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"If I slow down a little, I might recognize myself zooting through."

I didn't notice until later that afternoon. The Muse and I had somehow crossed over into the genuinely FarAway. No roadsigns defined the border. No real sense of distance overcame me until after we'd arrived. It wasn't exactly that the place smelled different, though it did, or looked all that different, but that we'd passed over some familiar horizon into space with genuinely undefined boundaries. North? South? East? West? The Muse, being a born Mid-Westerner, carries an innate sense of direction. She easily determines West from East even if no handy mountain range delineates the difference; something about direction and angle of the sun … or something. Those of us who were reared in a western valley missed acquiring that nth directional sense and have always cheated, or never really cared to make this distinction. Out on the vaster ocean of land, navigation depends upon nth senses I do not possess and I feel FarAway.

I find myself lost and disoriented for the first hour of the drive, sensing (wrongly) that we must be headed in the opposite of our intended direction.
Not even The Schooner's inbuilt compass reassures me and The Muse mocks my obvious ignorance. I extend a small bit of the trust I have remaining in reserve and shortly the horizons resolve themselves. Ponds and rivers run red dirt opaque. Even the wind-swept lake looks like a churning reservoir of Mexican chocolate, water unbelievably liquid and sloppy. The roads, too, take on an alien nature with tolls collected with increasing frequency, The Muse wrestling out the change bag so we won't have to wait in the longer line.

My youngest sister long ago moved FarAway, marrying well and raising their son in what always seemed like a foreign country, Tulsa, Oklahoma; more Okla than Home to me. The Muse and I and my folks before us only managed infrequent visits, our stories missing chapters for each other. Frequent phone calls and Facebook updates hardly replace daily face-to-face, but we have been a generation sometimes more connected by our separations than by any actual proximity. Families branch out, connected by something more mysterious than rhizomes, but remain firmly connected still. Conversations restart without priming and continue until they cannot keep their eyes open anymore. The content hardly matters compared to the connection, though the reconnection emerges from a place still FarAway. About as soon as we show up, it's time to leave again.

I will today join the 48 Club, if there ever was such a thing. Once we cross over into Arkansas, I will gain the distinction of having visited every one of the forty-eight contiguous states in this unsettled union. This distinction can't quite qualify as any sort of a real distinction, since some states I "visited" by barely touching my toe on solid ground there. I used to collect these sorts of accomplishments with greater enthusiasm, as if they meant anything beyond a small and self-important taste of smuggish self-satisfaction. I did not carefully study the history or culture of most of those places. I strung imaginary pearls. We will spend this day moving ever further into the truly FarAway for me and closer to an even further away for the Muse. With good fortune, she'll revisit where she called home forty years ago and with even greater good fortune, she might manage to visit the gravesite of a Civil War combatant ancestor who was felled by disease in 1863, a man who never made it back home to Minnesota and whose brother married his widow, a fact that confused The Muse's genealogical research for the longest time. The closer one gets to some past home, the further away one feels.

Nobody much remembers the Arkansas campaign, a quickly successful incursion for the North, though Confederates greatly outnumbered and were fighting closer to home. Theirs was a FarAway battalion who somehow overcame daunting odds to open up part of the Mississippi fairly early in the war. Vicksburg could not have fallen without their early and relatively easy success. Most who died fell to disease in that FawAway place, but they still fell, leaving brothers and widows behind to pick up the slack they left behind.

FarAway carries the potential to become a permanent home. I can't cross into these previously unexperienced spaces without re-realizing just how tenuously I inhabit every place, even the somewhat safe space back home. Nor can any of us re-enter any space we once called home without experiencing a swell of FarAway again. I also cannot enter without recognizing some common denominator in my experiences, how even in deepest Alabama, I found a piece of myself standing there. I can hardly relate, and then a relating emerges. It's the same damned world where ever I might go. If I slow down a little, I might recognize myself zooting through.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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