I'm back to my trailer in the woods, after almost two months spent traveling. How many states did I hit? New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and back again. I took my first walk back in the woods this afternoon at dark, back with my Shadow, crunching through the ice in the first snowfall of the year that's stuck.
I'm realizing how far I've fallen out of the habit of recording my experience in words, here, in a digital medium. Back on the boat, on the trail—every day I was looking for a series of words on which to hang my experience. Mostly that hook was the tedium of travel, the tedium of adventure. Most adventure is more about outright pain than it is about anything else.
Webb Chiles (download his ebook, the masterful Storm Passage, for free here), the first American to circumnavigate solo, says: “I am itching and scratching my way around the world. Perhaps the ability to endure such mundane discomforts for months is the hidden heart of all adventure. Ulysses probably scratched his way around the Mediterranean for ten years, although Homer neglects to tell us so.” It's true, that.
Now I have little discomfort in my life, little pain. Except for the cold in my still broken shoulder, the cold in my breast, the cold when I face the challenge to go outdoors in the winter. Winter is growing on me, as Aroostook County does. I find myself longing for the eight inches of snow that will support my snowshoes.
I wrote these words today, in an essay, of my journeying: “All that time, I wrote. I wrote travel essays, food essays, small pieces on spirit and alcohol and pain and weather, nature meditations on walking and sailing. I posted these essays in an online journal I call a commonplace book.” That's this, although commonplace book, of course, I am stealing from Alan Jacobs, my college professor whose every digital word I still hang on. But it's an apt description of what I do here, on these pages—and I miss it when I don't.