Thursday, July 12, 2012

Life on the Road

Living on the ancient European landmass makes one cognizant of the rich history the people there have inherited. The past is ever present, speaking from crumbled castle ruins, soaring cathedral spires and rutted country lanes, trodden upon by people long ago past from this earth. The place is so settled, so organic, that walking on still used Roman roads past sixteenth century hunting lodges simply means another trip to a friend's house. You can't miss the impact of the past when your small car barely scrapes through the narrow streets of any given town. Stability and tradition are still an important part of life there, even in the days of globalization and the European Union.

American history is made up of different components. Beginning with settlers and outcasts arriving on these shores several hundred years ago, continuing with the restless and relentless drive west on covered wagons or railroads and expanding with the invention of the automobile, the story of this country is one of movement, expansion and change. Life on the road is a classic American tale and Suzanne and I have been on our own version of one as we have traveled across much of the mid-west seeing friends and partners.  But even in this country of so much transience, historical markers on the roadside tell us that we are not the first to pass through here. I have found that even though Americans embrace change, we have a keen interest in our country's history in a way that Europeans do not have for theirs.

The above comparison of the two continents was on my mind as we made our way through record-breaking heat, in our Dodge Caravan. Appropriate name for our vehicle I think. We loaded our "covered wagon" down with all manner of stuff we collected as we have cleaned out Suzanne's storage sites, and just like the settlers of old, have had to dispose of that which has weighed us down. Each place we stopped, we found friends and family, but had to say good-bye almost as soon as we arrived. We found that our van became our "home" during this period, being one of the only constants we had.

Since I have spent much of my life on the road, a journey seems like a good metaphor for life. Not that I am the first to make that connection. I may be one of the last. But this year seems especially fitting to compare to a long road trip. We are here for a short time and plan on returning to Germany next summer, and so it can be difficult not to think of this as just a transition phase. Something that Suzanne and I want to work on is making sure that we get the most out of this time, that we love deeply and care meaningfully for the people and places we encounter, even if we will leave them again before long.

Life on the road can be hard. But it can also be a meaningful place to find peace, as you realize what few things are actually there to hang on to. Some of my thoughts for the week.  

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