Listening to: “North Adams” – Gabriel Kahane
In another bid to crystallize my utter gastric disgust with her, Sarah Palin demonizes international travel. When asked why she didn’t have a passport until last year:
I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world. No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture.
‘Cause you know, only lazy entitled people travel. Good Americans who work for a living wouldn’t dream of leaving U.S. soil unless coerced.
Gross gross gross. Anyway, I try not to let my horror at the tubes America is going down ruin my already foul disposition. Funny thing — a downward-spiraling economy isn’t so awesome for helping to find employment. I’m thinking now’s a better time than ever to quit this country for a bit, provided I can find something quasi-lucrative overseas.
If only I could focus my attention, lazer-like, on what I want. It’s just that I want about a hundred things — and most of them don’t work with each other. It doesn’t really gel with the way society works right now. So it’s hard. I just like to move — I don’t really care about the destination. But that’s not the way to be “successful” in this world. Maybe I need to find a different world.
I’ve been reading West With the Night, Beryl Markham‘s memoirs about her years as a aviatrix/horse trainer/huntress/all-around badass in pre-World War II Kenya and England. She’s pretty much the awesomest person who ever was — a totally independent woman in an era and a place where that was really difficult, an adventurer, a free thinker, a total babe, and a really good writer. (There’s a theory that her then-husband, who was a journalist, was the real author of West With the Night; but I like to think it was Beryl who wrote it.)
Anyway, I’m at a part in the book where she’s on a safari with some white hunters on the Yatta Plateau, having an introspective moment while sitting around a campfire. Though she was born in England, she’s been in East Africa since the age of 3:
You were alone when you sat and talked with the others — and they were alone. This is so wherever you are if it is night and a fire burns in free flames rising to a free wind. What you say has no ready ear but your own, and what you think is nothing except to yourself. The world is there, and you are here — and these are the only poles, the only realities …
I return to my list of things needed, but not for long. I wonder if I should have a change — a year in Europe this time — something new, something better, perhaps. A life has to move or it stagnates. Even this life, I think.
It is no good telling yourself that one day you will wish you had never made that change; it is no good anticipating regrets. Every tomorrow ought not to resemble every yesterday.
Still, I look at my yesterdays for months past, and find them as good a lot of yesterdays as anybody might want. I sit there in the firelight and see them all.
The hours that made them were good, and so were the moments that made the hours. I have had responsibilities and work, dangers and pleasure, good friends, and a world without walls to live in. These things I still have, I remind myself — and shall have until I leave them …
Meanwhile, haven’t I got two quarts of water, a pound of biltong — and the doctor’s bottled sleep (should I be hors de combat and the Siafu hungry that night)? I certainly have, and, moreover, I am not defenceless. I have a Luger in my locker — a gun that Tom has insisted on my carrying, and which can be used as a short rifle simply by adjusting its emergency stock. What could be better? I am an expedition by myself, complete with rations, a weapon, and a book to read — Air Navigation, by Weems.
All this, and discontent too! Otherwise, why am I sitting here dreaming of England? Why am I gazing at this campfire like a lost soul seeking a hope when all that I love is at my wingtips? Because I am curious. Because I am incorrigibly now, a wanderer.
Ugh, Beryl man, I feel ya. Here’s an example of someone who’s driven, but in more than one direction. And she manages. She more than manages — she’s a fucking hero. It was a different time though, when there were more frontiers, more things to do that hadn’t yet been done.
I went on another hike in New Hampshire last weekend with J, Tuck and some more peeps. It was perfect clear early fall weather. We hiked 15 miles, hitting two summits in the Upper Valley — Mt. Smarts and Mt. Cube. Ridiculous names, no?
A little over halfway, we camped overnight and finally got to build a fire! Here’s the view west toward Vermont from the abandoned firetower on the top of Mt. Smarts:
Ah, mountain climbing. So much more clear-cut than anything else in life.
*Takes thoughtful drag from universal pretentious cigarette*