Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 159

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I remember being on a boat. On the North Carolina coast there’s an aquarium, except it’s off-shore on an island and you have to take a ferry to go see it. This was twenty years ago. I was with my family, mom and dad.

What stuck with me most about the ferry were the seagulls. They lapped the water like a wedding procession, lining up in their best white gowns, waiting for bread. My mom had brought a stale loaf from our kitchen. We were a whole wheat family so the bread was dark brown and balled up well in your hands.

I tossed it. The seagulls latched on. They picked the best pieces, or fought for the rest. Blinding, a blizzard, white wet snow. By the time we got to the aquarium, there was no room in my head for other memories. The seagulls are what followed me, nothing else.

A few years ago, thousands of miles distant from the NC coast, I took a different ferry, much larger, and with a few friends, from the island of Miyajima back to mainland Japan, where we had a train to catch for our Hiroshima hotel. I was beat. We’d been walking since the morning and we’d climbed a mountain. We’d watched the sky go grey and threaten summer thunderstorms from the peak. But the thunderstorms never came.

On the ferry, I mostly thought about getting older. It’s the kind of thought you have when you’re leaving a place you’ll never see again. Halfway up the mountain, I’d gotten exhausted. I had to slow down. I was with three other Americans, they were all a few years younger, and they were happy to wait for me (we took up by a stream trailing down the mountain), but I felt bad about it anyway.

Eventually, I pushed on with them and reached the peak. At the top was a rock with no railing, a sheer fall into green forest. My companions climbed the rock and let their legs hang like Christmas mistletoes, but my arms were too heavy to lift myself and my head was full of vertigo, so I sat down in some dust by the old, grey stone. I looked up at the sky and it didn’t look any different now than it had at the foot of the mountain. Gradually, as clouds came, I took to sleep.

I couldn’t have been out for more than a second, but when I woke up I saw a single black crow on a gnarled, toothless tree. It had it’s head cocked and eye bobbing like it saw me, and when I’d rubbed the sweat off my forehead and gotten myself more conscious, the crow took off, careening toward the ocean, vanishing near the water where I’d soon embark a ferry, and leave Miyajima for good.

Grey-black skies at the end of something, or white seagulls at the beginning. Always getting ferried between the two.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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I was and still am that same ship which carried me to the new shore, the same vessel containing all the memories and dreams of the child in the brick house with the toy tea set.

Luisa A. Igloria

Coffee Log, Day 193

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast from Sheetz; the taste was a nice mix of cardboard and acetone.

I drove to Pilot Mountain. I started to climb it. The trail was tough. I was wearing jeans, it was hot and humid. I didn’t have much water. I was alone. I walked back down and drove to the peak. It was busy on the peak, lots of families. There’s a short climb from the summit to a rocky overlook. I took it. No-one was on the overlook with me. North Carolina was more green than I’d ever seen her. I searched the tobacco farms and treestands, highways like shriveled veins. I didn’t find anything. In the end, I drove down Pilot Mountain without knowing why I’d come.

Why do we travel? I’m sure everyone has their own answers, or at least you might stumble into one if you searched hard enough. In the past, I thought I traveled for stories. In a sense I still do – I’m writing about my day-trip, telling you all about it. But stories are everywhere and I’ve always had the sense there’s something else going on, a nagging drive, a persistent bug-bite.

The drive home was bright. The drive over was cloudy. Both trips I kept the windows down and music turned loud. I had my old iPod – a relic from 11th grade – set to shuffle; I was partying with ten years worth of memories. I’ve moved since 2007. I’m not a Burlington-bound straggler, though I’m still Burlington born. I’ve done three stints in Durham, one in Chapel Hill, I’ve settled on Cary like old geese, too fed up with flying to join the flock again. Each place I’ve lived has had a different sound, from early aughts indie to vibrant 2010 punk bands. What I’m saying is: all of those homes are stable, codified.

But not travel.

I saw a big spider before I turned around on the ascent. It was making webs between two dead trees, both bleached like surfer girls. It had white spots on its legs and a ruddy body. It was horrible, innocent, and interesting, and most of all it was something I’d never have to see again. We can be anything when we travel. When you’re in company, that anything is a perfect pocket world where it’s easier to understand each other. When you travel alone, you’re free even from that. There’s no fixed point to look at and say: ‘Ah! This is something that understands me!’ You can crawl up the cracked-rock road and peel every spider from its branches; you can crush leaves and topple sprouting flowers; in bleak nature, you begin to see your features like staring too long in the campfire, eyes dry, head hurting, but arms and legs capable of dancing great, horrible shadows across the forest floor. Or, you are free to turn back and walk to your comfortable car with it’s predictable clutch, take a short drive up a mountain, and stare a little lonely at the valley you sometimes call your home.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.” – Simone de Beauvoir

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Coffee Log, Day 190

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

Late August heatwave. My dash reads 98. At least I parked in shade.

A busy day – at work, after work. Thursday smells like the weekend you can’t bite into, green bananas.

I want to take a trip for Labor Day. I had two trips planned but both fell through. For a few years, each get-out-of-town has been preceded by pop-up drama, heartfelt taking stock, calendar confusion. I might go somewhere alone. I might climb a mountain to remind myself I can.

Currently Reading: Nothing! Still poking through some books, will settle soon.

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“Jumping from boulder to boulder and never falling, with a heavy pack, is easier than it sounds; you just can’t fall when you get into the rhythm of the dance.” – Jack Kerouac

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