Setting the Table

Setting the Table

When I was a little girl, one of my chores was to set the table for dinner each night. Round and round I’d go: placemats, dishes, glasses, silverware.

Round and round:
this is the space for nourishment,
this is what feeds you,
this is what refreshes you,
these are the tools you need.

When I set out to travel, the process is quite similar. My backpack sits in a chair, while I go round and round, collecting the things I will bring on my trip: books to read, notebooks, pens, art supplies, camera.

Round and round
with the same intention:
this is the space for nourishment,
this is what feeds you,
this is what refreshes you,
these are the tools you need.

We set the table so we can stop. Because when you are hungry, you stop. Stop working, stop being busy, stop futzing—you stop and eat. You stop and nourish yourself.

Traveling lets you do this on a bigger scale. STOP! Put things in a suitcase, get in a plane/train/car and GO! GO AWAY! and STOP!

So that slowly…s-l-o-w-l-y…you can catch up to yourself again.

You know, THAT you. The one who exists just fine without the internet or cable or a cell phone attached to your ear. The one who walks around with a smile and relaxed shoulders. The one who hangs out in the sun all day and not at a desk. The one who sleeps soundly and dreams in colors.

The one who wakes up a 4:00 a.m. with a tsunami of fresh ideas and amazing words washing over the empty spaces in your brain.

THAT was me, anyhow. Forty-eight hours into my vacation, before the sun rose up over Marfa, Texas. Wide-awake with a poem and three collages wandering in my head. That was me, sitting quietly in the dawn-lit room, trying not to wake anyone, while I scribbled in my notebook and wove words out of morning air.

• • •

“The wind blows hard against this mountainside
Across the sea into my soul.
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road.
My heart is old it holds my memories
My body burns a gemlike flame.
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again.”

— Mr. Mister, Kyrie Eleison

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