When Wanderers Cease to Roam

I just finished an inspirational book which has nothing — and everything — to do with motorcycling:  When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put by Vivian Swift.

The 10 second summary of the book is that it’s a watercolor-art journal, arranged month-by-month, by a woman who settled down along the Long Island Sound coast after spending her life to that point traveling the world.

It’s more than that, though.  It’s about cats, and teacups, and seeing everything around you (even if it’s your day to day life) through the magic filter of being somewhere new.

(more examples of the pages and art from the author’s website)

I will also admit to being terribly jealous of her embroidery.  Cross-stitching looks boring compared to “real” needlework. 😉

Anyway, there were two parts of the book in particular that grabbed me:

Page 45 talks about “Tea Cup Travel”:  “…I collect tea cups the way I used to collect days in foreign countries.  There’s a tea cup, made of amber-colored class, that’s just like a shard of the Sahara glinting on my shelf.  The pale blue one — that’s like a cup of Nottingham rain reflecting the face of a handsome stranger I was flirting with one afternoon 30 years ago.  Midnight blue Limoges is January in Paris, a rare snow fall in the city, cold kisses, and Jean-Claude.”

Anyone who’s motorcycle toured knows how that goes.   Sometimes I catch a glimpse of something the exact shade of rusty red as Cape York’s Development Road.   A whiff of Avenue of the Giants in the rain.  Glasswork that glitters just like the exhibit at the Stark Museum in Orange, Texas.

What a brilliant idea to collect those memories in teacups (well, in anything) instead of letting them float randomly by.

I try to intentionally find my travels in my home life now.  I have a favorite candle on my desk: Nordic Pine.  Instead of merely sniffling it idly, now I sniff with purpose: this is the smell of pine trees.  Of the Alcan, of Lassen, of the Sierra, of the forest in southern Oregon where Jenny and I got lost on our dirt bikes.

The other quote I loved, tangentially related, is on page 51:  “Some days ‘staying put’ might feel the same as Going Nowhere.   Make a cup of tea and wait for that feeling to pass.”

Now there’s advice that I need about 97% of the time.  For nearly three years now, I’ve been staying put and feeling like I’m going nowhere.   As though without my trips and my travels, I’m just like everyone else; my days are useless and I’m not Contributing To Anything.

I need to remember to make a cup of tea and wait for the feeling to pass.  Preferably while sniffing my candle and noticing that neon reminds me of the Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo.

The book doesn’t have a depressing vibe to it; it’s not the tone of an elderly person reminiscing about the glory days that will never be again.  Reading it, I never thought, “this will help me cope with not riding.”

It’s more like, “this will help me use my past experiences on the road and the eye I gained through travel to see everything around me in a more interesting and magical way.”  Since reading the book, I pet my cats more.  I try to look around more.  I intentionally look for comfy places to just sit and read.

The very first page opens with January:

“Before I got my Winter Mind, only Summer mattered to me. Summer was the significant season, the time to:

Run away to Paris for the first time,
Follow the midnight sun to Loch Ness,
Dance in the moonlight in Buenos Aires,
Hitch hike across the Holy Land,
Swim in the Trevi after dark,
Trek up the Niger, hunker down for tea time with nomads in the Sahara,
Kneel in the shadows of the Sarsen Circle at Stonehenge,
Chase the spirit of ‘The Wanderer Queen’ all the way to Carthage.

Then I came to live in this little Village on the Long Island Sound and I discovered my Winter Mind and with it I discovered the rest of the year.”

I may not be riding now and I may not be touring for a little while yet to come.  But I can use that time to discover the rest of the year.  And I’m almost looking forward to that.


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