At the eastern entrance to I-40, on the outskirts of Wilmington, NC, an official green highway sign reads, "Barstow, CA 2,554 miles." As I drove past it Friday, I happened to be talking to a colleague who lives near the western entrance of that same freeway. On Monday I will fly over Barstow, in fact, when I head her way. The fourth trip so far in my 9-bed September, my own absurd strategy for measuring the relative zaniness of my travel schedule. I will sleep in 9 different beds between September 1-30, only one of which is technically my own.
I am a "seasoned" traveler. I know, for example, to avoid winter layovers in Denver or Chicago, that summer thunderstorms can paralyze east coast flight patterns, and that Houston and Atlanta are best avoided altogether. I know I can get a quick nitrate-free spicy sausage near gate C-20 at Phoenix Sky Harbor. I know the women hired to clean the Charlotte Douglas rest rooms live on tips and a paltry $2-3.00 an hour.
These are ridiculous things to know (except that women cleaning our airport toilets go home after 8 hours of unappreciated work with approximately $20 -- that fact is appalling.) And while they engender a certain misguided travel pride, I cannot escape this fundamental dissonance:
At the same time my professional clients need a heightened personal presence, so do my family, friends and community. California staff need hands-on help to improve some thorny processes, women cleaning bathrooms need generous tips, Appalachian farmers need folks to buy their delicious tomatoes, and my home needs a family dinner. All at once. We are past that euphamistic breaking point and need genuine, live, loving, consistent human connection.
This is not suggesting my presence is important. Rather, I believe we all increasingly need to be both global and local, in multiple time zones, conversations & cultures and contributing to the wellbeing of many layers ... all at the same time.
I don't know how to do that yet. Oh I post, update, text and skype with the best of 'em, and I don't blink at a cellular call across opposite ends of a freeway or continent.
But I feel a universal tug to be all places at all times, as if the worn tethers securing my identity to gravity and locale are unravelling. As if the seams of a self I once concretely defined as only my own, as only in this place or with that person, are being gently removed stitch by stitch. I feel increasingly boundless, just beginning to imagine that maybe I can be Here and There at once.
Sure, I'm momentarily freaked about a possible personal implosion. But ultimately I'm comforted by a growing belief that I am -- we are -- so much more than these individual bodies & lives suggest. That perhaps being Here and Everywhere all at once is our original blueprint. That at some point I will, in fact, help a west coast clinic improve its health services, pick dinner fresh from my neighbor's garden, and nestle up to my husband in our own bed ... all in the same day.