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Summer Pilgrims

Today is my birthday. It’s 8 a.m. and I’ve traveled to Brazil, Spain, Sienna Italy, New Zealand and Africa. People have treated me to coffee and breakfast in every city because it’s my birthday and I feel like a stuffed piñata. I hope to be broken open; to spill my guts, to get that bikini figure I’ve always wanted and move on to the Crete, Greece.

If only imagination were enough to satisfy the summer itch to travel, but we are human. The senses like to be engaged. And summer calls, the days are long and scream to us ‘break it up, do something fantastic, learn more, live more, experience more. In fact, entire lives get turned upside down to get ‘sense’ satisfaction that goes beyond the imagination. The smell of coffee in Central America and bread baking at dawn in France can’t be exacted in America when mixed with, well…American smells and activities. Or maybe it’s just that when we do turn our lives inside out to go to Central America for a great cup of coffee, the senses are heightened by the discomfort and sacrifices to get there.

I’m not in control anymore. And I like it. When I’m in control, I’m right about everything and yet nothing is right.


I’m thinking about all the ways I can travel this summer without actually getting on an airplane in the balance of work, family, friends. I have a few ideas, like:

  1. Re-read The Old Man and The Sea. See if those terse sentences
    take me to a new place in my own writing.
  2. Cook from around the world–A different culture every week. Currently, Santa Fe Kitchens. Next week Brazilian, etc.
  3. Take a break from Anais Nin’s diaries and read instead a biography of a Flamenco dancer. And then have a Flamenco Dance performance in the backyard.

But I still think writing along the craggy rocks of the steep and, often messy brain of the curious thinker is still a favorite of mine. And, although I began this essay saying the imagination is not enough, I wonder. I wonder if the simple rejection to live on auto-pilot makes our sojourns even to the post office something like traveling. To see all the life that is around us in a new way can be like growing another imagination.

The man in line at the post office with the nervous tick and thick black hair, who catches the eye of a kind old woman—her smile disarms him and when he drives on to his next task he is calmer, his day just got more…well, just, simply more.

It’s summertime and the livin’ though, maybe not easy is certainly in migration toward the mysterious. And, lets face it, life drained of mystery is flat, and claimed. I aim for a shaggy life, with a hot heart for adventure in everyday life.

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  • Liz on Jun 20, 2008 Reply

    Happy a Day late Birthday… on the day of your birthday I was travelling in my little truck out to the beach, looking at the land in Olema, that I have seen maybe a hundred times before, but trying to see it with eyes that never knew these hills and trees. I pulled over at one of those pull outs for people wanting to travel more slowly than the locals, and tried to call you on my “tin can”, but apparently the string gets a bit tenuous out near Bolinas. I even did a movie thing, and climbed on to the roof of my truck, and held my tin can high, but, still no service… so I sang you a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday!

  • Cynthia on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    Happy, Happy Birthday to you! May all your dreams come true…
    I have dreams, too —my new passport arrived this week. #1 was issued in 1968, #2 issued in ’73 at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador…now, I have #3 and a glint in my eye. Wanderlust… and, carrot cocktails for all! May you celebrate the Happiest of all Birthdays! Cheers! Cyn

  • Guruth on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    Happy [belated] Birthday from your bad friend with a good heart! We are creating our oasis in Austin this summer and drawing the world to us. Thanks for the re-inspiration!

  • Gil Friend on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    Happy birthday superNiya, and thank you for sharing your delicious joie de vivre with us all. How about we sip some cocktails this evening on a small sloop west of the Big Island watching the sun merge with the pacific, spilling its colorful guts across the sky all the way down?
    PS: If you want a reading break, my current recommendation is _Love in the Time of Cholera_. (Decidedly _not_ terse sentences. 😉

  • Ben on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    p.s. I wanted to add this wonderful quote of the late Spalding Gray.
    “he won’t fly on the Balinese airline, Garuda, because he won’t fly on any airline where the pilots believe in reincarnation.”

  • Ben on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    Thanks for reminding me that traveling makes me aware of my own rhythms, the pace of my journey, and the blue-green color of my dreams. Reality is inaccurate because there are no yesterdays on the road. With no past there’s no judgement, and being in the moment sharpens, and clarifies that I am exactly where I am supposed to be; a portable fire consuming itself, and life’s bounty.
    Happy birthday. Perhaps I can treat you to an apricot tart on the rue Cler, or tapas in Malaga, Spain. Your choice. Go jolly…Ben

  • Sylvia on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    Happy Birthday, Niya!
    And thanks for the reminder that we can travel wherever whenever we want… and to be grateful for the memories that take us there.
    Also made me think of that famous quote “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Sure… but is the unlived life worth examining?
    To living and thinking and laughing,

  • Miss D. on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    Happy Birthday Niya… I would like to treat you to pancakes in Paris this afternoon for brunch, meet me at the waffle tower at 1pm. xoxo Miss D.

  • Tamara Greenleaf on Jun 19, 2008 Reply

    Happy birthday, darling! And, ah, you’re so right about finding the entire world in the everyday around us.
    Three cheers and a hearty yo ho (not to be mistaken for “Yo! Ho!” which could be the sequel to “Eats Shoots and Leaves”) for your global smorgasbord and armchair flights of fantasy.
    Happy trails! Bon voyage! Vaya con Dios!
    xo Tamara

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