Today I turned 40. I find myself in the Driftless region of Wisconsin – a name befitting my state of mind of late. There have been other moments like this, where the narrative of my life seems to have been taken over by the sheer force of the repetition of days. I move forward (we all must) but not out of any decision on my part, I am propelled forward by mere routine. It is in the realization that the past five years have passed in the blink of an eye that I decide to hit the road and to be somewhere on that road on my birthday. This birthday that marks something - though I still haven’t figured out what. And so here I sit, next to a red cabin, listening to the birdsong and the bee’s buzz as the sun shines on wild Midwestern grasses - with 5,000 miles left to go.
I suppose I expect some kind of epiphany – a roadside revelation - yet all I have learned from two days on the road is that despite having grown up in Los Angeles and spending 4 years driving in NYC, I am not suited to expressway driving. I observe other drivers as water molecules in this endless stream of traffic, flowing effortlessly. While I am a piece of detritus, tossed and disoriented, hoping to make it safely downstream. Escaping the seemingly endless tangle of interchanges, I find my groove on two-lane country highways– where the road rolls and follows the land, turning suddenly around ancient farms and passing through long-abandoned towns. This is where the past speaks loudest and I have always had an ear towards history.
History has a way of becoming myth and the road trip narrative is no exception. Like Odysseus, I leave and return from my home of Ithaca. Yet, I wonder what Penelope’s story would be had she been given the chance to stray further from the hearth. What kind of tapestry would she have woven if allowed to embroider her own tale? I wander now because of the women who have blazed the trail before me. I look for their stories as I seek my own. Peer into the cracks of time, that’s usually where you find them.