I am wallowing in a barrage of helpless feelings. August is here and with it, the end to my 26th summer as a teacher. This summer was yet another, like 2012 and 2014, where we were able again to travel and so we went back to Yellowstone, 20 years after Sue and I had gone their together, and then back to the East Coast visiting first with my cousin, Marilyn and her husband, Don, who have become such good friends in our lives–and with Conni and her family from Austria. The latter visit, brief though it was–in New Haven, CT.–was a wonderful chance to catch up and see them again.
These travels, as good travel always does, led to much introspection on my part about where and how and why and all of it. The usual existential angst sets in after you’ve spent several weeks being in beautiful places with friends and family spending days as you wish and enjoying each other’s company. I did that on such a large scale that coming back to my routine feels less than satisfying. It’s a warning, of course, but it is more so a reality check.
The epic gorgeous mountains of Montana and Wyoming, silhouettes of blue and green, blocking out whole swaths of sky, enshrouded some days in mist and clouds, lightning and storm, hold an otherworldly charm. But they are not places where the average person can go to find work and “settle down.” Just the same, the East Coast trip was certainly a reminiscence for me as I lived back there as a boy and traveled there often throughout my teens and 20’s and now into later adulthood–but as much as I love it and consider it “home,” it really isn’t. Home is, of course, where Sue and Shannon are and they are here. They don’t appear to want to live back east and while I’d be willing to give it a go, the fact is Sue and I are not in our 30’s anymore, we’re not just able to “start over” with new careers, etc. Practical considerations set in at some point and one must reckon with those.
Still, the joy of the free-time together, traveling together and seeing things–new things, and old things with new eyes, was balm for all of our souls. Shannon is taking a US History course over summer and while it is not an optimal learning environment, it has given us a chance to talk about a lot of history, which I find fascinating and the summer travels provided us with first hand looks at Gettysburg, Mt. Vernon, the Hamilton/Burr dueling grounds, Lexington and Concord, Boston and so much more. These touchstones enlivened her experience and gave her more than just paragraphs written by committee in a textbook.
More profoundly was the further cementing of our relationship with my cousin, Marilyn and her husband, Don. I was always close to her mom and dad, my aunt and uncle and when Aunt Virginia passed away in November of 2015, I reached out to Marilyn and Don to invite them here and we spent a glorious week together visiting Monterey and points north and enjoying each other’s company. So it was this summer that we gathered together in Yellowstone for a week–and then visited for four days in Maryland together while they hosted us on our east coast trip.
Family as friends, new journeys and growing through times of tragedy and pain—that appears to be the core, the center of my life, perhaps all our lives.
More to come….