Friday, August 3, 2007


I inhabit a strange waiting room, a place walled in by the past and the future, the force of years of planning and the keen edge of anticipation. I go about my daily activities, moving, for the most part, as if nothing is different, nothing has changed. And nothing has changed. The dishes still need to be cleaned and put away, the animals fed, the floor swept. I do these things as I have always done them. Take out the kibbles, pour them noisily into the stainless steel bowl, Django sitting nearby with sharp-eyed intensity. He knows in every cell of his body what this ritual is about.

But with each action, each moment that slips into the past, I am one moment closer to departure. Briefly, just briefly, I forget what is hanging over me, the long flight and unthinkable return. I know that I have to do this AA style, one day at a time, but still the enormity of it all squats in my consciousness like a grinning water buffalo, 2,000 pounds of dark muscle that will not be denied, the glinting dark eyes and sweep of horn. My father told me once about a story he'd read of one who had hunted this most dangerous kind of animal, the Cape buffalo, in Africa, usually found in deep thickets where it could charge without notice. The hunter, when faced with the on-rushing animal, had no time for fear--if he wanted to live. He simply had to "get busy."

So the antidote to anxiety is action. True enough. I find, at this stage, however, that most of my business in preparing for the tour is over. My bags are packed, the bike shipped. Really, I have too much time on my hands. Let's get this damn freak show on the road, shall we? But the plane leaves when it will, and I cannot hurry it. I hang in the margins between sunrise and sunset, between home and away. Jodi said recently that I have been "gone for months." Maybe. This condition sits in my gut like a poorly digested piece of potato. Please, dear ghost, show me the shadow of bicycle tours yet to come! I can't know, don't want to know. The point is in the discovery, the slow unveiling of the mystery, the epiphanies and revelations. Everett Ruess, an adventurous lad who vanished in the Four Corners region early in the last century, said, "I am always being overwhelmed. I require it to sustain life." That young man knew his religion. You can't be overwhelmed if you know exactly what's coming. The unknown is the voltage of life. Sometimes we must be strapped to that table and lifted up into the storm and lightning above. "It's alive! It's alive!"

What species of monster is this? I am the monster, the gargoyle squatting on the castle wall, waiting, waiting, waiting. Neither in nor out, I hang on the edge.


Robert said...

Scott, you put into words what I too felt before departure in Japan, but did not know how to express effectively in words. Once again, amazing writing. I really hope you will write a book about this one day. Then I can give it to people and say 'read this, then you'll know exactly how a long distance traveller feels - how I felt'.

Great stuff.

Scott Wayland said...

Thanks, Rob. That means a lot coming from you. I'm really go to give a book everything I've got. Like this ride, I think it's something else I've got to do before I step off the planet.

Have fun back in Kiwi land!