Days lost, days gained
May 6, 2004

I had a great trip, saw lots of wonderful things, and I'm still jet lagged, but I've returned. I didn't do much writing while I was gone, though I'd taken a journal (a real, paper one) thinking I might jot a bit. I jotted the second day out, then my subconscious apparently decided I needed a vacation from writing, too. I felt absolutely no urge to communicate for two solid weeks. Largely I felt the need to Be, to experience the moment, take things as they came without analysis. I took a lot of photos, but not nearly as many as I usually do. I preferred not having filters between me and what I saw, what I experienced. It felt damned good, since I'm usually doing the opposite. 

Being back home seems rather unreal. Monday I was at Stonehenge, today I'm back at work. It's a strange world. Here’s my one journal entry, after waking up at 3 a.m. local time: 

    Friday, April 23, 5:00 a.m., Lyme Regis, England 
    Lovely views of the city from my window, watching dawn slowly creep into the sky while I sit wide-awake. 
    The thing about all these views is that a place is never just one sight, that one thing that made it famous or notable. A place is composed of a thousand views, ten thousand, a million. Some are pleasing, many are not. The more places you visit, the more you realize it's not what's famous about a place that makes it memorable—it's the combined effect of all its aspects. If you concentrate on views, you miss the experience, then all experience seems flat and disappointing. 
    The most memorable parts of traveling are not the self-conscious things that feature in the guidebooks and postcards. That which stays with the traveler are the individual, ephemeral moments that can never be included in any book: the quack of ducks in a dark river; the kindness of the young man at a gas station for a fumbling tourist; the stickiness of the mud on a hillside; the undulating light and shadow on hills gone bright with blossoms and green; the sweet smile of the woman who served your dinner; the cry of gulls in the dawn; small bats flying back and forth across the river walk; the chorus of songbirds in a room high on a hill; a ghost glimpsed running down the dawning street—the runner appearing and going behind trees and never coming out the other side. So many blossoms along the road: the yellow-orange of the gorse; the blazing white of the hawthorn; the white-pink of apple; the near-neon yellow of rape blossoms along highway after highway, filling a field, two, ten, a hundred; the quieter yellow broom blossoms and their sweet, heady fragrance; the vanilla-spice smell of the gorse.  
    All of these moments of brief intersection, gone forever, are what makes a trip—and traveling—valuable. They will ultimately be what makes the traveler conclude whether it was a good trip or a bad. 

When planning the trip, that first day lost in transit across the continent and over the ocean, and the one following lost in jet lag, seemed a much bigger deal then they turned out to be. In fact, other days along the road were so full of exquisite moments they seemed like extra days. They filled me up, perpetually in bloom.



Copyright © 2010 P.J. Thompson