This space has died, mostly. "I don't think I've ever read any of your writing," he says, beer between us and in us and life altogether oh so good. "I could show you," she chimes in, "I know where to find it." We are talking of writing, of words as a lifestyle, a bug in our blood, an occupation. We speak of words as an obsession, a fixation, a need, daily devotion. Once I might have identified with such talk, but this night, I realize, I do not.
Long ago it seems were the years in which I truly needed this space. I've stories, sure, probably, definitely - but not all of them are mine, nor have I the knowledge of how best to tell them. Certainly I've not quite the same exhibitionist need to spill myself so. Silence is her own treasure, I'm realizing, especially in these days we mine full with busy.
These weeks have spoken in the currency of travel mostly, miles and miles of movement our ore of choice. I might well know the cost of gas most places between here and there, but that's hardly the point. Seemingly all the miles far and wide and ever beyond have we these last few months traveled, through the past and into the future, Marty McFly and all the beers (growlers begetting more growlers, as these brewery tours are wont to do) besides. Forty-two hundred and change was the odometer's total at the close of this largest trip; near enough ten-thousand have we tallied already on the year, and more trips are forever in planning. Those are details without faces, though: a number is a number is a number, and as such, will forever pale against such weeks of travel and play. It'll forever be about days brimming over with doing, not merely being - endless activity found far more desirable than passivity. Spring broke forth, and so too did we.
Montana saw us raucous and lively; North Dakota left us dull and numbed. Minnesota and Wisconsin and Iowa were, of course, patchwork quilts of home and memory and family and friends, days of good food and better beer. The hometown of my childhood found itself abloom, cherry blossoms and white tiger lilies and burnt orange tulips all picking one precise weekend to burst forth in flaming color - and as I didn't repeat my old mistake of showing her the heart of such a town, she of course found it entirely delightful. Running the trails I once loved as only a boy can, I remembered all those days of misspent youth, of beautiful indiscretion and reckless abandon and the immortality of boys in their teens. For perhaps the first time since I originally left, I truly enjoyed being back. The edges of things soften with age, I'm realizing - and not just memory.
We stopped in northeast Iowa on the return north to the cities for a peanut butter cheeseburger and a local brew and if the old bar no longer had dollar pints, that was perhaps nearly the only way in which it'd changed. Not much time has passed, it would seem, even if hardly a face remained. Such is Iowa, even in a college town - not much time ever seems to pass here.
In the cities of Fitzgerald and Prince I found my familiar Mississippi; scratchily warm and fuzzily tangled were the trails that once held me best. If I've forsaken what was once my proud domain, hardly have I forgotten it. I paused at my favorite river bluff cave, remembered the long afternoons spent reading and drinking and wasting away hard-won lazy Sundays, found freshly comforting the cool sandy loam. That cave too was home: forever mine and mile alone were those trails, those hours, the garden of secrets I once tilled with miles and miles and miles. I sat, and I remembered, and then I ran on.
Should this body and will allow, I'll hope to someday run forever - but never do I hope to once more forever run as I then did. This is not a contradiction. Some springs stop flowing and some old aches eventually fade, and just as I no longer have quite the same need for words nor have I quite the same desperate hunger for miles. The great river stunk less than I'd remembered, even as the soft spring sky warmed towards summer; I may yet learn moderation and an appreciation for softer edges, even as my metaphors grow more mixed.
The start of a thirtieth year approached in the midst of all this traveling, somewhere between the east-west and north-south, and even as I'm learning moderation I've occasion every so often to revert, this being one such occasion. Of course I sought out miles. The inevitable celebration of miles. Miles of trials and trials of miles. I ran and I rode and another number faded into the next and life was good. A race we'd planned, she the twenty and I the forty, and if it was neither what we'd hoped for nor what we'd expected, still it came and went and we're none the worse for the wear, not really. One part celebration and two parts a reminder of those who came before, we tripped over the places where we keep such memories only to find better traction underfoot: we forget, and we remember, and sometimes the distinction between the two gets blurry, past becoming present and future becoming past; we sink into these places before remembering to swim. Maybe nowhere is this more true than sky meets water meets land, when the miles bleed across horizons.
I'm really mucking up those metaphors now.
Days at work bleed into each other, the quarter steadily progressing and students falling into rhythm and, just as easily, confusion. It's spring, and the sun is warm, and the year's been long. They'll scatter to flock elsewhere soon enough, on to bigger and better things, mostly, to schools more real than this stand-in Greendale - and goddamn, will I ever miss them. Something of a family are these dozens; you've a bit of your mom in you, she said, and I pointed to my brother - so does he! - but didn't refute the charge. Surprises these kids bring me regularly, gifts conjured from nothing, for I know full well they've pockets empty but with dreams and doubts. Love and magic they've so regularly imbued these past weeks that were I better with emotions I'd perhaps have wept. Their sincerity slays me, is what I'm saying.
There are stories there, too - so many stories - but they're not mine to keep, much less tell. I borrow their stories, but when they go at year's end, so too will their stories. I don't know that I could tell their stories right, anyways, not having lived enough of it to know the judicious details from the extraneous ones. Nor am I certain I could show hope winning out, not being convinced that such is the way of life. Life makes for a rather sloppy narrative, really, but that's okay. They're not my stories, and I'm finding maybe I prefer the silence. In other words, it might be another two or three months.