Sunday, September 25, 2005

Empty Spaces

Today's stretch of road had lots of empty spaces. By that I mean that stops were few and far between. Maybe no farther apart than yesterday, but it felt that way. Or maybe I'm just getting tired. Still, 430 miles today. And the closer I get to Austin, the more I feel like I'm coming home. Now I'm driving stretches I drove a year and a half ago. Staying at the same hotel tonight I stayed back then, too.

Driving along, I couldn't help feeling that this landscape helped shape the people who settled here. They had to have a quiet determination to do whatever had to be done in order to survive--and their descendants carry on the tradition. There had to be a sense of self-reliance. There had to be a determination to defend oneself and one's family--given how disputed this land was back then. I find myself thinking how all of this has perhaps shaped our current president's actions and attitudes.

Not that Texas is unique in this. Every place shapes the people who live there. That's why writers are so often fascinated by travel. We want to go places and see how people live--only that way can we truly understand how they think and feel and act and react. And we writers are forever curious about people. We want to understand. And in understanding we feel a great sense of connection with people who, on the surface at least, might appear to be very different than we are.

A year and a half ago, someone called my cross-country journey a journey of emotional as well as physical miles. This journey back to Texas feels as much an emotional journey as that one was--just compressed into a much shorter period of time. In a way, this feels like the final leg of the journey that began in New Jersey that year and a half ago. I'd never been to Texas before that trip and yet....I still feel as if I'm coming home.