31 March, 2008

"I've come to look for America..."

"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've come to look for America..."
-- Paul Simon
A traveller. Perhaps that's it. Though my travels hardly feel worthy of comparison to those of the greats-- Rosalind's full circle to and from Arden, Bilbo Baggins' there and back again. I am no explorer like Vespucci, not romantic enough for a gypsy nor pious enough for a pilgrim. Ahh America. How I had forgotten you, and how I longed to remember. Was blind but now I see, (as they say). And though I know I am no great traveller of Shakespearean or Historical proportion, I share with them and with us all, a cardinal desire: all I have ever wanted is what we all long for-- a place in the world. A home. 

I feel perhaps like Marco Polo in Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities... In Calvino's book, the great explorer Marco Polo entertains an aging Kubla Khan by recounting tales of 55 cities he has visited in his travels. As Marco Polo continues to impart his experiences, he, willingly or un, revels connections between the cities that leave the reader left to wonder whether the accounts of his destinations actually represent different aspects of a single city; a unique and unrivaled place, in Polo's case, his beloved Venice. 

Marco Polo thus embodies two classic symbolic travellers. First, Odysseus: the one who, either by force or by choice, denounces a home he does not realise he loves. He thus condemns himself to a life of wandering and homeless-ness, slowly losing sight and memory of the only place he longs to return to. 

"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little."

Second, Dorothy: the one who seeks adventure abroad, only to discover their heart's desire was "in their own backyard" all along. 

"Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene."

Have I assumed myself the former only to discover I am, in fact, the latter? What bliss that truth would be! Have I travelled the world long enough? Have I in fact discovered home was always there, patiently waiting for me to earn and deserve it? Observing Calvino observing Venice is a reminder of how often the controlled, measured world of knowledge and assumption fails us. So much of life resists the facts. As Khan discovers: imagining a"Venice" is imagining yourself. And though an unsettling exercise, it is necessary, perhaps. I believe my trip to America and Home, was precisely that.

Welcome Home Al. 
I will return shortly. And new. 

"...what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler's past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in waiting for you in foreign, not-yet-possessed places."
-- Italo Calvino


  1. Interesting post, i like the travelers you've picked , Marco Polo, Odysseus, Bilbo Baggins...
    There's a quote by Roy M. Goodman:
    Remember that happiness is a way of travel - not a destination.

  2. The concept of "home" has always been a multi-layered one for me. As a person who as never felt "at home" in her "homeland" I have found myself building it wherever I happen to land.

    "Any place i hang my hat is home...."

    I know that you are well aware of how our journeys make us who we are. The paths we walk become the trails that are the stories of out lives.

    I am a firm believer that you are a traveller who will always place herself where she needs to be in that particular moment. You hear the call of home, wherever it may be - and to your credit you follow it instinctively.

    Wherever this road leads you next - your journey is bound to be nothing less than spectacular.

  3. This post, incidentally, reminded me of a brilliant play I saw in Minneapolis years ago with a good friend I miss (I expounded upon the play's virtues in a previous post). But Ethan? if you are reading this, I thought of our adventure to La Jeune Lune while writing this entry last night verrrrrry late into the night. Just wanted you to know!

  4. Ahh Italo Calvino. :)

    This really was very thought provoking, especially since I've been away from "home" for a while now and will be moving around a lot over the next few years.

    It's exhilarating to live in different places and journey on, but sometimes it can be exhausting and the "home" we once had seems to almost exist in another world we were once a part of.

  5. I read your writings always with a sense of love for and pride in all that you have done- not just where you have traveled, but of the woman you have become. It takes great courage to put words to feelings, feelings to paper, and paper out to the scrutiny of others. It is an immense effort, and one for which I am thankful for discovering and am happy to see you have acquired as well.

    I add to your post my own personal bit of words- a poem I discovered many years ago that has served me well. Nothing lofty, merely how I help to define where I am, regardless of where I am. I share them now with you, with great love and extraordinary fondness for your journey.

    My Place

    I have a place to come to. It's my place.
    I come to it morning, noon, and night and it is there.
    I expect it to be there whether or not it expects me- my place where I start from and go towards so that I know where I am going and what I am going from, making me firm in my direction.



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