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An unwitting tourist

In to the Wind

January 4, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Once again, because of the New Year Holiday, I am on early deadline. Right now we have a house full of kids assembled to pay their respects to a fallen friend. Since time is of the essence, and essentially I have little on my hands right now, I am borrowing from a column which ran last year.

Have you ever just gotten behind the wheel of your car and started driving? I mean have you ever just had no place to go and all day to get there? Have you just gotten in and went wherever the winds or roads take you?

Have you ever just started walking with no care where you’re going? Like grabbing your camera and walking out the door with no destination in mind and just start walking? You know you can turn back around and walk back home and it shouldn’t take any longer than you’ve already walked.

Have you ever just sat in your chair and let your mind wander? I mean with no particular worry, no particular agenda, but just sat and daydreamed?

The older I get, the more apt I am to do any, or all of the above. When I was younger I used to think any of those, or all of those were the path to creativity. Between then and now, kids and responsibilities at home kept my focus and problem solving skills on family matters. I lost sight of the fact a trip to nowhere could help settle inner conflict and boredom. To tell the truth, I was seldom bored, or conflicted. Now that the kids are gone, certain thought processes have gone full circle. It’s Elaine and me, cats and dogs. I need more than she, and I get the better end of the deal than her.

The fact of the matter is, in my current situation, I am the least self sufficient, maybe even needy. I need to be taken care of.

During my youth, when I had the wanderlust, I used to imagine I was a man of the world. I fooled myself into thinking I didn’t need anybody. A simple read of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience could send me on a romantic thought route where I, unwittingly, not unwillingly perceived one generation’s injustice against another.

Perhaps such thinking is merely a rite of passage and I am no different than say you. While never thinking I was better than anybody else, those romantic thoughts did lead me to believe I was different than most.

In my life there were times when I was alone. It was me against the world. And to tell you the truth, I did come to the realization I needed people. I became acutely aware I would not make a good hermit. I feed off other people. It takes other people to make me creative. It takes other people to make me whole. At long last I figured out I was not alone, and didn’t want to be. Even when I was only a part of the crowd, with no one in particular, and everyone in general, I have found solace. A cabin in the woods (or on Walden Pond) is not for me, at least alone.

Pain and suffering are best endured alone. Happiness and joy are best experienced with someone you love. The truth of the matter is people are generally as happy as they’ve a mind to be. It is your responsibility as a balanced human being to strive for happiness.

This brings me back to the original intent of this column. Have you ever had a task to complete and had no idea how to accomplish it, or even where to begin? I mean have you ever just jumped in and started without any idea of how you are going to complete the task at hand? No idea which route you’ll take, or what sights you’ll see when you get there?

I’m there gentle reader. Every Friday morning I sit here at this computer and do my best to be witty, original, and entertaining. Sometimes I succeed, and other times I am less than pleased with the outcome. Many times I am my harshest critic. Today, I became an unwitting tourist. I had no idea where to begin, where I was going, or how to get there.

So here I am well into a column which from all outward appearances seems to be writing itself. Drawing on a lifetime of failures and successes, the words are streaming from my brain, down my arm, out my fingers to the keyboard. I’m not sure exactly where I’m going. If the mix of experiences is more balanced towards the success column, I will succeed. If more towards the failure column, you will know; and so will I.

Maybe it helps to keep it all in perspective. Ultimately, this paper, and these words are destined to line the bottom of the bird cage, or to wrap fish guts. In the scheme of things the only thing that really matters is that you have enough food to eat, water to drink and a warm place to rest your head. It doesn’t even really matter that last week I devoted an entire column to socks, and this week to banality. There are better days coming. There are also worse days coming.

Until next time—

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2010 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342

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