Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Reading?

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

I'm about to set off on a journey of several thousand miles. As a fundamentally restless person, I find myself constantly drawn to travel. There is something intangibly satisfying about the simple act of moving, about the slick spine of the highway just beneath you, about the landscape yielding then slowly receding as you pass. All of my life I have felt the desire to see new things, to find and explore places I have only read about on the pages of the books that have for so long been my imaginative companions. I began to travel with my family as a child tagging along as my father crisscrossed the country as a baseball scout. My father's soul is not dissimilar to my own, he too seemed to be constantly pulled to explore, to travel, to see, to read, if you will, the pages of book to which St. Augustine is referring. I remember clearly sitting in the back of the family station wagon watching silos jut into the clear sky above the Appalachian mountains, peering through a rain-soaked  window at the jagged skyline of cities that seemed to rise miraculously from the landscape, and spending countless hours reading signs that helped me count the miles to the South Carolina state line.  As you might imagine, some of my siblings were less thrilled with our time confined in the car but I loved the fact that you could start your day in a crowded suburb where people drank soda and wore sneakers and by the time you laid your head on the pillow be in a place where people drank pop and wore tennis shoes. I found myself fascinated by the way a few hundred miles changed not only the scenery but the language and the people.
Once you crossed the Mason-Dixon line life seemed to yield to heat, the people moved more slowly and smiled more.
Despite all the travel I have remained a Jersey girl at heart. One of the things I have always loved about New Jersey is that it a place that is, indeed, many places. There are all kinds of people here from city slickers to farmers and the landscape is similarly diverse. I can get in my car and drive a short distance in one direction and find myself lost on winding country roads and then turn my car  around and drive an hour or two and be in country's biggest city. The faces that surround me daily come in various shades and are arrayed in anything from jeans and a tee-shirt to a traditional abaya. I love to travel to the various corners of my own state and discover its hidden treasures but it's summer and my rambling soul is itching to explore places unknown.
Seven years ago I made a New Year's resolution to see at least one place I'd never seen before each year for the rest of my life and thus far I have kept that promise to myself. I've traveled up and down the east coast and even once made it as far into the west as Las Vegas. My trip to Nevada, however, was made on a plane and so my 'view' of the American West was very limited and Vegas, being what it is, offered only the most commercial of Western culture. This year, I am packing up my car, picking up my best travel buddy and heading to Santa Fe. Together we will trek across several states and make our way into the west.
I've just finished reading On the Road, I've got my Route 66 travel guide and next week, we're off.
So what of St. Augustine's book? I hope that mile by mile I will be turning the pages of my own story, unraveling the plot and characters of my own life by looking both at the scenery and souls who populate the roads I will be traveling. I also hope to find a few minutes each day to blog about the people and things I've seen as I press through the country into the region so full of the rich culture of the indigenous people of the country I love. This will be my summer reading, reading the lines of the landscape, the paragraphs spread across the faces of people I will meet along the way. I am expecting this to be the best book I've ever read.

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