Long Way ‘Round

I like to take the long way sometimes. Reinvent the wheel. Because the scenery is more interesting along the less traveled path. What seems obvious to others may seem invisible to me, and maybe the way I see things might resonate with others. That’s the fun of communication. Not to be right, but to see more clearly. I look for connections. Sometimes the answer is given before the question as I wind along my circuitous route. The resonant questions are what I seek. What does the tree say?

“I’m not lost, I’m exploring.” I saw a bumper sticker with that on it a long time ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. It made sense to me. I have a pretty bad sense of direction, or rather, often forget to take the right exit. When I drive alone, and get lost, I don’t mind. I usually enjoy the detour, enjoy the different scenery. Sometimes I discover things I never could have looked for. As long as I don’t have a deadline, I just get into being where ever I am. But when I’m driving with someone, even a good friend, I get annoyed with myself for being lost! Now that’s revealing.

I grew up in the DC area. When the new Mormon temple was built in Maryland, I think it was back in the mid 70’s, I used to love driving by it on the beltway, but it seemed more beautiful when I’d forget my exit and then see it loom up over the trees, a glowing white fortress floating, surreal, ethereal beyond the bustle of the highway. My existence seemed to open up into another possibility, the bottom would drop out, and I’d feel really free, accidentally miraculous.

When I go to new cities, I usually like to just take off on foot and map it out myself. I might have a map, just to find my way back. But I’ll keep going in one direction until I feel like turning, or if something catches my eye. I still have memories of seeing things I know I didn’t imagine, but have no idea where I saw them. Like when I found a regal, old redwood in Austria while exploring some park in Graz. That tree drew me to it, and told me things in some other language. I knew I was in the right place, that was the message. Past and future faded to a bright point before me in the form of this tree. I never was able to remember its location to show a friend. My little private magic.

Or, when I awoke at 4 AM the morning after arriving in Graz, and decided to get up an go jogging. Having no idea where I was going, I just jogged down a main street until it came to a park. Graz is a very small, dense old southern Austrian city built along a river, so it’s pretty flat. But this park was where the old city used to be, and it’s on a sudden hill outcropping, like a big round boob in the middle of the city. Since the sun was about to rise, I jogged up the boob. I was puffing, and loving it. (the exercise, that is) Rebel freedom. I got to the top, puff, puff, or so I remember. And the sunrise was glorious. I could swear I heard angels, maybe it was birds. I stood there feeling like a king, in the best of all places.

Well, all things have to end. Down the hill I went, along the serpentine path through trees and past benches, past a cute young man, past some flower beds, more trees. Wait, a cute young man? Alone in a park at five AM? I didn’t want to presume what he was doing there. After all, I was in a foreign country. And this was a small city. Maybe guys liked to get up early here for the fresh air. So I kept going. I didn’t get far when I heard a whistle. Yep, it was him. He wanted me to enjoy the sunrise with him. At least that’s what I thought he said, since I didn’t understand his heavy Graz German. (wink, wink) I’ll let the rest of the film run in your head. Now do you see why I don’t mind getting lost?

4 thoughts on “Long Way ‘Round

  1. This is a wonderful way of describing what some might considere rebellion. I love reading the freedom with which you write about taking “the long way ’round.” I think you mentioned under tidbits that you don’t like schedules. Neither do I, but I am slave to some while my kids are growing up.

    I recall being mesmerized by that same Mormon Temple. It is so hard to drive and view it at the same time. In fact, I think that is unsafe, which is why I relished being a passenger to gaze at it reaching to the sky with a magic that fascinated me. I did not grown up travelling the world, so that was a new site to me, unlike any building I had ever seen. When I first saw it, I thought it was a castle.

  2. garnet

    We met on Theriomorph’s blog. Glad I finally looked you up. I should have when you mentioned the Mozart clarinet concerto. We have things almost in common. I am a saxophonist from the east coast who, only I started improvising when I was 5 (not well, mind you, but could always play what I felt, and then have spent the rest of my life learning the other stuff.

    I love your perspective, humility and gift for communication. You must be a fine clarinetist. It is funny to me that you wrote this Long Way Around posting… several years ago I was the odd man teaching jazz at a predominantly classical school in the New York area. The clarinet professor (reputable guy, you’d definitely know him), my immediate “superior” took it upon himself to try hard to disarm me by insisting I teach classical sax for at least 3 years before doing any jazz so that the students could get the “fundamentals” before learning the way out stuff. We basically disagreed about everything… one day i found out from a mutual student that every day this teacher would attempt to find the most efficient way to get to school, shortest distance vs. least light and stops, etc. Whereas I would leave school each day and purposely get myself lost, so I could find a new way home. I have always used this story to demonstrate the difference between an improvisor’s nature and that of a, let’s say, non-improvisor. YOU, my new friend, have enlightened me and I will return the favor by insisting that despite your musical path, you are an improvisor!!! thanks for the lesson…

  3. rambler, welcome to my playhouse. marvelous story of yours, outlining the freedom we all forget to love. Keep reminding me. Musically, I think I left my freedom at a lonely busstop in downtown Columbus years ago.

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