I have been away on one of those journeys you understandably measure in time and distance. Only both quantifying factors have a double meaning for me. In terms of time I was away for eleven days. In terms of distance I covered by car more than 4,600 miles through eleven different states. Those are the objective measures of my travels. The subjective ones defy such quantification.
The road out was a somber one. The purpose was to attend a memorial service of sorts for my younger brother, who passed away earlier this year from the family scourge – cancer. His body had been donated to science for study by medical students and then returned to the family contained in an urn. Cremation was the fair exchange for the opportunity to dissect someone whose life was hard spent on tobacco and beer.
The time element for this part of my travels involved more than the number of ticks on the clock. It also involved a trip backwards as I reminisced about my own childhood and its intersection with family and friends who are no longer with me except in memory.
My brothers and I were born several years apart so we grew up as if we were only children. We did not share friends, interests or many of those life-shaping experiences, which comprise the rites of passage. Other than family and church attendance, we were like acquaintances to one another, known but not intimate. This family dynamic made my recent drive west a duty to be performed; my last as I am the sole survivor of that nuclear family, which defined nearly everything I have become.
The road back was of an entirely different nature. It was a time of discovery. Whereas the route out was as short and direct as possible, the way back meandered through various never-before-seen locales and subsequently took longer. The time spent was enjoyable, marked by the therapeutic qualities offered by natural and man-made landmarks. Both types of achievements can lay claim to being majestic. The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks were a wonderful compliment to the Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore Monuments.
Still, it is great to be back. My version of the country roads which brought me home had too much on the interstate stamp on them due to my own time constraints. But there will hopefully be other paths to follow at a more leisurely pace made all the more valuable to me as my own sense of mortality rode shotgun during most of the venture. That’s probably an appropriate image to use when you have just traversed the Badlands at such a rapid pace.
There are few now who I will travel so far to mourn. There is much to see, however, and a diminishing amount of time in which to do it. The pathways to further revelation beckons ever on.