Tuesday, March 20, 2012

En route from Marion, Massachuestts, to Crystal City, Virginia

450 miles
Wind: SW 10 knots

Another adventure today, another flight across at least some ocean, and south, always farther south, to someplace warmer where cherries and bradford pear are blossoming. I'm here for a conference for American Schools and Hospitals Abroad, a USAID organization.

In middle school and high school, in boarding school, I flew back and forth between Bangkok and Manila four times a year by myself, so getting on a plane, walking through the airport, resting at gates--it feels like coming home in so many ways. There's no rush better than a plane gathering force beneath my body. It's better when I'm going someplace completely new solely for the joy of it, but even with the stress of having to impress DC insiders, being here gives me a feeling of freedom, of release. Travel gives me a little frisson of existential angst, making everything sharper, everything have more color.

Maybe travel is my drug of choice. The hotel I chose was based completely on online research, and when I arrived I discovered it nestled beneath an overpass in a posh district blocks from the Pentagon, so I wandered the streets with hipster urbanites and yuppie joggers, retiree tourists and traveling businessman, and found, immediately, a Thai restaurant where I ate overpriced and inauthentic, but fantastically delicious, duck rolls and salmon curry. I'm going to see how many continents' worth of ethnic cuisine I can stuff into three days. The Cherry Blossom Festival is also starting this week, and I'm wishing I had budgeted extra time for the free Smithsonian museums, or at least a tour of the Capital building. I have to pack in as much culture as possible while I'm away from the Maine woods.

And always I carry with me the guilt. I have friends who have given up travel altogether as a concession to their fossil-fuel consumption, and since those long ago flights from Bangkok to Manila, I still find the view from the skies toxic, somehow--all of the scars we've made on the surface of the perfect earth. It's beautiful from the ground--bike paths and waterfalls and landscaped gardens and soaring skyscrapers--but from heaven it looks like a crawling cancer. More accurately, it's like those possibly benign growths I find on the undersides of leaves. Arcane heiroglyphics carved out by unknowing parasites. The view from the sky, the intricate tracings we've left on the earth, are the same, I suppose. We don't know the damage we're doing. Or if we're doing damage.

It's the yin and yang of all of life's choices, I suppose. I'm here so I can do something to help people across the world, but in traveling here, in taking up my single spot in this hotel room, using this electricity, I'm carving out my own path on the surface of the earth, scarring it.

So again I'm traveling, and I'm going to enjoy being in the moment, being in a place where there isn't a foot of ice on the ground, someplace where I can walk on the actual earth.


canarican said...

just so u know...it was 73 here today and will be in the 70's all week...the snow is going and the sun is shining..don't knock the weather and the "actual" earth, we have it now!! missing you guys have a good time and when you get back it will still be mud season so you won't miss much..see you soon!

Melissa said...

So I heard! I was on weather.com today, and it's giving me for eighty degrees for this week--craziness. Is the ice gone yet? Will it be time to start the spinach?