August 18th, 2017 (travel date)
When one heads out into the unknown, it’s best early on not to take odd signs as omens of things to come. Odd signs are best devalued with humor, than given chance to take a worrisome hold on the mind. It is for this reason turning back from this journey into an unknown seemed impractical when I saw many blackbirds lined up on the support beams of traffic lights, electric wires, and nearby buildings when first arriving in a nearby town early on the morning of departure. Had it not been for the two large metal chickens on some Mexican restaurant food truck, I might have thought too seriously on the matter. “Clearly,” I remember telling myself, “those birds are admiring statues built to their kind and their gathering must have nothing to do with me.” If I had even a penny for all of the times my mind has attached itself to events that I’ve been told had nothing to do with me, I would be able to pay for my travels past, present, and future — and then some.
Not far down the road, just as the light grew bright enough to blind an east-bound traveller, a heavy fog set in. All the plotting and planning, distance measuring and calculating, gassing up, checking the tire pressures, fluid levels, and other such preparations doesn’t save a bit of time when fog sets in. There was only one appointment that could not be missed, and it was still a few days away. These ground clouds were really nothing to get fussy over. Like those blackbirds, this omen (as some might refer to it), fell by the wayside as well.
In my travels across the United States I’ve grown to appreciate the various modes of travel: from the rivers to the simple footpaths of animals and humans alike, to the two tracks, railways, paved roads, and flight paths across the sky leading from airport to airport and helipad. I’ve yet to spend any decent amount of time traveling by rail, or helicopter for that matter, but they, like this journey before me, have been on my list for quite some time. As the years pass by, this list grows and shortens depending on the day.
Passing through Arkansas, with a stop in Fayetteville and Eureka Springs, the end of the first day came to a close in a hotel in Springfield, Missouri, listening to positive tales from my mother about the various places relatives had visited, and those she had visited here last with my father who died just over twenty years ago. I wish I could tell you these stories brought happiness to a mind greatly in need of inspiration. However, I have been attempting to fight bipolar disorder (by choice) without medication for almost a year now with the help of caseworkers and family alike and sometimes it doesn't go so well. But the good news is that it is becoming a little more tolerable.
One of the most difficult parts about suffering such a mean illness are the episodes in which negative words spill out almost uncontrollably from time to time. Worse, is the overwhelming sense of guilt that arises after an episode has passed. This was one of those kind of late afternoons. Being alive in a country unlike any other, with all the potential and opportunity one could ever hope for, and at the same time being unable to rely on one’s own brain to dependably function on demand, is incredibly frustrating indeed.
At the end of this first day, the image of those oddly gathered blackbirds has burned into my memory like the late afternoon's episodic reminder of the diagnosis all those years ago. Another night of sleeping very little is probably in store, and there is still so much driving to do. But I am extremely thankful to have someone along with me who is familiar with the illness and just as unwilling to turn back or be dissuaded by these frustrations.
Image taken by Author Alan S. Garrett from Missouri, USA
2017 Total Solar Eclipse Series
August 21st, 2017, 09:30:27 AM