Yesterday my wife and I traveled across the country, the US that is, from the north west corner to the south east in order to spend a week with my mother-in-law. The journey is always long. There is no direct flight, it is two flights minimum, and yesterday was compounded by a two hour delay due to fog to what was already a one hour layover. We arrived at 2:15am. As I write this at 4:30pm I feel that I am only just arriving.
The travel part of yesterday normally doesn’t bother me. I am not a fan of modern day flying, but providing there is not a rush between connections, once I give into the uncertainties of what might happen next, the journey itself I am fine with. If I am traveling by myself, the experience can border on enjoyable…OK that was a stretch, but being alone in the midst of a crowded airport affords me some anonymity for a few hours. A welcome recharging opportunity for this introvert. But there is a rudeness to flying these days, and the longer the journey, the more rude it is.
In days gone by our journey to Florida would have taken a few days, the time depending on the mode of transport used. As you move through the different terrains and climates, your body notices and feels the changes happening around you. The journey becomes the goal as much as the intended destination, maybe even more so for the duration of the journey. You are connected with the land and the landscape that you are traveling through. I’m not talking here about driving through the night, but a journey where camp is established each night. You sleep out somewhere, you stop in a hotel or inn at a town that you are passing through. Time is spent with people enroute, even if they are serving you food. The vegetation is noticed. The smells, sounds, and bird and animal life seen. The arrival at the destination happens through transition as opposed to being picked up and dropped down as modern day flying will do to us - that is for me where the rudeness sits. For all of its convenience and what it enables, flying creates a big disconnect with all that we fly over. It’s almost as though there is nothing below.
For me connection with the land has always been important. We live in dependence upon the land. The natural world courses through our body every day; the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, what we drink. Through our senses we see, touch, feel and smell the world around us at every moment. These experiences are so routine in our lives that we can easily take them for granted - indeed, more often than not, do. We live our lives deeply interconnected with the world around us, interacting and sharing with it. Through the immediacy of these experiences, there is a sense of intimacy about them.
I don’t know if this comes about through my introverted nature, the joy of being quiet and simply noticing, or my HSP nature…just being that little more sensitive to the world around me. Maybe it is both of these? Maybe it is these and just some part of me? The reason might or might not be important, but it is real and I am sure that I am not the only one for whom the same is just as true and central to their lives. As a young boy, my earliest memory is sitting in the hold of the roots of a huge beach tree, hiding there quietly, enjoying the warm summer sun and soft grass that grew at the foot of that noble tree. More recently during my time in South Wales, the focus and quietness of my life in the Buddhist community and then later in the house that I built, brought a heightened sensitivity to the land that I was living on. Even now, years later, to see a photograph of the area or just to hear speak of it, pulls at my heart causing me to viscerally see, smell and hear that terrain.
And so I sit here on a Florida evening, almost a day after arriving, and am just starting to feel as though I have arrived. Familiarity with this place helps, but first thing this morning, still slightly jet lagged, there were things to do, food to buy, running around to do. Quiet breathing practices helped to keep me present, but even so mind and more so body felt churned up from the travel. My introverted self wanted quiet, rest and stillness.
As the initial urgency of those ‘new arrival’ jobs faded, the day started to slow down. Late afternoon I dozed briefly and then went for a walk in this sleepy neighbourhood. Walking quietly by myself I started to take in the smells, sounds, temperature and atmosphere that make up the area. I could feel my body slow and quieten down. I returned home more present. It still will probably be a day or so before I can say that I have more fully arrived….and then it will be time to leave - such is modern travel.