My sister Susannah and my brother-in-law Aaron are leaving their Long Beach apartment today for a summer-long road trip. They have lived in California for the past several years while Aaron was working on his PhD in English at UC-Irvine (Home of the Anteaters-ZOT ZOT ZOT) and Susannah was a reporter for the LA Times. Aaron has graduated and Susannah has been laid off (the 365th person to be laid off but the only one to request a meeting with the editor of the paper about it) and they’re packing up and moving out.
In August they’re moving to Taiwan for a year, where Aaron will be teaching at the National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu. Between now and then, they will be traveling through the US visiting friends and family and attending weddings. They will be here in early July to celebrate our parents’ 40th wedding anniversary.
I know this move is exciting and nerve-wracking for them and that they love Long Beach and are sad to leave it and the friends they’ve made in California. I’ll be thinking of them a lot this summer as they travel.
This is the (excerpted) poem by Walt Whitman that I read at their wedding, and I think it’s especially appropriate now.
“Song of the Open Road” (sort of) by Walt Whitman
Afoot and light-hearted, you take to the open road.
Healthy, free, the world before you,
The long brown path before you, leading wherever you choose.
Henceforth ask not good fortune – you yourself are good fortune;
Henceforth whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing.
Strong and content, you travel the open road.
From this hour, freedom!
From this hour, I ordain you loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where you list, your own masters, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating.
You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d –
You hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you;
What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
However sweet these laid-up stores –
However convenient this dwelling, you cannot remain here;
However sheltered this port, and however calm these waters, you must not anchor here.
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds you,
You are permitted to receive it but a little while.
For you will sail pathless and wild seas;
You will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.
Listen! I will be honest with you;
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes;
You will need the best blood, sinew, endurance;
None may come to the trial, till he or she bring courage and health.
I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
The road is before you!
It is safe – I have tried it – my own feet have tried it well.
Be not detain’d!