I have lived this way for over 10 long years perhaps my entire life. Moving all the time. It is a technological miracle that I have to thank and perhaps it is deeply embedded in my roots that are either Gypsies or Tinkers or Cossacks, the very code that some think dictate your every move based on cell memory. Perhaps it is a reaction to being still for so long. For being in one place during a number of formative years and I have just not developed as other do. To move about a little and then as the old people say, to settle down. I have always been semi nomadic, or is it semi sedentary, I do not know the semantic difference.
There are the things we carry and the things we lose along the way. They are all with us at some time or another, lined up, on our pack, next to us on a bed. Some are objects of value, others we toss aside willingly and without thought. We move and hope it transforms us, we stay still and hope it makes us grow. We look out, willingly at the bend in the road and wonder what is just beyond that turn, just out of reach.
My sibling and I used to make a break for it when our parent wasn’t looking. We would push out of the house on the junky bikes we cobbled together (mine didn’t have brakes in the back and the other bike had an issue with the shifter gear) and we would make it to Rosedale. No reason other than to see if we could get there in time, in time for darkness, in time to be home when our parent returned, for no other reason than to make it to another destination, a little village not our own where I think I at least secretly believed that being there would change my life.
We made several attempts. One time we came back to find the house locked up. Our parent had returned for something and in anger locked the doors to trap us outside. We were perplexed as well as concerned at the wrath of our parent. In time, we found a way in. A loose window in the cellar. One of the benefits of having a rambling and decrepit 14 room house is that it is difficult to secure every opening.
Whatever happened, it didn’t stop us. We continued our task of making it over the mountain and to the next village. This was before the Googles. Before the Map Quests and the cellular telephones with the Apps that tell you everything. We had to remember whence we came and where we were going. It was like poking in the darkness. Long roads, we checked out all of them. Beaver Lane, Crest Road, Elder Post Avenue, all of those then small roads.
We had to take care for the cars. They did not expect bikes back then. We knew it was dangerous and coming home was a satisfaction. Seeing now that it was a scant 9 to 12 miles each direction, it seems so infinitesimal now, that little distance, that desperate escape we made when we could and to this day I don’t believe my sibling was that interested in the journey and more interested in just ensuing I didn’t die.
And I didn’t. And we got there. And it didn’t change our lives.
After university, I kept moving. In retrospect the three years I spent at my alma maters was the longest I have lived anywhere in once place. I spent the academic year there and then worked over the summer, punctuated by an extended three month (or so) trip to Europe, Africa, and almost Asia, if by Asia one considers the Sick Man of Europe to be that long and storied continent.
After University I moved. Traveled. Moved again. I could not ever afford to live where I wanted to play and was always distant from where I had to work. Again movement and subways and splurge on a cab and a long walk and a subway at night when the bums and the tracks sweat and the only trains on the rails are those that fix them or suck up trash or just come by pumping gas fumes and buzzing and rattling like a wolf in a death throw.
And moving and traveling this time to Russia and China and moving ever on and things were lost along the way and things were taken and things were stolen. I had cats and a garden and a spouse but I could not stop moving. Commuting ever out, wider and more round concentric circles tossing ever ever out, expanding just so, from Brooklyn to beyond to the far mountains and in the snow as I stood in total darkness, something snapped and I was not right for years to come.
I continued moving. My home moved and shifted again and work moved and shifted again and we pushed on and I gave up caring for everything for a while and lived in the woods among the owls and the fens and a girl that would come in the darkest part of the night and serve me tea. By the firelight we would exchange vows in words with only glyphs and speak only in poetry and the sounds that birds make when they are lonely.
This was traveling and this was wandering and this was madness and I was in love with it all and I slept on cliffs and welcomed the sun and I swam in cold dark pools without any clothes and I drank at springs and feared in the night when I heard a noise I could not place and i wondered if Buddha or bears or both were to fall upon me in my little stone fort, the one Sam build back in the 1960s and I could not bring myself to confess that I was there, now, too.
And onward on cars skidding about and rushing into the night on motorcycles with young drunk girls and whispering women on the back and finding bars where we were not welcome but we were indeed included as family and on to cities I didn’t want to live in and people I wished to spend the rest of my life with, friends and lovers both and I was torn away.
And there it was in the terrifying night to watch a fawn be born to this world. Right in the road. And to follow it as it grew up, right before our eyes.
But movement is travel and the sun comes up and this is something that you have to live that dream you had the other night, even if it was stupid. You have to live through this, even if you know it is bad for you. The dark night with the owls is a memory again. The voice of a mouse in the other room of some farm house and you want to stay at that farm forever and also, equally, flee. To see another village. Another country I will not see again and there stands a boy who tells me his grandfather has gone into town to see God. It is travel and it is motion sickness and we get on airplanes and visit relatives we knew only from photos and try to condense a lifetime of family into a few days and he said, I will shoot myself when you are gone. The necklace I bought he looked at, he knew who it was for and he knew my ways since they were once his ways, when he was young. He had changed his name as frequently as he changed women in his life. I watched whales breach the waters from the deck. The rush of the surf was away off and I sipped an exotic liquor from the nation of his birth.
The next month after we were gone, he poisoned himself.
And back to the routine, to and from work, every day and back to where I live and back out again and to move to run the roads and rails for those you love because you cannot be with them and even after all this work, the labour the spent hours, this too passes since all live if fickle cloud and the shapes of which are shadows on the ground and invented faces in the billowing folds that in a wind then change shape, move on, or worse, dissipate and you cannot imagine what had been there.
And the only thing to do is to move on. To keep moving but searching for something to hold on to – a post card, a rock from a beach, a shell from the top of a mountain, but these are lost in time and as before there is a suitcase, or backpack, and the road.
And the road now is a choice. Something one does not to run away but to expand. I will never rejoin the many youths of the many people I have missed along the way, but I have loved them all and miss them all and expanded my own circle to include those I would never have awareness had it not been for movement and travel, and on, and exchange, and sleeping in some unusual places and my aching back in the morning on so many occasions.
This may be that I need escape on that rusty and clattering bike. It may be simpler. It may be that my blood is thick with the DNA of some Cossack and I now move because I see it is the best way for me to be alive.