The soundtrack to this post is Welcome Home by Radical Face, to be read and listened to in unison.
I’m on the train tracks again, this time headed north, this time with my brother, Luke, this time returning home. The green of the east sweeping me into its verdant leaves and grasses. The forest, good God I’ve missed it, something the desert just cannot give. But I know the desert now, and I know what it does give – the emptiness outside reflected within, the crucible of heat and desolation, freedom in simplicity and solitude. Walking these steps one year ago, I knew nothing of this. I knew nothing at all. I still know nothing, but at least I know that I know that. Strange, how I am different. Calm. Unafraid, or less afraid. Bigger…no, make it more epic, more dramatic…Vaster. That’s sufficiently dramatic, which is good because life is nothing if not dramatic, big and vast and epic. And I. And you. And think: if every person I’ve met in life expands me into a greater manifestation of myself, then the last time I walked these tracks I was less Me than the Me I am now. I’m 4,000 miles of faces greater, 15 states of voices richer, 11 months of silences deeper. And look how Luke has grown. Look how he’s grown, almost more man now than boy. Almost. I haven’t missed it all.
My uncles greet me on the tracks, then Ashley from Georgia and her friend Ellen, Chris from Arizona and Eddie from Maryland surprise me, and a whole family of loved ones welcomes me where the tracks pass behind my house. Welcome home.
Andrew, remember these things, the ghosts you pulled from the whispers of the walk on the eastward running train, writing frantically in your empty journal so they wouldn’t be lost forever: Never alone & the essential aloneness; the ends and the means, do not confuse them; floating in the flow; breathe; slow down; remember; calm; smile; you know nothing; everything a lesson, everything a blessing; always another angle, always another layer; the immensity of your own insignificance and the beauty therein; it is okay; the truth of goodbye; release; the world is not a scary place; cold drink on a hot day; thank you; reverence & grace; no such thing as loneliness, no such thing as boring; the eternal process; walk in beauty, the beautyway; be in, of, and for love; simplicity; worlds within us; to give and to receive; weep well, weep often; oh, how good, how very good; the great I Am of All that Is; unity in diversity; home and family; be brave; widen the windows into the souls of others; death, my friend; the baffling mystery, the astonishing extraordinary; urge and urge and urge, always the procreant urge of the world, wrote Uncle Walt; free and easy wandering, wrote Chuang Tzu; see; who do you love? let them take you there; have faith in the unfolding; listen.
There was a giant Cajun man south of New Orleans who let me camp out next to his trailer on the bayou one wet February night. The next morning we drank coffee together and he said to me before I walked away, “You know, really all you’re doing is reading a book, just with your feet.” I’ve read the book – tome, more like – and now it’s time to write the paper on it all, dutiful English student that I am. Because I want to know more, I want to understand, I want to ask what and why and how all over again, not from the road this time but from a cozy little room in the dead of a snowy New England winter, taken onward not by feet but by pen and paper.
That’s the plan for me, spend the next year or so writing and editing all the interviews I’ve recorded into a travel narrative that can be shared, something that can open minds and hearts as mine have been opened. I’m transplanting to Woods Hole, MA to get down to business. If y’all know of any housing or employment opportunities in the area, let me know!
If we recorded a conversation together, I’ll be in touch.
If you’d like me to speak about my experiences to your school, community, or group, let me know.
Everyone else, feel free to write me anytime. Always a pleasure and honor to hear from you.
That’s it for this blog. I’ll post an update here once the writing and audio are finished, but besides that it’s much love and goodbye for now. And of course, the only two words that could ever begin to bring closure to this experience: