44: “Different Universes” (Bill Bryson)

                After describing a long backpacking trip with his friend, and the closeness they developed: “At the airport, I realized we were already in different universes (he in a “Where do I go to check in?” sort of distraction, I in the distraction of knowing that my family waited, that the car was badly parked, that it was nearly rush hour in Washington), so we parted awkwardly, almost absently, with hasty wishes for a good flight and promises to meet again in August for the conclusion of our long amble.” -Bill Bryson, A Walk In The Woods

                I’m with my family on Kauai. We’ve swum with turtles, jumped from rocks into waves,  and eaten the kind of pineapple that jumps on you like a niece who love-love-loves you. I’ve held my niece, who I love love love, and who likes me at least enough to pull my hair and (once) give me a slobbery baby kiss. But all in all, I think what we’ve really done is be here, together.
                That’s often a hard thing to do. I really like my roommate. When we get up and stomp into the kitchen the other’s there, but somehow it’s still hard to find time together. It’s not just our schedules: it’s the rhythm of how we live. It’s the places, in the world and inside our minds, where we tend to go. Those places are shrouded, so it’s easy to pass each other without even realizing the other’s nearby. (And, of course, there are the technological, SEE-ME places we go to behind our screens and between our headphones). Simply seeing each other takes a choice, and it doesn’t always work. Sometimes it helps to step out from our individual routines: we go get lunch, or go for a walk and talk. Both of those are ways of saying, “We’re meeting here.” (When we go to lunch, we often drive together; it’s funny that we’re usually less ‘absent’ at the restaurant than we were at home ten minutes before). Sometimes all it takes is sitting an extra moment in the living room. I want to learn to be less “absent” in my meetings and greetings, even without lunch or a trail.
                I think we came here, my family and I, just to be together. And we could be together in California, or Oklahoma. We could be together in a park or a shopping center, but sometimes it’s easier when we travel. It’s easier when we purposefully leave our own patterns behind. It’s easier when we choose a new here to share. Maybe, in setting aside this time to come together, we’re maintaining the trails we use to come together the rest of the year.
                So many of our passings (and our meetings) are awkward, almost absent. I want some time in the same universe as you. To do that, I’ll plan more long ambles through the woods. To do that, I’ll practice remembering: even when I’m inside, even when I’m in the middle of my routines, I want to walk in a way that lets me walk with you.

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