Thursday, February 4, 2010

Backtracking


Since I was a girl, wandering the woods around my house, I've never liked to backtrack. Even then I made a wide circle through the woods to the path along the lake, doubling back via the roads and ravines that made up the place I called home. In my childhood fantasies of pioneers (which were the first to settle the place where I dwelled on the bluffs above Lake Michigan), the trails only went one way. Mainly west.

I was in a sense a child of the West. The paths I took - there was no turning back. It is a kind of a joke now in my family. Larry knows I won't go back to a store where I forgot to pick up something. If I walk one way into the park, I have to walk another way home. I always feel defeated returning to where I've been, going back the way I came. I am not really sure when forward motion became my "thing."

I have always done better in motion. I prefer to read on a plane than in a chair. I prefer to write on trains than in the comfort of my own home. As a girl my father called me Pigeon because he said I never sat still. Whatever this trait is (and it may just be a biochemical imbalanace) the fact is if I can help myself, I don't like to go back. I rarely do.

Once years ago I was looking for a pen in my father's bedstand and I came upon a pile of maps. Now my father was someone who never went anywhere. He never wanted to so it was odd to find maps in his drawer. I took them out. They were all triple A, marked in blue markers. Some were of the routes he took to inspect the shopping centers he and his brother built. But the one that stood out showed a route north through Canada, across southern Ontario, Niagara Falls, to Boston where I went to school. And then it showed a route home through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana. A circle, the kind I normally like to travel. Perhaps my father knew this. It was one of the only times that I felt he may have wanted a small adventure.

But the sad part about this map was that I never did complete it. I never went back. I never returned. If anything I only moved farther and farther away. I am not sure what this means. I'm really not. I just know that I can never return to where I have been. And I can't go back the way I came. Now Larry and I are thinking of wandering. Maybe even roaming the world. And as we plan, our progress is always forward. Perhaps like the earth we travelers need orbits of our own.

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