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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Of Travel, Books, Coming Home — and OPENING DAY!

Old photo, old flowers, old posters -- Come see what's new!
It is the fate of most voyagers, no sooner to discover what is most interesting in any locality, than they are hurried from it….” 

- Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle

I read the sentence beginning with that phrase about "the fate of most voyagers" this morning and thought of a recent evening when the Artist and I spent an hour and a half in St. Joseph, Missouri, wandering around in the growing dark, more and more lost, unable to locate our motel -- and all the time I couldn’t help thinking what a fascinating town it would be to explore, if only we had the time. Right on the Missouri River, streets of grand old houses, an extensive central city with more imposing buildings and intriguing restaurants and pubs, streets with old French names! But in the morning we had to get up and push on east, leaving sights unseen, stories undiscovered, stones unturned. 

Thank heaven it isn’t true of life in general that we only become interested at the end! From earliest weeks, our monkey-related species is curious about and fascinated by everything around us! Only as we get older does our curiosity focus more sharply on some aspects and ignore others. We learn that we cannot pay attention to everything at once and that a concentration in one direction means neglecting something else. Choices, therefore must be made. When the Artist and I travel, his eye is more likely than mine to spot handsome trucks and unusual cars (which he points out to me), while I take it as my personal responsibility to be alert to every single horse in the landscape or hawk in the sky or flowering tree. He is often focused on the “big picture” while I feast on details — but also, really, just as often the same aspect of a passing scene attracts us both. It might be a river or creek or a mountain, cows ambling home in a row, a particular old building or beautiful tree, or simply an arrangement of hills and fields that make almost abstract beauty from road to horizon. We don't set any records for covering distance in the minimum number of hours, but we make the most of every hour along the way.

(Imagine pictures here. I have too much to do today to illustrate this post.)

Back now on our home ground, what we notice and remark on most these first few days is familiarity vs. novelty. What is the same? What is different? What is entirely new? In general, we are comforted by the familiar (“Lake Leelanau looks great, doesn’t it?" "I love NJ’s!", amazed by gradual change (“Pine trees are filling in that old meadow!”), and alarmed and disoriented by completely new scenes, such as torn-up and reconfigured earth and a big house where a gentle slope of wildflowers used to be. Coming through Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City was alarming. We were only gone a few months, and there were so many new buildings! Building has not been quite so fierce here in Leelanau County (again I think, thank heaven), but some of what is new seems enormous. And then there are all the old orchards torn out, always a painful sight. 

(Some of my word pictures you might not want to see in photographs, anyway, right?)

Re-entry, as gently and gradually as we attempt to proceed through it, still presents numerous jolts. There is so much to do! I am trying to adjust myself to the pace (as we will have to remain in high gear for weeks and weeks to come), reminding myself that our rewards are reconnection with old friends and the beauty of northern Michigan. Strange to think that Darwin did all his life’s traveling in his early twenties in four years and spent the rest of his life as a semi-invalid homebody — but inspiring to realize all the thinking and writing and no doubt reliving of his adventures he did for the rest of his life!

And now the day has come — Opening Day! Or rather, Re-Opening Day! If it rains today, remember that rainy days are good bookstore days. And Sarah will be there, too!

As she used to be!!!


Deborah said...

I hoped Sarah would be there to greet and to be greeted by both old and new friends. I'm looking forward to being there too!

P. J. Grath said...

Sarah was there! She was happy to see old friends and even made some new ones on our opening day, but she will be head-over-heels thrilled to see her Aunt Deborah walk in the door!