I loved this, from Kevin Sites, the journalist who's spending a year visiting every country currently in armed conflict:
Like a slow-dissolve connecting the disparate sequences of a continuous story that spans too much geographic territory, I see the roads before me blend from one to the other — riding the river beds of eastern Afghanistan in a humvee, through the lowlands of northern Colombia packed in a local taxi, winding through the hillsides of Haiti in my fixer's beat up Datsun and now to this moment in Nepal.
There is a duality at work here that is hard for me to comprehend. I'm amazed by the these geographic disjunctions in my journey, the shock of sensory overload, the new smells, terrain, and lives that wash over me on these drives.
Simultaneously, I'm lulled by the comfort of it all, the fact that there is too much to understand. Instead of an observer, for this moment, I am a dog with my head out the window, the rush of air creating a comforting buzz that silences the need to know more — at least for now.
A funny thing happened on the way back from Ireland.
It somehow hit me, as I arrived in Madrid's Barajas Airport, that I was "home". But not really. Like when I arrive "home" to Chicago, but not really. Or Rhode Island, or Southern California. But not really. Speaking Spanish again felt warmly, wonderfully familiar.
I got this odd feeling I can't quite capture in words as I started the long journey back from Madrid's new air terminal (which I suspect is actually in Salamanca, judging by the length of the walk and tram ride to get there.) I had only taken a week's wander through Ireland. But Ireland changes so rapidly as you travel - rocky burren, rolling green hills, flat topped green mountains with rocky faces, long sandy strands with the tide far out, lake-filled valleys, pine forests, bogs. I always feel as if I've visited a dozen countries. Add that I stayed in people's homes, and that I was travelling with the American brother I hadn't spent time with in over a year....and my trip felt like that slow dissolve Kevin describes, like a wave of languages and cultures and weather and smells and faces.
Then I landed back in Spain, home but not home, a familiar language but not my first. I don't know if I can describe it well, but for the first time and maybe because I was excited to come back to my new self-propelled life here, I felt like a part of all of it. As though I didn't have a distinct "home", it was all home, all recognizable and just moving like a wave, a slow dissolve from one place to another.
I remember using that same image, a dog with her head out the window, to describe myself in the first draft of a poem a few months ago. It fits. I came back from Ireland on sensory overdrive, but with that same wind-in-both-ears feeling, like there was no need to know more. No need to sort out what sound was what or what it all meant, or, in my case, where the heck I am going. There were just people to meet, and places and smells and the call of my first cuckoo (outside of a clock) to let wash over me. And my head, out the window.