It’s five past the witching hour, but the dog and I awakened so early that the birds still slept in their tender nests of yesterday’s leaves and tiny twigs. I heard the tap of the dog’s nails on the hardwood in the hallway and thought, Oh it’s Saturday, the Gas Company arrives at nine. I stifled a grumble and pushed back the heavy wad of covers with which I surround myself like the cocoon of a larvae praying that she’s a Monarch.
For some reason, I have placed the laptop on a corner of the dining room table rather than my beautiful secretary. To my left, a line of items staged for packing reminds me that I have only seventy-two hours before I have to be ready to fly. California here I come. Not the place from which I started but the place to which I’m drawn.
Lists play in my mind, Call Blue Cross, print out insurance card, wash some leggings, check the weather in Santa Rosa, press good black pants, order refills of the dog’s medicine for the house-sitter. I’ve got a stack of one-dollar bills for all those eager hands who will push me down concourses in rickety wheelchairs. I can walk in the Kansas City Airport but if I set that precedent, help will only reluctantly step forward. I’ve learned, now, in my clever middle-age, that I do better if I start the trip without having to make a dash for the gate.
Find and pack collapsible walking stick. Add that to the list.
I like to travel but didn’t used to enjoy trips by myself. In the last two years, I’ve grown resigned to my solitary journeys. Phone charger; tablet; that portable thing Katrina gave me for when I don’t have access to power. USB cable. The list grows.
I watched a documentary on minimalism and thought about trying to take my small suitcase for this ten-day trip. After all, I aspire to live in a 300-square foot tiny house. I had a conversation with my mother once about belongings. She had plenty: mismatched china cups; wooden spindles that probably once stood above exploited immigrants in the garment district of New York; old pie tins from her grandmother’s kitchen. I’ve got a lot of her things in my house. I walk around this place wondering if my son will want them if I downsize. He never knew his grandmother, which I consider a damn shame.
Make sure Jay’s pocket angel is in my handbag. The little pocket angel from the bedside table of my favorite curmudgeon travels with me every place my lily-white spastic feet take me.
I lift the “I Love A Mystery” cup to my lips, and briefly lament that the bookstores which I once frequented on Saturdays have all closed. I asked my friends on Facebook to recommend a book for my journey. I got 48 suggestions, most of which I can purchase for less than fifteen bucks on Amazon and download to my Kindle app. I swore that I would never abandon the feel of a hardback and crisply cut pages for the virtual reading experience. A bout with blurred eyes which turned into a couple of years of madness catapulted me into modernity. Even now with a wildly different and complex prescription which allows me to drive at night again, I still prefer reading on my tablet. I take “real books” to sit above the ocean, but small volumes, which I can hold in my lap and abandon while I lose myself in the sunset.
Stash some poetry in the Barcelona bag. I scrawl the addendum in my mental notebook and think about the blue-and-white bag which Sharon Lee brought back from an AIDS conference in 2003 and gave me. Patrick and I stuffed that bag with our clothes for many weekend trips. It converts from a shoulder bag to a backpack. It holds as much as the carpet bag from which Mary Poppins drew her camp cot, the parrot umbrella, and the thermometer which gauged the temperaments of the Banks children and judged Mary herself to be “practically perfect in every way”.
I bought two new volumes of poetry at the last Art @ Suite 100 event, one from Timothy Pettet and one from David Arnold Hughes. These will sustain me as the plane rises into the air, when the last lurch of the wheels parting from the runway startles me and I think, what the hell am I doing? I can write a myriad of lists but none of them will tell me where I am going and what I will find when that impossibly graceful human-crafted bird touches down near the sea.
The sun has risen over Brookside. The dog’s back asleep, under the table. Occasionally she sighs. I get that. I understand. For a brief second, I’m tempted to scramble back under the covers, burrowing, hiding, refusing to answer the door when the MGE contractor knocks at nine. But the alarm keeps ringing, and the morning wind relentlessly whips the flags back and forth outside my window. It’s time for breakfast. I set my coffee cup on the table, and rise, to go into the kitchen and start my day for real this time.