Thursday, January 14, 2010

Journeys

My daily walk around the Ash Point section of Owls Head takes only a few routes, its outer edge usually alternating between Lucia Beach and Ash Point itself, with occasional jaunts to Crockett's Beach. Sometimes I'll walk back along the shore, if it's nice weather and the tide is out. How boring, one's fellow travelers in the 21st century might say. I of course love it, gripped by every familiar thing and every change, small and large, in season, foliage, animal auras, human intercessions, air and sky and water.

I was talking today with a fellow committee member at Coastal Mountains Land Trust about his journey to Maine. His was a high-powered executive career reassessed after a corporate take-over and once he got to Maine, he said he found what so many people seem to be looking for, a small town, familiar faces, community, the ability to make a difference just by living there. This is not peculiar to Maine but Maine has an ineffable combination of tolerance and beauty that seems to make it easier.

Travel seems to be necessary, however. Our generation and that of our children, I imagine, has an excess of curiosity, and a suspicion of stasis often well-grounded in fact. Many of us had to travel (if not plain bust out)to escape narrowmindedness, or for business, or for pleasure in the new, or out of insecurity. But many of us also find the unfamiliar places of the world, while fascinating and beautiful and enlightening, cannot truly be experienced the way a deep commitment to a particular place can.

I think of the familiar saying from Lao-Tzu, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." The usual interpretation is a bit trite; another claiming to be a more accurate translation says the journey begins with the ground under your feet. Action comes out of place-knowledge, and self-knowledge, and this makes me want to reverse the old adage: "A single step begins with a journey of a thousand miles."

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