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Published: January 6th 2013
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I had forgotten that the flight from Bozeman to SeaTac was two hours. For some reason, I thought it was shorter. Unusually, I didn’t—couldn’t sleep. Instead I read. And looked out the window.
I love morning flights. As the plane took off, I was struck by how pretty the lights of Bozeman are, though not quite as pretty as the stars. If you haven’t seen the stars in western Montana… well, my heart aches a bit at the thought of not seeing them for four months. After the plane leveled out and the flight attendants gave me my surprisingly good coffee and cookie—that I dipped into the coffee until it was soft enough to dissolve on my tongue, but not soft enough to break into the cup, like my mom does—I looked out the window again. The sun was rising, casing creamy gold and startlingly rich pinks across the landscape of clouds below the plane. I cried a little. In part because the sky was so very beautiful, in part because I was about to finish a good (good) book, and in part because it was so hard to leave my dad and mom—with tears in her eyes—at the airport.
As I looked at the lovely sunrise, a familiar cottony feeling filled my stomach. Well, actually it starts in my tongue and tingles its way to my toes before zipping up to my buzzing head. It feels like electricity is zooming through me, concentrated in my mouth and gut and sparking from my scalp. It is the feeling I get right before I step on stage. It is also the feeling I get when I have just realized I have made a mistake, but before any feelings of regret, guilt, etc. have sunk in. It is an airy pressure. A bottomless feeling. It is a feeling of excitement and fear and sadness and thrill and words I don’t know. I have been flooded like this off and on the last week or so. Since standing in the line for security, the feeling has been pretty much consistently present, though varying in intensity. I don’t think I could be better prepared for this trip (the folks at ASTEP have been remarkable, in this and in everything), and yet my butterflies in my stomach are going bat-shit crazy. I wonder how long it will take this feeling to fade once I have arrived.
That good (great) book that I was about to finish on the plane, I have now finish. It is John Irving’s <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">A Widow for a Year and how I enjoyed it. (Warning: this so called “Travel Blog” may end up being more of a book blog than I intending. Stay tuned for <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">To Kill A Mockingbird, one of the books I will have the fortune to teach). When I switch my English-major brain on, I can argue that it is impeccably sewn together (the lives of several characters woven into a wonderful yarn) and that the prose is impeccably precise. But when I read it, I am not a careful reader and certainly not a thesis-forming reader. I feel like the characters are my friends, like I know them. I told a (real) friend of mine recently, that I have memories that are not memories at all, but scenes from a book. The people—I can’t call them “characters”—in John Irving’s books are far too dear to me to remain on the page. Instead, they find their way into my head.
My head is already a bit fuzzy, and I’ve only been traveling a handful of hours. Every once in a while, I will struck with the thought that I may have forgotten something important (I am not sure how many times I’ve checked to make sure my passport is in my bag). If I have forgotten something important, I think it will cry, laugh, or throw something... or some combination of the three. After a packing job I was proud of (one bag, a backpack, and a small satchel), we decided to divide the contents of the large bag into two, because we thought a single bag might be too heavy. I am bit embarrassed by how much I have packed. For someone who doesn’t like to think of herself as materially attached, I sure did bring a lot of stuff! Although, in my defense, I was able to fit more the donations from St. James than I had first expected. The rest I’ll ship to ASTEP to be taken by other volunteers. A special thank you to all of the lovely and thoughtful people who went out of their way to send me with school supplies for the students.
In about three hours (such a long layover!), I fly to Paris. Then to Bangalore. There I will be picked up and driven to Shanti Bhavan to wrap about 32 hours of travel. I am sad that I will arrive in India in the middle of the night. I was looking forward seeing the city and the countryside between the airport and the school from the car window. I thought it would help me fully realize that I was no longer in western Montana. Air travel even when the flights are long and cramped gives an illusion of proximity. I think waking at SB Tuesday morning will be startlingly. Then again perhaps it is better my first glimpse of India by day is after a few hours sleep in a bed when I will hopefully be a tad less punch drunk.
I am not much a diary-keeper. I have tried, and it has never worked. My mind moves to fast for my fingers and I lose thought before I can get them down. Sometimes I think this is for the best, as I some of my thoughts are better left unpreserved until they’ve gone through a few mental revisions. I feel even less certain of being a blog-keeper. How do you end a post? Does it matter if one thought flows logically into the next? (God knows, they won’t if I write them as I think them.) What will people find the most interesting? (I make you no promises that what I choose to write about will be fascinating or thought provoking.) But, nonetheless, even if I bore you with unnecessary details, I think this will be good for me. I think India is going to be new enough, challenging enough, terrific and terrifying enough that I need to slow down my thoughts. I think it will be then, that I make the most meaningful and lasting discoveries.
In one of my favorite children’s novels, <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Time Stops for No Mouse, the protagonist keeps a diary of thanks. Every evening he writes down what he is most thankful for that day. I have always loved that idea. So…
What I am grateful for today:
Parents (and brothers and family and friends and dogs) that love me
Reading lights to illuminate my literary friends
Misspellings and typos (if there aren't any in this post, there will be in those to come)
That cottony feeling
New (and slightly scary) opportunities
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