I don’t think anyone could succeed in finding the home in Oklahoma for this little lady. My memories of Oklahoma will consist of seeing the highest concentration of small mammal roadkill thus far on my journey east and paying the highest number of tolls—$10.45 (it was only $10.30, but I threw in an extra quarter as a tip). There were some saving graces to this never-ending, bland state. Gadwall in a settling pond, Meadowlark on wire fences, Turkey Vulture rocking back and forth on the wind, some hills toward the western side of the state capped in a most beautifully captivating, textured red clay, and an exceedingly kind and exuberant toll worker who engaged me in conversation as my paid the inordinate fee for traveling across this state.
Toll man (TM): “Are you really from Alaska”?
TM: “Wow.” Disbelieving exhale. Pause. “Let’s see. Coming from Tulsa, that’ll be four dollars. Welcome to Oklahoma!”
I know people say that driving across the country is a kind of rite of passage for every American, yet I can’t help feeling that I am driving in the wrong direction. I realized my own manifest destiny two months after graduating from college, when I was offered a two-month internship in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington state and drove across the country for the first time with a fellow alum in 4 days. We hardly listened to music and chatted nearly the entire time. We arrived in Seattle, shocked to find that it was steeped in hills that greatly challenged my newly acquired stick-shift driving skills.
Mke: Ok. If I hold down the parking brake halfway and lift it up just as I put the car into gear, I will hopefully not roll backwards in the shiny new car behind me.
We stayed with family friends, who promptly began making plans to set me up with a single Jewish doctor who was currently living and working on a kibbutz in Israel. Again, west to east was not my idea of manifest destiny then, and I have stuck with it fairly well since college—apart from a brief stint teaching English in elementary schools in northwest France for 8 months. As a friend recently explained, I might be able to count France as western since I was living in the northwestern region of the country. Perhaps, I should cut myself some slack.
So here I am, just over the halfway marker for my 2,670-mile drive from Arizona to Massachusetts. This will be my fourth time officially crossing the lower 48. Of course, I have traveled up the Inside Passage to Alaska and driven from Skagway down to Arizona, so that outta count for something.
In fact, I think that everything having to do with Alaska, particularly travel, should count at least twice, like extra credit points for the nomad. So, if I do the math that makes this my 8th journey across the country, more than enough manifest destiny for any person—great or small.
At this point in my life, I am finding that the search for self-sustainability has begun to outweigh my idea of what the universe has in store for me. It also seems fitting that after all of my jaunts around the globe, I should wind up back where I started. Well, roughly. I suppose that technically I should return to Cincinnati, but living in the middle, far from tides and significant geologic uplift, is a commitment I am simply not prepared to make at this juncture in my life. We all need boundaries.
And so, in the words of my hero Pete Seeger, I am returning to “Boston, the land of the bean and the cod. Where the Lowells speak only to Cabots, and the Cabots speak only to God.”
I bring with me two cats, belongings cobbled together from travels around the globe, memories of friends and places I have called family and home, and hope for the path that lies ahead.