Saturday, January 07, 2006

nine pounds of luggage and a banjo...

Today the coffee is bitter. And it tastes good that way. It's brewed dark enough so that even with unhealthy amounts of cream it changes only a few shades--the color of cinnamon. I am hiding in my writing room in an orange glow of light. It is still grey outside--for so many days now that I've lost count. And although I never sewed any curtains over break, I did buy 2 yards of fabric for a dollar...a sheer golden/yellow/orange that hangs doubled over with rough edges from a curtain rod. With candles burning it gives the perfect illusion of sunlight--warm and soft. I've shut the door and put music on. I like this room and, in a way, never want to leave it.

Then again, I've started reading a book, Maiden Voyages: Writings of Women Travelers, that makes me want to leave immediately. I'm reading from the memoir of Maud Parrish, Nine Pounds of Luggage. This book makes me feel a little trapped; it makes me wish I felt a little more alive--directly, and not through a book.

At the turn of the (20th) century Maud Parrish left her ill-fated marriage and set off to the Yukon with "nine pounds of luggage" and a banjo. She writes:

"Some see life in black and white; others--and they're the lucky ones--in old-gold hues. But the life I knew then made me see red. Wanderlust can be the most glorious thing in the world sometimes, but when it knaws and pricks at your innards, especially in spring, with your hands and feet tied, it's awful. So I left. Without telling a soul."

She writes about Alaska as being an exhilarating atmosphere where "the air was electric, and the people were electric too, one hundred per cent alive..." And for a second I fall 11 years back in time--when I hopped freights from Minnesota to Alaska, bathed in wild rivers and jumped moving trains--life was bigger than any ailments of the head or heart. I look up from the book and can't help but feel a little trapped by the glass in the window.

Sometimes I am amazed by the "normal" turn my life has taken--and sometimes, yes, it feels awful.


greensatya said...

Came here by blog hopping. Nice blog !

Natasjia said...

Oh, Jessie, I've been waiting for years for the freedom to do what you describe. The trains, the belongings scaled down to a bag instead of a house, the movement. And I've always thought, "if I started, would I be able to stop?" I don't think I would, and that's scary from the perspective of this "normal" life.

Anonymous said...

I've been looking for Nine Pounds of Luggage on every website and bookstore in my state and I can't find it anywhere! Do you know where I can order it? Does it come in a book with other writings?

Anonymous said...

yes you can buy it on and also used from, it's not cheap.


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