In my twenties I lived in Mesquite, on Dallas' southeastern edge. The first few years of lawyering I found quite busy and quite stressful, through nobody's fault, really, but my own. I enjoyed days on which I took a Sunday off and went for a long drive in the country easily reachable from Mesquite.
I subscribe to some old-fashioned beliefs. One of those is that within ninety minutes' drive, bike or walk of almost anywhere, there are unexpected treasures and curiously enriching by-ways. Disused roads and forgotten towns tell stories just as readily as books on tape, and with less of that dissatisfying "tape broke" feeling so common to listening on a July day.
I followed a simple, time-honored methodology. I would drive down country lanes, and each time I reached a fork in the road, try to take the less familiar way. Once in a great while, this led to disaster, as with the time a kind motorcycling father and son team had to push my Colt Vista auto out of place it got stuck in the mud. Usually, though, I found things to savor and enjoy. I'd listen to public radio,and gasp at the stark beauty of things I saw. An old church here, dating back to the Reconstructions after the Civil War (as virtually every soldier in the south came home from the horror of war, apparently, and decided to build a church). There, an abandoned barn, obviously once glorious, nowadays more a subject for LiveJournal communities about rural ruins. (I like, by the way, that so many of us have seen such old barns and fantasized about taking a photo array about vanishing times. Fortunately for me, my fantasies tend not to go to places throwaway cameras won't reach. Parenthetically, or, rather, to abuse by length this long parenthetical somewhat, I also like the way that reading some early adopters on LiveJournal will net posts along the line that they bascially invented the internet, and, indeed, were the original posters of memes which date back to the mid-19th Century).
That elusive sense of travel to someplace new. Some of us must go to Portugal to get it (I suppose Portugese folks go to Texas). But for many of us, newness is all around us. We just have to look and see it. In the metropolitan area in which I live, two million souls flourish. In this two million people are unmet friends, radically interesting creative people, and wise and constant saints. I realize, as I go on about my way, that I need to begin driving the streets of humanity in the same way I drive country roads, with an eye for hidden bits of stark beauty. I don't mean the beauty which is skin deep, as skin-spectating, while human and fine, is really a more boring thing than I mean. I mean living a life which seeks to cross paths with people with whom good times can be shared.
My sense is that so often this does not happen because we bring to the table an acquisitiveness, or a neediness.
We want things from people, and we convert from partakers into shoppers. A single person seeks romantic love.
A hobbyist seeks validation. We are all shoppers in the hypermart of hugs. But I think that a certain detachment from the "I need" approach may be the secret to experiencing the good things about people as they are, and not as we need them to be. I'm all for interdependence, but perhaps sometimes we can be a bit needless about it.
As I write this, I feel a pang of guilt, as it has been months since I've seen my best friend from my old home town, who lives merely 180 miles from me. We're long overdue to meet in the middle at some hiking trail, and enjoy a good long conversation. But I don't mean "I want to meet new people, I'm bored of the people I have". To the contrary, I run a life with relatively few close but quite dear friends and relatively close relatives, and I wouldn't change them for a moment, or pronounce them in any way lacking.
But I like the idea that along the random path, kindred spirits and casual saints abound. LiveJournal helps me remember that. But I want to keep the idea in mind even after I hit "update journal", and sally forth onto pathways I've never travelled before this day.