As I begin to write this travelogue on March 1st, spring appears to be busting out all over Middle Tennessee. Back in Ireland (and I almost wrote “back home in Ireland …” which surprises me only a little, such is my affection for the place and the people I’ve come to know there, the Irishman not least of which) it’s cold, windy, probably pretty damp. They actually had snow today, he tells me (although you should know that snow is as infrequent in Ireland as it is here in Tennessee). Below freezing still, while today, here, it was 76. Seventy-six, for heavens’ sake! My winter scarves (I have a collection now), once so vital, hang limply on the coat rack; soon I’ll fold them up and put them away until next December or so.
Those of you who recall my last trip—call it A Circular Tour of the Whole of the Republic of Ireland with Brief Excursion to the U.K.—will find this trip to be completely different. Last time there were many different things I wanted to see, which meant a lot of ground had to be covered; we only spent one night in each location. (I was relieved to hear the Irishman tell someone recently that he enjoys reexperiencing his country, as he sees it through my eyes.) This time the aim was to settle in someplace, and drill down a bit. And there was, of course, that little “side trip” to Paris.
There’s no such thing as a paid vacation when you’re self-employed, as I now am—when you’re not working you’re not earning money, it’s as simple as that. This was a pretty frightening concept to me when I first considered leaving the country last summer, although by the time my departure date actually arrived—I was “working for two” (two months of work squeezed into one, that is) in January, and had had the odd drama or two to contend with too—I was so exhausted, so ready to leave that I locked that door and hopped in my ride’s vehicle (thanks, Amy!) without even looking back. I couldn’t wait to get on the plane—so I could sleep!
7 February 2006, Tuesday / Rutherford/Metro Davidson Counties
I finally began to relax and feel like I was on vacation once I hit the airport. The act of decompressing, of slowing down, makes you notice things you normally pay little attention to—like why does everyone in the airport have a cell phone pressed to his or her ear? Don’t get me started: is there no time that we humans detach ourselves from the phone? What is so important? How did we manage to survive before their advent? How did the country manage to stay afloat? These are questions that boggle my mind.
I love the whole airport experience because I’m out of touch, frankly. I love having the time to be alone with my thoughts, finding my own amusements (mostly reading and people-watching, although today it was unintended people-listening, like the woman with the boyfriend problem that she related loudly and in great detail to a friend via—yes—cell phone on one side of me, while two feet away another berated her employee, also on a cell phone; I found myself alternately envying her ability to be coolly confrontational and cringing at what was obviously being said by her subordinate). Sure, I had my laptop, and I planned to check in as often as possible; but not having a thing to do (or say) other than to board the plane on time was bliss.
It wasn’t until I was somewhere over the Atlantic that I realized I’d forgotten my journal book, the one I was given on my England trip, and which I used again on my first visit to Ireland, so all these notes were made on the computer … which is good in one way (it’s very fast), but, if I learned only one thing from my Artist’s Way group this past summer, it’s that writing by hand brings a beautiful perspective to each day and each thought, and I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t have the journal with me.
I love flying; it always brings my father intimately to mind, as he was a pilot. I mean, he joined the air force because he wanted to fly airplanes, so flying was a part of who he was, and when I’m in a plane (no matter how unlike Daddy’s actual experience the herd-’em-on, herd-’em-off experience modern air travel is), I feel very close to him.
But I also love the sensation of flying: the pause at the end of the runway like a sprinter in the blocks, then the moment when the pilot turns those huge engines on and the plane screams down the runway, and then … that exquisite moment when you feel the air begin to lift the thing, and you’re flying. The physics of flying are fascinating, actually.
But then that’s not what this is about, is it?