I write from New Haven, Connecticut. Day one.
Tonight is a very clear dividing line between two chapters of my life. I’m all alone in my new, empty apartment, as if the solitude is providing the silence necessary for me to hear the nearly inaudible swish of a page being turned by the breeze in my Book of Life.
I am at last. I awoke this morning in Washington, D.C. in my friend Lauren’s apartment and hit the road around 8:00. After the months of waiting and the nine previous days of gradually making my way east, it was time to set coordinates for New Haven.
My entire mood changed when I got outside of D.C. I felt glad but mostly determined. I looked around the landscape like one surveying newly purchased property instead of the tourist I’d been on all previous days of the trip. “Alright, East Coast,” I thought. “Show me what I’ve just gotten myself into.”
I am struck by how water, land and greenery are interwoven on this side of the nation. It’s like the land turns to lace as it interfaces with the Atlantic – so many bays, rivers, marshes. Not the abrupt and rocky land-meets-water-and-that’s-final coastline of California. The heat and humidity make all substances seem a bit more homogenous too – everything is wet and everything is hot, so bricks, bark, earthworms, the Chesapeake, and my Mini Cooper seem to have a more similar consistency.
I saw the route would take me near Philadelphia, so I had to pull over and make a stop. I easily found a great parking spot and put two hours worth in the meter. I saw the Liberty Bell, the front hall of the Constitution Center, and barely made it in for a tour of Independence Hall. My emotions caught me off guard. It knocks me out when theory collides with action, and the virtue displayed by many of our Founding Fathers is truly something to marvel at.
A few months ago I admitted to Greer that I secretly thought America was invincible (even though I knew at the time this was a bad theory). Our system seems capable of staying intact through pretty much anything we citizens can throw at it, so I don’t go to any great lengths to fight to keep things on track. In his characteristic combination of force and gentleness, Greer reminded me that the survival of our country depends on the daily actions of people who really do have a lot of power. In a government made by the people for the people, the people turn out to be pretty important.
I thought about this conversation while I stood in the rooms where the foundation was laid and imagined every chair filled by a man with hopes and doubts, personal ambition, a family to provide for, a body to feed and keep warm, a past with some heartbreaks, a totally uncertain future, a closet full of clothes, and the inner conflict all humans share between what is best for me and what is best. What an extraordinary gathering of gentlemen met in those rooms.
I dried my tears and quickly ate a delicious falafel I bought from a street vendor and set out on the last leg of the trip. Toll booths, winding turnpikes, a view of Manhattan from the G. Washington Bridge that took my breath, 90 more minutes on the I-95, a quick stop to pick up my keys, and all of the sudden I was standing in my very own, very empty 330 square foot apartment.