Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Someplace Where Everybody Knows Your Name

    “And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long,
 but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and

joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.”
                                                                                   WENDELL BERRY

I used to live with a good friend from Manchester, England, who would go into great length about the pleasures of sitting down at the same table at the same pub every week with his mates of a lifetime, the same guys he grew up with in school. There was always a bit of envy in me when he would reminisce about life before he immigrated to the States. I must admit that I have fantasized about what it would be like to be a regular at a bar in my neighborhood, to walk in and hear everyone greet you by name, pull up my usual seat, and have the bartender pour me my usual drink. Maybe I watched too many episodes of Cheers, but that type of welcome atmosphere always appealed to me.

But such is not my lifestyle, as I move about quite a bit. In all corners of the continent I have running friends that meet on the same trails weekend after weekend, year after year, and have formed a deep bond that I am just not a part of, though I am always welcome to join them when I am in the neighborhood. I travel a lot, as I say, for adventures of one sort or another, shared with folks from all over. It sounds like a fabulous lifestyle. Many people tell me they want to be me when they grow up. There are always fascinating new people to meet, old friends to reconnect with to share new adventures, and challenges that extend as far as the mind can dream. Sometimes I even share adventures with my wife and other members of family. It is all very wonderful and keeps life ever fresh.

I am sequestered on my butt this winter, by choice, taking some time off from my mad dashes across the country, resting my bones and recovering from the physical abuse I put my body through this year, enjoying the time off in the mild Carolina weather. And as I take time to reflect, the undeniably not-fabulous aspects of my life surface. I love being at home and consider myself to be a latent homebody. It is nice to turn to appreciation of the arts, playing my guitar until my fingers hurt, catching up on the plethora of books I've accumulated from Amazon, entertaining good friends and family, and even watching the Discovery and History Channels to see what the rest of the world is up to.

But a true summary of my life is that it is lived on the road, on airplanes, in rental cars, in hotels rooms with a variety of amenities, but all pretty much the same. I normally wake up with a different view every morning throughout half of the year. Whether it is a city or a mountain skyline, every day begins with novelty. I guess my life is more interesting, but I wonder if it is as satisfying as someone who never gets out of town? Is a less-rooted life better? Healthier? Really a better way to live? Traveling as I do becomes ritualistic, akin to the routine one faces by going to work at the same job year after year. Since everything changes from day to day, my own routines of meditation or prayer and exercise have a different venue most every day.

Traveling all the time endangers my relationship with anything local. I am lost from any sense of community in a local sense and can only take comfort in being a transient part of a more global community. We all want to be known. Perhaps it is just a fantasy, whether you travel or stay at home. The biggest difference between a wandering lifestyle and one that is rooted may be who we are known by and to what degree. When you travel you are constantly new to others. The ego is constantly getting a boost in the seeming importance of it all. You can always re-invent yourself and be anything or anybody you choose to be. There is great novelty in this way of living - surprises at every turn. You make lots of new friends. Some stick and some don't. But it can all wear thin. In the final analysis, the benefits of a wandering lifestyle may fail to rival the rewards of living in a home that you love and being a part of a community that cares about you. If life is made up of great conversations, too often mine are with strangers when I'd rather be having them with good friends, neighbors, and family.

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