Thoughts: Connection

Albany. Syracuse. Rochester. Buffalo.

Erie, PA. Cleveland. Columbus. Indianapolis.

Saint Louis. And then the return.

It is a 16-17 hour trip from my little corner of Vermont to St. Louis, where my stepdaughter lives. Less by air, of course, but I am not yet at a place where I feel safe traveling by air. I suspect I am a long way off from that.

We hit the road after church Sunday. It is a long drive, but easy. Interstates much of the way, and none of the cities we went through had much in the way of traffic. I am fond of driving. It’s a zen thing for me, so there is no stress or strain for me. It’s refreshing, actually, even after hours of it.

We went through a lot of cities, and with each one, I mentally went through my personal histories in each one. I have built Television facilities – studios, control rooms, sports TV centers, churches – in most of them. My mind went to each place built, the planning. the building, remembering both the technical and the human elements of each one.

I went through my personal history in each place. Friends. Family. Clients. Part of me wanted to stop in each city and break bread or share some time over a cup of good coffee with each one. Impossible of course. The trip would have taken weeks, but mentally, emotionally, I was there, face to face in our Zoom world, with people who meant a lot to me. Each city sign brought them to mind and for a time, I was there. It is part of why I like travel. You make memories, but you also relive them.

We arrived. My stepdaughter and her girlfriend are delightful young women. They have a menagerie of two cats and an eternal puppy, and we spent a lot of time, laughing, talking, and playing with the beasties. We didn’t go out, except for a couple of outdoor art installations. Safety, always safety these days.

One was a mile of graffitti. Literally a mile and more of walls that run along the train tracks that line the banks of the Mississippi. Each year they paint the walls clean and people and groups claim a section of wall to pain their stories. It is magnificent, vibrant, always new and always current, erupting in colors and anger and joy and love and stories.

Two days, and then back, reversing the list of cities from Saint Louis to Albany over two days driving until we were back home in beautiful, downtown West Pawlet, with less population than your average Walmart on Saturday.

The trip was another reminder of how much life has changed during this time of Corona virus. The fear of travel, or at least the concerns. The avoidance of people and gatherings. Normally, we would have flown, giving us more time there. Normally. we would have done museums, barbeque joints. There would have been a night or two in intimate jazz venues. And all along the way there would have been conversations. Fun serendipitous conversations with people we’d meet. A few of those strangely intimate conversation with strangers that the woman I love and I both tend to fall into.

It’s just part of the loss, and on the scale of things, maybe a small part. People have, I have and many of you have, lost dear friends and families. People have lost jobs or parts of their income. Churches and clubs and gatherings of all kinds are lost to us now. Businesses all around are closed. I cannot even fathom the loss.

What I think we miss the most is the connection of being. My extroverted friends probably anticipated this, and the difficulty of being so separated. But I am an introvert and I did not. I have come to more vividly understand the power of connection, and feel it’s loss deeply. A trip like this, with my past and personal history flashing by like road signs at seventy miles an hour felt like life, all moving too quickly, and the importance of all those lives that make up that history.

It will pass. Sooner or later we will find a more safe normal. That is my prayer and it is my belief, but in the meanwhile, there will be holes in my life, in our lives, and I understand more than ever how life is a long stream of connections and conversations.

I am ready for that journey. And always, the next journey.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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