It was a month or so ago, now. I had just finished up with work and begun the drive home, forgoing the short route in favor of the one that meanders through pine and oak and past hillsides of cows and sometimes deer. The light was that strange pre-twilight sort that brings every leaf-edge and grass-blade into sharp golden focus without any obvious direction or source; the kind that makes the world look more real that the usual real, and thus calls into doubt the reality of the previous real world. I drove up over the top of the hill and there before me was a wall of rose-gold fire filling the sky, with the pins-and-needles of the dark soft pines standing stark out against it.
I saw that same fire a lifetime ago, looking out of my fourth-floor dormitory window at the Ohio sunset. I wrote about it then, too*—noting the peculiar persistent twinge in my stomach that appeared at the sight, and at the candy-dipped autumn trees (yellow and orange and red and PINK and PURPLE!) and the frosty beginnings and foggy middles and invisible ends of paths winding away from mine. I wrote about longing, and searching, and the curiously heartbreaking sensation of being homesick for places I'd never seen.
The sun's now low enough that it can peek a bit through the cloud cover, just enough to lend a hint of color back into the view. The winter trees are all tinged with a deep reddish-brown at the tips of their branches, but most of the rest of them is a soft white. They fade to a haze of darker red-purple further away, and where the forest abruptly stops, you can see the bluest of blues, just before the world ends and the sky begins: horizon blue, wanderlust blue - a misty, just-beyond-your-sight blue with the sweetest, wildest, most seductive siren song in the world; of such a color that you don't know if it could be earth or sky or someplace in-between; the color that awakens such a fierce longing to go that I have no idea why I'm still here in this little one-hoss town, or in any town with any number of hosses, when the horizon is screaming and whispering my name with such fierceness.
Then I remember: I'm too comfortable here. I have a nice, safe life. I love my friends and family, and think that I would miss them too much if I just up and left. I fret about grades, which lead to various degrees at various other institutions of higher learning, which lead to various jobs with various salaries, and thus eventually (though I dread it with all my being) a rut with no hint of the sky.
Someday I'll go. Someday I'll pack the bare essentials and head off, with only a note or a kiss for goodbye. Someday the song of all that wild blue yonder will be stronger than all the little pins that hold me down, and I'll break them and run for my life.
Someday I'll stop saying someday...
I've now done that. I took 18 scant litres (and five pocketfuls) and swanned off around Europe until I was sick in every part of my body and mind and ran barefoot and feverish through an airport to get back home. Of course that's far from the only adventure I've undertaken, and the only one that's gone poorly so far, and not even that terrible—sometimes absolutely magical, really—all the way through, just at a number of key points that shamefully discoloured the whole. Every mote of common sense and recent experience in my body is furrowing its brow and wagging a tiny finger, and holding up a list of all the other concerns I should really be putting my attention towards: paying off my debt, increasing my income, getting some sort of investment plan going, sorting out the cause of the persistent colds that have dogged me for half a year now, getting new shoes without holes, calling my senators, organising a community action coalition, learning Spanish and Arabic, cleaning out the bathroom sink, taking out the trash. "All the little pins," still, after a baker's dozen autumns filled with that curious tug at my core, sometimes heeded but mostly not.
And even now, as I reread my own words and feel again the tendrils of that wrenching loneliness that convinced my feverish brain I would be consumed by the fire in my chest and eyes and die an empty ashen husk right there in my bunk and no one would blink twice; even as Biff and I are starting to talk—slowly, cautiously, like shy children who want to be friends—about solid things like earth and stone and wood and iron and flesh and what they all come together to create; even so, I still had to tell my hands out loud to turn, turn right, right here, don't drive straight into that sunset and beyond although your brain is already making a list of necessary toiletries and food to grab so you can make this sudden foolish daydream real.
I don't know how this part of the song goes. I've never been here before.
*only that time it was on LiveJournal and therefore expected to be as maudlin and florid as possible. I suppose I no longer have that excuse....