Sunday, February 03, 2008

Questions of Travel

This past weekend I was in New York. The travel to New York, which I do regularly, is quite dignified. Amtrak is wonderful. It is easy to get from my house to the train station. In total, I can leave my house and be on the train in under thirty minutes. The ride from near my home to New York is a scant three hours. Enough time to really sit down and do some work, but not get stiff or tired. It is lovely travel.

Next weekend I go to Detroit. The trip to Detroit is not as calming as the train to New York. I’ll fly out of Baltimore Washington International Airpot, which is only forty minutes from the house, but air travel brings with it particular indignities these days. Much waiting, many screenings, cramped quarters. There will be some time for reading, but not ample time for reading, really just time to sit and wait.

I’m reading Brett Millier’s biography of Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop hated to fly. She preferred traveling by steamer ship. That sounds to me like fabulous, dignified travel. She would spend eighteen days on the ship from New York to Sao Paolo. Imagine how much you can read in that time!

So while I was traveling this weekend and next weekend, I’ll be thinking about Bishop and her travels, wishing for the serenity of her travels, but happy that it doesn’t take me nearly three weeks to go from one place to another.

Here is one of the most affirmative poems that I’ve read by Bishop. It was never finished or published by Bishop, but is included in Millier’s book.

I believe:
that the steamship will support me on the water,
& that the aeorplane will conduct me over the mountain,
that perhaps I shall not die of cancer,
or in the poorhouse,
that eventually I shall see things in a “better light,”
that I shall continue to read and continue to write,
that I shall continue to laugh until I cry with a certain few friends,
that love will unexpectedly appear over & over again,
that people will continue to do kind deeds that astound me.

This I think has many of the answers to questions of travel.

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