"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things." — Henry Miller
I probably should have located my destination on a map before getting in the car. I vaguely remembered having seen an exit sign for the town on 295 so I believed the highway would be the fastest route.
I imagined I would be avoiding the steep and winding country roads I had once traversed to get there years ago—in the dark, in search of a theater, still new to Maine.
It was a grey and dreary morning—somewhat rare here.
To friends from away I often describe the luster of winter in this rocky, coastal place—the brilliance of the sun’s rays bouncing off of snow, our position on the edge of the continent seeming to limit the shadows cast by heaps of living going on across the country to one side of us.
With the way the light lands and our position on a map it seems as if we are perched up more propitiously for the absorption of sunlight than in other geographical locations— though this isn’t exactly true when considering actual altitudes.
When I contemplate the way the light falls here, I remember the time I traveled in college to the coast of Portugal from Spain where I was studying.
With three friends, I rented a tiny, maroon car— a Twingo—for a long and scorching holiday weekend.
We drove it to the furthest edge of the European continent and took a photograph pretending to push it over the steep drop.
In the town we stayed—with its cobblestone streets—I took another photograph of a dark-skinned, African man in a tapas bar wearing bright-yellow and smiling at me.
I appreciated the contrast of his black skin, white teeth and lemony shirt.
I couldn’t understand why my Spanish friend laughed when he came upon this photo in an album I later created.
And he just couldn’t comprehend why I would take that photo.
At dusk we saw another man painting, a palette in hand—standing at his easel on a rocky cliff—pantless.
I photographed him, too.
The quality of light there was like it is here—occupying a space in the experience of living—like when we say silence is a member of a meditative group.
Let me be a member anywhere where silence and the light show up.
I had programmed the address where I was heading into my GPS so as I entered the highway it began redirecting me back to the sinuous roads I was avoiding.
I kept driving—ignoring it—thinking it was going to eventually line-up with the route I thought I knew existed.
I noticed suddenly—according the machine’s arrival time—I was barely going to make it to the memoir workshop I was attending.
At the start of the trip I had twenty minutes to spare. My arrival time now suggested I would likely be entering a room full of participants—mid-icebreaker.
I finally succumbed to the imploring requests and endless recalculating to leave my misguided concept of a faster route for the more labyrinthine journey that I remembered.
The ashen day enhanced the quality and aura of the homes I drove past on my redirected route—many in significant disrepair with paint peeling and wood rotting.
The lawns were peppered with broken-down cars and other debris.
I wondered if it was cold inside with the biting chill in the air.
My mood mirrored the weary appearance of the long stretch of rolling road.
I don’t assume that the state of a home necessarily reflects the state of the heart of its inhabitants—I have witnessed meager homes with mighty occupants and the reverse.
And yet, on that stretch of road, I was reminded of the struggle and suffering holding an ample space among us.
When I arrived at my destination I drove through an area that reflected the more urban version of what I had seen en-route—boarded up windows on row houses, packs of kids traveling in too-thin clothing, shop-signs dangling, rusted-out railroad tracks.
Parking hurriedly, I gathered up my many layers of clothing and lunch, a backpack and a coffee to sharpen my thoughts.
The sign for the gathering reflected a start-time one-hour before I had arrived.
Holding off disappointment, I checked my confirmation to make certain I had the right time and asked the librarian for directions to the meeting room—twice.
The sign was misleading and it turned out I was in the right place at just-about the right time.
Finally I found the room where I was meant to be.
I listened at the double doors for a moment and caught a glimpse through the crack between them of a large, square table surrounded by people with notebooks and laptops and hot drinks.
Someone was speaking—making an introduction in a lively way.
Later I would think of her as seeming familiar to me.
“We do not make friends, we recognize them.”
I turned the handle on the door—it seemed to be locked at first.
I rotated it again quietly and pulled—a little harder—opening it and entering as unobtrusively as I could.
My hand shook slightly in my flowered, fingerless glove—shaken by the rush and the hit of caffeine—as I balanced my coffee and all of my things, taking in the welcoming words—faces filled with anticipation—and finding my place at the table.
I was as wrong about Spring’s fervent arrival with her her elbows nudging winter out as I was about my route to the workshop.
Snow came down doggedly last week weighting down the lowest pine branches until their tips touched the ground.
There is more of it—on its way.
The sun is uncovered and blazing this morning.
The crows are playing a game at the tops of the trees—calling out fiercely again and again.