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Edward Calvert: The Return Home (1830)

" … just as if anybody's future could ever be foreseeable."

The return comes as almost a surprise. We had grown so accustomed to being on the move that the prospect of staying still made no immediate sense. We had adapted as if moving had become the natural state and stasis the foreign one. I didn't even try to imagine myself back home, for only momentum made sense. I had become perfectly in tune with the rhythms of the road, the leisurely pace, comfortably passing slower-moving vehicles, being passed myself. The few deranged drivers, inevitably those exceeding the speed limit, continued to drive me crazy but only in the usual ways, none seeming all that creative. The habit the speeders have of blocking the smooth passing of those obeying the speed limit seems the most telling. Scientists insist that those who exceed the speed limit inhibit the flow of the whole road, thereby slowing it. Seen in this way, the speeders rob everyone of some of their potential, a supremely self-centered act. Perhaps they need to set themselves above their fellows in their minds. That trick may even work if one possesses a tiny one.

The final leg of our Toodle covers such familiar territory that few sights seem noteworthy along the way.
After scores of impressions, even the Columbia Gorge looks ordinary. I have more road history there than anywhere else, and I reflect as I pass through there again just how disappointing return trips to our exile homes always seemed. Driving the roads back into exile always seemed like passing through a gauntlet, a form of engagement only ever entered into under duress. Success would result in continued imprisonment, the shrinking distances suffocating. Those were not familiar roads but foreign ones clogged with apparent carpetbaggers like us, returning like lemmings unable to choose for themselves. Civilization sometimes seems overrated.

This return featured no emotion. I can't say how many future returns remain in me, but this one felt like nothing. I had not missed home in our absence. Instead, I had reveled in my absence, confident that we'd left the place in good hands and that even the cats wouldn't punish us too much for our extended disappearance. They were there almost as soon as we arrived. Max peeked out the gate, crying his usual welcoming cry, and Molly slipped silently in through the open back door as we started moving stuff inside. The house seemed tidy and warm as the cats settled into their usual afternoon feeding before resuming their usual late afternoon nap positions. I sat down, and Max circled my chair to mount my lap and receive an extended petting. I was welcoming myself home.

It seemed a miracle that I could cook my supper. Our deep larder revealed the perfect elements, and while The Muse disappeared to do some meeting, I took my ease in my kitchen, with everything miraculously ready to hand. Supper seemed to make itself; it was the best meal we'd had since before we left. What had appeared to be limiting before felt encouraging upon return. The moving had washed out any hibernation remaining in me. I felt awake and alive and ready for whatever might come next. I did not feel the least bit tired. To return from a massive Toodle feeling more refreshed than I felt before we left seemed like the greatest imaginable gift. I had every right to feel exhausted, but I felt energized instead. I have some work I'd been dreading, but the dread seems to have dispersed in my absence.

We knew where we were going when we left. We were Toodling, so, of course, we knew our destination. The goal of every Toodle seems to be the same: Home. Not the home one leaves, of course, but the one one finds upon returning. It's the same place initially left behind, except it’s different then. The road miles will have utterly changed it, as will have the experiences. The distances will have made it seem closer to where it always should have been. My absence will have improved its presence. What might have possessed me before comes back into my possession. I marvel at how comfortable I suddenly feel in this world.

I always feel amazed to rediscover that it's all connected. If I had the gumption, I could walk there. There are roads connecting every place with almost every other place, and where no roads exist, bridges, boats, and planes transition to places all connected by different roads. We could just drive thirty-four hundred miles on a whim or a mission or for no particular reason at all. We could pull off a road in Kern County, California, and buy fresh oranges just picked that morning or happen into a shack on an Oregon bayfront to find the finest fish and chips imaginable. It all seems so magical.

I know I'm destined to forget, that this cleansing excursion will soon enough extinguish its influence. I will return to the one I lost on this Toodle. But I probably have more Toodles remaining within me. I might remain capable of a repeat performance that, of course, won't repeat anything, for Toodles cannot be employed to revisit anything from any past. They move only in one direction: forward. One returns from them into a different universe that only seems familiar. I will be surprising myself by discovering little differences for the foreseeable future, just as if anybody's future could ever be foreseeable. I'm Homed.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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