Baby Steps

I can’t remember who it was who first noticed, and called me on it: when walking on ice or other uncertain surfaces, I do a little outward twist of my foot as I put pressure on it. It’s an entirely unconscious action, but on reflection it made perfect sense – somehow those Colorado winters taught me to instinctively gauge how much traction I had with each forward step. If I stuck, I could move ahead, a little bolder; if I didn’t, well, I’d have to figure my way forward with baby steps.

I think I’ve learned to travel very much the same way, giving a little twist, checking my footing with each step forward. Sometimes I find myself moving ahead in leaps and bounds, boarding unmarked trains and trusting the universe to hold my weight. Other times…not so much.

I’d started worrying about this trip. I’ve been on the road five days, and there’d been plenty of slips. I hadn’t felt that “magic of departure” that I’ve grown accustomed to, when it feels – to switch metaphors – like I’ve got enough wind under my wings to trust them and really take flight. Sometimes it does take longer; sometimes, like that last trip to Ghana, it never really happens, and I spend the duration bouncing roughly along the runway.

But my last day in New Hampshire seems to be the start of it. A couple of coin flips – turn left or right? Left, and I find myself on a beautiful birch forest walk. The next coin flip on the drive south to the airport, and I’m contemplating whimsical sculptures in Charleston’s City Park (another improbably good omen: there was an open parking spot right in front of Charleston’s City Park). I flip a coin and put a little twist as I test my weight on the next step, and it, too, holds.

Seven flips of the coin, seven (figurative) steps and about 18 hours later, and I find myself looking down on the Irish Sea, halfway along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystones. Familiar flora lines the path and tumbles down to the water below: blackberry and gorse, cleaver and nettle, but I’m half a world away. Strangely, I feel right at home.

Mind you, I’d bought the outbound ticket before I got to Boston, so I was pretty sure (hopeful?) that today was going to start in Dublin, with me plunging into that always-hilarious quest of “Trying to Rent a Car in Ireland.” (Have you seen Jupiter Ascending? You know that scene in the equivalent of the interplanetary DMV? That.)

From there I was figuring maybe Glendalough. But with it being Sunday, the shop that sold sim cards at the airport was closed, so I pulled off the first place on the M50 that looked likely to find one. And there before me was a charming seaside Victorian town with a waterfront. And a parking space right on the strand. And a beach walk and cliffs and, well, here I am.

Eager to see what tomorrow brings.

3 responses to “Baby Steps

  1. Dear David,

    “Hinneini!” This is the word that came to mind when I finished your arvelous post. A “here I am” with all that the biblical phrase connotes, with readiness, some trepidation, but more determination and expectation of the wonderous next thing that is to unfold. Am I projecting? I am delighted to discover that you follow your mother’s footsteps in valuing the flip of the coin. It has never led me astray. I trust it will be helpful to you as well. It looks like it has.

    I am so glad to learn that yu have reached a charming destination. May you get to catch up of much needed sleep and continue to reconnect t=with the various spirits that animate and guide you. Many, many thanks and much love, Mom ________________________________

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  2. Pablo, I travel very often. The wonder of travel never seems to wear off on me no matter how far, how near I travel or how often I do it. I have found over the years and 108 countries later that the less I plan the trip the more adventurous and treasure-hunt like the trip becomes. I hope you find many treasures along your way.

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