For the last month I’ve had this idea in my head that before I put up this website, I would write a grand welcoming essay that would explain everything about my trip, and also most things about the last 10 years of my life.
This is a large part of the reason that it’s mid-December, I’m almost all the way to the East Coast, and my blog is only just now rearing its head.
So. Instead of polishing the last fabulous sentences of my abbreviated life history, I am sitting at a kitchen counter in a loft in Montréal, chewing on the corner of my winter-chapped lower lip and wondering if I even know, myself, what really happened in the last 10 years of my life.
I think I must have some idea of what my trip is about, at least, because the things that I imagined might happen keep happening. For example: “Well, I’m just going to be open to what comes,” I said to myself. “I don’t have to be any particular place at any particular time! If I meet some interesting people, if I like a city, if something seems good, I can just stay for awhile. No plans.” I said that, and yet I kept making plans, setting dates, and never really envisioned the circumstances that might inspire me to stay somewhere. Et voilà: Montréal, an unexpected new friend, a gorgeous jungle of a loft full of circus equipment and various denominations of Artist, and a storm sweeping up from New England that has kept me here for a few idyllic extra days. It has raised for me the question of: when is a situation so good that I just stay? How open am I, really to the forks in the road?
The journey, though. The spirit quest. I left Victoria on Halloween; I’m bound for the Panama Canal. Where have I been so far? Olympia, Washington, where my gallant vehicle jettisoned her muffler a mile from the I-5 and I temporarily lost faith in my own four wheels – then all across western Canada and the prairies, making what felt like the elementary school reunion tour – then eastern Canada, mostly high school friends and other people I know from Victoria – then Vermont, for a thoroughly New-Englandy American Thanksgiving with family – then Montréal, where I was waylaid by the aforementioned Utopian Loft, and also finally discovered What Actually Happened At Caitlin’s Wedding (a cross-Canada mystery!) – then Ottawa, for an impromptu graduate school reunion – and then back to Montréal, where I return with you to the kitchen counter, now scattered with dinner ingredients and wine glasses and half-empty bottles.
I have a scarf to finish knitting and Christmas is close. My Canadian phone number has been disconnected. This afternoon I went grocery shopping with Leila, a French artist who is subletting a room in the loft, and when the clerk asked for a phone number to contact for delivery of the groceries we both held up our empty hands in hilarity and consternation: neither of us have active phone numbers. Earlier in the day, she had been walking around with her iPad to display the loft to a friend she was Skyping with, and I smiled and waved into the camera, masquerading as someone who actually belongs here. But possibly I could? Possibly another road trip prediction might come true, and from being a square-peg, sore-thumb, bird-of-a-different-feather graduate student, I might find somewhere to belong.
Approximately 15 cities down and 15 left to go before I hit the Mexican border.