Aging is the great leveler in our lives that is marked by moments. The act of traveling seems to parallel its progression; the silent character that stands in the wings, patiently waiting for one or two lines during different acts. The scrapbooks, the shoe boxes of tattered, fading images, or digital photos on our hard drives are the bills of information gathering dust in attics, desk drawers and disk space. Many times I have questioned the reasons for my own travel; the escape of my mundane life out into the openness of the urban and rural spaces. When I was young, it was just a routine programmed into our summer breaks, when my parents were free from summer school duties. It was a luxury for a middle class family but I learned that it was a fun adventure. I really didn’t understand its’ value to my quality of life until I turned forty. That year marked a threshold in my life; one of deep speculation and reflection about my life’s choices. And traveling, journaling has been part of my tool kit to deal with the most difficult and precious moments in my life.
For four years I have been traversing the Scottish landscape, exploring on a dime and shoe string budget when my hectic schedule allowed. I sought the openness for solitude from difficult tasks and frustration, stimulation from endless hours of self imposed seclusion, and a need for inspiration. I escaped to know that I am still human, not this ghostly entity typing away at a computer or entrenched in the dusty stacks of the university library trying to complete a doctoral thesis. When I become lost in Scotland, I begin to become aware of my spirit and who I am.
I think our encounters in life are spiritually orchestrated, loops in the great cycle of life that gives us insight, enlightenment about the missing pieces of knowledge and understanding. On my fortieth birthday I found myself sitting in Inverness Bus Station waiting for a connection to my next destination. An older gentleman traveling alone took a seat beside me. Our smile exchange invited conversation. We talked of our travel plans; he returning to his home in Lochaber and me continuing on to Ullapool. Eventually my bus arrived and I had to say farewell. In such a short span of time we had become symbolic friends in travel. As I got up to leave, the man got up, hugged me and said in parting something peculiar, something about ‘gifting me with a bit of magic.’ I boarded the bus and waved a second goodbye. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my own grandfather who had passed away twenty-years ago on this same date. A date I still try to forget because of the deep friendship we shared. I worried for my new friend, hoping for his safe return home. As I sat on the bus I recorded our farewell in my small journal, wanting to remember it, wanting to pocket the gem for safekeeping. Something to be reconciled later when I understood what it meant. Eventually it helped me to remember one of my biggest mistakes in life.
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