Does travel broaden the mind or just weary the body?
After 96 days away, I returned to Mordialloc on July 4th, and echoing Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I agree ‘there’s no place like home.’
Certainly, no place as comfortable as your own bed and pillow! However, unlike Dorothy, returning home was more than just clicking my heels together.
The flight from London via Abu Dhabi entailed 24 hours travelling, including a two-hour stopover in the United Arab Emirates. Waiting time appeared shorter with increased security checks, a long walk to the departure gate for Melbourne flight, and a welcome cold beer and chat to a fellow passenger met on the first leg of my flight.
Laura lives in Melbourne too, loves books and writing and her journey to the UK, to trace family roots in Northern Ireland, mirrored some of my own experiences.
My journey longer and more convoluted, fulfilling a teenage dream to travel the Trans-Siberian Railway and on reaching Britain visit places in my birth country not visited before.
I cover the islands of Orkney and Shetland and spent more time exploring Aberdeen and Edinburgh than on previous visits. I caught up with friends and relatives rarely seen, some never met – one cousin last encountered in 1973, plus a dear friend from high school who came to Australia as an exchange student from Japan!
I discover Colchester, Barnes and Richmond – places near London never explored the five previous sojourns to England – the last visit twenty years ago.
Another world ago – John was alive, I was younger and my girls were children …
This solo trip could not be more different from the outset. The luggage tag a girlfriend gave me partly true!
But unlike past travels I not only planned the journey but hoped the process, the places visited, the people met and paying attention to the details and events along the way would help me rediscover a joy in writing – not just recording or reporting.
- I need to discover a purpose more than the journey or destination.
- I want to write the way I encourage my students to write.
- I hope to produce something worth reading.
- I want to leave a legacy for my daughters.
- I need to know if random notes, fragments of thoughts, dreams, ideas and triggered memories could mean something and give meaning to not only this journey but others taken.
For some time now I’ve felt a fraud, exhorting others to polish and publish their writing while mine could not even light a fire under kindling, let alone interest a reader.
I needed to regain enthusiasm and originality. I needed the energy and desire to finish pieces of writing gathering dust and silverfish – or have the courage to throw it out and set my sights on another way to earn a living and pass the time!
What is the Creative Process?
The creative process is always a journey into the unknown but my imagination and writing seemed stale and predictable, mystery and miracles absent – much like my life, a little voice whispered.
Something had to change, I had to change and perhaps a term away from teaching and going ‘on the road’ to mark off more of the ‘bucket list’ compiled since John’s death and my mastectomy, the catalyst needed.
As I stare at the scribbles in notebooks, browse through the thousands of photos and reflect on the past few weeks I wonder if it is enough to reignite my passion and confirm the advantages of travel … quantity is not necessarily quality!
At the moment jet lag and injuries from a fall in my last two weeks of travel tend to go with the weary body rather than broadened mind or successful return of writing mojo!
However, a couple of more visits to my local osteopath should sort out the physical muscles and a few more nights of decent sleep and days of walking the dog will banish the jet lag.
Today I managed to type up a page of notes and put the words into some sort of structure – retracing my steps through the words on the page I recall exactly where I was and how I felt.
It may make sense to others who travel the same questioning road.
A Pause Pondering Purpose
Mairi Neil May 2017
I choose a window table,
jam jar posie centrepiece beckoning,
the desire for scones and tea awakened
by the warm comforting aromas
drifting from a steam-filled kitchen.
The cafe noise melts and murmuring voices
from a nearby radio stir memories…
family stories merge with tales absorbed
from the relics of the ancient past
embedded in the cobbled streets walked,
the castle ruins explored, and churches
of monumental proportions visited.
The sea a grey turmoil through misty glass,
eyes imagine selkies safeguarding those
who use this highway from the islands.
So many of your countrymen seafarers –
my ancestors and your descendants.
Did your eyes focus on a distant vessel?
Did you long to leave the confines of land
or did the terror of history leave no choice?
A fat and fuzzy bumblebee attracted to the flowers
flits purposefully from Daisy to Bluebell…
perhaps that’s how it is for us all –
our destiny mapped from birth.
What explanation for my innate restlessness?
The emotion stirred by the cry of gulls,
emerging from patchwork clouds
to wheel, wander, whoosh above?
They bob and land like origami kites
captive to the wind and unpredictable sea
as sailing ships of old and ferries of today.
Salt water always the lifeblood of islands,
feeding and clothing islanders, providing jobs,
this place no different except for its past
fraught with fear, fights, flights, and elusive freedom…
Peopled by Norsemen, Gaels, Celts,
Anglo-Saxons, Spanish and more…
Strong tea melts buttered scone,
the warmth of my mother’s memory
and the radio’s jaunty Scottish tune
conspire to make me smile.
Who am I? What made me, me?
The chasing of ancestors for answers
does this path have purpose?