There and Back Again

Although I should feel scruples about appropriating the subtitle of Tolkien’s masterpiece The Hobbit, it’s a no less inappropriate borrowing than “Travels With Calliope.” Temperamentally I think I might be closer to a hobbit than John Steinbeck anyway. Home a month ago gives me the excuse of short-term memory loss, I guess, that will account for the lack of detail in the last leg of the journey. Given that this is the last gasp of summer, I need to write before the semester craziness sets in (i.e. Monday).

From any perspective, my drive home was completely uneventful beyond the disappointment of learning that the wonderful Aloft Hotel in Winchester Virginia is becoming a LaQuinta. They didn’t do enough volume and Aloft pulled their franchise support (according to the hotel staff I spoke with). Very sad. A much nicer hotel than LaQuinta…oh well.

After my overnight in Winchester, I stopped in Roanoke to see Conor for a few hours. Then home in time for a neighborhood meeting about the development planned behind all of our houses. 276 apartments, 19 town houses, 9 single family homes and a lot of concrete. This for a town that allegedly prides itself on its small-town feel. All these units will empty out onto my quiet little street, a street that has become far less quiet in recent years. And yet, I think I’m not as upset as I might have been. Maybe because there are enough people in town whose anger recalls the characters of Theophrastus.

Still, it was hard to come back. For me. Not for Calli. When we pulled off 77 South at Exit 30, she went nuts. HOME! I let her out of the car and she didn’t even run around the yard but bolted for the house to see Cassandra (the cat). That was one happy puppy. Less happy kitty. Actually she was probably thrilled. But thrilled in cat culture doesn’t have a Richter scale.

Why hard? I was excited to walk to Summit in the morning for my coffee, excited to go to Fisher Farm, excited to go to the Farmers Market and buy everything in sight, most excited to see my friends. Less excited to go back to scrambling for students in an environment where Latin and Greek are less than revered by administration and colleagues and where most of my teaching schedule is mostly introductory and intermediate Latin. But I’m over my anti-nostalgia angst, mostly.

Thoughts about the summer: My Subaru was uncannily reliable. Zeus smiled and mostly withheld the storm clouds. Athena (now I’m stealing from Odysseus as well) seems to have afforded me ample protection against the dangers about which some warned me. (Seriously, a number of people asked if I was carrying a weapon to protect myself. Can you imagine? You can barely trust me to chop onions without wounding myself—I’m the last person to whom anyone should give a gun.). I met lovely people and enjoyed daily a breath-taking panorama of natural beauty. It cost a lot less than I thought it would (ahem…maybe I could have eaten more). And I even lost a few pounds (Ramen noodles, almonds, Kind bars, bourbon—who knew?).

And I love to travel. Every day was new, different, interesting in its own way. The very coolest thing? How QUIET the middle of the country is. Get off the highway onto a rest stop and in certain places and times (more places and times than you might think), it’s just dead quiet. Stunningly quiet. And vastly, impossibly big. It made me pretty damned happy. For someone who really loves people, I sure do love being alone. And I love having a project. I met people who were winging it. And that would be fun, under very different circumstances, like being a different person in another lifetime, you know, that one where my suitcase isn’t neatly packed and I don’t wash out my underwear every night. That life. Then I could probably stand showing up someplace at 9pm and asking if they had a room. Ha. It’s gonna take a lot of metempsychosis before that happens.

The biggest change that came from this summer is I decided to sell my amazing 19th century farmhouse with its five fireplaces, hand-carved everything, bubble glass transoms and gorgeous lines. I love this house full of so many wonderful memories. But really. It’s time. Almost 2600 sf and 2 acres for one aging philologist, a dog, a cat, and a national landmark’s worth of spiders. I’m not absolutely sure why, but it just feels like time. Of course, that’s contingent on finding a place in town so that I almost never need a car.  And the right buyer. I can’t sell Miss Winifred’s and Margaret’s house to just anyone. We’ll see.

So, sorry about the dearth of deep meditations and soul searching about personal transformations. And thanks for listening.