I carry a notebook with me, always. Right now, it’s a Moleskine with a plain cardboard cover adorned with a “Tilted Thunder” roller derby sticker. On each notebook, I list the cities I’ve visited during its tenure. My current one, started in July 2019, reads:
Seattle, WA; Pac NW Road Trip (Lummi Island, Winthrop, Walla Walla, Wallowa Lake); New York, NY; Springfield, VT; Iceland!!; Bahhhhhston, MA; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; New York, NY
When I returned home from New York on Friday night, I ran zoomy circles around my house, like a crazed pet freed from the kennel. Typically, I get antsy if I’m home too long—a balance of continuity and change keeps me sane and stimulated—but in the last two months, I’ve been on the road every other week, a mix of personal and work travel. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m ready to be grounded for a while.
I was surprised at how happy I felt walking through the door, greeted by a rush of warm, bright air and the familiar aroma of my kitchen, my things. I threw myself across my bed, relishing the right amount of firmness, and plunged my nose into the pillow. Hotel beds are not clad with my soft, purple-gray flannel sheets. They do not smell of lavender.
Yesterday, I hummed on the walk to my yoga studio, smiling at the dripping rooflines and the soggy yellow leaves pasted to the pavement. The air, heavy with mist, smelled metallic and fresh after the street-garbage aroma of New York. The sidewalks were waking up with people in stretchy pants, rather than eerily deserted as they had been in Detroit. The breeze was low, not the bluster of Chicago, but soft and alive like a kiss on my cheek. It was cold, but not freezing or biting, as it had been in Iceland where stepping out of the car felt like being slapped some days. The skies were gray, as they had been in Boston, but everywhere around me was green, green, green. The sap in the trees is slowing, but it hasn’t stopped yet.
The best part: I did not have to call an Uber or a Lyft or a taxi to get anywhere.
So often, I wax poetic about the places I visit and the otherworldly landscapes I’ve seen, like blue-white glacial lagoons full of floating ice calves and bobbing seals. The flutter of my heart as a small, red male hawk flies to my gloved wrist—Whap!!—and pushes off to chase after a juicy grasshopper in a verdant Vermont field. The awe upon viewing Warhol’s Mao or Hopper’s Nighthawks in person at the Art Institute of Chicago, and not as flat, faraway images in an art book. The thrill of investigating the archives of Eugene Burdick in Boston University’s Mugar Libary, following the breadcrumbs of his private correspondence as I watch his legend build amidst the aroma of old yellow paper and dusty, ivory-colored history.
Experiencing them makes me realize that only rarely do I “love the one I’m with,” meaning Seattle. I mainly appreciate her in private. I don’t write about her quiet streets, which read as peaceful rather than desolate. Where panes of glass yield the ever-green in all seasons, even snow. Where inexplicable yellow dahlias and candy-cotton-pink cosmos and fire-orange mums wave from verdant stalks in my front yard, though we’re nearly in mid-November. Where velvety moss sprouts from every seam of virgin concrete.
Where skylights draw down the bright gray glow, and lamps are golden, where I sit with a fleece blanket on my lap reading the newspaper as the heat kicks on, where the slinky steam rises from a cup of coffee—my coffee, the way I like it, which I don’t have to traverse an elevator and the general public to retrieve.
It’s easy to overlook the everyday until it becomes strange and new. That, too, is the beauty of travel.