Driving north gives me hope. The palpable tension in my body releases as office buildings fade to forests of birch and pine. US 31, 131, and 22 rescue me. As I drive the tethers of responsibility loosen. Due dates, bill payments, and breakfast’s egg-crusted dishes diminish in my rear-view mirror. The north unfurls before me and I am swept up in the vastness of unscheduled days and open skies.
I moved this month. Three blocks west from the bakery apartment to a home of rooms and smells and rhythms novel to me. My home is stocked with good friends; we share stories about our days, invent recipes from last week’s leftovers, and vent about the heat and our lack of central air.
It is a lovely home with a blue door.
And I already need an escape.
Regardless of social obligations or a backload of homework, I blueprint a monthly—if not weekly—escape. Ask any of my friends and they will tell you, with an excess of eye rolls, the numerous times I’ve left town unexpectedly without telling anyone where I’ve gone. My salary is divided into tithes, savings, and travel funds. I have only one internet bookmark, an Icelandic airline website. I check it daily for a trip to the isolated island for under $500.
The north lures me. The pine forests surrender their roots only to crisp apple orchards and the Lake’s sandy dunes. The transition between one phase of land and the next is seamless. I feel I need this. I need to remember to listen to my own body, its flutters, palpitations and steady beats. In the midst of life in Grand Rapids I forget to listen to anything. The city is flooded with noises that pound away at my concentration until no task or person receives my full attention. I’m desperate to dwell with one thing at a time. To accomplish a project with craftsmanship that is only acquired with attentiveness and deliberation. Instead I flit between tasks in order to keep up the appearance of productivity. I don’t have time to invest.
Sweat drips impatiently down my neck and into my already saturated sports bra as I unload my tenth box of dog-eared Steinbecks, hand-me-down drills, and Oxford unabridged dictionaries. Only four boxes remain. Each overflow with freshmen year term-papers, tenth grade journals, and crumpled post-its with last month’s grocery list. Engineering a sense of personal place is important to me. I design ‘home’ quickly while simultaneously yearning for new space. I constantly need breaks. Retreats. I need change. I moved twenty-two times in seven years, and while I bitch about packing up my books and clothes, I thrive on it.
I adore Grand Rapids; I love my house, my housemates, boyfriend, nephews and late night porch beers. I love my too often and unbudgeted trips to Martha’s and Marie Catrib’s. Yet, despite all of the love, my skin prickles with the trap of familiarity every morning. I’ve memorized the routine of the streets and every intersection feels stagnant.
I don’t daydream; I tomorrow-dream.
My tomorrow dreams are filled with contentment. They aren’t void of activity; in fact they bustle with faces and events similar to my daily reality. But in my dreams all the hustle is connected by a current of stillness. It is that stillness I search for in the transcendental north. The quiet amidst the buzz of living that I haven’t discovered in the nooks and crannies of my own hum of days.
When examining with microscope my daily routine I realize that I escape every day. I escape from the social coffee dates by checking the overflow of social media on my phone. I ditch my screen and head to the woodshop for solitude. I betray solitude with the sweet tunes of a newly released album. I abandon the Avett Brothers to the lure of a new book and cozy couch. I vacate the chapter for the bait of Monday’s cheap beer and the opportunity to reunite with friends.
And tomorrow the cycle regenerates.
When a rare moment of stillness finds me, I reflect and I wonder if what I really need is an escape from escapism. I don’t believe contentment is found in the chase but rather in the choice. I need to choose tranquility in the familiar chaos.
Rebekah (’12) teaches English as a second language at Grand Rapids Community College. She does not drink coffee nor purchase Apple products.