I have been emotional all week, a fact that is evident in these pages only by my unpredictable posting times. If I’m grumpy and don’t know why, what on earth do I have to say about it? It’s the last thing I want to zoom in on for a blog post.
But yesterday I had a realization. It was after two solid days of Michigan sunshine, and with a snow base that extends across nearly every inch of roads, sidewalks, ground, and lake surfaces, that makes for some extremely bright hours of the day. High, yellow sun above; blinding white reflecting below. As I mumbled to myself and furrowed my brow walking between campus buildings, one phrase kept scrolling across my mind’s eye (yes, my thoughts occasionally appear as typed words): Go. On. A. Walk.
I knew the best thing for me would be to walk until all the grumpiness fluttering in my head turned silent, but I couldn’t think of anyplace I’d like to go. There is a campus loop here that I enjoy, but it only takes 25 minutes and isn’t very private. The lakeshore is fantastic but most of it is private property. With the 40-degree balmy weather, I wasn’t about to go on the ice and with snow wet from all the heat, snowshoeing didn’t seem appealing.
And so it was I found myself, for the first time since leaving, truly longing for Fork Mountain. Steep slopes that disrupt the view of Roan Mountain proper, the white-chilling rush of Little Rock Creek tumbling alongside the abandoned forest road. An array of hidden hunting cabins, game trails cutting through rhododendron, the promise of pileated woodpecker sightings.
I suppose I saw this coming. These two years on the road are not just about writing, although that is the primary focus. The purpose of the journey is also to reemerge into “modern society,” if you will. I tell myself it is an experiment. Can I live in a loud place and find piece of mind? Can I live in a dangerous place? Can I live in a polluted place? A place with very little privacy? Can I live with the constant sounds, presence, advantages, and disadvantages of the high-tech high-buzz high-brow 21st century?
Part of me wants the answer to be yes. I don’t want my sense of peace to be hijacked by Fork Mountain or any single place on this planet for that matter. But part of me wants the answer to be no. No, I do not accept this century’s “greatest accomplishments” as such. No, I do not prefer to live among the dirt and noise. No, I am not as adaptable as other people.
I didn’t go on a walk. But I reminded myself of why I am here and that there is so much power in the mind. A loud, busy walk can have its sacredness, too. Annie Dillard was not that far off from the sounds of cities, pollution, awkward neighbors, and litter when she wrote Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She inhabited a way of seeing and thinking so thoroughly that it was always there for her, no matter where she was.
What way of seeing and thinking do I want to inhabit? What will help me survive as a writer? What will help me be most flexible? What, ultimately, do I want to create for myself?