Joy in the Journey (Or, Stopping in Dot-on-the-Map Towns Along the Way)

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading “back home” to Rochester, NY, to visit family and old friends–some of whom served as the inspiration for the protagonists in The Eye-Dancers and The Singularity Wheel. It’s a visit I always look forward to.  It’s good to see the old house where I was raised, to walk through the same rooms and hallways I did when I was growing up.  It’s good to sit and chat and reminisce; to enjoy the company of people I’ve known and loved for my entire life; and to play Trivial Pursuit, my favorite board game, and a tradition every time I return home.

 

So when I arise bright and early tomorrow morning and hop in the car, I will look forward to arriving in Rochester later in the day.  But that’s not the only thing.  Because, as much as I want to get there, I also enjoy the getting there.

 

Indeed, there is an appreciation for the drive from my current home in the hills of east-central Vermont to my childhood home not far from the water’s edge of Lake Ontario.  The drive itself comprises approximately 350 miles, one way–and takes just shy of seven hours.  There are different routes I can take, especially once I cross the state line into New York.  I can get on 87 South and whip down to Albany, and from there speed west on I-90 straight into Rochester.  That’s the fastest way–all highway driving.  It is also the route I will not take.

 

Sure, I’ll merge onto I-90 eventually, but not at Albany.  No.  Rather than zipping down to the state capital, I will instead travel first on Route 4 and then Route 29, traveling through small towns like Whitehall, Hudson Falls, Fonda, and Herkimer–off-the-beaten-path places with weather-beaten houses and 19th-century storefronts and village greens, straddling the verdant valley of the Mohawk River or the easy, gentle path of the Erie Canal.  The kinds of towns most motorists sail right through without a thought, eager to arrive somewhere else, somewhere bigger or glitzier and more represented in travel brochures.

 

But me?  I like to linger.  Not too long.  I want to visit my family, after all, and there are still miles to go before I get there.  But for a little while.  I’ll pull into an empty lot or park along the shoulder of the road and take a ten-minute walk–perhaps down the Capra-esque Main Street or along the quiet sidewalk of a side street, appreciating the architecture of the century-old homes, breathing in the spring air, contemplating the aroma of flowers and newly sprung leaves.  Or I’ll enter an establishment, a local shop as far removed from a chain store as possible.  Maybe it’s a general store or an antique shop, or a restaurant with the town’s name emblazoned somewhere on the awning above the door.  Even when I don’t get out of the car, I make sure to slow down, observe the surroundings, take note of the pedestrians and the signs and the banners flapping in the breeze.

 

I’m not sure why I’m drawn to these old, old little towns in eastern upstate New York.  Maybe because there is a sad charm to them, a dignified sense of age and experience that, while not showy or ornate, commands a species of respect.  Or maybe it’s just realizing that these towns, these way stations in the rural heart of the Empire State, are rich with history, with experiences.  With ghosts.  How many stories are contained within the town limits?  What might the buildings and houses, some of them crumbling, in states of disrepair, say if they could speak?  Or . . . maybe they can speak.  Maybe you just need to stop for a moment, look beyond the peeling paint and the broken shingles, and listen.

 

This isn’t so different from a literary journey, either.  How many times have we undertaken a novel or a memoir, or anything that requires us to write hundreds of pages, and bemoaned the pages yet left unwritten, the scenes yet left unrealized.  “Only on page 57?” one might complain.  “How am I going to finish?  How can I get to the end?”  It’s human nature, I suppose.  We want to complete what we start.  We want to beat our competitors.  We want to get there.

 

As such, the words “The End” are two of the most fulfilling for any author.  But . . . are they not also bittersweet?  Because while you may have become tired of the never-ending work-in-progress, and longed for the beginning of a new project, a new novel, you have also spent hour upon hour, day upon day, week upon week, with your characters.  And now–you are done.  Finished.  What once seemed a burden (“What will I do in the next chapter?  How will Jennifer deal with that?  Does George call her out in chapter 30 or not?”) now seems like a friend who’s left you, who’s gone across the globe, or the universe, to a faraway and inaccessible land.

 

In driving the seven hours to the old family home, or in writing a novel that carries on for months or even years, there will always be an ambition, a quest, a need to finish, to accomplish, to arrive.  But while in the midst of it all, it’s a good idea to take a breath, forget about where you’re going, and instead experience where you are.

There is a joy in the journey.

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

 

32 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ParentingIsFunny
    May 04, 2019 @ 01:15:51

    Looks like a lovely journey home.

    Reply

  2. The Eye-Dancers
    May 04, 2019 @ 02:11:02

    🙂

    Reply

  3. ritaroberts
    May 04, 2019 @ 08:04:06

    That is exactly what I would do !!. I love seeing old properties, such as thatched cottages or, maybe a mansion or two along the way I am travelling or, even stop to see inside if it happens to be an English Heritage property and the antique shop would be a must. Thanks for bringing back memories for me. Enjoy your stay with family. I am sure they are going to be excited to see you.

    Reply

  4. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel
    May 04, 2019 @ 18:02:50

    You’re my kind of traveler. Safe journeys, Mike. I won’t say enjoy because I know you will. Oh, heck, I have to say it. Enjoy!

    Reply

  5. joannerambling
    May 05, 2019 @ 01:23:09

    Yes the journey can be so wonderful

    Reply

  6. Kat
    May 05, 2019 @ 05:32:38

    Loved reading this!

    Reply

  7. Alexis Chateau
    May 05, 2019 @ 10:56:31

    I hope you’re enjoying the time back at home. 🙃

    Reply

  8. Ste J
    May 05, 2019 @ 23:34:55

    Great post, as always. The journey has to be one of learning and enjoyment, otherwise the result becomes something less. Whether writing or just heading home, it’s the savouring of the getting there that makes it so much richer, and allows us to grow, even if we don’t realise it at the time.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 07, 2019 @ 10:52:18

      Well said! And on this particular drive home, I really went off the beaten path–for a portion, I took a road I had never traveled on before, and discovered . . . a castle. Right there in rural NY State. Quite a discovery! Proving again that the journey’s the thing . . .

      Reply

  9. Rilla Z
    May 06, 2019 @ 20:06:40

    “Capra-esque” main streets. Loved that quick visual. Hope it’s a great visit and a lovely journey. 🙂

    Reply

  10. Anna Waldherr
    May 09, 2019 @ 21:20:08

    I always enjoy your posts. They are so thoughtful. 🙂

    Reply

  11. Mary Ann
    May 11, 2019 @ 01:08:28

    I have never visited Rochester, Thank you for sharing your visit 🙂

    Reply

  12. K E Garland
    May 11, 2019 @ 18:29:48

    Perfect analogy! Also, I’ve started reading Singularity Wheel. I have to say the beginning is very engaging.

    Reply

  13. Karina Pinella
    May 12, 2019 @ 13:33:47

    Excellent piece about enjoying the journey to as big as life itself, or as small as making a meringue pie and savoring the little accomplishments of whipping up egg whites to their perfect peak of stiffness. We really should savor more little moments to experience more joys.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      May 13, 2019 @ 13:00:56

      We certainly should.:) It is a challenge for me especially. So often I am thinking of other things while doing something! It is always something I am aware of and working on . . .

      Reply

  14. Byungafallgren
    May 24, 2019 @ 00:29:24

    How exciting! Hope you had a wonderful trip.

    Reply

  15. Sherri Matthews
    Jun 11, 2019 @ 16:03:44

    So very true, Mike…I am feeling like that having just finished the last of my edits and sent them off for a final read through. Though there will be minor tweaks, I’ve worked on my memoir for 6 years and yes, it’s so exciting to think I soon could be published – no, I mean, will! – yet I feel lost in a way. It’s been so intense but what a journey. How wonderful to return home to the place and people you love and still think of as ‘home’. I love Trivial Pursuit, one of our favourite family games too. We still have the original American version I got when the kids were small…the sports questions get me every time, despite living there 20 years!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jun 11, 2019 @ 19:56:50

      Hi Sherri! Yes, that’s the same version my family has–the original Trivial Pursuit–all the old questions. I love that, though.:) It actually suits me since I’m very nostalgic! And yes, finishing a long work is very bittersweet. I really had a year lag after finishing The Singularity Wheel. After almost ten years in Eye-Dancer world, I felt a bit lost to be done! Finally, though, I have been getting some fresh, workable new ideas and will dig in soon. I am looking forward to reading your memoir.:)

      Reply

      • Sherri Matthews
        Jun 12, 2019 @ 13:00:38

        Me too…and with the nostalgia! I can well imagine, ten years is a very long time! And now the next decade beckons for you with those fresh ideas! Thanks so much, Mike! 🙂

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