The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment
of the road.
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and
undenied, adhere to me?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all
free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and
whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
– Walt Whitman
I never had a chance to travel much when I was younger. My family didn’t have a lot of money, and they worked all the time just to keep a roof over our heads. As I grew, I was tethered to home by my own uncertain finances and the heavy responsibilities of caring for aging parents. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to start really seeing the world, and now travel is one of my greatest joys. As the child of two history teachers, I was weaned on stories of kings, queens, and wars; I was told tales of mankind’s great tragedies, horrific crimes, and transcendent achievements as bedtime stories. All my life, I have read books on history and cultural anthropology. I thought I was well-versed, I thought I /knew/ – but then something happened to me the first time I took a step into Westminster Abbey. It’s like the world stopped spinning for a split second, and I was overwhelmed with the brutal reality of history once I stepped into a living, breathing monument to it. Heroes and villains from my childhood surrounded me suddenly, and the visceral blow of their nearness changed me in that moment. It was much the same when I first saw the Magdalenian Woman at Chicago’s Field Museum many years ago: for a split second, I was besieged by awe at the immensity of time in the presence of our Paleolithic grandmother and was struck breathless.
Travel matters. Touching history matters. Understanding history matters.
In winter of 2017, we used our savings, blew our collective airline miles, and maxed out our credit cards on a trip to Paris, Salzburg, and Berlin so that we could attend a Krampuslauf, visit the Christmas markets, and help Lilith practice her French in realtime. I’m pretty sure that we’ll be paying off that trip for the next decade, but it’s all worth it. We travel with Lilith as much as we can; we take her to conventions and business trips and trade shows, we take her on road trips and weekenders, we have taken her to as many cities, states, and countries as we could manage.
I want her to meet people who are not like her. I want her to hear voices that are not like her own. I want her to see history alive and vibrant surrounding her. I want her to see, hear, touch, and understand. I think she could stop here and do miracles.
Lilith and Brian (our Doc Constantine!) have contributed scents and stories to this series. You can find Ted’s scrapbook of the trip here, too!