Today I will watch the sun rise and fall twice. I wish there were words to describe how beautiful it is to look, from seven miles in the air, down over the summer Arctic – endless brown mountains mirrored in the glassy waters; dark and chill depths covered by tiny giant pieces of an ice-perfect, ages-old puzzle of white. Words to capture the grandeur of a single iceberg, tiny to my eyes, floating alone in the big blue sea. Just looking out over it from my window on the plane, knowing that my little camera can’t hope to capture more than a cue for my memory, at such a great, wild, open, untamed, beautiful space is enough to render me thoroughly speechless.
I spent weeks packing, thinking about packing, thinking about leaving, writing about everything else, putting off my friends like I was afraid to admit I was just going to leave them behind again. Sorting through my twenty-six years of collected junk that hangs out in my parents’ basement. Deciding what I need now, what I’ll need in China, what I’ll need whenever it is that I’m coming back, what I’ll never miss. Not always liking what I found out, but realizing it was all part of a necessary revelation. Learning that my value of some things is more important than society’s; learning that society’s value of some things is more important than my own. I sold my car and my furniture; I trashed a lot of who-knows-what and gave a lot of it away. I think now that the whole process of shedding my possessions may have had more value than the items I disposed of.
The summer was busy. I left Naples on May 14th for the Keys, and before finally rolling into Hinesburg on July 10th I’d found myself in Houston, Chicago, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Denver, Memphis, and innumerable points between. As Natalie Slater’s assistant on her Mother Road Revisited project, I’d learned about Route 66 and its people, and I’d seen a bit of America that I’d never had the time to see before. Visiting my friends during that trip and on my way back home was an eye-opening experience in and of itself.
Then I got home. Home to write, home to rest, home to see my family, home to visit friends, home to try to balance out my life in the month before I moved to China to begin a new career in teaching. That month was packed full of nervous and excited preparation, and standing at the end of it I see that I have exerted myself with the intention of having little to show when all is finished – winnowing away the unnecessary bits from the edges of my life, achieving some kind of focus.
I didn’t keep much in the spare room I inhabited for the past month, and I needed even less. A few items summed up my existence – a wooden carving, an old first edition hardbound book, a power cord for my tablet. I also spent less time rushing around and more time with a few people – perhaps fewer than I should have, but through that I saw how much those friendships mean, both to me and to my friends. The past months have shown me some of the paths in life that I may walk, and, for the first time, have also made clear the ones I should take, at least for the moment. My exertions were successful, and I am a better person for my efforts.
So now I hurtle through the -40 degree sky at 568 miles an hour, halfway between Detroit and Beijing, gone so far north that I’m once again heading south, perpetually amazed by the beauty that waits for me every time I open my window shade. Before me is a new world to discover, a new job, new friendships; for now, above the clouds indistinguishable from the ground below them, all I have with me are some clothes, my computer, and a few notebooks to write in, and the love of my friends and family that follows me so closely, so warmly. I can think of nothing else to ask for.