traveled a lot since then, and lives with people who don't dump their coffee grounds in the sink.  But I hope he is still like the same thirty-five-year-old sage running around Green Lake, catching rain on his tongue.

1 comment:

  1. I admire Richard. He has an excellent attitude in life. I think I will start being a traveler in my own city too.