Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wanderlusting on Thursday night

Henry wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. to start the long process of waiting for me to take him outside for his morning walk. He persistently follows me around, occasionally whimpering, constantly trying to make contact with his pleading eyes. Once my hair is dry and I am dressed in some random concoction of pajamas and outdoor gear, we venture out into the pale light of Northern Virginia morning. When the "wintry mix" blew through the DC area on Tuesday night, it left an un-impressive three inches of wet snow and slush. Twenty-four hours later, it's a rock solid sheet of ice over snow, and I'm ice-skating in cowboy boots as Hank pulls me across the shimmering backyard.

I'm reminded of the first lines of Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel

It was hard to say when exactly winter arrived. The decline was gradual, like that of a person into old age, inconspicuous from day to day until the season became an established, relentless reality.

Yes, it is winter, but that doesn't change the fact that twenty degrees with a stiff wind in your face is really freakin cold.

So, that said, is it any surprise at all that I can't get my mind off of travel? Even the yoga instructor tonight was playing ocean sounds and encouraging us to breathe in the "fresh and crispy air." Crispy isn't exactly how I'd describe the constant wind blowing across the Caribbean in Belize. I've mentioned Belize before, but I think it's time for a re-visit.

Last April I was on a deserted island just off the coast of Belize – my second annual girls-only vacation with Venessa. We spent the week camping on a tiny island about thirty miles off the coast, on the barrier reef. Our journey there was an international flight, then a prop plane along the coast and a single red, dirt road and jungle. Then a bumpy ride to Placencia and a bumpier hour and a half boat ride out to the island. The journey is cleansing for me – it’s always been one of my favorite parts. I look forward to the feeling of being suspended with absolutely no purpose aside from arriving at a destination. The feeling of Belize was not dissimilar from the detachment of the travel itself. Life simplified itself to rhythms – the surf, the tide, the sunrise and sunset, dips of the kayak paddle into the sea, jumping schools of fish, laps of osprey and pelican, the measured dance of sand crabs amongst the bleached shells and seaweed. It was a feeling of absence and complete presence. And when the sun set and the stars rose up to fill the sky, the opaque blackness gripped the surface of sea and eliminated the feeling of gravity. Lying in the sand, I could actually feel the Earth’s slow spin – a deep, fluid, ancient movement. The oldest rhythm of all.

I think Wordsworth (goofy looking as he may have been) had it right. As de Botton explains:

"...we may see in nature certain scenes that will stay with us throughout our lives and offer us...both a contrast to and relief from current difficulties. He termed such experiences 'spots of time':

There are in our existence spots of time.
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue...
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen."

Belize is one of my 'spots of time.'

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