A Few Chapters from My Novel
(c) 2003 David Lee Lang
All Rights Reserved
Travel Unexpected Places
In my travels, I can vouch for the absolute accuracy of my thoughts and experiences. Any deviation from the truth, as you have experienced it, is probably because one of us is from a Parallel Universe.
I don't travel well. In fact I don't travel at all if I can avoid it. My wife would pack a suitcase or backpack at the sound of a travel brochure hitting the table. Not me. My roots are so deep, I say to her, that I am already visiting those places. Right now I am researching the description of the Cosmic Tree. I plan to use it as my excuse metaphor when interstellar travel becomes as common as a bike ride.
I have traveled, of course, and I am certain that I grew from the experiences. But the effort, the inertia, the tree-resin-three-quarters-on-its-way-to-being-amber kind of resistance I must overcome ... well it exhausts me just to think about it.
Sometimes, however, travel sneaks up, much like lightning hitting the ground next to your foot, and makes you move. This is a record of one such trip.
Usually travel involves varying degrees of planning. This planning is inversely proportional to the degree you're comfortable with the unexpected. It is the planning that steals the adventure of travel from my soul. By the time I have planned for every possible event that could happen, I am sure that I have already imagined everything that I could experience there. Time to be home.
Of course, a trip with no planning is the trip where I experience the most. Of course, of course.
[In this spot goes Drawing #2 <not yet finished> of travel brochures hinting at a place, lists, stamps, postcards]
The really great trips, the adventures that make mythologies, always begin with the visit by the mysterious stranger. A wizened old wizard knocks -- no, he walks -- into your living room, uninvited and unintimidated by the fact that you have grabbed the nearest heavy object with which to defend yourself. "Bilbo, it is time for your destiny. Come along with me."
Or some crazy crone accosts you at the 10,000-stores-in-one-place mall, grabs your face with bony, wart covered hands, stares into your eyes and cries in an embarrassingly loud voice, "IT'S HIM! He's the one. Quickly, quickly, there is no time to lose. Everything, everyone depends on you. Lets go." No time to finish your double tall mocha with extra whipped cream.
Next thing you know you are on some coal-powered chicken train wedged between the chickens and the old guy who eyes you with milky clouded vision. Better not judge him or the chickens, since on these kinds of train rides they could be that very important key to your destiny, the secret puzzle ring of life, that one important moment that means the difference between.....well, OK, I am getting carried away. You have probably read the same adventure books.
[n this spot goes Drawing #3 <not yet finished> of old woman against a book covered with glyphs]
Or there's the mysterious letter, postmarked from some smudged and unreadable place. Stamps so foreign that your postal delivery person (PDP) is hanging out at your door, hoping that you will throw that envelope away. Mysterious letters are the next best invitation to destiny....the vehicles that call you to travel, actually force you to write a post-it note, that you leave stuck to the front door you hope you remembered to lock. "Honey, had to make a quick trip to Claristan, back by April. Fed the cat. Love you."
In spite of my rootedness, my reluctance to travel, I do love destiny. I love the idea, as I think we all secretly do, that I have a purpose in this world, that I am destined to do amazing things that will shape the course of future history. Align the planets, harmonize humans with the universe, and make a tomato aspic salad that people actually like and eat.
Naturally, as we all do, I forget all the rest of the book that describes the indescribable dangers, the freezing rain, the sleeping on rocks, the trips out by the bush that turns out to be poison ivy or poison romaine lettuce or something. And the bugs! Big hungry buzzing bugs with jaws that break pencils. No, really, I saw pictures of them in National Geographic (the magazine that no one I know actually reads but we all look at the pictures, for various reasons depending on our age.)
Back to that mysterious letter I never received. It arrives on a day where the clouds are boiling black, the PDP leans aerodynamically into the gale force winds struggling those last few steps to your mail box (where she hangs out hoping for those stamps). As she hands you the letter a HUGE flash of lightning sears the sky, striking a nearby tree and just briefly, for an instant, a gateway opens to another universe, the land of faery, or even another time (some other time than daylight savings time). You look, and your PDP is revealed as the Old Crone...
OK, I didn't get a letter looking for my long lost birth mark or telling me that some mysterious uncle had willed me his castle in Claristan. I am just mentioning these things to set the stage, a literary trick as it were, to remind you that I am the sort of person that these things could happen to, if only Destiny would get on the ball and come walking into my living room.
I didn't get any letter. I love to get letters. Today people mostly email me and it is not the same. But I still watch my PDP with enthusiasm as she comes up my walk, even on sunny days. I try to remain friendly and casual as she hands me junk mail and past due bills. It's not her fault that Destiny hasn't picked her to be the fateful courier (of course, she could actually be the fateful courier, and Destiny is just testing my mettle -- PDPs, like the coal-powered chicken trains with mostly-blind guys, could be Destiny's Trigger.)
[n this spot goes Drawing #5 <not yet finished> of postage stamp with old crone as the design]
So, no letter, no wizard, no old crone, except grandma who doesn't count in this travelogue. (Unless, like PDPs, coal-powered chicken trains and....no, this line of thought is getting too complex)
No letter, just junk mail. No Wizard, just card tricks. No wizened crone, just grandma. So how did I find myself on the road to...to? Well, a lot of different places.
The trick with Destiny and unexpected travel is that Destiny never shows up in any form you get to recognize in the moment. Reading this book could be Destiny opening doors and windows for you and yet years could go by before you figured it out. Perhaps a more Zen-like approach is needed with Destiny and travel. Every moment becomes Destiny launching you forward into an amazing life, if you choose to see each moment from that view, and every other moment afterward through countless lifetimes. Being a monk for Destiny is hard work.
No, my unexpected travel plans arrived in the form of a controllable and incurable set of numbers that showed up when I was being a responsible adult and buying some life insurance so that Annah, my wife, would be covered in the event of my early demise. "Time to make something of my life", I said. "Guess I'll write a book". I could have said, "Time to finish those hundreds of songs I have started" or, "Time to solve the predictability of prime numbers problem". I have this theory about prime numbers and the complex number plane, but that's another story, a different kind of travel book.
Instead I said, "Time to find a healer outside the Western Medicinal Paradigm". Actually, what I really said was, "Damn, if my doctor can't fix this then I better find someone who can!". Actually, I didn't say that either. I said a lot of inside things that never made it to my mouth. Mostly I said "Uh huh, what does that mean?", and "What's next?", and other stoic male vocalizations. Later I realized that I had just been given a ticket to travel to unexpected places.
In this spot goes Drawing #6<not yet finished> medical pictures here, pills, syringes, rx's; --collage with gate opening]