Managed another two week hiatus, my sincere apologies . . . getting back into the groove, rejuvenating the tale . . .
Just because we travel, are there stories to share? How many moments while on the move do we keep to ourselves, not because they’re not beautiful, or stunning, or enlightening, but because there’s not necessarily a tale to tell? Or are we just not awake enough, or observant enough in those moments, and the reflective moments thereafter, to realize a story in the subtle, quiet experiences?
Recently, I’ve engaged in several conversations about the art of storytelling, about the weaving of a good tale, about the explication of experience. It has made me think about these questions and travel writing and this blog. As I approach the one-year anniversary of storytelling here on graywanderings, I’ve begun to reflect on the purpose of my weekly posts. Originally, I began this blog as a way to update friends and family about our travels through Southeast Asia. But it quickly became much more than that.
My father, a recent guest author on here, shared a website, The Dark Mountain Project, that focuses on the concept and project of Uncivilized Writing. I’m not sure I’ve entirely grasped the idea quite yet, but it’s clear to me that Uncivilized Writing is about putting into question our existence as a human society, and the contrived separation we’ve established between that society and the constructed notion of nature.
After a year of stumbling around with graywanderings.com, I’ve discovered that in some ways, this notion of Uncivilized Writing is exactly the type of storytelling, questioning, and meaning-making I hope to achieve. I want to take those travel moments that quickly become tales, and examine them, so as to examine my own beliefs and understandings about the world, and in-turn encourage, even inspire, the reading community to do the same. I suppose it’s the same goal of most writers and artists: to spark conversation.
But my weariness arises with the original question . . . just because we travel, are there stories to share? Am I contriving my experiences just to start this conversation? This became very apparent to me over the last month as Lindsay and I spent our weekends traveling, camping, and beer tasting here in Colorado.
When I arrived in Colorado four years ago, I discovered that Native Coloradans are not always fond of “transplants,” (folks moving here from other states, particularly California). This is certainly understandable. California is known for taking more than its share of Colorado River water, often used to water golf courses, lawns, sidewalks, and random landscaping along California’s many freeways . . . I certainly resent myself as a Native Californian for the atrocities of this water theft.
So as I observed more and more cars with the Colorado “Native” bumper stickers, (I assume most folks boasting these stickers know this state inside and out), I felt a sense of responsibility to overcome such resentment by exploring Colorado from end-to-end, getting to know the depth and nuance of its beauty. Though I can never rightfully put the “Native” sticker on my car, I can at least know Colorado like a local.
In the middle of my first summer here, I went down to the Tattered Cover and purchased several books on the flora and fauna of Colorado, and guidebooks about interesting places in the state. One book in particular, “Scenic Driving Colorado,” became my bible. It covers 30 scenic drives (most of them nationally recognized byways), stretching from Dinosaur in the northwest corner to the Comanche Grasslands in the southeast corner, (two of the drives I have left to explore), and everything in between. I’m type-A enough, and such a travel enthusiast, that I set the goal to complete all of the drives in five years.
And we’re getting really close to achieving that goal. Last weekend we made the trek through the eastern San Juans, from Alamosa to Lake City. Three weeks ago we explored the Flat Tops Wilderness Area between Meeker and Yampa (talk about remote). Both weekends were filled with great experiences: hiking on sand dunes and around waterfalls, tasting delicious beer, seeing historical sites (the location of Alfred Packer’s cannibalistic survival feast, and the injustices trespassed upon the Ute Indians).
We experienced the glorious feelings of dirt road solitude. We enjoyed the rise of the super-moon one weekend, and the abundance of stars on a moonless night the other weekend. We tracked elk through sage brush, and meditated on the banks of the Arkansas and Rio Grande rivers. We stared up at towering peaks, and looked across rolling horizons. We laughed. We relished. We traveled.
But I’m not so sure there is a story to tell about either of these weekends. I’m not so sure there are questions to ponder, that there is Uncivilized Writing to be scribbled onto the computer screen. Does that mean I don’t write down these thoughts? Does that mean I don’t pack-up the gear and head for the hills again this weekend? Does that mean I don’t post this entry?
It might. Maybe I should have hit delete instead of publish. Yet I didn’t. I feel compelled to be a transparent writer, to reveal my discourse and struggles with the writing process. To make known the questions asked at the beginning of this essay. To make known my commitment to re-awaken, to realize the story, to discover the uncivilized.