Tuesday, October 18, 2011
On traveling light...
It wasn't really my intention to travel light to Paris. That is, not this light. I had packed carefully. My suitcase of clothes and, as always, my backpack containing my journal, books to read, a folder of work to do, medications, chargers, hair brush, make up, assorted drugs and earplugs and what have you for the plane. But when we got to Newark Airport and I looked at the luggage in our car my backpack - the one item I never forget and never travel without, the one thing I consider to be essential not only to my journeys, but to life itself - wasn't in the car.
It seemed impossible. How could this happen? It is true that Larry packed the car. On the other hand I had walked right by my backpack on the way out the door because I wanted to dispose of a rotten avocado. An avocado? And for that all of my best laid plans - really months of planning - was pretty much out the door.
What did we have? Well, Larry had our passports because at the last minute I had given them to him. And he had my laptop which I only use for Internet and my camera. And that was it. I had nothing to read. No journal to write on. No pills that I actually need. Not the Murakami novel I'd intended to read.
I was hysterical. I said I couldn't go. I tried dozens of ways to retrieve my backpack including having a car service try and race it to the airport only to have the car get stuck in the Holland Tunnel.
As the plane took off, I was beside myself. At the airport, at my daughter's suggestion, I had gone into a bookstore and purchase a slim notebook, but not the kind I normally write in or paint in. I had one novel with me in my luggage - also a slim volume of Richard Yates. A backup novel.
I had no sleeping pill or earplugs for the plane, not short stories or ideas to work on, not the children's books I'd intended to work on.
I was for the first two days bereft, miserable, angry, laying blame. And finally resigned that I had to do what I had been avoiding for so many years.
That is, have a vacation. Travel just for the hell of it. Sit and stare into space. Sleep late. Stare at the Seine. Not look as the scraps of old short stories that had been sitting on my desk in lumps like unrising bread.
While it is true that trying to figure out how to get medication that I needed proved arduous, it is also true that wandering around the Belleville neighborhood of France and finding myself on the footsteps of the house where Edith Piaf was born - a more or less serendiptious event - probably wouldn't have happened if I had all my stuff with me.
Neither would a day of wandering along the Seine where Hong Kongese honeymooners posed for photo ops and someone was filming a music video and an old French singer crooned and lovers kissed and I just sat, head tilted back, basking in the sun. I'm not sure I would have gone every night to a different film at the Cinematheque or spent hours just hanging out in a cafe across the street from the apartment we'd rented.
As I watched all my plans disappear with the backpack left at home, a whole other trip evolved. Nothing I'd anticipated or perhaps even wanted, but the truth I found myself less burdened, less weighed down by the freight of my life.
Was I angry? Yes. Did I try and blame my nearest and dearest? I'll plead the fifth. But the truth is in time I let my anger go. I stopped dwelling on what I'd left behind and focused more on what I had with me. I felt lighter, more at ease.
I let it go. What I thought I needed. What I had to have. What I wanted. My expectations. Some notes I couldn't do without. A book I had to read. Lipstick, eyemake up. Some things I purchased. Others I forgot about. I stopped being angry. I started to have a good time.
Unencumbered and, perhaps for the first time in a very long time, I was in truth traveling light.