still moving (in Virginia)

Wednesday and Thursday were spent in travel. A funny thing to say so dismissively, since I spent half of May and nearly all of June ‘in travel’. I guess it’s passive vs. active travel; if travel can ever really be passive: to be still and still moving. I believe I may be borrowing a phrase of Eliot’s there. I read, reread, studied, pondered, meditated, and mused some more on the Four Quartets as I sat in the RV, steadily moving. I packed it a month and a half ago, without premeditation, thinking of the first stretch of my trip, up the Mississippi River, and with the vague memory of his description:

I do not know much about gods
But I think the river is a strong, brown god.

Eliot was a St. Louis boy. The rivers he knew, which are the rivers I know, are brown. And that is where we started.

Now, that detail has me thinking of the Chinese girl who walked up to me as I was loafing by the Mississippi in Louisiana. From my journal, 5/18/09 entry:

Newly arrived Chinese waitress who spoke with me on the riverfront: walked an hour to get there: dressed up in white dress, lonely, friendly, eager to talk, difficult to understand, surprised by how muddy the Mississippi was, I told her it was the Big Muddy which meant nothing to her (social platitude), she wondered if there were fish in it, I accidentally ended our conversation by putting my book back on the bike, she said, “okay, thank you” and walked away, a minute later I looked after her and she was still walking alone beside the stone wall at the water’s edge, hands clinging to her white dress.

I tried to read some Eliot that night, as I sat in my tent perched on a bluff high above the river. But my mind was racing with the excitement of the road ahead. I wrote a blog entry instead: Louisiana, And I didn’t mention the Chinese girl in it. She didn’t fit the optimism I was feeling at the time.

Tonight, I’m feeling moody and reflective. Tonight, she fits better than today’s idyllic activities.

I spent the day hiking in Shenandoah National Park. I did a circuit, following the Knob Mountain Trail to its summit, 2,865 ft, down to the cutoff leading to Jeremy’s Run Trail, then followed Jeremy’s Run back out of the park. It took a solid eight hours, the last four of which were spent following a very pleasant stream. I pulled seven ticks from my feet and lower legs–where the repellent had been washed off in crossing the stream–and flung them with gusto. I scared away a bear that was in my path. I felt manly, strong, fantastic. I’m giving serious thought to hiking the whole Appalachian Trail. I’d never thought myself capable before.

Then, I got back to the RV, dad and Diane were still out and about, and there it was: loneliness. Worse still, I’ll be back in Columbia in five days, and I strongly suspect it’s waiting for me there too. In fact, I believe it has its home there, and that every time I’ve sensed its creeping presence out here on the road, it’s been nothing but a postcard. The real life loneliness is at rest, at home.


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