I’m back in the high desert after a 21-week road trip across the USA and it seems as if nothing was accomplished. Nothing was gained. Nothing has changed.
That isn’t true, of course. I’ve seen 12,000 miles worth of scenery, met in person at least a dozen people I’d known only online and talked to many others in passing, have experienced various cuisines and entertainments, walked for miles in all sorts of terrain, camped and moteled, endured sadness and loneliness and occasionally felt pure joy.
And yet, it still feels as if nothing was gained (except pounds — I’d hoped to lose ten pounds on the journey, and I still have eighteen to go).
Before I left, I had a hard time finding a place to live, and that hasn’t changed. I still can’t find a place to live. There doesn’t seem to be any such thing as a one-bedroom or a studio apartment around here, so I’ve been checking out rooms to rent. One room I went to see was a windowless cell no larger than seven feet by nine feet, and the “private” bathroom was three rooms away. Another place would have been ideal — a fabulous suite in a farmhouse — but it’s an hour or two drive from here, and I would have had to contend with some of the world’s worst traffic to get to dance class three or four days a week.
Mostly, things have been falling into place without too much trouble, so perhaps things are still falling into place. If it’s this hard to find somewhere to live, it’s possible I’m not supposed to be here for long. At the moment, I am staying in a fleabag motel, but the bed is comfortable, there is room for me to do my daily stretching, and there is a quiet road near here where I can take a walk every morning. I might even be able to do some writing while here. (I did pull out my WIP and set it on the desk, so we’ll see.)
Even though it feels as if I am just vegetating (there are no dance classes until next week, so I am mostly just lounging around reading), I am gradually getting things organized for the next leg of my journey. I finally got my computer fixed. I have an appointment next week to get my car serviced. And I am rethinking my supplies. I brought things with me I didn’t use, sometimes because the item was packed too deeply to easily retrieve, and sometimes because the emergency it was meant for didn’t arise. One thing I know I need to get is a couple of pairs of light colored pants. Apparently, mosquitoes love black, and that’s mostly what’s available in my size, so that’s what I’ve been wearing. I also need to figure out how to do better with food. I didn’t eat the freeze-dried meals I brought, didn’t open the peanut butter, ate only a bit of the tuna, but I did go through all the various food bars I brought. And I ate too much convenience store non-foods.
I’d always planned to come back here and settle down for a while, take dance classes, wander in the desert to soothe my soul, but now I don’t expect to stay for more than a couple of months. Whatever it is that has been driving me ever since the death of my life mate/soul mate and more recently, the death of my father, which left me without a place to live, is stronger than ever. I don’t think I’m looking for anything in particular (except the wisdom and wonder I am always looking for) but still, I continue to feel that need for . . . something. Something to override the lingering void those deaths left behind, perhaps. (Writing might do it, but I am too much alone to welcome the thought of spending even more time inside myself.)
So, see? Nothing has changed. I am still in flux. Still planning for . . . I don’t know what.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)