I always quote (the eminently quotable) G.K. Chesterton as saying something like, “When a gentleman is abroad, he dreams of home; when at home, he dreams of going abroad.” It sounds like Chesterton, but now my best Google-foo appears unable to retrieve the original.
This blog started a touch over 16 years ago as a road trip chronicle of a trip Devon and I took the kids on to see family in Paris and lounge a bit of the summer away with Turkish friends in, unsurprisingly, Turkey. It’s kept up that role over time, mostly as a way of providing a short answer to “Where are you?” and “How was that trip to XXX?”
This summer, the answers to those two questions have been rather, uh, dynamic. In these past two months I’ve spent time in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin. There may have been one or two others, too. I know there was supposed to be a side trip to South Dakota to visit a dear friend I’ve not seen in at least three decades – maybe closer to four?!? – but a false positive on a COVID test sent me scurrying prematurely for home, and that window of opportunity evaporated.
Anyhow. I’ve been back in Port Townsend, tailing off the latest trip, for about four days now. I’m at that stage of travel fluidity that, aside from the laundry, I’m unpacked and cleaned up within an hour of getting home. Catching up on sleep and digging out from the “I’ll deal with that later” email backlog is typically a couple days more, so it was really only yesterday that I felt “back” enough to really feel home. Shuffled out into the pre-dawn light on the mountain with deer peering back inquisitively from the pasture below and creaked my way through my long-ignored sun salutations. Even dragged myself away from email long enough to resuscitate my even-longer-ignored NY TImes Nine-Minute Plyometrics routine.
Then shower and, on the verge of preparing breakfast, remembered it was Saturday, which meant Saturday market, one of the great nourishing joys of this town in summer. I wander from stall to stall, losing myself in catching up with old friends and chatting up total strangers. At times it feels that there’s not a soul here with whom I don’t have a long-running conversation to pick up and carry along for another few minutes.
But delicious as market is, there always comes a point in the morning when I run short on social energy and need to retreat. Given the blue skies and fair winds – and the fact that it had been close to a month since I’d been in an airplane where me reaching for the controls wouldn’t trigger a federal incident – I headed for the airport. There, in the sky, puttering along, alone in the air banking over islands and bays, I am also at home. The mountains beckon, the grass fields below call to me. The inter-island ferry – one of the few things I can outpace in our trusty, if sedate little Skyranger – steamed along to its next stop. Race you?
Stopped on Orcas Island and hitched a ride into town for coffee and pecan sticky buns, then walked the back way back to the airport. Came back low over the water, rocking my wings at sailboats and cavorted in the late afternoon thermals rising off the fields once I made landfall.
It’s good to be home.
And this morning, another windless, cerulean day – rushed through my bits of yoga, email and nine-minute workout (I do expect a pat on the back for that), threw (okay, grunting hoisted) the kayak onto the car roof and put in down at Point Hudson for an early morning paddle.
Passed a couple of other kayakers along the shore and exchanged the usual pleasantries, gesturing to the sky, the glittering water and still-snowcapped mountains ringing the horizon. “And somehow, through all this, we manage, right?” Rest by the Marine Center to chat with the woman on the pier above, busy photographing the bald eagles that always seem to find reason to congregate here. She tells me that she can hear the chicks from guillemot nests tucked somewhere under pier, but isn’t brave (or foolish?) enough to take her clearly high-end camera gear out onto the water to see if she can find them. I take a look at the razor-sharp barnacles coating the pier’s tightly-spaced pilings, consider the varnish on my painstakingly-refinished wooden kayak, and decide that the guillemots are going to get to spend the day with me intruding, either.
Then back, downwind, where a decaf cappuccino and a morning glory muffin await at Velocity, by the waterfront. Probably half the stories, essays and ramblings I’ve written in the past five years have been written at Velocity, looking out over the water from my favorite perch, south to where the Cascades – and on a clear day, Rainier – grace the horizon. Jeff, Brady, Debbie and Caroline always look happy to see me. It’s kind of like Cheers, but with coffee, thoughtful philosophy, and no annoying laugh track. This too is one of my happy places, a place where I feel welcome and centered and clear of mind. Its is not flippantly that, when struggling to retain equanimity and cheer in difficult circumstances, I say that I’m trying to channel “my inner Jeff.”
But it’s hard not to be of good cheer this morning. The kayak is back on the car, and I’ve got most of the beach pebbles out of my sandals by the time I limp into Velocity this morning. My legs are tired, my arms pleasantly sore, and the smell of fresh pastries drifts down the passageway. Brady, Jeff and a new woman, Dani, are running the counter this morning. Jeff smiles when he sees me, remarking that I’ve been away for a while. I tell him, only in the vaguest sketch, of my travels, and he smiles definitively.
“Well then. Welcome home.”
(And dang, when you can’t lose, you can’t help but win: I’ve been volunteering at the amazing local Aero Museum, and the director asked if I had any time to go fly their Cub this morning to get familiarized so I could give some of the museum’s students flights as schedules allow. Had to think about that for approximately negative one second…)
[Note to non-pilots: the Cub is a quirky plane – when flying solo, you fly it from the back seat, so yeah, in that first picture, the front seat is empty. It’s supposed to be empty.]
I found some bits of similar sentiment, though not that exactly:
Thank you! Your “Tremendous Trifles” quotation reminds me of the bit at the end of T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”:
“And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
But my friend and former colleague Loren plucked the original from the aether. Turns out to have been Thornton Wilder, not Chesterton: “When one is at home, he dreams of adventure; and when one is on an adventure, he dreams of home.”
Ah, good. Sounds like Wilder.
In high school, I loved “Our Town” and “By the Skin of Our Teeth”, though I never successfully convinced any faculty to do them as the school play. Good plays, though.
He did have a way with words. I’ve been meaning to dip into some more of his stuff, like “The Bridge over San Luis Rey”.
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Welcome back Pablo! The weather has been incredible on and off, mostly on since mid July. I wish I could load my pedal kayak on the roof of my car. It weighs a ton.
I’ve started fishing off the beach for Silvers. King season is over. It looks like great flying weather for you. Enjoy your solitude and if you feel like some spontaneous adventures, let me know.
Sounds like your trip was great!
Your Chesterton quote reminds me of what Herman Mankiewicz said when he was in New York, “Oh, to be back in Hollywood, wishing I was back in New York.”
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