First solo journey

Daily Prompt: Journey

Tell us about a journey — whether a physical trip you took, or an emotional one.

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I’ve been following Daily Prompt with that gut-churning feeling, a bit like the 11-year-old version of me sitting on the highest diving board at our local swimming pool. I did eventually dive in, surfacing with a feeling of triumph, and water burning in the back of my throat. Only to go straight up the ladder again for the next dive.

I just couldn’t pass today’s dangling carrot: “Tell us about a journey”.

There are so many. Even my daily commute is a journey. I can easily do it in total silence, because in my head I’m somewhere else, perhaps an open plain, in the middle of the night, with the motionless air heavy and full of promise, the stars within picking distance.

So I picked my journey home from school. My parents lived in Oshakati, northern Namibia, and from the age of 12 I attended boarding school in Malmesbury, Western Cape. They drove down to South Africa during the longer school holidays, and I had to get up home during the shorter breaks. So from about the age 12 to 16 I made that journey twice a year.

The first year I took the overnight coach from Paarl to Windhoek. It trundled up the nearly 1500 km in around 20 hours, with only 2 comfort stops, no toilets on board. The driver had only one tape on the cassette player which blared out all night. It was Abba, and up to this day the song “Fernando”, will transport me right back to the front left seat of the old school bus, my first experience of purgatory. My dad collected me in his pickup truck, and we set off on the next leg home, another 716 km. That bit was great, with the thick aroma of autumn savannah pouring into the cab, me and my dad stopping halfway for lunch. I felt so grown up.

The return leg of the journey 10 days later was memorable for another reason. I think our first pit stop was at Keetmanshoop. It was near midnight, fairly chilly, and I didn’t take long to get back into the bus to claim my seat. Something just didn’t feel right. You know that awful feeling when you realise you’re in the wrong bus? They were filling up with diesel, and our bus had moved to make room for the other one at the pump. How to get up calmly, grateful for the darkness and nonchalantly saunter out to your own bus, just as the engines fired up.

This was the night when between stops the urge to “go” was getting so overwhelming that it was physical agony. When we finally pulled up at the next garage the queue at the toilets snaked endlessly into the distance. And when it was finally my turn I was overcome with “stage fright” at the crib, with big boys shuffling impatiently behind me. How do you turn on a rusty old tap which had been overtightened for half a century?

Well that journey stays with me, and all others are measured by it. The following year I took a domestic flight from Cape Town to Windhoek, and then had the privilege to fly in a single prop Beechcraft to Ondangwa, passing over the Etosha pans.

But that story is for another day.

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Strings

I’m in a contemplative mood. This has been brought about by a day spent mostly away from the office, catching up with a few people, running a few errands, and tonight, reading some blogs. I recently discovered a fellow veterinarian who was preparing to walk the Camino, and have been following his blog. He is currently walking the Camino and what a moving experience this is proving to be! This man suffered a great personal tragedy about a year ago, and yet, his blog speaks of hope and steadfast faith. This is truly inspirational.

Then my thoughts turn to my own life, and my own blog. I suppose, at the moment, this blog is a tiny glimpse into my story, but I’m not pouring many words into it. Mostly the words churn over in my head, but they never gather the momentum to spill over into the light of day. And I think it is better that way.

A little while ago a friend introduced me to the book “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” by Susan Cain. This has been a quite significant book for me. Most notably it gave me insight in how my mind is put together, and gave me permission to be who I am. A bit of an introvert. Not a hermit though. I really enjoy the company of friends and like-minded people. I even enjoy crowds. But there has to be that secret place to recharge batteries, to process thoughts, to allow the strings on my guitar to be tuned again.

There are quite a few strings, and generally the vibrations are harmonious. Funny how when you’re a teenager you think you’re steady, unshakeable, even possibly phlegmatic. Then as life happens, and you really grow up, you discover so much discord, dissonance, even cacophony inside your own mind.

I crave harmony. I love the sound of it. Close harmony singing is my number one musical treat. I love harmony in relationships, in my workplace, in the world. Yet so often there is nothing but clattering and crashing noise.

Good, then, to retreat, not into a cave somewhere, just into a quiet café with a cup of coffee. And my own thoughts.

Who knows, some of those thoughts may find their way onto this diary. I take great comfort and strength from seeing someone with whom I share a profession on a pilgrimage not too dissimilar from my own, and I hope we’ll meet some day.

http://caminowithcullen.wordpress.com/

http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/about-the-book/