Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Travel Ready

"When I die, I'm not going to wish that I had done more push-ups;
I'm going to regret not playing my guitar more."
I just printed the boarding passes for my US Airways flight to Philadelphia tomorrow. I'm going north to take part in an alumni swim meet at my high school. My first trip back to the area in more than ten years was spurred in part by a correspondence with an old classmate. We had no contact since high school until she e-mailed me out of the blue last month. Thank you, Google.

That experience could inspire an essay of its own. For now, I'll say that absence might make the heart grow fonder but it makes the brain grow forgetful. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking back to high school and the most striking thing is how little of it I remember. Like shards from a shattered mirror, I have only bits and pieces that still reflect anything from that time. There is no making up for 23 years of lost contact. In many cases, seeing old classmates will be like meeting new people except that I'll be pre-disposed to liking them and will be able to picture them with 80s hair.

I packed this morning before work, wondering if my few remaining winter clothes will be enough to withstand a Pennsylvania December. It was only a few days ago that my air conditioner stopped running. Last week, I swam a few practice laps in my community's outdoor pool.

Whenever I'm about to travel, a part of my brain acts as though I'm going away and never coming back. I have to set things in order. At the office today, I cleaned my desk, cleared out my e-mail box, caught up on any outstanding tasks I had and, save for a few slices of cheese, ate the last of the food I had in the office fridge.

I have a compulsion to clean the house before I go too. The place is pretty neat ordinarily but my computer room has some clutter that needs sorting and storing, the upstairs bathroom will get a good scrubbing and my home refrigerator is already clear of any open containers. I even did laundry this past weekend and if you have ever seen how high I can let that pile up, you'd know what a feat it was.

I don't know why I do all of this. I don't think it's because I'm afraid the plane will crash. I go through the same thing before I travel by car. It sometimes happens even before I go through a stretch of heavy freelance work in addition to my regular job. And if I really worried that I might die, maybe I'd do something sensible like have a will written. Instead I dust.

Maybe traveling is a mental chapter and cleaning before I go is a way of tying up the loose ends of one part of the story so I can start the next one fresh. The days before a trip do feel like an ending. There are arrangements to make and goodbyes to say and I find myself regretting things I can't squeeze into the schedule before I leave.

I haven't been playing my guitar as much as I'd like lately and last night, as I cleaned the stove top, a PBS show about Ralph Nader's run for the presidency played on the TV. Footage from a Nader campaign rally included Eddie Vedder singing and playing acoustic guitar and it saddened me that I haven't played my guitar as much as I should have. I haven't missed any workouts in the past few weeks, which is understandable for anyone about to show himself to old high school classmates in a Speedo, but it made me think: When I die, I'm not going to wish that I had done more push-ups; I will regret not playing my guitar or piano, taking pictures, telling TV stories or doing something else that created something, touched someone and nourished my soul.

It's great to put one's house in order. Better to have that task rightly prioritized far below things that should matter more.

1 comment:

Jim H. said...

Amen brother John! I can't wait to read about your Speedo redux!! j