Over the month of September, I've been cramming as many day trips as possible into my schedule. I love to travel, my car is great on gas, I was stuck inside much of this summer, winter is fast approaching, Autumn has always been my favourite season, and I'm writing a book about where I live so it is research, anyway!
Anyway, for the most part, I am done for the season. I am driving Sheena back to Kamloops Friday morning, but beyond that, I've worn myself out. Which leads me to think about some of the things these trips have revealed to me.
1. Life revolves around water. I mean, I can't even begin to tell you the number of times this year when I've thought, why is there a town here? The answer always at least begins with the same answer -- water. It is the one thing every place I've been to this month has in common -- every town springs up around a water source. At least, that's one starting point.
2. Life finds a way to revitalize. On my most recent trip, I drove through miles of charred forest remnants. Both sides of the highway had burned from the top of the mountains to the bottom of the valley floor. Everywhere you looked for charred, blackened tree trunks. Interspersed with the deadfall, though, was new growth. And that new growth was decked out in Fall colors.
3. Human beings are puny... and that is not the same thing as being insignificant. As I drove through these dead forests, I had to admit there was an aching grief inside my gut. I speak for myself when I say, I feel rooted to the land, and here in vast evidence was utter destruction. The vastness of the damage reminded me just how small I truly am -- and at the same time, just how huge the impact of humman beings is on this planet.
4. I have limitations. There are two routes to get from my house to the town I just came home from visiting. My intention had been to make a circle of the trek -- take the short way there and the long way home. However, I injured my foot this spring, and the angle at which my foot rests on the gas pedal tends to make my injury ache. This time, though, after working all day then leaving straight from work to drive for three hours to get to my motel (I stopped to take photos and also I got lost -- thanks for nothing Google Maps!), plus walking around and exploring the town that evening then again in the early morning, I found my foot literally trembling as I drove out of town. There was just no way my bad ankle was up for the long route home. Not even, as I argued to myself, if I stopped to have dinner and a rest and to walk it off for a bit. So, reluctantly (but also not really at that point), I retraced my original route home. By the time I got there I was so tired I could do nothing but stretch out on the sofa cuddling Lily and watching home flipping shows while thinking about how I never would have made this choice ten years ago. Sigh.
5. I am not sure there is a better place to live than the spot I've already got. There is a part of me, I think, which has been scoping out my next town. There are sites which I could love, for sure, but they are no better than the place I already live. They are just different. New to me. If moving would be an adventure, it would also be an immense amount of work. I can get my thrills just getting behind the wheel and checking places out on a trial basis. For now, at least.
6. An inquisitive mind is a beautiful thing. What is it like to live right beside the United States border? How arbitrary is nationhood? How do towns handle an overpopulation of deer? At what point can a fawn who's mother is deceased survive alone? What happens to the human psyche after a natural disaster like a fire or a flood? How do people rebuild after a fire, and how long does it take for the earth to reclaim the land? What do ranchers do in the winter? Does the pitch of a roof truly equate to snow loads in the winter? What goes into bottling water from a hot spring? Was the guy with those four women representative of the demographics in that town? And other such questions. If you cultivate the curiousity of your mind, you will never stop learning, and you will never be bored. Those questions will cause you to seek out answers, which may or may not lead to you driving down a highway with tunes blaring and your camera making the fasten seatbelt warning ping on your passenger seat.
7. If you embrace being a tacky tourist, people accept the oddity which is you. They let you approach them on those terms and most of the time if you are friendly and open, they are, too. At least, that is how it works with me. I was openly eavesdropping on a pair of older men who were doing their best to emulate Randy Travis' hit, Forever and Ever Amen. When I went up and asked them questions after my meal, I had to actually cut off the conversation -- or I'm pretty sure I'd still be standing there. Later, inside the restaurant as I photographed the ambience, I laughed at myself and called myself a tacky tourist... and next thing you know, James asked me to take his picture, too. Thanks, James!
Sometimes you think you are on one journey and you end up on a better one without even planning to detour. That is the beauty of daytrips. It is not only your body which is transported. It is also your mind and possibly even your soul. Every mile is a new story. Here's to hitting the road again soon!