For much of the last year, I spent more time on planes and in hotel rooms than I did in my own apartment. It was thrilling - living out of a suitcase, crossing from place to place on Mondays and Thursdays. But it was also hard. I was a diver who'd strapped on a really big tank of oxygen and taken the plunge - hoping that one tank would be enough to keep me going for the weeks I was far from home. And when I'd arrive in New York City weeks later, I'd feel as though I were gasping for air.
There was always the sinking feeling that I was missing something, despite the adventures I found myself on. Weekends not at home were spent with friends I loved but I was just peeking in, an accessory to their vibrant social circles.
Traveling together, though, was different. In January, exploring Europe with flourishing friends, we mapped memories onto places we'd never been before. A cartography of belonging, in cities we'd only just discovered. I'd traveled with friends and family in the past, but only after months of literally flying solo did I realize that together, the pursuit of wanderlust, of newness through place, was most meaningful.
Now, grounded indefinitely, that sense of adventure isn't as attainable. Instead, I'm learning old places in new ways with friends and loved ones nearby. I wait eagerly for the day we can take the plunge again, together, into the world. In the mean time - poetry is, as it's always been, a way to get away for a little while.
This week, poems about traveling together and alone.
by Seamus Heaney
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Understand, I’ll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale
stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.
The Spinning Place
by Chelsea Wagenaar
Thomas Stevens took a giant spin, becoming the first person to complete a trip around Earth by bicycle.
—New York Times
Sometime on the third day of Hungary,
she joins him. Day and night, day
and night, propelled by the will of his legs,
he has been alone. Until now.
She is light and deft, a quixotic velocity.
She points at churches, at gypsies,
laughs and floods the unraveling road
with a language he cannot understand.
The inflection of asking lifts the hem
of her words. To him each note in her
impossible tongue asks, What are you afraid of?
When will you live in one city again?
Above them, a hawk spirals and dips. To it the world
is a brambled field, each day as simple as the hunt
for what invisible feet tunnel there.
He sees the twentieth century loom before them.
Buildings rise and fall. Great crowds cross
borders. Capitals change names. Call of birds
gone extinct. There are no cities, he says, only this
pedaled cartography of unbelonging.
The blue distills into granules of stars
and the air is hymnic, honeyed
with last light. He has not said what he meant.
She turns to go back the way
they came, the distance between them unspooled
and irrevocable, held in place by the flash
of spinning spokes, that bright and restless carousel.
by David Lehman
Someday I’d like to go
to Atlantic City with you
not to gamble (just being
there with you is enough
of a gamble) but to ride
the high white breakers
have a Manhattan and listen
to a baritone saxophone
play a tune called “Salsa
Eyes” with you beside me
on a banquette but why
stop there let’s go to
Paris in November when
it’s raining and we read
the Tribune at La Rotonde
our hotel room has a big
bathtub I knew you’d like
that and we can be a couple
of unknown Americans what
are we waiting for let’s go