Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Narrating the Journey

Wisconsin Farm
Somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin...

It started three summers ago, the summer I spent trying desperately to find a job in a market that was oversaturated with teachers—experienced, inexperienced, elementary, secondary, whatever.

There were hundreds of applicants for every teaching position in the area. Every Monday I would check every website in the district, don a professional outfit that would hopefully make me look older than twelve, and try to make it past the secretary in order to hand the principal my resume and hopefully set myself apart from the growing stack of applications.

When it wasn’t Monday, I lived an independent and thrifty existence, biding my time while I waited for a more scheduled, constructive life. I would often ride my bike the four miles to the library to use the internet and gather new things to read. It was then that I stumbled on the audio book section, or rather rediscovered it. I listened to hours of tape that summer, while cooking and quilting and running. It made me feel productive, even as I was unemployed.

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When I was a child my family would travel to Eastern Washington each August so that we could spend a couple weeks with relatives. Traveling 1000 miles up the West Coast with four children is no small feat, however, and my mom was always prepared. In addition to a large supply of snacks, treats, coloring books and regular stops was a brand new set of “Adventures in Odyssey” Tapes—which we were not allowed to touch until we were on the road.

Over the course of the travel---16 hours there and then back—my sisters and I would swap tapes from walkman to walkman, chatting about the various episodes, quoting funny one-liners and trying to work out a system so that no sister had the buzzing walkman longer than any of the others.

It was somewhere on I-5 that I developed a love for stories during long car rides.

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Last summer my sisters and I revisited the Odyssey saga as we drove to New York City for a couple days of touring and exploration. We laughed and reminisced as we drove through the night, too cheap to pay for a second night at a hotel.

This past weekend my husband and I drove for hours across the Midwest, enjoying hours of barren farmland, billboard advertisements, holiday drivers and…a book on cd. The drive was littered with intermittent conversation, about the book, about the scenery, about how much we were not looking forward to three weeks apart.

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Various times and trips have become laced by the books I read and listened to while I was experiencing them: winters of quilting, summers of running, long trips here and there and back again.

And even though I have a job now, and a car, and the internet…I still treasure the simplicity of a story that unfolds over time. It can’t be rushed or controlled. It develops with twists and turns. And in the end truth and character are fully revealed, all because of the journey.

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