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Sunday, 26 July 2015

WEEK #104 - NOMAD IS AN ISLAND

As I walked home this evening, I passed row upon row of houses.  I peered in the windows wondering about the lives of the people who live in each.  The large bench-coathook-armoire in the mud room where guests and family put on and off their shoes, umbrellas tucked neatly to one side.  The cat staring out a window.  The lights that flicked off just as they drew my attention.  Gardens, meticulously cared for.  A basketball net pulled off the drive.  Flat panel TV screens flashing sports highlights, spilling the only light in a tidy well-decorated living room.  The corner shelves in the kitchen, collecting dust from lack of use… or not.  What are these stories?  Who are these families?  How long have they lived there?

Living pretty close to a nomadic life, I pondered what it would be like to have roots in a house like any of these.  What are the choices that brought those people to them?  Were they inherited? Did their parents help them out?  Did they find amazing well-paying jobs when they were young?  Have they lived there for 40 years and are now retired?

It dawned on me as I passed that I was a voyeur into a life I won’t have.  As I got back to my new/not-so-new apartment, I pet the cat, then striped down to my underwear because it was so humid and considered if/when to get a small air conditioner unit (at least for the cat’s sake) and how to get the air to flow to my bedroom at the other side of the not so small unit.  I have barely lived here since I moved in at the start of May and won’t until the winter, but it might be worth the cost for the two weeks I’m “home”.  I bet all those houses I passed have central air.  Though, for an apartment I live in only half the year, how much do I really want to invest?  Also, what do I really need in my home? 

Previously, my apartment was my sanctuary.  It was my holy retreat from the world that was always so unkind.  I could hide and recharge, but now I’m not sure I need to be as explicitly holed away.  The more I have become grounded, the less essential roots become.  My home is wherever I am, for my home is my body… and my cat.  There is a giant world out there and I want to experience it.  All our decisions come at a cost.  Today, I walked through my cost.  A steady job with a husband, kids, garage, garden, fireplace, house, yard, cat in the window, porch, motion sensitive lights – it all seems like a fantasy of another domain, distant and obscure.  I am happy with my life, but when everything that surrounds you seems like part of a world you don’t belong to, it gives you pause.  I watch friends get married, have babies, buy houses, cars, lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, roofs, divorces.  Then you face the ever present comments “When it’s your turn…”, like there is some rite of passage that you’re waiting in line to receive.  Party conversations have pretty much turned into talk about a new baby, the old baby, an upcoming baby, the new engagement, the upcoming wedding or why hasn’t this couple got engaged/married/pregnant/pregnant again and speculation or hints about when it will happen.  As the single, seemingly permanently so, nomad, I find I offer the respite conversation for most people, asking about pretty much anything else (mostly, I’m curious about what everyone’s zombie apocalypse plans are). It is so bizarre and also lonely.

I think one of the biggest things I’ve had to come to terms with over the past couple years is that we really have very little control over our lives.  We live as part of a bigger fabric and only represent a single strand.  We have little say over how life unravels.  My life is pretty spectacular.  I’m quite happy with the things I get to do, but as I sit in my underwear drinking Jack and Pepsi at 12:30am on a Sunday night before I head back on the road for a week (still barely unpacked from my last two months and definitely not remotely packed for tomorrow), I wonder, what lies ahead?  The house with roots seems so much more determined.  The path looks clear.  I know that every life is presented with struggles, but there is something fixed about those rows of painted doors and lit up numbers, potted plants shining under the porch lights.  I have always been one for the path untaken, but some nights I like to wonder: what are those lives like under those roofs?  But as my favourite poet, Robert Frost says:
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Perhaps there will be a house with dusty spices on corner shelves and attics and lawns and sprinklers in my future, but for now, the open road calls and I will wander one onto another until life tempts me to stay.  It’s not a bad life, in fact, it’s pretty great – it just feels lonely at times because you pass so few travelers going your way.

I’ll leave you with the rest of the poem by Frost – The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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